First and foremost, we have a cover that reminds me of some of the pinball machines of the era, or perhaps the side of the bitchin'est van to ever ply the byways of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Article #1: Vampires in the Dungeon by Clayton J. Miner
The article seems to work off the notion that vampires are total party killers, which may be true, depending on the level of the party. The article goes on to explain why, taking into account their different abilities and how to use them to best effect - including charming multiple party members and having them wait to be drained of blood later, using the dungeon rodents as a spy network, etc. Some of the article seems to assume things about vampires that I don't think were addressed in the rules - i.e. the older a vampire is, the more resistant it is to holy symbols (which may be true, if you're considering the vampire's Hit Dice correspond with age). It also posits the best ways to destroy a vampire. Not a bad article, but to be frank, the monster description and a little imagination from referees and players would be just as good.
Article #2: Chainmail Revisited - Jousting in D&D by Jon Pickens
Ah - anyone who has tilted in the FLAILSNAILS Jousting Tournaments run by the excellent Mike Davison is already aware of these rules. This article works on addressing a few perceived shortcomings of the rules, i.e. "I’m a Lord, and he’s a lowly Level 1. IT ISN’T FAIR!"
There is also a cartoon from Will McLean, who will go on to be, in my opinion, one of the shining lights of Dragon's humor department for many years to come.
Article #3: Dragonlord review by Glenn Williams
If I'm honest, I never spent much time reading reviews in Dragon Magazine. Reading reviews to old games is even less interesting to me, but I'm going to do it anyways. Williams finds the art, by Morno, to be top drawer. The game concerns battles between dragon riders. Williams points out that the map, while pretty, is screwed up because it shows everything from the side, when it really should be top-down. In addition, the map sections do not align correctly, and the grid is a set of Cartesian squares - a hex grid would have been better. The rules, Williams says, are also too complex. Still, he likes the concept, and thinks the game can be improved, such as playing it with the Warriors of the Green Planet map.
I couldn't find the game online for sale, but there are some other Wee Warriors products at EBay.
Article #4: Faceless Men and Clockwork Monsters
Why wasn't that the name of an actual game? This article presents a Dungeons & Dragons adventure aboard the Starship Warden (from Metamorphosis Alpha). I'm pretty familiar with this story, but if you haven't read of this genre-bending excursion, you should try to find it.
Next comes a great add from Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures, proclaiming the war between the Saurian Empire and Amphibian Confederacy. Love the art ...
I think I get more inspiration from the ads of Dragon Magazine than the articles - quick, dynamic ideas with catchy art.
Article #5: A Wizard with a Difference by James M. Ward
Love the editor's note ...
"ED. Note: The following is recommended as a source of bedevilment to be used by DM on their NPC’s. Some of the possibilities here will drive the average group of PC’s wild when trying to deal with running NPC‘s."
Prepare for a piece of pure opinion by yours truly - D&D is more fun when the DM is trying to kill the characters. I don't mean by cheating, but by being a clever, inventive bastard.
The article presents the idea of specialist wizards, using the following types: "Wizard of Aggression", "Wizard of Defense", "Wizard of All Things Rustic", "Wizard of Control", "Wizard of Tenaciousness" (yeah, I'm picturing Jack Black), "Wizard of Detection", "Wizard of Fire" and "Wizard of Movement". One can see some overlap with the later specialists - Conjurer, Necromancer, etc., but these do sound more fun.
The concept is that these wizards get two spells of their specialty per level (I think, the rules could be a bit clearer) and have a percentage chance of casting them based on the level of the spell and the level of the magic-user. Ward suggests these wizards are best used as NPC's, which is a good point. The average NPC has a short lifespan in combat, so doesn't necessarily need a vast list of spells, many of which are designed for exploration, which the NPC doesn't need.
There are plenty of new spells or modified spells - a really fun article to read.
Article #6: Sights & Sounds in Dungeons & Dragons
Another one of those darned useful sets of random tables, this one for random sounds and random sights in a dungeon. Both use a d20, though the sounds table actually runs to 21, with 21 being a bit of a joke (rattling dice/dungeon master's scream of anguish/garbage disposal/etc.)
Article #7: Variant Monster Dept.
This article gathers a few monsters, including the Magic Munchkin by Michael Kolakowski, the Scholar by Patricia LaPointe, and the Crs'tchen by Dennis Chapman. I love the fact that none of them share the same statistical arrangement - heck, the Munchkin has no stats to speak of. Just for fun, I'll convert the Scholar for Blood & Treasure:
Medium humanoid, Neutral (N), High Intelligence; Symposium (1d10+10)
HD: 1 to 3
ATK: By weapon
SV: 1 HD = F15 R15 W12 / 2 HD = F14 R15 W12 / HD 3 = F12 R14 W11
XP: 1 HD = 100 (CL 2) / 2 HD = 200 (CL 3) / 3 HD = 300 (CL 4)
Scholars are short, bearded men in tweed robes with leather patches on the elbows. They smoke foul-smelling pipes than can produce enough smoke to provide an obscuring mist. There are three levels of scholars.
Instrictors (1 HD) know two spells, confusion and read obscure languages. Confusion is cast by answering a simple question, the answer being in an obscure language.
Associate Profussors (2 HD) know three more spells: Fear, time stop and book missiles. Fear takes effect after muttering about term papers being due. Book missiles works as magic missile, save the books inflict 1d8 points of damage.
Fool Profussors (3 HD) have three ultimate spells. The first is power word stun (the incantation being "Surprise Quiz Today"). Academic dust does 3d6 points of damage and can paralyze the mind for 2-4 turns. The final spell is cause boredom, which works as a sleep spell that affects any level/HD of creature.
One powerful incantation causes scholars to be seized by instant cardiac arrest - "Tenure denied".
Article #8: The Monk and Bard in 'DUNGEON!' by Jon Pickens
Always love Pickens' stuff. This one introduces the bard and monk into games of DUNGEON!. I love that game - so sorry that I got rid of my copy years ago. I need to find a copy online (and yeah, I know Hasbro is going to do a reprint - I'd rather have an old game - I'm weird that way).
Article #9: Tesseracts by Gary Jordan
These have been covered nicely at Aeons & Auguries. Jordan covers putting cubic tesseracts into a dungeon do drive map makers nuts. A worthy goal!
Article #10: Ogre Piece by Piece by Jerry Epperson
I'll admit it. I played it years ago, and found it somewhat boring. If you do love the game and want some variations from 1978, find this article.
Article #11: Design Journal - Boredom and the Average D&D Dungeon by James Ward
If you know James Ward, you know "average" probably ain't happening in any dungeon he's written. In this article, he described the idea of filling new dungeon levels with "areas of history" - i.e. themed sections based on history, like an Ancient Egypt area with minions of Set, evil high priests of Set, an 11th level grave robber thief, etc. He also covers Ancient India, The Far East and The Future Machine Age. Good advice, of course, especially for fun-house dungeons.
Article #12: A Short History of Adamantite by Charles Sagui
Short indeed. He labels adamantite as an alloy of Mithril, Carbon, Iron and a few secret ingredients - technically known as Mithriferral Carbide. It is 4/5 the weight of steel, and provides a +2 on AC and hit probability for weapons. It is much more expensive to work and much more difficult to enchant. Sagui gives some prices for different armors (plate armor is 20,000 gp, chainmail 14,000 gp, daggers 1,500 gp) as well.
Article #13: Messengers of God: Angels in Dungeons & Dragons by Stephen H. Dorneman
Dorneman introduces the idea (new at the time, of course) of some non-omnipotent Lawful beings to counter all those devils and demons. He describes four types of angels - Type I (Angel of Wrath), Type II (Angel of Healing), Type III (Archangel of Mercy) and Type IV (Seraphim). Honestly, it never occurred to me to use "types" of angels to counter the "types" of demons. Neat article.
Article #14: Natural Armor for Monsters in Monsters, Monsters by Doug Miller
This one is just what it sounds like. If you don't have Monsters, Monsters, it won't do much for you.
Fineous Fingers is saved from the Antipaladin by the evil wizard, because he needs a thief - not a bad way to handle an encounter in your next game, especially if the needed character is a major pain in the ass to the rest of the party.
Wormy plays a nasty trick on some goblins and tree trolls.
Article #15: Warp War review by Tony Watson
Warp War was a mini-game by Metagaming (click here for Warp War on Boardgame Geek).
From the description, it almost sounds like Car Wars in space - you have to build your ships and then use them to fight over star systems. Watson likes it, and I must admit it sounds fun.
And that brings us to the end. This one is pretty packed, with lots of great articles. Definitely one to look out for!