Saturday, July 16, 2016

Random Berserking



Going berserk in combat is such a chaotic thing (small "c" chaotic, of course) that it seems like a perfect place to stick in a random table. 

I thought about making a random berserking table for the barbarians in Blood & Treasure Second Edition, but space constraints and a desire to avoid excess dice rolling (I know, for some there cannot be enough) I didn't. Still, I wrote it, so I might as well get it out there!



Berserkergang

Roll 1d10 and add your barbarian level (or half your fighter level, if your GM swings that way). You may roll once for the combat, or roll each round, with the effect lasting for that round and then ending.

d10
Effect
1-6
+1 to attack, +2 to damage; +1d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
5-11
+1 to AC, +2 to all saving throws
12-15
Two attacks each round
16-18
+2 to attack, +4 to damage; +2d6 damage vs. non-humanoids
19-20
Immune to fear and spells of 2nd level or lower; +1d6 damage to spell casters
21
Opponents must save or be frightened
22
Continue fighting after reaching 0 hit points; save vs. death at end of combat or die
23
Immune to spells of 5th level or lower; +2d6 damage to spell casters
24
Three attacks each round
25
Roll twice, combine results

While berserk, you cannot cast spells, make ranged attacks (other than throwing things), retreat from combat, make or follow complex plans, stop attacking a foe until you or it are dead, and when you kill one foe you must move on to the next closest foe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Weird Day at the Faire


Oh, the little faire looked pleasant enough - a sort of company picnic for the feudal set, with children running about and young men trying to show off for the ladies. People strolling, eating, drinking, singing, dancing - a good time.

But since the murder-hobos are involved, there had to be something sinister lurking just under the surface ...

Roll d20 and then d4 a few times to generate some interesting or weird encounters at the faire - something the PCs can bump into as they wander. Some of these might even prove of value as game hooks - players arrive too late to stop something from happening, but are called on by the king to investigate and set things right.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Monstrous One-Liners

Have you ever had a half-ass idea for a monster - just a description and a few ideas for special abilities, or maybe even just a picture - and wanted to use it without having to come up with all the other stats right then and there?

Today, I was jotting down some ideas for monsters at work and I thought up a way to do simple, one line monster descriptions and only one stat - a monster level - that ties into a random chart that determines the combat stats when you need them.

Monsters have levels that run from 1 to 10. The monster's level determines the dice you roll for its combat stats.


The combat stats are then rolled on this chart. You could do one roll and use all the stats for that line, or roll for each stat - whatever you want. Treat a roll that is less than zero as zero.


Two notes:

*Damage for first attack; second and third attacks are 1 level lower; third and fourth attacks are 2 levels lower

**Movement is slow (S), normal (N), quick (Q) and rapid (R) – use your best judgment for what these mean in your preferred version of the grand old game

Finally - some monster one-liners (with a quick sketch of the killa-bot).

Killa-Bot, the murderous automaton; 4th level; electro-touch (1d6), resist electricity, maniacal laughter (confusion)

Befouler, the drooling eye orb; 8th level; rust ray, acid ray (1d6), disease ray, rot ray (ruins food and water)

Mindbender, worms out to conquer the world; 3rd level; appear as normal neckware, control mind with their touch, magic resistance 15%

Tar-Bull, bovine made of flaming tar; 5th level; fire body (1d6 damage), foul smoke (save or blinded), charge for x3 damage

Mercury Ape, violet violent primate with force arms; 3rd level; constrict with arms (x2 damage), resist all energies, immune to mind effects

 
So the adventurers run into two of mercury apes while exploring a dungeon. The DM rolls d6-1 five times and discovers they have 2 HD, AC 13, 2 attacks for 1d6 damage and they are slow. She can now make a note of this for the next battle, or even roll over again the next time mercury apes show up.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Guardian - Over-Powered or Not?

A few magazine reviews ago, I came across Lewis Pulsipher’s description of an over-powered character class. It goes thusly:

“A party of ninth and tenth level magic-users, clerics, and fighters hunts for a lich. Among them is an eighth level ‘Guardian’ character, a class devised by the DM and used by the players. They come to a door. The guardian listens – he hears something. Then he looks through the door with his X-ray vision. Telling the others it’s too dangerous for them in there, he turns ethereal and walks through the door. Five minutes later, he opens it. ‘It’s OK now. It was just 10 mind flayers, and when they attacked me psionically my mental boomerang defence scrambled their brains.’ The party shake their heads and look for spoils.” – Lewis Pulsipher, White Dwarf 25

Overpowered?

Maybe not.

First, the guardian in the example is 8th level. He’s a bit behind the others in level (as would be a paladin), but not dramatically so. The 9th or 10th level magic-users he’s adventuring with can do some pretty spectacular stuff with their spells, and the magic items the other characters have could well duplicate many of the guardian’s abilities.

Second, there seems to be an unwritten assumption that the things this “guardian” does are the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they are. But if they aren’t – if that’s it – then maybe he’s not so powerful.

“Ah,” you say, “but he took out a whole room of mind flayers!”

Well, actually, the room of mind flayers took out the room of mind flayers – the guardian just had the ability to turn mental attacks back on the attacker.

With that in mind, I have decided to rehabilitate the mythical guardian class, and give it a proper write-up to see just how over powered it really would be. So, with no further ado …

THE GUARDIAN

Image from HERE - just because I like it
Day in and day out, brave men and women descend into the depths of the earth in search of treasure. Along the way, they hunt down and destroy all manner of terrible evils, and for that, the world must be grateful. It so happened that one day, many years ago, a band of Lawful monasteries decided they must do more than they had done to encourage this behavior. The masters of the monasteries developed a new, powerful training regimen, and recruited from among their ranks their most promising students. They put these students through this regimen, and found the vast majority of them not up to the challenge. Those few who did succeed became known as guardians.

Guardians are always on the lookout for danger, and have potent abilities to survive it and even turn attacks back on attackers. They are mediocre warriors, it is true, but are proficient with armor and thus difficult to injure. A guardian may not turn the tide of battle by her presence, but she can serve as the impenetrable rock on which the tide of battle breaks.


Requirements and Restrictions: Guardians must have a minimum scores of 9 in Strength, 11 in Constitution and 13 in Wisdom. They must also be Lawful in alignment. They may wear any armor and use shields, and can fight with any weapon.

Guardian Skills

Find Secret Doors—Guardians have a 2 in 6 chance to note the presence of secret or concealed doors.

Find Traps—Guardians can attempt a task check to discover traps in a room or on an object. Alas, they have no special skill at removing traps once found.

Listen at Door—Guardians can attempt a task check to hear faint noises through doors or in other circumstances.

Guardian Abilities

Guardians are only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d6. They can extend this protection to up to one comrade per three levels. Thus, if all in a party of adventurers except the 4th level guardian are surprised on a roll of “2”, the guardian can allow one additional comrade to avoid that surprise.

2nd level guardians learn the secret of phasing through matter (but not energy). A guardian can walk through up to 2 inches of matter per level per day. Thus, a 6th level guardian could walk through up to 12 inches of matter, total, during the course of a single day. This could amount to walking through a single 1-ft thick wall, or four 3-inch thick doors.

A 4th level guardian gains the ability to peer through matter, as though wearing a ring of x-ray vision. She can do this once per day per four levels (i.e. 1/day from 1st to 4th level, 2/day from 5th to 8th level, etc.)

A 6th level guardian can attune themselves to one form of energy (acid, cold, fire, electricity or sonic) per day, gaining the ability to ignore hit point damage from that energy. The guardian can ignore 1 point of damage from that energy per level over the course of the day. Thus, a 9th level guardian who attuned herself to fire could ignore up to 9 points of fire damage during the course of the day.

Guardians maintain a shield around their minds. At 1st level, this blocks all spells and abilities that read or detect their minds. They can also choose to block out telepathic communication. By 3rd level, this protection extends to a +4 bonus to saving throws against illusions and mental attacks, such as confusion, fear, feeblemind, ego whip, id insinuation, phantasmal killer and the mind blast of the pernicious thelids. When a guardian of 6th level or higher passes a saving throw against a mental attack, she reflects that attack back on the attacker, who must pass their own saving throw to avoid the attack.

Stronghold

A 9th level guardian can establish a stronghold in the wilderness. The stronghold must be placed in such a place to resist attacks from the wilderness, for example between mountains inhabited by ogres and giants and a human or demi-human settlement. Once constructed, the guardian attracts …

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Scientific Items for Blood and Treasure

It's been too long since my last post, but I've been pretty busy editing Blood & Treasure Second Edition. While the second edition is mostly about fixing errors and streamlining rules, I also decided to add a little extra to the game to make it more than just a revision. What I came up with was a few scientific items to spice up dungeon treasures. The items are, of course, optional for those TKs who do appreciate science fantasy.

Here's a little sneak peek at the items.

Scientific Items

Some TK’s may wish to mingle some science (or science-fantasy, really) into their game. Perhaps their campaign is set long after a great war that left the world in a primitive state, and thus powerful scientific artifacts are hidden in ruins. On the other hand, it could be a “sword & planet” or planetary romance campaign, not unlike the world of Barsoom in Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars series of books, which mingles objects of super science alongside swords and armor.
Whatever the reason, the following tables can be used to roll random scientific treasures to include in your dungeon ruins.

d%         Science Value01-12     Power crystals (1d6)
13-18     Bionics
19-21     Blaster
22-23     Brain implant
24-29     Chronometer
30-34     Cubitron
35-37     Electro-whip
38-41     Exoskeleton
42-44     Flying discs
45-47     Force belt
48-50     Holo-projector
51-58     Infrared goggles
60-61     Jet belt
62-63     Laser sword
64-68     Mutagen capsule
69          Preservation collar
70-75     Ray gun
76-78     Shock gloves
79-83     Sonic pick
84-89     Spacesuit
90-92     Throwing disc
93-97     Tri-scanner
98-00     Vibro-dagger

The items will require a flow chart to figure out.
 Here are a couple descriptions:

Bionics: Bionics are scientific items that can be attached to living bodies, improving them in various ways. The table below determines what bionic part was found:

d6 Bionic
1. Arm—left
2. Arm—right
3. Eye
4. Leg—left
5. Leg—right
6. Pincer

A bionic part can either be held up to a freshly severed stump, in which case it attaches itself (and stops the bleeding), or it can be opened and then sealed over the body part. In this latter case, the bionic item soon destroys the part it was fastened over (a painful process) and ruins it for future use.

Bionic items are not powered by power crystals. Rather, they integrate themselves into one’s own body, and power themselves biologically. Each bionic implant a character has “drains” one point of constitution while it is still implanted. When removed, the drained point of constitution is restored (though the body part is not).

Arm: Increase strength by +1; if both arms are bionic, unarmed damage is 1d4

Eye: Darkvision to 60’, find secret doors on roll of 1 to 4 on 1d6

Leg: Increase speed by +10 feet per round; leap 15 feet forward and 5 feet backward or straight up

Pincer: Gain melee attack for 1d6+1 damage; opponents suffer -2 penalty to save vs. grapple attacks

Skullcap: Increase intelligence by +2

Blaster: A blaster is a large device that fits over one’s hand. It is powered by one’s life force rather than a power crystal. Each time it is used, the user must pass a saving throw or suffer 1 point of constitution drain. This drain cannot be healed until the device is removed, which requires a character to roll d% under her combined intelligence and wisdom scores.

While attached to a character, the blaster can send out a laser blast (120’ line, ignores half of armor’s armor bonus, deals 3d6 fire damage) or a sonic blast (60’ cone, 2d6 sonic damage, save vs. deafness for 1 hour, crystal and glass items must save or be shattered).

When a character's constitution falls below 5, he becomes Chaotic. If constitution is reduced to 0, the user becomes a mindless zombie and the blaster falls from their hand.

Flying Discs: These 2-ft. diameter metal discs can be adhered to the feet and provide the ability to levitate up to 60 feet off the ground, or fly at a speed of 60 feet per round. They consume 1 charge from their power crystals per 10 minutes of use.

Laser Sword: These swords appear to be no more than a pommel until activated. They drain 1 charge from their power crystal per minute of use. Laser swords give off light as a torch and ignore half of non-magic armor’s armor bonus. Laser swords deal 1d10 damage.

Power Crystal: These small, luminous crystals provide power for scientific items. Each crystal holds 10 charges when it is found (unless it is found in an object that was being used, in which case it has 1d10 charges).

Sonic Pick: This 8” long metal wand can be used to find secret doors, open locks and find and remove traps. The user must roll 1d20 under their intelligence score to successfully use the device. Each use uses 1 charge.

And if Brutorz Bill is reading this - yeah, the mutagen capsules come with a little random mutation table.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - June 1981 (50)

Sometimes it's hard to believe how long ago, in human terms, 1981 was. Of course, 35 years is a drop in the bucket in cosmic terms, but for a 44-year old man, it's significant. Having a brain that absorbed the early '80s one day at a time, it just doesn't seem old, sometimes like it was just yesterday.

Enough of that. Dragon #50 came out 35 years ago this month, and here's what the 5th anniversary issue has to offer.

We begin, of course, with the cover by Carl Lundgren. Very nice piece of work, and certaily appropriate for the issue, depicting a dragon hovering over its hoard of treasure (or it it the dragon's hoard?)

As I so often do, I'll start with an advertisement for a new "family board game" by TSR ...

I'm picturing those old game covers or ads from the 1960's that show a smiling family playing a board game. Little Susie having to tell mom she's "The Duke of New York - A-number-one!" I just watched the movie a couple days ago, so it's fresh in my mind.

It should come as no surprise that they have a page for the game at Boardgamegeek.com.

The game was written by "Zeb" Cook, who also wrote the Expert D&D set.

Now that I've dispensed with the TSR's homage to Snake Plissken, let's get to the first article in this anniversary spectacular - Gregory Rihn's "Self defense for dragons". The article purports to give "everyone's favorite foe a fighting chance". The article posits that dragons, as they were written in 1981, were too easy to defeat by a large, well-organized party, especially given the treasure to be gained by defeating them. This would prove to be an important article to later editions of the game, for it expands the dragon's attacks quite a bit, adding 2 wing buffets, 2 wing claws, a foot stomp and tail lash. In essence, it gives the dragons enough attacks to hit all the attackers likely to be surrounding it in a fight. He goes on to give a couple ideas for good dragon tactics.

This is followed up by Lewis Pulsipher's "True Dragons: Revamping the monster from head to claw". This appears to be the theme this issue - dragon's just ain't good enough. Pulsipher gives a long table with many more age categories and a few additional powers, including shapechanging (I like this one), causing terror and some special powers. One of them - two heads - I'm planning on adding to Blood & Treasure. It also has random tables of spells known, a random table of breath weapons, with the old standards as well as a few new ones - radiation, stoning, windstorm, hallucinogen, negate magic and polymorph. All goodies! Here's Pulsipher's take on radiation:

Those failing to roll a d20 lower than their constitution become unconscious and will die of a wasting “disease” in 1-4 days. The “disease” is cured by Cure disease and Remove curse. Effects of the disease are only slowly repaired by the body after the cure. A victim might look ravaged five years after his cure if he was near death, and this may affect his charisma.

Radiation as a curse. I dig it.

Overall, I think I like Pulsipher's take a little better, using special powers instead of additional attacks to get the job done. Both would go into beefing up dragons in later editions.

Colleen A. Bishop hits on baby dragons with "Hatching is only the beginning ...", which covers little dragons from egg to birth. It's a long article, with lots of tables. Maybe worth a look if you're planning on having a baby dragon in the party for a while.

Robert Plamondon gets us off the dragon train and introduces some folks called the Kzinti. I don't suppose they need much introduction to the folks who read this blog. They're tough customers here, with 4+4 HD and two attacks per round. A small group could really bedevil a party, and they're Lawful Evil to boot. The article covers their arrival on D&D campaign worlds, their religion, social organization, magic, psionics, etc. Very thorough for a monster entry, but no info on them as a playable race.

For those interested in the history of the hobby, David F. Nalle's reviews of some old time 'zines may be of interest. He covers Abyss by Dave Nalle, Alarums & Excursions (such a great name) by Lee Gold, The Beholder by Mike G. Stoner, The Lords of Chaos by Nicolai Shapero, Morningstar by Phillip McGregor, Pandemonium by Robert Sacks, Quick Quincy Gazette by Howard Mahler, The Stormlord by Andreas Sarker, Trollcrusher, The Wild Hunt by Mark Swanson and Zeppelin.

Pulsipher has another article, a very long one with way more math than needed to deal with gaze attacks in D&D. Personally, I let people close their eyes entirely (and open themselves to all sorts of trouble), or try to avoid the monster's gaze and suffer a penalty to hit, etc.

Larry DiTillio's article on the glyphs in his campaign world didn't do much for me.

The Chapel of Silence by Mollie Plants is a prize winning dungeon at IDDC II. It's a relatively small dungeon, but looks like a good one. It begins with all the adventurers having a strange dream, and goes from there - maybe a well-worn idea now, but clever back in the day.

Back to rules articles, "The Ups and Downs of Riding High" by Roger E. Moore covers flying mounts. Its a pretty thorough look at all the potential flying mounts in AD&D at the time, and covers their diet (most are carnivores), advantages, disadvantages and how much weight they can carry. It's a useful article to keep in your pocket, in case somebody starts flying around on a dragon and you need some ideas on how to spice up the experience.

This advert caught my eye ...


At first, I assumed it was the old computer classic, but it's something entirely different.

The Dragon's Bestiary presents the Giant Vampire Frog by Alan Fomorin. How do you not love these guys?


Here's proof that Mark Herro was nobody's dummy ...

"Home computers may be the most important new consumer appliance to come along in decades. Any device that can control household lights and appliances, edit and type letters and reports, selectively monitor United Press International and the New York Stock Exchange, and play some great games besides, may be almost indispensable in the years to come."
Word up!

This issue had a couple cartoons of note. First, an argument that persists to this day ...


And an old take on Batman vs. Superman ... or Batman and Superman vs. something else


And as always, we finish with a bit of Wormy, as we begin to move into the wargaming story line ...


Have fun on the internet, and for God's sake, be kind to one another!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Courtly Love for Paladins

Here's another notion I came up with for Blood & Treasure Second Edition that I decided not to use in the rules, as it seemed to be just one more thing to stack on top of paladins. Although the ability is designed for paladins, it could be extended to any Lawful Good character if a referee wished. It is probably most useful in a chivalric campaign.

The ability is, of course, inspired by Lancelot and Guinevere.

Courtly Love

Before reaching 5th level, a paladin may select a charming man or woman as their object of courtly love. The chosen must have a Charisma score of 13 or higher, and must be a member of the aristocracy, nobility or royalty. They may be married, and must not be Chaotic. The paladin holds them up as an ideal and does heroic deeds in their name and for their favor. The paladin may not deny them requests, so long as they do not violate his alignment and code of conduct, though in disobeying the object of courtly love becomes displeased, and the paladin suffers a -1 penalty to attack and to all saving throws until they are again pleased. The paladin remains true to their courtly love forever - they may not "break up" with them without losing their paladin status.

When the paladin performs a heroic deed for their courtly love, there is a chance in 20 equal to the paladin’s level that their love is pleased and grants them a token (a scarf, a pin, a lock of hair, etc.) While in possession of this love token, the paladin may invoke the the following effects three times: Add his love's Charisma bonus to an attack roll, a damage roll or a saving throw.

When so pleased by their paladin, there is a percentage chance equal to the paladin’s Charisma score that the courtly love is overcome by emotion and attempts to seduce the paladin into a true romance. The paladin may not give in to this temptation without breaking his code and losing his paladin status. That being said, to refuse makes the courtly love displeased (see above). A Lawful love will not press the matter, but may suffer as per a geas if their love is not returned. A Neutral love will press the matter, forcing the paladin to pass a saving throw to resist the temptation. The TK may add the paladin's Wisdom bonus to the saving throw, but must subtract his love's Charisma bonus from the roll as well.

Uh oh - he better not try to turn undead any time soon ...


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Don't Lose Your Barbaric Edge

This is a half-formed notion that came to me last night while working on Blood & Treasure Second Edition. It's not in that book, but I thought somebody might find it useful.

The idea of a "barbaric edge" comes from good old Robert E. Howard, who posited the notion that barbarians were in many ways superior to members of civilization, whether they be decadent nobles or downtrodden peasants. Barbarians in Howard's fiction are usually a cut above non-barbarians.

The Edge

In games, the barbaric edge allows you to treat one of the following ability scores - Strength, Dexterity, Constitution or Wisdom - as though it were an 18. Each morning, a person with the barbaric edge can decide which ability they will treat this way. Ability damage affects the temporary score, and the real score if the damage persists and the barbarian chooses to boost a different ability score from the one that was damaged.

Note that druids who boost Wisdom do gain extra spells for high Wisdom, but clerics do not unless they worship something wild and primordial. One might permit it for a cleric of Thor, for example, but not a cleric of Minerva.

Example: Crom the Barbarian (pictured above) wakes up one morning and stretches his iron sinews. He normally has a strength score of 13 (a +1 bonus). Today, he'll increase his bonus (but not his actual strength score) to +2. Tomorrow he might be feeling especially cat-like, and improve his +0 dexterity modifier to +1.

Gaining the Edge

How does one obtain a barbaric edge? By living rough in the wilderness and eschewing the soft pleasures of civilization. This means that the barbaric edge is open to any class, provided they do the following:

1) Always sleep outside in the wilderness; in a pinch, sleeping in an alley or field will do. This means no beds, no pillows - no more than an animal pelt to protect you from the elements.

2) Low retention of wealth; you can keep 10% of your found treasure to spend on equipment and gear (maybe more if you use a system that requires paying for training to level up), giving the rest away. Treasure is there to be won, not enjoyed - think of it as catch-and-release. Treasure not kept must either be discarded as though it were trash, given to others (who may not spend it on you) with a hearty sniff of contempt, or spent in a tavern on booze and sex (i.e. drinks on the house, and you must drink until you collapse or get in a rip-roaring fight).

3) No fancy clothes or armor; you retain the barbarian edge by wearing no more than leather armor or maybe a chainmail shirt if they are used in the campaign. You cannot wear silks and satin - really just a loincloth and sandals or fur boots will do when you're not fighting.

4) A lack of trust for civilization and civilized people. A barbarian can adventure with civilized men and women, but they must be kept at an emotional distance, and the barbarian must sneer at and criticize their soft living and decadent morality. This is primarily done through role playing.

5) A barbarian's food must come from his own hunting, gathering or fishing rather than from "iron rations" and magic. If this means going hungry, so be it. The barbarian may indulge in a tavern after an adventure, but only once and only in terms of a tavern crawl as in (2) above.

Losing the Edge

Breaking any of these rules means the barbaric edge is lost. No ability boosts. It can only be regained by living by the above rules for a full month of game time (or perhaps for two or three game sessions if that's easier to calculate). Only after that time spent living wild does the barbarian shake off the excesses of civilization and regain his barbaric edge.

Don't trust them Conan, they use rugs!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - May 1981 (49)

May of 1981 saw me turn 9. I hadn't heard of D&D back then (and wouldn't for another 3 years), but if I had heard of D&D, and subscribed to Dragon Magazine, this is what would have shown up in my mailbox that month.

Pretty cool cover, right? There's more inside, in a 12-page section dedicated to the work of Tim Hildebrandt.

Of course there's more than just my Hildebrandt in this issue ... let's check it out.

First up is a new ad by Ral Partha, this time featuring their new line-up of Adventurers miniatures. I got curious this time and decided to look up Ral Partha's address - 5938 Carthage Ct, Cincinnati OH.

It came up with this impressive ediface:



I'll show off a few more old RPG addresses in this post if I get a chance.

Now that we've looked at Ral Partha's old digs, let's get to the fun of complaining readers, in this case William G. Welsh, on the archer class in last issue:

"Second — “Kobolds, goblins, dwarves, gnomes and halflings cannot become archers.” In the last chapter of the third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are no less than three incidents where the effectiveness of hobbit archers is demonstrated. Also, refer to the AD&D Monster Manual, p. 50, under halflings, under special attacks, note “+3 with bow or sling.”

This stuff kills me. The answer from the editor was:

"None of the ideas presented in articles in DRAGON magazine are official rule changes or additions, unless the article specifically says so (and there haven’t been very many of those). The people who write articles that we publish aren’t trying to get everyone to play the way they do, and we certainly don’t hold that opinion ourselves. As is the case with many of the game rules themselves, the articles in DRAGON magazine are suggestions, ideas and alternatives."

It amazes me when that has to be said, but if comment sections on the internet have done anything, it's to prove that things like that still need to be said. Could various school systems around the globe please spend a few minutes explaining to people what "opinion" means?

The meat and drink of this issue, other than the special art section, is about tournaments. No, not knights trying to poke each other with lances and Robin Hood splitting an arrow, but D&D tournaments. If I'm honest ... I have no interest at all in them, but I'll try to give them a quick review.

The first article discusses fairness in scoring tournaments, giving a long list of actions that should go into scoring points, and explaining that DMs need to make sure players know how they'll be scored. Sounds logical to me.

The next bit discusses improving on the Slave Pits tournament adventure, followed by Mentzer's reply that "It isn't that easy". I can remember getting the Slave Pits module as a kid (I guess about 4 years after this issue was published) and being confused about the whole tournament concept - how you didn't use the full map, and scored things. As a kid, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to care about this stuff or not.

Strangely enough, the article complaining about the adventure is really complaining about the size of the teams in the AD&D Open, specifically that nine-person teams are too large. Mentzer explains the problem - not enough Dungeon Masters at the tournaments. Can't argue with that.

Dig this:


Old Horny indeed. Let's hope those horns on his head were the source of his nickname. And here, keeping with the theme of this post, is Dragontooth Miniatures old location:



Or is it? A Hilton? I'm thinking perhaps the old building was torn down and replaced. That, or Conrad Hilton had a secret hobby.

The next few articles are a bit too timely to make sense to talk about here - GenCon is growing, , GenCon East fills the Origins 'hole' (I'm sure that's not as filthy as it sounds) and there are nine ways to win the painting contest at GenCon.

Okay, enough of that convention stuff. Next up: Samurai!


This is an interesting take on the character class. The editor's note mentions that the author, Anthony Salva, holds a first degree black belt in Hapkido. The class that follows is heavily influenced by this, and it's really a bit more like an alternate monk than the samurai most people would expect.

That said, it's a pretty groovy class. It's tough to make it in - you need Str 15, Dex 17 and Int 15 to qualify, but the class is open to gnomes, halflings, elves, half-elves and humans.

This version of the samurai cannot use armor, but his AC improved by 1 per 4 levels. They can use two-handed swords, short swords, bows and staffs, and a samurai of 4th level or higher can obtain his "personal weapons", which are sacred to him. It mentions the weapons of honor - "Katana, Wakizashi and Nunchakos" are described later in the article.

Apparently Dragon Magazine got there first. Source
The samurai's special abilities are as follows: Jump front kick (-3 to hit, 2d6 damage), judo throw, ceremony of fealty-weapons of honor (4th level; and here it mentions that katana do 1d12 or 1d10 damage, wakizashi 2d4 or 1d8 and nunchako 1d8 damage), sweep and double chop (5th level), crescent kick/side kick combination, back roundhouse kick, illusionist spell ability (8th level), "360" and downward kick, the slaying hand (10th level), flying side kick (requires movement, -3 to hit, 1d20 damage) and a samurai who becomes a shogun (13th level) has a 25% chance to obtain 30 psionic power points. They go on a bit later to mention they can reduce falling damage, hide in shadows and move silently as a thief, and can dive and roll over obstacles.

This class would probably be a blast to play, especially as a gnome. I've often thought that the monk would make a pretty good "cartoon hero" class, and this version of the samurai has me thinking of Samurai Champloo and other anime samurai. If anyone has experience with this class, please drop a note down below and let us know how it went.

Brief pause for the birthplace of Traveller



Merle Rasmussen now brings us a nice Top Secret article about special ammunition - armor-piercing, dumdum, gyrojet, duplex, etc. Lots of stats (and I mean lots with a capital "L"), but probably useful info for other games as well.

Karl Horak has an article called "Getting a world into shape", which gets into different shapes for campaign worlds, as in cylinders, polygons, etc.If you want a campaign world in the shape of a 20-sided die, this is the article for you.


Giants in the Earth in this issue presents some Poul Anderson characters - Holder Carlsen (14th level paladin) and Hugi (5th level gnome fighter). The art by Roger Raupp is great:


He's always fantastic with knights and warriors. The article also has stats for T. J. Morgan's Ellide (6th level fighter)

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on historical names - Anglo-Saxon, Byzantine, etc. Very useful then, less so now with the resources of the internet at one's disposal.

Jon Mattson's article "Monster mixing - AD&D creatures adapted to a C&S campaign" show that Dragon was not yet the house organ for TSR that it would become (though it always had more outside content than White Dwarf once it became GW's house organ). While the article is quite useful for players of Chivalry & Sorcery, it also has an interesting piece at the end - a flowchart of AD&D monster predation:


And now you know.

Up next in the magazine is the section on Tim Hildebrandt's art. I'd post some images (aside from the cover above), but a Google search (or clicking on the artist's name up above) will do you more good these days. Take a look - I think you'll like what you see. I will post this quote from the interview with the artist:

“One thing leads to another thing leads to another thing and you start growing and growing. Things keep expanding, and the more I do myself, the more I see that there is to learn.”

Lots of wisdom in those words.

The Dragon's Bestiary in this issue features the Loren Kruse's Nogra ("a small creature with long, sharp claws which somewhat resembles a hairless lynx"). The basic stats for Blood & Treasure are below:

Nogra, Small Magical Beast: HD 2, AC 15, ATK 1 bite (1d4), MV 20', SV F12 R11 W15, INT Low, AL Neutral (N), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Body secretes a substance which absorbs all light (including into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums), liquid is also a contact poison (save or blinded for 2d4 rounds), light sensitivity

Leonard Lakofka has a new class for this issue (which hopefully doesn't do halflings wrong) called the Alchemist. Another old Dragon classic. It seems like such an obvious class for D&D, but it's tricky. My version was essentially Dr. Jekyll, to give it a twist and make more than a guy who isn't remotely as useful as a magic-user. Lakofka's is, in fact, not an adventurer.

Lakofka's alchemist has to have Str 9, Int 10, Wis 6, Dex 9, Con 14 and Cha 16 to qualify, and they must be human, elf or half-elf, with only the humans hitting the highest levels. They only earn XP by "plying their trade", not adventuring. They can make pottery, blow glass, identify potions, manufacture poisons and manufacture magic potions. It's a useful class, and could be adjusted to be an adventurer, but as a non-adventuring NPC I'm not sure why one needs to go to the trouble of having levels. It seems like a "novice-veteran-master" approach would work just as well, or even just "the alchemist can do what the DM to needs her do" concept. That being said, Lakofka always puts a lot of work into these things, and his alchemist is no different and thus is worth the read.

Gary Snyder now gets into the weeds on the issue of wishes and how to adjudicate them. This brings up a great point about fantasy gaming and gamers. I'll often be watching some tv show or movie and think, "That ploit element would never work in a game - the players would kill that guy in a heartbeat / or they would never touch that statue, 'cause statues are always trouble in a dungeon." The idea of wishes probably seemed so simple when the game was first written, and then creative players got ahold of the concept and made DM heads explode. Snyder gives ten rules to keep wishes in check which have largely been adopted into the game.

It's followed up by a short article/story about wishing by Roger E. Moore.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh has an artcle about travel and clothing in DragonQuest.

If you need a time keeper program in BASIC, Mark Herro has you covered in this month's The Electric Eye. Blast from the past to see those IF ... THEN statements and GOTO commands. I learned on a VIC-20, which is actually still sitting in my closet.

Side note - I love this Grenadier miniature ...


Great sculpt

Side note II - A bit of Wormy


And now on to White Dwarf 25, the June/July 1981 issue. I'll keep this one brief, and just cover the bases:

Lewis Pulsipher has the third part of the Introduction to D&D series, covering spellcasters. Great art in this one.

Trevor Graver has Optional Skill Acquisition for Travellers. This one ditches the random tables (which are pretty cool) for a skill point system. Control vs. Chaos, the eternal struggle in game design.

Roger Musson has a nice article on The Interesting Dungeon - worth the read.

Tony Chamberlain & Paul Skidmore have an interesting "clerical AD&D skirmish for a large number of players" called Lower Canon Court. This is another one that would probably be fun to play with a big group on Google+.

This issue has some clever magic items - the bowl of everlasting porridge, the bell of watchfulness - a notion on determining handedness in games by Lew Pulsipher (left-handed males 8%, females 4%), and Roger E. Moore has a bit on fake torture items.

Andy Slack has Vacc Suits in Traveller.

Dream Demon!
The Fiend Factory this issue is themed The Black Manse, and has stats for Dream Demons (which are really cool) by Phil Masters, the Incubus by Roger E. Moore, Brain Suckers by John R. Gordon and the Guardian by Simon Tilbrook. As always, the art is top notch. It's a shame there was never a Fiend Folio II - so many great monsters were left behind.

Lewis Pulsipher's second article this issue is on "What Makes a Good AD&D Character Class". I would answer - people want to play it and it doesn't screw up the game. This is pretty much what he says, focusing especially on the class not being overpowering. His example of an overpowering class makes me actually want to create it - The Guardian class he posits can listen at doors, use x-ray vision, become ethereal and has a psionic boomerang defense that kills some mind flayers. I dig it.

And that's that ... except for one more thing ...



Games Workshop's location back in 1981 ... or close to it. Hard to make out the address.

Have fun on the internet!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Duet of Spells

Since most of my time right now is devoted to editing, it's been tough to produce new material for the blog. I guess I had the Bard of Avon buzzing in my ear this weekend, though, when I wrote these thought up these spells ...

Star Crossed
Magic-User 3
30’ range
Permanent until removed

The magic-user causes two creatures within 30 feet to have their fates exchanged. The two creatures must be friends or allies of one another. The spell exchanges the ability score modifiers, attack bonus and saving throw values between the two creatures. The spell lasts until the two creatures make contact with one another while remove curse is cast on them.

Zounds
Cleric (Lawful) 2
30’ range
Lasts a number of rounds equal to the cleric’s level

One target within 30 feet has terrible, bleeding wounds opened up on its hands and feet. The pain is terrible, leaving the creature crippled (see Conditions) and imposing a -3 penalty to attack and perform tasks involving holding tools or using their hands (pick pocket, open lock, etc.).

For Lawful clerics, though, it also brings on an apotheosis, increasing their caster level by +2 and granting them a +1 bonus to save vs. magic for 24 hours.


I've been wanting to do something Shakespearean - perhaps this points the way.

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