Dragon by Dragon – July 1981 (51)

If I hadn’t been so busy with writing 2nd editions, I could have done this review in the same month it was published, just 35 years later. Oh well – can’t always get things done as quickly as you would like. On with the review …

Let us begin with one of my favorite bits of old D&D lore – the definitive statement regarding make believe:

“First, an AD&D magic-user is not a fighting class. He or she resorts to a dagger, dart or quarter staff as a last resort. His or her main interest (read, only interest) is magic.”

And now you know!

In “Make Your Own Aliens” by Roger E. Moore we have a nice set of table for making random alien species for Traveller. You don’t see too many “modern” issues of Dragon kicking off with articles for a non-TSR game, and there are more to come. As to the article’s utility, let’s make a random alien:

Our new species lives primarily on land. They have bilateral symmetry and one brain, so they probably won’t be too alien to us. Their brain is in a head, they have no tail and they have 2 feet (I’m starting to think I’m randomly creating human beings). They have 2 arms … but only three fingers and toes on each hand/foot. They also have plantigrade feet which are more like paws than human feet. These aliens are omnivorous hunters, so they are communal, cooperative and aggressive. They weight 50 kg (or 110 lb.) on average. They have no natural weaponry or armor and are covered with feathers or down. They are warm-blooded creatures, give live birth and have two sexes. Their primary sense is auditory, and unlike humans they have light-enhancing vision and heat-tolerant tactile sense.Their auditory organs on on their body rather than head. The roll of the dice say they don’t have any special abilities, but I’m going to roll one anyways and come up with a chameleon-like body covering.

Not too bad – quite a few rolls, but not too many. I’m deciding they are mostly covered with down that can change color to blend in with woodland settings. They have a mane of longer feathers around their neck, and this is what they hear through. I’ll assume they are a primitive people – something like bad-ass barbarians – who are hired as mercenaries by criminal types as body guards.

This article is followed by four more Traveller articles, including one by Marc Miller. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t really tell you if they’re great or not, but if you play the game, checking out this issue may be worth your while.

At this point, it’s worth noting a couple ads of interest. The first is a sign that the big boys were getting interested in this weird D&D thing that was all the rage … Mattel’s Dungeons & Dragons game! It looks like a real hoot – just a wee bit before I was aware of the game, so I don’t remember seeing any. Alas.

 

Our next ad of interest comes from Mr. Arneson and Mr. Snyder – Adventures in Fantasy, a complete and consistent system of fantasy rpgs (no shot intended there, I’m sure). This is the second edition of the game, produced after Arneson bought back the rights from Excalibur Games using his settlement money from TSR. Ah – the drama of the rpg industry!

 

Up next we get back into D&D territory with William Lenox‘s Winged Folk, a new monster. They look like humans with wings, and they are essentially humans with wings with slightly better Hit Dice and AC. Great art with the article, though, and I like the bit about females have 1d4+1 carvings made from wood, gems, etc. Of course, there will only ever be one group of winged folk for me.

 

Hell yeah! These guys also get some info on being used as playable race, and honestly, the art by Todd Lockwood is pretty great.

Lakofka has an article about what it takes for a character to become 1st level. It gives some XP requirements to become 1st level, after going through a couple pre-1st level stages. Fighters, for example, can begin as 0-level recruits, then move on to becoming 0-level men-at-arms before finally becoming 1st level veterans. I think I like the level titles best (of course I would). It has a bit more about running 0-level characters – good stuff.

If you’re into RuneQuest, or just dig their rules for cults you should check out Eric Robinson’s “The Worshippers of Ratar” for an example of one

I know nothing of Metagaming’s MicroGame #2: Chitin, so I can’t comment much on the article “A New Breed of Bug” by Ben Crowell, but I do like the art by Paul Jaquays.

Up next are two articles addressing the Lawful Good alignment, and specifically how it impact paladins. This was always a popular topic in the old days – much argued over, much lamented. The prolific Roger E. Moore wrote “It’s Not Easy Being Good” and Robert J. Bezold added “Thou Shalt Play This Way: Ten Commandments for Paladins”. I can only imagine how many letters in subsequent issues of Dragon will address these articles.

If you like mini-games, you’ll like this issue, for it includes “Search for the Emperor’s Treasure”. It has a map and counters and looks like it’s lots of fun.

How about this questionaire in this issue’s The Electronic Eye?

How many big disks do you have? Paddles?

Also, special mention for the most tortured spelling of “Basics” ever …

 

About the only reference I found was on the Internet Archive.

The winged folk were a bonus in this issue, because we still get a “Dragon’s Bestiary” by Mark Cummings. He created a fun monster called the Dark Dweller, close kin to trolls, but 1000 times better because of this …

 

Yep, they ride the Antrodemus dinosaur! Underground!! This issue also has stats for Pirahna Bats!!! Good for the DM, bad for the players.

All in all, I declare this a groovy issue, mostly for the monsters, all of which would have a place in my campaigns.

As always, I leave you with Tramp.

 

That Wormy will never be a theatrical animated film is really sad. Sometimes, stories don’t have happy endings.

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 …

Dragon by Dragon – October 1980

While the world is embracing Spring outside (at least here in Las Vegas), Dragon by Dragon is getting into Fall, with the cover to the October 1980 issue warning “the doomed only beyond this point”. Let us throw caution to the wind, and dare to plumb the depths of issue #41 of Dragon.

For a start, the cover is by Steve Oliff, and is his first for the magazine. Steve is nothing to sneeze at – he has his own Wikipedia entry! Check out his official site if you have a mind to.

Todd Lockwood also has a piece inside – I’m looking forward to it.

I think it’s important for those who are interested in the history of gaming to understand that the same petty moaning and complaining that goes on on the internet today went on on the letters page of Dragon 30 years ago. This issue we have the ever common “I don’t like it, so nobody else should get to see it because its existence negates my happiness” stuff, but also this little gem …

“While I found the article in #37 on neutral dragons interesting, I should like to point out that there is no real need for them in anyone’s world.”

So there you have it. Mr. X (I won’t reprint his name) has spoken. I’d like to point out that there’s also no real need for idiots in the world, but what would be the point.

Speaking of art that one letter writer probably didn’t like …

 

… the contribution by Todd Lockwood, I believe. Now, onto the cool stuff in this issue:

First and foremost, we have a selection of new monsters by Tom Moldvay, including Saraphs from the Elemental Plane of Fire, the Apollyon (servants of Death), the Asperim, who are “super-imps” meant to exasperate players and the Hacamuli (one of the messengers of Orcus).

Since the Apollyon got an illustration, I’ll do some quick Blood & Treasure stats for him:

Apollyon: Large Outsider, HD 15, AC 16 [+1], MV 30′, Fly 60′, ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (1d8 + Poison IV), Very intelligent, Neutral alignment; Special-Death ray eyes (1d100 damage), wounds from claws will not heal except by magic and bleed for 1d4 damage per round until healed, bite poison can only be neutralized by cleric.

Ashleigh Parker presents some more new monsters, born in the depths of Hell – the Possessors. Their prince is Selm, and there are three types – Kuei, Pisachas and Asuras. These are incorporeal monsters who are used to possess mortals. They would make highly interesting monsters in a campaign of court intrigue – multiple people possessed by different possessors, all serving Hell unwittingly. Just when the players think they’ve gotten to the bottom of it, they realize they’ve only uncovered one layer of the plot.

Lewis Pulsipher chimes in with “Patron Demons”. This is a neat article, with rules for Chaotic Evil characters making pacts with demon princes. By making sacrifices, he or she can call on the demon prince, who will either show up himself, sent a lesser demon, or send a monster to fight with the caller. You could use this article as the basis for some Chaos Cult wars – the players busting chaos cults, who are sacrificing innocents and then can call on demon princes to help them conquer a kingdom or who knows what.

Here’s a clip from George Laking‘s “Restless Dead” article …

“A thief, however, may attempt to steal from the dead. The Dungeon Master should judge the success and the possible repercussions of the attempt on the type and amount of grave goods taken, precautions-magical and otherwise-taken by the thief, methods used and other significant variables.

Note that robbing any burial mound of recent manufacture (defined as up to ten centuries old) will bring back the dead spirit 10-100% of the time, depending on the age of the burial mound. The DM rolls a d 10 to determine age. then percentile dice to see if the spirit responds.”

The article goes on to describe hauntings by various undead NPC’s who the characters were too cheap to bury properly.

Speaking of quotes, this one from Gary Gygax in “Making Monsters Meaningful”

“Too often DMs complain that monsters are too weak, spells and magic too strong, or players too clever. What is actually stated in most such cases is that the DM is a Dungeon Milquetoast rather than Master.”

The Old Man, throwing some shade.

Quite often, I’ve found that I had to hold back because I was a bit better at tactics than my players, and could make minor encounters pretty threatening just by using some common sense. You have to gauge your players – if they’re good, go all in. If they’re not, killing 20 characters a session won’t do anyone much good, so slow down and hope they catch up.

The Gygax article also features a couple new spells, Crystalbrittle and Energy Drain.

I haven’t mentioned G. Arthur Rahman‘s “Minarian Legends” articles for a few issues, but they’re always very impressive and well worth reading for folks working on creating interesting, engaging, deep campaign worlds.

In Sage Advice, one for the “I like where they’re minds are at” file …

“Question: Is it possible for a high-level Cleric and Magic- User to work in conjunction to create a moving Blade barrier? A Telekinesis spell would provide the motion.”

Oh, and apparently, no – it wouldn’t work. But that’s what the spell research rules are for …

Also …

“Question: When an offensive spell’s range is “touch,” does the touch have to be with a hand?”

Hmmm

In a Len Lakofka article about the inner planes, there is an interesting table for generating whether encountered monsters with Int scores of 4 or lower are hostile. It depends on the relative strength of the party, if they look rich (Occupy Greyhawk?), if the monsters are hungry, etc. Check it out …

 

You could probably simplify by saying 5% chance per following condition met: Monsters chaotic, monsters evil, monster’s hungry, party outnumbered (by 2 to 1 or more), party looks rich, party looks weak. That gives a max 30% chance of unintelligent monsters being hostile.

If the monsters are intelligent, you can allow alignment differences to play a role.

I’m of a divided mind on these articles. My instinct would be to let the inner plane be an exotic place with some rules lite ways to make it distinct from the Material Plane. On the other hand, if a group of adventurers has advanced from 1st level to the point where they can enter the elemental planes, maybe you should take some major pains to make it more than just the material plane with some fancy window dressing.

At a minimum, his descriptions of the planes are pretty cool …

“Elemental Plane of Earth: Soils are translucent, though they may be differently colored. Rock and mineral formations are solid (cannot be seen through or passed through) if they are over one cubic foot in volume. Pebbles and the like can be passed through and seen through. Large rock formations might require Passwall or Phase Door spells. Either spell would produce much longer tunnels on the Elemental Plane of Earth than on the Prime Material.”

 

Giants in the Earth time! Moldvay brings us the following legends this month:

  • Poul Anderson’s Tauno Kraken’s-Bane (8th level half-elf ranger) from The Merman’s Children – a reminder I need to read more Anderson.
  • Robert Adams’ Sir Geros Lahvohettos (9th level fighter) from Revenge of the Horseclans – a series I’ve heard of, but never read.
  • Gordon R Dickson’s James Eckert/Gorbash (0 level teaching assistant/10 HD dragon) from The Dragon and the George – which is sitting on my side table waiting for me to finish The Three Musketeers.
  • Orvar-Odd (21st level fighter) from Arrow-Odd: A Medieval Novel translated by Paul Edwards and Hermann Palsson
  • Heidrek (15th level fighter) from Hervor’s Saga

TSR would do well to cobble all of the stats Moldvay did for Norse heroes and legends and put them out as a mini-Legends and Lore.

Andrew South has a new monster in this issue, the Quatsch. The quatsch is a monkey with yellow fur and a skull face. Here are some quick B&T stats:

Quatsch, Small Monster: HD 1; AC 15; MV 40′; ATK bite (1d4); AL CN; XP 100 (CL 2); Special-Voice causes confusion.

From Phil Meyers, there is the Necroton, a sort of metal crab construct made by wizards – super old school cool in the illustration by Roger Raupp

Necroton, Large Construct: HD 8 to 12 (40-60 hp); AC 17/21 [+1]; MV 30′; ATK 2 pincers (2d6); AL N (NE); XP 4,000 to 6,000 (CL 10 to 14); Special-Eyebeams (paralysis for 1d3 rounds or, 1/day, fireball with damage dice equal to monster HD)

Greg Holley introduces the super-intelligent elemental Well Spirit and Jon Mattson brings the Sandbats and Swampbats – giant flying manta rays dudes. Awesome.

The final piece in this issue is “The Mansion of Mad Professor Ludlow” by James Ward. This is D&D, but not quite D&D. From the introductory paragraph:

“You are all young campers on a week-long camping trip through the woods and wilderness. In the middle of a nighttime hike, you become separated from the rest of your group. None of you is worried, however; you have all taken excellent compass directions and are sure you can eventually find your way back to the campsite. So, with this great chance to do a little exploring on your own, you set out into the woods as a group.”

This one begs to be played on Halloween – could be a good Google+ live session. And how about that Willingham art?

As always, I leave you with Tramp’s Wormy. Have a productive week citizens, and if you can’t be Lawful, at least try to be Good.