Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Magic Keys

From the Graphics Fairy
A few idea for magic keys you can drop into your campaign. All of them work in essentially the same way - a small, simple key of an interesting material that can open doors that are not there in different materials. To work, the holder of the key must close their eyes, hold their breath, stick the key out slowly, and then turn it slowly. The door then opens. The keys have a 1 in 6 chance of working, so they're not a sure thing.

Where do these doors lead? The key opens a door onto one of the following (D10):

1-3) An ornate room with furnishings and decorations dependent on the material in which the door was situated, and attended by like creatures. Thus, a black key opening a room into shadows will open into a room of black marble with gauzy black curtains and thicker, black velvet curtains and dark wood furniture with cushions in shades of grey attended by shadows. The room is safe, and can be stayed in for 1 hour before it fades back into the plan of which it is composed and sends the occupants back from whence they came.

4-7) A long tunnel that leads to a second door which opens back into the material world. This second door will appear in the same material as the first, so a door opened through fire can only lead to a second door situated in fire.

8) A long stair leading deep down into the plane (or a demi-plane) appropriate to the key that opened the door, thus opening a door in stone will lead to the elemental earth plane.

9) The door leads to the key-holder's childhood home, wherever it was (even if it is now a ruin, or just an open field).

10) A tunnel that leads back to the same door, but 1d6 hours later or 1d6 hours earlier. If it leads back in time, all that the characters had done in the world over that time has been undone, though the effects they suffered through remain evident on their minds, bodies and souls.

The material of the key governs what they key will work on, as follows:

Gold --> Natural stone

Amber --> Trees, hedge rows, brambles, thickets

Meteoric Iron --> Shadows and the night air

Copper --> Fire

Smoky glass --> Smoke

Silver --> Water, fog and mist

Green wood --> Spring Breezes

Bone --> Mausoleums and tombstones

Tin --> Laughter and thunderous applause (must "fill the air")

Porcelain --> Weeping and wailing (as above)

Folded paper --> Riotous anger and yelling (as above)

Tarnished brass and tied with a fairy lock --> Hillsides

Dessicated and twisted wood --> Sand dunes

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - September 1979

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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

It Came from the Sky!

From HERE
Roll d30 if your players are futzing around in the wilderness boring you to death, and inflict one of the following random encounters on them ...

1. A silver bird dropping silver daggers (low quality, but useful given the plague of apparitions in the neighborhood)

2. A tiny meteorite (1% chance of hitting somebody)

3. The sound of trumpets (all LG characters receive bless for 24 hours)

4. Waves of crimson sound that warn of … Murder!

From HERE
5. A red dragon spelling out “Eat at Joes” in smoke

6. A green luminescence that causes all plant-life to grow wild (per entangle), causes 1 in 10 trees to turn into treants, and heals 1d6 points of damage to all living things

7. Acid rain (1d6 acid damage per round, item saves for objects, lasts 1d6 minutes)

8. A silver canister of the mi-go (holds the brain of a 1d4+3 level magic-user)

9. A frozen black sphere (when it thaws in one minute it becomes a black ooze)

10. 3 and 20 blackbirds, recently released from a pie and bent on revenge against humanity (treat as enraged bat swarm with 2 attacks per round)

From HERE
11. A flight of pegasi, willing to give good characters a lift (I won’t say exactly what they’ll do to the evil, but it involves gaining altitude first)

12. A senile old giant owl who has mistook the halfling or gnome for a giant rat

13. A WW1-era biplane with a confused pilot

14. A disk of glowing orange metal crewed by 20 ultra-troglodytes (troglodytes in shiny orange jumpsuits with bulging brains, genius IQ’s and psychic powers)

15. An errant catapult stone (1% chance it lands on a character, dealing 10d6 damage)

From HERE
16. A sylph floating gently to the ground, love in her eyes and a song in her heart - she is soon joined by many others, who put on an impromptu ballet until a bunch of satyrs show up to ruin everything

17. A flight of seven harpies with a barbed net

18. The head of a frost giant, recently knocked from its should a few miles away by the hammer of the mighty Thor (or whatever native giant species and thunder god works in your campaign)

19. Confetti – it rains for hours

20. A rain of frogs, thrown into the atmosphere by a water spout

21. Sky pirates on a flying clipper – they bungee down to attack and plunder

22. An angel of the Lord, with grave tidings – the nearest metropolis is to be laid low for its sins

23. Two dozen giant bees, looking for a new home, their old one having been sacked by a clan of werebears

24. A holy sword, which embeds itself in the ground; it can only be removed by the rightful
Emperor-Pope of All Paladins (first paladin to 20th level can claim it)

From HERE
25. A black comet that sends out waves of revulsion and decrepitude

26. A black cloud, moving fast and against the wind and carrying with it the sounds of a clash of swords – perhaps a combatant will wing down to pick up the adventurers as reinforcements

27. 15 bird men – they seek ornaments for their queen, who is brooding

28. The Imam of the Jinn, on a magic prayer rug (treat as magic carpet), seeking converts to the Lawful Neutral faith and warriors for his crusade against the efreet

29. Mana from heaven (treat as triple strength create food spell)

30. A storm giant’s castle on a floating island; it’s on a crash course that will cause havoc and destruction about one mile from here (and it creates one heck of a great dungeon to explore)


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Grit & Vigor ... Almost Reality

Over the past weekend, I finished Grit & Vigor. Okay, 99% of it. Just need to rewrite an intro and do an appendix on how it can interact with Blood & Treasure. My first round of editing is done, though, and I have to say I'm pretty jazzed. When I write these things, I often write (and re-write) them in pieces, somewhat in the way movies are filmed. Reading through it to edit it was the first time I'd really look at it from cover to cover, and overall I was happy for two reasons:

1) I kept getting ideas for adventures and characters while I was reading

2) I kept statting characters in my head, and they made sense with the rules I'd written

G&V has been a pretty long time coming. It started life as Action X, but I never really liked the name and the game, as it stood then essentially a reworking of the Modern SRD into a more rules lite vehicle, had no soul. The shift to Grit & Vigor and "manly adventure stories" helped quite a bit - gave the game some direction and made it more fun for me.

What I thought I would do with this post is give a somewhat extensive "table of contents" for the game, so people could see what it looks like currently. My comments are in brackets. Here goes ...

I. Rugged Individualists: Creating Your Character

... Ability Score [the basic six - you know them]
... Character Backgrounds [this replaces "race", and consists of random rolls on tables to determine the four big moments in your character's young life, and the feats or knacks or ability bonuses that go along with them]
... Character Classes
... ... Fighters [with sub-classes Boxer, Commando, Dragoon, Dreadnought, Duelist, Gunfighter, Man-At-Arms, Ranger, Samurai and Sapper]
... ... Brain [with sub-classes Archaeologist, Gentleman Detective and Inventor]
... ... Rogue [with sub-classes Assassin, Gentleman, Grifter and Gumshoe]
... ... Daredevil [with sub-classes Ace Reporter, Barnstormer, Big Game Hunter, Cowboy, Gearhead, Jungle Lord, Medic, Spaceman and Vigilante]
[The sub-classes are all really just variations of the main class, so they're pretty simple for the most part and don't take up much room]
... Feats [more integral to G&V than B&T]
... Character Details
... ... Alignment
... ... Drives and Hungers
... ... Personality and Description
... ... Patrons

II. Tools of the Trade: Gear and Gadgets for the Adventurous Man
... [this includes weapons, protective gear, artillery, miscellaneous gear and vehicles]

III. Man Versus: Overcoming Challenges and Providing Sound Thrashings
... [the basic rules of play, including rules for intoxicants and radiation]
... Tasks
... ... Charisma: Cant, Communicate, Don Disguise, Etiquette, Gather Intelligence, Handle Animal, Hypnotize, Influence People, Perform, Throw Voice
... ... Constitution: Endure
... ... Dexterity: Drive Car, Escape Bonds, Gymnastics, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Lock, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Bike, Ride Mount, Shoot Billiards, Ski, Sky Dive, Sleight of Hand, Surf, Woodworking
... ... Intelligence: Appraise Value, Bomb Target, Chemistry, Crack Code, Demolitions, Display Knowledge, Electronics, Forge Document, Gunnery, Mechanics, Practice Vocation, Survive Outdoors, Treat Injury
... ... Strength: Athletics, Bend Bars & Lift Gates, Break Down Doors, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swim
... ... Wisdom: Gamble, Listen at Doors, Prospect, Seafaring, Search, Spelunk, Track
... Combat [includes the special maneuvers Airplane Spin, Bum Rush, Dazzle, Gouge, Ranged Disarm and Ranged Sunder]
... ... Zero-Gravity Combat
... Damage & Death [includes rules for "the death scene"]
... Vehicles [I think I have some very simple rules for vehicle combat and chases here - pretty happy with them]

IV. Bold Ventures: Designing Adventures and Campaigns
... Genres: Crime, Espionage, Expeditions into the Unknown, Horror, Kung-Fu, Mystery & Suspense, Siege, War
... Timeline of Adventure: this covers the decades from 1880 to 1929, with notes on the overall happenings of the decade, fashion, adventure ideas, the price of gold and silver and then a year-by-year timeline of events that lend themselves to the game (wars, robberies, expeditions, discoveries, inventions) and stats for weapons and vehicles (and other things) introduced in that year, and some NPC stats worked in (see example to left)

V. Men & Monsters: Fearsome Foes to Fight and Conquer
... [the typical monster section, with an emphasis on animals and humans, but some cryptids and science-fantasy stuff thrown in as well]

Appendix A: The Supernatural
... [the book includes mentions of the supernatural throughout, especially in the Men & Monsters section, but I decided to separate the supernatural rules from the main rules in this appendix so people would understand that they are truly optional]
... Psychic Phenomena [rules for the chances a character is psychic, and list and description of psychic powers]
... Supernatural Sub-Classes [Occultist, Psychic and Vampire Hunter - all sub-classes of the Brain]

So that's the book, as it now stands. There's some more layout work to do, a bit more playtesting to do, and a bit more writing to do. At the moment, it looks good for a Fall release.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dragon By Dragon - August 1979

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 ...


Friday, July 24, 2015

New Awesome Adventure from Anders Hedenbjörk Lager!

Hey folks - just a quick note this morning to direct your attention to a new, FREE, 80-page adventure for Blood & Treasure by Anders Hedenbjörk Lager. This guy does good stuff, and with a price like FREE, how could you lose.

It's called Come to Daddy, and it is part two of the Per Aspera Ad Inferi trilogy and is the follow up to No Country for Old Men, which was excellent. Here's a blurb:

“The battle with the barrow-draugr had taken the most of our energy, and we barely escaped with our lives. The gnome was sorely injured in the leg and everyone was frozen to the bone. The horses and most of our supplies were still left in the draugr cave, where we had to abandon it to save our hides. Times looked bleak and despair had set in for real when Halross shouted:

“-Hey, I see a farm over there”

A farm out here in the outback? Strange, but in our current situation the prospect of a warm fire and some hot soup seemed like a gift from heaven. Slowly, we started our descent alone the snow filled slopes towards the cosy farm.”

Boys and girls, we're talking about crazy viking mutant cannibal killers. If you don't want to sink your teeth into that, I don't know why you're here.

Let's get into some specifics. The book looks great - good layout, art, etc. There are some nice pieces by David Lewis Johnson, and everything is clear and easy to read.

The adventure itself may be tricky to run, and is a bit different than many you have played. You have a family of cannibals attempting to lull the characters into feeling safe on their farm, and then slowly picking them off, one by one, using all manner of tactics. You'll have to set this one up properly - it has to seem as though the farm is a safe place and a curiosity, rather than a side adventure. This is one that might kill off characters, so make sure you have a group of players that know its a game, know the character is a piece of paper, and enjoy the challenge. The adventure is designed for characters from 4th to 6th level.

As for exploration, you have a wooded valley and the farm, along with a farm house and tool shed, as well as an entry into the Nightmare Realm. There is an old ruin of the temple used by the nightmare cultists, and all manner of frightening things to encounter there. Ultimately, the PC's need to defeat the Mother of Lies, and this isn't easy. If the players are very determined, they'll probably have to settle for survival and getting the heck out of there.

Besides the adventure, you also have many extras - The Ritual of Banishment - a form of ritual magic used to defeat the Mother of Lies; a few monsters, many unique (such as the aforementioned Mother of Lies, a were-worg, "the severed ones" and multiple ghösts) and rules for horror and madness (with some great random tables), some new traps, new magic items and spells, alternative healing rules, and rules that expand the poison (and drugs) in Blood & Treasure very nicely. Honestly, if you play B&T or just like it, you'll get plenty from Come to Daddy even if you never play the adventure.

Seriously, Anders is knocking it out of the park with these babies, so please check them out and give them a play through with your group, whatever system you play. He also has a version specifically statted for Swords & Wizardry as well, and of course either will work with any old school game system.

Come to Daddy gets my absolute highest recommendation! Download it HERE.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - July 1979

I just drove in from Cedar City, and boy is my car tired.

Vaughn and Pfundstein - Go watch their play - it is excellent
I use that by way of an explanation for why this post is showing up now, rather than this morning. My daughter and I traveled to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to watch The Taming of the Shrew, starring Brian Vaughn as Petruchio and Melinda Pfundstein as Katherine. It was fabulous. If you get the chance, visit the festival. Now I want to do a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic in iambic pentameter. I'm not sure that's possible, but boy would it be a fun challenge.

And now that I've given some love to the USF, it's time for a review of The Dragon #27, published 36 years ago this month - time for a baby to be born, grow up, and begin yelling at kids born when 4th edition was published to get off his lawn. As he should, the grubby little beggars.

The ads the issue opens up with aren't new, but I did notice this bit:


Great artifact of the size of the hobby 36 years ago.

The first article in this issue is "Agincourt: The Destruction of French Chivalry", a game review by Tim Kask. As he writes, "Ah yes, that's a Dunnigan game." As in James Dunnigan. As an avid reader of his excellent books How to Make War and The Quick and Dirty Guide to War, this piqued my interest in the game review (I also note that Al Nofi did the historical research - I love his CIC articles at Strategy Page). Kask praises how he makes the game feel like the period, reflecting the fact that the French mostly defeated themselves at Agincourt. He finds it both a very complex game, and a very playable game.

To my delight, the review was followed by an article from Dunnigan himself - "Agincourt: Designer's Notes". One extract:

"I would say the single most difficult aspect that I had to incorporate into the design of Agincourt, were the combined arms and doctrine factors that were critical to the outcome of the battle, This is best shown by looking at the rules covering crowding and fugitives and their effect
upon morale."

I note this, because it's similar to what I try to do with Bloody Basic and articles on fantasy campaigns in NOD (and not always successfully) - how do you interject the feel of the subject you're covering without making the game needlessly complicated. It brings to my mind the idea of first principals.

Keeping the theme alive, Steve Alvin now writes "The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War". I love history - majored in it in college - and I know most war game buffs have at least some regard for it, but I wonder how popular articles like this were back in the day. I hope very. I wonder how they would play now?

Get your scissors out, because Jeff Swycaffer's article "Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone" has a full-color cutout. In the article he mentions the four elements of Greek philosophy and the elementals they inspired ... and then remarks on the twelve new types of elementals discovered by "a mad philosopher". These would be the quasi-elementals and/or para-elementals. I can never keep them straight. Swycaffer visualizes the placement of the elementals thus:

"To visualize the placement of the elementals in the scheme of reality, imagine a globe. The equator is divided into eight segments: air, cold, water, moisture, earth, heat, fire, and dry. Thus the circle is complete, with dryness adjacent to air. This is reasonable, as the alchemists of the 1200s depicted the elements in this fashion. Here water is both cold and moist, and both air
and fire are dry.

This is merely the plane of the equator, however. At the south pole, evil. Good and evil are the poles of the physical world, and no one element is more evil than good, or vice versa."

He then goes on to explain how the elements interact with good and evil - these are the qualities, which include pleasure, fertility, beginning, light, ending, darkness, pain and barren. He explains that the "elementals of good and evil" are the demons of Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III and the angels of Stephen H. Domeman that appears in The Dragon #17. He then goes on to describe, in basic terms, the elementals of qualities. For example:

"ENDING: Appears as a normal human. Closes doors (as a wizard lock), dispels good magic, and curses as an Evil High Priest."

For those who need to know, the Ending Elemental has 2 HD, movement of 9, does 1d6 damage per hit, has AC 9 (remember, this is old "lower is better" AC), and is friends with air, water and cold elementals.

"From the Sorcerer's Scroll" this month is by a guest writer - Bob Bledsaw. He created a little something called Judge's Guild, which produced some of the great little gems of the OD&D era. He covers all the things JG had done at that time for D&D - a nice little bit of horn blowing, but well deserved I think. I liked this quote:

“Ya don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and ya don’t mess around with the play balance ...”

Truer words were never spoken.

Next up is an "Out on a Limb". God, this is classic geek-fight material, and it should surprise nobody that these are the folks that invented the internet. An example, from an extremely long letter to the editor by Ray Rahman of Minnesota. The first paragraph of his letter:

"Upon reading Mark Cummings’ review of Ralph Bakshi’s film THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I became as concerned about Mr. Cummings’ ethics as he was of Mr. Bakshi’s morals. His review of the film begins dramatically with the statement: “Your film is a ripoff! Yes, rip off! I know that the expression has moral connotations, and that you haven’t done anything wrong legally; but I happen to believe that moral obligations often make demands that go beyond the demands of laws. So stay with me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll explain why your film is immoral ... Let me start by saying that I’M not an outraged purist.”

Wonderful!

Next up is an ad for Boot Hill, a game I know little about but would love to explore. I've been hankering to do a sort of Old West Bloody Basic, but I'm waiting until Grit & Vigor is finished so I can base it on those rules.

Gary Jordan now presents a variant that might delight fans of the recent Marvel movies, "Tesseracts: A Traveller Artifact". The idea is using these not as a way to confuse mappers (as they had previously been presented to DM's), but as a boon to the players of Traveller. Really, it comes down to using matter transmitters to move folks around a ship.

Up next is a new cartoon to The Dragon called "The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar, A Starship on a Mission of Empire". I don't remember this from the era of Dragon magazines I grew up in, so I wonder how long it survived.

Gary Jordan now chimes in with another Traveller article on Star System Generation. This is a scheme for filling hex maps, filling in the presence of planets, star ports, etc.

In the Designer's Forum, "Divine Right" is covered again (it was TSR's newest game), by Glenn and Kenneth Rahman (there's that name again - can't be a coincidence, can it?).

Lance Harrop now presents "A Quick Look at Dwarves". This is a long article on how dwarf armies are organized, with an accompanying chart.



Wow - they got into it in the old days, didn't they. Still, there are lots of great ideas - the dwarven engineers, miners, masons, etc. forming divisions of the army. He adds the following at the end of the article:

On Painting Dwarves: Elite units of dwarves should have white beards (reminds me of the Graybeards units in Warhammer), dwarf armor should be shiny and a mix of metals, dwarves don't seem to have national colors ("don't seem" - well, they aren't real, so I suppose they don't) but use colors to designate individuals, and whatever you do, don't make your dwarves too gaudy.

On Dwarvish Tactics: Vanguards always drive towards the dwarf commander, dwarves love to tear into orcs, dwarf morale is very slow to break and dwarves are known to leave the field of battle after their leader is killed, but they do not rout - they just walk off slowly, carrying his body.

The Design Forum continues now with Jay Facciolo writing about "The Emerald Tablet". This is a miniatures war game published by Creative Wargames Workshop (side note - imagine how many games there are out there that have never been cloned, for good or ill). I love the name. The game was an attempt to make something that was neither too specific or vague, and which incorporated magic into the rules, rather than just overlaying magic atop ancient or medieval warfare. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the cover I found at BoardGameGeek.

It sounds like an interesting take, with each unit in the game begin given one of four orders before the game begins - attack, skirmish, hold or support (another unit). These orders can only be changed during the game by one of the figures representing the players. Interesting idea, and requires a great deal of thought before the game starts. The magic segment of the game requires quite a lot of explanation, and appears to be, if not complicated, then at least engrossing. It even comes with a bibiolography (and a bit of cheesecake)

"Giants in the Earth", one of my favorite features, comes next. I really need to do something like this myself in NOD - maybe I should let people vote on G+.

This edition includes the following literary giants:

Alan Garner's DURATHROR (13th level fighter/Dwarvish paladin)

Fritz Leiber's FAFHRD (20th level fighter/8th level thief) and THE GRAY MOUSER (18th level fighter-thief)

Edgar Rice Burrough's JOHN CARTER OF MARS (30th level fighter)

Eh - never heard of 'em.

Robert Camino writes "Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before: Expanding Imperium". This is a variant which requires two sets of the game, the boards being connected by eight jump routes which are always charted by the players (whatever that refers to). Love the art!

Great advert comes next, for Tome of Treasures, published by GRP Enterprises of Arlington, VA. The tagline got me "Plumb the depths of the Cube of Time and the Bow of Precognition. Explore the effects on hapless orcs of the Sword of Rout. Gems, jewelry, and 172 brand new, quality magic items are described ..."

Jerome Arkenberg now presents "The Mythos of Africa in Dungeons & Dragons". This is one heck of a tricky subject, as treating Africa as though it a single culture is ridiculous. The article presents many gods. For creatures, we get:


"In this category fall: witches, ghosts, were-lions, were-hyenas, and fairies. These are all the same as in the D&D Monster Manual."


 Turns out, we had all the African monsters we ever needed. I have a feeling that either the article was too long and something had to be cut, or the research was just too difficult back in the 1970's. The article also includes many heroes.

The "Dragon's Bestiary" presents the Horast, created by Mary Lynn Skirvin. Also known as a "whipper beast", a very rare creature with a whip-like tail that deals 4d6 damage. This one didn't make it into the MM, but fear not, for the article ends with this:


"By gracious arrangement with the author of AD&D, Gary Gygax, monsters appearing in this column are to be considered OFFICIAL AD&D MONSTERS."

So, if you need a monster with a whip tail, D&D has you covered. Officially.

Comic strip time. We have Finieous Fingers (their spelling, not mine), which again includes some nudity of the female variety - D&D was a game for grown-ups, after all.

No, I'm not going to show it this time. Finieous' butt from the last post will have to suffice.

In "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (the elements are all coming together, aren't they), Gygax presents the Bag of Wind. Write your own jokes, folks.

Dig the back cover, kids:


Looks like I need to up my game with NOD.

Fun issue, with plenty for D&D'ers and war gamers. Check it out if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile ...

Before we get to the random table, I'd like to announce that Bloody Basic - Sinew & Steel Edition is now up for sale at Lulu.com as a PDF (the book will follow). This is basic role-playing without the magic - imagine if the original fantasy game had been based on the medieval war game rules without the fantasy supplement included.

Races are exchanged for Social Ranks, classes are Armsman, Scholar and Villein, and to make up for all the space normally taken up by spells, fantasy monsters and magic items, I included some simple rules for mass combat, sieges, jousting and archery tournaments. The rules are still pretty short, so the book only costs $6.99 - not too bad. Click on the title to check it out at Lulu.

I should get NOD 26 up for sale tonight as a PDF. When I get my review copies, the books will follow. More on that later.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program ...

What I Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile (Roll d20)

1. A yawning abyss – it is cold, and light flute music can be heard from within it

2. A giant, leering eye

3. A rope loop – pull it to set off all the traps on this level of the dungeon

4. A wooden box – holds …
     A. The ashen remains of a vampire
     B. Mummy bandages
     C. Incense cubes – varying scents, one casts a cloudkill spell
     D. Candle stubs – one holds a key to an important room in this dungeon
     E. Chicken bones
     F. Shuriken, one is a +1 shuriken
     G. 1 week of iron rations
     H. A vial of holy water
     I. A collection of glass eyes
     J. Silver pince-nez

5. An iron strong box – holds …
     A. Copper coins – ancient and verdigrised
     B. Silver coins – all pierced and defaced
     C. Gold coins – the edges have been sharpened
     D. Silk handkerchiefs (5)
     E. A velvet glove (allows a single vampiric touch then decays into dust)
     F. Shards of delicious peanut brittle

6. Goop – smells terrible, stains skin and clothes muddy purple – treat as stinking cloud

7. Green slime – actually forms a layer under the entire floor, and will bubble up through the cracks at an inopportune time

8. Last will and testament of a high level adventurer

9. Map of a lower level (incomplete)

10. Intense light (save vs. blindness)

11. Nothing – but causes a steel cage to materialize around the adventurers

12. Nothing – but removing it causes the dungeon illusion the adventurers have been in to disappear, revealing they are in an alien laboratory (break out Star Frontiers!)

13. An oil slick (Texas tea!) - begins pouring up and soon covers most of this level of the dungeon (same effect as grease spell)

14. An intelligent +2 dagger with a note – the dagger will obey so long as its wielder commits to assassinating a local dignitary or royal within 1 week; turns into a -2 cursed dagger if this is not done

15. A long, narrow shaft to a pocket dungeon level or just a lower level of the dungeon

16. A grasping hand on a long arm (treat as a ghoul or wight)

17. A silver spike driven into the ground – it was driven into a vampire's heart, which will regenerate if the silver spike is removed

18. A carved stone that tells the dungeon’s history (or fills in gaps in the characters' knowledge)

19. Black tentacles (per the spell) erupt from the floor

20. A portal back to the dungeon entrance (works once, afterwards, it just sends people to random rooms on deeper levels)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - June 1979

Two years ago, I was writing a series of weekly blog posts on the old issues of Dragon magazine - something like reviews with a bit of crunch mixed in. And then I stopped. And I don't remember why.

Well, now I'm starting again. So ... journey back in time with me to June of 1979, when the Bee Gees were dominating the charts with Love You Inside Out ...



(Please find it in your heart to include this in a game as a weird chant of chaos cultists - your players will be stunned; and now I have to restrain myself from posting the Osmond Brother's Crazy Horses)

... and Americans are enjoying themselves at the movies with the recently released Alien and Phantasm (and Wanda Nevada, whatever the heck that is).



Oh - that's Wanda Nevada. Brooke Shields. Groovy.

Anyhow - into this golden age of entertainment comes Dragon Magazine, Volume III, No. 12 with a kickin' cover depicting some Napoleonic war game action, and of course much more. Let's dive right in.

The first thing we're greeted with is a great full-page Ral Partha advert, noting that "The Little Things Make a Noticeable Difference". If you're in my generation of gamers, Ral Partha is just branded into your brain. They were so prevalent in the pages of magazines, and had some great adverts. Honestly, I never messed with miniatures back in the day. I got into the Citadel stuff in late high school and through college, and bought a few Ral Partha minis then, but I really missed the companies hey day. Alas.

On the contents page, we are made aware that this issue marks the beginning of Gay Jaquet's reign as assistant editor, assisting T. J. Kask, that is. I note this only to point out that TSR appears to be growing.

Another ad now, for the Origins! 79 convention in Chester, Pennsylvania. Do you think the geeks that now trod those halls know the gaming history of the place? Probably not.



Looks like a cool college - love the brick work. I'm from Las Vegas - we live in a world of stucco and sandstone, so the brick stuff always impresses me. What can I say - I'm a cheap date.

Next, we have a status update on Gencon XII, and a notice that they're looking for judges and events for the con. We also get a full con schedule, some prices on back issues of The Dragon (back issues are $2.10 a pop, or $6.88 in today's dollars. Not a bad price).

Oh yeah - and a McLean cartoon involving the confusion between rocs and rocks. I love watching his art style grow in these early issues. There was some solid young talent in gaming back in the day. I wonder what they paid him per cartoon?

Now we reach the first article - "System 7 Napoleonics: Miniatures Meet Boards", by Kask. I'm not going to delve too deeply into the article itself, which reviews the game System 7 Napoleonics by GDW, which uses cardboard counters in place of miniatures, and is thus cheap compared to using the lead, but I will point this out:

"The problem with establishing a campaign in a college club, whether it be D&D; TRAVELER, or a Napoleonics, is one of continuity. Each semester, some of the stalwarts say goodbye and depart for “the real world.” This can be especially traumatic if one of those departing owns the French Army, or what passed for it in terms of collective club figures."

Funny to think how wrapped up the game used to be with issues like this. I suppose it still goes on to this day - maybe some college kids could chime in in the comments below and let us know if they still deal with this. Personally, I'm an old fart, and I do my gaming on G+ these days.

This article is followed up by another article on System 7, by Rich Banner (the designer), called "Necessity is the Mother of Innovation". If you were into this new game, this was your lucky month, because this article is followed up by a Q&A with Banner.

Speaking of GDW (or Game Designers' Workshop), we are now treated to a full page ad for their new expansion for Traveler, Imperium - Empires in Conflict: Worlds in the Balance. Great title.

From the Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva (no longer there, I'm afraid), we have an ad for 4th Dimension, the Game of Time & Space, produced by TSR (sort of - click here for more). Apparently, you play a Time-Lord (does the hyphen grant immunity from BBC law suits?) commanding an army of Guardians, Rangers and Warriors in some sort of board game battle.

Next we get back into some D&D goodness, with "Giants in the Earth". Great series of articles, giving game stats to literary characters (why don't I do that in NOD?). This is a particular goody, because we get Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever (14th level thief, Str 15, Int 18 (56%), Wis 13, Dex 18 (93%), Con 15, Cha 16 - sounds like Vance was cheating on his dice rolls when he rolled up Cugel, and what's with the percentiles - I thought they only did that with Strength scores in AD&D?), Karl Edward Wagner's Kane (30th level fighter, 20th level magic-user, 14th level assassin - how many XP would that take?) and Talbot Mundy's Tros of Samothrace (15th level paladin). I love Cugel, I've heard of Kane (but never read him), but Tros was new to me.

Ah - this is included:

Note: For the game purposes of these heroes: Dexterity 18 (00) gives +4 on Reaction/Attacking, -5 Defensive adjustment and three attacks per round for high level fighters. Constitution 18 (00) gives fighters +4.5 per hit die bonus

Oh, and Judge's Guild (hallowed be their name) was hawking the Treasury of Archaic Names by Bill Owen. Struggle no longer for heroic character names!

Up next, "What of the Skinnies?" by James W. S. Marvin, a Starship Troopers variant. Not going to lie - caught a bit of the movie, never read the book, have never laid eyes on the game they're referencing here. This might be the greatest article on the topic ever, and I'll never know it. Moving on.

Edward C. Cooper gives some tips on "The Placement of Castles" in Lord and Wizard. Article aside, L&W sounds like a pretty cool game: "Mighty, magical holocausts, awe-inspiring Dragons, weird and terrible monsters, military battles on a grand scale. Which of the combatants, Order or Chaos, shall win? And can the forces of Neutrality maintain the precarious balance of power . . . An exciting, fast moving game of movement and combat in a fantastic world, where skill and strategy will decide the winner." Another board game - the RPG's are still in their infancy, after all, and at this point most RPG'ers have probably come to the game from board games and miniature war gaming. Makes sense.

Joe Curreri writes "35th Anniversary of D-Day Remembered". There were lots more veterans of that day alive at the time, and their kids were the ones playing all these silly games. The page also has an ad for Lyle's Hobby & Craft Center in Westmont, Illinois. Sadly, also no longer there.

In the Design Forum, James McMillan writes about "The Solo Berserker for William the Conqueror-1066". This article presents solitaire rules for the aforementioned game, with a little history on the berserkers. He includes the note that Eystein Orre, one of Harald Hadrada's men, was called "the Gorcock". If you're reading this and play a barbarian or berserker in some game, please consider renaming your character "the Gorcock". For me. For Eystein. For America.

Next up, David Sweet presents game stats for "Chinese Undead". We have stats for Lower Souls, Lost Souls, Vampire-Spectres, Sea Bonze, Celestial Stags and Goat Demons. Boy, stats were simple in those days:


Also this:

Look out!

Fantasy 15s has a full page ad for 15mm miniatures allowing you to "re-create the mass battles of Middle Earth - at prices you can afford!" I wonder if there's a source for cheap men-at-arms so fighter lords can do the same thing. The reproduction ain't great, but the art in the ad is pretty cool ...


The next article includes Boot Hill additions, revisions, and triva (!) by Michael Crane. The have a great "Fast Exact Hit Location Chart" that could be useful for duels, but also just combat in general (especially missile combat):


And, because it wouldn't be a real D&D mag from the old days ... "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme" by Carl Parlagreco. This article tries to lay out what you can and cannot do with each alignment. Helping people is something Good characters do, apparently, while trusting in organizations is something for Lawfuls. Here are a couple samples:

Chaotic Good ... will keep their word to other of good alignment, will not attack an unarmed foe, will not use poison, will help those in need, prefers to work alone, responds poorly to higher authority, and is distrustful of organizations

Neutral Evil ... will not necessarily keep their word, would attack an unarmed foe, will use poison, will not help those in need, may work with others, is indifferent to higher authority, and is indifferent to organizations.

I think this is actually a much more useful way to look at alignment that getting philosophical with it, especially for people new to the game. Of course, you need a reward/penalty mechanism with alignment to make these strictures matter.

Next is Kevin Hendryx's "Deck of Fate", with illustrations by Grey Newberry. This is a great magical tarot card deck. Characters draw cards, and get magic results based on what they draw. For example:

II - Junon - The Goddess: No effect for non-clerics. For clerics, permanently boosts their Wisdom score to 18 and gains use of one spell of the next higher level.

In other words - it's a pretty powerful magic item - an artifact really. You could probably make one heck of a quest into a band of adventurers having to retrieve all of these magic cards.

Rick Krebs now provides "D&D Meets the Electronic Age". Boy, they had no idea. Dig it:

Over the years access to photocopiers and mimeograph machines have aided many Dungeon Masters in copying maps, charts and even publishing their own zines, all to the expansion of their campaign. But, the recent electronics explosion has now brought another tool to those DMs fortunate to have access to them: the micro-computer. We were one of those fortunate groups to gain the use of a 4K (4,000 bit) memory, BASIC speaking microcomputer.
Charles Sagui now writes "Hirelings Have Feelings Too". It's a short article that provides some guidelines for paying hirelings to keep them around. According to Charles, hirelings should be payed two years salary in advance, plus a share of the spoils - either an equal share, or a percentage. Non-humans, he says, will not hire on for salary alone - except orcs - but will also demand to be supplied with equipment and weapons to go into the dungeon. Elves, he says, don't like to go into dungeons as hirelings - they like fresh air and trees too much. They don't care much for gold, but they will demand a fine cut gem or magic item + 15% of treasure. Dwarves can be greedy at times - they want four years salary and 15% of treasure. And if you try to give a +3 returning warhammer to somebody else, there's a 65% chance the dwarf will try to steal it. Orcs will go in for one year salary and 2-5% of treasure, and will only work for chaotics. They are prone to run away when confronted with a difficult fight and have a bad habit of killing their employer in his sleep and stealing all his stuff. I guess turn-about it fair play in a dungeon.

Charles also says that hireling NPCs will only go into the dungeon once - after that, they retire to blow their hard-earned gold on "strong drink and their favorite vice." Once their money is gone, they might go back in with the PC's - and if the PC's paid well last time, they'll be more loyal. Loyalty ratings for hirelings aren't used much these days, but they were an important system in a time when hirelings and henchmen were the norm for D&D.

Michael Crane also contributes "Notes from a Very Successful D&D Moderator". This is a chance, he says, for the moderators (i.e. game masters) to share their tips and tricks after many players have shared ideas for beating dungeons. The article is pretty much about one-upmanship between the DM and the players. A nice historical piece, from when the game was (and was supposed to be) a competition between the DM and the players.

Gary Gygax now chimes in with his "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" with "D&D, AD&D and Gaming". The article discusses the origins of role-playing games, of fantasy war gaming, and of role-playing within fantasy war gaming. It's a nice retrospective, and Dave Arneson's innovation of giving players individual roles to play is mentioned. Gygax also takes pains to explain that AD&D is a different game than D&D - not an expansion or revision. As Gygax explains:

"Where D&D is a very loose, open framework around which highly imaginative Dungeon Masters can construct what amounts to a set of rules and game of their own choosing, AD&D is a much tighter and more structured game system."

Which also explains why I like D&D better than AD&D. I like my games loose and imaginative. The article lays out the future of AD&D. And then this towards the end:

"For those of you who wondered why I took certain amateur publishing efforts to task, it was because they were highly insulting to TSR, D&D, this magazine, and myself."

Nerd fights. They never end.

Kevin Hendryx now presents a variant game for D&D in the modern era called "Mugger!". Welcome to the 1970's. Technically, it is Mugger! The Game of Tactical Inter-City Combat, 1979. Each player plays a mugger, gaining experience for each successful mugging and gathering loot. The goal is to "... amass as large a horde of experience points as possible while carrying out one's crimes and eventually gain a seat in the U.S. Congress ..." The times, they ain't a changin' all that much, are they?

Random encounters include 1d2 cops on their beat, 1d3 roving squad cars, 1d6 tougher muggers, 1d8 street gangs, 1d20 Hare Krishna fanatics and 4d6 stray dogs.

Oh, and you pick up 1,000 XP for stealing 10 kg of plutonium.

Here's the level chart:






It's actually a pretty long article, and though tongue-in-cheek would probably be fun to play one night with some friends. It strikes me that the old city map from Marvel Super-Heroes would come in handy on this one.

Lots of articles in this issue. Next is "Birth Tables and Social Status" for Empire of the Petal Throne, by G. Arthur Rahman. EPT was still a major component in gaming in this period, and its generally featured in every issue of The Dragon. It provides a very long table for generating birth and social status, and this translates into skills, spells and the like for the character. Looks good to me.

Apparently, Grenadier was pushing their new line of licensed Gamma World miniatures with a full page ad. You can see some unpainted models HERE and some painted ones HERE.

Len Lakofka's "Bazaar of the Bizarre" is "Blueprint for a Lich" in this issue. This is an in-depth article on how high level magic-users and clerics become liches, including a recipe that involves 2 pinches of pure arsenic and 1 measure of fresh wyvern venom (under 60 days old). Don't mix this one up at home, kiddies.

The would-be lich then drinks the concoction and rolls the D%


1-10: No effect whatsoever, other than all body hair falling out
11-40: Come for 2-7 days - the potion works!
41-70: Feebleminded until dispelled by dispel magic. Each attempt to remove the feeblemind has a 10% chance to kill the drinker if it fails. The potion works!
71-90: Paralyzed for 4-14 days. 30% chance of permanent loss of 1d6 dexterity points. The potion works!
91-96: Permanently deaf, dumb or blind. Only a full wish can regain the sense. The potion works!
97-00: DEAD - star over ... if you can be resurrected.

First - I can actually use this in the online game I'm running.

Second - awesome random table for generating liches - they're either a bit paralyzed, could be blind or deaf, or maybe are completely normal. Side-effects are a good idea for major potions.

Gary Gygax now provides tables for "Putting Together a Party on the Spur of the Moment". This generates a PC party quickly, with tables and rules for generating quick ability scores, level, armor, weapons and magic items. I think this made it into the DM's Guide. Which DMG you ask - come on, there's really only one.

Thomas Holsinger provides a "Strength Comparison Table". He provides a strength table from 0 to 18/00, with monster equivalents, hit bonuses and damage bonuses. It's inspired by Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire II. FYI - Leprechauns are stronger than Brownies, and Pixies are stronger than Leprechauns, just in case you were going to run an all-fey remake of Over the Top. (Google it!)

Jeff Neufeld now provides a review of a play-by-mail game called Tribes of Crane (which is mis-written as Tribes of Tome in the first sentence). We also have reviews of Ice War. (Soviet/US confrontation), Mercenary (a Traveller book), The Battle of Monmouth and Grenadier Figure Packs and a very long review of Battle Sphere with lots of cool illustrations.

The Dragon's Bestiary (formerly Featured Creature) presents the barghest, so you now know which decade to blame for those little bastards.

Next comes "The Adventures of Fineous Fingers, Fred & Charly".


Who says old school fantasy is all about scantily clad females?

Great article title by Rod Stephens - "The Thief: A Deadly Annoyance". Amen to that. He laments the misuse of thieves in dungeons, because they're really meant for urban environments, where they can steal from high-level NPC's and other players - because PC's have more money than just about anybody in the game. He isn't wrong.

We finish up with some full page ads for GenCon XII, TSR's new game Divine Right (notes that T.M. Reg. has been applied for - so don't try anything funny) and Space Gamer (subscribe to get a free game - Ogre, Chitin I, Melee, WarpWar or Rivets).

A packed issue, and a reminder that The Dragon was a full-bodied gaming magazine at the time, and not just TSR's house organ.

Hope you enjoyed the review - have a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Oh - and I couldn't resist ... your ear holes will not thank me!


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