Dragon by Dragon – March 1982 (59)

Well, a day late and a dollar short, but late is better than not at all.

It was in March of 1982 that thousands of people all over the world were unwrapping Dragon #59, with that groovy cover by James Holloway.

So, here’s ten cool things about this issue:

1. The More Things Change …

In “Out on a Limb” we get two arguments/laments/complaints that will feature heavily in RPG discussions for … well, forever probably. First, on over powered PC’s

Ugh! And as if that weren’t enough, when I related this to a friend of mine, he merely sneered derisively and began telling me about what his 50th-level ranger (D:30, S:35) would do to such a wimp. I began to feel dizzy.


… I have found that evil characters not only have the most fun, but they add spice and intrigue to the campaign, which helps the other players enjoy it more.

Overpowered characters and evil characters. If you’re dealing with them in your own game, know that you’re not the first, won’t be the last and no, there’s no answer to your problem. Just roll with and try to have a good time.

2. Cantrips

Ah, the introduction of cantrips, or 0-level spells, to AD&D. Now, in 1982 they were something different than they would be later. The 0-level spells were really very simple and not powerful at all, unless somebody knew how to be creative with them. They let you add salt to food or shine up a shield. The bee cantrip was probably the closest you were going to get to an offensive spell, and it’s not detailed in this issue. Still, I remember as a wide-eyed kid thinking that cantrips, like everything else the brain trust at TSR did, were awesome.

3. Giants in the Earth

I always love this feature – stats for literary characters, which also served as a way of introducing little squirts like myself to fantasy literature. This issue has Poul Anderson’s Sir Roger De Tourneville (NG 10th level fighter), a 14th century English warrior who took over an alien spaceship that planned on conquering the Earth. I’ve never read The High Crusade, but I must say I’m intrigued.

It also has stats for L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Harold Shea (CG 7th level fighter with special spell abilities). Depending on when you discovered fantasy literature, you might have heard that de Camp and Pratt were tantamount to devils for some of their pastiches of other authors’ works. Again, being an innocent at the time, I took such crimes for granted. Fortunately, I grew up, picked up some paper backs, and found I rather enjoyed some of their original works. Remember kids – don’t take anyone’s word for it when it comes to art – positive or negative – check it out and see what you think.

The article is rounded out with Alexei Panshin’s Anthony Villiers (NG 10th level ranger, 7th level thief) and Clifford D. Simak’s Mark Cornwall (LG 4th level fighter with full sage abilities) and Snively (LG 3rd level gnome fighter with special spell abilities).

Dig also the way things were defined back in the day. “X level something with special sauce”. I think they would have been better off statting up these characters as monsters – use class levels when you need a handy thumbnail sketch. If you have to color too far outside the lines, use freeform monster stats.

4. Gypsies

Even though by 1982 the game had been around for a while, there were still some archetypes left to explore. Gypsies have their place in fantasy stories for sure, but also in old school horror. What would Larry Talbot have done without them?

This article is pretty in-depth, and includes a gypsy fortune-telling chart, and a couple cool new spells. For the chart – read the magic. For one of the spells, look below:

The first is Summon Equine Beings, a “‘druid” spell which may be cast by nobles of third level (bard) or better, or by any of the magic viols. The spell is similar to call woodland beings but brings to the aid of the gypsies one type of the following equine or quasi-equine beings:

4-16 ponies, burros, or donkeys
4-16 horses or mules
4-8 centaurs
1-4 hippogriffs/pegasi/hippocampi
1-2 unicorns

The likelihood of attracting hippocampi is extremely rare, but if the spell is cast on the seashore or in a boat, they have as good a chance of being affected as any other equine being. The number of beings summoned is doubled when the spell is cast by the Great Viol of Pharaoh. All wild equine beings save at -5; domestic horses, mules, ponies, etc., at -4; warhorses and other trained steeds (pegasi, etc.) at -1. A paladin’s warhorse saves normally. Gypsies are always on good terms with any creatures summoned, so no loyalty check applies.

5. Monsters

This issue has Ed Greenwood’s bleeder, which looks like a beholder but has blood-sucking tentacles instead of eye stalks, Michael Parkinson’s Stymphalian birds and Roger Moore’s spriggan. I love spriggans, and have used Stymphalian birds in NOD, though not the version presented here.

6. Traveller

Full admission – never played it, but was always aware of it. I did mess around with character creation once, but that’s it. God knows that TRAVELLER has a big fan base out there, and this issue has two items for the game. The first are stats for a group of characters that appear in a short story in the magazine, “Skitterbuggers”. The second is a full fleshed out spaceport/adventure – “Exonidas Spaceport”. Now, not being a TRAVELLER aficionado, I can’t really review these items – but check them out if you love the system or just need some brain fuel for a sci-fi game. Heck, with all the Star Trek stuff I’ve been playing with lately, I’m sure I could make use of the space port plans if nothing else. The art is quite groovy as well.

7. Halflings

Dragon had a neat series of “Point of View” articles, which examined the different races (and I think maybe some monsters) in depth. Roger Moore writes here about the halflings. Now, of course, none of this has to be taken as gospel, but it’s surely one take on the subject, and useful for folks who were knew to fantasy gaming. It also includes a bunch of halfling deities which found their way into Legends & Lore. I can definitely remember when, as a kid, I did take this stuff for gospel … and loved it!

8. Poisons

Well, if you’ve decided to spice up a game with an evil PC, you’ll surely want some poison to play with. This issue has more poisons than you’ll know what to do with, and it’s a neat reminder of how the old game worked – everything hand-made, nothing standardized and simplified. Personally, I miss it … and don’t miss it. Depends. Here’s a sample poison:

GHOUL SWEAT: A scummy green gel, used like Chayapa. Smells like rotten meat. Its effect is to paralyze for 5-10 (d6 + 4) rounds. It acts immediately. Save for no effect, made at +1.

9. What’s New with Phil & Dixie

I mentioned Phil Foglio’s contribution to Star Trek fanzines a post or two ago, and now here he is as I was introduced to him, in Dragon. I always like the strip, and appreciated the humor … and yeah, had a total crush on Dixie.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave you with Wormy this time, because it didn’t appear. Drat the luck. All in all, a groovy issue with lots of good ideas.

Have fun boys and girls, and be kind to one another!

Dragon by Dragon – June 1981 (50)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how long ago, in human terms, 1981 was. Of course, 35 years is a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms, but for a 44-year old man, it’s significant. Having a brain that absorbed the early ’80s one day at a time, it just doesn’t seem old, sometimes like it was just yesterday.

Enough of that. Dragon #50 came out 35 years ago this month, and here’s what the 5th anniversary issue has to offer.

We begin, of course, with the cover by Carl Lundgren. Very nice piece of work, and certainly appropriate for the issue, depicting as it does a dragon hovering over its hoard of treasure (or it it the dragon’s hoard?)

As I so often do, I’ll start with an advertisement for a new “family board game” by TSR …

I’m picturing those old game covers or ads from the 1960’s that show a smiling family playing a board game. Little Susie having to tell mom she’s “The Duke of New York – A-number-one!” I just watched the movie a couple days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind.

It should come as no surprise that they have a page for the game at Boardgamegeek.com.

The game was written by “Zeb” Cook, who also wrote the Expert D&D set.

Now that I’ve dispensed with TSR’s homage to Snake Plissken, let’s get to the first article in this anniversary spectacular – Gregory Rihn‘s “Self defense for dragons”. The article purports to give “everyone’s favorite foe a fighting chance”. The article posits that dragons, as they were written in 1981, were too easy to defeat by a large, well-organized party, especially given the treasure to be gained by defeating them. This would prove to be an important article to later editions of the game, for it expands the dragon’s attacks quite a bit, adding 2 wing buffets, 2 wing claws, a foot stomp and tail lash. In essence, it gives the dragons enough attacks to hit all the attackers likely to be surrounding it in a fight. He goes on to give a couple ideas for good dragon tactics.

This is followed up by Lewis Pulsipher‘s “True Dragons: Revamping the monster from head to claw”. It appears that the theme of this issue is that dragon’s just ain’t good enough. Pulsipher gives a long table with many more age categories and a few additional powers, including shapechanging (I like this one), causing terror and some special powers. One of them – two heads – I’m planning on adding to Blood & Treasure. It also has random tables of spells known, a random table of breath weapons, with the old standards as well as a few new ones – radiation, stoning, windstorm, hallucinogen, negate magic and polymorph. All goodies! Here’s Pulsipher’s take on radiation:

Those failing to roll a d20 lower than their constitution become unconscious and will die of a wasting “disease” in 1-4 days. The “disease” is cured by Cure disease and Remove curse. Effects of the disease are only slowly repaired by the body after the cure. A victim might look ravaged five years after his cure if he was near death, and this may affect his charisma.

Radiation as a curse. I dig it.

Overall, I think I like Pulsipher’s take better, using special powers instead of additional attacks to get the job done. Both would go into beefing up dragons in later editions.

Colleen A. Bishop hits on baby dragons with “Hatching is only the beginning …”, which covers little dragons from egg to birth. It’s a long article, with lots of tables. Maybe worth a look if you’re planning on having a baby dragon in the party for a while.

Robert Plamondon gets us off the dragon train and introduces some folks called the Kzinti. I don’t suppose they need much introduction to the folks who read this blog. They’re tough customers here, with 4+4 HD and two attacks per round. A small group could really bedevil a party, and they’re Lawful Evil to boot. The article covers their arrival on D&D campaign worlds, their religion, social organization, magic, psionics, etc. Very thorough for a monster entry, but no info on them as a playable race.

For those interested in the history of the hobby, David F. Nalle‘s reviews of some old time ‘zines may be of interest. He covers Abyss by Dave Nalle, Alarums & Excursions (such a great name) by Lee Gold, The Beholder by Mike G. Stoner, The Lords of Chaos by Nicolai Shapero, Morningstar by Phillip McGregor, Pandemonium by Robert Sacks, Quick Quincy Gazette by Howard Mahler, The Stormlord by Andreas Sarker, Trollcrusher, The Wild Hunt by Mark Swanson and Zeppelin.

Pulsipher has another article, a very long one with way more math than needed to deal with gaze attacks in D&D. Personally, I let people close their eyes entirely (and open themselves to all sorts of trouble), or try to avoid the monster’s gaze and suffer a penalty to hit, etc.

Larry DiTillio’s article on the glyphs in his campaign world didn’t do much for me.

The Chapel of Silence by Mollie Plants is a prize winning dungeon at IDDC II. It’s a relatively small dungeon, but looks like a good one. It begins with all the adventurers having a strange dream, and goes from there – maybe a well-worn idea now, but clever back in the day.

Back to rules articles, “The Ups and Downs of Riding High” by Roger E. Moore covers flying mounts. Its a pretty thorough look at all the potential flying mounts in AD&D at the time, and covers their diet (most are carnivores), advantages, disadvantages and how much weight they can carry. It’s a useful article to keep in your pocket, in case somebody starts flying around on a dragon and you need some ideas on how to spice up the experience.

This advert caught my eye …

At first, I assumed it was the old computer classic, but it’s something entirely different.

The Dragon’s Bestiary presents the Giant Vampire Frog by Alan Fomorin. How do you not love these guys?

Here’s proof that Mark Herro was nobody’s dummy …

“Home computers may be the most important new consumer appliance to come along in decades. Any device that can control household lights and appliances, edit and type letters and reports, selectively monitor United Press International and the New York Stock Exchange, and play some great games besides, may be almost indispensable in the years to come.”

Word up!

This issue had a couple cartoons of note. First, an argument that persists to this day …

And an old take on Batman vs. Superman … or Batman and Superman vs. something else

And as always, we finish with a bit of Wormy, as we begin to move into the wargaming story line …

Have fun on the internet, and for God’s sake, be kind to one another!

Dragon by Dragon – January 1981 (45)

A new year! 1981!

Inflation was rough as hell, but if you could scrape it together you could get a new Tandy TRS 80 PC for $150 (or $390 in today’s dollars). This year would see the release of the hostages in Iran, the first flight of the space shuttle Columbia and an attempted assassination of President Reagan.

For the geek set, it was an embarrassment of riches in the movie theaters – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max 2, Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Halloween, Escape from New York, Clash of the Titans, Time Bandits, Scanners, Excalibur, Dragonslayer and, of course, the finest film ever made, Cannonball Run.

How did the venerable Dragon kick off 1981? Let’s see …

From the art in the first article, it would appear it was stinking up the place.

Actually, Robert Plamondon‘s article “Gas ’em Up and Smoke ’em Out” reviews how gases and smoke would work in a dungeon environment. It’s a sign of the times, as Old School (which I now realize means pre-1980) gaming gives way bit by bit to realism, at least for game designers and article writers. Here’s a sample:

“Using the rule-of-thumb design specs of 500 cubic feet per person of room volume and 24 cubic feet per minute per person of ventilating air, and applying a little algebra, we find that the ratio of incoming air volume to room volume is about 1:20.83.”

This article uses a little math and engineering, but also comes across with some useful bits for referees:

  • A room with standard ventilation will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes for poison gas or smoke to go away. Even without ventilation, poison gas will eventually react with everything in the room and become harmless.
  • Poison gas costs between 1,000 gp and 6,000 gp per trap.
  • Gas masks should be easy for an alchemist and leather worker to put together, but inventing them will take 2d4 months and 1d6+1 x 1,000 gp, with a 50% chance of success.
  • A successful save vs. poison gas means holding one’s breath and escaping the gas. A failed save means breathing the gas and dying. Initially one falls unconscious and dies 5 rounds later.
  • People who know about the presence of poison gas get a +4 bonus to save against it.

Plamondon also provides a nice table of poison gases, which may come in just as handy for modern games and fantasy games:

Oh, and THIS GUY might be the Robert Plamondon of the article.

The Dragon Tooth miniatures ad would make a nice deep dungeon encounter table:

Roll d20

  1. High Elfin Hero-King in Dragon Helm (Elf Fighter 8/Magic-User 7, helm controls dragons, longsword, chainmail, shield)
  2. Rogue or Thief, Skulkingly Caped (Human Thief 1 or 9, rapier and dagger)
  3. Sorcerer, Sorcerering or Sorceress, Sorcerering (Human Magic-User 9, staff)
  4. Swordswoman armed with Sword and Spear (Human Fighter 3, longsword and glaive)
  5. Rictus, the Zombie King (Zombie with 10 HD, scimitar, skeletal horse)
  6. Swordsman Kane, in Scale Armour (Human Fighter 3, sword, scale mail)
  7. Cleric in Mitred Helmet Armed with Mace in Scale Armour (Human Cleric 9, footman’s mace, chainmail)
  8. Fool or Jester, Armed with Sword (Human Bard 4, longsword)
  9. Bard or Harpist with Harp and Armed with Sword (Human Bard 8, longsword)
  10. Swordsman Roland with Sword and Shield in Scale Armour (Human Fighter 3, short sword, scale mail)
  11. Elfin Enchanter, Enchanting (Human Magic-User 7)
  12. Female Thief or Rogue, Caped and Thieving (Human Thief 1 or 9, rapier)
  13. Silent Stalker, Stalking (honestly, your guess is as good as mine, but I love it)
  14. Gladius-Hero in Roman-Style Armour (Human Fighter 4, breastplate, shield, short sword)
  15. Barbarian Hero wearing Vulture Helmet and Fur (Human Fighter 4, scimitar, leather armor and shield)
  16. Rachir, the Red Archer-Ranger/Fighter with Bow (Human Ranger 3, composite bow, long sword, leather armor, shield)
  17. High Elfin Warrior Maiden Armed with Sword (Elf Fighter 4, broadsword, chainmail)
  18. Gundar the Barbarian with Axe and Sword (Human Fighter 9, leather armor, battle axe, longsword)
  19. Subotai the Mongol-Swordsman with Shield (Human Fighter 3, scimitar, dagger, chainmail, shield)
  20. Swashbuckler Fighter with Cutlass and Dagger (Human Fighter 5, scimitar, dagger)

Next up, we have a couple old school NPC classes – the Astrologer by Roger E. Moore and the Alchemist by Roger E. Moore and Georgia Moore. These are nice and short classes, and could probably be adapted as non-classed NPCs with interesting abilities by most GM’s. Of course, I’d also love to see them used as PC’s in a game.

Here’s a taste of the astrologer:

Here’s a nice bit from the alchemist class:

“For the creation of homonculi, it is suggested that Pseudo-Dragon venom and Gargoyle blood be among, the. required ingredients, as well as the Magic-User’s own blood, since these items bear some relationship to a Homonculous’s poisonous bite and appearance. Costs and time for making a Homonculous are outlined in the Monster Manual.”

And this:

“Formulas for manufacturing cockatrices may be found in L. Sprague de Camp’s book, The Ancient Engineers, Chapter 9, “The European Engineers.” Additional notes appear in The Worm Ouroborous, by E. R. Eddison, “Conjuring in the Iron Tower.” Note that de Camp’s book refers to the cockatrice as a “basilisk,” and tells of an alchemical way of making gold from burnt “basilisk” parts.”

One more reason to read Eddison’s book, and now I want to find de Camp’s as well.

Oh Hell, and this:

“At the Dungeon Master’s option, cloning may be performed by biogenesis-studying Alchemists; this should be considered a very powerful (and very rarely performed) ability that will entail expenditures of 100,000 g.p. or more.”

Philip Meyers‘ article “Magic Items for Everyman” covers random magic items for NPC’s. They’re quite extensive and worth taking a look at.

Bazaar of the Bizarre has a couple nifty magic items. The Eidolon of Khalk’Ru is a real pip if you have a cleric or magic-user in the party (and who doesn’t?). There’s also the Bell of Pavlov, box of many holdings, ruby slippers, ring of oak and pet rocks – man I want to pit a guy with three pet rocks up against an unsuspecting party.

But hey – we’re not done with new classes yet. Len Lakofka presents a new fighter or ranger sub-class, the Archer. Really, it’s the archer, a fighter sub-class, and the archer-ranger, a ranger sub-class. This is accompanied by whole host of advanced rules for missile fire in D&D.

Archers get fewer melee attacks per round than fighters and more missile attacks than fighters. They get an additional +1 with magic bows and arrows. If their intelligence is 9 or higher, they also learn some magic-user spells at 7th level. At 3rd level they learn to make arrows, and they learn to make bows at 5th level.

The main bonus for archers are bonuses to hit and damage, which get pretty big at high levels.

The big feature of this issue was the Dragon Dungeon Design Kit – a bunch of cardboard pieces you could use to create tabletop maps of the dungeon rooms adventurers encountered. You got wall sections, treasure chests and all sorts of dungeon dressing.

Michael Kluever‘s article “Castles, Castles Everywhere” is a nicely researched article about castles. Worth the read.

Roger E. Moore is back again with “How To Have a Good Time Being Evil”, a lighthearted look at the subject. Think over-the-top silver age comic book evil rather than the genuine article. One bit I especially liked was this, as it is a good description of the Chaotic / Evil alignment:

“Now for the group goals. Anyone who’s played Monsters! Monsters! already knows what the goal is in an evil campaign. The goal is to beat up on the good guys. The goody-good Paladins, sneaky Rangers, and less-than-macho elves are going to get what they deserve. What right have they got, breaking into our lairs, killing our underlings and friends, and taking away the treasures we worked so hard to steal? Besides, what we’re doing is the way of the universe. Only the strong survive. Nice guys finish last. I’m number one. If you help all the wimps get ahead in the universe, you undo natural selections and evolution, which is trying to make us tougher. Might makes right. And so on. Working up the goals and general background philosophy of an evil campaign is not difficult (and is actually a little disturbing, as some people say such things in seriousness. How little we know about our own alignments …)”

I think the true test of a great monster is great art. Well, maybe not, but a nice piece of art makes we want to use a monster, regardless of its stats. To whit, the skyzorr’n by Jon Mattson:

Art by Willingham, of course. It’s actually not a bad beastie – nomadic insect people.

Skyzorr’n, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2+1, AC 16, MV 20′, ATK 1d4 claws (1d4) or 1d2 by weapon; AL Chaotic (LE), Special–Bite for 1d4+1 plus poison, surprise 1-3 on 1d6, immune to natural paralysis (not spells) and 90% of poisons, +2 to save vs. heat and cold attacks, resistance to edged and piercing weapons.

They inhabit deserts and badlands in hive communities (70% underground). They are matriarchal, ruled by queens (they look like grotesque bloated spiders) with High intelligence. They use weapons 50% of the time (longswords, scimitars, military forks, spears and slings). If two claw attacks hit, they get a bite attack. The poison deals 1 point of Strength and Dexterity damage for 2d4 turns.

Read the issue to get the full description – very cool. They also have sand lizards by Marcella Peyre-Ferry and dust devils by Bruce Sears.

I wonder if WOTC would consider making a monster book with all of these creatures in it?

Well – that’s all folks. No White Dwarf supplement this time, since it was bi-monthly. I’ll hit it next week (God willing and the creek don’t rise).

Dragon by Dragon – December 1979 (32)

Depending where you are when you read this, good morning, good afternoon, good evening or good night. It’s Sunday, which means it’s time to crack open the vault and review another issue of The Dragon. Technically not the last of the 1970’s (that would be December 1980), but for most folks, the end of the decade.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Cool Things in The Dragon #32

Side note – cover by Phil Foglio, which means his contributions to the magazine’s comics section shouldn’t be too far away. Always a highlight for me back in the day.

Yes, because of Dixie. I’m a red-blooded American male, and I make no apologies for it.


When question about super high level characters (as in, “no freaking way they got there fairly), ED gives the following sage advice …

“Cheating, yes, but who? If you refuse to play with these sorry individuals, they are only cheating
themselves of the feeling of accomplishment that comes from having honestly earned a level advancement. To each his own . . .”

Good advice then, and good now. Learn to enjoy losing spectacularly at games, and you will find them twice as enjoyable as you used to.


Charles Sagui has an article on “Poisons from AA to XX” that I enjoyed. I always like articles written from a position of authority concerning make-believe stuff, and this one has several firm rules for poisons that you might not have known:

1) Poison is restricted to Neutral and Evil characters when used against human or humanoid types … against dungeon monsters, anyone can use poison.

2) Alchemists alone distill and manufacture poisons – magic-users, thieves and assassins who are caught making poisons are told immediately to “cease and desist” – imagine, slapping a cease and desist order from the Alchemist’s Guild on a PC! Apparently, if the order is ignore, the PC “will receive a visitor who will see to it that he stops permanently.” – Sounds like a fun encounter to run.

3) Alchemists learn to make poison at one strength per level of experience up to the 5th, beginning with level 0, strength “AA”. At 6th, the alchemist can make strength “S” sleep poison. After 6th, he learns to make one strength per two levels, through strength “J” at 16th level. Type “X” can be made by 20th level alchemists, type “XX” by 25th level alchemists. Alchemists through 4th level make only ingested poisons. From 5th to 8th level, they make ingested plus water-soluble poisons. From 9th to 16th they learn to make contact and gaseous poisons.

4) Assassins are the main customers, and they dictate to the alchemists who can buy poison. Locksmiths are granted permission by the assassins to put poison needles and gases in locks and chests so the rich can keep their possessions safe. – This suggests that the thieves and assassins are not on the best of terms.

5) Any character is permitted to buy strength “S” sleep poison. Thieves, by paying the assassins 500 gp per level, are permitted to buy strengths “AA”, “A” and “B” poison. They may buy up to 60 vials of “AA” per year, up to 30 vials of “A” and up to 15 vials of “B”. Magic-users can pay 1,000 gp per level to get the right to coat darts and daggers with “AA” and “A” poison. The same buying restrictions for thieves apply.

6) A small vial of poison is enough to coat 6 arrowheads, 8 darts, 12 needles or 1 dagger or spear point. Two vials will coat a short sword. Three will coat a long or broadsword, four a bastard sword and five a two-handed sword. Each coating lasts for 2 successful hits, and up to 5 coats can be applied to a blade at a time. One vial is equal to one dose when swallowed.

7) Evil humanoids should never use more than “AA” poison. If they are employed by a powerful evil NPC, they may use up to “D”.

8) Poisons found in dungeons are:

0-50% – ingested
51-80% – water-soluble
81-90% – contact
91-100% – poison gas

9) Damage from poison is taken at a rate of the minimum hit point damage for the poison per melee round (which would have been a minute, back in the old days) until max damage rolled is met. So, a poison that deals 1-10 damage would do 1 point of damage per round. If you rolled “6” damage, it would deal 1 point of damage per round for 6 rounds. A poison that did 5-100 damage would deal 5 points of damage per round.

10) When you save vs. sleep poison, you act as though slowed for 3 rounds.

11) When using poison-coated weapons, each time you draw the weapon or return it to its scabbard, you have to save by rolling your Dex or less (on 1d20, I assume), minus 1 for water-soluble and -3 for contact, or you suffer max poison damage. You also have to make a Dex save every other round for water soluble and every round for contact poison that the weapon is used in combat to avoid poisoning yourself. This applies until the weapon is washed, even if the weapon does not have enough poison left to poison opponents in combat.

12) Silver weapons will not hold poison, not will magic weapons. Normal weapons that are poison-coated gives them a dark discoloration, so everyone will know the weapon is poisoned.

Lots of rules, but actually pretty useful ones. The article then goes on to detail the different poison strengths – I won’t reproduce those here.


This is a companion article to the armor article from last issue, also by Michael Kluever. Here’s a bit on the Chu-ko-nu, or repeating crossbow.

“An interesting variation was the repeating crossbow (Chu-ko-nu). It propelled two bolts simultaneously from its wooden magazine, which held a total of 24 featherless quarrels, each approximately 8.25 inches long. The bolts were contained in a box sliding on top of the stock and moved into firing position by a lever pivoted to both. The throwing of the lever forward and back drew the bowstring, placed the bolt in position and fired the weapon. Chinese annals relate that 100 crossbowmen could project 2,000 quarrels in fifteen seconds. The repeater crossbow was used as late as the Chinese Japanese War of 1894-95.”

Apparently I need to include it in Grit & Vigor.


You got some interesting articles back in the day. This one, by George Laking, is about aquatic megaflora, and its danger to adventurers. The info in the article was designed by the Mid-Columbia Wargaming Society of Richland, Washington. With a little searching, I found a picture of Mr. Laking and some society members from a 1978 newspaper. The internet!

So, you’re first thought it – screw seaweed, bring me dragons!

You fool!

Apparently, megaflora stands capture oxygen in vast bubble domes within their branches. Within this bubble dome, there is a bunch of dry limbs and twigs from this megaflora. The interior of the dome resembles a quiet, dry forest surrounded by thick trunks. Bubble dome heights range from 4 to 40 feet, depending on the size of the stand.

Where’s the danger. Well, the stands can capture ships for 1-12 hours, making them vulnerable to aquatic monster attacks.

The bigger danger is bubble dome “blows”! The domes are temporary structures. In some cases, the gas cannot escape and pressure builds up until it explodes, throwing dry branches and limbs 2d10 x 10 feet into the air in a huge fountain of water and foam! Ships will fall into the void left, and then be slammed by the walls of water rushing back in, possibly destroying the ship. A blown stand looks like a peaceful lagoon with walls of megaflora around it, quickly growing in to fill the clearing. This will be the lair of aquatic monsters, guarding the treasure left by ships destroyed in past blows.

A third danger is that pure oxygen is poisonous to people. Divide the height of the dome by 10 and take this as a percentage chance per hour that a character absorbs too much oxygen into her bloodstream. A character who reaches this threshold, upon leaving the dome, must make a save vs. poison or immediately die.

Also – pure oxygen is extremely flammable. Let’s say you light a torch inside the dome …

“(1) The initial explosion of gas would create a 6-20 die fireball of incandescent oxygen, depending on the size and depth of the bubble dome (depth of dome divided by ten equals hit dice). The size of the fireball would be half as large as the initial dome after the explosion of the gas. Saving throws would be applicable.

(2) Following the initial explosion, the fireball would immediately rise to the surface with a subsequent catastrophic inrush of ocean water onto the previously dry dome interior. Each character would have to undergo a check for system shock as the walls of water met with implosive fury. A character saving vs. system shock would only take 3-10 (d6) of damage. Failing to save means immediate death!

(3) Finally—should the character survive—an immediate check vs. oxygen poisoning would be necessary to determine if he/she had exceeded the critical threshold at that point. If so, that character would have to make an additional save vs. poison per oxygen poisoning (above).”

Frankly, a weird bubble dome dungeon would be awesome, and a great challenge. A ship gets stuck and attacked by aquatic ogres. Adventurers follow them down to retrieve something important, find a massive bubble dome with a dead, maze-like forest within it. They have to work fast to avoid being killed by too much oxygen, and there is a chance that it explodes and the ship is drawn down into sea and crushed.


From Gygax’s “Sorcerer’s Scroll”:

“In a previous column I mentioned that I would set up an adventure where the players would end up in the city streets of the 20th century. Well, I knocked together some rules, put the scenario together, stocked the place with “treasures” of a technological sort, and sprinkled some monsters (thugs, gangs, police, etc.) around.

Much to my chagrin, Ernie the Barbarian was leading the expedition. When his party emerged from the subway—and despite the general blackout in the city due to the power failure caused by their entry into this alternate world—he stopped, looked, listened and then headed back for the “safety” of the “real world!” Some people really know how to spoil a DM’s fun …”

Damn players.


From Jean Wells in “Sage Advice”:

“The subject is dwarven women and whether or not they have beards. Last spring when we were working on the final editing of the Dungeon Masters Guide, I tried to get Gary Gygax to change the section on dwarves so that dwarven women would not have beards. Needless to say, I was not very successful.

What I didn’t realize was that for some strange reason (completely unknown to me), I had started something. I did not understand the full impact of what I had done until I went to GenCon this year. Many people stopped me in the hall to either agree with me wholeheartedly, or disagree with me and then tell me that I was crazy. Everyone knows that dwarven women have beards, they said. It did not stop there. Oh, no! We have even been getting mail on this issue. It is not too bad, but I don’t like being accused of making an issue out of the subject.

One thing that everyone who has taken sides in this issue fails to remember is that Gary Gygax wrote the Dungeon Masters Guide and it is his book. He can say whatever he wants to. You can agree with him or side with me, but either way, the person who has final say in his or her campaign is the DM. So, for all the people who have written in to agree with me or to agree with Gary, and for those who haven’t yet but were planning to, please save your breath. Gnome women don’t have beards (this is true and I am glad). Dwarven women may indeed have beards, Gary, but not in my world.”

Yeah, there have always been gamers who A) didn’t get that it was make-believe, and there was therefore no right or wrong, and B) didn’t get that their own opinion isn’t law.

Also this question:

“Question: We are having an argument over an issue that has us divided. My friends say that with a ring of telekinesis they can make an arrow spin at the speed of light and then release it, having it do between 100 and 600 points of damage to their target. I say this is impossible! What do you think?”

God – I remember these fools.


“Question: I am having a romance with a god, but he won’t have anything to do with me until I divorce my present husband. How do I go about divorcing my husband?”

Ye Gods!


For sale – crappy t-shirts.

Actually, I would wear one of these with a ridiculous amount of pride. I’m super tempted to lift the graphic and make one online for myself.

Looks like the Barbarian Shop was in a private residence:


Len Lakofka presents in this issue his insectoids, which are just the humanoid races with insect characteristics grafted on. For example: Scorpiorcs. For Blood & Treasure, they would look like:

Scorpiorc, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2; AC 16; ATK 2 pincers (1d6) and weapon; MV 40; SV F15 R12 W13; XP 300 (CL 4); Special-Surprised on d8 (due to eye stalks), move silently (70%), back stab x2.

Scorpiorcs never use flaming swords or carry any sort of flame. They also never use armor, but may carry a shield. They speak Scorkish and broken Orcish. They can advance as fighters from a beginning “level” of 2 to a top rank of 4.

I also have to mention the “skags”, which are a blend of scorpion, kobold, ant and goblin. This is actually a sort of “monster class” – dig it:


Great title. Found HERE at Boardgame Geek. Stephen Fabian did the art, so it has be worth a few bucks based on that alone.


I’ve never played Traveler, so I can’t comment on the utility of this article about diplomats in the Traveler Universe. I can, however, draw attention to this table, which may prove useful to people:

I’m sure somebody can adapt this to their game, when trying to figure out an NPC’s s power base in some fantasy or sci-fi city.


William Fawcett has a long article on “The Druid in Fact and Fantasy”. A tough subject, because so little is known, or at this point, can be known. I’m not going to dwell on the historical bits in the article, but I did like this:

A new Druidic ability

Although the Druid, due to his involvement with life, is unable to turn undead, his role of the peacemaker gives him a similar ability with most humanoids. Before or during any armed combat if he has not struck any blow, a Druid has the ability to make a Declaration of Peace. This declaration has a 10% plus 5% per level (15% 1st level, 20% 2nd, etc.) chance of causing all armed combat to cease for two rounds per level of the Druid. This does not affect magical combat in any way, nor will it stop a humanoid who is in combat with any non-humanoid opponent. Once the combat is stopped, any non-combat activities may take place such as cures, running away (and chasing), blesses, magic of any form, or even trying to talk out the dispute.

After peace has been successfully Declared, combat will resume when the effect wears off (roll initiatives), or at any time earlier if anyone who is under the restraint of the Declaration is physically harmed in any way. This could be caused by an outside party or even by magic, which is not restrained by the Declaration. A fireball going off tends to destroy even a temporary mood of reconciliation. Once a Druid strikes a blow or causes direct harm in any way to a member of a party of humanoids, he permanently loses his ability to include any member of that party in a Declaration of Peace. The Declaration of Peace affects all those within the sound of the Druid’s voice, a 50’ radius which may be modified by circumstances.”

He also has quite a few magic cauldrons and some thoughts on herbs. Good read overall.


Well, it’s funny to DM’s


An adventure in this issue – “The Fell Pass” by Karl Merris!

Check out the map:

That hatching seems reminiscent! A also hereby challenge Dyson Logos to include more giant, disembodied hands on his very excellent maps.

The adventure takes place in geothermally heated caverns, and includes cave bears, ogres, a spidersilk snare, gray ooze, manticores, griffons, shadows, trolls, pit vipers, Vlog the Ogre …

… and Xorddanx the Beholder:

I love the heck out of that art, which is by Merris himself!

I did some searching, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found him online. He appears to be a Brony now, and might have no interest left in D&D, but if I can commission a piece of fantasy art from him, I’ll let you know …


The Evils of Drink and Other Intoxicants

From Wikipedia

A little preview of GRIT & VIGOR here for you. When you base a game on manly exploits of the olden days, you have to put some thought into rank drunkenness and other intoxicating past times. How can you run a Victorian-era game without using an opium den as a set piece, and how can you run a game set in the Old West without a drunken brawl in a saloon? You can’t – it’s somewhere in the bylaws I think – and so you need some rules to cover intoxicants and their effect on the human body (specifically, the PC’s bodies and those NPC bodies they’re going to be clashing with).

Why I never thought of writing these rules for Blood & Treasure, I don’t know, but they would work for that game and most other old school games I should suppose. Obviously, the rules are kept simple and abstract – they’re meant to take up a column of the rulebook, not a chapter – but I think they’ll do the job.


Strong men often crave strong drink to dull the pain of living, or to celebrate a hard-fought victory. Of course, alcohol isn’t the only intoxicant a man or his enemies might use. Intoxicants are treated as poisons, and thus require a Fortitude saving throw to resist. They come in three broad varieties: Depressants, stimulants and hallucinogenics.

Intoxicants are also given two levels of efficacy – mild and strong. A strong substance not only has a greater effect than a mild one, and it imposes a -10 penalty to save against it.

The dosage of intoxicants varies widely, so use your best judgment. Mild intoxicants have a duration of 1d6 turns, while strong intoxicants have a duration of 1d6 hours.

If a character already under the effects of a mild intoxicant takes another dose and fails his saving throw, treat him as though he has taken a strong intoxicant.

Each time a character falls prey to the effects of a mild intoxicant, there is a 5% chance they will develop an addiction to that intoxicant (rules for that to follow). Strong intoxicants have a 10% chance per use of causing addiction.


Depressant: -2 penalty to sensory task checks and balance and tumbling task checks, -2 penalty to AC and to all attack rolls, 10% chance per hour of falling asleep

Stimulant: -2 penalty to all wisdom=based task checks and Will saves and saves vs. sleep effects, +2 bonus to all other saving throws and to attack, -2 penalty to AC

Hallucinogenic: Confusion (there would be a page reference here in the rulebook, but if you’ve played ye old fantasy rpg, you know what confusion does)


Depressant: -4 penalty to sensory task checks and balance and tumbling task checks, -4 penalty to AC and to all attack rolls, 10% chance per turn of exhaustion of falling asleep

Stimulant: -4 penalty to all wisdom-based task checks and Will saves and saves vs. sleep effects, +4 bonus to all other saving throws and to attack, -4 penalty to AC, suffers 1d6 points of damage to body per hour of duration, after duration the character is left fatigued for equal duration

Hallucinogenic: Confusion, with a 10% chance that the condition is permanent

Some common intoxicants include the following:

Alcohol: Mild or strong depressantAmphetamine: Strong stimulant
Caffeine: Mild stimulant
Cannabis: Mild depressant and Hallucinogenic
Cocaine: Strong stimulant
Heroine: Strong depressant
LSD: Strong hallucinogenic
Mescaline: Strong hallucinogenic
Morphine: Strong depressant
Mushrooms: Mild or strong hallucinogenic
Nicotine: Mild stimulant
Nitrous: Oxide Mild hallucinogenic
Opium: Strong depressant


Lately, I’ve been thinking about useful replacements for some of the traditional low-level monsters – the kobold-goblin-orc-hobgoblin-gnoll-bugbear “chain of fiends”. After all, lots of us have played in quite a few of these here dungeons and have faced more than our fair share of these 0 to 3 HD creeps. Something new might be fun. Additionally, that chain of beings may not be as useful for campaigns that are not Tolkien-fantasy based. With that in mind, I offer up these fearsome fellows – The Toxicons!

The Toxicons are for slightly higher than 1st/2nd level parties, owing to the fact that all of them bring poison to the table, and most low-level parties will find poison a very difficult challenge to surmount. They were actually inspired by an episode of Adventure Time, maybe the most inspirational show in history for gonzo role playing.

Small Humanoid, Chaotic (NE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d8)

HD 0
AC 13 (leather armor and buckler)
ATK By weapon
MV 20
SV F14 R16 W17
XP 50 (CL 1)

Creepers are gaunt creatures that stand about 3 to 4 feet in height, though their hunched backs make them look shorter. They have dog-like faces, with downward-pointing teeth jutting from their muzzles, brilliant green eyes, greyish skin that looks warty and wrinkled in places, and a single row of bony nodules running from their forehead to the back of their skulls.

Once per day, a creeper can cough up a bluish mist in the face of an opponent. This mist consists of Poison I and forces the adventurer to either hold their breath (treat them as fatigued while holding their breath, which they can do for a number of rounds equal to 3 + their Constitution bonus) or succeed at a Fortitude saving throw to avoid falling asleep.

Creepers generally wear scanty bits of armor, and rarely more than leather. They arm themselves with small weapons and bucklers.

Medium Humanoid, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Gang (1d6)

AC 14 (studded leather armor and buckler)
ATK By weapon
MV 30
SV F13 R15 W15
XP 100 (CL 2)

Grapplers are the larger cousins of the creepers. They look like taller creepers, with smaller muzzles, two rows of nodules on their heads, and longer arms that look like a cross between a humanoid arm and a tentacle. Male grapplers have manes of short, brownish fur covering their necks and shoulders.
Grapplers are covered in a thin sheen on contact poison (Poison II). Any creature coming into direct contact with a grappler must pass a Fortitude save to avoid the poison, adding their armor bonus to their saving throw.

Medium Humanoid, Chaotic (NE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d6)*

HD 1+1
AC 16 (chainmail and shield)
ATK By weapon
MV 30
SV F13 R15 W16
XP 100 (CL 2)

Crushers are the largest of the Toxicons, standing a bit taller than a human being. They are rugged and muscular. Their faces have weak chins and down-turned mouths that usually hang open, revealing their sharp teeth. They are hairier than the smaller toxicons, being entirely covered with brownish fur of varying lengths.

Crushers emit a cloud of toxins in a 5-ft radius. Any creature coming into this cloud must hold their breath (see above) or pass a Fortitude save against a weak form of Poison III (1d4 damage). As the shock troops of the Toxicon species, crushers usually wear heavier armor (up to chainmail) and wield heavy bludgeoning weapons and shields.


Medium Humanoid, Chaotic (NE), High Intelligence; Gang (1d4)*

HD 2
AC 15 (chainmail and buckler)
ATK By weapon
MV 30
SV F12 R15 W14
XP 200 (CL 3)

The lords of the toxicons are notably smarter than their fellows. They look like grapplers with prominent foreheads and bluish skin and black manes that cover their knobby heads (save for their foreheads) and backs. They are known for the magical powers. Most lords wear chainmail or heavier armor and carry bucklers and piercing weapons (like spears).

Spells: 3/day — poison

Special: Immune to poison

Dragon by Dragon – October 1978 (19)

Hey – almost have my months synced here! October 1978 and Dragon blows in with what appears to be a pretty full issue. Let’s begin …

First thing I see this issue, other than the editorial, is “The Battle for Snurre’s Hall”, the tournament for the Origins ’78 D&D Tournament. Good recap of the winning team’s tactics, and reminds you of the game aspect that I think sometimes gets buried under the “role play” aspect.

How Many Ettins Is a Fire Giant Worth: Competitive D&D by Bob Blake

And then this article reminds me of the importance of role play in the game. Basically, this is an article about scoring competitive modules. Given my intense interest in such things …

A Compendium of Diverse D&D Player Personalities by Mike Crane

Hmmm … maybe the next article holds something interesting …

Gamma World – A New List of Treasures To Be Found by Gary Gygax

Thanks EGG! A nice random table (1-100) of relics for Gamma World. We have a home donut maker, wire cutters in fair condition (an amazing find), a plastic box of 50-100 assorted screws (you know these are going to be used to stud a club, right), a leather bag of dice, etc.

Gamma World – More Excerpts from the Journals of Hald Sevrin by Gary Jaquet

This one covers the history of Gamma World in the Black Years. Apparently, it was hard, but people adapted.


Or “Wormy 8 Ball” to my 12-year old brain.

Wormy swoops in (thank God) and provides some light entertainment – if you consider a tree troll being ripped apart light entertainment. Beware blue demons!

The thing that always made me wonder about Wormy was the trolls. Trolls were supposed to be complete bastards, right? But these guys were pretty cool. As a kid, the Monster Manual was as canon as it came, and this was the first introduction I had to “it’s my world, I can do whatever I want”. Good training for a young DM.

The Lowdown on Wishes by Kevin Thompson

The thing is, wishes have absolutely no place in a game. In a story, they’re fine. But in a game, nothing but trouble. Great line …

“Most DM’s want to be fair about wishes but don’t want Player characters to take undue advantage. So they kill them.”

The article tries to get into the science behind wishes. Mildly interesting, but very “campaign world” specific in a way. The idea is that wish spells are empowered into devices by wizards to allow non-wizards to use magic. They may vary in strength, and might have alignment restrictions as well (i.e. a lawful wish cannot be used for something chaotic). Thompson divides wishes into four classes:

CLASS I: Creates purely physical (mundane) objects or occurrences

CLASS II: Creates living, non-magical beings, weak magical equipment and duplicates magic-user spells up to 5th level

CLASS III: Creates living, magical beings (but only the weakest type), moderately strong magic items and can duplicate any magic-user spell and cleric spells up to 4th

CLASS IV: Can do almost anything except granting more wishes in any way, shape or form.

Not a bad schema, really.

Planning Creative Treasurers by Dave Schroeder

Dave gets into thinking more about treasures – why is that orc carrying a bunch of gems, for example, or using a theme with a treasure horde. He refers to these as toolkits, for example …

“A thief’s toolkit could contain a +1 dagger, a gem that glows in the presence of traps, a set of Gauntlets of Dexterity, a skeleton key that would raise its user’s chances of opening locks, or a pair of “waldos”, that would allow him to open trapped chests from a distance. Don’t forget a periscope for peeking around corners, or perhaps a bag of holding for the loot. Disappearance Dust would be useful, as would a Gauntlet of Etherealness that would let pouches and pockets be picked tracelessly.”

The Mythos of Australia by Jerome Arkenberg

Another in the line of mythos articles, and if you’ve ever dipped your toes into the Australian myths, you know they are quite interesting and tough to adapt to D&D. The beauty of the Greek and Norse myths is that so many of them read like comic books.

Systematic Magic by Robin W. Rhodes

I love it when geeks begin “rationally” explaining why it makes no sense that a magic-user with charm person in his book could ever earn enough gold/experience to figure out hypnotic pattern, since charm person is clearly a control spell and hypnotic pattern a mental spell.

Spells here are divided into these different categories, which have different prime requisites. Control spells, for example, have charisma as a prime requisite, while nature spells have constitution as their prime. Holy spells only have the lawful alignment as their prime requisite.

Lawful characters begin with two holy spells. Neutrals get one 1st level spell from (I guess, the language is confusing) the category that matches their highest ability score. Chaotics aren’t mentioned, and a character can never have more than two new spells at any one time.

The chance to miscast a spell is equal to the level of the spell divided by the prime requisite. So, dispel magic, a 3rd level defense spell, would have a 3/15 chance of miscast if the caster had a constitution of 15, i.e. 20% chance of miscast. DM determines the side effects of a miscast spell.

Casting a spell costs one point of its prime requisite per spell level – so that dispel magic spell would cost 3 points of constitution. One point is recovered for every turn (minute or 10 minutes, depending on the version of the game) not spent in melee.

A new spell must be successfully cast once per spell level before the caster can learn another spell of that level.

Only two fields of magic can be learned at a time.

A bit fiddly, but a neat idea. Wonder how it works in real play. Again, though, you can see the future divides of gaming even at this early stage – more rules vs. fewer rules, “logic” vs. gonzo, etc.

The Fastest Guns That Never Lived, Part III by Allen Hammack

This third in a series examines several more characters from western shows and gives them Boot Hill stats, including Bret, Bart and Beau Maverick, Will and Jeff Sonnet, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, James Coburn (fuck, I want to play James Coburn in a game of Boot Hill), Robert Vaughn, Tim Straum, Kid Shelleen and Jason McCord. I love that the article mashes up characters and actors.

A Mixture of Magic and Technology: Gamma World Review by Robert Barger

When people say magic and technology don’t mix, it really burns the author. Hallmark of a geek – being annoyed at differing opinions. He mostly covers the ease with which one can combine Gamma World and D&D, which is something I like as well. Moving on …

Spell Determination for Hostile Magic-Users by Steve Miller

This is a quick article to randomly determine what spells an NPC magic-user might have, inspired by a bunch of players bitching when a randomly encountered enchanter threw and ice storm and fireball at them and wiped out their PCs. My response to this problem …

Honestly, it is good to vary the spells a bit, but on the other hand, do players ever apologize for destroying the kick-ass villain you designed in some dungeon you worked all month to stock? No, they don’t. You shouldn’t either.

Charts for Determining the Location of Treasure by Ronald Guritzky

Nice random table of treasure locations – very helpful when you write a lot of this stuff.

1) The location of the treasure
1-6 Chest
7-9 Urn
10-12 Bag
13-13 Pot
16-17 Loose
18 Carried
19 Hidden (Wall, Floor, Secret Compartment, etc.)
20 Ref’s Choice

2) There is a one in four chance that a treasure has a trap in it.

3) Traps
01-20 1-8 Daggers (1 in 6 poison)
21-36 1-6 Arrows
37-46 1-3 Spears (1 in 6 poison)
47-62 Gas
63-78 Poison Lock
79-88 Monster in Chest (Pay attention to monster’s size)
89-92 Exploding Chest (2-7 dice of damage)
93-95 Chest Does a Spell At Person
96 Chest Acts as Mirror of Life Trapping
97 Intelligent Chest (2nd -7th Level Magic User)
98 Lose One Level of Experience
99 Lose One Magic Item
00 Roll Twice

4) Gasses (Roll 6 sided die for first digit and 4 sided die for second digit)
11-12 Obscures Vision (Players run into each other, miss treasure, etc.)
13-14 Blinds Player 01-100 Hours
21-22 Fear During Next 2-9 Fights
23-24 Sleep 6-36 Rounds
31 + 1-4 Points to Random Ability (8 hours) (1 in 10 permanent)
32-33 Sick: Return to Surface (1 in 6 in coma)
34 Paralyzation
41 Stone
42 Death!!
43 Polymorph to Monster or Animal 10’R.
44 Amnesia (1-20 days, 1 in 6 permanent)
51-52 Change Alignment
53-54 Slow (As slow spell)
61-62 Haste (As haste spell)
63 Cloud Kill
64 Go Berserk! Attack Friends!

I dig this ad for Star Trek miniatures. Even though Star Wars gets more notice, I think Trek, being born of episodic TV, might be a better fit for RPG’s

Footsteps in the Sky by ???

Fiction …

“All he could do was walk on the air as normals could walk on land and his four older brothers repeatedly told him that it was the most useless of all mental mutations. After Reveral’s long training sessions for manhood, he was finally beginning to believe his brothers’ taunts. His oldest brother Fer-in and his next oldest, Serpt, both could teleport themselves vast distances and had easily passed their tests of manhood. Karn, the brother closest to him in age, could read minds and, with great effort, control them, given time. He was even now on his test of manhood, but no one doubted that soft spoken Karn would do anything but succeed. Reveral was starting to be concerned with his own chances at surviving the test.”

Wormy Again …

He’s back, and that blue demon just bit a giant pool cue hard.

And that does it for October 1978. A few nice articles, a few that did nothing for me at all. Have fun this weekend!

Dragon by Dragon – September 1978 (18)

Another week, another Dragon magazine. The last one was chock-full of stuff, how about this issue.

Traveller: The Strategy of Survival by Edward C. Cooper

As I was thinking, “I don’t remember any Traveller articles showing up before in The Dragon” I hit this line in the article, “I took advantage of the opportunity to observe the TRAVELLER phenomenon first hand” – ah – so this is at the dawn of Traveller.

I’ve never played Traveller, but I did create a character once (I was creating one character for every game I had a PDF of … though I skipped Exalted because after the first few steps I realized I just didn’t care enough to bother with it). This article appears to be about – well – keeping a character alive in Traveller. My favorite bit:

“Several other similar occurrences proved to me then that the success or failure of a character in most cases cannot be traced to “dice or chance” as often as it can to poor handling on the part of a player. I was both surprised and disappointed that some players even blamed a character or given situation for their own bad decisions. But then again, I was extremely excited, awed, by the skill some showed in manipulating their character’s life.”

That hits the spot for an old schooler – though it also shows that there were plenty of people back in the old days who were waiting for the new days with baited breath. Different strokes for different folks!

Reviews – Traveller, The Emerald Tablet, Imperium …

Well, imagine that! The reviewer appreciates that Traveller is not just D&D in space, but rather has its own “unique flavor and style”. The review is quite extensively, and I highly recommend it (yeah, I’m reviewing a review) for folks who don’t really know what Traveller is all about.

The Emerald Tablet is a set of fantasy wargame rules. The reviewer likes them, but admits he doesn’t know much about wargames. He likes that the magic system is based on ritual magic, which I know some people dig, but I always think it’s overrated. On the other hand – dig this sheet of Astral Force cards (click to enlarge … trust me, click it – click it now) I found at Boardgamegeek.com …

I don’t know what Phul does, but, hmm – anyways.

Imperium is another Game Designer’s Workshop product, a board game written by people who really love sci-fi literature. Apparently, Imperium is a game about the Terrans bumping up against the Imperium and the two sides fighting.

Pellic Quest is a computer moderated RPG (apparently a good thing, because computers are jerks like Dungeon Masters – see, the seeds of the new school were always there). Another sci-fi game, you start controlling a small planet in one of six roles (emperor, crusader, brigand, trader, droyds (robotic destroyers) or the zente (insect alien warriors). Each role needs different “winning points” and then go about making it happen.

Oh, and those zente …

Pretty sweet.

Cosmic Encounter is a sci-fi variation on draw poker.  Apparently it is simple and easy to learn, and, most importantly, fun, although the hype that one really has to get into the head of the alien race they control is wrong. The game combines several elements of classic, abstract games, and I want people who think they’re game designers to embrace this notion. Don’t begin with setting, begin with rules and get to know all sorts of old card games, board games, etc. Then apply setting to the game rules. This is how D&D was born and manages to remain so popular – it works as a game. Well, it used to, anyways.

INSANITY, or Why is My Character Eating Leaves? by Keven Thompson

A worthwhile article – insanity is tough to handle in games. Kevin Thompson devises first a saving throw vs. insanity (which makes sense given the time period). The saving throw is based on a matrix between Intelligence and Wisdom – find the number, add character level to it, and then try to roll 1d20 beneath that number. Neat idea (and I’ll be using it in a post this week).

If you fail the save, you roll d12 (always nice to see the d12) on an insanity chart.


1. Nutty
2. Kleptomaniac
3. Perverse
4. Psychotic Hatred
5. Childlike Trusting
6. Schizoid
7. Severe Paranoia
8. Acute Paranoia
9. Gibbering
10. Suicidal
11. Violent
12. Catatonic

The good thing about this list is that it is more behavior based than clinical. It’s pretty easy to see how these “insanities” could impact actual play in a game.

New Spells in D&D! by Paul Suliin

(Love the use of the exclamation point)

This article introduces new spells created by an actual play group using the rules for spell research in Dragon #5. The editor chimes in with the admonition that every spell needs to have a loophole via which it can negated somehow.

The new spells include Nature Call, Magic Missile II, Moon Runes, Flamebolt, Mystic Rope, Pit of Flame, Word of Warding, Force Field, Extend I, Shatterray, Wall of Water, Extend II, Beam of Blasting, Conjure Djinn/Efreet, Density Control, Extend III, Combine I, Call Spirit, Rust Monster Touch and more.

Let’s convert a couple to Blood & Treasure

Magic Missile II
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Medium (150 ft.)
Duration: Instantaneous

As magic missile, but this spell conjures either one +2 arrow or two +1 arrows, with a like amount added for every fifth level advanced beyond 3rd (i.e. two +2 arrows or four +1 arrows at 8th level, three +2 arrows or six +1 arrows at 13th level, etc.)

Density Control (which would also make a great power for Mystery Men!)
Level: Magic-User 6
Range: Personal
Duration: 3 minutes

The spellcaster can alter the density of his body from a gas to steel. Such changes alter the spellcaster’s Armor Class, so that at minimum density he is immune to physical weapons, and at maximum density he is AC 18 and his hands strike as swords (1d6 damage). Density may be altered throughout the duration of the spell, and items in contact with the spellcaster’s body when the spell is cast are altered along with him.

Magic: Governed by Laws of Theory by Thomas A. McCloud

Man, I used to roll my eyes at these when I was a kid – theory? dude, I want a new class, new race, new spells, new adventures, etc. But I’m an adult now, so … naw, I still think the same way.

This one attempts to draw inspiration on the how’s and why’s of magic in D&D by examining such sage tomes as the 1960 Encylcopedia Britannica and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Dude – it’s a game. Of course magic is treated casually. Real estate is treated pretty casually in Monopoly because it’s also a game – move and countermove, risk taking, a random element. Don’t overthink it!

Let Your Town Have A Purpose, or, How To Design A Town In Boot Hill by Mike Crane

Sometimes I think Jay Ward wrote the titles of these articles (bonus Nod points to anyone who gets that reference). Mike covers the best scale (1″ = 20′) to draw the map, the need to think about why the town is there in terms of who settled it and what they do (dude, it’s there to give gunslingers a place to have gun fights), etc. To be completely honest, articles like this are a waste. A bunch of random tables for generating an Old West town would have been much more helpful, or just a suggestion of watching some old episodes of Bonanza. Sorry – guess I’m in a salty mood at the moment.

Reviews Continued … Alpha Omega

Okay, apparently we’re not done with reviews yet. Alpha Omega was Battleline’s first stab at a sci-fi game. The reviewer thinks it reminds him of Buck Rogers or Star Wars … and that’s not an endorsement, according to the reviewer. After all, if we can’t beat all the fun out of sci-fi and make it boring and cerebral, then what’s the f-ing point? (I am in a mood). Here’s a sample of the review …

Alpha Omega is billed as “A game of tactical combat in space,” a claim supported by the rules.

Okay then. Apparently, the art is superb on the counters, but they’re hard to read, and the scale (one hex equals one light second) and turn time (6 seconds) are weird for space fights. The game is also two-dimensional, rather than three-dimensional, although the reviewer doesn’t think three dimensions would have any bearing on the game, and thus might as well not be there. The game is really just naval combat on a board that looks like space. The weapons are not realistic (just names, really), so the game also lacks believability (a bugaboo that has never bothered me personally) – hell, they named a couple alien ships Akroid and Balushi – the bastards. Uggh – life’s too short for this. Game looks fun to me, and the cover is pretty cool.

The Chamber of the Godgame by Mick McAllister

The what of the what? It’s a short article describing a dungeon chamber based on a scene in John Fowles’ “grand metaphysical dungeon novel” The Magus. I won’t go into it – find the article or find the book.

Gamma World: Fire Report; Setting Up The Campaign by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet

Neat little behind the scenes look at the why’s and wherefore’s of turning Metamorphosis Alpha into Gamma World.

Birth Tables – Boot Hill by Stephen Blair

This one’s a collection of random tables. Let’s roll on them and see what we get …

Social Class: Ranch Related (didn’t know that was a social class, but okay)

Profession of Father: Homesteader (ah, now I get it)

Birth Order: Bastard (makes sense)

Skills: Facility with numbers (this bastard can multiply!)

Initial Purse: $75

Size of Spread: 5,120 acres

Guidelines for Mixing Campaigns: Androids, Wizards, Several Mutants, and Liberal Doses of Imagination, Well Blended by James M. Ward

This article is a quick guide to converting D&D characters to MA characters. D&D characters get a radiation resistance of 3, and MA creatures get no save vs. magic. Magic armor completely disrupts protein and disruptor blasts (good to know). The shielding, metal and energy fields of the Warden stop crystal balls and helms of teleportation from working (it’s science, dude, deal with it). Good article – reminiscent of the treatment in the old DM’s Guide.

Monkish Weapons and Monk vs. Monk Combat by Garry Eckert

Apparently, Garry read a book about Japanese weapons and decided to apply what he learned to monks (who are drawn from Chinese fact and folklore, not Japanese – oi!). Skip it.

Effective Use of Poison by Bill Coburn

Quick article that defines poison as Class A, B or C.

Type A is in potion form, and includes Arsenic and Hemlock. It kills 80% of the time in 2d4 minutes and if it doesn’t kill, leaves a person stricken for 1 week (meaning half strength, dexterity, constitution and movement).

Type B is in the form of gas, darts, cobras and needles. A neurotoxin, it brings death 50% of the time in 4d4 days and leaves people stricken for 1d3 days after being unconscious 30 minutes after poisoning for 1d4 days.

Type C comes from monsters. A hemotoxin, is has a 10% chance of killing a character in 1d4 days, and leaves people stricken for 1d10 days after being unconscious 1 hour after poisoning for 2d4 days.

Armor in this scheme provides a bonus to save vs. poison (-2 penalty for no armor, no adjustment for leather, +1 for chainmail and +2 for platemail).

Not a bad little system, really.


Finieous Fingers and his pals meet the evil wizard, and discover that a good initiative roll and a magic wand go a long way towards evening the score between fighters and magic-users.

In Wormy, the trolls make the mistake of breaking one of Wormy’s pool balls. Jeez I miss this comic. Who has the next Wormy in them?

The Childhood and Youth of the Gray Mouser by Harry O. Fischer

This is Harry’s version of the Gray Mouser’s youth, Harry having been a major help in creating all of the major characters of Nehwon back in the day. It begins …

“Mokker was the Prince of Pimps in the Street of Whores in Lankhmar. He could just as easily have been King. He was tastefully and expensively dressed, with massive gold and jeweled rings one or more to a finger. He was exceedingly complex; calculating, sometimes ruthless, vulnerable to fits of whimsy, possessing an almost perpetual erection (as it behooves a whore-master to have), and more. He was generous, and delighted in both the giving and getting of surprises. His whores loved him for this, in addition to the fact that he felt not the slightest hesitation about correcting or revenging a wrong to one of his, no matter how slight the transgression. Mokker was a thorough and practical rogue given to sudden impulses, possessing large eyes, a sensual mouth and plump cheeks; a merry companion and a deadly enemy. He was clever, aware of it, and arrogant.”

No, D&D wasn’t for kids just yet.

Next we have this …

Okay then.

Non-Player Character Statistics by ???

This is another quickie – random tables for determining NPC stats based on their personality. Kinda cool. I’ll roll one up – we’ll say a madame from Tremayne named Durla …

Pride (Ego): Little – =1-% greed, -1% work quality

Greed: Loans things, sells items for normal* prices

Quality of Work: Normal

Okay, well, now I know. I think I’ll stick to my method in Blood & Treasure (on sale now!)

And there you have it, along with some nice little comic panels from McLean. Lots of stuff packed into 34 pages, and not a bad read overall. The spells were fun, and I like the poison rules. The reviews got me to look up some old games I’d never heard of, and the insanity rules put an idea in my head I’ll explore more this week.

Have fun boys and girls, and don’t be the last geek on your block to get Blood & Treasure

Mines and Mining – Part Five

The Finale! Previous posts are as follows:

Part One: Mining and Smelting
Part Two: Alabaster to Corundum
Part Three: Diamond to Lodestone
Part Four: Marble to Rhodochrosite

Natron (5 sp / lb): Art, Preservation
Salt (5 gp / lb): Alchemy, Cooking

Salt occurs as a white, pink or reddish mineral in rock salt form. Rock salt occurs in vast beds of sedimentary minerals resulting from the drying of enclosed lakes and seas. These salt beds may by up to 350 meters thick and cover many square miles. Salt is also extracted from sea water.

Salt can be extracted from rock salt deposits by mining it. This was traditionally a very dangerous profession, and thus left to slaves and convicts. The salt occurs in the form of irregular salt domes, and may be transparent, white, pink, reddish or red in alternating bands. Some salt mines still in operation today are very ancient, including famous mines in the Punjab and Poland. These mines cover many square miles, run up to 10 levels deep, and have hundreds of miles of passages and thousands of chambers. In other words, they would make perfect dungeons.

Salt can also be collected from salt water from the sea or from brine springs. When extracted from water, the salt is either evaporated from the water using salt pans (pots made from a crude ceramic material called briquetage) or by boiling it down over a fire. Even when boiling is used, the brine is usually allowed to evaporate in salterns in order to concentrate it before the boiling occurs.

Salt is a useful material on its own, primarily as a food additive and an alchemical ingredient. At some points in time it was almost as valuable as gold. Alchemists can make spirit of salt, or hydrochloric acid, by mixing salt with vitriol (sulfuric acid). Spirit of salt was mixed with aqua fortis (see Urine) to produce aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid. Alchemists also used salt to produce sal mirabilis, or miraculous salt, a popular laxative.

Another product of dry sea beds is natron. Natron was used as a grease-cutting cleaning agent, a mouthwash, and tooth paste. When blended with olive oil, it made soap. Natron was an ingredient in antiseptics and it was used to dry and preserve fish and meat, kill insects, make leather and bleach clothing. The Egyptians used it in the mummi-fication process because it absorbs water. When added to castor oil, it made a smokeless fuel, allowing artists to pain in tombs without staining them with soot. The Romans combined natron with sand and lime in their glass and ceramic production, and it was used as a flux in soldering precious metals and as an ingredient in blue paint.

Sandstone (8 sp / lb): Architecture

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-sized minerals. Most is comprised of quartz and feldspar, the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. Sandstone is usually colored tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. It is a common building material because it is easy to work and often resistant to weathering.

Serpentine (1 gp / lb): Architecture, Art

Serpentine is a group of many different minerals. The Romans called them “serpent rock”. They come in colors ranging from white to grey, yellow to green, brown to black and they are usually splotchy or veined. Serpentine is plentiful in sea beds. In the soil, it is toxic to plant life, and thus deposits often underlie strips of grassland in wooded areas. Serpentine marble (lizardite) ranges from red to green and weathers very well. Serpentine is a common stone in hardcarving. It can be carved into art objects or used as an architectural facing.

Silver (100 sp / lb): Art, Coins, Equipment

Silver, or argentum, is a whitish metal that is harder than gold, but still easily worked. This made it an excellent material for making coins, and in fact most coins through history were minted from silver. There are three main sources of silver: Quartz, galena and acanthite. For more information on quartz, see the entry for Gold & Quartz. For information on galena, see the entry for Lead. Acanthite is a blackish-grey mineral with a metallic luster.

Silver is most often used to make coins. Historically, silver coins were far more common than gold and copper (or bronze, brass, billon or potin) coins. In fantasy games, silver is also used on weapons, probably in the form of silver plate, because of its effect on lycanthropes. Silvering a weapon would probably involve the use of mercury, and would be performed by an alchemist rather than a smith.

Lunar Caustic, or lapis infernalis, was made by dissolving silver in aqua fortis and evaporating the substance. Sticks of lunar caustic were used in surgery because of its antiseptic properties. It blackens the hands. Argentum fulminans, or fulminating silver, is a silver compound that explodes readily, though the charge is fairly harmless in small amounts.

In mythology and folklore, silver is associated with the moon, thus lycanthrope’s vulnerability to silver.

Slate (5 cp / lb): Architecture

Slate is a grey stone formed from shale. The most common use for the stone is roof shingles, though high quality slate can be used for grave markers and other monuments.

Soapstone (1 cp / lb): Art

Soapstone is rock composed of talc and rich in magnesium. Soapstone has been a medium for carving for thousands of years. Native Americans used it to create bowls, cooking slabs and smoking pipes, the Indians for temple carvings and the Chinese for official seals. It is highly heat resistant, making it a good material for cooking slabs, seals that are to be dipped in hot wax and as a mold for soft metals.

Spinel: Medium Gem

Spinel is a class of minerals found in gemstone bearing gravel, limestone and marble. Spinels range from blue to mauve or dark green, brown or black in color.

Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Sulfur (1 sp / lb): Alchemy, Laundry, Medicine
Vitriol (10 gp / vial): Acid

Sulfur is a soft, yellow mineral that can be found near volcanoes and hot springs and in salt domes. It can also be extracted from pyrite (iron + sulfur), cinnabar (mercury + sulfur), galena (lead + sulfur), sphalerite (zinc + sulfur), stibnite (antimony + sulfur) and the sulfates, gypsum, alunite and barite.

Sulfur is extracted by stacking deposits in brick kilns built on sloping hillsides, making sure to leave airspace between them. Powdered sulfur is then placed on top of these piles and ignited. As the elemental sulfur burns, the heat melts the sulfur in the deposits, causing molten sulfur to flow down the hillside. It is then collected in wooden buckets.

Sulfur was used by the Egyptians to treat granular eyelids, and the Greeks used it for fumigation and bleaching cloth. Sulfur was also used, along with phosphorus, by Robert Boyle in a forerunner to modern matches. Sulfur is odorless. The odors associated with it come from hydrogen sulfide in rotten eggs and sulfur dioxide in burnt matches.

Alchemists could turn sulfur into a powerful acid called vitriol. Vitriol was, in fact, sulfuric acid. It was made by burning sulfur into sulfur dioxide, and then converting the sulfur dioxide into pure sulfuric acid.

The colors of Jupiter’s moon Io are from various forms of sulfur. The planet probably smells of brimstone, and could be an excellent haunt for demons and devils.

Clay (5 cp / lb): Art

Terracotta, from the Italian for “baked earth”, is a clay-based ceramic. Terracotta usually has a reddish-orange color. Terracotta could be glazed or unglazed. It could be used to make pottery, figurines, bricks and roof shingles. Perhaps the most famous use of terracotta was in the creation of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi-Huang’s terracotta army. Virtually all cultures made use of terracotta, from China to India to Greece and Western Africa. Terracotta could be dried in the sun or baked in kilns.

Tin (3 gp / lb): Alloys, Equipment

Tin, or stannum, is a silvery metal that is primarily found in an ore called casserite. Pure tin deposits are sometimes found near river and stream flows. Miners harvest this tin by digging a trench at the bottom of a deposit, loosening the gravel with a pick, and then running water over the gravel to remove unwanted material. This process creates gullies. Casserite occurs in quartz deposits. It is a black to reddish brown to yellow crystalline mineral. It is found with tourmaline, topaz and arsenopyrite (q.v.).

Tin was mostly used in the form of bronze or pewter. Bronze is an alloy of tin and copper (see Copper above). Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead (85:15) that might also contain portions of antimony or copper.

Tin ingot currency (see below), with each ingot weighing one pound, was used in Indo-china and the Malay Peninsula during the 14th and 15th century.

Alchemists created “butter of tin”, or tin chloride, which was used in the dyeing industry to fix colors.

Topaz: Medium Gem

Topaz is a gem that occurs with granite or rhyolite lava flows. Pure topaz is colorless, but tinted wine, yellow, pale grey, reddish-orange or blue-brown from impurities. Precious topaz is orange and imperial topaz is yellow, pink or pink-orange. Blue topaz is the rarest. Folklore holds that topaz wards away evil spirits.

Tourmaline: Medium Gem

Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone found compounded with such elements as aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium and potassium. It occurs with granite, marble and schist. There are several varieties of the gem. About 95% of all tourmalines are schorls, and colored bluish to brownish to black schorl. Dravite is a dark yellow to brownish-black, rubellite is rose or pink, indicolite is light blue to bluish-green, verdelite is green and achronite is a colorless tourmaline.

Turquoise: Minor Gem

Turquoise is blue-green mineral. It is a hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper. Even the best turquoise is only a bit harder than glass. It forms from the action of acidic solutions on pre-existing minerals during weathering, often from such minerals as malachite and feldspar. Turquoise is often a by-product of copper mines. Turquoise has been valued as a precious stone for thousands of years. It was used by the ancient Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Persians, for whom it was the national stone. The name derives from the French for a product derived from Persia imported through Turkey. It did not become a common ornamental stone in Europe until the 14th century. Common belief held that the stone had prophylactic qualities, and would change color to indicate the health of its owner. It was also supposed to aid horses.

Aqua Fortis (50 gp / vial): Acid
Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Saltpeter (2 gp / lb): Alchemy

Urine is not a mineral, but it contains minerals and it was an important material for Medieval industry. It was used as a source for both phosphorus (q.v.) and saltpeter, or potassium nitrate. Saltpeter is Latin for “stone salt”, and it was a critical ingredient in black powder and slow matches. Saltpeter was obtained by mixing manure with either mortar or wood ashes, common earth and straw into a compost heap 5 feet high by 5 feet wide by 15 feet wide. The heap was covered to protect it from the weather and kept moist with urine. This leached the water from the heap after one year, with the remaining liquid being mixed with wood ashes to produce saltpeter. The saltpeter crystals are added to sulfur and charcoal to produce black powder.

From saltpeter, the alchemist can produce aqua fortis, or strong water. Aqua fortis is nitric acid, a highly corrosive and toxic substance. Aqua fortis was used as a solvent to dissolve silver and most other metals, with the exception of gold and platinum. It was prepared by mixing sand, alum or vitriol with saltpeter and then distilling it by a hot fire. The gas that is produced condenses into aqua fortis. Refiners used this acid to separate silver from gold and copper, to mosaic workers for staining and coloring wood, and to other artists for coloring bone and ivory a fine purple color. Book binders used it to produce a marble effect on leather. Lapidaries use it to separate diamonds from metalline powders and to etch copper and brass. When mixed with oil of vitriol, it was used to stain canes with a tortoise shell effect.

Alchemists mixed aqua fortis with spirit of salt to create aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid and an important step in the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Zinc (7 gp / lb): Alloys

Zinc is a grey metal that is found in deposits of sphalerite. Sphalerite, which is also called zincblende, black-jack, and mock lead, is a yellow, brown or grey mineral.

Zinc is smelted by roasting in an oven. The zinc is placed in a clay retort shaped like a cylinder resting on a funnel. The retort is also packed with dolemite and a fuel like cow dung. The retort is then placed vertically into a furnace, which causes the zinc to become a vapor that condenses in the clay funnel and drips into a collection vessel. Such a furnace can separate 450 pounds of zinc in a day, producing sulfuric acid as a by-product.

Zinc is primarily used as an alloy with copper in brass. Flower of zinc, an alchemical compound also called zinc oxide, was used as a salve for the eyes, skin conditions and open wounds. It is still used in baby powder and creams that prevent or fight rash. The Romans used flower of zinc in paints and to make brass.

Hyacinth: Medium Gem
Jacinth: Medium Gem
Jargoon: Medium Gem
Zircon: Medium Gem

Zircons occur in many kinds of rocks, but mostly granite. Zircons can be black, brown, hazel, pink, red, yellow or colorless. Light colored zircons are called jargoons, a corruption of the Persian zargun, or “golden colored”. Red zircons are called jacinths, and yellow zircons hyacinths.

Zircons were believed to decorate the lost city of Iram and the hilt of Excalibur. In the Roland cycles, Ganelon gave his wife Bramimunde two golden necklaces inlaid with jacinths and amethysts. According to the Book of Enoch, there is a mountain of jacinth in Hell. Jacinth was believed to be a good luck stone for travelers. It also wards off plague and protects one from fire.

Mines and Mining – Part Four

This post covers minerals M through R.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Marble (4 gp / lb); Architecture, Art

Marble is formed from the metamorphism of limestone. It is mostly comprised of crystals of aragonite and dolomite. The name derives from the Greek for “shining stone”. Pure white marble comes from very pure limestone. The swirls seen in most marble are impurities from clay, silt, sand, iron and other materials. Green coloration is usually from the presence of serpentine. Marble’s relative softness, resistance to shattering, and color made it a popular medium for sculpture and architecture.

Cinnabar (3 gp / lb); Alchemy, Art
Mercury (10 gp / lb); Alchemy, Art
Vermillion (2 gp / oz); Pigment (Red)

Mercury, also called quicksilver or hydrargyrum, is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is a silvery metal found in deposits of calomel, livingstonite, corderite and cinnabar. Cinnabar is a scarlet to brick red mineral that is found in alkali hot springs and near volcanoes, often with dolomite.

Mercury is separated from cinnabar and other minerals by roasting. The mercury condenses easily into a condensing column and then collected and shipped in iron flasks.

Alchemists would heat elemental mercury with aqua fortis to prepare mercuric oxide. The reaction produced a thick, red vapor over the surface of the solution, while the mercuric oxide fell out of solution as red crystals. The oxygen released from this solution was called “dephlogisticated air” by Joseph Priestley.

Cinnabar is a source of vermillion, an orange-red pigment that has been used since prehistoric times. To the Romans, who called it minium, It was the most valuable pigment. The imperial government fixed the price at 70 sesterces to the pound, ten times more expensive than red ochre, because of the incredible demand and the short supply of cinnabar. Like many ancient pigments, it was toxic. The Olmecs and Mayans relied on its toxic reputation to repel tomb robbers, putting it in burial chambers and inserting it into limestone sarcophagi. The Chinese used it in carved lacquer ware, the layer of lacquer protecting people from the toxicity of the cinnabar.

Mercury dissolved gold and silver, making it useful in plating those two metals over other materials. Alchemists combined mercury with tin, sal ammoniac and flowers of sulfur to make mosaic gold, a yellow, crystalline powder used as a pigment in bronzing and gilding wood and metal.

Obsidian; Equipment, Minor Gem

Obsidian is volcanic glass that occurs in obsidian flows near active or dead volcanoes. It is usually black, but impurities can make it dark green to brown and even colorless. Obsidian with fluffy white inclusions is called snowflake obsidian. Gas bubbles can produce obsidian with a golden or rainbow sheen. Obsidian has been used since prehistoric times to craft blades, tools and projectiles. It can also be cut as a gem and used in art objects and jewelry.

Olivine and Peridot
Olivine; Minor Gem
Peridot; Medium Gem

Olivine is a greenish mineral common on Earth, the Moon, Mars and in comets. Gem quality olivine is called peridot. Peridot occurs in lava rocks. It is a rare gem and always colored olive green. Peridot is the only gemstone found in meteorites. Olivine is supposed to provide protection from magic spells, while peridot wards off enchantments.

Fire Opal; Medium Gem
Opal; Medium Gem

Opals are a mineraloid gel commonly found in sandstone and basalt. The water content in opals can be quite high, up to 20%. Opals range from colorless, white, gray, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown and black. Opals that have red against black are the rarest, while white and green opals are the most common. Fire opals are translucent, transparent opals of warm colors, such as yellow, orange or red. Opals were believed to be lucky stones and to cause invisibility if wrapped in a bay leaf and held in the hand.

Pearl; Minor Gem

Pearl is not a stone, though it does have a mineral base. Pearls are produced by a living, shelled mollusk. They are made from layers of nacre, or mother-of-pearl. The best pearls are produced by oysters, but they are quite rare. In a haul of 3 tons, only 3 or 4 oysters will produce perfect pearls. The largest pearl yet found came from a giant clam, and weighed 14 pounds. White and black pearls are the most common and popular pearls, but there are also pink, blue, champagne, green and purple pearls.

Phosphorus (7 gp / oz); Alchemy
Proto-Match (1 gp); Equipment

Phosphorus does not occur free in nature, but can be found with many other minerals, especially apatite. White phosphorus was discovered in 1669, by German alchemist Hennig Brand. It was named for Phosphorus, the light-bearer, i.e. Lucifer.

The most common way of obtaining phosphorus was from human waste. The process involves boiling urine to produce a residue which was heated to produce phosphorus gas which would condense into a white powder. The powder is flammable and capable of blistering fingers and burning holes in cloth. It takes 2,000 gallons of urine to produce one pound of phosphorus.

Hennig Brand eventually sold the recipe for 200 thalers (approximately 80 gp) and others eventually figured out the recipe from clues left by Brand. In 1680, Robert Boyle made the forerunner to modern matches when he used phosphorus-coated paper to ignite a sulfur-tipped wooden splint that he rubbed across the paper.

Pitchblende (Uranium)
Pitchblende (100 gp / lb); Art, Magic Items

Pitchblende, or uraninite, is a black mineral that contains uranium, lead, thorium, rare earth minerals and radium. The radium and lead are due to the decay of the uranium. Pitchblende was usually found with silver deposits.

Refined uranium is a silvery white metal. The element was discovered in 1789 by the apothecary Martin Heinrich Klaproth, but the metal was not isolated until 1841 by chemist Eugene-Melchior Peligot, making it unlikely to have been discovered in most fantasy settings. Unrefined pitchblende, however, was added to glass and mosaic tiles to give them a yellow-green to orange-red color. This uranium glass was usually about 2% uranium. Given the composition of pitchblende, a Referee who is running a science-fantasy game might want to require it as an ingredient for making magical objects.

Platinum (1,000 gp / lb); Coins, art objects

Platinum is a silvery metal that is resistant to corrosion and acid and malleable enough to work. It occurs with copper and nickel ores, often in the sands of rivers.

Like gold, platinum dissolves in aqua regia, and this substance was used to isolate pure platinum in the 18th century. More often, natural platinum, which is combined with other metals in the platinum family, is found and was worked by ancient peoples.

Platinum is harder than gold or silver, and with a much higher melting point. Platinum was unknown in Medieval Europe, but the peoples of pre-Columbian Central and South America were aware of a naturally occurring gold-platinum alloy and used it to make jewelry. Once the Europeans obtained platinum, they found they had no way of making a fire hot enough to melt it, which prevented them from minting the platinum coins sometimes seen in fantasy games. Such coins, had they existed, would have probably been made from the aforementioned alloy (and thus worth 5 gp each).

Porphyry (5 gp / lb); Architecture, Art

Imperial porphyry is a deep brownish-purple rock used to build monuments and buildings in ancient Rome and in hardcarving. It is an igneous rock that contains crystals of quartz (q.v.) and feldspar (q.v.). It came from a single quarry in the rocky wastes of Egypt’s eastern deserts.

Amethyst; Major Gem, Protection from Drunkenness
Aventurine; Medium Gem
Banded Agate; Minor Gem, Sleep
Carnelian; Medium Gem, Protection from Evil
Chalcedony; Medium Gem, Protection from Undead
Chrysoprase; Medium Gem, Invisibility
Citrine; Medium Gem
Jasper; Minor Gem, Protection from Poison
Moss Agate; Minor Gem, Sleep
Onyx; Medium Gem, Cause Chaos
Rock Crystal; Minor Gem
Rose Quartz; Minor Gem
Sard; Medium Gem
Sardonyx; Medium Gem
Smoky Quartz; Minor Gem
Tiger’s Eye; Minor Gem, Protection from Ethereal Creatures

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust after feldspar. It occurs with granite, shale, schist, sandstone, and gneiss. Pliny believed it was permanently frozen ice because it was often found near glaciers, but not volcanoes, and in spherical form would cool the hands and act as a prism. Quartz deposits often contain gold (q.v.).

Many forms of quartz are precious stones. Pure quartz is rock crystal, citrine is pale yellow, rose quartz is pink, amethyst purple, smoky quartz gray, milky quartz (the most common) white, jasper reddish brown, tiger’s eye is gold and red-brown and hawk’s eye is blue.

Agate, a form of quartz, comes in many varieties, including banded agate and moss agate. Onyx is a black agate with bands every color but blue and purple. Sardonyx replaces the black of onyx with brown. Both are cut into cabochons and used for intaglios (i.e. engraved gems).

Chalcedony is a white or lightly colored quartz. It can also be banded. Aventurine is translucent chalcedony with shimmering inclusions. Carnelian is translucent orange-red, while sard is a brown carnelian. Chrysoprase is gemstone quality chalcedony that is apple green to deep green.

The native Americans called quartz geodes that contained agate, jasper or opal “thunder eggs”. They believed that they were thrown by thunder spirits at one another.

Rhodochrosite; Medium Gem

Rhodochrosite is a precious stone that varies in color from rose red to pink or pale brown. The purest form of the stone is rose red in color. Rhodochrosite occurs in hydro-thermal veins in silver ore deposits. The Incas believed it to be the hardened blood of their ancient kings. As a soft mineral with perfect cleavage, it is difficult to facet.