Dragon by Dragon – April 1981 (48)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there in blog land – and happy April Fools Day, since this week we’re looking at an April issue of Dragon – #48, from good old 1981.

Before I hit the magazine, though, I’m going to do a little advertising – NOD 29 is now out as a PDF, at Lulu.com and Rpgnow.com. This one has the second half of the Trollheim hex crawl, the third part of the d20 Mecha series featuring some mecha stats that could be useful for all sorts of sci-fi games, Aaron Siddall‘s very cool Hyperspace campaign notes for GRIT & VIGOR, which combines Lovecraft with good old fashioned rocket-powered sci-fi, Tony Tucker’s take on the luchador class for GRIT & VIGOR, a Quick & Easy mini-game pitting luchadores vs. the Aztec Mummy, a random class generator (along with a couple random classes that came out pretty good), info on using interesting historic coins in treasure hoards, the Laser Mage class and a couple tidbits for SPACE PRINCESS. All sorts of fun for $4.99.

And now, ladies and gents, on to the magazine.

We begin with an Arms Law ad, and a few thoughts on said ad by the writer of the blog:

That first bit is the problem – death being only one blow away with Arms Law. Many would argue that it’s more realistic than D&D combat … and they’re right. That’s precisely the problem. We already live in the real world, where death is one blow away. That’s why most of us live boring lives and indulge in fantasy for our excitement. I’m not sure injecting that kind of realism in fantasy is worth the trouble. A realistic game for the sake of the challenge, on the other hand, can be quite engaging. Just a thought.

And now, God forgive me, I’m going to show another old ad. I like the tagline – “not for everybody” – clever. Here’s a post about the game.

I might have mused about this before, but is anyone out there making new retro-computer dungeon crawls? For those in the know – would it be hard? I think it might be fun to create some relatively simple games with simple mechanics for those who want to just do some old fashioned dungeon crawling.

The theme for this issue is Underwater Adventuring. I can attest to how hard it is to write underwater adventures – or at least adventure locales for my hex crawls. So much of what we take for granted on the surface doesn’t work underwater. The first article, “Watery Words to the Wise” by Jeff Swycaffer, does a nice job of hitting the highlights of what does and does not work underwater. No rules, just sound advice.

Up next is the “Dragon’s Bestiary”, which features the Water-Horse by Roger E. Moore, Golden Ammorite by Roger E. Moore and Sea Demon by Ernest N. Rowland Jr. Nothing earthshaking here, but solid monsters for an underwater (or close-to-water) game.

The “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is also aquatically inclined, all by Roger E. Moore.

Naturally, Dragon Magazine comes through with its annual April Fools Day supplement, this one with its own cover (for Dragon #48-1/2). Truth be told, I think I like it better than the actual cover.

This month we get a bit on the Accountant character class and a game called Real Life with a nice bit of character generation:

We also get “Saturday Morning Monsters”, with stats for Bugs Bunny (CG 15th level illusionist), Daffy Duck (CN and totally nuts), Popeye (LN 9th or 18th level fighter), Rocky (LG 12th level fighter) and Bullwinkle (LG 13th level fighter) and Dudley Do-Right (LG 18th level paladin).

Back into the real magazine, Tim Lasko has an article on the druid called “The Druid and the DM”. It’s a general overview of the class as presented in AD&D, along with some suggestions for rule changes involving druid spells, many involing the use of “greater mistletoe”, changing the druid’s initial age and how his age works in-game (kind of weird idea – not sure why I should use it, or whether it would be worth the trouble), giving them the sage’s ability to answer questions about flora and fauna (good idea, but doesn’t require rules in my opinion) and a few other bits. It’s a combination of unnecessary complication, rules for things that don’t really require rules and ticky-tack little bonuses. Not bad, per se, but not terribly useful.

Players of Top Secret, which appears to be making a comeback these days, might enjoy “Doctor Yes”, a scenario written by Merle Rasmussen and James Thompson. The scenario is set on a floating island and appears to be engaging and thorough – rules for underwater adventuring in TS, and a large complex with traps and dangers. You also get stats for such personel as Chuck Morris, Bruce Nee and “Sweetbeam” Leotard.

“Giants in the Earth” presents Ursula K. LeGuin’s Sparrowhawk (N 21st level Illusionist/20th level Magic-User) and Andrew Offutt and Richard Lyon’s Tiana Highrider (CG 12th level Fighter/12th level Thief).

Michael Kelly‘s “Instant Adventures” is a neat article with a list of adventure types, along with the materials they require and the time involved in preparation. A few examples:

Assault/Raid (Bodysnatch), requires a small military encampment and takes about 20 minutes to set up.

Feud, Inter-family, requires a brief history of the feud and the feuding families, as well as a reason for the involvement of the characters; takes a couple hours to prepare.

Smuggling, Weapons, requires a war and revolutionaries in need of weapons and supplies, as well as a source for those weapons and supplies; takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

At a minimum, it’s a great source of ideas for games.

Lakofka‘s “Mission Control” article dovetails nicely with it, being a way of detemining how tough the bad guy faced by adventurers should be. In a nutshell, it is based on the total XP of the party, that determining the level of the big bad guy and how much treasure/magic items he should have. The article gets pretty wordy and “in the weeds”, but the basic ideas are solid and useful.

And so ends Dragon #48, as usual, with a frame from Wormy …

And now begins White Dwarf #24, the April/May 1981 issue. The issue starts off with a great cover – barbarian woman and a sort of Bronze Age warrior-type before a stepped jungle pyramid with dragons or pteranodons buzzing about. Good stuff. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say again that in my opinion the quality of layout and art in White Dwarf was superior to Dragon in this period. Dragon’s layout was never inspired, but the cover art got much better as time went on. Both magazines are a pain in the butt to read for folks without premium peepers, but that’s not their fault, just Father Time’s.

The first highlight for me in this issue of White Dwarf is some a beautiful piece of art by the great Russ Nicholson:

It suggests a great scenario – the adventurers captured and stripped of their toys – that’s hard to implement. Most players don’t dig it, and there’s usually an idea that if you’re putting them through it they’re going to live through the experience. An assumed guarantee of survival takes the fun out of the scenario. Still, if you can find the right kind of players, it makes for a great game.

I found the review for a game called Quirks – the game of unnatural selection interesting. Ian Livingstone gave it a good review and it sounds like an interesting concept, wherein players create weird plants and animals and have to adapt them to survive changing climates and challenges.

WD24 also has a detective class with some interesting abilities (10% chance of noticing disguised assassins), some sage abilities, thief abilities, spells and tracking. I think I’d enjoy playing a Halfling Shamus (4th level detective).

Mark Byng has an AD&D mini-module called “The Lair of Maldred the Mighty” which is, if I’m honest, kind of hard to read for an old fart like myself. Not his fault – a layout issue.

Monster Madness has a few “of the more eccentric monsters to have graced the White Dwarf letter box” – in this case the Bonacon by David Taylor, Llort by Andrew Key, Todal and Marcus Barbor, Tali Monster by Craig Edwards, Dungeon Master by Malory Nye. For fun, the DM is below in B&T format:

Dungeon Master, Medium Humanoid: HD as many as he likes; AC 16 (chainmail and judge’s shield), ATK special, MV 30′, SV varies, AL CE usually, Special: 30% chance he will follow adventurers around a dungeon telling them what they can and cannot do, rolls for wandering monsters when characters make any noise at all, reading of the rules (sleep spell), consults matrices and confuses attackers, not spell affects him unless you can persuade him otherwise, weapons do half damage, susceptible to bribes of 500 gp or more (treat as charm person).

That’s that, boys and girls. Have fun, do something nice for mom and then do something nice for everyone else.

The Unpublishables

Just about every GM / DM / Referee, over the course of their “career” stats up monsters inspired by sources protected by that pesky little thing called copyright – monsters you can feel free to use in your home campaign, but that you couldn’t otherwise put in print. Well, instead of throwing out the next installment of the Gods of the Motherlands (which I will do tomorrow), I’m presenting my thinly veiled (one so thinly veiled that its positively indecent, and a couple others working entirely in the raw) unpublishables. Since I can’t publish them, I didn’t go to the trouble of making them particularly compliant with any set of rules.

Astral Knight
Astral knights patrol the dimensions fighting evil, particularly the undead. Their armor increases their strength and gives them the ability to fly. It can seal itself from the depredations of hostile environments, allowing the astral knight to ignore extreme heat and cold and the absence of air. An astral knight can seal its systems for a full day, after which they must resupply their air supply.

Astral knights have three special items they can employ, all of them being stored in a pocket dimension (per a bag of holding). All of an astral knight’s weapons resemble guns. The “neutralizer” fires a ray that acts as a dismissal spell against extra-planar and undead creatures or deals 2d6 points of energy damage against normal corporeal creatures. The analyzer fires a ray that acts as both a true seeing and know alignment spell. The universal translator acts as a tongues spell when held by an astral knight and pointed at a speaking creature. Astral knights speak the cosmic tongue and their alignment language.

If stripped of their armor, they lose all access to their abilities and are merely humanoid warriors with 2 hit dice.

| Astral Knight: HD 4+1; AC -1 [20]; Atk 1 slam (1d6) or 1 weapon; Move 12 (Fly 24); Save 13; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Sealed system, special items.

Astral Ninja
Astral ninjas are descended from elves enslaved millenia ago by the alien thulids, from whom they long ago won their freedom. They are related to the astral pirates, with whom they war constantly. The astral ninjas are governed by an undying wizard-king. Being monastic creatures, the astral ninjas use very plain weapons and equipment. They maintain a few strongholds in the material plane. These squat towers are quite strong, being constructed of adamantine and housing 500 ninja. Astral ninjas are rarely encountered outside their strongholds.

Outside of their strongholds, most astral ninjas are encountered in groups of four. Each of these groups will consist of two astral ninjas, a warlock and a sensei.

Temporary lairs will contain 1d10+10 astral ninjas, 8 warlocks, and 2 sensei. Astral ninja lairs will contain 2d8 magic items.

Silver Sword: Silver swords are powerful magical weapons employed by both astral ninjas and astral pirates. Silver swords are +3 two-handed swords, which, if used astrally, have a 20% chance each round of cutting the silver cord (does not affect psionicists using psychic defense). The supreme leaders use more powerful versions of this weapon that are +5, vorpal, and can cut the silver cords of psychics using psychic defense.

| Astral Ninja: HD 2; AC 6 [13]; Atk 1 two-handed sword (2d6); Move 15; Save 16; CL/XP 4/120; Special: 50% magic resistance, powers (mind blast, obfuscation, telekinesis).

| Warlock: HD 5; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 two-handed sword (2d6); Move 15; Save 13; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: 50% MR, powers (mind blast, obfuscation, telekinesis), 5th level magic-user.

| Sensei: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 silver sword +3 (2d6+3); Move 15; Save 9; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: 50% MR, powers (mind blast, obfuscation, telekinesis), 7th level magic-user.

| Wizard-King: HD 16 (120 hp); AC -6 [25]; Atk 2 vorpal sword (4d6); Move 15; Save 3; CL/XP 24/5600; Special: 75% magic resistance, powers (mind blast, obfuscation, telekinesis), 16th level magic-user.

Astral Pirate
Astral pirates are descended from elves enslaved millenia ago by the alien thulids, from whom they long ago won their freedom. They are related to the astral ninjas, with whom they war constantly. Astral pirates have levels in fighter, wizard or fighter/wizard. They are led by a lich-queen. Astral pirates use baroque armor (splint mail +4) and weapons. They dwell in mighty castles on the astral plane or aboard astral pirate ships. All astral pirates are capable of manifesting themselves in the material plane at will.

Outside of their castles, most astral pirates are encountered in groups of four. Each of these groups will consist of two astral pirates, one sergeant, and a knight.

Temporary lairs and astral pirate ships will contain 1d10+9 astral pirates, 10 mates and 5 captains. Material plane lairs will contains 1d6+4 magic items.

Astral pirates have a special pact with a group of large red dragons. In return for food and shelter, the dragons allow the astral pirates to use them as mounts; each can carry anywhere from 5 to 11 pirates depending on their size.

Silver Sword: Silver swords are powerful magical weapons employed by both astral ninjas and astral pirates. Silver swords are +3 two-handed swords, which, if used astrally, have a 20% chance each round of cutting the silver cord. The supreme leaders use more powerful versions of this weapon that are +5, vorpal.

| Astral Pirate: HD 2; AC -1 [20]; Atk 1 two-handed sword (2d6); Move 15 (100 on astral plane); Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Powers (astral travel, mind blast, telekinesis).

| Mate: HD 5; AC -1 [20]; Atk 1 two-handed sword +1 (2d6+2); Move 15 (100 on astral plane); Save 12; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Powers (astral travel, mind blast, telekinesis).

| Captain: HD 8; AC -3 [22]; Atk 1 silver sword +3 (3d6); Move 15 (100 on astral plane); Save 8; CL/XP 11/1700; Special: Powers (astral travel, mind blast, telekinesis), protection from good, cause disease 1/week.

| Lich-Queen: HD 12; AC 1 [18]; Atk 1 vorpal sword +5 (3d6); Move 15 (100 on astral plane); Save 3; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Powers (astral travel, mind blast, telekinesis), 12th level magic-user.

Dolok
The doloks are a race of aberrations dedicated to the destruction of all life. Outside of their vehicles they look like anemic little squids and can be destroyed easily with a single weapon blow. Inside their vehicles, however, they are quite formidable. Doloks will instantly attack any living creature that crosses their path, shouting endlessly “destroy, destroy” in their high, metallic voices. They attack by firing a disintegration ray from their forward cannons. This ray works like the spell disintegrate. Doloks are immune to fear and other mind-affecting effects. Doloks can be encountered on the astral plane.

| Dolok: HD 6; AC -6 [25]; Atk 1 ray (disintegration); Move 6 (Fly 9); Save 11; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Disintegrate ray, fearless.

Dune Raider
Beyond the shallow, black seas of the moon and the fungus forests that crowd those shores are the windswept lunar deserts. These deserts are frightening places; broiling hot in the daytime and freezing cold in the night, with fine, choking gray dust. The beasts who dwell in these deserts are fierce survivors, and the barbarians who hunt them are doubly fierce.

The dune raiders live in small hunting tribes. They live their entire lives wrapped in silk scarves and thick, woolen cloaks meant to protect their skin from the elements and their lungs from the lunar dust. They are built as humans, but have deep, croaking voices that betray their alien nature.

Dune raiders use massive woolly lunar caterpillars (10 HD, AC 18, MV 30, SV P, slam for 2d6 damage) as their mounts. These creatures are larger than elephants and exist in their caterpillar stage for over one hundred years before burrowing in the sand and emerging a century later as a lunar moth. The caterpillars are mostly inoffensive creatures capable of sustaining themselves on nutrients sifted from the sand. The raiders use their silk to weave their scarves and their hair to weave robes and cloaks.

Dune raiders use morningstars made of petrified seedpods found beneath the lunar sand. They are as effective as metal weapons and affect lycanthropes as though they were silver. The light weight of the seeds allow their wielders a +1 bonus to initiative.

They also arm themselves with ancient jezzails (rifles), the origin of which are unknown. An explosive powder and metallic balls are procured somewhere in the desert. These weapons have a range of 200 ft and deal 2-16 damage with a successful hit. They jam about one time in ten, and have such an explosive recoil that their firers must succeed at a CC 15 strength check to avoid being knocked prone.

The most important device the dune raiders have at their disposal, and another mystery for wizards, is their breathing tube. Anchored beneath their necks, these copper tubes sneak beneath their scarves and provide them with cool, dust-free air.

All dune raiders have the abilities of 3rd level rangers. If the dune raiders have a religion it is unknown, and spell casters have never been encountered among their kind. They make their way hunting the sands and raiding small settlements. On rare occasions they will seek to trade their silk and wool for seemingly worthless baubles; they are especially fond of glass and copper.

| Dune Raider: HD 3; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: 3rd level rangers.

Jeep
Jeeps are rare, dog-like creatures that live in Africa. They originate in the 4th dimension, and their extraplanar origin gives them the ability to use the following spells at will: dimension door, ethereal jaunt and spider climb. Jeeps eat only orchids, making them expensive pets to keep. They never tell lies and are loyal to the end.

“A Jeep is an animal living in a three dimensional world-in this case our world- but really belonging to a fourth dimensional world. Here’s what happened. A number of Jeep life cells were somehow forced through the dimensional barrier into our world. They combined at a favorable time with free life cells of the African Hooey Hound. The electrical vibrations of the Hooey Hound cell and the foreign cell were the same. They were kindred cells. In fact, all things are to some extent are relative, whether they be of this or some other world, now you see. The extremely favorable conditions of germination in Africa caused a fusion of these life cells. So the uniting of kindred cells caused a transmutation. The result, a mysterious strange animal.”

| Jeep: HD 2; AC 5 [14]; Atk 1 bite (1d4); Move 15; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Dimension door, ethereal jaunt, spider climb.

Klingen
Klingens are a race of humanoids with swarthy skin and black hair. Both males and females have hard features and thick eyebrows. Male klingens usually cultivate beards and mustachios. Although klingens live in a highly regimented society, one should not come to the conclusion that they are lawful. Advancement in their society is through murder of those of higher rank, and klingen groups are rife with factions and double-dealing. All klingen warriors (and most civilians) can back attack for double damage.

Klingen warriors wear mail shirts and wield ray guns and daggers. Their ray guns fire a beam that can either inflict 2-12 points of subdual damage or 2-12 points of lethal damage. For every 10 klingen warriors there is a commander with 2 HD and the ability to back attack for triple damage. For every 5 commanders there is a 3 HD lieutenant with the death attack ability of a 2nd level assassin. For every 5 lieutenants there is a 5 HD captain with the death attack ability of a 4th level assassin.

Klingen player characters have a +1 bonus to wisdom and a -1 penalty to charisma. Typical classes are assassin, fighter and rogue. Klingen player characters have a +1 bonus to making rear and flank attacks, over and above normal bonuses. Their thick skin and unique physiology gives them a +1 bonus to armor class.

| Klingen: HD 1+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4) or 1 ray gun (2d6); Move 12; Save 17; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Backstab x2.

| Commander: HD 2+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4) or 1 ray gun (2d6); Move 12; Save 16; CL/XP 3/60; Special: Backstab x3.

| Lieutenant: HD 3+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4) or 1 ray gun (2d6); Move 12; Save 14; CL/XP 4/120; Special: Death attack as assassin.

| Captain: HD 5+1; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1 weapon (1d4) or 1 ray gun (2d6); Move 12; Save 12; CL/XP 6/400; Special: Death attack as assassin.