Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - August 1980

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

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


AUGUST 1980 DRAGON TOP TEN

#1 - PEOPLE CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING

A letter to the editor:

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

Apparently, the modules were "filler".

AD BREAK

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


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

#2 - THE DUELING ROOM

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

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


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

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

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

SIDE TREK

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

Now you know.

#3 - FLAMING OIL

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

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

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

Only you can prevent fire damage
1 - Make attack roll. If you miss, roll d12 to determine which direction (1 = "1 o'clock") it goes.

2 - Roll d20 - on a "1" it didn't break, on a "2" it didn't light.

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

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

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

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

#4 - THE OTHER WERE

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

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


And dig that werejaguar illustration that accompanied the article.

AD BREAK

I thought this ad was unique:


I'm guessing the art for Spellbinder was late ...

#5 - GIVING THE UNDEAD THEIR DUE

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

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

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

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

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

#6 - INTERNATIONAL MEN OF MYSTERY

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

SIDE TREK

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


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

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Read more about it
#7 - MONSTERS

Josh Susser created a pretty cool monster for this issue. The fire-eye lizard is something like a tiny dragon (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet) with blazing, luminescent eyes it can use to blind creatures. It can also make a prismatic sphere of its own color that lasts for 3
turns. Lizards of different colors can cooperate to add layers to the sphere or lizards of the same color can make larger spheres with a longer duration.

Here are the Blood & Treasure stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment:

  1. Another good job by you. Love the old dragon issues

    ReplyDelete

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