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.

And

… 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!

Women, Cars and Spaceships … A Retrospective

While driving to work this morning, I was listening to classical music and musing on the design of cars and spaceships. I don’t mean real spaceships, of course – I mean the kind you see in movies, comic books, pulp fiction and television – the good stuff. I also started thinking about mens’ taste in women, and how the styles of disparate things tend to conflate at different times. With that in mind, I decided I was going to put together some images from different years (or small spans of years) of the top spaceship of that time, the top car of that time and what were considered the top sex symbols of that time to see if they clicked.

Here we go …

We’ll begin with 1929 and Buck Rogers. The spaceship was still in the “could have been designed by lonely housewives” era. Fairly sleek and only a few doodads stuck to the outside of the ship. For our car, we have a 1929 Duesenberg – also pretty sleek, formal and yet also sporty. Whether Buck’s spaceship had leather seats, I don’t know. For our sci-fi beauty, we have Col. Wilma Deering, Buck’s erstwhile companion and drawn as a classic beauty of the era – rounded face and graceful lips.

By 1936, Flash Gordon has burst onto the scene in the first of his film adaptations. The spaceship isn’t much different than Buck Rogers’ craft, though perhaps a bit sportier (check out the chrome!). Dale Arden, as played by Jean Rogers, conforms pretty closely to the earlier beauty standard, and the car isn’t terribly different from the 1929 Duesenberg, though you’ll note the nose is slanted back a bit.

1950 brought the film classic (?) Destination Moon. Destination Moon at least played at being hard sci-fi, though the design was definitely of the moderne period, with the sleek spacecraft. The beauty of 1950, Erin O’Brien-Moore was pretty sleek herself, and shows how tastes were changing at the dawn of a new decade. The car is a bit more compact than in the 1930’s, but in this case it looks like the spaceship designs are beginning to presage developments in automobiles.

In 1956, Forbidden Planet put earthlings in a flying saucer (guess those captured German scientists were finally earning their keep). Beauty isn’t much changed from 6 years ago, and the car, a 1956 Chevy Bel Air, is not yet exhibiting the giant fins that will grace vehicles in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

By 1966, Star Trek has premiered. The Enterprise is unlike any spaceship audiences have seen before, and also notable is that the sole beauty of the cast (unless you include Sulu) is a black woman! Nichelle Nichols typified late ’60s beauty – curves and tall hair. The cars are becoming more slick as well – away from the tail-fins and into the muscle car era.

The next big leap, in this case back in some ways and forward in others, was 1977’s Star Wars (you might have heard of it). For the first time on film, we get a real sense of the “starfighter” – fighter aircraft in space. Yeah, the Star Destroyers were pretty iconic as well, but you really can’t beat the X-Wings and TIE Fighters for capturing the imagination of kids in that era. Our beauty is, of course, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), who really found herself thrust into unfamiliar territory in her slave girl costume. The 1977 Ferrari pictures seems to have a similar profile to those X-Wings.

One last stop, and a leap forward to one of my favorite sci-fi series – Red Dwarf. Not American, and played for laughs, it introduced a completely utilitarian (and grandiose) spacecraft in the eponymous Red Dwarf. By 1994, we had maybe my favorite of all the sci-fi beauties introduced on this post – Chloë Annett as Kristine Kochanski (I like my women smart, beautiful and with a wry sense of humor) and the fairly utilitarian Rover. Substance over style in 1994 sci-fi.

Okay, there’s many more I could do – various incarnations of Star Trek, Alien, etc. I’ll leave further explorations to others.