Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - March 1980

This week (or month, depending on how you look at it), The Dragon greets us with a very 1980's bit of Cold War schtick - a couple commies about to get whooped by either a bunch of heavily armed and magical snowmen, or some U.S. Marines in disguise. Either way, not a good day for the Russkis. Luckily, we'll never have to worry about Russia actively trying to conquer its neighbors ... never mind.

Let's dive in!

#1. From Avant-Garde to Mainstream

From the Dragon Rumbles column:

"Judging from the 43rd Hobby Industry of America trade show, held Jan. 27-30 in Anaheim,
Calif., our once lonely pastime has arrived with a
vengeance. According to what the buyers and store owners were saying, adventure gaming (for want of another term) is booming, with the heavy emphasis on fantasy. Sales of Advanced D&D DMG bear this out; it is the best-selling game/gamebook of all time."

I wonder if that still holds. From what I understand, sales back in the old days were much higher than they are now.
#2. Oops

I did a thing a while back about type-o spells. In an article on errata in the AD&D books, Allen Hammack introduces a few screwed up magic items:

RING OF THREE WITCHES— Rather self-explanatory. It looks like any other magic ring and will radiate a dweomer if detected for. If summoned or commanded to function or if a wish is made upon it, the three witches (each a 20th level chaotic evil Magic-User) will issue forth and wreak havoc.

CUBE OF FARCE —Upon pressing this cube, a field of force will spring up just as in the Cube of Force, but on the interior of the cubic field the operator of the Cube is subjected to 6 different “comedies” at the same time, and must save vs. spell or he will be insane for 1-10 rounds. The “comedies” are “Gilligan’s Island”, “Hee Haw”, “Hello, Larry” , “I Love Lucy”, “Good Times”, and “The White House Press Conference.”

CARPET OF FRYING— When this magic carpet is sat upon and commanded to do anything, it will paralyze the person(s) on the carpet (save applicable), causing the person(s) to stretch out along its length. It will then begin to radiate a temperature of 375° F. and continue until the victim is well-done. Needless to say, the smell of frying human (or halfling or elf or dwarf or gnome or half-orc) will attract any monsters in the area who are fond of such delicacies.

WAND OF LIGHTENING —This wand, whether directed at an opponent or oneself, will cause the operator to gradually become weightless. Once the wand is activated it cannot be stopped until the process is complete (5 rounds). Treat as gaseous form to see if the victim is blown by air currents, although the victim will obviously not be able to pass through cracks or holes. See what messing up one little letter in a spell can do?

#3. Black Holes!

In an article on Traveller variants by James Hopkins, we get a neat little table on random black holes:


Finally a new one from Ral Parth - The Clerics

The one on the left look a little dramatic, huh? The one on the right is calling his shot before he knocks a goblin head over the fence. You can buy them here.

#4. Experience Points

Len Lakofka does an alternative way to hand out XP. Here's the quick rundown:

1. A character amasses at least one half of the experience points he or she needs to gain a promotion (level) (an option allows this percentage to be as low as 30% for a 20th level figure).

2. He or she seeks a person (preferably) two or more levels higher but of the same race and alignment, to train him or her in the skills needed to fully gain the new level.

3. The cost of this training varies from as little as 10 s.p. for 1 x. p. to as much as 2 g.p. for 1 x.p.

4. The training time is computed in days or fractions of days, and during that period the figures are bound in what amounts to a sworn oath in the name of their Gods to be honorable, faithful
and loyal to one another.

Why are experience points given to a character? The methods are:

1. For killing opponents (“monsters”), as per AD&D.

2. For defeating, subduing, enspelling opponents (“monsters”), a one-half award. (Note: killing an enspelled monster still only gains the half award unless the killing is done immediately and not after questioning or having the figure perform some act )

3. For learning the use of magic items (per the awards in the Dungeon Masters Guide for magic items) by experiment and experience, NEVER from the use of a spell or through magic in a

4. From protracted use of an item (weapons and armor, etc. )

5. For certain one-time uses of an item in an “adventure situation.”

6. For acts directly related to a character’s profession.

I've admitted in the past that I was a terrible AD&D player, because I never really read the books. I was a Moldvay/Cook punk who grabbed classes, spells, monsters and magic items from AD&D, but I never really used the rules. So the bit about XP for learning to use magic items is interesting - I always figured you just got fat XP for finding a magic item. Maybe you did in AD&D, or maybe I missed the actual rule. I have no idea. Guess I'll break out the DMG and find out later today.

#5. Same Crap, Different Decade 
"Unfortunately, not all particular wargame enthusiasts are able to “minimize losses and maximize gains.” Frequently, wargames allow individual players to display some extreme prodigality, giving bystanders the impression that wargamers are nothing but impassive warmongers who are bent upon destruction, with all its violent emotions, whatever the cost may be. These “war-moralizers” feel that a new race of fascists and communists will be born, with the instinctive impressions that war and its wastefulness is the way of life. Moreover, other groups of “war-moralizers” say that wargaming is an act of practicing the willful murder of mankind condemned by God. And all of this moralizing comes from just playing a game!"

Sound familiar. These days, the emotionally immature are playing the "disagreement = violence" argument, but it all boils down to the same damn thing - tyranny. One person or group gets to direct the lives of all others - what they may say, may do, how they do it, etc.

I want to make sure folks know that Theron Kuntz, in this article, is lamenting and arguing against the bullshit moralizers of the period.

If you love freedom - yours as well as the freedom of others to piss you off - Fight On!

#6. Touched (Really Hard) by an Angel

William Fawcett has a nice article on angels (which of course first has to assure the religious that this is make-believe, so get that pissy look off your face). The article gives you a look at the history of angels (or of lesser divine beings, if you prefer), the hierarchy of Heaven, and then stats for the different angels.

You get seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels of the ninth order. All the classics. Makes me want to write an overpowered angel PC class using those as the level titles ... maybe next week.

Here's a sample, using Blood and Treasure stats.

Angel of the Ninth Order

Size/Type: Large Outsider
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 21 [+1]
Attack: 1 strike (4d6)
Movement: 30 (Fly 60)
Saves: F8 R8 W8
Resistance: Magic 50%
Alignment: Lawful (LG)
Intelligence: High
No. Appearing: 1 or 1d4
XP: 2,000

Spells: At will--cure light wounds, purify food & drink, hold person, tongues, plane shift (others), speak with dead, blade barrier, cure disease; 1/day--control weather.

#7. Giants in the Earth

I always enjoy Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay's GitE articles. This issue features:

Cecelia Holland's MUIRTAGH THE BOWMAN (16th level bard, 7th level fighter, 5th level thief) - with a great piece by Erol Otus. And, it turns out she was born right here in Southern Nevada, in Henderson, back when it was a factory town producing magnesium for the war effort.

H. Rider Haggard's UMSLOPOGAAS (15th level fighter)

Henry Kuttner's EDWARD BOND (9th level fighter)

Henry Kuttner's GANELON (25th level fighter) - with some very early Jeff Dee artwork

They also detail the Sword of Llyr from Kuttner. The sword doubles Ganelon's psionic strength and ability, and gives him some extra psionic disciplines: Invisibility, ESP, Body Equilibrium, Expansion, Mass Domination and Teleportation.

#8. Quickfloor

You've heard of quicksand (especially if you're my age), but Stephen Zagieboylo invented magical "quickfloor" for dungeons. People sink in 1d4+3 rounds (or 1d4+2 if in chainmail, 1d4+1 in platemail). The first person in the marching order has a 40% chance of noticing it, halflings have a 60% chance. Characters have a chance to cross safely based on their dexterity - For 3-5 a 10% chance, for 6-9 a 25% chance, for 10-13 a 50% chance, for 14-16 a 80% chance and for 17-18 a 90% chance. If you tie a rope between two wooden posts that flank the quickfloor, you create a magic bridge that allows people to cross safely, but kills anyone already in the quickfloor (I guess by solidifying it).


Q: Who was the top ranked AD&D player in the U.S.A. in 1980?

A. Bob Blake

Now you know.

#9. Citadel Miniatures

Great ad from Citadel, with their characteristically great mini illustrations.

Now, what can we do with this ad?

Idea 1 - Make a game. Pick a miniature, or do a die drop and see what you land on - that's your character. Use Risus or something to get some stats, equipment, etc and then invade the Tomb of Horrors.

Idea 2 - The spacefarer miniatures look like a rough draft for Rogue Trader and Warhammer 40,000. Reimagine what the game would have looked like with these illustrations as your guide. Imperial Marines with puffy sleeves instead of bulky armor.


Yeah, the last bit was an ad as well, but check these out ...

We have an OSR for tabletop games ... is there also an OSR for old-style computer rpgs? Honestly don't know - but I bet they'd make great apps for smart phones.

Coming soon to these reviews ...

No wormy in this issue, so I'll leave you with this image from the "Oasis" short story by Cynthia Frazer

So, I need to write an Angel PC class, and a Beastrider class this week.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Spell - New Monster - New Class

Just a few things that popped into my head lately ...


Alter Voice
Level: Magic-user 0
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 hour

This spell permits you to alter your voice, mimicking another voice you have heard perfectly. It does not enable you to speak another language, of course. The spell also alters your inner voice, permitting you to fool creatures through the medium of telepathy.

(I've watch lots of old movies and TV shows, in which characters have an uncanny ability to duplicate other character's voices, especially over the phone)


Zoophytic Mangler
Size/Type: Medium Elemental
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 17 [+1]
Attack: 2 slams (1d8)
Movement: 20
Saves: F10 R12 W12
Alignment: Neutral (N)
Intelligence: Non-
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 600 (CL 18)

A zoophytic mangler is an quasi-elemental creature raised from the sea floor by aquatic mages who have learned the spell. The creature is composed of a core of dead coral. Its exterior is covered with hundreds of beautiful, flower-like living corals. These corals exude a poisonous mist that surrounds the monster to a radius of 20'. Any creature breathing this mist must pass a Fortitude save at -2 or be affected as per Poison III. Those who do save are still sickened, and remain sickened for 1 hour after they leave the monster's presence. This mist works in the open air and underwater.

(Just read a story about a venomous coral that has sickened quite a few folks)


Knight of Flowers

I drew this!
Knights of flowers are a variation on the paladin class. It is only open to halflings, gnomes and other small fey folk. A knight of flowers differs from the paladin as follows:

They must be good in alignment, but can be lawful good (the Rose Order), neutral good (the Lily Order) or chaotic good (the Daffodil Order).

They are skilled in nature lore and flower arranging, rather than riding

Can detect poison at will, instead of evil

Learns to turn plant creatures and evil fey, instead of undead

Instead of a gaining a special warhorse, they gain the ability to draw special abilities from wreaths of different flowers. The wreath must be woven by a maiden, dryad or nymph, and the magical potency of the flowers lasts for one adventure. The knight of flowers can only wear one wreath at a time:

  +1 to hit Evil -- chestnut

  +1 to Charisma tasks -- dahlia, daisy, dandelion, plum blossom

  +1 to Fortitude saves -- ivy

  +1 to Intelligence tasks -- cherry blossom, lilac, pansy

  +1 to Strength tasks -- laurel

  +1 to Will saves -- gladiolus

  +1 to melee damage -- fennel, oak leaf

  +2 to save vs. disease and poison -- lily

   1 re-roll (d20) per day -- gardenia

  Animal Friendship (1/day) -- magnolia

  Bane (1/day) -- lobelia

  Calm Emotions (1/day) -- bullrush, olive

  Charm Monster (1/day) -- orchid

  Charm Person (1/day) -- amaranth, carnation, jasmine, chrysanthemum, coriander, honeysuckle, tulip

  Color Spray (1/day) -- iris

  Command (1/day) -- heliotrope, thistle

  Crushing Despair (1/day) -- yellow rose, rue

  Cure Light Wounds (1/day) -- Eglantine rose, lotus

  Daze (1/day) -- wormwood

  Detect Magic (1/day) -- witch-hazel

  Disrupt Undead (1/day) -- cypress

  Fool's Gold (1/day) -- buttercup

  Good Hope (1/day) -- delphinium, peony

  Hold Person (1/day -- mistletoe

  Inflict Light Wounds (1/day) -- marigold

  Light (1/day) -- sunflower

  Magic Weapon (1/day) -- red rose

  Protection from Evil (1/day) -- baby's breath

  Protection from Normal Missiles (1/day) -- heather

  Ray of Frost (1/day) -- hydrangea

  Silence (1/day) -- white rose

  Sleep (1/day) -- poppy

  Speak with Dead (1/day) -- asphodel

  Surprised on d8 -- begonia

  Tongues (1/day) -- balm

Can neutralize poison instead of curing disease

Casts spells from the druid spell list, instead of the paladin list

Otherwise, they have the paladin's special abilities

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Prank [New Spell]

I've been quite busy with real life the last week - you might note that I didn't get a Dragon By Dragon out last Sunday - so I'm forcing myself to stop and write this.

Level: Illusionist 1
Range: Close (30', 50' for gnomes)
Duration: See below

The prank spell permits the illusionist to carry out one of several classic pranks, as follows.

  Blacken: Causes a black ring to appear around a person's eye when using a spyglass
  Blat: Causes a roar of flatulence to blast out when somebody within range sits down

  Burn: Causes a bite of food to become extremely spicy; the victim must pass a Fortitude savinv throw or spit the food out, drink lots of water and generally carry on for a round

  Dribble: Causes liquid to dribble from a vessel on a person's shirt

  Kick: Causes an illusory "kick me" sign to appear on the person's back; the first person (other than the spellcaster) who sees it must pass a Will saving throw to resist the temptation

  Mark: Causes an illusory mustache and goatee (and perhaps blackens a tooth) on the target
  Slip: Causes a banana to appear under a person's feet (Reflex save to avoid slipping)

  Sneeze: Causes the victim to break into a sneezing fit for 1 round if they fail a Fortitude save

  Squirt: Permits any flower within range to squirt a person in the face with water

  Tinkle: Causes a sensation of warm water on a sleeping person's hand; they must pass a Fortitude save or have an accident

Some effects are instantaneous. Otherwise, the prank lasts for 1 minute per spellcaster level. Once the spell is cast, the illusionist has one turn (10 minutes) to activate the effect. Only one effect can be created with each casting of the spell.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Monster and New Games!

A couple things today - first, a new monster:


Size/Type: Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 16 [Silver]
Attack: 2 claws (1d4)
Movement: 30
Saves: F13 R13 W11
Resistance: Magic 10%
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)Intelligence: Average
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 1,250 (CL 7)

A dead eyes is an undead monster. It looks like a beautiful man or woman with frightening, dead eyes, black as night and absent of the spark of life. The monster lurks in caves or ruins, startling people first from the surprise appearance of a beautiful stranger in the wilderness, and then by the attack that follows.

A dead eyes hates beauty and happiness, and does what it can to destroy it. The monster can attack physically, even though it is semi-insubstantial, but its more potent attack is its gaze. The gaze of a dead eyes causes first physical numbness in the extremities, and then spiritual numbness.

The physical numbness takes the form of halving the character's movement rate and a cumulative -1 penalty to hit and damage and AC each round, to a maximum of a -3 penalty. The spiritual numbness takes the form of first the crushing despair spell, and the next round the hold monster spell and the third round the loss of 1 level to energy drain per round.


Swords & Sandals is a quick and easy role playing game based on old-fashioned gladiator and Hercules movies. Set in a fantasy Greco-Roman world, players take on the role of centurions, gladiators and sibyls, striving for gold and glory by fighting monsters and conquering cities. All you need to play is pencil, paper, a few ordinary dice, these rules, a few friends and a free afternoon. 37 pages. PDF ... $3.19

Manbot Warriors: Remember the great sci-fi cartoons of the 1970's and 1980's? Well, Manbot Warriors isn't one of them ... but it could have been. Manbot Warriors is a quick and easy roleplaying game set in a sci-fi universe where heroic manbot warriors defend the peaceful citizens of the galaxy from the evil of the Galactic Core. Easy to learn and easy to play, it requires only a pencil, paper, a few ordinary dice and these rules. 19 pages. PDF ... $2.99

I'll have the print books up for sale soon - just need to get the review copies.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - February 1980

One of the fun things for me about doing these reviews, besides just exploring all the great "forgotten" material produced for our favorite games, is the covers. I didn't get into D&D until around 1984, and didn't know about Dragon Magazine until maybe a couple years after that, so these are all new to me. This month's cover is, I think, particularly cool. An army working its way down a defile to face a decidedly chaotic-looking castle. The cover was painted by Ken Rahman, aka Elladan Elrohir.

Well, what are the top ten cool things to be found in The Dragon #34? Let's see ...


From "Out on a Limb", a letter by Robert T. Willis III

"I would like to correct some numbers that appeared in “How Tall is a Giant?” (TD31). In the article, 3mm figures were equated with 1/500 scale, and the reader was led to expect that his rational guess of 1/600 was blatantly wrong. As a math major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I would like to point out that the article was wrong—3mm figures are actually 1/600 scale (1/609.6 is the exact number).

Since 3mm = 3/25.4 inches = 3/(25.4 x 12) feet = 3/304.8 feet, the scale is (3/304.8)/6 because the figure represents a man 6’ tall. This number is 1/609.6 which can be rounded to 1/600."


I know next to nothing about Divine Right by TSR, which is unfortunate since this issue devotes a great deal of time and energy to that game. That said, there's usually something useful to be found in any game, and I thought these two tables might be useful:

Tombs and curses. I can imagine using this when dealing with large armies tromping across hex maps on the way to besiege a stronghold and coming across some mini-dungeon. Roll on the dice, lose the dice roll as a percent of your troops, and use that percentage chance for each named character in your army to die (allow a saving throw if you must - if they save, they do not die, but they may not participate in the battle).


Samuel Gill, in "Up on a Soap Box" presents a few ideas for wargame campaigns that twist actual history around a bit, such as a Mexican-Texican War in 1842 (which kinda sorta happened, though not on a huge scale), Mediterranean fleet action in WW1, assuming the Italians had not defaulted on their commitments to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and a revival of hostilities between France and Prussia in 1886.

This brings up not only the idea of using similar historical what-ifs for RPG campaigns, modern and medieval, but also twisting the history of your own campaign world. Imagine the characters in a long-standing campaign waking up to find the world they know changed in major ways, and having to figure out how the bad guys (or good guys, if the party is evil) did it, and how to get things back to normal - or maybe they cannot and now have to start from square one!

Sam's article gives numerous other examples of alternate history, which are well worth the perusal.


A question from "Sage Advice":

"Question: I have just started playing AD&D and I don’t know what the following weapons are: Bardiche, Bec de Corbin, Bill-Guisarme, Fauchard, Fauchard-Fork, Flail, Glaive, Glaive-Guisarme, Guisarme, Guisarme-Voulge, Lucern Hammer, Partisan, Pick, Ransuer, Scimitar, Spetum and Voulge.

Can you tell me what they are?"

Now we would just tell him to Google it.


If you're playing a 1st edition AD&D game and like to keep it pristine, Blake Ward's "Familiar Fiends" article might be just for you. It collects all the monsters in the AD&D Monster Manual and puts them into a random table for stocking dungeons. He also has a random table for determining what level of monster to use based on the dungeon level you're stocking:

Very nice.


Dig this ad for Judge's Guild:

Love the fighter and his horse.


Funny, isn't it. We went from "Atomic War" to "Nuclear War" to "Thermonuclear War" and then back to "Nuclear War". Anyhow ...

A rare article in The Dragon for good old-fashioned RISK. This one, by George Laking, gives some variants on the old game, including the addition of nuclear weapons. I won't go into the details, but they would certainly make for an interesting game ... or you could just play Supremacy. Boy, we had a lot of fun with that game back in the day, and RISK and Axis & Allies as well.


Fantasysmith gives a guide to properly carrying your miniatures around without ruining them. What drew my eye was this illo:

When going to play wargames, always beware lurking ogre mages. Especially, one must presume, when in Japan.


Look out for Gerard Moshofsky of Eugene, Oregon, Grimtooth, because he's a devious guy. Check out this dandy trap:

This used to be quite the thing in old dungeon design. I think 3rd edition, by standardizing traps and attaching more rules to them, kind of killed this old creativity. Maybe I'm wrong.


Love this name generator by Mark Whisler - it would be perfect for the barbarian mini-game I'm going to publish soon (from the "B for Barbarian" article in NOD).

Roll a d10 and d6 and cross-reference them on the table to get the first name element, then do it again for the second.


Tom Holsinger and Candy Peterson have a nice article on quirks and curses for magic items. Several tables, all good brain fodder, but I'll point out these minor curses:

3) Develop highly unpopular sexual perversion (necktie party if you’re caught).

4) Develop socially unacceptable sexual perversion (Charisma reduced to 3 if you are discovered—Hint: It has to do with graveyards).

D&D was once for "weird adults" more than for "nerdy teens".


Broadsword Miniatures operated during the 1980's out of Georgia USA. I liked the miniatures in the ad, so I did a little searching and found some more, like these goblins.

Man, I love those old miniature illustrations.


Last month's adventure went well, so The Dragon included Doomkeep in this one, a dungeon by Brian Blume used as the Second Official Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament module. Obviously, I don't have room in this issue to do a major review, but it has a chessboard room, which I love (see art below), and it includes the hand mirror of hoping, which has the following effects when used:

1. A Death Ray emerges (normal saving throw allowed).
2. A 5-die fireball explodes 32’ away from the mirror.
3. A twin of the object pointed at appears and aids the object pointed at (if possible).
4. 27 Blackbirds fly out of the mirror and confuse (saving throw allowed vs. spell) everyone in the area for 2 melee rounds.
5. The object pointed at is sucked into the mirror, never to return.
6. The object pointed at turns into a Type I Demon which attacks the holder of the mirror.
7. A 6-die lightning bolt shoots out 60’ from the mirror.
8. A Cure Critical Wounds spell is emitted at the thing pointed at.
9. A mist appears which obscures all vision in a 20’ x 20’ area (treat this as a Confusion spell if melee occurs in the mist).
10. Poison gas fills an area 30’ x 30’ (+2 on s.t).))

Also this ...


Damn, I love old D&D.


This issue was actually pretty packed with interesting stuff ...

"Minarian Legends" - huge article about the Muetarian Empire. Great art!

"Getting into the Flow of Magic Fountains" - random tables for generating magic fountains. I won't reproduce the tables, but I will roll up a random fountain:

This fountain contains four drinks (weird, but okay). With each drink, a person gains an extra spell level (if they can cast spells), but also glow in the dark and suffer the effects of reduce person (save allowed).

"Dragon's Bestiary" - this issue has the Vilkonnar by Charles Carson - a neutral evil underground humanoid race along with their slightly different cousins, the Kailiff.

"Dragon's Mirth" - a standardized disaster scale by Jeff Swycaffer - fun, if nothing else for the U.S. regionalisms:

As always, I'll leave you today with a tiny taste of Tramp ...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

They Sup on Your Dreams [New Monster]

Hummingbird Men

Type: Tiny monstrous humanoid
Hit Dice: 0 (1d4 hp)
Armor Class: 13 [Silver]
Attacks: None
Move: 10 (Fly 100)
Saves: F19 R10 W14; +2 save vs. mind-affecting effects
Resistance: Magic 35%
Alignment: Neutral (N)
Intelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 50 (CL 1)

They are tiny, with long, beak-like snouts and beady eyes that sometimes strike you as cruel or callous, other times as curious. They have hummingbird wings where a man’s arms would be, and lithe bodies in pleasant, subdued colors – dusky rose, marmalade, the blue-grey of a threatening storm.

They appear at night, and settle down on a person to sup on the nectar of their fitful dreams. Dreams of isolation or rejection please them most; night terrors sate them quickly, but leave them unsatisfied. They hover and stare, and touch their snouts to the person’s temples or forehead, remaining for a few minutes. The dreamer has the best rest of his life; if he was nursing a psychic wound (such as damage to a mental ability score), he heals at twice the normal rate for the hummingbird man’s presence.

If the hummingbird man is threatened by one who knows not what it is or by one who cherishes his dreams, fair or foul, the beast flits back and disgorges nightmares from its snout. These nightmares are illusions, but hard to disbelieve (-2 to save). They usually take one of the following forms:

1 Black tentacles (solidifying from black mists)
2 Phantasmal killer (often a wild-eyed version of one's close relatives/lovers/self)
3 Shapechange (into something one would not want to be)
4 Flesh to stone (usually a slow transitions, from feet to head)
5 Insect plague (but not always insects)

The victim has a chance to disbelieve each round, but only if the player says they disbelieve. The saving throw begins at -2, but the penalty increases by -1 each round as they are drawn further into the nightmare. The nightmare, thankfully, ends after 6 rounds, by which time the hummingbird man has fled to dine on blacker psyches.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - January 1980

"This is the '80s and I'm down with the ladies." - Tone-Loc

And so we bravely enter the 1980's (though, again, not technically). The Dragon #33 (we haven't dropped the "the" yet) welcomes the new decade with "Dragon's Lair" by John Barnes. The painting won Best of Show and "Best Color Fantasy" awards at the Northwest Annual Science Fiction Festival in Seattle.

What goodies await us inside? Let us find out.

I. Gardner F. Fox

Known best for the Justice Society of America, Fox also wrote fantasy novels later in life, the Kothar the Barbarian series maybe the best known of them, but also Niall of the Far Travels.

Oh, and apparently Guy Gardner was named for him (not sure that was an honor or an insult).

This issue of The Dragon features a short Niall story - the character has appeared in the magazine before. This one is "The Eyes of Mavis Deval". Here's the opening:

"It was her eyes that drew his stare as he sat astride the high-peak saddle of his stallion, there on the edge of the huge slave market. They were a brilliant green, those eyes, and it seemed to Niall of the Far Travels as he looked, that there was a tiny flame glowing in each pupil."

II. Painting Tips

I got into painting Warhammer miniatures back in college, because I had waaaaay too much money and really needed to drain lots of it away on hunks of lead that I don't look at anymore. So, I know a little (very little) about painting them, and this ...

... looks like a darn good idea to me. Presented by Fantasysmith - the person knows his or her stuff!

III. H. R. Lovins, bringin' the prose

Dig the sprightly prose:

"My friend and I had taken our favorites: a Fighter with rippling muscles, a Cleric of somber colors and mood, a superstitious slinking Thief, and a couple of guardian Magic Users. Unfortunately, someone else was using the back way for a similar evasion. Our leaders turned a corner into a party of a half-dozen well-dressed besworded gents who, not caring to sidle past our group, began to comment acidly on our travel-worn condition, and wonder aloud whether an unpleasant odor was ours, or native to the alley."

 The article is pretty interesting, in the idea of giving NPC's a Caution (Cau) score. The Caution score is used for two things:

1) The score must be exceeded on a d20 before rolling reaction dice. If not exceeded, the NPC just walks away - no interaction with the players. I kind of dig this - after all, when confronted by a group of murder-hobos, I think most normal folk would get the heck out of there, smiling and making excuses.

2) The Caution score is also used to determine whether an NPC will get involved with a PC - do they throw caution to the wind and take the plunge. Again, you roll d20 and try to exceed CAU. In the case of "woo pitching", as the kids say, you add the NPC's Libido score to the roll. Libido score, you say? What's the Libido score?

IV. Gygax on Magic

"Magic, AD&D magic, is most certainly make-believe. If there are “Black Arts” and “Occult Sciences” which deal with real, working magic spells, I have yet to see them. Mildly put, I do not have any faith in the powers of magic, nor have I ever seen anyone who could perform anything approaching a mere first-level AD&D spell without props."

Sounds like the religious nuts are already giving him trouble over the "occult" influences on AD&D.

V. Speaking of Magic ...

Len Lakofka in this issue is looking at the shortcomings of some of the spells as written, and is making suggestions for improvement. Magic Missile, for example ...

"Gary Gygax and I have gone around in a circle on this spell for some period of time. The controversy, in my opinion, lies around the fact that there is NO SAVING THROW and that the missile goes “unerringly” to its target. Why is this so annoying to me? It is unfair because it allows players to foil most opposing spells by putting a Magic Missile into the opposing spell caster, it allows Magic Missiles into melee regardless of the size difference and quantity of ‘friends’ in the melee, and it allows for shots that would amaze Robin Hood with their accuracy!

Gary says that a Magic-User can counter with a simple spell like Shield to prevent this damage. What he overlooks is that the opponent must take a round to cast the Shield and in that time the spell caster is beset by fighters, et al. I find it too unfair to “monsters” that a single FIRST-level spell can be this powerful. Therefore, I have modified the spell in the following ways:

1. There is still no saving throw if the target is surprised, immobile, walking or prone and is at least the size of a Kobold.

2. Figures in melee, figures running (except those running right at the spell caster), figures evading, behind (or moving behind) significant cover, or casting a spell obtain some type of saving throw. This saving throw is their normal one with modification as follows:

A figure casting a spell obtains a s.t., but at -4.

A figure in melee obtains a normal s.t. but adds +1 for every opponent above the first one he/she/it is fighting (unless the size differential is so significant that the opponents do not get in the way—i.e., 6 dwarves against a hill giant would allow the giant a normal s.t. Missiles that MISS their target might hit others in the melee! Select a figure and then give him/her/it a normal s.t. to see if the stray missile hits or misses. In the above example, the dwarves would not be hit. All saving throws are on a missile-by-missile basis. Missiles fire at a rate of 1 every 3 seconds. Thus, a figure moving behind a wall might not be hit by every missile in a barrage of Magic missiles.

A figure with over 50% cover (who then presents a target size of ½ a kobold) always obtains a s.t. of from 16 to 20 depending upon cover and his/her/its actions. This prevents firing through an arrow slit some hundred feet away to hit some poor guard. I have found it necessary to rule in this way to stop Magic-Users from Magic Missiling everything that walks because of the broad language of the spell text. Magic Missile, as written, is too powerful and must be toned down."
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you rules bloat. The problem, of course, isn't the DM making the rules he wants for his game. It's in the opening paragraph:

"I felt that some spells leave a great deal unsaid (or they say too much), and thus individual rulings are often necessary to prevent abuses and to make the game fair and equitable for players and “monsters” alike."
 So what's wrong with individual rulings?

Well, what was wrong was that the hobby had already grown into two camps. One was playing the game at home, and doing what they wanted with their campaigns. The other was either playing at conventions, and thus needed everybody on the same page, or was playing at home and still believed that everyone needed to be on the same page. I'm a libertarian, so you can guess which side I'm on in this argument.

In Lakofka's defense, it's not just about standardization or extra rules. It's about players being creative with spells, and trying to turn every spell into "instant death".

VI. No Swords for Clerics

I liked this bit from Lawrence Huss about why clerics may not use edged (or pointy) weapons:

"'Why, ‘tis as plain as the forbidden pikestaff! The purpose and nature of all edged weapons (and what is a point but a section of an edge?) is to cut, release blood and kill, both in reality and symbolically.

'The club, mace and flail are but growths of the staff, which stands for guidance and religious authority. Though the end result of the sword stroke and the well-aimed mace blow are the same, the symbolic intent differs. As the High Power judges our acts much from a viewpoint in which symbols supersede particulars, this symbolic difference in intent is of greatest importance, both to the performance of the specifically clerical functions and in the gaining of spiritual eminence.'"

In other words, spare the rod, spoil the bugbear.

Now, some might argue that symbolism is pointless - the enemy is dead. What does it matter that he was slashed or bludgeoned to death?

But we're talking clerics. Priests. Symbolism is everything!

VII. Old Time Hockey Gaming, Coach!

Did you ever want to see a huge list of Game Masters operating in the U.S. in 1980? Great - this issue is for you. Let's check out my stomping grounds, Las Vegas NV.

We have Bill Coburn, running D&D, Traveler, Metamorphosis Alpha and general board games, and David Whitney, running D&D, Traveler and general board games.

We've seen Bil Coburn in the pages of The Dragon before, writing on the effectiveness of poison back in September 1978. I couldn't find him online, not David Whitney. Alas.

VIII. Question of the Month

"QUESTION: There is this character (a Magic-User) being refereed by an inexperienced DM. Because of his lack of knowledge, he let the character advance in levels too quickly. He also has 86 magic items. By the time the character got to 34th level, the DM had learned from his mistakes and proceeded to try to kill the powerful character. He tried a Ring of Transference, and when that didn’t work he hit him with 2000 (100% magic resistant) thieves. Is it within the D&D or AD&D rules for a DM to deliberately try to kill a character?"


Runner up:

"QUESTION: Is an invisibility spell cancelled when you fall on your face from tripping either over your own feet or from someone else’s number 13’s?


IX. The Infancy of Home Computing

This issue has the inaugural article on "The Electrical Eye", about gaming on computers. I thought the little guide to computer manufacturers was intresting:

Witness Apple corporate HQ just 35 years ago (I think ... the actual street number doesn't show up on GoogleEarth):

Oh, and yeah, they got the address wrong above. It was on Bandley Drive, as confirmed at this article showing the layout.

X. Frosts

The "Dragon's Bestiary" this month is by Roger Moore - Rogar of Moria. I always like Roger in the pages of the later Dragon's that I read.

Frosts are "snow pixies" - little buggers that pack a punch. Here's an adaptation of the stats for Blood & Treasure ...

Size/Type: Tiny Fey
Hit Dice: 0
Armor Class: 15
Attacks: 1 attack (1d3)
Move: 20' (Fly 60')
Saves: F19 R12 W12
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Neutral (with good tendencies)
No. Appearing: 1d6

Frosts can turn invisible at will, but cannot attack while invisible. They can use cone of cold (3 dice) once per day and frost fingers (cold version of burning hands) 2/day - and can use frost fingers while invisible. One frost in six can use freezing sphere once per day. Frosts can also control temperatures within 10 feet.

I'll leave you this fine Sunday morning with some Tramp

Friday, September 4, 2015

Freaky Friday Campaign Idea - The Trees

I'm going to start trying to produce off-the-top-of-my-head, not-well-thought-out campaign ideas on Fridays, from now until eternity (or until I stop, whichever comes first). Today ...


A strange meteor falls from the sky (or a archmage screws up a spell, or Zeus has a fever dream), releasing a bizarre monster (basically Groot, but not the lovable version we saw in our movie houses, but more like the monster from the old comic books ... which I never read, and which may also have been lovable) and strange radiations and gases and electricities and vibrations and such. The trees awaken! Everywhere! Billions of them!

All of these trees are treants, and they're under Groot's command. Groot is using them to conquer the world. Obviously, wooded areas and elves are hardest hit. The great elven kingdoms perish quickly under a storm of knobby fists and splinters. A few escape the slaughter and attempt to rally the other fantasy races.

The dwarves are besieged in their mountain hideouts.  They'll try to sit it out ... unless the fungi monsters are on Groot's side as well. Eventually they'll get hungry, though, and have to grab their father's axes and get down to business.

The halflings are attacked by their own orchards ("Are you insinuating my apples aren't everything they're supposed to be?"). Humans deploy crack squads of lumberjacks (and the Spanish Inquisition, because, obviously trees expect them least of all), but they're outmatched by all those damn treants and people are forced into deserts ... unless they are the kinds of deserts with cacti ! They're also trees! Spiked treants who are super good at retaining water! Ye Gods!

Do the treants have allies - heck yeah! Assassin vines, those other vines that make people into zombies, various animated shrubbery ... well, plant monsters in general. Maybe dryads chuck in with their new mobile homes as well (damn tree-huggers). Nymphs have always struck me as a bit shifty. They become the Mata Haris of the Arboreal Invasion.

Obviously, the key to survival is to get to Groot and destroy him, and that means ... a party of oddball murder hobos. Help us, player characters, you're our only hope!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Saving Throws - 2E vs 3E

I'm beginning the process of revising Blood & Treasure for release next year. This is primarily a task of getting in the errata, looking for things I and others might have missed, and refreshing the design. I want to make the books more readable, and thus easier to use. I'm also considering new cover art for the books - commissioned cover art. If you have suggestions for artists you would like to see grace the covers, let me know in the comments.

Revisions are also a good time to examine some premises - are there things that were not wrong, per se, but which could be better. To that end, I was looking at saving throws the other day, and whether B&T saving throws, which are based on the values in 3rd edition, are easier or harder than saving throws in older editions.

I did a quick search online this morning and found the 2nd edition AD&D saving throw tables, so I'm using them for this analysis. I figured that Save vs. Paralyzation, Poison & Death Magic mapped pretty well to Fortitude in B&T. Save vs. Breath Weapon maps pretty well to Reflexes, and Spells to Will. What I didn't notice until now (it's been a while since I looked at 2nd edition, and perhaps the values are the same in 1st as well), is that Save vs. Wands, Staves and Rods is just Save vs. Spells, but 1 point easier. I'll incorporate that into the revised B&T for sure (+1 bonus to save vs. spells cast from wands, staves and rods).

Anyhow - here is how they shaped up:

Clerics (or Priests, in 2E) weren't that great against spells, which was changed in 3E. People often complained about the clerics being a bit too good in 3E, so perhaps they shouldn't have made that change. That aside, the other categories end up pretty close at 20th level, but PPDM is much better than FORT for most of the cleric's career. Perhaps the worse FORT save in 3E makes up for the better WILL save.

The fighters have an easier time of it in 3E at early levels, and a worse time of it at higher levels in terms of REF and WILL saves.

Magic-users are pretty close on PPDM vs. FORT and BW vs. REF. SP/WILL differ somewhat, with a marked improvement in 3E at very high levels.

Thieves in 2E were better vs. PPDM than BW, which was flipped in 3E. Save vs. Spells / WILL is pretty close.

So, between those editions, there were changes to be sure, but the overall ranges from 15 to 8 for poor saving throws and 13 to 3 for good saving throws, are pretty close.

My temptation is to do hybrids of these in the revised B&T, so they're not quite so formulaic. Something like:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


A week or so ago, I started fooling with the idea of a mini-game called Manbot Warriors based on a Saturday morning cartoon show that never existed. I like the idea of a little 6x9 booklet, short and to the point, played only with normal dice (i.e. d6) that people could take on trips or pull out on a rainy day and have fun with. Cost should be minimal - maybe $6 or $7 for a book and a couple bucks for a PDF.

Well, Manbot Warriors is getting some play testing and I already have a first draft being printed at Lulu so I can see how I did on the technical side. I've also worked up a rough draft for a Greco-Roman fantasy mini-game called Swords & Sandals - based more on old Hercules and gladiator movies than actual history, of course.

I'm super excited about the idea of inexpensive mini games at the moment, and if I can get the rules right, I should be able to have lots of fun with the concept. In fact, my imagination has been racing. Here are the ideas/titles that I've pondered trying to make:

Deviant Decade - 1970's era role playing on the mean streets - the adventurers are a party of vigilantes, cops and frightened citizens trying to make their way from one point to another in Big City (probably based on New York)

Emergency Rescue - firemen, paramedics, police fighting fires and rescuing people from harm; inspired by plastic firemen I had as a kid and the old Emergency! TV show (which I still watch to this day)

Love & Pain - a soap opera RPG - I think I have a clever way to make it work, but I'm not sure yet

Badmen - Old West - just feels right

Damask & Demimondaines - court intrigue, duels, factions, with lots of silk and snuff and lace and fancy facial hair

All-Out War - inspired by plastic army men; missions behind the line

Grenadiers & Gorgons - Napoleonic fantasy

Vaults of Gold & Sorcery - a modern take on dungeon delving (inspired by some stock art I got online)

King of the Surf - inspired by Endless Summer and 1960's beach movies - I think this one could be a really fun rainy day game

Hippie Hijinks - inspired by the old Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics I inherited from a friend (I was always a Fat Freddy's Cat guy myself) - sneaking into Disneyland, fighting "The Man", etc.

Goblins & Pagodas - Asian fantasy; got the name from a poetry book in the public domain

Justice For All - A quick and easy superhero game

Teen Mystery Club - inspired by Scooby Doo, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew type of stuff - mostly "catch the fake ghost"

Kaiju vs. Mecha - you play the mecha operator - fight the kaiju in your machine, and try to discover, on foot, it's secret vulnerability

MegaRuin Explorer Tatakai - dungeon exploring anime style - again, I have some cool stock art, and I want to use it

American Empires 1800 - I think I'll resurrect this idea as a mini game

Mutant Truckers - Likewise, this would work well in the mini game format

Astronauts & Aliens - I'm thinking a 1960's, space age game of Astronauts (and Cosmonauts as well, I guess) exploring alien ruins on the moon. The technology would be "of the time", so no ray guns and such.

Don't Go In There - Horror RPG - party of normal folks being stalked by a monster or slasher or whatever. Might try to do this one for the next issue of NOD and include it as a mini-game for the Halloween season.

B for Barbarian - I'll probably change the name, but I wrote this mini-game a year-or-so-ago and will definitely publish it in the 6x9 format.

Pen & Paper Football - Not quite the same, but the rules for the mini-game I published in NOD a few issues back. This is a no-brainer, so it will definitely happen at some point.

I did a poll with five of these on Google+, and Deviant Decade and All-Out War were the most popular (which is cool, since I figured I'd be writing them soon anyways). Let me know which one's spark your imagination. I've also considered doing a combo of easy rules with actual short adventure included, something like the one-page dungeons.

In the meantime, I have GRIT & VIGOR and NOD 27 to finish up.

Remember - if you'd like to submit something to NOD, please contact me - email in the column to the right.

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