Dragon by Dragon – January 1981 (45)

A new year! 1981!

Inflation was rough as hell, but if you 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 this issue 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 – November 1980

It’s time for another review of the grand old Dragon, and this time with a special guest appearance by White Dwarf #21. I figure, why not look at what WD was up to during the same month of Dragon I’m reviewing – see how the gaming communities in the US and UK differed.

First, though, we’ll dip into the Dragon and see what $3 got you back in 1980.

As you might be able to tell from the cover, this issue presents a new version of the Witch as an “NPC” class, written by Bill Mulhausen and revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay. The first was back in Dragon #20, from November of 1978. I guess November is the month for witches.

This version is much like the one that will appear a few years later, dividing the witch into low (level 1-16) and high (level 17-22) orders. This is reminiscent of the AD&D druid. Here are a few of the essentials of the witch:

Requirements: Intelligence and Wisdom must be 15 or higher, must be human or elf (and elves are limited to 9th level, and can multi-class as witches).

Hit Dice: d4 to 11th level, +1 hit point per level thereafter.

Attack and save as magic-users.

Witches receive bonus spells for high Intelligence, as a cleric does for high Wisdom. Their chance to know each spell and such are as for a magic-user. For younger readers, AD&D magic-users had a percent chance to be able to learn any given spell of a level. This was based on their intelligence. You had to roll for each spell to see if a magic-user could learn it. So yeah, you could conceivably have a magic-user who couldn’t learn magic missile, fireball or lightning bolt.

The witch has rules for followers (gains 1d10x20 at 9th level if she establishes a place of worship), and rules about how many apprentices she can have.) She can apply for membership in the high order at level 10 if her Intelligence and Wisdom are 16 or higher and if she possesses a magic crystal ball, mirror or libram. High order witches can advance to 22nd level, and they receive special high order spells at each level from 16 to 22.

Besides their spells, they can brew poisons and narcotics, which they learn as they advance in level. This includes sleep (3rd level), truth (4th level) and love potions 6th level). She can read druid scrolls with no chance of failure, magic-user and illusionist scrolls with a 10% chance of failure and cleric spells if the spell is also on the witch’s spell list (8th level).

Witches can manufacture one magic candle per month at 9th level. The candles can cause love, offer magical protection, heal damage and other effects. She gets a familiar at 10th level, can brew flying ointment at 13th level, control dolls at 15th level, can fascinate with her gaze at 17th level, use limited wish at 21st level and shape change at 22nd level.

The witch has 8 levels of spells, which involve lots of charming, divination, some healing and a few offensive spells. It’s a cool class, but I can’t help but think you’d be just as well off with a magic-user.

Dave Cook (that one) offers some survival tips for the Slave Pits tournament at GenCon XIII. I only mention it here because those adventures went on to be classics when they were published as modules.

We also learn in this issue that Frank Mentzer won the 4th Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament at GenCon XIII. Dig that crazy shirt …

 

Speaking of great Dungeon Masters, this issue has a DM Evaluation Form for players to fill out. Here’s a sample …

 

This runs on for several pages and 43 questions! A couple issues ago, a reader complained that the adventures in the magazine were filler. This, ladies and gentlemen, is filler. I’m guessing GenCon kept them busy.

The Bestiary has some choice bits …

 

This is an amazon, art by Erol Otus (of course), monster by Roger E. Moore. I’d detail the monster stats here, but frankly, they’re humans and the women do all the “men’s work” and vice versa. Not much to see here – but the art is cool.

Todd Lockwood has a monster called a Tolwar that is basically a trunkless elephant who can telekinetically throw boulders (2d12 damage). They serve as loyal mounts.

Tolwar, Large Monster: HD 6, AC 15, ATK 1 slam (2d4) or 2 boulders (900’/2d12), MV 40′, SV F10 R11 W17, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Hurl boulders, only surprised on 1, telekinesis (100 lb), catch boulders with telekinesis (75%).

Ed Greenwood presents the lythlyx, a weird spiral creature that whips, constrict and drain blood from people.

Lythlyx, Large Aberration: HD 6, AC 19, ATK 1 whip (2d6 + constrict 3d6 + blood drain 1d4), MV 15′ (Fly 20′, Swim 20′), SV F13 R14 W11, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Blood drain can be used to heal monster (heal 1 hp per 4 hp taken), immune to charm, command, fear, hold monster and sleep, psionic attacks (all).

Now, give me a bunch of amazon warriors on tolwars hurling boulders at a band of adventurers who have stolen some amazon gold and are hiding in a half-ruined wizard’s tower, and you’ve got an adventure.

Philip Meyers has an article about disbelieving illusions, or more specifically phantasmal force. He comes up with a little system based on the intelligence of viewer and how suspicious they are about what they’re seeing. In the table below, situation 1 represents a character who has been informed about the illusion, and 6 is where the character expects to see what the illusion is depicting – in other words, 1 is super suspicious, and 6 is not suspicious at all.

 

 

The number is the percent chance of disbelief. It is increase by +20% if olfactory or thermal components are expected but not present, +20% if aural components are expected but not present, +10% if victim of illusion is an illusionist, -10% if victim is surprised and +10% if victim’s Wisdom is 15 or higher.

I reckon you can do about the same by giving a bonus to save vs. phantasmal force as opposed to improved phantasmal force or spectral force.

This issue contains a Traveller adventure called Canard. I won’t comment, because I’ve never played Traveller, but if you’re a fan, it’s probably worth checking out.

Two reviews which might be of interest – the first a Game Designers Workshop (not Games Workshop, as I originally posted) offering called Azhanti High Lightning, about fighting aboard a giant starship. The review was positive, but wonders whether or not they should have tried to tie it to Traveller.

They also review SPI’s DragonQuest, their first “serious” foray into Fantasy RPGs. The reviewer likes it – the intentional rather than random character generation, the action points in combat – but does not care for the way experience is handed out. Overall – positive review, and another reminder that Old School gaming was already becoming “Old School” in 1980.

I’ll also note Hero, by Yaquinto Games. It was an “album game” – “The physical layout is like that of a double record album. The components are stored in the pockets, while the playing surface is printed on the two inside faces.”

 

Very cool idea, and it would be fun to see something similar done these days, especially considering the connection between Old School gaming and bitchin’ Heavy Metal album art.

I liked this comic …

 

A scroll of illiteracy would be a great cursed item in a game.

A fair issue of Dragon, with a couple notable bits.

So, what was White Dwarf up to in November (really Oct/Nov) of 1980.

First – cool cover, but there are much better WD covers yet to come. You also notice, right off, that the layout of WD is much more professional than for Dragon at this point. Dragon makes some improvements over the years, but frankly never looked as good, and by the 1990’s and 2000’s looked terrible.

In this issue, Andrew Finch presents some cool material inspired by The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever. We have a new class, Lore Lords, who combine the spell-casting ability of magic-users and clerics, along with d8 hit dice and studded leather armor. Fortunately, this is balanced by a high XP requirement. Similar classes are the Rhadamaerl, who specialize in the lord of stone, and Hirebrand, who specializes in the lore of wood. There are also Bloodguards, who serve as bodyguards for Lore Lords, songs of summoning and words of power. Having never read the Thomas Convenant books, I cannot rate how accurate these classes are, but for fans they’re probably worth checking out. One bit I liked for Lore Lords was their ability to communicate telepathically with one another. A cool house rule might permit magic-users with intelligence and wisdom of 15 or higher to communicate this way with one another.

Roger E. Moore (yeah, that guy) presents a merchant class. It’s actually pretty close to the Venturer class I did, and I promise I hadn’t seen this write up when I wrote mine. Moore’s merchants can open locks, appraise items and use suggestion and command when speaking with people. These are all percentage skills, like those of the thief. Good class.

Azhanti High Lightning gets a review in this issue – positive as in the Dragon.

The Fiend Factory has several cool monsters, the Brothers of the Pine, Chthon, Enslaver, Micemen, Dragon Warriors, Grey Sqaargs and Cyclops. Here are some quick stats:

Brothers of the Pine, Medium Undead: HD 3, AC 15 [+1], ATK 1 weapon, MV 30′, SV F15 R15 W12, AL Chaotic (LE/NE), XP 1500 (CL 5), Special-Cast one 1st level druid spell per day, shrieking wail (save or flee for 1d8 turns), immune to cold, resistance to electricity, vulnerable to fire, only plant-based spells affect them.

Chthon, Medium Aberration: HD 8, AC 20, ATK nil, MV 0′, SV F13 R- W9, AL Chaotic (LE), XP 800 (CL 10), Special-Mineral intellect that hates all animal and plant life, especially intelligent, control up to 20 plants and animals (save to negate).

Enslaver, Tiny Aberration: HD 2+1, AC 14, ATK special, MV 10′, SV F19 R17 W12, AL Chaotic (CE), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Blindsight 30′, 90% chance of hiding among rocks, dominate creatures that touch them (save negates), hosts freed from domination must make system shock roll or die, hosts are immune to pain and mind effects.

Micemen (crossbreed of brownie and orc!), Small Humanoid: HD 1-1, AC 13, ATK 1 javelin and dagger, MV 30′, SV F14 R16 W16, AL Chaotic (LE), Special-Infravision 90′, shun bright lights, surprise (4 in 6). Despite the picture, I’d like to see these dudes as evil piglets dressed as Robin Hood.

Dragon Warrior (made from dragon teeth), Medium Construct: HD 5+1, AC special, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), XP 500 (CL 6), Special-Cannot speak, obey commands, last for a number of turns equal to the dragon’s age category, +1 to hit, +2 to damage, attack as 6th level fighters, immune to parent’s breath weapon type, sleep, charm and hold, clad in scale armor and armed with broadsword, disintegrate when killed or dispelled.

Grey Sqaarg, Medium Construct: HD 6, AC 22, ATK 1 grapple, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), Special-Constructs built by ancient dwarves, never initiate attack, fight with strength bonus to hit and damage equal to combined modifiers of attackers, grapples to incapacitate people, made of solid stone, magic resistance 30%.

Cyclops, Large Giant: HD 6, AC 14, ATK 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6), MV 30′, SV F10 R14 W14, AL Chaotic (CE), Special-Hypnotic stare, -1 to hit melee, -2 to hit ranged, +2 save vs. illusion, prefer to eat demi-humans to humans, breed with human females.

White Dwarf #21 also contains a sci-fi boardgame called Survival and a dungeon called the Tomb of the Maharaja. It is, I’m afraid, quite short and not terribly interesting.

All-in-all, some pretty cool stuff from the Brits in November 1980 – and of course, lots of art by Russ Nicholson.

Well, that does it for this edition of Dragon by Dragon. As always, I leave you with Tramp …