Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dragon by Dragon ... October 1978

Hey - almost have my months synced here! October 1978 and Dragon blows in with what appears to be a pretty full issue. Let's begin ...

First thing I see this issue, other than the editorial, is "The Battle for Snurre's Hall", the tournament for the Origins '78 D&D Tournament. Good recap of the winning team's tactics, and reminds you of the game aspect that I think sometimes gets buried under the "role play" aspect.

How Many Ettins Is a Fire Giant Worth: Competitive D&D by Bob Blake

And then this article reminds me of the importance of role play in the game. Basically, this is an article about scoring competitive modules. Given my intense interest in such things ...

A Compendium of Diverse D&D Player Personalities by Mike Crane

Hmmm ... maybe the next article holds something interesting ...

Gamma World - A New List of Treasures To Be Found by Gary Gygax

Thanks EGG! A nice random table (1-100) of relics for Gamma World. We have a home donut maker, wire cutters in fair condition (an amazing find), a plastic box of 50-100 assorted screws (you know these are going to be used to stud a club, right), a leather bag of dice, etc.

Gamma World - More Excerpts from the Journals of Hald Sevrin by Gary Jaquet

This one covers the history of Gamma World in the Black Years. Apparently, it was hard, but people adapted.


Or "Wormy 8 Ball" to my 12-year old brain.

Wormy swoops in (thank God) and provides some light entertainment - if you consider a tree troll being ripped apart light entertainment. Beware blue demons!

The thing that always made me wonder about Wormy was the trolls. Trolls were supposed to be complete bastards, right? But these guys were pretty cool. As a kid, the Monster Manual was as canon as it came, and this was the first introduction I had to "it's my world, I can do whatever I want". Good training for a young DM.

The Lowdown on Wishes by Kevin Thompson

The thing is, wishes have absolutely no place in a game. In a story, they're fine. But in a game, nothing but trouble. Great line ...

"Most DM’s want to be fair about wishes but don’t want Player characters to take undue advantage. So they kill them."

The article tries to get into the science behind wishes. Mildly interesting, but very "campaign world" specific in a way. The idea is that wish spells are empowered into devices by wizards to allow non-wizards to use magic. They may vary in strength, and might have alignment restrictions as well (i.e. a lawful wish cannot be used for something chaotic). Thompson divides wishes into four classes:

CLASS I: Creates purely physical (mundane) objects or occurrences

CLASS II: Creates living, non-magical beings, weak magical equipment and duplicates magic-user spells up to 5th level

CLASS III: Creates living, magical beings (but only the weakest type), moderately strong magic items and can duplicate any magic-user spell and cleric spells up to 4th

CLASS IV: Can do almost anything except granting more wishes in any way, shape or form.

Not a bad schema, really.

Planning Creative Treasurers by Dave Schroeder

Dave gets into thinking more about treasures - why is that orc carrying a bunch of gems, for example, or using a theme with a treasure horde. He refers to these as toolkits, for example ...

"A thief’s toolkit could contain a +1 dagger, a gem that glows in the presence of traps, a set of Gauntlets of Dexterity, a skeleton key that would raise its user’s chances of opening locks, or a pair of “waldos”, that would allow him to open trapped chests from a distance. Don’t forget a periscope for peeking around corners, or perhaps a bag of holding for the loot. Disappearance Dust would be useful, as would a Gauntlet of Etherealness that would let pouches and pockets be picked tracelessly."

The Mythos of Australia by Jerome Arkenberg

Another in the line of mythos articles, and if you've ever dipped your toes into the Australian myths, you know they are quite interesting and tough to adapt to D&D. The beauty of the Greek and Norse myths is that so many of them read like comic books.

Systematic Magic by Robin W. Rhodes

I love it when geeks begin "rationally" explaining why it makes no sense that a magic-user with charm person in his book could ever earn enough gold/experience to figure out hypnotic pattern, since charm person is clearly a control spell and hypnotic pattern a mental spell.

Spells here are divided into these different categories, which have different prime requisites. Control spells, for example, have charisma as a prime requisite, while nature spells have constitution as their prime. Holy spells only have the lawful alignment as their prime requisite.

Lawful characters begin with two holy spells. Neutrals get one 1st level spell from (I guess, the language is confusing) the category that matches their highest ability score. Chaotics aren't mentioned, and a character can never have more than two new spells at any one time.

The chance to miscast a spell is equal to the level of the spell divided by the prime requisite. So, dispel magic, a 3rd level defense spell, would have a 3/15 chance of miscast if the caster had a constitution of 15, i.e. 20% chance of miscast. DM determines the side effects of a miscast spell.

Casting a spell costs one point of its prime requisite per spell level - so that dispel magic spell would cost 3 points of constitution. One point is recovered for every turn (minute or 10 minutes, depending on the version of the game) not spent in melee.

A new spell must be successfully cast once per spell level before the caster can learn another spell of that level.

Only two fields of magic can be learned at a time.

A bit fiddly, but a neat idea. Wonder how it works in real play. Again, though, you can see the future divides of gaming even at this early stage - more rules vs. fewer rules, "logic" vs. gonzo, etc.

The Fastest Guns That Never Lived, Part III by Allen Hammack

This third in a series examines several more characters from western shows and gives them Boot Hill stats, including Bret, Bart and Beau Maverick, Will and Jeff Sonnet, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, James Coburn (fuck, I want to play James Coburn in a game of Boot Hill), Robert Vaughn, Tim Straum, Kid Shelleen and Jason McCord. I love that the article mashes up characters and actors.

A Mixture of Magic and Technology: Gamma World Review by Robert Barger

When people say magic and technology don't mix, it really burns the author. Hallmark of a geek - being annoyed at differing opinions. He mostly covers the ease with which one can combine Gamma World and D&D, which is something I like as well. Moving on ...

Spell Determination for Hostile Magic-Users by Steve Miller

This is a quick article to randomly determine what spells an NPC magic-user might have, inspired by a bunch of players bitching when a randomly encountered enchanter threw and ice storm and fireball at them and wiped out their PCs. My response to this problem ...

Honestly, it is good to vary the spells a bit, but on the other hand, do players ever apologize for destroying the kick-ass villain you designed in some dungeon you worked all month to stock? No, they don't. You shouldn't either.

Charts for Determining the Location of Treasure by Ronald Guritzky

Nice random table of treasure locations - very helpful when you write a lot of this stuff.

1) The location of the treasure
1-6 Chest
7-9 Urn
10-12 Bag
13-13 Pot
16-17 Loose
18 Carried
19 Hidden (Wall, Floor, Secret Compartment, etc.)
20 Ref’s Choice

2) There is a one in four chance that a treasure has a trap in it.
3) Traps
01-20 1-8 Daggers (1 in 6 poison)
21-36 1-6 Arrows
37-46 1-3 Spears (1 in 6 poison)
47-62 Gas
63-78 Poison Lock
79-88 Monster in Chest (Pay attention to monster’s size)
89-92 Exploding Chest (2-7 dice of damage)
93-95 Chest Does a Spell At Person
96 Chest Acts as Mirror of Life Trapping
97 Intelligent Chest (2nd -7th Level Magic User)
98 Lose One Level of Experience
99 Lose One Magic Item
00 Roll Twice

4) Gasses (Roll 6 sided die for first digit and 4 sided die for second digit)
11-12 Obscures Vision (Players run into each other, miss treasure, etc.)
13-14 Blinds Player 01-100 Hours
21-22 Fear During Next 2-9 Fights
23-24 Sleep 6-36 Rounds
31 + 1-4 Points to Random Ability (8 hours) (1 in 10 permanent)
32-33 Sick: Return to Surface (1 in 6 in coma)
34 Paralyzation
41 Stone
42 Death!!
43 Polymorph to Monster or Animal 10’R.
44 Amnesia (1-20 days, 1 in 6 permanent)
51-52 Change Alignment
53-54 Slow (As slow spell)
61-62 Haste (As haste spell)
63 Cloud Kill
64 Go Berserk! Attack Friends!

I dig this ad for Star Trek miniatures. Even though Star Wars gets more notice, I think Trek, being born of episodic TV, might be a better fit for RPG's

Footsteps in the Sky by ???

Fiction ...

"All he could do was walk on the air as normals could walk on land and his four older brothers repeatedly told him that it was the most useless of all mental mutations. After Reveral’s long training sessions for manhood, he was finally beginning to believe his brothers’ taunts. His oldest brother Fer-in and his next oldest, Serpt, both could teleport themselves vast distances and had easily passed their tests of manhood. Karn, the brother closest to him in age, could read minds and, with great effort, control them, given time. He was even now on his test of manhood, but no one doubted that soft spoken Karn would do anything but succeed. Reveral was starting to be concerned with his own chances at surviving the test."
Wormy Again ...

He's back, and that blue demon just bit a giant pool cue hard.

And that does it for October 1978. A few nice articles, a few that did nothing for me at all. Have fun this weekend!

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