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.

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