Dragon by Dragon – April 1978 (13)

 Niall armors up like a barbarian!

Dragon #13 is a mixed bag. Mostly good, a little wasted space (in my opinion of course, one man’s waste is another man’s … hmmm, that’s not going to sound right … skip it). Let’s take a look, shall we …

Tim Kask starts off with his editorial spiel, noting that this is the first of the monthly Dragons. It is also the April Fool’s edition, which we’ll regret a little later on. Gencon moves this year from the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva (the what in where?) to the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha – they needed more room. TSR Periodicals is also planning a move to a bigger building.

Shlump Da Orc (I’m guessing that’s a nom de plume) produces a surprisingly long article on figuring out how heavy giants are and how much they can lift. In fact, it is multiple efforts to answer this pressing question (one of the ones that suggests to me D&D was already beginning the process of moving from practice to theory with some folks). One formula explains that a 30-ft. tall giant should weigh 11.75 tons, have a 16′ 9″ chest and an 8′ long torso. Would you care for the semi-official weight formula?

Anyhow … the bit on how much a giant could pick up is a bit more interesting, if for no other reason than because of the following assumptions they use about the average human:

The average person can:

1) Carry his full weight on his back
2) Hold in his arms 3/4 of his weight – dead weight that is balanceable
3) With difficulty pick up half his body weight in dead weight
4) With difficulty pick up half his body weight in a struggling animal
5) With mild difficulty pick up 1/4 of his body weight a struggling animal with two hands
6) Fairly easily pick up 1/4 of his body weight in one hand of dead weight, balanced and somewhat symmetrical

Maybe these guidelines will prove useful to you one day.

The other useful bit is the weight (pounds per cubic foot) of various substances, such as:

Aluminum: 170 pounds
Brass, Forging: 525 pounds
Copper: 560 pounds
Iron, Malleable: 450 pounds
Gold: 1,205 pounds
Platinum: 1,340 pounds
Silver: 655 pounds
Steel, Cold Rolled: 500 pounds

Agate: 160 pounds
Beeswax: 60 pounds
Bone: 110 pounds
Diamond: 200 pounds

etc.

This one actually came in quite handy for something I was just writing for NOD, and definitely will be transcribed into an Excel document for future use in my writing. Thanks 30-year old Dragon!

Rob Kuntz now treads into dangerous territory with Tolkien in Dungeons & Dragons. I’m not sure if this was pre- or post-lawsuit. This one is an official pronouncement on the “position on D&D in conjunction with other worlds of fantasy which influenced it conception and specifically to clear up the fallacious beliefs regarding Tolkien’s fantasy as the only fantasy which inspired D&D”

The article mostly boils down to “D&D does not simulate Middle Earth, nor is it intended to, so please stop your nerd-whining”. This continues to be a problem in gaming, primarily in that many people forget that these are games, which by design are about allocating scarce resources to achieve victory (which, actually, is also what life is about), and not make-believe sessions in which whatever you want to happen does.

More interesting than this article is the inset by Brian Blume The Bionic Supplement for Metamorphosis Alpha. Bonzer! Random dice roll to replace your parts with bionic bits, and what those bits do. Totally worth reproducing in its entirety:

Jon Pickens is in next with an equally awesome article – D&D Option: Demon Generation. We begin with a kick-ass piece of art …

The article gives a way to generate additional “Types” of demons, with the following assumptions – all demons have Hit Dice and Gate ability appropriate to their level, all of Level III or less are vulnerable to normal weapons, the rest being vulnerable only to magical weapons, Magic Resistance 50% at Level I, increasing by 5% per level thereafter and special abilities based on the demon’s level. The powers are divided into 6 levels, and frankly, this looks like a blueprint for a demon class. I won’t reproduce it all, but worth checking out.

Jerome Arkenberg now presents the Japanese Mythos for D&D – again, very extensive article on the gods, goddesses, monsters and heroes of Japanese myth and legend, though the info on each god/demon/hero is pretty light. If you want a super rules-lite version of D&D, imagine if all you knew about a character was his Armor Class, Hit Points, Movement Rate, Magic Ability (i.e. level of magic-user or cleric), Fighter Ability and Psionic Ability.

Up next is the April Fool’s bit – a couple pages of song parodies. The less said the better.

Tim Kask now presents WARLORD: Correcting a Few Flaws. Since I know nothing about the game, I won’t comment on the article. Sounds like a fun game, though.

Gardner F. Fox now presents The Stolen Sacrifice, another adventure of Niall of the Far Travels (not to be confused with Niall of the Just Running to the Corner for Ice).

“The man moved silently through the shadows, keeping always to the darkest places. He moved as an animal might, his body poised for instant action, a big hand on the hilt of the longsword by his side. His eyes darted from a doorway to the far corner, where the wind blew a length of scarlet silk hanging from the wall. Caution was in his great body, for he knew that should he be seen this night, death would be his reward.”

Fineous Fingers finds out that just walking up to an evil wizard’s stronghold is stupid …

Yeah, you hate him, but DM’s love him. Meanwhile, Wormy introduces barbecued dwarf burgers.

We round it out with James Ward explaining a few tricks for adventurers – the kind of things that remind you that, at least back in the day, it really was a game, meant to be played and the rules exploited.

That’s it for #13. All in all a pretty useful issue, and especially good if you enjoy Gardner Fox.

Dragon by Dragon – December 1977 (11)

Merry Christmas 1977! I would have been five, having my first Christmas in Las Vegas and opening, well, I have no memory of what I received for Christmas when I was five. I’m sure I was stoked. What were Dragon magazine subscriber’s opening?

First and foremost … best cover yet. A wagon of startled doxies pulled by God-knows-what is accosted by a red-robed dude and his captive troll while the triple-flail-armed driver looks on. Nice! Painted by Elrohir.

Second … an ad for newly released miniatures of the various demons plus Orcus and Demogorgon. The Type VI looks more like “naked guy with wings” than they are typically portrayed, which I think makes him creepier than the “OMG DEMON!” look.

Big announcement from Tim Kask … Dragon is going monthly! Oh, and they’re finally sending checks out to authors and artists! He also announces coming fiction in The Dragon from L. Sprague DeCamp and Andre Norton, as well as fiction from Fritz Leiber in this issue.

Gygax now chimes in with a defense of TSR defending its intellectual property from cheap and crappy imitations and outright theft in the form of reprints of D&D material. He has some nice words for GDW, but seems to be telling everyone else to piss off. He also mentions the coming release of the AD&D Monster Manual and future release of other AD&D material.

Enough announcements and editorials … let’s get to the gaming.

Rob Kuntz presents a system for Brawling (The Easy Way “Out” in D&D) which, at first glance, is way more system than I need. Brawling and grappling are always a problem, it seems, because they offer the chance of knocking someone out or disabling enough to make them an easy kill, thus tons of extra rules. This one compares ability scores of the fighters to get a modifier, and then a dice roll to score “damage” to one of the ability scores. Grappling, for example, involves averaging the dexterity and strength of both combatants and comparing them on a grapple table, then rolling 2d6 to discover how it works. Punching is similar, but determines the amount of damage.

Tony Watson then explains how to stop good old O.G.R.E. (not the monster, the mega-death machine) – basically tips and tricks for the game. I played it once, O.G.R.E. won, and my yen to play O.G.R.E. was satisfied.

In the Design Forum, Thomas Filmore, who opines on the value of role playing in D&D, as opposed to just wargaming. Pretty common blogpost material here, but perhaps a rather new concept back in the day, when many characters did seem to be more about puns and action than deeply invested backgrounds (i.e. the good old days).

Archive Miniatures has an ad for Star Rovers – 25mm miniatures. I dig the names of the figures, all of whom would be at home in a game of Space Princess: Planetary Scout, Funky Robot, Andromeda Annie, Bianca Snow, Doc Crock, Galactic Centaur, Alien Lizards, Walktapus (pre-Runequest?) and Sassanid War Elephant. Wait, Sassanid War Elephant? Why not.

MAR Barker continues answering reader questions in his Seal of the Imperium article.

Next up are some expansions to the Snits game that was featured last issue. Apparently the snits took the world by storm.

The Sorcerer’s Scroll is a new feature, and this first one is written by Rob Kuntz. Here, he mostly goes into the new Monster Manual (with “stupendous art by David Sutherland, David Trampier and Tom Wham”) and the eventual release of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (I forgot that it was always written in all caps (“Fighters will now take 10-sided dice to determine their hit points and clerics 8-sided, etc.”). He also mentions Judge’s Guild, who continues to “saturate the D&D market with new variants” (and that TSR has undertaken to “make their new rule variant/additions … much more refined and interesting to the hard core D&D player” – I don’t like the sound of that). He has some kind words for Chivalry & Sorcery, but explains that it falls short due to its “smallish” print.

Fritz Leiber is next with Sea Magic. An excerpt:

“On the world of Nehwon and in the land of Simorgya, six days fast sailing south from Rime Isle, two handsome silvery personages conversed intimately yet tensely in a dimly and irregularly lit hall of pillars open overhead to the darkness. Very strange was that illumination â€” greenish and yellowish by turns, it seemed to come chiefly from grotesquely shaped rugs patching the Stygian floor and lapping the pillarsâ€™ bases and also from slowly moving globes and sinuosities that floated about at head height and wove amongst the pillars, softly dimming and brightening like lethargic and plague-stricken giant fireflies.”

Ral Partha’s new releases would make a nice random encounter list:

* They’re freaking mutant kangaroo warriors!

Roomen (N Medium Humanoid): HD 1+1; AC 13; Atk 1 weapon (1d8) or kick (1d4+1); Move 40; Save F 13, R 15, W 15; XP 50; Special: Bound 60 ft. as charge attack.

James M. Ward now presents Quarterstaff Fighting Rules. This is like a mini-game that could be integrated into a normal game of D&D – somewhat like the jousting rules from Chainmail.

In Tramp’s Wormy, Wormy asks a bunch of dwarves “What wears chainmail and looks like black pudding?” – any guesses?

In Fineous Fingers, the adventurers discover that the evil wizard Kask has forced the local hobbits to try to conquer the city by capturing their princess.

The issue ends with a withering critique of NBC’s The Hobbit, by Rankin-Bass. I know, not the best adaptation, but I dig the design on the wood elves.

Overall, an issue that leaves me of two minds. I’m a big fan of Leiber, so the short story was cool. The EPT and O.G.R.E. stuff is not really aimed at me, so no complaints there. The brawling and quarterstaff fighting are nice mini-games/sub-systems, but probably not things I would include in my regular D&D game. Strangely enough, it’s often the ads that I’m enjoying the most – little snippets of creativity with no rules/stats attached. There’s the suggestion that in 1977, the creative energy of D&D is slipping away from TSR – they have some pretty good modules left in them, of course, but things are becoming more controlled and professional, and that carries with it a price to pay.