Dragon by Dragon – February 1980 (34)

One of the fun things for me about doing these reviews, besides just exploring all the great “forgotten” material produced for our favorite games, is the covers. I didn’t get into D&D until around 1984, and didn’t know about Dragon Magazine until maybe a couple years after that, so these are all new to me. This month’s cover is, I think, particularly cool. An army working its way down a defile to face a decidedly chaotic-looking castle. The cover was painted by Ken Rahman, aka Elladan Elrohir.

Well, what are the top ten cool things to be found in The Dragon #34? Let’s see …

I. THIS IS WHY I KEEP IT VAGUE …

From “Out on a Limb”, a letter by Robert T. Willis III

“I would like to correct some numbers that appeared in “How Tall is a Giant?” (TD31). In the article, 3mm figures were equated with 1/500 scale, and the reader was led to expect that his rational guess of 1/600 was blatantly wrong. As a math major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I would like to point out that the article was wrong—3mm figures are actually 1/600 scale (1/609.6 is the exact number).

Since 3mm = 3/25.4 inches = 3/(25.4 x 12) feet = 3/304.8 feet, the scale is (3/304.8)/6 because the figure represents a man 6’ tall. This number is 1/609.6 which can be rounded to 1/600.”

II. MINING IDEAS

I know next to nothing about Divine Right by TSR, which is unfortunate since this issue devotes a great deal of time and energy to that game. That said, there’s usually something useful to be found in any game, and I thought these two tables might be useful:

Tombs and curses. I can imagine using this when dealing with large armies tromping across hex maps on the way to besiege a stronghold and coming across some mini-dungeon. Roll on the dice, lose the dice roll as a percent of your troops, and use that percentage chance for each named character in your army to die (allow a saving throw if you must – if they save, they do not die, but they may not participate in the battle).

III. WARGAME WHAT-IFS

Samuel Gill, in “Up on a Soap Box” presents a few ideas for wargame campaigns that twist actual history around a bit, such as a Mexican-Texican War in 1842 (which kinda sorta happened, though not on a huge scale), Mediterranean fleet action in WW1, assuming the Italians had not defaulted on their commitments to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and a revival of hostilities between France and Prussia in 1886.

This brings up not only the idea of using similar historical what-ifs for RPG campaigns, modern and medieval, but also twisting the history of your own campaign world. Imagine the characters in a long-standing campaign waking up to find the world they know changed in major ways, and having to figure out how the bad guys (or good guys, if the party is evil) did it, and how to get things back to normal – or maybe they cannot and now have to start from square one!

Sam’s article gives numerous other examples of alternate history, which are well worth the perusal.

IV. OH, I THINK GARY CAN ANSWER THAT …

A question from “Sage Advice”:

“Question: I have just started playing AD&D and I dont know what the following weapons are: Bardiche, Bec de Corbin, Bill-Guisarme, Fauchard, Fauchard-Fork, Flail, Glaive, Glaive-Guisarme, Guisarme, Guisarme-Voulge, Lucern Hammer, Partisan, Pick, Ransuer, Scimitar, Spetum and Voulge.

Can you tell me what they are?”

Now we would just tell him to Google it.

V. MONSTER TABLES

If you’re playing a 1st edition AD&D game and like to keep it pristine, Blake Ward’s “Familiar Fiends” article might be just for you. It collects all the monsters in the AD&D Monster Manual and puts them into a random table for stocking dungeons. He also has a random table for determining what level of monster to use based on the dungeon level you’re stocking:

Very nice.

AWESOME ADVERT

Dig this ad for Judge’s Guild:

Love the fighter and his horse.

VI. RISKING THERMONUCLEAR WAR

Funny, isn’t it. We went from “Atomic War” to “Nuclear War” to “Thermonuclear War” and then back to “Nuclear War”. Anyhow …

A rare article in The Dragon for good old-fashioned RISK. This one, by George Laking, gives some variants on the old game, including the addition of nuclear weapons. I won’t go into the details, but they would certainly make for an interesting game … or you could just play Supremacy. Boy, we had a lot of fun with that game back in the day, and RISK and Axis & Allies as well.

VII. ONI VS. MINIATURES PAINTERS

Fantasysmith gives a guide to properly carrying your miniatures around without ruining them. What drew my eye was this illo:

When going to play wargames, always beware lurking ogre magi. Especially, one must presume, when in Japan.

VIII. GRIMTOOTH HAS COMPETITION

Look out for Gerard Moshofsky of Eugene, Oregon, Grimtooth, because he’s a devious guy. Check out this dandy trap:

This used to be quite the thing in old dungeon design. I think 3rd edition, by standardizing traps and attaching more rules to them, kind of killed this old creativity. Maybe I’m wrong.

IX. NAME GENERATOR

Love this name generator by Mark Whisler – it would be perfect for the barbarian mini-game I’m going to publish soon (from the “B for Barbarian” article in NOD).

Roll a d10 and d6 and cross-reference them on the table to get the first name element, then do it again for the second.

X. WEIRD OLD D&D

Tom Holsinger and Candy Peterson have a nice article on quirks and curses for magic items. Several tables, all good brain fodder, but I’ll point out these minor curses:

3) Develop highly unpopular sexual perversion (necktie party if you’re caught).

4) Develop socially unacceptable sexual perversion (Charisma reduced to 3 if you are discovered—Hint: It has to do with graveyards).

D&D was once for “weird adults” more than for “nerdy teens”.

AWESOME ADVERT

Broadsword Miniatures operated during the 1980’s out of Georgia USA. I liked the miniatures in the ad, so I did a little searching and found some more, like these goblins.

Man, I love those old miniature illustrations.

XI. DOOMKEEP

Last month’s adventure went well, so The Dragon included Doomkeep in this one, a dungeon by Brian Blume used as the Second Official Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament module. Obviously, I don’t have room in this issue to do a major review, but it has a chessboard room, which I love (see art below), and it includes the hand mirror of hoping, which has the following effects when used:

1. A Death Ray emerges (normal saving throw allowed).
2. A 5-die fireball explodes 32’ away from the mirror.
3. A twin of the object pointed at appears and aids the object pointed at (if possible).
4. 27 Blackbirds fly out of the mirror and confuse (saving throw allowed vs. spell) everyone in the area for 2 melee rounds.
5. The object pointed at is sucked into the mirror, never to return.
6. The object pointed at turns into a Type I Demon which attacks the holder of the mirror.
7. A 6-die lightning bolt shoots out 60’ from the mirror.
8. A Cure Critical Wounds spell is emitted at the thing pointed at.
9. A mist appears which obscures all vision in a 20’ x 20’ area (treat this as a Confusion spell if melee occurs in the mist).
10. Poison gas fills an area 30’ x 30’ (+2 on s.t).))

Also this …

Damn, I love old D&D.

OTHER GOODIES

This issue was actually pretty packed with interesting stuff …

“Minarian Legends” – huge article about the Muetarian Empire. Great art!

“Getting into the Flow of Magic Fountains” – random tables for generating magic fountains. I won’t reproduce the tables, but I will roll up a random fountain:

This fountain contains four drinks (weird, but okay). With each drink, a person gains an extra spell level (if they can cast spells), but also glow in the dark and suffer the effects of reduce person (save allowed).

“Dragon’s Bestiary” – this issue has the Vilkonnar by Charles Carson – a neutral evil underground humanoid race along with their slightly different cousins, the Kailiff.

“Dragon’s Mirth” – a standardized disaster scale by Jeff Swycaffer – fun, if nothing else for the U.S. regionalisms:

As always, I’ll leave you today with a tiny taste of Tramp …

Invasion America!

I came across this article recently positing an invasion of the United States by the Nazis during World War II. It immediately brought to mind two games from my wargaming past – RISK and Axis & Allies (and Invasion America, though I never actually played that one). I got RISK as a kid and immediately fell in love with it – one of those “I didn’t know something like this even existed!” moments.

I was big into militaria and WW2 as a kid – watching Victory at Sea on Sunday mornings on the local TV station (KVVU, Channel 5) and playing war with other kids in the neigborhood. I remember my first game was played against a friend in the neighborhood and my dad. I played the blue army, naturally, and my father the red army. When he finally beat me, I felt like I’d failed the USA and let the Soviets conquer the world – what a lousy feeling. Fortunately, he gave me some pointers – mostly on not spreading myself thin and attacking at all costs – and I improved quite a bit at RISK. I now move at a snails pace, building up so much depth that attacks crash against me like waves on a shore. The last time I played was a few years ago, with my daughter. The first game I played with her she couldn’t roll a bad dice and she won. She decided RISK was a great game. The next two went to me and she decided she was going to take a break from RISK for a while. C’est la vie.

I was introduced to Axis & Allies (one of the greatest game covers ever, by the way) by some guys I worked with at a video store (VIDEO PARK – World’s Largest Video Store). They also introduced me to SUPREMACY. Fun stuff. I learned the hard way that Axis & Allies is designed to replicate the strategies used in WW2 – almost like wargame railroading. You wander too far off the reservation, and things can get tough. I can still remember a good friend of mine and I were going to be playing the Axis in a game and we spent the entire day at work plotting our strategy. We seized on the idea of Germany building an aircraft carrier and threatening the USA with its fighters – the Allies would never expect it – we would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, we were playing with a guy who didn’t think in terms of military strategy, but rather game strategy – and he also had a knack for rolling dice. Germany built its ill-conceived carrier and, like the real carrier built by the Germans, it took forever, was finally stuck in port, and then unceremoniously sunk when the Allies came across the Channel. Still – good times, and very instructive about the importance of understanding the logic of the game rules over the logic of the “real world”, even in terms of old school, rules-lite games.