Dragon by Dragon – August 1981 (52)

With the 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure essentially done (well, almost done), I can get back on track with these Dragon reviews. Number 52 is from August of 1981, and features a Boris Vallejo cover of a butterfly-winged dragon and beautiful naked woman … which of course is a rarity for a Boris painting. Boris gets a little full article inside the magazine as well.

So – I’ve got Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the television and a gin gimlet in my belly, and I’m ready to show off the bits and pieces that I found useful and/or inspirational in #52 …

First and foremost, a nice piece of comic/advertising work by Bill Willingham, one of my favorites from the olden days.

This involves the adventurers Auric, Tirra and the wizard Khellek (who does not appear to be this guy – scroll down a bit). Auric is an ill-armored fighter, Tirra could be a thief or fighter and Khellek is a wizard. They tangle briefly with a jackalwere and then … to be continued.

The first real article is dedicated to the much maligned cleric class. “The Role of the Cleric – Warriors with Wisdom” is by Robert Plamondon, and it does a nice job of explaining the class, some of its inspirations and ways to play it well. If the image below, by Jim Holloway, doesn’t make you want to play the class, I don’t know what will …

The article has a few nice bits that might stir the creative juices of players and GM’s out there, such as a list of acts of worship, in order of potency:

1. Thinking religious thoughts.
2. Formal prayer.
3. Attending rites or church services.
4. Feasts, festivals, fasts, self-punishment, vigils- as part of religious rites.
5. Sacrifice of valuables.
6. Dying in a holy conflict.
7. Killing an enemy in a holy conflict.
8. Sacrifice of an unbeliever.
9. Sacrifice of an unwilling believer.
10. Sacrifice of a willing believer.

#10 seems like a dicey prospect for Lawful clerics.

Douglas Loss adds a bit more with his article “The Land is My Land …”, including this bit about clerics and swords, including this from The Song of Roland

Turpin of Rheims, finding himself o’erset,
With four sharp lance-heads stuck fast within his breast,
Quickly leaps up, brave lord, and stands erect.
He looks on Roland and runs to him and says
Only one word: “I am not beaten yet!
True man never failed while life was in him left!”
He draws Almace, his steel-bright brand keen-edged;
A thousand strokes he strikes into the press.
Soon Charles shall see he spared no foe he met,
For all about him he’ll find four hundred men,
Some wounded, some clean through the body cleft,
And some of them made shorter by a head.
— The Song of Roland, Laisse 155

So Turpin got to swing a sword, why doesn’t your cleric? Well, to start off with, Turpin also doesn’t get to cast spells or turn undead. Douglas thinks the rule should be thrown out, because its not “realistic” and because in AD&D the mace is as good as sword. I disagree – swords are more than just a damage range, but the “no sharp weapons” rule also takes many magic weapons out of a cleric’s hands, thus helping the old fighter stay relevant.

Douglas Loss is back with “The Sense of Sacrifices”, and this is a neat one about the chances of deities granting clerics spells they aren’t high enough in level to cast. It all hinges on sacrifices of inanimate objects (valuable or symbolic, of course), animals and sentient creatures of a wildly different alignment than the cleric. To boil it down – 2% per 100 gp value of inanimate objects, symbol items 5%, animals 2% (or 3% if it is favored by the deity) and 5% for sentient beings. The chance shouldn’t be higher than 50%, and each subsequent miracle should have a 5% penalty applied if the cleric tries this too often.

Sage Advice is cleric-centered as well. I enjoyed how this answer began:

Q: What happens when a Resurrection or a Raise Dead is cast on an undead?

A: Hmmm. It stands to reason …

In other words – crap, we hadn’t thought of that.

For lovers of the old school, the cleric stuff is followed by two articles concerning the new Basic D&D set. The first is written by J. Eric Holmes, author of the first edition, and the second by Tom Moldvay himself. Holmes has the longer article, and it explains the hows and whys of Basic D&D. Holmes fans have probably already read it, but if they haven’t, I would highly suggest it.

For modern gamers, Paul Montgomery Crabaugh’s “The Undercover Job Guide” can be useful … especially if they’re setting a game in 1981. Written for TOP SECRET, it covers a number of jobs and gives you some ideas on their access to travel and their salaries. Here are a couple of items:

Home Economics: travel potential moderate to high; starting salary $20,000/year (variable); almost no connection with what the field is normally thought of to include: agents in this field will very likely be chefs, or connected with the creation of fashion or decoration: female agents have a good chance of being models (salary quite variable).

Physical Education: travel potential high; starting salary quite variable; almost certainly an agent will be an athlete in this AOK: by preference, one in a sport played throughout much of the world. Tennis is an excellent choice; golf, soccer and track & field are also good.

Yeah, a pair of spies who work in a high school would be pretty fun.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth by Katharine Brahtin Kerr covers Prospero (Lawful Good 14th level magic-user), his pals Ariel (a neutral “high-grade” air elemental – I would have gone sylph, mostly because Ariel is a sylph) and Caliban the chaotic evil half-orc, and Circe (chaotic neutral 18th level magic-user). Here’s a nice bit …

The best way to get the upper hand over Circe is to possess the strange herb known as moly. The god Hermes gave Ulysses some of this herb, said to grow only in Olympus. With it, Ulysses mastered Circe’s magic and made her turn his crew back into men from swine. If the DM wants moly available in the campaign, it should either be fantastically expensive or else a gift to a cleric from his or her god.

If a character wears moly, all of Circe’s polymorph spells will fail against that character, and the power of her other spells against that character will be weakened considerably; the character should get a +2 on all saving throws against her magic. Circe cannot touch this herb to steal it away, nor can her maidservants.

For more information on moly, click HERE.

We also learn Circe’s spell list: 1st-charm person, comprehend languages, friends, read magic, sleep; 2nd-detect invisibility, ESP, forget, ray of enfeeblement, web; 3rd-fly, hold person, dispel magic, slow, suggestion; 4th-charm monster, confusion, fear, polymorph other, massmorph; 5th-animal growth, feeblemind, hold monster, passwall, transmute rock to mud; 6th-control weather, enchant an item, legend lore; 7th-charm plants, mass invisibility, vanish; 8th-mass charm, polymorph any object; 9th-imprisonment.

Dragon #52 also has a groovy little Gamma World adventure by Gary Jaquet called “Cavern of the Sub-Train”. This might sound like a subway romp in the ruins of New York, but it’s actually a romp through something more like Elon Musk’s hyperloop. This network spanned the entire North American continent.

The adventure is left open-ended, so should come in handy to folks playing post-apoc games.

Victor Selby and Ed Greenwood introduce the Rhaumbusun in Dragon’s Bestiary. Here’s a quick B&T-style statblock:

Rhaumbusun, Small Monster: HD 1+2; AC 13; ATK 1 bite (1d3); MV 20′; SV 16; Int Low; AL Neutral (N); NA 1d2; XP/CL 100/2; Special-Gaze attack (40′ range; paralyze for 3d4 turns)

Lewis Pulsipher has some interesting, peaceful gas-filled beasts called pelins. Not much for a fight, but they’re semi-intelligent, so maybe they could be helpful in completing a quest if the players are smart enough to be nice to them and attempt communication.

Michael Kluever gives a nice history of siege warfare in “Knock, Knock!”. Worth a read for people new to the subject.

Up next are three – count ’em three – takes on the bounty hunter class by Scott Bennie, Tom Armstrong, and Robert L Tussey and Kenneth Strunk. Lets judge them by the most relevant part of the class – the class titles!

The use of revenger, head hunter and manhunter are nice, but the inclusion of esquire by Armstrong wins the competition. Anything that can bring Bill & Ted into the conversation can only be good for a D&D game.

Hey – what the heck is this?

A Google search brings up a computer game designed for use with the Fantasy Trip. Pretty cool!

There are reviews of some cool miniatures from Ral Partha (hill giant, storm giant, cold drake), Heritage USA (hill giant and beholder and superheroes and supervillains), Castle Creations (condor and skull splitter giant), Penn-Hurst/Greenfield (a plastic castle), Citadel (ogre, giant spider) and Grenadier (the dragon’s lair), as well as Basic Role-Playing, TIMELAG and Dungeon Tiles.

Not a bad issue – more advice-centric than number-y, but you get bounty hunters and a paralyzing lizard, so what the hey!

I leave you as always with Tramp

Remember – never trust gamers discovered in the wild!!!

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?”


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.

Dragon by Dragon – September 1980 (41)

September 1980 is the time.

Between the covers of a Dragon Magazine is the place.

I’m pressed for time today, so let’s get down to business and discover the top ten best things about Dragon Magazine #41 (then I need to kill weeds, mow the yard, get a haircut, edit Mystery Men! and commission art).

Our first article is a time capsule of what was going on in the RPG world at the time, namely the backlash by pseudo-religious folks against D&D. 

Written by Arthur W. Collins … or more properly Reverend Arthur W. Collins … who created the neutral dragons from a few issues ago, this one seems like a “let’s get a religious guy who digs D&D to write an article about how great the hobby is, so the other religious people who hate D&D will look worse.”

For example …

“The non-churched population generally views the Christian faith (and religion in general) in terms of a body of rules and regulations designed to keep one from enjoying oneself. This is a false view, but a prevalent one, and voices in the Christian community have been raised of late saying that such things as Dungeons & Dragons are questionable at best (damnable at worst). The double effect of misunderstanding and misguided righteousness on either hand have made fantasy role-playing games a hot topic in the religious community. It is my purpose to lay out a Christian understanding of the uses of fantasy, and then speak from a pastoral perspective on the value of role-playing games.”

It’s a fine article, and worth reading.

Side note – although I cannot be sure, this might be the fellow himself.


Holloway is beginning to appear in Dragon at this point (I think I mentioned him in the last review), which is cool with me. I was always a big fan of his stuff – it had an Osprey quality about it that I always liked – grounding the fantasy in some gritty reality. He’s still learning at this point – the cover is him as well, and isn’t as crisp as later Holloway covers will be. Still – it’s fun watching these artists grow.


Such a great series of article, if for no other reason they offer wonderful opportunities to argue with other nerds about which fictional character could kick which fictional character’s ass.

This one includes stats for some female fantasy favorites, and a couple fellows from the sagas.

C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry (14th level fighter with 18/49 strength)

H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (27th level cleric, 9th level fighter with ability scores ranging from 15 to 18/00 – I’m guessing her player used the “roll 20 dice, take the best 3 method”)

Robert E. Howard’s Valeria (17th level fighter, 8th level thief)

Sigurd Fafnirsbane (20th level fighter, 12th level magic-user, 8th level cleric) – this fellow also includes a bit on the Norse runes

Starkad (23th level fighter)


This issue has two interpretations of the effects of bathing in dragon’s blood, via the sage of Sigurd / Siegfried.

The first is by Robert Plamondon, who gives us the following:

1. AC benefit is one step for every 10 hit points of the dragon, dropping fractions.

2. Successive applications are cumulative to AC 0 (or AC 20 using ascending AC).

3. The only way to beat AC 0 is to slay Tiamat or Bahamut, who give AC -2 and AC -6 respectively.

4. The formula for combining armored skin with actual armor is AC = AC of armor + AC of skin -10. So, AC 9 skin and AC 8 armor combine for AC 7 (=9+8=17-10=7). The formula works for ascending AC as well.

5. The dragon must be dead and must have been slain with edged or piercing weapons. Initial damage cannot have been delivered by heat, cold or electricity. Poison ruins the blood. The magic in the blood lasts for 1 hour. Only one person may bathe in the blood.

6. The toughening of skin is permanent, and only protects against attacks that would pierce the skin, so the bonus can be added to saves against poison needles).

7. There may be a weak spot, where the blood did not cover. The DM knows this, and perhaps assassins could discover this weak spot as well.

The second way to go is Moldvay’s. He points out in the original myth, Sigurd does not bathe in blood, but rather accidentally sucks a blood-covered finger and gains the ability to speak with animals.

To Robert’s system, Moldvay would make the following changes:

1. Armored skin and armor do not stack – use the better of the two.

2. The blood must be the dragon’s heart blood.

3. Only the character that delivered the killing blow can get the benefit of the blood.


Alan Miller in the Bazaar of the Bizarre has a nice random table of magic door abilities, which include intelligent doors, wizard locked doors, illusions, doorknobs that cast fear and doorbells.


There’s a nice article reviewing several Avalon Hill computer games from back in the day. These babies were for the TRS-80 and Apple Pet, and were loaded via cassette. They cost $15 in 1980, which corresponds to about $43 today.

What I really found interesting was the size of these programs, which ranged from a low of 8.5 K to 15 K. Boy, they could do a lot with a byte back in the olden days.

Also this:

“A final note here about pirate copies. Computer programs are just like books and games; they have copyrights. The manufacturer charges the customer for what it costs to research, produce, package, and distribute the games. Some profit is thrown in on top of all this. Without the profit they wouldn’t be in business . . . and you wouldn’t get the games! They are not out to gouge the public. Our markets (oil excluded) are still competitive; if someone else can make a better product for less, the expensive line will either lower prices or fail.

Unlike the recorded music industry, the home computer game field is in its infancy, and there is no real standard yet for just how to market such things. Some companies cloud their programs in machine language, which makes the game harder, but still not impossible, to copy. What it does do is make the program, and the game, next to impossible to change. Other manufacturers, and I heartily applaud Avalon Hill for doing so, put their programs in BASIC (the language most hobby computers speak). This allows the gamer to “play” with his game. You can modify each program in a thousand ways to customize it as you see fit. A gamer can look at every facet of his copy of a board game, throw out the rules he doesn’t like, and make up new ones to suit his fancy. A computer program is no different; let’s keep it this way—and respect those copyrights!”


William Fawcett has a neat article with skirmish rules for 25mm Napoleonic figures. Obviously, I won’t republish them here, but they are well worth a look. If you just added a fantasy supplement to these bad boys …


Yeah, the old days were sure different. Dig this little tidbit …

RIDE NEEDED: I would like to go to Dundracon ’81 and I need a ride from the Los Angeles area. I will help pay for transportation. John Salguero, 449 East Avenue R-7, Palmdale CA 93550.

(Note: Requests and offers for rides to/from convention sites will be printed in this space free of charge for anyone who sends notification to Rides, c/o Dragon Publishing, P.O. Box 110, Lake Geneva WI 53147.)


The “Dragon’s Bestiary” in this issue features the Silkie by Tom Moldvay. Good monster, and indicative that the game had already started moving beyond the dungeon.

What I really liked about this, however, was the art by Roslof.

Likewise – Ed Greenwood’s Tomb Tapper is all well and good, but dig the art!


I didn’t love this strip like I loved Wormy, but it was probably more D&D than Wormy and probably the first good effort of translating the game into a comic strip. Here’s a nice collection of NPC’s for your own game:


This is a full adventure by Dave Luther, Jon Naatz, Dave Niessen and Mark Schultz. You have to love an adventure that starts with this:

“It is highly preferable that a large party begin the adventure (attrition will take its toll), and it is essential to the success of an expedition that most, if not all, party members be 8th level or higher.”

It also has a formula for an “original procedure for saving throws” which is really a system for ability checks:

“Roll 3, 4, or 5d6 (the number of dice varies) and subtract one point from the dice roll for every two levels of experience the character has attained. Compare the resulting number to a specified ability (this also varies), and if the adjusted dice roll is less than the character’s score for the ability in question, the saving throw is considered made.”

It’s a solid dungeon delve, with tricks, traps and monsters galore. Also some pretty neat art.

That will do it for Dragon 41, folks. Not the best issue, but a good one overall. Enjoy the day, the Super Bowl, the sunshine, etc. 

Dragon by Dragon – July 1980 (39)

It’s been too long since I did a review of The Dragon. Between work and trying to write/edit a few games, Sundays have been just packed, but today I’m diving back in. This week, we’re examining The Dragon #39, released in July of 1980. I can remember those days. I was 8, and I think the entire country was just about fed up with the 1970’s. Despite what you might have picked up in a revisionist history class, the 1970’s sucked. Hard. In RPG land, though, things were heating up – new companies, new games, and TSR and D&D were about to hit the heights.

So, what did July’s issue have to offer? Let’s check out this edition’s Top 10 cool things.

As we often do, we start with an advertisement. This time from Iron Crown Enterprises. I’m trying to remember if I’d seen an I.C.E. advertisement in The Dragon yet, and I don’t think I have. God knows, we’ll see plenty in the issues ahead.

I must say, there’s a bit of humor in an ad that looks like that and boasts about “fine graphics”.

They also left their state off the address – did everyone know where Charlottesville was back in the day?

Anyhow – they would go on to produce some pretty good material – from tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.


Here’s a sign of the times:

“Snap! Crackle! Zap! THE DRAGON computes! Recently, we’ve acquired a TRS-80 computer here at THE DRAGON (for those of you into home computers, it’s the Level II with 16K memory, a 16K expansion interface, two floppy-disc drives, and a printer). In addition to using it in conjunction with Mark Herro’s ‘Electric Eye’ column, we’ll now be able to look at a few of the plethora of game programs now available on the commercial market, and (hopefully) do some reviewing on our own. Please hold off on sending us your own home-brew programs for a bit yet; we’ll have our hands full with what’s on the market already. But electronic gaming is looming on the gaming horizon, and THE DRAGON is going to be ready for it.”

Personally, I don’t think electronic gaming will ever catch on.


Fantasysmith did some really nice miniatures articles, and the art was always top notch. This one in particular deserves an airing after 35 years:

The one thing left off this guideline: Be good at painting. When I did the miniatures thing, I had no problem choosing the goal  … I was just often less than successful in getting there.


Really, this should be Cool #1, because this article by George Laking and Tim Mesford introduces a “beloved” element of old school gaming – The Anti-Paladin!

We start with awesome art (not sure who drew it), and then move on to the class itself.

The anti-paladin was an NPC class, meaning it couldn’t be used by players. To that end, it gives a guide on rolling up the anti-paladin’s scores, using 12+1d6 for strength, for example, or 10+1d8 for constitution. Charisma has a special formula that uses 1d4: a “1” equals 3, a “2” 4, a “3” 17 and “4” 18. On a charisma of 18, there’s a 25% chance of having an exceptional charisma. Anti-paladins with very low charisma cause fear, while those with very high charisma will charm humanoids and other monsters.

I bring the above up to show how different the game was in the old days. There was much more willingness to invent new sub-systems to do things.

Anti-paladins roll d10 for hit points, gaining 3 per level after 9th. They get a host of special abilities, including causing disease and wounds, protection from good, backstabbing, poison use, rebuking undead and demons, a special warhorse and cleric spell use at high levels. Their special swords are called unholy reavers, which is, by the way, pretty sweet.


Why was alignment discussed so much back in the old days? Because alignment was a stand-in for philosophy – moral and ethical philosophy anyways. That made it interesting for lots of people, and contentious as well. A good example is the “Up On a Soap Box” in this issue, in which the following question is asked:

“Is something right just because we think it is right? If Hitler feels that it is right for him to kill six million Jews, is that morally acceptable?”


The first superhero rpg. Review here.

Heavy stuff for a game magazine. Alignment has become a throw away in many modern games, or has been rendered down into the faction rules it appears to have grown from. The discussions are still being had, though, in the gaming community and beyond.

Oh, and the answer to the above question is NO.

#4: ERA in RPG

Well, we’ve already mentioned Hitler and the Holocaust in an article about alignment, why not delve into equal rights?

The article is “Women Want Equality and Why Not?” by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan, and there’s a follow-up called “Points to Ponder” by Kyle Gray. I’m not going to delve too much into the contents of the article, but I suggest you find a copy online (it’s there) and read through it. It’s worth comparing and contrasting what was being discussed 35 years ago with what is being discussed today.


Len Lakofka writes an article called “Starting from Scratch” about starting a new campaign and rolling up a new party. The bit I liked was the random tables for rolling up starting spells. For magic-users it’s pretty straight forward – roll once on each table for a magic-user’s three starting spells:

He also suggests a limited number of starting prayers for clerics – 1d4+2 to be exact, with those spells being rolled randomly and modified according to the cleric’s instructor’s alignment.

The article covers much more ground than this, of course, so it’s worth reading.


You know I always like these little Moldvay gems. This edition contains two Norse legends.

Bodvar Bjarki (16th level chaotic good fighter), the son of a Norwegian prince who was turned into a bear during the day. Bjarki wields Lovi, a +3 sword, +6 vs. magic-users.

Egil Skallagrimson (14th level chaotic neutral fighter) who became a viking.

The article also contains a small table of runes.


A question to the sage:

“Question: Why can’t human, half-elf and elven Magic-Users wear armor and still cast spells? Elves and half-elves who are Magic-Users and Fighters can, so I don’t believe it is because of the iron in their armor or weapons. If it is because of training, then Magic-Users could be able to learn how to wear armor and cast spells at the same time—and even a human Magic-User/Fighter could train to acquire the ability.”

My answer – it’s a made up rule to keep the game balanced, you knucklehead. Stop rationalizing make-believe!


This article by Carl Parlagreco is one of the classics. It covers critical hits and fumbles, which it describes as “two of the most controversial subject areas in D&D”. His system is fine enough, but the random tables for the effects of critical hits and fumbles are what makes it really groovy. A sample – critical hit effects of missile and thrusting weapons – follows:


I loved this piece by Karl Horak:

“Several months ago I came across a member of the minority that hasn’t acknowledged Gary as final arbiter. The campaign he ran was based on the original spirit of Chainmail instead of the latest revisions. To say the least, the game was fresh and unorthodox. His foundation was the 3rd edition of Chainmail and his vague recollections of the three-volume set of Dungeons &Dragons, which he never purchased.”

Testify, brother!


I dig the image in the ad to the right – makes you wonder what the Hell is going on. I’m going to turn this into a little side trek into comic books.

When I used to collect the things, the covers were a shorthand blurb about the story in the issue – the idea was to get a kid at a news stand to plunk down their money to find out what was going on.

Now comic book covers are mostly pin-ups, I suppose because they’re aimed at an different audience. They’re usually very well drawn, but personally, I prefer those old covers. They fired the imagination, and were pretty fun. In fact – when I find an old issue, those covers still induce me to buy them. The pin-ups – not so much.

#10: TRAMP

Of course …

That’s all for this week. Hopefully the pace will slow down and I can get another one written next Sunday. I will have some updates this week from the next hex crawl in NOD.

Dragon by Dragon – June 1980 (38)

It’s Fall here in Nevada – finally. Summer usually lingers until Halloween (or Nevada Day, if you prefer) and then gets its back broken. But Dragon #38 was published in June of 1980 – summertime!

The guy on the cover is appropriately attired for summer, though somewhat less so for adventuring. It’s worth remembering that the male equivalent of the chainmail bikini was the fur underwear that graced many a barbaric warrior in the 1980’s (and professional wrestlers – it was really the heyday of violent men in their underwear).

So, onto the ten best things about Dragon #38!

We start this post with an advertisement.

The first is S3 – Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the special Fifth Anniversary Module! Only $8.00 – approximately $23 in today’s dollars. Am I selling my stuff too cheap? Well, I’m not writing classic modules, so probably not.

#1 … In the Weeds with Dragons

I’m not trumpeting this article because it’s a truly great addition to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Rather, because it takes me back to a day when these sorts of “scholarly” articles about the game were not so unusual.

Lakofka was a master of them (and he perhaps still is). He had a penchant for digging into the elements of the game, thinking deeply about them, and then reworking them for his campaign. Were they better for the attention? I suppose that’s a matter of opinion … but I like that he did it.

In this article, he presents new percentage chances for dragon’s speaking and casting spells. He also comes up with the chances that dragons might cast spells other than magic-user spells. He also presents a three new dragons – Brown, Orange and Yellow. The brown dragon has faerie fire and lightning breath weapons, the orange dragon color spray breath weapon (I dig this) and the yellow dragon has breath weapons that cause disease and blindness.

#2 … Redacted

Merle Rasmussen writes an article about a new game … Top Secret. I never played it, but was always intrigued. I did a quick check, and didn’t see anything about a retro clone of this one – maybe some fan out there can create one. In the meantime, I would suggest checking out Bill Logan’s White Lies. Looks awesome.

#3 … Memories

Speaking of spies and espionage … the Cold War. The advertisement to the right was one of many games about nuclear destruction (or its bizarre aftermath) from the period. I’m never sure if the people writing them didn’t want it happen a little. This one also brought to mind Supremacy. Fun game – I played it often. I remember the f-u move in that game was, when it was obvious you were going to lose, to nuke your own territory and launch a nuclear winter so that nobody won. Tricky, weird, stupid game, but lots of fun with friends. Right up there with RISK and Axis & Allies.

#4 … Gygaxian Sugar Coating

The old man himself speaks on the idea that good characters must be stupid …

“Good does not mean stupid, even if your DM tries to force that concept upon you. Such assertions are themselves asinine, and those who accept such dictates are stupid.”

Which begs the question: Is Raggi the Gygax of his day?


“Female dwarves are neglected not because of male chauvinism or any slight. Observers failed to mention them because they failed to recognize them when they saw them. How so? Because the bearded female dwarves were mistaken for younger males, obviously!”

I was never big on bearded female dwarves, but I think I’m changing my mind. Time to commission an all-female dwarf party illo for the new Blood & Treasure.


Always wondered what the heck the deal was with the ducks in that game. Was it Howard the Duck inspired?

#5 … The Seven Magical Planets

Super cool article by Tom Moldvay with great art by Darlene.

The article draws on Agrippa to present the magical correspondences of the different classical planets for use in gaming. For example, here’s the entry for the Sun.


Archetypal Plane: Light (or the Positive Material).

Description of Archetype: A blond, golden-skinned child holding a sceptre. A rooster crowing. A lion roaring. A sleeping gold dragon. The phoenix rising from flames. An individual with a tawny complexion, yellowish eyes, and a short, reasonably hairless, handsome body. A wise, honorable personality, courageous to a fault, but constantly seeking praise.

Planetary Powers: Magic concerned with money. Fortune and destiny in general. Any operation involving peace, harmony, and friendship. Long life and health. Transmutation of the elements. Spells involving light; magic whose prime purpose is goodness.

Color: Gold, or bright yellow.

Metal: Gold.

Stones: Amber, Topaz, Heliotrope (Yellow Jasper), Cat’s Eye

Agate, Citrine, Jacinth.

Plants: Sunflowers, Saffron plants, Ginger, Gentian, Celadine, Dittany, Lotus trees, Laurel trees, Poliginia, Ivy, any vines which climb toward the sun.

Animals: Lions, Roosters, Eagles, Rams, Boars, Shellfish, Worms, most Beetles, the Phoenix, a Cockatrice.

Day: Sunday.

Numbers: 1, 6, 11, 66, 666.

Selected Deities: Sol, Helius, the Titans Theia & Hyperion, Samas, Tai Yang Ti Chun, Tionatuh, Brigit, Apollo, Suya, Vishnu, Asar, Ra.

Angel: Michael.

Angelic Order: The Shinanim.

Devil: Surgat. (possibly also Mephistopheles).

Demon Order: Type III Demons.

Spirits: Dardael, Hurtapel, Nakiel, Vianathabra, Carat, Haludiel, Machasiel, Burchat, Suceratos, Capabile, Och, Sorath, Aquiel.

Tarot Trumps: The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune, The Hanged Man.

This is just one of those really useful articles for generating gaming ideas.

#6 … True Confessions

I freaking love the line drawings for miniatures they used to do in The Dragon. I want to make them all into characters. And, most importantly, I want to learn how to draw something that cool in such a small, compact package.

#7 … Another Damn Ad …

I know, but look at this thing!

#8 … The Civil War

The Electric Eye article by Mark Herro looks at two games – Civil War and Star Trek. Why is this so cool … because when I was a young nerd, my father borrowed a book of programs from an old nerd he worked with and I typed the Civil War program into a computer and played it. So help me God. To kids out there, I might as well be explaining about the day the guy who invented fire showed me how it was done.

#9 … The Flolite

Sometimes it’s the monster’s stats that make you want to use it. Sometimes its the art. For the flolite, it’s the art.

And dig the Dyson-esque hatching on the verges of the lights. So cool.

So what about the stats for Kevin Readman’s little beastie? Here’s the B&T version:

Flolite, Medium Aberration: HD 5+1; AC 15; ATK 1 tentacle (1d4+1); MV Fly 30′; CL/XP 7/1250; Special–Excellent sight and hearing, 30′ radius daylight around creature, when deals max damage with tentacle it drains 1 point of Strength and gains 1d8 hit points, frenzy against flying creatures (+1 to hit, +3 damage).

The monster’s eye, if harvested, protects an adventurer from the level or prime requisite draining abilities of vampires, night hags, wights, etc. What a great adventure hook – the adventurers know they have to take on a vampire in her castle, or follow a night hag into the Astral Plane to retrieve the Christmas dreams of the children of Sombertown, and to avoid the energy drain they must first venture into the desert after some flolite eyes.


A game by Brian Blume in this issue – Ringside – that simulates boxing. “Match the pros or create your own fighters.”

I admit, I’ve never been into boxing, but this sounds like a fun game for a Saturday afternoon. Invite some friends over, make a championship belt, and have some fights.

The game is pretty simple – Agility, Endurance, Counterpunch and six punches. Combat uses a punching chart. There are basic rules, advanced rules and campaign rules, and stats for 30 of the greats, including Ali, Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano.

And that’s it for Dragon #38 – June 1980. Find a copy and enjoy, boys and girls!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1980 (37)

To be completely honest, The Dragon was not the biggest thing that happened in May 1980.


That being said, it may have been the biggest thing that happened in RPG’s that month, and that’s good enough for me. Let us delve into the top ten things about The Dragon #37.


Arthur W. Collins fills in the alignment gap of dragons in this article, and introduces the gemstone dragons we have all come to know and love (well, some of us). These are dandy creatures, especially if you’re into psionics. What follows are some quick stat blocks in Blood & Treasure style for the gemstone dragons (all adults, max. hit dice):

Crystal Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 6; AC 18; ATK 2 claws (1d4) and bite (2d6); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dazzling cloud that cause blindness, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (35%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 50% chance of speaking, 30% chance of magic-use, druid spells (1/1/1/1), magic-user spells (1/1/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Topaz Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 7; AC 19; ATK 2 claws (1d4+1) and bite (2d8); MV 20′ (Fly 50′); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dehydration gets rid of 3 cubic feet of liquid per dragon hp and deals 1d6+6 Str damage to creatures, 10′ cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (40%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 60% chance of speaking, 35% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Emerald Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 8; AC 20; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (3d6); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W8; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day; sonic vibration knocks people unconscious for 1d6 x 10 minutes or deafens them for same if they save), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (50%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 70% chance of speaking, 40% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sapphire Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 9; AC 21; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (5d4); MV 20′ (Fly 60′); SV F6 R8 W6; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day, sonic vibration disintegrates a number of hit points equal to the dragon’s hit points), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (55%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 80% chance of speaking, 45% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/2), magic-user spells (2/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Amethyst Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 10; AC 22; ATK 2 claws (1d8) and bite (5d6); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like a banshee), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (65%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 90% chance of speaking, 50% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/1/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/1/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sardior the Ruby Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 11; AC 23; ATK 2 claws (1d10) and bite (5d8); MV 30′ (Fly 80′); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like amethyst dragon or dazzling cloud like crystal dragon), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (75%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 100% chance of speaking, 100% chance of magic-use, druid spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), magic-user spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Inflict one on your players today!

Side Trek #1 – Fiends!

“On other fronts, it seems likely now that TSR and Games Workshop have reached a final agreement regarding the publication of the Fiend Folio …”

Love the Fiend Folio. Love it.

Side Trek #2 – Calling Mr. Hall

“Question: My character is a 9th-level Druid changed to a Magic-User (he is now 10th level as a M-U). I want to be able to put my previously owned Apparatus of Kwalish inside my newly acquired Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. Then I would have the ultimate weapon …”

#2. Happenstance

So I’m knee-deep in writing Black Death, which is set, vaguely, during the Thirty Years War and the Wars of Religion. What article do I happen to come across, but “Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati Part VI – Landsknect and Reiters”.

Apparently, the Landsknecht army (and my game) should include:

Infantry – pike-armed, in the style of the Swiss pikemen they were trying to counter

Light Cavalry – dressed as landsknechts, armed with arquebus or crossbow – trained as skirmishers and scouts

Ritters – armored lancers with full plate, battle lances and longswords, and plate barding for the horse

Reiters – black-armored pistoliers, they took two form – light reiters wore a shirt of mail and heavy reiters wore half-plate; both carried three wheellock or matchlock pistols and an estoc

The landsknechts were true mercenaries – a good war to them was one with lots of prisoners they could ransom!

#3. Magic-Users are Experience

T. I. Jones presents a very long article about magic research for magic-users and clerics. I think it’s one of those interesting pieces that tried to deal with all that treasure that was floating around in AD&D. The idea, which I generally ascribe to, is to keep the players needing money, and that keeps them delving into dungeons. The DMG had training costs, which we never used when I was a kid and which I now understand were kind of important to the game. There was also the expense of one day setting up a stronghold. This article gives another – magic research. For example:

“Research in one’s own library will require that such a library have been acquired and built up over the course of several levels of experience. It should be not only difficult but expensive to acquire such a library—a minimum expenditure of 10,000 gold pieces per level of the spell to be researched is recommended. That is, if a Magic-User is to research a second-level spell, he should have spent at least 20,000 gold pieces on his library.”

#4. Libraries

Speaking of libraries, the next article, by Colleen A. Bishop, is a random book generator. Let’s build a library shelf by rolling some percentile dice:

Our shelf contains 250 scrolls (holy cow! – I’m not rolling up all of those) and five books. There’s a 4% chance of a scroll being magic, so there should be 10 magic scrolls on the shelf. The books are two histories of particular castles, a book about the inferiority of kobolds to human beings, and another about how humans are better than dwarves and an alchemist’s notebook in which the writing is too difficult to read.

This would be an excellent random table to automate, to produce large libraries quickly.

#5. Giant in the Earth

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay present another batch of literary heroes for D&D. This time, the article does not include any character stats. Rather, it describes the rationale used by the authors for creating their stats. The article includes a great passage about doing stats for Tolkien’s creations …

“As far as writing up the characters from Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, we would love to try our hand at them. Unfortunately, the Tolkien estate is known to be fanatically paranoid about the slightest possible infringement of rights (whether real or imagined). We were also unwilling to attempt them because 90% of the Tolkien fans would be unhappy with the results, regardless of what they were. In the end, we decided it was simply too much hassle to write up Tolkien characters.”

Yeah, this would be post-lawsuit.

The article has a nice table comparing AD&D to D&D levels, which I reproduce:

AD&D 21+ = D&D 40+ / equivalent to demigods, for characters with magically extended lives or who are in close contact with the gods

AD&D 17-20 = D&D 30-30 / the max. an exceptional character would obtain in a single lifetime

AD&D 13-16 = D&D 20-29 / average for heroic characters

AD&D 9-12 = D&D 10-19 / normal minimum for any hero

AD&D 5-8 = D&D 5-9 / this line was actually missing from the article

AD&D 1-4 = D&D 1-4 / low-level cannon-fodder

#6. Urban Encounters

Here’s a nice table folks should find some use for …

#7. Nothing New Under the Sun

From the letters to the editor …

“Unfortunately, I do not feel so good about Mr. Fawcett’s article, “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons.” Yes, I did read the article’s opening statement about the source material being both religious and fictional in nature. As a DM, I will admit that the concept of having angels for the deities of a mythos is intriguing. However, it is the source material that bothers me. Let us remember that much of the article was derived from the Holy Bible, and as far as I’m concerned that is not a book to be taken lightly! Games are games, but the Word of God is not something to be used in such a manner.

I happen to believe in the Bible. However, I also happen to believe in the Constitution, and I respect your right to print what you wish. But I think that “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons” was in extremely poor taste.”

#8. Magic Items

Some goodies in the Bazaar of the Bizarre this month. Here’s an inventory:

Mirror of Speed
Mirror of Confusion
Mirror of Memory
Mirror of All-Seeing
Yefar’s Great Mirror (all by Gerald Strathmann)
Rod of Singing by Robert Plamondon (cursed  item)
The Discus Shield by Roger E. Moore

#9. Vulturehounds

A cool monster by Chris Chalmers and Dan Pollak. Quick stat block

Vulturehound. Small Magical Beast: HD 2; AC 15; ATK 2 claws (1d3) and bite (1d6); MV 50′ (fly 30′); SV F13 R11 W18; AL Neutral (N); Special-None.

They run around in groups of 4d6, and have voracious appetites. I think they’d be a great encounter in dry hills.

Side Trek #3 – I love McLean!

Always loved the art style, and the humor

#10. The Pit of the Oracle

A module by Stephen Sullivan, with a nice cover image by Jeff Dee in which a fighter is either doing a bad-ass, casual back strike against a troglodyte, or in which a fighter is about to get his ass kicked by a couple troglodytes.

The module contains a dungeon and a town (and a Temple of Apathy), as well as some other nice art pieces by Dee, Roslof, Otus and Sutherland. You can tell the elements of D&D’s most classic phase are all coming together.

The map has all sorts of notations on it, which makes me think the adventure is a bit complex … but it also looks really cool. Hey, maybe that’s just the art talking.

And that’s Dragon #37 – happy Sunday folks and have a groovy week ahead.

Dragon by Dragon – April 1980 (36)

There will come a day when the April edition of The Dragon will be full of jokes. Based on the cover, I’d say that day was not in April of 1980.

The aforementioned cover is by Dean Morrissey, and it is inspired by that issue’s short story by Gardner Fox, “The Cube from Beyond”, a Niall of the Far Travels story. Mr. Morrissey is still a working artist – you can see some of his pieces HERE.

Let’s check out 10 cool things about issue #36 …


First and foremost, I’m always a sucker for a good sword & sorcery tale by Gardner Fox. Here’s a sample:

“Now Thavas Tomer was a doomed man. He had fled down the halls and corridors, seeking sanctuary—where no sanctuary was to be found. At his heels had come Niall, his great sword Blood-drinker in his hand, seeking to make an end to this magician-king who had slain and raped and robbed all those against whom he had sent his mercenaries.”

If somebody could figure out a way to make a random idea generator that plucked passages from fantasy stories, I bet it would be a great way to come up with adventures or campaigns. Three different passages from the same book might inspire three very different campaigns.


An interesting “Up on a Soap Box” by Larry DiTillio, regarding him running an adventure he normally ran for adults for some adults and teens at a convention. Here’s an excerpt:

“In the same game another incident occurred, again with that same Paladin player. This one involved a mysterious monk smoking a substance from a hookah which he offered to certain party members. My friends accepted somewhat overeagerly, while the Paladin again asked me that question. Was smoking a drug against his alignment? Now, I’m not a junkie, nor do I think drugs are of any benefit to teen-agers (no high is as good as your own natural openness to things at that age), but I have had a good deal of experience with a whole gamut of consciousness-altering substances and would be hard pressed to declare them categorically evil.”

The first incident involved a dungeon room where sex could be purchased. In both cases, the paladin inquires whether these acts are against his alignment. It’s a tricky question, and does get to a problem with alignment – i.e. the interpretation of what it means. No answers here, but an interesting problem, and an interesting article.


In this issue, Gygax chimes in with some stats for Conan. It’s funny, but I was actually searching for this article recently, looking for inspiration for maybe making some revisions to the barbarian class in Blood & Treasure.

In doing so, I found some comments on websites that this article was a mistake, in that the weird rules changes needed to simulate Conan showed the weakness of the D&D system. I disagree – D&D is a game. Conan was a character in stories. No random rolls there, no comparisons of hit rolls and Armor Class. That a game cannot simulate something in a story is not a condemnation of the game (which, in D&D’s case, was not designed specifically to simulate Conan stories in the first place).

So, how does Conan shake out? Well, which Conan. The piece actually presents Conan at different ages – 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. Neat idea. We also see how his fighter and thief levels change through his ages. His fighter level runs from a low of 4 at age 15 to a high of 24 at age 40 … and then back down to 12 by the time he’s 70.

How does a level drop? Well, there’s really no way to do it in the game, but I thought about using a rule that each year without adventuring might result in a character losing 10% of his earned XP. If you don’t stay in practice, you get rusty and, therefore, lose levels. Just a thought.

So, let’s look at Conan at age 25.

Conan, Human Fighter/Thief: Level 12/8; HP 132; AC 16; ATK attacks 5 times every 2 rounds; Str 18/00, Int 15, Wis 10, Dex 20, Con 18, Cha 15; AL Chaotic Neutral (good tendencies); Psionics–Latent–animal telepathy, detect magic, precognition, mind bar.

Conan gets the following special abilities:

  • When he rolls a total of “21” to hit, he scores double damage.
  • He is 75% undetectable in underbrush and woodlands.
  • He surprises opponents 50% of the time.
  • He is only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d20.
  • He gets a +4 bonus on all saves.
  • Poison can knock him unconscious, but never kill him.
  • He regains hit points at double the normal rate, and regains hit points at the normal rate even without resting.
  • He has 25% magic resistance if he is aware that magic is being used against him.
  • His psionics are all latent – he does not know he has them, and cannot consciously choose to use them.
  • When wielding an off-hand weapon, he can parry one attack per round with it.
  • He can move at a trot all day without tiring.
  • His trails are 75% undetectable.
  • His vision and hearing are 50% better than normal.
  • When he pummels people, his opponents are treated as slowed; his fists are treated as mailed even when bare.
  • When grappling, his effective height is 7′, and his effective weight is 350 lb.
  • He gets a 15% bonus to overbearing attacks
  • He does unarmed damage as though armed with a club


In “Sage Advice” by Jean Wells …

“Question: Why can’t half-orcs be raised, especially if they are 90% human as the Players Handbook says?

Answer: The Players Handbook does not say that half-orcs are 90% human. It says that 10% of them (from which player characters are drawn) resemble humans enough to pass for one under most circumstances. Genetically, a true half-orc is always 50% human. Half-orcs cannot be raised simply because they do not have souls. I went right to the top for the answer to this one, and according to Gary Gygax himself, ‘Half-orcs cannot be raised-period.'”

It occurs to me that the inability to raise demi-humans was a balancing factor in old D&D for all of their special abilities.


Len Lakofka tries his hand at setting all those deity-killing PC’s right by setting down some truths about the gods. How many DM’s, I wonder, design their pantheon specifically for one day fighting high-level adventurers?

Here are Lakofka’s definitions for deity-hood:

1. Has 180 or more hit points
2. Can cast a spell or has a power at the 20th level of ability
3. Can fight or perform acts as a 20th level Lord or 20th level Thief

Those who cannot do this are not deities. This includes Jubilex, Ki-rins and Yeenoghu. Baal, Orcus, Tiamat and Bahamut, on the other hand, are deities.

He also states that deities get their special abilities from the Outer Planes, while lesser beings get their powers from the inner planes or from deities.

Much more here, including abilities from ability scores of 19 or higher (or 25+ for strength).

It looks like the blueprint used for the later Deities & Demigods / Legends & Lore books.


Now that’s a great illustration for selling a monster book. You can pick up the PDF HERE.


Turns out there was a prank hiding inside this issue after all – technically The Dragon #36 1/2.

We have articles about how to make the most out of your pet dragon, some new monsters (see below), keeping your players poor with the tax man, Bazaar of the Ordinary (web of cob), a random table (d30!) of things to say when you accidentally (or maybe not accidentally) summon Demogorgon, Leomund’s in a Rut (expanding character footwear options), this month’s module – a 10×10 room with nothing in it (map provided), and an add that includes Detailed Advanced D&D, the next step in fantasy gaming.

As for one of those new monsters:

The Keebler, Small Fey: HD 0; AC 13; ATK none; MV 40′; XP 50; AL N (good tendencies); Special-Magic resistance 60%, bake cookies (Will save at -4 or charmed); Spells-3/day-create water, purify food & drink, slow poison, create food & water, neutralize poison, locate object (edible substances) – as though by 7th level cleric.

7) The Mongols

Neat article by Michael Kluever on the history, weapons and tactics of the Mongols. Mongols done the way they were are probably pretty underused in fantasy gaming – they were a pretty fascinating group, and a campaign that includes a rapidly expanding Mongol Empire (wherein PC’s leave town, adventure in a dungeon, and come back to find the town razed or absorbed into the empire) would be pretty cool, especially if that expansion ends up being crucial to the game.

How was the typical Mongol warrior equipped:

Armor ranged from none to leather to scale armor, plus conical helms (leather for light cavalry, steel for heavy cavalry) and small, circular shields made of wicker covered with leather; they also wore silk undershirts that apparently helped to minimize damage from arrows when they had to be removed from wounds

Two composite bows, one for short range, one for long range; they used armor-piercing arrows, whistling arrows to signal and incendiary arrows (tipped with small grenades – apparently the Duke boys didn’t invent the idea); each warrior carried two quivers with 60 arrows in each

Heavy cavalry also carried a scimitar, battle axe OR horseman’s mace, a 12′ long lance with a hook for yanking warriors off their horses and a dagger

Light cavalry carried a lighter sword, two to three javelins and a dagger

8) Giants in the Earth

This edition, by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay, includes:

Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood (17th level fighter, 10th level thief, 8th level cleric)

Lovecraft’s Richard Upton Pickman (King of the Ghouls, 9th level fighter)

Thomas Burnett Swann’s Silverbells (forest minotaur 15th level ranger, 13th level paladin)

The last one caught my attention, since I’d never heard of the author. The idea is that the original stock of minotaurs, termed forest minotaurs here, were neutral good defenders of the woodlands and the fey creatures who lived therein. You can find his books for sale at Amazon.

9) A New Way to Track XP

Experience points, like alignment, are a perennial sub-system people are trying to improve. In this version, XP are based on actual damage inflicted (modified by the strength of the opponents), and for deeds actually done. To whit:

For non-magical monsters, you get 5 XP per point of damage done, multiplied by the difference between the monster’s AC and 10

For magical monsters, 10 XP per point of damage done, same modifier.

For spellcasting in combat, 10 XP per level of spell

For spellcasting in a hostile situation, 5 XP per level of spell

Thieves get XP for gold stolen, maybe only if they grab a larger share than the other members of their party

Not a bad idea, really.

10) The Fastest Guns that Never Lived

This is a reprint, collection and expansion of articles I remember covering many reviews ago. Designed for Boot Hill, it’s a pretty fun article for fans of westerns, and a great opportunity for fan debates. If you think it’s bunk, you can blame Allen Hammack, Brian Blume, Gary Gygax and Tim Kask.

So, let’s get to the winners in each stat:

Fastest Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Bob Steele, (3) Paladin

Slowest: Pancho

Most Accurate Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Will Sonnet and Col. Tim McCoy, (3) Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Paladin and Lee Van Cleef

Least: Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright

Bravest Gun in the West: Charles Bronson

Most Cowardly: Pancho

Strongest Gun in the West: Hoss Cartwright

Weakest: Will Sonnet

Somebody was in love with Clint Eastwood, huh?


Todd Lockwood (that one?) brings us the monster of the month, a race of warm-blooded flying reptile dudes. Here are the Blood & Treasure stats.

Krolli, Large Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2 to 6; AC 17; ATK 1 bite (1d6+1), rear claw (1d8+1), hand (1d8 or by weapon +4); MV 20′ (fly 40′); AL varies; XP 200 to 600; Special-High dexterity, multiple attacks, acute senses, surprised on 1 on 1d6, 25% magic resistance.

They are encountered in lairs, with 3d20 in lair, 25% females and young, with 2-3 and 1/2 HD each, and 1d8 7+2 HD chieftains. Encountered among men, they are usually mercenaries or slavers, and could be found as body guards or military officers.

They have high natural strength (20) and dexterity (23).

They may be of any class, though 95% are fighters. Of the remainder, 70% are clerics. They cannot wear armor, but often carry shields. They are almost never thieves or assassins.

Side note – I really loved Lockwood’s stuff for 3rd edition D&D – a very worthy artist to carry that torch, I think.

Hope you enjoyed this review … I leave you with Tramp

Dragon by Dragon – March 1980 (35)

This week (or month, depending on how you look at it), The Dragon greets us with a very 1980’s bit of Cold War schtick – a couple commies about to get whooped by either a bunch of heavily armed and magical snowmen, or some U.S. Marines in disguise. Either way, not a good day for the Russkis. Luckily, we’ll never have to worry about Russia actively trying to conquer its neighbors … never mind.

Let’s dive in!

#1. From Avant-Garde to Mainstream

From the Dragon Rumbles column:

“Judging from the 43rd Hobby Industry of America trade show, held Jan. 27-30 in Anaheim, Calif., our once lonely pastime has arrived with a vengeance. According to what the buyers and store owners were saying, adventure gaming (for want of another term) is booming, with the heavy emphasis on fantasy. Sales of Advanced D&D DMG bear this out; it is the best-selling game/gamebook of all time.”

I wonder if that still holds. From what I understand, sales back in the old days were much higher than they are now.

#2. Oops

I did a thing a while back about type-o spells. In an article on errata in the AD&D books, Allen Hammack introduces a few screwed up magic items:

RING OF THREE WITCHES— Rather self-explanatory. It looks like any other magic ring and will radiate a dweomer if detected for. If summoned or commanded to function or if a wish is made upon it, the three witches (each a 20th level chaotic evil Magic-User) will issue forth and wreak havoc.

CUBE OF FARCE —Upon pressing this cube, a field of force will spring up just as in the Cube of Force, but on the interior of the cubic field the operator of the Cube is subjected to 6 different “comedies” at the same time, and must save vs. spell or he will be insane for 1-10 rounds. The “comedies” are “Gilligan’s Island”, “Hee Haw”, “Hello, Larry” , “I Love Lucy”, “Good Times”, and “The White House Press Conference.”

CARPET OF FRYING— When this magic carpet is sat upon and commanded to do anything, it will paralyze the person(s) on the carpet (save applicable), causing the person(s) to stretch out along its length. It will then begin to radiate a temperature of 375° F. and continue until the victim is well-done. Needless to say, the smell of frying human (or halfling or elf or dwarf or gnome or half-orc) will attract any monsters in the area who are fond of such delicacies.

WAND OF LIGHTENING —This wand, whether directed at an opponent or oneself, will cause the operator to gradually become weightless. Once the wand is activated it cannot be stopped until the process is complete (5 rounds). Treat as gaseous form to see if the victim is blown by air currents, although the victim will obviously not be able to pass through cracks or holes. See what messing up one little letter in a spell can do?

#3. Black Holes!

In an article on Traveller variants by James Hopkins, we get a neat little table on random black holes:


Finally a new one from Ral Parth – The Clerics

The one on the left look a little dramatic, huh? The one on the right is calling his shot before he knocks a goblin head over the fence. You can buy them here.

#4. Experience Points

Len Lakofka does an alternative way to hand out XP. Here’s the quick rundown:

1. A character amasses at least one half of the experience points he or she needs to gain a promotion (level) (an option allows this percentage to be as low as 30% for a 20th level figure).

2. He or she seeks a person (preferably) two or more levels higher but of the same race and alignment, to train him or her in the skills needed to fully gain the new level.

3. The cost of this training varies from as little as 10 s.p. for 1 x. p. to as much as 2 g.p. for 1 x.p.

4. The training time is computed in days or fractions of days, and during that period the figures are bound in what amounts to a sworn oath in the name of their Gods to be honorable, faithful
and loyal to one another.

Why are experience points given to a character? The methods are:

1. For killing opponents (“monsters”), as per AD&D.

2. For defeating, subduing, enspelling opponents (“monsters”), a one-half award. (Note: killing an enspelled monster still only gains the half award unless the killing is done immediately and not after questioning or having the figure perform some act )

3. For learning the use of magic items (per the awards in the Dungeon Masters Guide for magic items) by experiment and experience, NEVER from the use of a spell or through magic in a

4. From protracted use of an item (weapons and armor, etc. )

5. For certain one-time uses of an item in an “adventure situation.”

6. For acts directly related to a character’s profession.

I’ve admitted in the past that I was a terrible AD&D player, because I never really read the books. I was a Moldvay/Cook punk who grabbed classes, spells, monsters and magic items from AD&D, but I never really used the rules. So the bit about XP for learning to use magic items is interesting – I always figured you just got fat XP for finding a magic item. Maybe you did in AD&D, or maybe I missed the actual rule. I have no idea. Guess I’ll break out the DMG and find out later today.

#5. Same Crap, Different Decade

“Unfortunately, not all particular wargame enthusiasts are able to “minimize losses and maximize gains.” Frequently, wargames allow individual players to display some extreme prodigality, giving bystanders the impression that wargamers are nothing but impassive warmongers who are bent upon destruction, with all its violent emotions, whatever the cost may be. These “war-moralizers” feel that a new race of fascists and communists will be born, with the instinctive impressions that war and its wastefulness is the way of life. Moreover, other groups of “war-moralizers” say that wargaming is an act of practicing the willful murder of mankind condemned by God. And all of this moralizing comes from just playing a game!”

Sound familiar. These days, the emotionally immature are playing the “disagreement = violence” argument, but it all boils down to the same damn thing – tyranny. One person or group gets to direct the lives of all others – what they may say, may do, how they do it, etc.

I want to make sure folks know that Theron Kuntz, in this article, is lamenting and arguing against the bullshit moralizers of the period.

If you love freedom – yours as well as the freedom of others to piss you off – Fight On!

#6. Touched (Really Hard) by an Angel

William Fawcett has a nice article on angels (which of course first has to assure the religious that this is make-believe, so get that pissy look off your face). The article gives you a look at the history of angels (or of lesser divine beings, if you prefer), the hierarchy of Heaven, and then stats for the different angels.

You get seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels of the ninth order. All the classics. Makes me want to write an overpowered angel PC class using those as the level titles … maybe next week.

Here’s a sample, using Blood and Treasure stats.

Angel of the Ninth Order

Size/Type: Large Outsider
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 21 [+1]
Attack: 1 strike (4d6)
Movement: 30 (Fly 60)
Saves: F8 R8 W8
Resistance: Magic 50%
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
Intelligence: High
No. Appearing: 1 or 1d4
XP: 2,000

Spells: At will–cure light wounds, purify food & drink, hold person, tongues, plane shift (others), speak with dead, blade barrier, cure disease; 1/day–control weather.

#7. Giants in the Earth

I always enjoy Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay’s GitE articles. This issue features:

Cecelia Holland‘s MUIRTAGH THE BOWMAN (16th level bard, 7th level fighter, 5th level thief) – with a great piece by Erol Otus. And, it turns out she was born right here in Southern Nevada, in Henderson, back when it was a factory town producing magnesium for the war effort.

H. Rider Haggard‘s UMSLOPOGAAS (15th level fighter)

Henry Kuttner‘s EDWARD BOND (9th level fighter)

Henry Kuttner’s GANELON (25th level fighter) – with some very early Jeff Dee artwork

They also detail the Sword of Llyr from Kuttner. The sword doubles Ganelon’s psionic strength and ability, and gives him some extra psionic disciplines: Invisibility, ESP, Body Equilibrium, Expansion, Mass Domination and Teleportation.

#8. Quickfloor

You’ve heard of quicksand (especially if you’re my age), but Stephen Zagieboylo invented magical “quickfloor” for dungeons. People sink in 1d4+3 rounds (or 1d4+2 if in chainmail, 1d4+1 in platemail). The first person in the marching order has a 40% chance of noticing it, halflings have a 60% chance. Characters have a chance to cross safely based on their dexterity – For 3-5 a 10% chance, for 6-9 a 25% chance, for 10-13 a 50% chance, for 14-16 a 80% chance and for 17-18 a 90% chance. If you tie a rope between two wooden posts that flank the quickfloor, you create a magic bridge that allows people to cross safely, but kills anyone already in the quickfloor (I guess by solidifying it).


Q: Who was the top ranked AD&D player in the U.S.A. in 1980?

A. Bob Blake

Now you know.

#9. Citadel Miniatures

Great ad from Citadel, with their characteristically great mini illustrations.


Now, what can we do with this ad?

Idea 1 – Make a game. Pick a miniature, or do a die drop and see what you land on – that’s your character. Use Risus or something to get some stats, equipment, etc and then invade the Tomb of Horrors.

Idea 2 – The spacefarer miniatures look like a rough draft for Rogue Trader and Warhammer 40,000. Reimagine what the game would have looked like with these illustrations as your guide. Imperial Marines with puffy sleeves instead of bulky armor.


Yeah, the last bit was an ad as well, but check these out …

We have an OSR for tabletop games … is there also an OSR for old-style computer rpgs? Honestly don’t know – but I bet they’d make great apps for smart phones.

Coming soon to these reviews …

No wormy in this issue, so I’ll leave you with this image from the “Oasis” short story by Cynthia Frazer

So, I need to write an Angel PC class, and a Beastrider class this week.

Dragon by Dragon – September 1979 (29)

September of 1979, and lots of kids were getting ready to go back to school (and lots of parents were thanking God the kids were going back to school). Maybe the mail brought a few of those kids one last bit of fun before the learning began – Dragon #29.

Note on the cover – not terribly impressive to me, except for that little bit in the lower right-hand corner. Woimy’s back!

What does the “premier magazine of games and gaming” have for us this month?

Kask has a few things about subscriptions to discuss in the opening. First, make sure you address things to TSR Periodicals to get things moving fast. Second, let them know when you’re moving. Finally, when you resubcribe, do it before your subscription ends to make sure you don’t miss an issue. All of these things – almost completely moot in the modern world.

Apparently, this was an issue for clarifications – they had to reprint the image of the Slinger from last month’s Bestiary – they apparently should have told the printer to increase the screen density by 20%. Here’s Mary Lynn’s little masterpiece:

The first article is missing a title, but the TOC calls it “Of the Gods”. Whatever it’s called, its by Craig Bakey and concerns the idea of “campaign gods”. The argument by Bakey is that every campaign should have its own gods and goddesses, rather than just using the mythos in “Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes”. What follows are some guidelines on how to create an original pantheon for your game. A couple points:

1. The power of the gods runs in cycles, so different pantheons can hold sway over the Prime Material Plane at different times, though the other gods are by no means powerless. This is actually a cool idea – different gangs of gods rising and falling in power.

2. Beyond the gods are forces of immeasurable power who have long since lost interest in the universe – i.e. The Old Gods. According to Bakey, there are 24 hyper-physical padrones which manifest themselves as colored jewels of six different disciplines. The concepts of Law and Chaos, and the gods themselves, originated in these jewels.

Note – I love how in the old days, an article that seemed like it was going to be campaign neutral suddenly decides on pretty campaign specific stuff that everyone should use. It’s as though there was still an idea that all D&D campaigns really should be linked with each other, and therefore needed to have a solid foundation underpinning them.

The aforementioned disciplines are:

I – blue gems – abstract religion

II – purple gems – space, dimensions, form, motion

III – green gems – matter

IV – yellow gems – intellect

V – orange gems – individual and intersocial volitions

VI – red gems – affections, personal, moral, religious, etc.

He goes on to describe the basic characteristics all deities should have, and other statistics to define them. Then come the random tables for generating deities – this I like. The main table has a weird entry on it that might come from the digitizing of the magazines, but it covers the basic power level of the deity – from demi-god to “gods of the inner circle” to banished gods and rogue gods. There are tables for determining Armor Class and Hit Points, relations between the gods, alignment, gender, their portfolio, and extraordinary abilities and fantastic possessions. He goes on to present some sample pantheons, which appear to have an alignment factor to them (makes the whole rotating pantheons in power make more sense).

I dig that he includes “Dormamnu” as the god of paradoxes and energy. Ardnha, the “presence of swords and machines” and Quasiman, the goddess of black sorcerers sounds pretty cool as well.

Next is a variant on the Source of the Nile game by the authors, Dave Weseley and Ross Maker (I think). It’s a collection of flow charts that are pretty meaningless without the game rules. Or maybe not – here’s a sample:

Now that I look at them, they might be useful to somebody running a wilderness adventure. In fact, designing some flow charts of my own might be useful.

In the “Fantasy Smith’s Notebook” we have “An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Ton of Paint”. I always found this to be true when I painted minitures (Warhammer, mostly). A nice primer coat was a must, especially since I sucked at painting a good black undercoat really helped make my minis look way better than they would have otherwise. The article is a good guide to prepping miniatures, using dowels to hold them (wish I’d thought of that), filing them to correct problems with the casting, etc.

An interesting thing that was either an advertisement or a tiny article comes at the end of the previous article, for the Order of the Indian Wars (PO Box 7401, AC 501-225-3996, Little Rock, Arkansas 72217), a group dedicated to studying the American Indian Wars.

The coolest thing – still around! OIW’s website is HERE.

Gary Gygax is up next with “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll”. Here, he introduces “The Half-Ogre, Smiting Him Hip and Thigh”. Here, EGG mentions that he has seen many treatments of the idea, and now he’s wading in with something official – and a warning.

“The character races in AD&D were selected with care. They give variety of approach, but any player selecting a non-human (part- or demi-human) character does not have any real advantage.”

“Consider the various factors which must be taken into account when designing a race for game purposes. Remember that last part, game purposes; AD&D is, first and foremost, a game. Races, just as with classes, must be in relative balance with each other, as well as with the game as a whole.”

Dear old dad

He actually gives some nice design advice on creating character races, and also on why he made the rules he made in AD&D to keep things balanced.

Time to roll up a half-ogre. Half-ogres have the following ability scores: Str 14-18 (use d6, with 5 and 5 equaling 18), Int 3-12 (3d4), Wis 2-12 (2d6), Dex 3-12 (3d4), Con 14-18 (as Str above) and Cha 2-8 (2d4).

Note – I suddenly love the idea of each race rolling different dice for its ability scores, instead of just using bonuses and penalties.

I roll up the following: Str 16, Int 7, Wis 7, Dex 7, Con 17, Cha 3 (or 6 with ogres and half-ogres … so even my own people find me distasteful).

Half-ogres can be fighters (unlimited advancement) or clerics. I don’t qualify as a cleric, so I guess my half-ogre, Zapp Smashigan, will be a fighter. As a half-ogre, I get infravision to 60′, speak ogre, orc and troll (if raised by my ogre parent), a swarthy and dull complexion, dark and lank hair, an average height of 7.5 feet, roll two Hit Dice at 1st level, and then regular progression thereafter. So, as a first level fighter, I roll 15 hit points, plus 3 per hit dice for my high Con, so 21 hit points at first level. Not too shabby, actually. If the others chip in and get me a decent weapon and armor, I can really kick some tail and let the clerics focus on healing the other fighters in the group.

Next, Harold Pitt gives us “Curses: Never Get Even – Get Ahead”. From the second paragraph:

“The curses spoken of here are the ones that the Dungeon Master may lay onto his players as a matter of the course of play, a penalty for acting out of character (alignment), or just as an equalizer for someone who has been exceptionally successful. Or for that character that has just succeeded in demolishing the trap you spent hours agonizing over (frustrating, isn’t it?) and feel that perhaps, somehow, he shouldn’t get away scot free. Remember: never get even—get ahead!”

Harold sounds like a fun DM to play with. “Hmm, Pete’s thief has done pretty well this adventure, even got past that killer trap I set up. Guess it’s time to curse him.”

The advice in the article is sound and common sense – I use it when designing curses in my hex crawls. Basically – figure out what will really challenge a character, and use it. Curses really should be about challenging the players and making the game more interesting. As Harold puts it:

“In conclusion, cursing can be fun. It can become a battle of wits and resources between DM and player.”

Still, I can’t endorse the idea that the DM needs revenge on successful players. No good will come from that attitude.

Time for “Out on a Limb” and some thoughtful letters to the editor. I actually liked this bit in a letter from Marc Jacobs of Allentown, PA:

“Obviously, the feudal class structure of Europe will not work for D&D the way it is usually played. First, ruined castles and dungeons would probably be the property of someone, and adventuring in them would be akin to poaching in the king’s forest. In a magic-intensive world, it would be hard to hide the origins of your wealth.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see this as a bug, but rather as a feature.

Dig this from the editor:

“To my knowledge, and I’ve been here since there has been a TSR Hobbies, Inc., there has never been an “enemies list” or black list. Not that we don’t take note of who the most vociferous critics are, naturally we do.

I don’t have a bad side; my answers are very much the product of the mood I’m in or how the particular letter struck me at the time. There are dozens of different ways to humiliate people in print that I would never stoop to using.”

Good times. Good times.

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay now come waltzing in with another “Giants in the Earth”. This month, we get Roger Zelazny’s Shadowjack, a 25th level thief, 9th (18th) level fighter and 9th (18th) level magic-user. Also, Jack Vance’s Iucounu, the Laughing Magician, a 20th level magic-user. Along with Iucounu, you get a bevy of Vancian spells: The Charm of Forlorn Encystment, The Charm of Untiring Nourishment, The Excellent Prismatic Spray, Felojun’s Second Hypnotic Spell, etc. I’ll reproduce one of these spells:

Thasdrubel’s Laganetic Transfer or the Agency of Far Despatch: when this spell is uttered, the recipient is bound as if by a hold person spell. A nycadaemon appears (i.e., is gated in), grasps the held recipient and flies him or her either to a point designated by the caster or 10-100 miles in a random direction. Range: 3”. Area of effect: 1 creature. Casting time: 1 round. Saving throw: none.

Idea – everybody picks a character from “GitE” and we hold a Google+ fight club using AD&D rules.

In the “Design Forum”, Doug Green presents “Rewarding Heroism in D&D”. It comes down like so: If a player or a couple players want to act for the entire group in situations where the life or freedom of the entire party is on the line, they attack as though twice their normal level (or apply spell rules as though double level, though they don’t get additional spells), and take half-damage from attacks. All other abilities are +20%.

As Doug puts it, “This rule simulates the effect of adrenalin on a person in a life or death situation and the natural law present in most fantasy stories that good will triumph over evil.”

Doug also gives the point man in the party +20% XP, and anyone praying after sacrificing himself has a percent chance equal to his level of getting a reaction from the gods. Also, heroic acts are worth 1,000 to 5,000 XP.

Not sure who wrote this next one, but it’s called Inns and Taverns, and the art is groovy:

The article gives a nice guide to what inns and taverns are (or were), along with percent chance to find on in different sized communities (75% chance in a community with 150 people or less) and what to do without one (beg for lodgings). He notes that in 1453, Paris consisted of three square miles, within which lived 150,000 people and 5,000 inns and taverns.

He also covers prices (5 cp to 5 gp per night – quite a spread), what you get for your money, etc. Good, solid article. I have to reproduce the food prices:

Check out this little inclusion:

So now you know.

I also enjoyed this ad from Nimrod Games:

A couple links for you – Knights & Knaves and Surigao Strait.

J. D. Webster now gives us a variant – “Air War North Vietnam”. It presents some new scenarios for the game, which I know little about. I do know that my favorite fighter plane when I was a kid was the F-4 Phantom II.

Thomas Holsinger now gives us “Smaller Than Man-Sized Weapons Table”. Simple little article showing weapon damage for weapons as used by gnomes or goblins. Useful table back in the day, probably not as much now.

For those who like costumes and hitting people with sticks, Allen Hammack writes “Anatomy of an S.C.A. Battle – The Sleep War”. This article introduces the ways and means of the Society for Creative Anachronism in terms of their battles.

Paul Karlsson Johnstone now tells us of the “Origins of the Norse Pantheon”. Nice article about where it came from, what it meant, the cults. A good introduction to the topic.

Jerome Arkenberg gives us “The Mythos of Oceania in Dungeons & Dragons”, with sections for Micronesia and Melanesia. I dig the Porpoise Girls (AC 2, HP 50, fight as 1st level fighters). Their ogres can also shapechange into giants, crocodiles, snakes, ospreys, fish, hawks and bears. That’s actually a nice little variation.

How good were these miniatures? FIND OUT HERE!

“Strain and Spell Casting” is a nice article by Kevin Thompson. The editor notes that this is the first “spell point” system he has ever liked, possibly because it makes magic-users weaker. It is based on the idea that each spell cast causes strain on the magic-user. The magic-user’s Constitution score determines their “strain multiplier”.

You multiply this by his level to get his total strain points for the game. So, a 5th level magic-user with a 8 constitution has 2 strain points. When a spell is cast, the spell level is deducted from the strain points. Spells from magical implements cause half-strain, while potions cause no strain.

The magic-user can go over his normal daily strain total by consulting the Effectiveness Chart and roll D6.

You also have to roll on the Overstrain Chart:

I dig the system for the most part. It’s pretty similar to what I did in Pars Fortuna. It does seem a bit severe, though, for mid-level magic-users who don’t have great Constitutions.

I have a feeling this is my new half-ogre character

Now we get a few quick, short articles (often the best kind) –

“Trained Animals in Dungeons & Dragons” by Robert Greayer. It deals with using wild dogs, war dogs, wolves, dire wolves, winter wolves, worgs, pigeons, ravens, hawks, falcons, golden eagles and bald eagles as henchmen. I would give Zapp Smashigan a bald eagle for a pet, but I think his Charisma is too low. Poor Zapp.

Mike Crane gives us “Aging in D&D”. He has a neat little chart of the percentile chance, at different ages, that a character keeps his Str, Dex or Con as-is, instead of losing a point or two. Simple and clean – I like it.

“Adventures in the Improbable” by Richard Dienst is a weird little story about using the thieves’ guild charts in Greyhawk. I really don’t know what to do with it.

Rick Krebs tells us “Non-Player Characters Have Feelings Too”, a set of random tables to generate personalities for NPC’s.

“Bazaar of the Bizarre” this month is the “Ring of the Necromancer” by Bill Howell and “A Working Design for Heward’s Mystical Organ” by Steven Widerhoft.

The Dragon’s Augury reviews dice by The Armory in Baltimore, new water-based paints (also by The Armory), Reich: The Iron Dream of German Unification by Chaosium, Raiders and Traders by Chaosium, a couple books on tanks and The Tolkien Quiz Book by Bart Andrews (love the cover).

The Dragon’s Bestiary presents “Whiz-Bang Beetles (Coleoptera Conflagratio Amotensia) by John Hageman. These are tiny beetles that are like living bullets. They attack fire sources, and in their hives there is a 75% chance of finding 1d6 ounces of “whiz-bang honey” that might give people heightened speed (like a potion). I like these guys – they would make a good swarm creature in modern versions of the game.

In Wormy by Tramp, we get a nice summing up of what has happened up to this point, including Wormy stomping on dwarves, the arrival of the blue demon from the 8-ball, etc. I would super love to play a game set in the Wormy world – anyone out there game?

And this ends #29! Lots of interesting little articles in this one, and noticeably less war game-oriented than some of the recent issues. Hope you enjoyed it – have a groovy Sunday and an efficient week ahead.

Dragon By Dragon – August 1979 (28)

It’s August 1979, and you’re standing in front of a magazine rack. Which magazine do you choose?

Well, too bad. I’m not reviewing Playboy (more’s the pity). You’re going to have to be happy with The Dragon #28.

We open this issue with this:

“It is fun to be unique. It is fun to be part of something unique. Sometimes, though, some of us forget just how strange all of this stuff is to the uninitiated. In the eyes of the mainstream of contemporary culture, what we do — play “games” — is decidedly different. Some would even
call it strange …”

Kask ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. The funny thing is – as much as Gary and Dave’s little game has influence modern video games, those of us who still play the pen & paper varieties are still considered strange. People I work with are always a little surprised – not sure quite how to react – when I mention that I write role playing game books. Interesting to hear in the comments how many of us are “open gamers”.

Well, this issue opens up with a biggee – “The Politics of Hell” by Alexander Von Thorn. Van Thorn has an author page at Amazon.com, and (if it’s him) a Twitter account. If you have any questions about Hellish politics, feel free to contact the author directly.

The first line is: “Author’s note: The following article cannot be considered the official doctrine of either Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or the Roman Catholic Church. However, it is compatible with AD&D, and except for the parts about Asmodeus it is not in conflict with works on demonology as generally accepted by Catholic exorcists, thus enjoying tacit approval by the Church.” You know, just in case you were worried about your AD&D game rubbing the Catholic exorcists the wrong way.

The article pretty much sets up the political landscape of AD&D’s version of Hell, as we came to know it through the Monster Manuals, with Asmodeus on the top of the heap. It also includes stats for Satan, Belial, and Astaroth (with art).

Next, Jake Jaquet presents The Dungeon Master’s Guide – possibly the most useful RPG book ever made. The article is a collection of comments and reminiscences by people who were involved with the project, including Jeff Leason, Len Lakofka, Lawrence Schick, Jean Wells, Allan Hammack, Mike Carr, James Ward, Darlene Pekul and Gary Gygax, in an exclusive interview with The Dragon (I’m sure it was quite a coup to land that interview!)

Up next, Dan Bromberg writes “A Short Course in D&D. This is an interesting article about folks at Cranbrook Prep School setting up a 2 week course in D&D for incoming freshmen. They ended up charging $1.50, plus another $1.50 for low impact dice (the DM didn’t have to pay). The course books were a copy of Basic D&D and the Player’s Handbook. Given the fact that I still find rules in AD&D I didn’t know existed, a course like this might have been useful to me when I was a kid.

Time for some war gaming – “The Cavalry Plain at Austerlitz” by Bill Fawcett. This is a nice description of the battle that pitted the cavalry of Napoleon’s France against Austria and Russia. It is followed up by an article on “Simulating the Cavalry Plain”, also by Mr. Fawcett. He gives a nice overview of the order of battle on both sides, along with victory conditions for each side. Highly useful for folks playing Napoleonic war games.

I didn’t get interested in the Napoleonics until I started reading Military History magazine in college. Now I’m super excited to get GRIT & VIGOR published so I can write up a Napoleonic supplement to it.

Next up – alignment time! Gary Gygax opines on Evil: Law vs. Chaos in “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll”. In this, he defines the characteristics of Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil … and then let’s Neutral Evil fall where it may. He defines “evil” as the desire to advance self over others by whatever means possible, and always by the foulest means possible (emphasis mine). I like this, because it makes no qualms about what evil characters are in AD&D – they’re villains. They’re not misunderstood, and they’re not necessarily realistic depictions of human beings. Just theatrical villains you can take some enjoyment in beating the crap out of (or in playing, if you’re in the mood to foreclose on orphans and tie maidens to railroads). The Law vs. Chaos element is the desire to create a world ruled by evil vs. evil for its own sake. Now you know.

Dig this ad:

Looks like Judge’s Guild got into computer games early. The only thing I can’t figure is whether or not this was a licensed game. Here’s the article on the game at Wikipedia … and here, apparently, is a clone …

Allen Hammack writes “Six Guns & Sorcery”. If this sounds familiar, you might remember it from the old DMG, where they provided guides for conversions between AD&D and Boot Hill and AD&D and Gamma World. If you need a quick bravery stat, you can use the following:

Subtract the following from 100 for each class:

Cleric: 2 x Wisdom
Fighter and Monk: 1 x Wisdom
Magic-User: 3 x Wisdom
Thief: 4 x Wisdom

Maybe more interesting are the damage dice for some Old West weapons – Derringers do 1d4 damage, other hand guns do 1d8, shotguns do 1d10 and dynamite sticks do 4d6 damage. With these values, I wonder why they were so worried about including firearms in D&D.

Phil Neuscheler now writes “Fantasy Smith’s Notebook”. This was intended as a series of articles concerning the modeling of miniatures for D&D.

“When you have small amounts of cash to start with, you may wish to get adventurer character figures first, and use a substitute for monsters in your miniature games. After all, you will continue to play your own character(s) no matter what kind of monsters you encounter, so you’ll use the character figure more often than any individual monster. Monsters are simply not cost effective.”

The article provides contact information for several miniature makers active at the time. I wondered how many were still in the business today:

U.S. Airfix – I remember these guys making airplane models – maybe snap-together models. They still produce figures, though I’m not sure they have any ancients or medievals anymore.

Archive Miniatures – These guys appear to be defunct.

Garrison (Greenwood & Ball) – Sadly closed for business. Name sounds more like a law firm.

Grenadier – These folks appear to now be owned by Mirliton. Free downloads at the link.

Hinchcliffe Models Ltd – Still alive, but owned by Hinds Figures Ltd.

Heritage Models Inc – now defunct.

Jack Scruby’s Miniatures – there’s a Jack Scruby line at HistoriFigs. Also found a catalog from 1972 at Amazon.

Martian Miniatures – couldn’t find them online.

Miniature Figurines Ltd (Minifigs) – alive and kickin’ with a Tripod site.

Ral Partha Enterprises – still around, and pushing the resurgence of Chaos Wars. I always wanted to get into these minis when I was a kid, but the money just wasn’t there.

Next up is “Armies of the Renaissance – Part IV The English” by Nick Nascati. This covers the Welsh longbow and its importance to the rise of English military power, as well as their deadly combination of bill, pike and musket. They wore less armor than other armies, but appear to have had a high level of discipline. Also notable is the adoption of the red coat in the late 1600’s.

You might remember Lance Harrop from last week’s installment of Dragon By Dragon – this week we’re looking at his “Elvish Tactics in Fantasy Miniatures”. Not surprisingly, elvish tactics are all about speed and maneuverability. Lance gives us the following order of battle:

The light archers, light horse archers and light cavalry are there to harass the enemy. The light archers are protected by the light infantry. The medium infantry are the main line of troops, with the medium archers behind them. The elite heavy infantry are the reserve, and the medium mounted infantry and heavy mounted infantry are fast deployment reserves. The medium cavalry are the shock troops, and the heavy infantry are the elite elvish knights.

As always, Mr. Harrop gives a few notes about elves:

* They use silver to denote rank, not gold
* They do not use red or black leather
* High elves wear blue and white, middle elves green and white, low elves dark green and tan, sea elves sea green and sky blue and dark elves browns and blacks
* Elves are concerned with having a unified front

Next, Gygax sounds off in Up On A Soap Box – in this edition, on manufacturer conventions. You can imagine how fascinating this article is 35 years after it was written.

In Out on a Limb, we present this week’s Great Moments in Nerd Rage:

“This brings me to a point that I didn’t want to write about when I started this letter: spell points. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF FORGETTING SPELLS!!!!!!!” – Mark Jacobs

And in response:

“Gee, it’s always so much fun getting letters from unproven critics who think they have some inner track on “the way of things.” As to what may or may not be absurd, let me say this; if you don’t like it, why give me all of this grief? D&D has always made a point of being nothing more than guidelines for structuring a game, and stating so.”

Oh wait – some more:

“Your argument that healing is too slow is specious, and naive. You obviously have never been in a combat situation yourself, nor have you apparently even participated in something such as the Society for Creative Anachronism’s mock battles.”

God, I love this hobby (and God – I hate this hobby).

We now have another installment of The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar. An excerpt:

We have next a full board game by Tom Wham – The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. I won’t go into much detail here – the rules look pretty simple, the game is tied in with Znutar above, and I love that they used to do things like this in The Dragon.

Len Lakofka’s Bazaar of the Bizarre presents Potions of Forgetfulness, Rings of Silence, the Horn of Hadies (their spelling, not mine), the Chime of Warning, the Apparatus of Spiky Owns (a play on Spike Jones, God bless him), Leomund’s Plate and Cup, and a slick little guide for generating random magic-user spell books. To whit:

Jon Mattson now gives us “Level Progression for Players and Dungeon Masters”. This is actually a guide to how many XP players and Dungeon Master’s earn for playing different games. I kinda love this – would be a blast to introduce to the blogosphere. I have to reproduce the level charts:

“Giants in the Earth” time! Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay (my hero) give us the following literary giants given AD&D stats:

Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark (15th level fighter) – I have to admit, I was bored to tears by the one Eric John Stark book I read; they also include stats for Northhounds (4 HD)

Lord Dunsany’s Welleran (A Lawful Good ghost that possesses anyone who picks up his sword)

James M. Ward now gives us “Monty Strikes Back”. He was the original Monty Hall Dungeon Master, you might remember, who gave out tons of great treasure. This is another story of a game played with many of the early entrants into the hobby.

“We were on a winter level tonight and were far from pleased. It was Friday, one of our usual D&D nights and we were going down into a refrigerated level of Monty’s that we had found weeks before. We had all made fur coats for our figures and most of the group was going down. Robert, Jake, and Dave (I) (Tractics boys through and through) were going down as their 20th level fighters; Brian (a tractics lover too, but a fanatic on Western Gunfight) was going as his 21st level thief/fighter/cleric dwarf; Ernie, Dave (II), and I were going down as wizards of the 18th level (just little guys); Freddie was his stupid high level sword carried by a flesh golem from Jake’s golem squadron; Tom and Tim went as druids (probably because they liked all types of herbs).”

In “The Dragon’s Augury”, we have reviews of Divine Right by TSR, Sorcerer by SPI, and a book, America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World by Barry Fell. Still for sale at Amazon, and four stars!

“The Dragon’s Bestiary” gives us Jake Jaquet’s Slinger. Here are the basic stats in B&T format:

Tiny Magical Beast, Low Intelligence, HD 3, AC 17, ATK 1 spine (1d4 + poison IV), MV 60, F15 R11 W15, AL N, XP 300.

These little buggers, which look like iguanas, can throw their tail spines about 20′. They are vulnerable to fire.

Fineous Fingers, Fred and Charly are stealing a Palantir in this issue.

And that wraps up issue #28. It’s always nice to leave with a song, and since Spike Jones was mentioned …