Dragon by Dragon – May 1982 (61)

Wow – May of 1982. I was on the verge of being 10 years old, so probably 2 years away from discovering D&D, three from Tolkien and may five from superhero comic books. My only nerd-cred at the time was probably reading encyclopedias. What I do remember being excited about in 1982 – and begging to get for my birthday – were these new army figures called G.I. Joe. Have you seen these things? They’re like Star Wars figures (which I loved), but military (which I loved)! Awesome! I don’t remember exactly what I got that birthday, but I know I got a few of them, and I think I got the jet pack launch pad thingee. Unfortunately, within just a couple years I was done playing with toys, so I never had more than the originals and Doc. Good times, though!

Two-D’lusion (illusion)

A of E: 4 sq.”

CT: 1/6 segment

This cantrip is virtually the same as a phantasmal forces spell in most respects. The caster creates a two-dimensional illusion of whatever he or she desires. If any viewer observes it from an angle of more than about 45° from its horizontal or vertical viewing axis, the nature of the illusion will become immediately apparent. It is dispelled by touch or magic (dispel illusion or dispel magic). The illusion is invisible from the side or the rear. It lasts as long as the caster concentrates upon it. To effectuate the cantrip, the caster must speak a phrase descriptive of the illusion while making a circular motion with his closed hand.

Just so you know, “A of E” is “area of effect” and “CT” is casting time. I think 1/6 a segment would be 1 second, but I might be wrong on that. It’s been a while since I played AD&D.

It wouldn’t be until high school that I discovered Warhammer, and thus White Dwarf magazine. 

I always dig Giants in the Earth, either because it covers characters I know, or introduces me to new characters. This issue we get C. J. Cutliffe Hyne’s Deucalion, John Norman’s Tarl Cabot and Charles R. Saunders’ Dossouye. While I am aware of Cabot and have read some Saunders, I have never experienced first hand the characters described in this issue. I have, however, read Hyne’s The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis, from whence Deucalion comes (well, not really – it’s from ancient mythology really), and I can recommend it. A ripping yarn that, in my opinion, was reminiscent of Conan and such barbarian literature long before REH got his sandaled hero off the ground.

I always wanted one of those Dragonbone electonic dice rollers as a kid. A quick search on ebay revealed none for sale. Oh well – maybe some day.

Next are “Without Any Weapons …” by Phil Meyers and then “… or with a … Weird One” by Rory Bowman. The first has new rules for pummeling in AD&D, the rules for which were never very satisfying and always overly complex. They could have been quite simple, but the gaming zeitgeist of the time was all about complexity – a far cry from the old days when the game was the thing. The later article introduces new weapons for AD&D such as atlatls, blow guns, chakrams, bullwhips, etc. I had no interest in complex fighting rules, but always liked new additions like the weapons article.

For the gnome-curious out there, Dragon 61 had some groovy articles by Roger E. Moore about the littlest adventurers in AD&D. “The Gnomish Point of View” fleshes out the gnome characters – of course, your campaign may vary from Moore’s ideas, but it was always helpful, especially when I was young, to see how these things could be fleshed out. It is followed up with “The Gods of the Gnomes” – Baervan, Urdlen, Segojan and Flandal. Of course, Garl Glittergold was introduced earlier. I can remember thinking Flandal Steelskin was cool.

“Quest for the Midas Orb” by Jennie Good is the included module in Dragon 61. It was the third place winner at IDDC III, and I’ll admit I don’t know what that is. Here’s the introduction:

“Long ago in the land of Gnarda lived the worshippers of Kalsones, the god of wealth and power. Kalsones was a fair god who treated his followers kindly. As proof of his fairness and kindness in an era long past, he had presented the people with an artifact called the Midas Orb. Legends say if the Orb is held in one hand and another object is touched with the index finger of the other hand, the object touched will turn to pure gold.”

The adventure is a groovy dungeon crawl with some cool ideas in it. Well worth the read and probably well worth the exploration.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” includes the Firetail by Ed Greenwood, the Umbrae by Theresa Berger, the Light Worm by Willie Callison and the Tybor by Jeff Brandt. Here’s the Light Worm for Blood & Treasure:

Light Worm by Willie Callison
Type: Monster
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: Bite (1d6 + Poison IV)
Movement: 20′
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal/Low
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 1 (25% chance of 1d3)
XP/CL: 1,200/6

SD – MR 75%, Immune (charm, hold, illusions), vulnerable (cold, fire)

Light worms are dungeon denizens with poisonous bites. They look like giant snakes with black underbellies and violet and light blue bands on their backs. The monster’s have two small bumps above their eyes, and stubs on their underside – perhaps vestigal legs. Victims of the light worm’s bite must save vs. poison (at +1 from the first bite, and a cumulative -2 penalty for each additional bite) or die in 1d8 minutes.

There is a 35% chance each round that the worm creates a 20′-diameter sphere of colored lights around victims within 120′. All creatures within the sphere are made dizzy for the first three rounds of their entrapment (-2 to attack, cumulative). In rounds four and five, they are so dizzy as to be incapacitated, and in round six they fall unconscious for 1d10+1 minutes, during which time they are devoured by the monster if at all possible.

Creatures that save against the sphere of lights are only made dizzy for three rounds, shaking off the effect thereafter. Dispel magic, mind blank and true seeing cut through the sphere of lights, as does a helm of telepathy.

The sphere of lights can be generated once every 12 hours.

Light worms are stunned for 1d3 rounds by the sticks to snakes spell, and the spell cancels a sphere of light currently in play.

The Monster Cards described in this issue were really cool. Each one depicts a monster painting on the front, and the stats on the back. If you can find some out in the wild, grab them, cherish them, and use them to kill player characters.

There is an article about introducing aging into the Ringside game, of which I know nothing. It is followed up by the “Jo-Ga-Oh – Little People of the Iroquois” by Conrad Froehlich. These are stats for three “monsters” that are quite groovy.

Gary Gygax has a supplement to Top Secret. Again, I know next to nothing about this game, but I like the level titles for infiltrators – snitch / foist / inside man / plant / ringer / contact / insinuator / penetrator / subversive / infiltrator. Given the title for 8th level, I guess we can assume that’s James Bond’s level. The article also has info on different types of missions, the XP value of them, and other notes. 

Boy – What’s New? With Phil and Dixie was just the best when you were in junior high …

It was fun discovering Phil Foglio’s art in old Star Trek fanzines. Everybody has to start somewhere!

Tramp’s Wormy has some gorgeous artwork – he was just getting better and better!

That, folks, is a wrap! Have fun folks, and please be kind to one another. 

Dragon by Dragon – January 1982 (57)

Wow – 1982. I was ten years old (well, nine in January) and still a couple years away from learning about Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty-six years ago – much as changed, and much has not. I guess all these years later, we can be happy that people are still playing D&D and AD&D and other “old school” games. Let’s start the new year by looking at the new year in 1982 in gaming …

Let’s start with the cover, because it’s pretty different from the traditional fantasy fare. We have a woman, maybe modern, knitting dragons (or something like them) onto a blanket  and the dragons are becoming real and flying into the fireplace, all while a strange painting of a man or woman looks on. The tragedy is that I can’t quite make out the signature, and I didn’t see the artist’s name in the magazine.

Update: Nathan Irving writes me to let me know the artist is Dean Morrissey, who provided covers for 16, 18, 28, 60, 84 and 91.

The first big article is “Modern Monsters” by Ed Greenwood. It’s a great article, giving modern (in 1982) vehicles and firearms stats for D&D. The article also goes into some of the pitfalls of pitting “medieval” characters against modern characters. It really all goes to the point that jumping from one reality into another was assumed to be a regular feature by our elders in the hobby. Here’s one insight you might enjoy:

Magic will ultimately determine the fate of an AD&D party in a modern setting. It is the party’s “heavy artillery,” and must be expended with caution, for it is not wholly renewable. Magic users without spell books will be unable to regain their spells.

Lenard Lakofka presents some useful ideas and tables in “Shield and Weapon Skills”, including this insight about shields after he watched some folks from the SCA put on a demonstration of medieval fighting:

Fully 60% of the blows are caught by the shield. Second, a trained fighter who normally uses a broadsword is a much poorer fighter when using a battle axe for the first time. To place these facts in terms of AD&D™ rules, some minor rule changes are proposed. A shield will now give +2 to armor class instead of just +1.

He also presents some rules for determining how long shields last in combat. My favorite scheme is for shields to have to make an item save whenever an attack roll is a natural ’20’.

The tables I mentioned are for determining an NPC’s weapon proficiencies, but they could also be used to determine an NPC’s armaments.

In the “Sorcerer’s Scroll”, one E. Gary Gygax presents some more details about the Greyhawk setting – a good read for those who use that campaign setting.

In “In Search of a James Bond”, Mark Mulkins covers how in a TOP SECRET game one could work for three different operational bureaus at the same time without sacrificing experience points. What Mark covers in three pages I would just hand wave.

Up next is an article I kinda dig called “Random Magic Items” by Pete Mohney. It’s a collection of some groovy little random tables for generating magic items. I’ll generate three of them now:

1) A magic girdle, not cursed, that gives a +1 bonus to all saving throws.

2) An amulet shaped like a double-headed axe that allows the wearer to control animals once per week.

3) A hat that provides a +1 bonus to intelligence – we’ll call it a thinking cap.

If you’re a player of DragonQuest, this issue has an article about magicians by Jon Mattson. Since I’ve never played the game, I can’t comment on the merits of the article.

This issue’s Giants in the Earth covers a couple characters I don’t know – C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine and Vanye (with art by Jim Holloway) from the books Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan and Fires of Azeroth, Lynn Abbey’s Rifkind from Daughter of the Bright Moon and The Black Flame, and two characters created by Robert E. Howard – Belit and Dark Agnes. Howard. Belit is a Chaotic Evil 10th level fighter in this write-up, though I would probably go Neutral Evil given her devotion to Conan since I conceive of Chaotic Evil as being utterly self-interested.

The special feature of this issue is an AD&D adventure called “The Wandering Trees” by Michael Malone. It is intended for characters level 6th to 9th. The adventure begins thus:

Long ago, so far back that even the elves are not sure when, Termlane Forest was the home of a tribe of tree-worshipping men. These men built a great temple at the heart of The Forest, where they worshipped their mysterious tree-gods.

The adventure concerns a forest of moving trees with only two safe ways through, and a lost temple somewhere in between. It’s a hell of a dangerous forest, so beware. The adventure also includes stakes for the Phooka.

In “Up on a Soapbox”, there are two essays – one by Brian Blume on the problems with playing evil characters in games, and another by Roger E. Moore on the benefits of playing rpg’s with women.

Michael Kluever has an interesting look at “The History of the Shield”. It’s a good primer for those who like to get crunchy. It’s not a short article, and it is well researched with a useful bibliography.

There’s a great insight into 1982 geekdom in “The Electric Eye”, namely the results of a survey regarding to what high tech goodies readers of the magazine had to play with. The results:

  • 46% have an Apple II or Apple II+
  • 38% have a TRS-80
  • 20% have an Atari 400 or 800
  • 9% have a CBM
  • 6% have no computer
  • 6% have a S-100
  • 3% have a North Star
  • 3% have a VIC
  • and 20% have some other computer

The bottom line, apparently was:

Who is the average Electric Eye reader? He’s a 17-year-old male high school student. He has owned a 48K Apple-l I+ with a disk drive, a printer, and a joystick or a paddle set for about a year. He has spent a little over $100 on software, but he mainly either copies out of magazines or does it himself. He reads The Electric Eye for the program listings and reviews, but he is also interested in other facets of computer gaming.

As always, I leave you with Wormy


Dragon by Dragon – December 1981 (56)

Ho ho ho – Merry Christmas 1981!

Let’s be honest, Christmas and the 1980’s were made for each other … or at least it sure seemed that way when I was growing up in the 80’s. Christmas had a certain magic in those days that was lost by the 1990’s. I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with me growing up, getting a job, getting married and having a child.

Enough of that – let’s see what the Dragon brought us for Christmas …

First, a bit of opinionating from Kevin Morgan

“There is no need to change the monk character class of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.”

So there you go. If you were planning on changing the class, you can stop.

For what it’s worth, I agree with Mr. Morgan in some respects – too often a class is considered “broken” or underpowered because it doesn’t do what somebody wants it to do. Doesn’t mean the class is wrong, just means its the wrong class for the player. In AD&D days, of course, things had to be official, which is why the wrong monk for you meant the wrong monk for everyone, because we couldn’t just have a bunch of different monks running around making people happy. That would be (small “c”) chaos!

Speaking of redesigning classes, the first big article of the mag is “Singing a new tune – a different bard, not quite so hard” by Jeff Goelz. For those new to the old school, bards were once very powerful folks, far more than in modern games. It was a tough class to qualify for and as is mentioned in the article, the revised bard class of the Player’s Handbook took forever to  enter – one had to go through a succession of other classes first. The article here tries to make a slightly less powerful bard that can be played right from first level like any other character.

A couple takeaways: First, the opening vignette has two of the greatest character names ever: Jake Armageddon, half-orc fighter/assassin and Alphonse Armageddon, half-orc cleric/assassin. I salute you Mr. Goelz.

Second, the bard in this article is a great class that is very playable. It won’t be a stranger to many players of modern iterations of D&D – d6 for Hit Dice, some skills, some fighting ability, some spellcasting (illusionist and druid). Good stuff, especially if you’re running first edition and a weird-o like me comes along wanting to play a bard.

Bill Howell follows up the first article with “Songs instead of spells”. Here, Mr. Howell introduces “songs of power” sung by the bard in place of spells, with a complete song list and some details of songs not already covered as existing spells. Here’s one, done up as a spell for Blood & Treasure:

Satire (Conjuration)

Level: Bard 5          Range: Special          Duration: Special

This song is used against a prominent public figure who behaves incorrectly. The target of the spell has his or her charisma score halved until they atone for their misdeeds … unless their deeds are not really misdeeds. If the target’s actions are not truly objectionable in the moral climate of the region, the bard’s charisma is halved instead until they move at least 50 leagues away, and they may not return to the region for one full year.

This spell is actually right up my alley.

“Map hazard, not haphazard” by William Hamblin is one of those articles that has slightly lost its efficacy with time. It concerns using topographic maps in fantasy games – a good idea and a good discussion – but also includes addresses one can use to order sample maps. The internet has made finding maps like these much easier.

A touching sentiment

Gary Gygax’s “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” in this issue covers protection circles (and the like) plus news from the northern Flanaess. It includes some illustrations and descriptions of magic circles and pentagrams, and God knows this article would have run afoul of the “D&D is Satanic” crowd back in the day. I can remember it being included in the old Greyhawk box set. He also describes the Wolf Nomads, Bandit Kingdoms, Duchy of Tenh and Rovers of the Barrens, all of which shows up in the box set as well. Brings back good memories of a wide-eyed kid reading this stuff and realizing that making up a whole world was something you could actually do.

The big feature this issue is a Top Secret scenario called “Mad Merc” – a mission set on a tropical island. It is written by Merle M Rasmussen and James Thompson, and whether you play TS or not, the materials here are super useful and there is a metric ton of it – maps, descriptions of complexes, etc. There’s a nuclear-powered drydock, native peoples caught in the crossfire and a “mad merc” named Strikewell.

The Dragon’s Bestiary this issue features Lewis Pulsipher‘s shroom, which isn’t a mushroom man, but rather a creature that looks something like a thin bear with a dog-like head that can dimension door and prefers capturing foes and holding them for ransom rather than outright killing them.

Shroom, Medium Monster: HD 4+3, AC 14, ATK 2 paws (1d6), MV 30′, AL Neutral (CN), INT low, CL/XP 5/500, NA 1d8, SA-Dimension door, subdue, surprise (4 in 6), hug.

Richard Lucas’ colfel is a big, fearsome beetle from the Negative Energy Plane, which means level drain ladies and gentlemen. Michael C. Reed’s gem vars are humanoid creatures composed of precious stones and created by magic-users. I like all of these monsters, any one of which could be a great addition to a game filled with players who have read the existing monster manuals cover to cover. I think surprises are what makes playing these rpgs fun.

Dragon 56 also has reviews of Task Force Games’ Survival/The Barbarian (positive, but the reviewer thinks they’re too simple for some gamers), Dawn of the Dead (“The game is fast-paced and a fair amount of fun, despite its decidedly macabre nature”) and GDW’s The Argon Gambit/Death Station (very positive) and Fighting Ships: Traveller Supplement 9, which the reviewer found interesting reading, but maybe not super useful for the rpg itself.

There are also book reviews, a holiday gift-giving section focused on books and the continuation of a series that looks at game design.

All in all, not an exciting issue, but I liked the bard class and the bestiary was good.

As always, I leave you with Wormy – have fun and be kind to one another.

You’re seeing Tramp take it to another level here


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 – May 1981 (49)

May of 1981 saw me turn 9. I hadn’t heard of D&D back then (and wouldn’t for another 3 years), but if I had heard of D&D, and subscribed to Dragon Magazine, this is what would have shown up in my mailbox that month.

Pretty cool cover, right? There’s more inside, in a 12-page section dedicated to the work of Tim Hildebrandt.

Of course there’s more than just my Hildebrandt in this issue … let’s check it out.

First up is a new ad by Ral Partha, this time featuring their new line-up of Adventurers miniatures. I got curious this time and decided to look up Ral Partha’s address – 5938 Carthage Ct, Cincinnati OH.

It came up with this impressive edifice:

I’ll show off a few more old RPG addresses in this post if I get a chance.

Now that we’ve looked at Ral Partha’s old digs, let’s get to the fun of complaining readers, in this case William G. Welsh, on the archer class in last issue:

“Second — “Kobolds, goblins, dwarves, gnomes and halflings cannot become archers.” In the last chapter of the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are no less than three incidents where the effectiveness of hobbit archers is demonstrated. Also, refer to the AD&D Monster Manual, p. 50, under halflings, under special attacks, note “+3 with bow or sling.”

This stuff kills me. The answer from the editor was:

“None of the ideas presented in articles in DRAGON magazine are official rule changes or additions, unless the article specifically says so (and there haven’t been very many of those). The people who write articles that we publish aren’t trying to get everyone to play the way they do, and we certainly don’t hold that opinion ourselves. As is the case with many of the game rules themselves, the articles in DRAGON magazine are suggestions, ideas and alternatives.”

It amazes me when that has to be said, but if comment sections on the internet have done anything, it’s to prove that things like that still need to be said. Could various school systems around the globe please spend a few minutes explaining to people what “opinion” means?

The meat and drink of this issue, other than the special art section, is about tournaments. No, not knights trying to poke each other with lances and Robin Hood splitting an arrow, but D&D tournaments. If I’m honest … I have no interest at all in them, but I’ll try to give them a quick review.

The first article discusses fairness in scoring tournaments, giving a long list of actions that should go into scoring points, and explaining that DM’s need to make sure players know how they’ll be scored. Sounds logical to me.

The next bit discusses improving on the Slave Pits tournament adventure, followed by Mentzer’s reply that “It isn’t that easy”. I can remember getting the Slave Pits module as a kid (I guess about 4 years after this issue was published) and being confused about the whole tournament concept – how you didn’t use the full map, and scored things. As a kid, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to care about this stuff or not.

Strangely enough, the article complaining about the adventure is really complaining about the size of the teams in the AD&D Open, specifically that nine-person teams are too large. Mentzer explains the problem – not enough Dungeon Masters at the tournaments. Can’t argue with that.

Dig this:

Old Horny indeed. Let’s hope those horns on his head were the source of his nickname. And here, keeping with the theme of this post, is Dragontooth Miniatures old location:

Or is it? A Hilton? I’m thinking perhaps the old building was torn down and replaced. That, or Conrad Hilton had a secret hobby.

The next few articles are a bit too timely to make sense to talk about here – GenCon is growing, , GenCon East fills the Origins ‘hole’ (I’m sure that’s not as filthy as it sounds) and there are nine ways to win the painting contest at GenCon.

Okay, enough of that convention stuff. Next up: Samurai!

This is an interesting take on the character class. The editor’s note mentions that the author, Anthony Salva, holds a first degree black belt in Hapkido. The class that follows is heavily influenced by this, and it’s really a bit more like an alternate monk than the samurai most people would expect.

That said, it’s a pretty groovy class. It’s tough to make it in – you need Str 15, Dex 17 and Int 15 to qualify, but the class is open to gnomes, halflings, elves, half-elves and humans.

This version of the samurai cannot use armor, but his AC improved by 1 per 4 levels. They can use two-handed swords, short swords, bows and staffs, and a samurai of 4th level or higher can obtain his “personal weapons”, which are sacred to him. It mentions the weapons of honor – “Katana, Wakizashi and Nunchakos” are described later in the article.

Apparently Dragon Magazine got there first. Source

The samurai’s special abilities are as follows: Jump front kick (-3 to hit, 2d6 damage), judo throw, ceremony of fealty-weapons of honor (4th level; and here it mentions that katana do 1d12 or 1d10 damage, wakizashi 2d4 or 1d8 and nunchako 1d8 damage), sweep and double chop (5th level), crescent kick/side kick combination, back roundhouse kick, illusionist spell ability (8th level), “360” and downward kick, the slaying hand (10th level), flying side kick (requires movement, -3 to hit, 1d20 damage) and a samurai who becomes a shogun (13th level) has a 25% chance to obtain 30 psionic power points. They go on a bit later to mention they can reduce falling damage, hide in shadows and move silently as a thief, and can dive and roll over obstacles.

This class would probably be a blast to play, especially as a gnome. I’ve often thought that the monk would make a pretty good “cartoon hero” class, and this version of the samurai has me thinking of Samurai Champloo and other anime samurai. If anyone has experience with this class, please drop a note down below and let us know how it went.

Merle Rasmussen now brings us a nice Top Secret article about special ammunition – armor-piercing, dumdum, gyrojet, duplex, etc. Lots of stats (and I mean lots with a capital “L”), but probably useful info for other games as well.

Karl Horak has an article called “Getting a world into shape”, which gets into different shapes for campaign worlds, as in cylinders, polygons, etc.If you want a campaign world in the shape of a 20-sided die, this is the article for you.

Giants in the Earth in this issue presents some Poul Anderson characters – Holder Carlsen (14th level paladin) and Hugi (5th level gnome fighter). The art by Roger Raupp is great:

He’s always fantastic with knights and warriors. The article also has stats for T. J. Morgan‘s Ellide (6th level fighter)

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on historical names – Anglo-Saxon, Byzantine, etc. Very useful then, less so now with the resources of the internet at one’s disposal.

Jon Mattson‘s article “Monster mixing – AD&D creatures adapted to a C&S campaign” show that Dragon was not yet the house organ for TSR that it would become (though it always had more outside content than White Dwarf once it became GW’s house organ). While the article is quite useful for players of Chivalry & Sorcery, it also has an interesting piece at the end – a flowchart of AD&D monster predation:

And now you know.

Up next in the magazine is the section on Tim Hildebrandt‘s art. I’d post some images (aside from the cover above), but a Google search (or clicking on the artist’s name up above) will do you more good these days. Take a look – I think you’ll like what you see. I will post this quote from the interview with the artist:

“One thing leads to another thing leads to another thing and you start growing and growing. Things keep expanding, and the more I do myself, the more I see that there is to learn.”

Lots of wisdom in those words.

The Dragon’s Bestiary in this issue features the Loren Kruse’s Nogra (“a small creature with long, sharp claws which somewhat resembles a hairless lynx”). The basic stats for Blood & Treasure are below:

Nogra, Small Magical Beast: HD 2, AC 15, ATK 1 bite (1d4), MV 20′, SV F12 R11 W15, INT Low, AL Neutral (N), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Body secretes a substance which absorbs all light (including into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums), liquid is also a contact poison (save or blinded for 2d4 rounds), light sensitivity

Leonard Lakofka has a new class for this issue (which hopefully doesn’t do halflings wrong) called the Alchemist. Another old Dragon classic. It seems like such an obvious class for D&D, but it’s tricky. My version was essentially Dr. Jekyll, to give it a twist and make more than a guy who isn’t remotely as useful as a magic-user. Lakofka’s is, in fact, not an adventurer.

Lakofka’s alchemist has to have Str 9, Int 10, Wis 6, Dex 9, Con 14 and Cha 16 to qualify, and they must be human, elf or half-elf, with only the humans hitting the highest levels. They only earn XP by “plying their trade”, not adventuring. They can make pottery, blow glass, identify potions, manufacture poisons and manufacture magic potions. It’s a useful class, and could be adjusted to be an adventurer, but as a non-adventuring NPC I’m not sure why one needs to go to the trouble of having levels. It seems like a “novice-veteran-master” approach would work just as well, or even just “the alchemist can do what the DM to needs her do” concept. That being said, Lakofka always puts a lot of work into these things, and his alchemist is no different and thus is worth the read.

Gary Snyder now gets into the weeds on the issue of wishes and how to adjudicate them. This brings up a great point about fantasy gaming and gamers. I’ll often be watching some TV show or movie and think, “That plot element would never work in a game – the players would kill that guy in a heartbeat / or they would never touch that statue, ’cause statues are always trouble in a dungeon.” The idea of wishes probably seemed so simple when the game was first written, and then creative players got hold of the concept and made DM heads explode. Snyder gives ten rules to keep wishes in check which have largely been adopted into the game.

It’s followed up by a short article/story about wishing by Roger E. Moore.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh has an artcle about travel and clothing in DragonQuest.

If you need a time keeper program in BASIC, Mark Herro has you covered in this month’s The Electric Eye. Blast from the past to see those IF … THEN statements and GOTO commands. I learned BASIC on a VIC-20, which is actually still sitting in my closet.

Side note – I love this Grenadier miniature …

Great sculpt

Side note II – A bit of Wormy

And now on to White Dwarf 25, the June/July 1981 issue. I’ll keep this one brief, and just cover the bases:

Lewis Pulsipher has the third part of the Introduction to D&D series, covering spellcasters. Great art in this one.

Trevor Graver has Optional Skill Acquisition for Travellers. This one ditches the random tables (which are pretty cool) for a skill point system. Control vs. Chaos, the eternal struggle in game design.

Roger Musson has a nice article on The Interesting Dungeon – worth the read.

Tony Chamberlain & Paul Skidmore have an interesting “clerical AD&D skirmish for a large number of players” called Lower Canon Court. This is another one that would probably be fun to play with a big group on Google+.

This issue has some clever magic items – the bowl of everlasting porridge, the bell of watchfulness – a notion on determining handedness in games by Lew Pulsipher (left-handed males 8%, females 4%), and Roger E. Moore has a bit on fake torture items.

Andy Slack has Vacc Suits in Traveller.

Dream Demon!

The Fiend Factory this issue is themed The Black Manse, and has stats for Dream Demons (which are really cool) by Phil Masters, the Incubus by Roger E. Moore, Brain Suckers by John R. Gordon and the Guardian by Simon Tilbrook. As always, the art is top notch. It’s a shame there was never a Fiend Folio II – so many great monsters were left behind.

Lewis Pulsipher‘s second article this issue is on “What Makes a Good AD&D Character Class”. I would answer – people want to play it and it doesn’t screw up the game. This is pretty much what he says, focusing especially on the class not being overpowering. His example of an overpowering class makes me actually want to create it – The Guardian class he posits can listen at doors, use x-ray vision, become ethereal and has a psionic boomerang defense that kills some mind flayers. I dig it.

And that’s that … Have fun on the internet!

Dragon by Dragon – April 1981 (48)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there in blog land – and happy April Fools Day, since this week we’re looking at an April issue of Dragon – #48, from good old 1981.

Before I hit the magazine, though, I’m going to do a little advertising – NOD 29 is now out as a PDF, at Lulu.com and Rpgnow.com. This one has the second half of the Trollheim hex crawl, the third part of the d20 Mecha series featuring some mecha stats that could be useful for all sorts of sci-fi games, Aaron Siddall‘s very cool Hyperspace campaign notes for GRIT & VIGOR, which combines Lovecraft with good old fashioned rocket-powered sci-fi, Tony Tucker’s take on the luchador class for GRIT & VIGOR, a Quick & Easy mini-game pitting luchadores vs. the Aztec Mummy, a random class generator (along with a couple random classes that came out pretty good), info on using interesting historic coins in treasure hoards, the Laser Mage class and a couple tidbits for SPACE PRINCESS. All sorts of fun for $4.99.

And now, ladies and gents, on to the magazine.

We begin with an Arms Law ad, and a few thoughts on said ad by the writer of the blog:

That first bit is the problem – death being only one blow away with Arms Law. Many would argue that it’s more realistic than D&D combat … and they’re right. That’s precisely the problem. We already live in the real world, where death is one blow away. That’s why most of us live boring lives and indulge in fantasy for our excitement. I’m not sure injecting that kind of realism in fantasy is worth the trouble. A realistic game for the sake of the challenge, on the other hand, can be quite engaging. Just a thought.

And now, God forgive me, I’m going to show another old ad. I like the tagline – “not for everybody” – clever. Here’s a post about the game.

I might have mused about this before, but is anyone out there making new retro-computer dungeon crawls? For those in the know – would it be hard? I think it might be fun to create some relatively simple games with simple mechanics for those who want to just do some old fashioned dungeon crawling.

The theme for this issue is Underwater Adventuring. I can attest to how hard it is to write underwater adventures – or at least adventure locales for my hex crawls. So much of what we take for granted on the surface doesn’t work underwater. The first article, “Watery Words to the Wise” by Jeff Swycaffer, does a nice job of hitting the highlights of what does and does not work underwater. No rules, just sound advice.

Up next is the “Dragon’s Bestiary”, which features the Water-Horse by Roger E. Moore, Golden Ammorite by Roger E. Moore and Sea Demon by Ernest N. Rowland Jr. Nothing earthshaking here, but solid monsters for an underwater (or close-to-water) game.

The “Bazaar of the Bizarre” is also aquatically inclined, all by Roger E. Moore.

Naturally, Dragon Magazine comes through with its annual April Fools Day supplement, this one with its own cover (for Dragon #48-1/2). Truth be told, I think I like it better than the actual cover.

This month we get a bit on the Accountant character class and a game called Real Life with a nice bit of character generation:

We also get “Saturday Morning Monsters”, with stats for Bugs Bunny (CG 15th level illusionist), Daffy Duck (CN and totally nuts), Popeye (LN 9th or 18th level fighter), Rocky (LG 12th level fighter) and Bullwinkle (LG 13th level fighter) and Dudley Do-Right (LG 18th level paladin).

Back into the real magazine, Tim Lasko has an article on the druid called “The Druid and the DM”. It’s a general overview of the class as presented in AD&D, along with some suggestions for rule changes involving druid spells, many involing the use of “greater mistletoe”, changing the druid’s initial age and how his age works in-game (kind of weird idea – not sure why I should use it, or whether it would be worth the trouble), giving them the sage’s ability to answer questions about flora and fauna (good idea, but doesn’t require rules in my opinion) and a few other bits. It’s a combination of unnecessary complication, rules for things that don’t really require rules and ticky-tack little bonuses. Not bad, per se, but not terribly useful.

Players of Top Secret, which appears to be making a comeback these days, might enjoy “Doctor Yes”, a scenario written by Merle Rasmussen and James Thompson. The scenario is set on a floating island and appears to be engaging and thorough – rules for underwater adventuring in TS, and a large complex with traps and dangers. You also get stats for such personel as Chuck Morris, Bruce Nee and “Sweetbeam” Leotard.

“Giants in the Earth” presents Ursula K. LeGuin’s Sparrowhawk (N 21st level Illusionist/20th level Magic-User) and Andrew Offutt and Richard Lyon’s Tiana Highrider (CG 12th level Fighter/12th level Thief).

Michael Kelly‘s “Instant Adventures” is a neat article with a list of adventure types, along with the materials they require and the time involved in preparation. A few examples:

Assault/Raid (Bodysnatch), requires a small military encampment and takes about 20 minutes to set up.

Feud, Inter-family, requires a brief history of the feud and the feuding families, as well as a reason for the involvement of the characters; takes a couple hours to prepare.

Smuggling, Weapons, requires a war and revolutionaries in need of weapons and supplies, as well as a source for those weapons and supplies; takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

At a minimum, it’s a great source of ideas for games.

Lakofka‘s “Mission Control” article dovetails nicely with it, being a way of detemining how tough the bad guy faced by adventurers should be. In a nutshell, it is based on the total XP of the party, that determining the level of the big bad guy and how much treasure/magic items he should have. The article gets pretty wordy and “in the weeds”, but the basic ideas are solid and useful.

And so ends Dragon #48, as usual, with a frame from Wormy …

And now begins White Dwarf #24, the April/May 1981 issue. The issue starts off with a great cover – barbarian woman and a sort of Bronze Age warrior-type before a stepped jungle pyramid with dragons or pteranodons buzzing about. Good stuff. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say again that in my opinion the quality of layout and art in White Dwarf was superior to Dragon in this period. Dragon’s layout was never inspired, but the cover art got much better as time went on. Both magazines are a pain in the butt to read for folks without premium peepers, but that’s not their fault, just Father Time’s.

The first highlight for me in this issue of White Dwarf is some a beautiful piece of art by the great Russ Nicholson:

It suggests a great scenario – the adventurers captured and stripped of their toys – that’s hard to implement. Most players don’t dig it, and there’s usually an idea that if you’re putting them through it they’re going to live through the experience. An assumed guarantee of survival takes the fun out of the scenario. Still, if you can find the right kind of players, it makes for a great game.

I found the review for a game called Quirks – the game of unnatural selection interesting. Ian Livingstone gave it a good review and it sounds like an interesting concept, wherein players create weird plants and animals and have to adapt them to survive changing climates and challenges.

WD24 also has a detective class with some interesting abilities (10% chance of noticing disguised assassins), some sage abilities, thief abilities, spells and tracking. I think I’d enjoy playing a Halfling Shamus (4th level detective).

Mark Byng has an AD&D mini-module called “The Lair of Maldred the Mighty” which is, if I’m honest, kind of hard to read for an old fart like myself. Not his fault – a layout issue.

Monster Madness has a few “of the more eccentric monsters to have graced the White Dwarf letter box” – in this case the Bonacon by David Taylor, Llort by Andrew Key, Todal and Marcus Barbor, Tali Monster by Craig Edwards, Dungeon Master by Malory Nye. For fun, the DM is below in B&T format:

Dungeon Master, Medium Humanoid: HD as many as he likes; AC 16 (chainmail and judge’s shield), ATK special, MV 30′, SV varies, AL CE usually, Special: 30% chance he will follow adventurers around a dungeon telling them what they can and cannot do, rolls for wandering monsters when characters make any noise at all, reading of the rules (sleep spell), consults matrices and confuses attackers, not spell affects him unless you can persuade him otherwise, weapons do half damage, susceptible to bribes of 500 gp or more (treat as charm person).

That’s that, boys and girls. Have fun, do something nice for mom and then do something nice for everyone else.

Dragon by Dragon – December 1980 (44)

When Christmas rolled around in 1980, a young me was still four years away from role playing games, though I did get this slick bike:

Found HERE!

A year later, I decided I like the Steelers better, and was stuck with a Cowboys bike – c’est la vie. I grew up in Las Vegas, so I was pretty fluid in my “favorite team” selection – I switched to the Raiders in 1984 when I was the only kid on my bus who picked them to beat the Redskins in the Super Bowl – I only did it to avoid going with the crowd.

Still, if you were already plays RPG’s in 1980, this issue of Dragon, #44, was what you were perusing over a cup of hot chocolate with some Rankin-Bass on in the background. It looks like a dandy – with a mini-game and everything!

As is often the case, the first thing that caught my eye was the ad by Ral Partha. They usually have the first ad in these old Dragon magazines, and this one is for a number of boxed adventure games they did. The games included miniatures, and look pretty cool.

I found a site with some pictures of the miniatures.

And the mannequin in the hooded robe just gave me an idea for a monster – I’ll post that later in the week.

Dig this missive from Mrs. Lori Tartaglio from Mercerville, N.J. She covers bearded female dwarves and Iran hostage crisis all in one letter.

“Dear Editors:

Will this endless quibbling never cease? Who CARES if female dwarves have beards or not? (TD#41) Why not let each DM or player or gaming group decide for themselves, for Ghu’s sake?!

Answer me this: Will the fact of dwarven women having or NOT having beards affect the outcome of the game in any major capacity? In my humble opinion, the answer is “no.” Not, of course, unless the DM has designed a “beard catcher” as one of his nasty little traps, and a female character of the dwarven persuasion (although no one ever had to persuade me to be a Dwarf-lady!) happens to be one of the party who’d sprung the trap and. . .

OY! This is getting out of hand! Now you’ve got me doing it!

C’mon, EGG and the rest of you guys! Grow up! If you’re going to argue, then do it about something worthwhile — like “do we go techno and nuke Iran off the face of the earth or do we send in a party of chaotic neutral fighter-mage mercs to teleport the hostages home and drop the Ayatollah with a black arrow.”

And by the way – I mentioned a few reviews ago that I was going to commission some bearded lady dwarf art, and I did, from Denis McCarthy – this will appear in the second edition of Blood & Treasure.

Just as some older issues of Dragon had stats for fictional western heroes for Boot Hill, this issue does the same for some fictional secret agents for Top Secret. The article is written by the developer and editor of the game, Allen Hammack.

For those keeping score, here’s some stuff you should know …

Strongest secret agent – John Steed, followed by Derek Flint and James Bond

Most charming secret agent – John Steed, followed by James Bond and Derek Flint

Most courageous secret agent – James Bond, followed by Derek Flint and a tie – Jim Phelps and Number 6

The weakest stats belong to Maxwell Smart and Napoleon Solo. I don’t want to criticize, but not making Emma Peel the most charming seems crazy … at least from my perspective. The article has full stats for all the agents, which is pretty damn cool.

Gregory G. H. Rihn presents one of the articles that could only be from the early days of the hobby – “Fantasy Genetics I – Humanoid Races in Review”. The article gives scientific names for the fantasy races. Elves, for example, are homo sapiens sylvanus, while orcs are homo sapiens orc. Those two races have to be homo sapiens able to breed with good old fashioned homo sapiens sapiens. I guess they should also be able to breed with homo sapiens neanderthalensis. An elf neanderthal crossbreed would give strong math skills, great strength and pointed ears – so Vulcans, essentially. He makes the kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears part of the genus Australopithecus and ogres Ramapithecus. This is an interesting idea, and points to a time when the look of the fantasy races was not established – yeah, there was art in the Monster Manual, but it wasn’t treated as carved in stone.

This is followed up by “Fantasy Genetics II – Half-Orcs in a Variety of Styles” by Roger Moore. This is a cool little article about the fact that half-orcs are always half-human. So you get some monster stats for orc-kobolds, orc-goblins, orc-ogres, orc-bugbears, orc-hobgoblins and orc-gnolls. Short and sweet, and it would be a nice addition to the half-orc playable race.

But we’re not done yet, because John S. Olson gives us “Fantasy Genetics III – What Do You Get When You Cross?”, which is designed to discourage weird crossbreeds. I wonder if the author is this guy from Rice University?

Which, of course, brings us to the end of this discussion. There could be absolutely no more to write on the subject of fantasy genetics – the topic has been so thoroughly dealt with that to continue would be folly!

To paraphrase Johnny Carson, “Not so fast jelly doughnut breath!”

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh brings us “Fantasy Genetics IV – Half + Half Isn’t Always Full”. Honestly, I cannot see the point of this article. Moving on …

Here’s a little piece from Sage Advice that might quash the whole murder hobo mystique:

“Question: Is it okay for a Monk (Lawful Neutral) to sneak up on an opponent and then backstab? (Is this act chaotic? Is this evil?)

Answer: The act of killing a victim without knowing if he/she is truly an enemy (in other words, killing a complete stranger without knowing if he/she presents a threat) is a chaotic act. The act of killing an opponent with the knowledge that there is some other way to overcome him/her is an evil act. It would seem permissible for the Lawful Neutral Monk (or any other similarly aligned being) to attack a known enemy from the back, when circumstances make it necessary to kill that foe. —J. Ward, W. Niebling”

So, if the orcs don’t attack first, and you attack without trying to talk to them, you’re evil.

When I see ads like this:

I always do a search hoping to stump BoardGameGeek.com – hasn’t happened yet.

I know nothing about the game, but the miniature illustrations are cool, and the name “hellborn” is awesome – also Avenging Angels and Saints and Giant Knights. I found the rules for sale for $12.95 by the Gaming Gang and bought a copy – I’ll review them later this month (probably).

This issue’s “Giant in the Earth” switches authorship from Tom Moldvay to Dave Cook. Dave writes stats for C.S. Lewis’ Reepicheep (LG 7th level fighter) and Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger (LN 16th level fighter with special sage abilities). Challenger’s Express hunting rifle is given a 300 yard range and 2d6 damage, in case you’re interested.

In 3rd edition, all the monsters got stats. In 1st edition, many of the monsters got stats, here and there, haphazardly. Len Lakofka‘s article this issue, “Monsters: How Strong is Strong” is one of those early efforts to codify these issues, and shows the gradual march of the game from “rulings not rules” to “a rule for everything”.

It’s predicated on the fact that a belt of hill giant strength gives a fighter damage that a hill giant doesn’t get, which, of course, cannot be permitted to persist. I guess. For those interested, bugbear chiefs are as strong as ankhegs, but not as strong as gorillas, who are as strong as black bears, but not as strong as carnivorous apes and brown bears. Kobolds roll 4d4 for strength, while leader types have d4+13 strength. He also gives a bit on “how to calculate the combat ability of a monster”. I was going to put in an excerpt, but dang is it long!

Next up is the aforementioned mini-game – “Food Fight” by Bryce Knorr (this guy?). This is set in a high school and features some early art from Bill Willingham (see to the right – maybe that’s Morgan Ironwolf when she was in high school). Make no mistake – for a mini-game about throwing food, it has pretty exhaustive rules. All of the foods have numerous stats, such as:

Ice cream with attack mode D has Range 1, Hit No. 8, App. Damage of 1d6+2, no ability to stun, but the number to splat is 5, slipperiness is 2 and APE is 5. There are different stats for attack mode F and attack mode T.

Oi! I now have a strange desire to make a rules lite version of the game.

By the way, this piece by Jack Crane from the fiction in this issue is all kinds of groovy …

This issue also has a long article by William Fawcett on the Judge’s Guild (I just noticed a Kickstarter popped up for a JG collection), along with reviews of nine of their products.

Speaking of reviews, Mark Herro offers up some reviews of early computer games (or super modern computer games, by the standards of 1980). You can see one of them, Android Nim, in action below:

He also reviews Dungeon of Death and Time Traveller.

Roger Moore has a new monster in the bestiary this month – the Koodjanuk, a monster from Elysium, and the Cryoserpent. I especially like the cryoserpent art. The B&T stats are below:

Koodjanuk, Large (30′ wingspan) Outsider: HD 8, AC 22 [+2], ATK 1 bite (2d6) or 2 talons (4d4), MV 50′ (Fly 110′), SV F8 R6 W8, AL NG, XP 800 (CL 9), Special-Magic resistance 75%, cast cleric spells as 12th level clerics, use psionics, 15% chance found with other good creatures of the upper planes.

Cryoserpent, Huge (50′ long) Monster: HD 12, AC 19, ATK 1 bite (4d6), MV 20′, SV F4 R7 W8, AL CE, XP 1200 (CL 13), Special-Magic resistance 25%, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire, gaze paralyzes creatures with 4 HD or less (save negates), tongue freezes water (12,000 square feet, 6″ deep, lasts 12 minutes), hollow tongue can fire 120′ freeze ray (48 damage, save negates), tongue may launch a 4″ diameter ball of ice (120′, +4 to hit, explodes when hits target for 4d6 damage in 10′ radius) – can use these last three powers up to a total of 6 times per day.

The bestiary also includes the ice golem by Rich Baldwin.

That’s it for #44. As always, I leave you with Wormy …

I miss Bender.

But what about White Dwarf?

The Dec 1980/Jan 1981 issue has the usual cool cover, though the color of the lettering could have been a bit better.

This issue includes aristocracy for Traveller by Rick D. Stuart, some cool magic items for AD&D, a very cool NPC class by Lewis Pulsipher called Black Priests. Here are the highlights:

Black priests must have Wis, Dex and Cha of 13 or higher. They roll d6 for hit points, and they must be evil. If they change alignment, they become thieves. They can wear up to leather armor and use shields when not using thief skills.

A black priest’s chance to move silently and hide in shadows is doubled in their own evil temples (neat touch). They are -1 to hit and damage with swords, and +1 to hit and damage with daggers, and -2 to hit with ranged weapons other than throwing knives. Black priests can “backstab” with a strangling cord (1d8 damage, must have Str 7 or higher to use). They rebuke undead and cast spells as evil clerics, and they can call upon the Lords of Evil to summon a monster each battle (lots of rules governing this ability).

They gather followers at high levels, including other black priests, displacer beasts, gorgons, hill giants werewolves, minotaurs, invisible stalkers (summon 1/wk), trolls, undead and nightmares. Great class!

This issue has an adventure (as most did) – “The Search for the Temple of the Golden Spire” by Barney Sloane. It is intended for seven 2nd-4th level characters.

The monster section goes big time, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Ian Cooper (one of them, Ky, is a Supra-Lich), Capricorns by Roger Moore, Crystal Golems by Robert Outram, and Ungoliant, Queen of the Spiders by Peter Cockburn.

Ungoliant, Huge Outsider: HD 38 (225 hp), AC 26 (Body) 14 (Belly) 24 (Eyes) [+3], ATK Bite (3d12 + swallow whole for instant death on natural 20) and 2 legs (2d12) or 2 palps (1d12), MV 90′, SV F3 R3 W3, AL CE, XP 38,000 (CL41), Special-Magic resistance 80% (50% of which is from her unlight (see below), and can be dispelled), immune to psionics, body oozes contact poison (Poison IV, -3 to save), breath 30′ x 30′ x 30′ fear gas 3/day, 10 eyes function as beholder, except 7th eye fires a matter agitation ray (as the psionic discipline) – one eye fires at a random target every 2 rounds, summon 3d10 phase spiders to cover her retreat.

Ungoliant is the originator of all spider kind. She is swathed in unlight (awesome concept – it’s equivalent to 5 darkness spells). She swallows gems, gaining 1 hp per 10 gp value. If she is seriously wounded, she rears up, exposing her belly, and attacks with her bite and 6 legs (2d12). If her unlight is dispelled with five continual light spells, then additional magical light deals 3d10 damage or destroys one of her eyes. A magic whip is embedded in one of her legs. In the hands of a chaotic evil creature it is a +5 flaming whip, +8 vs. good that inflicts 6d6 damage, or 12d6 in the hands of someone with a strength higher than 18.

Wow! Lolth is a piker in comparison.

Lewis Pulsipher also contributes a bit on an explanation of character stats in D&D. Here’s the interesting passage:

“Dragon breath, after all, does not burn the skin to a crisp (or freeze it) – a slightly ludicrous notion even if dragons are magical. Rather the superheated (or supercold) air, if it fills the lungs, does the damage. A victim of dragon fire dies because his lungs are destroyed, and it’s clear enough that turning one’s head away and keeping one’s mouth and nose shut will help reduce the damage.”

So save vs. dragon’s breath involves turning one’s head and holding one’s breath. Interesting concept.

That’s it for the White Dwarf, folks – and this post. Have fun!

Dragon by Dragon – August 1980 (40)

It’s chilly outside, but this edition of Dragon by Dragon goes back to the balmy summer days of 1980, with the August issue of Dragon! Fantasy and sci-fi films were all the rage in August 1980, from Smokey & the Bandit II to Xanadu to Final Countdown. Well, the last two are fantasy/sci-fi. The first is sort of fantastic.

Let’s see what fantasy & sci-fi offerings the good folks at TSR were serving up …



A letter to the editor:

“Dear Editor:
I must get it off my chest: Why do you print so many modules? I agree that it’s a nice concept, a magazine and a module for only $3.00, but there are some people who could do without them and be able to afford this almost perfect magazine. If you must put a filler of some sort in here, why not. make it a game?”

Apparently, the modules were “filler”.


I’ve seen some interest in Boot Hill and western RPGs recently on Google+, so I thought this ad might be of interest:

I’ve seen many Boot Hill articles, but this is the first ad I remember seeing.


This will sound odd to some readers, but one of the things I like about early D&D was the lack of desire to make it immersive and real. There was already that strain in some players and game masters, but the early breed seemed content to play it as a game that didn’t have to make much sense. Characters had crazy names and did crazy things.

Thus my appreciation for “The Dueling Room” article by Jeff Swycaffer. It’s a place for two players to pit their characters against one another. Why? Because it sounds like fun. Because my character can beat up your character – no he can’t – yes he can – prove it!

Naturally, the dueling room has some random tables attached to it, because the room changes as the duel proceeds, including some “odd events” like fireballs bursting into the room and absolute, unalterable darkness for 6-11 turns. Sounds like fun.

I seem to remember some folks on G+ doing a D&D fight club – this would be the perfect arena for fights like that.

I think I’ll put designing something similar on my list of articles I need to finish for this poor, neglected blog.


“Digging the burial mound or building the funeral pyre requires 1-6 hours of labor, depending on the softness of the soil and the availability of firewood. Another 1-3 hours is required for preparation of the body, final rites and actual interment or cremation.” – George Laking

Now you know.


Flaming oil (and it’s modern cousin alchemist’s fire) have long been popular because they seem like a way to break the melee rules and kill things that would otherwise be difficult to kill. My players have hurled or prepared to hurl flaming oil quite a few times.

“Don’t Drink This Cocktail – Throw It!” by Robert Plamondon is an examination of the stuff. This is one of those articles that deeply explored a D&D concept … to death one might say. The desire to make gaming very complex was there from the start, and the cycle of “more complexity” to “more simplicity” is ongoing. I’m old and crusty enough now that I’m pretty thoroughly stuck in the “keep it simple” camp.

Still, as long as this article is, the rules are pretty easy to boil down:

Only you can prevent fire damage

1 – Make attack roll. If you miss, roll d12 to determine which direction (1 = “1 o’clock”) it goes.

2 – Roll d20 – on a “1” it didn’t break, on a “2” it didn’t light.

3 – If you hit, you score 2d6 damage in round one, and 1d6 in round two.

4 – Splash is3′, creatures get a saving throw (vs. poison) or take 3 damage. Armor doesn’t help.

The article touches upon the flammability of dungeons, and then includes this gem:

“Additionally, rumor has it that pyromaniac players are sometimes attacked by a huge bear in a flat-brim hat who fights with a +6 shovel.”


Roger E. Moore presents a number of additional were creatures in this article: Werelions, wereleopards, werejaguars, weresabres (as in sabre-tooth tigers), weredires (as in dire wolves), wererams, wereweasels, weresloths (yep), werebadgers and werebisons.

Not a bad collection. I often just hand wave alternate were creatures and use the existing were creature stats I think are closest – such as using the werewolf for a wereleopard, but why not use this quick and easy chart of monster stats instead:

And dig that werejaguar illustration that accompanied the article.


I thought this ad was unique:

I’m guessing the art for Spellbinder was late …


The article “Giving the Undead an Even Break” by Steve Melancon starts as follows:

“A 22nd-level Mage Lich approaches a band of adventurers. Suddenly, an 8th-level Cleric presents himself forcefully. The DM rolls 19 on a 20-sided die, and the Lich runs in terror.

Such a scene is ridiculous.”

Is it? If the game is meant to be “realistic” to you, or you’re looking for high drama, I suppose it is. If you’re playing a game, then it’s not so bad. Clerics turn undead. The lich is undead. So be it. Monopoly is equally ridiculous, but it’s just a game. So what?

If this does bother you, though, this article might help. It uses a percentile roll for turning undead, to make the tough undead harder to turn. There’s some cross referencing involved as well.

Personally, I’d just allow “name-level” undead a saving throw against the turning effect, giving them another chance to resist. Simpler, probably just as effective.


Paul Montgomery Crabaugh wrote a nice little article on globe hopping for international spies, for the Top Secret game. It’s nothing fancy, just a d% table of 100 “fun” places to visit on a spy adventure. The game master can use it to help design a convoluted plot – roll for a starting point, then roll three or four more times for where clues might lead … with a few false clues thrown in to make it tough. I won’t reproduce the table here, but check out the issue and the article, especially if you’re doing a Cold War spy game.


There’s a long article in this issue about how fantasy worlds should operate, which is interesting but, really, “say’s who?” It is a worthwhile article to read, though, with some neat concepts and tables – again, I suggest one find a copy of the magazine – but what I wanted to point out was an early piece by Jim Holloway for TSR.

If I had the money, and the interest was out there, I’d love to do an expanded Sinew & Steel with art like this in it.


Read more about it


Josh Susser created a pretty cool monster for this issue. The fire-eye lizard is something like a tiny dragon (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet) with blazing, luminescent eyes it can use to blind creatures. It can also make a prismatic sphere of its own color that lasts for 3

turns. Lizards of different colors can cooperate to add layers to the sphere or lizards of the same color can make larger spheres with a longer duration.

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats:

Fire-Eye Lizard, Tiny Magical Beast: HD 1+2 (females 1+3); AC 16; ATK 1 bite (1d4 for males or 1d4+1 for females); MV 5 (F120, S30); F16 R13 W16; XP 100; Special-Blind, prismatic sphere.

I also dig Ed Greenwood’s wingless wonder (illustration to the right), but would mostly love to play one in a game. Here are the quick stats:

Wingless Wonder, Small Aberration: HD 2+2; AC 12; ATK 9 or 12 tentacles (1 + constrict); MV 20; F16 R15 W13; XP 200; Special-Radiate continuous anti-magic shell, immune to fire, eats gems (cannot digest them, 1d4+4 in stomach), psionic blast when killed (-4 to save).

The issue also has stats for Pat Rankin’s flitte and Lewis Pulsipher’s huntsmen.

#8 through #10 … well, nothing. Not as much caught my interest this issue. There were some magic items for Runequest, and some D&D magic items folks might like, and the aforementioned very long article about making faerie “real” in your campaign worlds. Tom Wham also wrote some additions for The Awful Green Things from Outer Space.

See you next time, hopefully with some new content for your game.

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!