Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Blowhard [New Monster]

What happens when you mix one of these ...


With one of these ...


THE PIPER
Large Aberration; Chaotic (CE); Super Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 9
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: Bite (2d6) and one blow tube (see below)
Movement: Fly 30
Saves: F10 R11 W6
XP: 900 (CL 10)

Pipers look like great bloated sacks of flesh, bristling with eight blow tubes and possessed of three sinister eyes circling a gaping maw filled with sharp teeth. The monster is little more than a stomach and brain (and an evil brain at that). It haunts deep caverns and shadowy dimensions, preying on adventurers and other monsters. Pipers levitate naturally, and move by flight. They can speak (some might detect a Scottish brogue), and can communicate telepathically with other aberrations within 1 mile.

The piper has eight blow tubes sticking from its body that it uses to emit sounds. Some of these sounds are shrill and piercing, others are deep and resounding. All of them have magical effects when they are used, as follows:

1) Sound Burst - As the spell. Sounds like the blaring of a fog horn.

2) Sonic Ray - As the energy ray spell, using sonic energy. Sounds like a high pitched shriek.

3) Dancing - As irresistible dance spell. Sounds like an Irish jig.

4) Shatter - As the spell, except that it affects a 30' radius area around the monster. Sounds like an opera singer hitting a super high note.

5) Silence - As the spell, except it affects a 30' radius area around the monster. Sounds like ... silence.

6) Confusion - As the spell, except it affects a 10' radius area around the monster. Sounds like the screaming of a madman.

7) Blasphemy - As the spell. Sounds like the cackle of demons.

8) Discord - As the spell song of discord. Sounds like a cacophony of voices and instruments.

9) Hold - As the spell hold monster. Sounds like a quick blast of trumpets, followed by the trill of flutes while the affected creature remains held.

Special Qualities: Magic resistance 5%, immune to poison

Of course, you could also present the monster as something like this handsome fellow:



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - November 1979

November 1979

The Iran Hostage Crisis

Morning Edition premiers on NPR

The last cargo of phosphate shipped from Banaba Island

Obviously, they were troubled times for the world.

But take heart, gentle reader, for the game wizards blessed our eyeballs and brains with The Dragon #31.

I'm going to start doing these reviews a little different (since they take about 3 or 4 hours otherwise), and focus on the Top 10 Cool Things in each issue. They might be articles, they might be ads.

COOL THING NUMBER ONE: RAL PARTHA


Click for the larger version. Those are some pretty slick landsknechts (and such). I love the idea of the Thirty Years War as a campaign setting (even wrote about it), and these would make great miniatures for it.

Side note - when I looked up those colorful plastic robots on Amazon that I showed in my Manbot Warriors post, I found a few other great sets that I remember from my childhood. Now I want to write a little mini-game for all of them - cowboys and indians, plastic army men, Romans, plastic knights, firemen, etc. Just need to get the rules for Manbots right, and then I can expand.

COOL THING NUMBER TWO: JOHN ERIC HOLMES


If you love the old game, you probably love (or at least like) Mr. Holmes. This issue has an excerpt from a novel he was writing called Trollshead. Here's the first paragraph:

"The campfire cast flickering shadows into the surrounding trees and across the face of the lean man squatting opposite. He wore an iron cap with a leather lining which cast a shadow over his thick brows. A ragged scar ran from the comer of his left eye down the cheek to vanish in the folds of a woolen tunic at his neck. A tough customer, Boinger thought to himself."
Boinger? Well, I don't know if the novel was ever finished - couldn't find it on Amazon.com. Here's another taste:

“'I think we can take them,' said the halfling confidently. 'Four half-orcs, old scar face, and that damned troll.'"

I like that halfling's moxie. He doesn't look so confident in the accompanying art by Chris Holmes.


Bonus - Later in the issue they cover the 5th annual Strategists Club Banquet and Awards, which features a picture of Tim Kask talking with the Holmes family, son Chris, wife Sig-Linda and John-Eric himself.


Sometimes, I miss the 1970's. But only sometimes, and only a little.

COOL THING NUMBER THREE: STRAIGHT TALK

In his article on using jungles in D&D, Tim Kask says it like it is:

"Traditional accounts of the jungle, from Bomba the Jungle Boy to Jungle Jim to Tarzan, have always depicted the jungle as a place of peril—but there has always been justification for jungle adventures. We’ll leave aside the philanthropic wanderings of Livingstone and Schweitzer and look at jungles from a more typical D&D viewpoint: greed."

The article is pretty long, and covers jungles in Asia, Africa and South America. A few takeaways:

1 - He notes that any rules for wilderness exploration will do, but he likes Source of the Nile. This reminds me of the use of Outdoor Survival in old D&D games. Does this happen much anymore? Using another game to fill in the gaps. I've read so much about Source of the Nile in these old Dragons that I kinda want to buy the game. Doesn't appear to be in print anymore, so I guess I need to look around.

2 - Rain forest plant growth is so quick that a trail blazed through it disappears in a few days (I'd go 1d4+1 days, personally).

3 - "With the restrictions placed on poison within D&D and AD&D, the DM may wish to eliminate some or all of the natural poisons found in the jungle."Sorry jungle, but you're just to poisonous for the rules as written. We're going to have to make some changes.

4 - "The Jivaro, known for their practice of shrinking heads, are so surrounded by myth and misinformation that it is hard to distinguish fact from fancy without serious study. It can be safely stated that they were fierce and deadly foes."

5 - "In the tropical rain forest jungles, the humidity never falls below 85 or 90 percent. This high moisture rots and mildews cloth and leather, unless they are assiduously treated to prevent it All metals will oxidize; armor will rust and swords and daggers will lose their edges. The humidity affects people by lowering resistance as a result of overworking the sweat glands, thereby causing wounds to heal at a greatly retarded rate, if at all." So, rules wise - maybe force item saving throws once a week if things are not cared for, and reduce non-magical healing to 2 hit points (or hit points per level) every three days.

6 - Typical weapons of jungle cultures are blowguns (with poison darts), spear, club, throwing knives (treat as hand axes, maybe), assegai (treat as short swords).

7 - Kask writes a whole bit on how the presence of a 25th level magic-user might affect a local jungle. It includes using stone shape to make a hill into a fortified abode, permanently charming a panther and permanently enlarging it to use as a guard beast, attracting a spider monkey with find familiar, and then impressing the locals with his magic and being worshiped by them as a jungle god. The tribe that follows him flourishes, he starts experimenting with the local flora and fauna, and then the last experiment goes to far - instant ruined jungle city for adventurers to loot. I like the ways this guy thinks!

COOL THING NUMBER FOUR: WHAT THE?



Lou Zocchi had a ventriloquist act. 'Nuff said.

COOL THING NUMBER FIVE: MINI-GAMES

The rules aren't in this issue, just an add, but this sounds cool:


Also makes we want to write a game for these guys:


And, surprise surprise - it's on BoardgameGeek.com.

Check it out
COOL THING NUMBER SIX: LOU SCHEIMER AS A MUSE

From Kenneth W. Burke's article "Will Jason Destroy The Dragonship? Stay Tuned ..."

"The following Alpha Omega variant has been derived from the “Victory of Star Command’ episode of the Jason of Star Command television mini-series. To play it, you need one or two Alpha Omega games."

You might be asking yourself, "What is Jason of Star Command?"



Now you're asking yourself, "Why, God? Why?"

James Doohan was a regular in other episodes - God bless him.

COOL THING NUMBER SEVEN: RANDOM TABLES

Here's a new table for STELLAR CONQUEST that just has to be useful to somebody:


I don't know what MA stands for, but I think it has something to do with movement.

COOL THING NUMBER EIGHT: SIZE CHARTS

In the Fantasysmith article they ask "How tall is a giant?" What I liked in the article was the two drawings comparing fantasy folk:





Elves dressed up as Peter Pan is so outside the mainstream now, that I think it rocks on toast.

Check out the giants:


You'll perhaps note that it looks as though the storm giant has just finished beating the crap out of the rest of them.

COOL THING NUMBER EIGHT: JAPANESE ARMOR

Michael Kluever comes across with an article about the armor of the Far East. The article covers the armor of China, Tibet, Korea, Mongolia, and Japan. All text, but it does a nice job of covering the basics. Here are the basics:

China: Padded, ring, scale and brigandine (studded leather); mail and plate rarely utilized; paper armor was used in the Tang Period, especially in Southern China - 10 to 15 thicknesses was adequate to stop an arrow or musket ball. Shields were often the only form of protection for foot soldiers; rhino hide was prized for making shields.

Mongolia: Horse armor (barding) of leather scales


Korea: Like the Chinese, but lower quality materials and the helms were black laquered

Tibet: Lacquered hide armor in red and black, with engravings, in the form of a long coat - awesome. Barding was leather.

Japan: Lamellar armor (banded mail in AD&D, more or less), with small hand shields (Te-date)

COOL THING NUMBER NINE: OLD SCHOOL PLAYERS

From Jean Wells' "Sage Advice" column:

"Question: We have a group of players here who insist that they can ride on a mule in a 10-foot-wide and 10-foot-high corridor and shoot arrows from longbows. Now, there are two characters who say they ride side by side and do this over the objections of the rest of the party members. I think this is wrong. Am I right?"

Right or wrong, I like the cut of those players' collective jibs. I solemnly swear that I am going to commission this as a piece of art this weekend.

Also - Jean Wells was trying to write an article about female gamers and they put in this ad:


COOL THING NUMBER TEN: THE JUNGLE HYDRA

You have to love this monster from an unknown author - not a hydra in the "guarding the Golden Fleece" since, but more in the giant version of the microscopic hydra sense. It's called the Ukuyatangi, and it looks like a blob with tentacles. It sits on a stump in the jungle and spreads the tentacles into the rank undergrowth to blend in. Due to the camouflage, there is a 90% chance for adventurers walking through the area to touch a tentacle, which then makes a free grapple attack. The monster consumes one man-sized creature a day, and regurgitates indigestible bits, which litter its clearing. After it's full, it just constricts people to death and leaves them to rot. Reptilian in nature, the monster is susceptible to cold, going dormant when under 50-degrees F (or 10-degrees C).

Ukuyatangi: HD 7 to 9; AC 5; MV 1/4", ATK 2 tentacles per target, up to 4 per round (2d4 + constrict); Special - swallow whole; SZ Large (6-10' tall, tentacles 20-40' long)

SPECIAL BONUS COOL: WORMY


Saturday, August 22, 2015

MST3K RPG

Sometimes, a stupid idea pops into my head, and I think it over - how can I do this? Yesterday, an RPG based on Mystery Science Theater 3000 popped into my head. How could you do that? And then it hit me ...



... every game of D&D I ever played was MST3K the RPG.

After all, what is MST3K but three guys making fun of a movie. Every game I've ever played in is a group of people both playing the game and making a running funny (well, sometimes funny) commentary on the game we were playing. How do we turn "making fun of each other" into a game? Rules!

Rule #1 - The DM is the audience

Rule #2 - When the DM laughs, the player who made it happen earns XP

Smirk ... 10 XP

Snicker ... 100 XP

Guffaw ... 250 XP

Belly Laugh ... 500 XP

ROFL ... 750 XP

Releases a beverage from mouth or nose ... 2,500 XP

Players can also earn 1,000 XP for singing an impromptu song about something in the game and getting applause from at least 60% of the people at the table

Players use the fighter's XP level advancement table. Players get the following special abilities:

Level 1 ... nothing

Level 2 ... gets most comfortable seat at the table, if highest level player

Level 3 ... can make the lowest level player fetch them a snack or drink, once per session

Level 4 ... can add a bit of narrative that benefits his or her character in a small way (once per character life)

Level 5 ... can re-roll a failed dice roll (once per character life)

Level 6 ... can make the DM re-roll a successful dice roll (once per session)

Level 7 ... player is immune to fire (trust me)

Level 8 ... can add a bit of narrative that benefits his or her character in a big way (once per character life)

Level 9 ... player gets the right to build a stronghold out of couch cushions and pillows and must be referred to as Lord or Lady by the other players

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Manbot Warriors!

These guys would be great for a game of Manbot Warriors. Buy them HERE.
There was no Dragon by Dragon on Sunday because I was visiting relatives in the great state of Iowa over the weekend. While I was doing that, I was formulating this, which I now present to you ...

MANBOT WARRIORS
A Mini-Game by John M Stater

For 3 to 5 players, aged 13-1/2 and up (sorry 13 year olds, but you'll understand why you're not allowed to play this intense sci-fi RPG when you get older)

When evil threatens from the Galactic Core, the planets of the outer rim call out for ... the Manbot Warriors!

Manbot Warriors was a Saturday morning cartoon that never existed, but could have in the late 1970's or early 1980's. It would concern a band of warriors, human minds encased in robot bodies, defending the outer rim of peaceful planets from the evils of the Galactic Core. Each episode might entail some crisis that the Manbot Brigade would respond to, from hijackings of pleasure spaceships, to the heist of the First Cosmic Bank, to a threat of planetary invasion.

The game is played by up to 5 people. One is the Game Master, who concocts an evil plot and assembles various monsters to see the plot through. The Game Master must draw up any necessary maps or plans of spaceships or secret hideouts, and must also adjudicate the game fairly on behalf of the players. He is not their opponent, per se, but rather the referee of the game.

The players must roll up their manbot characters, and then counter whatever evil machinations the Game Master has invented for them.

Rolling up a character involves rolling ability scores, choosing a class of manbot to play, choosing and rolling up skills, and finally equipping your manbot with kits.

ABILITY SCORES
Manbots are a collection of abilities and skills. All manbots have the same seven ability scores. Ability scores range from 1 to 6 (though some monsters might have higher scores).

Power (POW): Power measures physical strength.

Reflexes (REF): Reflexes measures how quick and accurate a character is.

Fortitude (FOR): Fortitude measures how well a manbot stands up to punishment.

Intellect (INT): Intellect measures a character’s smarts and mental quickness.

Willpower (WIL): Will measures a manbot’s mental toughness.

Awareness (AWR): Awareness measures a manbot’s perception and situational awareness.

Charm (CHR): A manbot’s charm is their ability to manipulate people.

For each of these abilities roll two dice and write the value of the higher dice roll next to the ability score.

CLASS
Manbots are manufactured to one of five series, called classes. These classes are named after colors, and each class carries with it a bonus and a penalty to ability scores, and determines which skills are prime and secondary for the manbot.

Manbot Black
A manbot black is designed for stealth missions, like the ninjas of ancient Earth. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR scores by one point.

Primary Skills: Stealth
Secondary Skills: Dodge, Fighting, Thievery
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Blue
The manbot blue series is designed for science. They reduce their POW and FOR scores by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their INT and WIL scores by one point.

Primary: Science
Secondary: Detection, Engineering, Fighting
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Gold
The gold series of manbots is designed for command and control. They reduce their POW and FOR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their WIL and CHR scores by one.

Primary: Psionics
Secondary: Detection, Fighting, Psychology
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Green
Green manbots are designed for commando operations in the wilderness. They reduce their WIL and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their REF and AWR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Detection, Stealth, Survival
Tertiary: Choose any three

Manbot Red
The red series of manbots is designed for military operations – they are warriors par excellence. They reduce their INT and CHR by one point each (to a minimum of one), and increase their POW and FOR by one.

Primary: Fighting
Secondary: Dodge, Drive, Endurance
Tertiary: Choose any three

SKILLS
Each manbot has seven skills (see above). One skill is prime, three are secondary, and three are tertiary. Skill scores range from 0 to 12. Each skill (see below) is associated with an ability score. For the prime skill, roll 3 dice and use the two highest values. For secondary skills, roll 2 dice and used their combined value. For tertiary skills, roll 1 dice and use that value.

The following are considered skills in Manbot Warriors:

Acrobatics (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to leap, tumble, survive falls and flip over opponents.

Astronavigation (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to navigate the stars.

Climbing (POW): Governs a manbot’s ability to climb sheer surfaces.

Detection (AWR): Governs a manbot’s ability to find clues and avoid ambushes.

Dodge (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to dodge traps or other attacks that cover a large area.

Drive (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to drive tanks, cars and hovercraft.

Endurance (FOR): Governs a manbot’s ability to endure pain and maintain focus despite confusion.

Engineering (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of engineering and mechanics.

Fighting (POW/REF): Governs the manbot’s ability to inflict damage in combat. Melee fighting (i.e. hand-to-hand combat or combat with hand held weapons) is associated with Power, while missile fighting (i.e. shooting guns and laser beams) is associated with Reflexes.

Flight (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to control himself in flight, or to pilot spaceships and aircraft.

Medicine (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to provide first aid and surgery to biological creatures.

Psionics (WIL): Governs a manbot’s ability to manipulate or damage another creature’s mind, or to detect the psychic emanations of others.

Psychology (CHM): Governs a manbot’s ability to figure out a creature’s motivations and to “use psychology” to fool or manipulate and deceive people.

Science (INT): Governs a manbot’s knowledge of the sciences, including physics, biology, and astronomy.

Stealth (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to move silently and hide.

Survival (INT): Governs a manbot’s ability to survive in the wilderness.

Thieving (REF): Governs a manbot’s ability to pick pockets, palm small objects and get past security systems, either mechanical or electronic.

Obviously, you should feel free to add additional skills as you deem necessary.

KITS
Once a manbot has his ability scores and skill scores, he can pick out the kits to equip himself. Each manbot can be fitted out with five kits. The kits are as follows:

Avionics: Avionics improve a manbot’s Flight skill by +1.

Communications: A communications kit can either be used to radio up to 5 miles away (on planet, or to an orbiting spaceship), or to jam all communications (including from other manbots) within 1 mile.

Countermeasures: Countermeasures force smart missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Shields: Energy shields force missile attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the dice roll.

Energy Sword: Energy swords deal one extra point of damage.
Fire Suppression: A fire suppression kit permits the manbot to put out fires. Putting out a fire takes 1-6 combat rounds (roll one dice).

Flame Thrower: A flamethrower forces all creatures within a cone measuring 20 feet long and 10 feet wide to succeed at a Dodge check or suffer a point of damage to Fortitude.

Grapple Fist: A grapple fist can be fired up to 100 feet, and always latches on to a surface with hand holds. It can pull up to two manbots (or the equivalent to 400 pounds) up to the grapple fist.

Jackhammer Fist: A jackhammer fist can be used in melee combat, scoring one extra point of damage against Fortitude, or to break through one foot of concrete per minute and one inch of metal per minute.

Laser Blaster: Laser blasters deal one extra point of damage to Forti-tude on a successful missile attack.

Machine Gun: A machine gun allows a manbot to make three missile attacks per round, but for each additional attack, they must roll one extra dice for their Fighting check (i.e. 3D if attacking two targets, and 4D if attacking three targets).

Mind Gem: A mind gem allows a manbot to project his mental power as a beam of piercing light. The manbot makes an attack using his Psionics score, but deals damage to FOR instead of WIL.

Psi-Helm: A psi-helm deals 2 points of damage to Willpower on a suc-cessful Psionic attack.

Repair Kit: Can be used to effect repairs on other manbots. The repair kit is no good without the Engineering skill.

Rocket Boots: Rocket boots allow a manbot to fly at a speed of 1 mile per minute.

Science Scanners: Can be used to detect radiation, life forms, and the like. The data must be interpreted using the Science skill.

Smart Missiles: A smart missile hits unerringly, unless its target can de-ploy countermeasures or makes a 3D Dodge check.

Sonic Disrupter: A sonic disrupter allows a manbot to make a missile attack using his Fighting skill that deals one point of WIL damage.

Tritanium Armor: Tritanium armor forces attacks against the manbot to add +1 to the attack roll.

CONFLICT AND COMBAT RESOLUTION
To resolve conflicts, add a character’s skill score and relevant ability score. This number is called the target. Roll 3 dice. If the roll is equal to or lower than the tar-get number, you succeed. If the roll is higher than the target, you fail.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill or ability score, add +1 to the roll. If you are rolling against an opponent with a higher skill and ability score, add +3 to the roll.

If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill or ability score, add +1 to the target. If you are rolling against an opponent with a lower skill and ability score, add +3 to the target.

The Game Master can also rule that there is a modifier to the roll or target based on other conditions, such as working under pressure or attacking from behind. For an advantage, add +1, +2 or +3 to the target. For disadvantages, add +1, +2 or +3 to the roll.

Psionic acts that are passive (mind reading, for example) are rolled on only 2 dice (2D).  Psionic acts that actively impact the real world or a creature's mind (such as telekinesis or controlling a person's actions) are rolled on 3 dice (3D). Psionic attacks that deal damage are rolled on 4 dice (4D).

COMBAT
Combat is handled in combat rounds, with each round taking 10 seconds of time. To determine who goes first in a round, each player should roll 1 dice and add their REF score. Highest roll goes first, followed by the next highest, and so on. Ties go to the combatant with the highest REF score. If there is still a tie, flip a coin.

Combat uses the conflict resolution method detailed above, using a character’s Fighting skill, and either their POW ability for melee (hand-to-hand) attacks, or their REF ability for missile (ranged) attacks.

A successful physical attack roll deals one point of damage to the opponent’s FOR score. Psionics attacks deal one point of damage to the opponent’s WIL score. If the attack roll succeeds by 3 or more points, the attacker can also impose a special condition on his opponent, such as putting him in a grapple hold, tripping him or erasing a memory from his mind.

A creature reduced to 0 points of FOR or WIL is knocked unconscious and critically wounded, and they can be killed by one more attack.

Characters can be healed with the Engineering skill (for manbots and other mechanical creatures) or Medicine skill. Light healing requires a 2 dice task check, and restores one point of FOR. Serious healing requires a 3 dice task check and restores two points of FOR. Critical healing requires a 4 dice task check and restores three points of FOR. Other ability scores regenerate at a rate of 1 point per day.

MOVEMENT
Characters walk at a speed of 260 feet per minute (or 40 feet per combat round), and can sprint at a speed of 2300 feet per minute (or 390 feet per second). A sprint can last up to one minute. Running at half sprinting speed can last up to 10 minutes. An Endurance check can double the time a character can sprint or run.

LUCK
Each character begins a game session with a Luck score of 6. A luck score can be substituted for an ability score or skill score when making checks. Each time this is done, the character’s Luck score is reduced by 1 point. Points of Luck can also be spent in place of damage to ability scores.

ADVENTURES
Most Manbot Warriors games involve an initial criminal or in some way hostile act by the bad guys, followed by the reaction, investigation and apprehension or destruction of the bad guys by the manbots.

For example: There is an explosion on an asteroid used as a radar station by some planetary authority, to alert them to incursions into their star system by potentially hostile aliens. The planet has two other radar stations – if they are both destroyed, they will have no warning of an invasion.

The manbots are dispatched to discover who bombed the radar station, and stop them from bombing the other two stations. This will involve investigation, follow-up on clues and confrontation.

The Game Master’s job would be to figure out who the bad guys are, and how their plot is meant to proceed. If the players are slow on the uptake, there will be a second explosion. If they fail to stop the third explosion, they will have failed their mission.

ADVANCEMENT
Manbot Warriors can be played as a stand-alone game, or characters can be used in multiple sessions and advanced in their abilities.

Whenever a manbot warrior survives a mission and completes it successfully, he may attempt to make two advancements, one of an ability score or primary skill, and one of a secondary or tertiary skill.

To improve an ability score, roll 1d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing ability score, advance the ability score by one point. A manbot warrior can never have more than three ability scores at 6, and never more than five ability scores at 5 or higher.

To improve a skill, roll 2d6. If the number rolled is higher than the existing skill score, advance the skill score by one point. Primary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 12. Secondary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 9. Tertiary skills can be advanced to a maximum of 6.

Alternatively, the manbot warrior can add a new tertiary skill to his sheet, with a value of 1. A manbot warrior cannot have more than five tertiary skills.

A manbot warrior can swap out one kit at the beginning of each adventure.

MONSTERS
A monster's threat level is calculated using the following formula: Add FOR + Fighting or Psionics (whichever is higher) + 1 per offensive or defensive kit and special ability. A value of 0 to 9 being a Level I monster, 10 to 13 a Level II monster, 14 to 17 a Level III monster, 18 to 20 a Level IV monster and 21 or higher a Level V monster.

Amazon of Ouroboros
The amazons of Ouroboros are reptilian ladies with narrow faces. They are fearless and without emotion.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 8; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Android
Androids are robots that look like human beings, or nearly so. They are stronger and more logical than humans, but lack imagination. Most androids work in boring jobs, but some develop a wild circuit and head out to explore the galaxy as a robotic hobo. They attack with their fists.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 6, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Engineering 8, Science 4; Communications Kit, Science Scanner, Repair Kit

Android Prime
Android Prime is a massive artificial intelligence that forms the nexus of all androids, and most computers. It moves on tank treads, and can trample (2 points of damage) and strike with sonic blasts.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 1, FOR 10, INT 8, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 4, Psychology 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupters (2), Tritanium Armor

Celestial Siren
These beauteous star maidens actually look something like long, green worms with indistinct faces. They are capable of creating the illusion that they are beautiful women, and use their psionic powers to lure spacemen to their dooms on asteroids or drifting space hulks.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 2, Endurance 6, Psionic 10, Stealth 8

Comet King
The Comet King is a squat, unattractive man with the ability to control the paths of comets, but also to levitate and move bits of metal and earth. With his magnetic powers, he can hurl up to three bits of metal per round as a missile attack, and he can form the spinning metal into a magnetic shield (treat as tritanium armor and energy shield).
LVL III, POW 4, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 3, WIL 8, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Science 10; Communications, Energy Shields, Science Scanner

Crystal Killer
These monsters look like crystal statues, with glowing lights in their hands and heads. Their thick skin reflects lasers and psionic beams, so add +1 to rolls made to attack them with these means. Sonic attacks deal +1 point of damage to the crystal killer’s FOR. Crystal killers attack twice per round with their razor sharp fingers, or once per round with the equivalent of a mind gem.
LVL III, POW 3, REF 7, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 8

Death Howler
Death howlers are quadrupedal monsters about the size of grizzly bears, with smooth skin of scarlet and black, fierce white claws and gnashing teeth. Each round, they can attack twice, once with claws and once with teeth. In place of an attack, they can howl, causing those who fail a WIL check (roll 2d6) to lose one point of POW and one point of FOR for one minute.
LVL II, POW 6, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Survive 10

Esper
Espers are powerful psychics with a desire to dominate other creatures. They have throbbing temples, bald heads and wear robes in weird, brilliant patterns.
LVL III, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 5, AWR 4, WIL 7, CHM 3; Fighting 2, Psionics 9; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Froglodytes
The ruffians and ne’er-do-wells of the galaxy, froglodytes look like big, bulky, humanoid frogs. They wear bits of scrap armor sometimes, and fight with normal hand weapons and firearms.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 3, FOR 4, INT 2, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6; Machine Gun

Gaseous Ghoul
Gaseous ghouls are cannibal humanoids that, when destroyed, turn into a puff of sulfuric smoke. They can reform in one minute. They attack with their claws.
LVL I, POW 4, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Psionics 2; Stealth 10

Grimdark Commando
The grimdark commandos are fierce humanoids with noseless faces and grey skin. They hire themselves out as mercenaries, and are much feared in the cosmos.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 3, CHM 2; Fighting 9, Stealth 8, Survive 6; Energy Sword, Laser Blaster, Tritanium Armor

Junk Ape
Junk apes are primates that live on vast junk worlds. They are expert tinkers, and have a passion for taking mechanical things apart and turning them into other things. They look something like orangutans with blue-tinged fur and pale green skin. They make two attacks each round with their fists.
LVL II, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Engineering 10, Stealth 3; Machine Gun, Repair Kit

Killbot
Killbots are robots designed for combat. Their forms vary, but most are bipedal and bristling with weapons. They attack twice per round.
LVL IV, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 10; Energy Shields, Laster Blaster, Sonic Disrupter, Tritanium Armor

Moondragon Warrior
The Moondragon Warriors are a shadowy cabal of psychic warriors who sometimes appear to oppose the Galactic Core, and other times to be aiding it. They are humanoids, and dress in long, grey robes and grey pleather clothes.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 6, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 6, WIL 5, CHM 3; Fighting 10, Psionics 6, Psychology 6; Energy Sword, Mind Gem

Nebula the Space Witch
Nebula is the self-proclaimed Queen of Space Witches, and a major power of the Galactic Core. She is a tall, gaunt woman, graceful and elegant, in luxurious silks and a tall collar. She is usually guarded by four gaseous ghouls (q.v.).
LVL V, POW 2, REF 4, FOR 6, INT 6, AWR 5, WIL 6, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12, Psychology 9, Science 8; Energy Sword, Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

Psiborg
Psiborgs are robots with the minds of psychics. They are dangerous physically and mentally, but their wild emotional states sometimes prove their undoing.
LVL III, POW 6, REF 5, FOR 5, INT 4, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Endurance 6, Psionics 8, Science 3 [7]; Engineering Kit, Psi-Helm, Tritanium Armor

Radiation Dragon
These massive reptiles dwell in space, soaking up the rays of stars and of radioactive materials in abandoned spaceships (usually abandoned because of the dragon) or asteroids. They can fly through space and in atmospheres, and attack three times per round, with a bite, claws and tail slap. All of these attacks deal 2 points of damage. In place of these attacks, they can spit radioactive fire in a 30-ft long cone, 15-ft wide at the base, that deals 2 points of damage to the FOR and POW scores of everything caught in its path.
LVL V, POW 8, REF 6, FOR 9, INT 3, AWR 5, WIL 5, CHM 2; Fighting 10, Astronavigation 6, Endurance 8, Flight 7, Psionics 5

Rust Viper
Rust vipers are large serpents with metal scales (treat as tritanium armor) and fangs that can pierce metal. When they do, they inject a venom that quickly corrodes and dissolves the metal, ruining tritanium armor and inflicting one point of FOR damage to mechanical creatures (including manbots) per round until repaired. Injected into a biological creature (which also includes manbots), the venom causes mild nausea and hallucinations.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 6, FOR 3, INT 1, AWR 3, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Dodge 6, Stealth 10

Salt Mummy of Kor
The infamous salt mummies of Kor are long-dead aliens preserved in pleather bandages and animated through dark space magic and an undying hatred for living things. They are found in ruins and sometimes on abandoned spaceships, often with a small cult of spacers or space bandits serving them, with an esper as the high priest.
LVL IV, POW 6, REF 2, FOR 8, INT 4, AWR 2, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 8, Endurance 12, Psionics 9; Mind Gem

Saucer Man
Saucer men look like small, grey men with large, black, almond-shaped eyes and oversized heads. They are tremendously annoying, wanting to touch and probe everything they meet, and they have no respect for other forms of life.
LVL I, POW 2, REF 3, FOR 2, INT 6, AWR 4, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 3, Psionics 4, Science 11; Repair Kit, Science Scanner, Sonic Disrupter

Shimmering Death
A shimmering death appears as a cloud of glowing, shifting motes of light. They drain the psyches of creatures, and are notoriously hard to kill. A shimmering death can only be harmed by psionics, sonic disrupters, and energy swords. They attack by enveloping a creature, who must make and Endurance check each round to avoid being stunned with fright while his mind is probed and his psyche gnawed on. Each round spent in a shimmering death drains one point of WIL.
LVL III, POW 1, REF 6, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 11, Psionics 8, Stealth 4

Skarbarian
The boisterous Vikings of the space lanes are raiders, pillagers, warriors, poets and spacemen extraordinaire. They wield energy axes (treat as energy swords) and go berserk in combat, attacking twice per round and ignoring wounds on a successful Endurance task check.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 3; Fighting 8, Astronavigation 7, Dodge 8, Endurance 8, Engineering 4; Energy Axe, Machine Gun

The Slime God
The Slime God is a horrible creature, a blob of cyan slime covered with blinking black eyes. A major power of the Galactic Core, he is bent on consuming everything in his path. The Slime God can strike up to six creatures per round with its pseudopods, or try to overrun creatures and smother them (Endurance check each round or lose one point of Fortitude).
LVL V, POW 8, REF 4, FOR 10, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 6, CHM 1; Fighting 10, Endurance 9, Stealth 12

Space Whale
These magnificent creatures look like humpback whales with shimmering black hides and brilliant eyes of star shine. They attack with their flukes and fins, striking two creatures per round and dealing 2 points of damage when they hit.
LVL III, POW 9, REF 4, FOR 8, INT 2, AWR 1, WIL 4, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Astronavigation 12, Flight 8, Psionics 5

Spacers
Spacers are traders who drive cruisers across the galaxy, trading exotic goods. They attack with handguns and daggers, one attack per round.
LVL I, POW 3, REF 3, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 3, WIL 3, CHM 4; Fighting 4, Astronavigation 6, Engineering 5, Psychology 7

Star Bandits
Star bandits are pirates. Some operate from space cruisers, others in starfighters that launch from asteroids and planetoids.
LVL II, POW 3, REF 4, FOR 3, INT 3, AWR 4, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 7, Stealth 6; Energy Shield, Machine Gun

Stone Man
Stone men look like humanoids formed of stones. They stand about 10 feet tall, and have deep, raspy voices with which they speak very slowly. Their skin is as tough as tritanium armor, and their hands can strike like jackhammers. They attack twice per round.
LVL III, POW 8, REF 2, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 2, WIL 2, CHM 2; Fighting 6, Endurance 12

Sun Tiger of Yaoloo
The sun tigers look like cats formed of flame and light. They radiate intense heat, forcing creatures within 10 feet to pass an Endurance check each round or suffer a -1 penalty to all physical ability scores (POW, REF, FOR). They attack twice per round, once with eye beams (up to 30 feet) and once with claws.
LVL III, POW 5, REF 5, FOR 8, INT 1, AWR 6, WIL 2, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Endurance 6, Flight 6, Stealth 5

Vampiric Plant Man
A vampiric plant man looks like a thin creature with indistinct features, pale green skin and long, thorned fingers that can tear into flesh and drink blood. They attack twice per round with their fingers. Each successful attack forces a person to pass an Endurance task check or lose one point of POW to blood drain each round until receiving first aid. Lost POW returns at the rate of one point per hour.
LVL III, POW 4, REF 4, FOR 5, INT 2, AWR 5, WIL 4, CHM 2; Fighting 8, Psionics 5, Stealth 9

Volton
Voltons are large avians with leathery skin, long, jagged beaks, and 20-ft long, whip-like tails that carry a powerful electric charge. Creatures struck by the tail must pass a 3 dice Endurance check or be stunned for one combat round and unable to move or attack, in addition to suffering 2 points of FOR damage. Their tiny minds make them immune to psionic attack.
LVL II, POW 7, REF 4, FOR 4, INT 1, AWR 4, WIL 1, CHM 1; Fighting 6, Flight 8

Xodiac, Lord of Space Magic
Xodiac is an ancient wizard steeped in cosmic magic. He is a major power in the Galactic Core, commanding many froglodytes and space bandits. He travels on a boomer, seated on a golden throne before a giant crystal ball, through which he spies on the galaxy. His awareness of the future allows him to force opponents to re-roll an attack or task check once per combat.
LVL V, POW 2, REF 5, FOR 6, INT 5, AWR 5, WIL 8, CHM 4; Fighting 6, Psionics 12; Mind Gem, Psi-Helm

SPACESHIPS
These would be pretty awesome as well. Buy HERE.
Boomer
A boomer is a cruiser-sized spaceship that carries cargo, passengers or perhaps two or three starfighters. They carry three laser blasters, energy shields and tritanium armor. They move at a speed of 2 miles per minute (or 1400 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

Saucer
These ships are operated by the saucer men. They are quick and maneuverable, and are capable of teleporting up to one parsec away once per day. They are unarmed, but carry science scanners.

Starfighter
These small, one or two-man spaceships carry a laser blaster and six smart missiles. They can operate in space or in an atmosphere. They move at a speed of 35 miles per minute (or 6 miles per round).

Zipper
A zipper is a small cargo ship designed to be a blockade runner. It is equipped with two laser blasters and energy shields. A zipper moves at a speed of 3 miles per minute (or 2600 feet per round), and can hyperspace one parsec away, once per day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

UFO - A Timely Review

Mismatched dice and a space station standing in for a rocket, but GAME ON!
As long-time readers know, I like to keep my reviews at the Land of Nod timely and relevant, which is why today I'm reviewing a game made in 1976 by Avalon Hill.

Once upon a time (because anything that begins with that phrase has to be timely and relevant), when I must have been in elementary school or thereabouts, I was digging through a closet and came across a box that apparently held a game. The title - UFO: Game of Close Encounters.

These were the days of Star Wars, but they weren't the days of VCR's / DVD's / Netflix / YouTube / watch anything you want when you want no matter what. These were the days when the Charlie Brown Christmas Special was on TV once a year, and if you missed it, you missed it. Star Wars was a phenomenon, and since it was in short supply, anything sci-fi was doing pretty well. I didn't know much about this UFO game, but it looked like it was at least in Star Wars' neighborhood, so I was intrigued.

The game belonged to my father, apparently a gift from somebody. My father isn't much of a game player, and I'm not sure he ever played the game in his life. He sure didn't play it with me. The game migrated to my closet as a kid, and then moved with me when I left home. And then, one day thirty-something years later ...

"What's this," asks my daughter, rummaging through the closet in my office.

And I realize it's time to end the cycle. UFO must be played.

The cover, found at Board Game Geek, of course
I get the game out and check Board Game Geek to see what I'm missing. Apparently, I only managed to lose 2 counters in all the years I messed with the game as a kid. Not too bad, and not really an obstacle to playing the basic version of the game.

The victory conditions in the basic game are pretty simple - the invading UFO player wins by landing five saucers on Earth. The Earth player wins by destroying enough saucers that the UFO player cannot win.

Game play is equally simple. The UFO player places his/her saucers around the outside of the board. The Earth player places his rockets on Earth. Each turn, players roll two dice. Each dice controls the movement of a separate piece. Pieces can move in orbit clockwise. They can move to a different orbit only along four paths, and may not change orbit or move clockwise in the same turn. If a rocket lands on a saucer, the saucer is destroyed. If a saucer lands on a rocket, the rocket is destroyed.

If the Earth player rolls doubles, he loses his turn and the Moon moves in orbit. If the UFO player rolls doubles, she may hyperspace one of her saucers to any empty space on the board.

If the Moon, while orbiting, moves over a piece, it destroys the piece. If the Moon is empty, a piece can be landed on the Moon on its own turn, by exact count. Likewise, Earth can only be landed on by exact count, but either player.

So, them's the rules. How did the game go?

Pretty fun, actually. The strictures on movement make you think a bit, and the potential for hyperspace makes it tough for the Earth player to cover all his bases. Ultimately, you want to control those orbital paths towards the Earth, but it's not as easy as you think, because if you just sit there, eventually the UFO player is going to destroy your rocket or hyperspace in behind you. In the game my daughter and I played, it came right down to the wire - four saucers landed on Earth, one saucer left needing a "1" to land. I got the lucky roll the dice  and destroyed the fifth saucer. Earth was saved. All humanity rejoiced.

The advanced game involves space stations and false signals on radar, and we'll tackle it at some point. The game was pretty fun, actually. Didn't take long, and didn't drain the brain, so a nice way to spend a half an hour or so. Afterwards, we played LIFE (the old version with Art Linkletter on the money, of course), and my daughter cleaned my clock.

Of course, there wouldn't have been an Earth to play the Game of LIFE on if I hadn't stopped the saucer invasion ...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - October 1979

We're baking here in Vegas (heat wise - the medical marijuana isn't flowing yet), so perhaps a nice magazine from the fall of 1979 will put me into a cooler mindset.

I know - The Dragon #30! That's the ticket!

But, of course, October isn't about being cool. It's about being horrified. '79 was a good time for that, and not just because of the Carter administration. '79 was The Amityville Horror, Alien, Phantasm, The Brood, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Dracula ... and I never saw any of them. Frankly, not a horror movie fan. Let's get to the magazine.

First - the cover. What a great cover. I love covers with lots of little details, lots of things to get the brain ticking.

Dig this from the opening of Kask's editorial:

"As I am writing this (11 Sep), DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is getting the publicity that we used to just dream about, back when we were freezing in Gary’s basement in the beginning. If we had our ‘druthers’, it would not have happened in such a fashion. By now, as you read this, I hope the mystery surrounding the disappearance of James Egbert has been happily resolved. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it has been a nightmare for his parents and family, as well as for TSR Hobbies, Inc. It has been speculated that James was involved in some sort of D&D game that went beyond the realm of pencil and paper roleplaying, and may have mutated into something tragic. D&D was seized upon as a possible connection to the disappearance, for a variety of reasons. First, James was an avid player. Indeed, I have met him at past conventions,
and he used to subscribe to TD."

And so it begins. In case you don't know, James Dallas Egbert III was a student at ... well, you can read about it at Wikipedia. This may have made D&D more famous, but it also started the backlash against it by morons everywhere dedicated to ruining innocent fun. Worst of all, it led to the TV movie Mazes & Monsters, starring a young Tom Hanks. Not all the Money Pit in the world can make up for that.

The Game's the Thing ... and I Used to Think GenCon Stood for General Confusion
by Kim Mohan

You might recognize Mohan's name. He was a the new kid at TSR when he wrote this review of GenCon XII. In short - he liked it.

Where the Orcs Are
by Steve Brown

This article features a bitchin' miniature diorama by Steve Brown. He wanted to enter it into the miniatures contest at GenCon XII, but it didn't fit into any categories. Nevertheless, it was awesome, and had to get some love, so ...


I'm going to assume the picture in the article doesn't do it justice. Actually, there are a dozen photos, and the underground orc castle looks incredible. Brown says it took him a year to do the thing, and it carried a price tag of $4000 at the con (which would be about $13,000 in todays dollars, proving that the geek community has never been all that swift with their time and money ... thank God).

Leomund's Tiny Hut: Good Evening
by Lenard Lakofka

This was the first of the Leomund's Tiny Hut's, which were usually interesting articles that covered all sorts of gaming topics. This one, appropriately enough, is about vampires. It digs into the AD&D vampire, going in depth on its abilities and answering questions gamers might have had about the monster. For example:

1) Once the vampire's hit points are calculated (it has 8+3 HD), they do not vary - i.e. you do not re-roll hit points when it regenerates in its coffin. Back in the day, there was an idea that adventurer's re-rolled their hit points for each adventure (an idea I actually kind of like - to represent when people are super on their game, and when they aren't).

2) Vampires don't want too many lesser vampires under their control - really no more than 4. It sounds like the vampire wants to make sure there are plenty of living people to feed on, so he has to take care. Like a shepherd and his flock. And lesser vampires don't create more lesser vampires.

3) Here's one that got me: "The Vampire's existence on the Negative Material Plane ..." Wow - dig the idea. Maybe it was widespread. A negative material plane, duplicate of our own in some ways - but probably a nightmarish version - inhabited by the undead who also have an existence in the positive material plane. Neat. And what a great place to set an epic adventure!

4) It takes 1-4 segments for a vampire to transform (a segment is a second, for those not steeped in the timekeeping of AD&D), but only 4 if the vampire is surprised. After one segment to adjust, it can be mobile. When a combat round was predicated on segment-by-segment actions, this would be valuable information.

5) It still takes a magic weapon to damage a vampire in bat form.

6) A vampire in gaseous form "scattered to the four winds" can reform in 1-100 segments (i.e. less than 2 minutes). Also - DM's should pre-set a hit point total at which a vampire will go gaseous.

He also gives some ideas about how to properly dispose of vampires, the spells they are immune to, details on regeneration, "lesser" vampires, summoning and charming, etc. It reminds me of the "Ecology of ..." articles they used to do.

Observer's Report: ORIGINS: Chaos With a Happy Ending
by Fantasysmith

To begin with, a note:

"This OBSERVER’S REPORT is written by the same person that does FANTASYSMITH’S NOTEBOOK. He prefers to do both under the pseudonym FANTASYSMITH, for reasons that he has made clear to us, and which we will honor."

I think I just realized that Fantasysmith was, in actuality, Richard Nixon! I have no proof yet, but I'm launching a new Kickstarter to raise $1 million to help me get to the truth.

And now, I have to quote the first line of the article:

"Fluid sugar draws bees, fluid filth draws flies, and fluid situations attract the chaotic. This last was the case at ORIGINS ’79."

Sheer poetry.

And now, an advert ...


Cool module. Cool art. And remember, "tell them you saw it in The Dragon".

From the Sorcerer's Scroll: New Setting for the Adventure
by Gary Gygax

Here, Gygax talks about the relationship between TSR and TSR Periodicals, and his relationship as publisher vs. Tim Kask as editor and ... yeah, I know. Who cares?

He then talks about the "Mugger" article from a couple issues back, and how it is both funny and great inspiration to look at different settings for games, in this case, the mean urban streets. Gary also gives us the lowdown on an adventure he's working on in which adventurers in a city in the World of Greyhawk delve under that city and somehow end up in a subway tunnel in the modern world. He gives these guides for the particulars:

- In the city setting, magic will work, although cleric spells above third level will not. Of course, firearms also work.

- The perils of the place — police, street gangs, muggers, criminals of other sorts, citizens with
karate training or able to box, those with guard dogs, etc. — will be numerous and different.

- Weapons aren’t difficult to rate according to damage. Electricity will be interesting — low-tension AC giving but 1d6 damage (4d6 if the party is well grounded), low-tension DC doing 1d6 each segment until the victim is freed, and high-tension DC doing 1d20 in the same manner.

- Cars will inflict 1d4 damage for each 10 mph of speed. Small trucks will get a d6, large ones a d8, and trains a d10 for each 10 mph.

- Each special character (guard, policeman, street tough, mugger, etc.) will be given a level roughly corresponding to those of AD& characters, although the type of dice used will be non-standard.

- If the adventurers survive and manage to return to their own place in the multiverse, they will have little in the way of treasure — at least in all probability. Firearms will not work in the World of Greyhawk, of course.

He ends by pointing out that Schick and Moldvay make some of the heroes in their Giants in the Earth series too powerful. Now's a good time for me to preview the way I'm rating fictional and real NPC's in GRIT & VIGOR - by the number of years they've been active:

The New, Improved Ninja
by Sheldon Price

This is a set of rules extensions for the ninja class, which was published at some point in the past - I don't remember the issue, and they don't mention it here.

This version of the ninja is based on the book NINJA: The Invisible Assassins by Andrew Adams, published in 1970 by O'Hara Publications, Inc. of Los Angeles, California. Yeah - you can get it at Amazon.com.

The article starts out with weaponry. Here are some highlights:

In the hands of a ninja, the hankyu (short bow) fires at twice the normal rate.

There is a 5% chance per day of searching that a ninja can find 1d6 plants that work as caltrops.

It takes one week, and costs 2 sp, to make metal claws for the hands and feet.

Staves had small missiles attached to one end that could be thrown by flicking the staff.

Poison water guns have a range of 60', and produce a cone of water 10' wide at the base and 60' high. The main use is to blind eyes - it takes 1d12 rounds to clear the eyes.

The weird signs the ninja makes (called kuji-kiri) are not magical, but they restore his morale and entrance non-ninjas (saving throw allowed).

Ninjas have two kinds of sandals - essentially they can replace the soles. One gave better traction, the other a more silent step.

Ninja can wear up to chainmail, and they can pad it so it remains silent without adding encumbrance.

Ninja can foretell the weather in the short term. Which is nice, because when assassination just ain't paying, they can becomes TV weathermen.

They are also "earth aware" - can find good places for ambushes - and "man aware" - can manipulate people.

There is a huge list of special ninja equipment, from special torches to swimming flippers and rocket arrows.

There is a section on poison (the substance, not the metal band). Gyokuro is a poison that causes slow death - it kills the ill in a few days, and the healthy in 70. Wouldn't that be a fun way to end a PC's life. "Sorry Bill, you suddenly collapse dead in the street while haggling over that beaver tail soup. Turns out a ninja poisoned you a couple adventures back."

Ninjas can make laugh-inducing poisons at level 4, sleep-inducing poisons at level 6, and insanity-inducing poisons at level 8.

Ninjas also have healing abilities, mostly on themselves, but I would think they would work on others.

Basically, ninjas are awesome.


Lankhmar: The Formative Years of "Fafhrd" and "The Mouser"
by Dr. Franklin C. MacKnight

For those not in the know, Lankhmar is not only the setting of Fritz Leiber's stories of Fafhrd and the Mouser, but also a game. This article is written by a friend of his, and thus witnessed the birth of the Nehwon stories and the game. From the author:

"Lankhmar wasn’t just a game, it was an adventure. The pieces were not mere abstractions, but heroes with personalities with which one identified. It provided an esthetic thrill unequaled in my experience in any other game anywhere."

Starring Barry Gibb as Fafhrd
Add Lankhmar to the list of games I want to play. The article goes on to explain how the game was originally played (before it was turned into something more commercially viable in 1976 - see HERE).

We also get this tidbit about Harry Otto Fischer:

"Harry not only looked like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy but had a similarly extroverted temperament and wit. The famous puppet could have been copied from him!"

The article is a must read for folks who love the stories. Great background stuff.

Design Forum: Boot Hill? Sure! But What Scale?
by Ralph Wagner

That title is such an artifact of its time. We don't live in a magazine world anymore, and whenever something passes from now to then to what, so many little things pass with it. I'm only 43 years old, but the then I was born into is rapidly becoming a what. I think my childhood and the childhood of people born in 1900 have more in common than my childhood and people born just 20 years later.

Oh - the article. It's about what scale miniatures to use with Boot Hill. Personally, I would have gone with these bad boys:

Found at Etsy ... already sold. Damn.
Designer's Notes: Flattop: A Long Game but a Strong Game
by S. Craig Taylor, Jr.

This is a discussion of Flattop, a game that covers the Coral Sea-Solomon Islands geography during 1942, specifically the three carrier-to-carrier battles of that year, Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz. Mr. Taylor was the game's designer and developer, and he has a few insights about it, in particular about victory points and the difficulty in writing a truly original game. Sounds like a pip. And a great cover, by the way.

Up on a Soap Box: Standardization vs. Playability
by Bob Bledsaw

He discusses the value of standardization in a game, but also its limitations. Wow - I'm sure you didn't see that coming. Mostly, he describes how he does his own campaigns - how he handles the races and technology and religion. Could be some useful stuff to the newbies - after all, at this point almost everyone playing the game was a newbie. By being a basic framework, D&D opened the doors to a whole new world, and everyone was feeling out what they could and couldn't do in that world.  What a great time.

And look at this little ad that popped up on page 21:


Things are about to get weird. If you are reading this and haven't heard of Arduin, look it up.

Armies of the Renaissance
by Nick Nascati

This is Part V, and covers the armies of Eastern Europe - Poland, Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman Empire. It's a good article - one page, two column, and covers the basic very nicely. What if we came up with a big d% table with 100 entries that determined a first level fighter's starting equipment, based on various historical warriors (and maybe Buck Rogers thrown in just for fun). Might have to do that for the blog.

Tournament Success in Six Steps
by Jon Pickens

Tournaments were such a big deal in the old days. I wasn't a con-goer then (or now, to be honest), so my only exposure to them at all was in some of the old AD&D modules I owned, which had a section on using the module in a tournament, with the points scores, etc.

Here a quick version of Jon's rules for success:

1) Get in - i.e. sign up for a game. If you don't get in the first round, sign up for the second.

2) Use magic to get rid of obstacles that would take too long to overcome the old fashioned way.

3) Have a plan (always a good idea).

4) Pay attention to the DM, and if something seems amiss, question him. He might only give out certain bits of information if the right questions are asked.

5) Don't waste time.

6) Never quit - avoid combat as much as possible, but if you have to do it, do it with extreme prejudice.

Finally, never argue with the DM. If you think he or she screwed up, bring it up politely.

Out on a Limb

Ah - letters to the editor time. Here's a dandy:

Q: "Something has been bothering me about the Druid class in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. That is,
I know of a couple of people in Chapel Hill who don’t know each other, but they are both the ‘Great Druid’.

A: "The stricture regarding the number of high level Druids is on a per world basis."

He kindly didn't add, "dumbass".

Geek Rage of the Week:

"En garde, Master Rahman and those of you who defend such shoddy pieces of work such as Bakshi’s. (I’ll refrain from referring to it as the ‘Lord of the Rings’)."

Good Advice of the Week:

"It is my contention that all “good” referees should make it their duty to change large portions of the concepts presented in any given role-playing game."

Terrible Augury of the Future:

"As you may have noticed last month, Wormy has returned. Wormy’s creator got married and
moved to California, but he promises that Wormy is back to stay. As to more of Dave’s art, that is up to him and his job in CA. One can always hope . . ."

Cool ad for Dragon Tooth Fantasy Figures:

I haven't done a random encounter table based on a mini's ad in a while, so here goes:

d10
1. Rogue or thief (roll 1d4 for level) in leather doublet with short sword, mounted on light warhorse. Wears cloak and floppy hat. Will do anything to steal your purse.

2. Sorcerer (roll 1d5 for level) in the middle of casting one of his highest level spells. Will be extremely cross if you mess it up.

3. Swordsman (roll 1d6 for level) armed with sword and spear.

4. Rictus, the Zombie King; zombie with 12 HD and the strength of a hill giant (+4 damage).

5. Swordsman Kane, a neutral evil 8th level fighter from the terrible north, escaping his love of a good woman who threatened to turn his heart to good. Has +1 scale mail and greatsword.

6. Sorceress (roll 1d8 for level); she holds the mystic Moon Staff of Myrmidor, which can cast all sorts of cool light spells, and confusion and which can cast hold monster, at will, against lycanthropes. She rides a light warhorse.

7. Cleric in mitre with mace. Roll 1d10 for level. He is suffering a crisis of conscience, as he caught mother superior stealing milk and didn't damn her.

8. Fool or jester, recently released from his master's service and very hungry. He is a 1st level assassin.

9. Bard or harpist (roll 1d12 for level) in puffy velvet clothes and a great hat. He carries a silver longsword and a golden lyre that charms fey, 4/day. He rides a dapple grey light warhorse. He is arrogant and good-natured.

10. Swordsman Roland (level 9 fighter), with scale mail, +2 shield (axes stick to it on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6) and a major chip on his shoulder towards paladins and rangers (they think they're so awesome).

Also, found this old issue of Popular Mechanics about painting Dragon Tooth miniatures.

Also, dig this 1978 catalog (which I've probably already posted at some point).

Giants in the Earth
by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay

This edition of G in the E features Piers Anthony's Sol of All Weapons (LN 20th level fighter, 14th level monk), Tanith Lee's Zorayas (LE 23rd level magic-user) and Clark Ashton Smith's Maal Dweb (LE 20th level magic-user).

I dug the little advert for Cities, by Stephen Abrams. I did a search and found that he did a few versions of this book, including one for Runequest. I think I'm going to by myself one. I'm intrigued. If I do, I'll post a review.

The Dragon's Augury

The games reviewed in this issue are Spellmaker reviewed by Bruce Boegman, Black Hole reviewed by David Cook and Down Styphon reviewed by Kenneth Hulme.

Spellmaker (1978, by Eric Solomon) pits powerful wizards against one another, trying to transport a princess to their castle to win the game. The reviewer calls it a "rare gem", and I must admit, it sounds pretty cool. The spells are card-based, and I'd love to see a deck of them.

Black Hole (1978, by Robert A Taylor) pits two mining cartels against one another to capture a donut-shaped asteroid with a black hole tethered in the middle. The review is positive, so it might be a good con game for two.

Down Styphon! (1977, by Mike Gilbert) sounds pretty interesting. It is based on the book Lord Kalven of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper, in which a Penn. State trooper is transported to a parallel earth where the secret of gunpowder is controlled by a bunch of priests. The trooper knows how to make gunpowder, better weapons and he knows something about the "future" of warfare. The game is a miniatures wargame in the musket and pike era. It is apparently a very playable game with only OK layout and some missing stats for artillery (which are provided in the review).

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Orlow's Inventions Can Liven Up Your Life
by William Fawcett

This article could be a great blog post - a random list of minor magic items that include spoons of stirring, brooms of sweeping, needles of sewing, amulets of caterpillar control, socks of dryness and matches of many lights. This stuff would be so great for putting in a wizard's tower. Just awesome - if you can find a copy of this issue, find it for this. I'd post the random table, but it's a little more than I'd be comfortable sharing considering the mag is copyrighted.


So, Different Worlds gaming mag. Never heard of this. I hunted down some descriptions, and apparently some issues you can still buy. I love the art in the ad, and would love to see a sample issue in PDF. There is so much buried treasure out there for gaming!

I also have to share this ad, for on heck of an artist for hire ...


... who is still out there working, thankfully.


Dig Tramp's minotaur in Wormy. So cool.

Dragon's Bestiary: The Curst
by Ed Greenwood

I'm not sure if this is the first thing in the magazine by Ed Greenwood or not. The curst are still roaming about in the Forgotten Realms setting. Humanoids (98% are human stock) that have been cursed and cannot die, they are chaotic neutral, retain their class abilities except psychic powers and magic, gain infravision 90' and apparently have no sense of smell. In modern parlance, they would be a "template".


Finieous Fingers shows us what failing a surprise roll looks like.

And that does it for The Dragon #30. A pretty good issue, overall, with lots of interesting artifacts of the old days of gaming that I love. Seriously - find a copy and check out the minor magic items article - well worth it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Magic Keys

From the Graphics Fairy
A few idea for magic keys you can drop into your campaign. All of them work in essentially the same way - a small, simple key of an interesting material that can open doors that are not there in different materials. To work, the holder of the key must close their eyes, hold their breath, stick the key out slowly, and then turn it slowly. The door then opens. The keys have a 1 in 6 chance of working, so they're not a sure thing.

Where do these doors lead? The key opens a door onto one of the following (D10):

1-3) An ornate room with furnishings and decorations dependent on the material in which the door was situated, and attended by like creatures. Thus, a black key opening a room into shadows will open into a room of black marble with gauzy black curtains and thicker, black velvet curtains and dark wood furniture with cushions in shades of grey attended by shadows. The room is safe, and can be stayed in for 1 hour before it fades back into the plan of which it is composed and sends the occupants back from whence they came.

4-7) A long tunnel that leads to a second door which opens back into the material world. This second door will appear in the same material as the first, so a door opened through fire can only lead to a second door situated in fire.

8) A long stair leading deep down into the plane (or a demi-plane) appropriate to the key that opened the door, thus opening a door in stone will lead to the elemental earth plane.

9) The door leads to the key-holder's childhood home, wherever it was (even if it is now a ruin, or just an open field).

10) A tunnel that leads back to the same door, but 1d6 hours later or 1d6 hours earlier. If it leads back in time, all that the characters had done in the world over that time has been undone, though the effects they suffered through remain evident on their minds, bodies and souls.

The material of the key governs what they key will work on, as follows:

Gold --> Natural stone

Amber --> Trees, hedge rows, brambles, thickets

Meteoric Iron --> Shadows and the night air

Copper --> Fire

Smoky glass --> Smoke

Silver --> Water, fog and mist

Green wood --> Spring Breezes

Bone --> Mausoleums and tombstones

Tin --> Laughter and thunderous applause (must "fill the air")

Porcelain --> Weeping and wailing (as above)

Folded paper --> Riotous anger and yelling (as above)

Tarnished brass and tied with a fairy lock --> Hillsides

Dessicated and twisted wood --> Sand dunes

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - September 1979

September of 1979, and lots of kids were getting ready to go back to school (and lots of parents were thanking God the kids were going back to school). Maybe the mail brought a few of those kids one last bit of fun before the learning began - Dragon #29.

Note on the cover - not terribly impressive to me, except for that little bit in the lower right-hand corner. Woimy's back!

What does the "premier magazine of games and gaming" have for us this month?

Kask has a few things about subscriptions to discuss in the opening. First, make sure you address things to TSR Periodicals to get things moving fast. Second, let them know when you're moving. Finally, when you resubcribe, do it before your subscription ends to make sure you don't miss an issue. All of these things - almost completely moot in the modern world.

Apparently, this was an issue for clarifications - they had to reprint the image of the Slinger from last month's Bestiary - they apparently should have told the printer to increase the screen density by 20%. Here's Mary Lynn's little masterpiece:






The first article is missing a title, but the TOC calls it "Of the Gods". Whatever it's called, its by Craig Bakey and concerns the idea of "campaign gods". The argument by Bakey is that every campaign should have its own gods and goddesses, rather than just using the mythos in "Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes". What follows are some guidelines on how to create an original pantheon for your game. A couple points:

1. The power of the gods runs in cycles, so different pantheons can hold sway over the Prime Material Plane at different times, though the other gods are by no means powerless. This is actually a cool idea - different gangs of gods rising and falling in power.

2. Beyond the gods are forces of immeasurable power who have long since lost interest in the universe - i.e. The Old Gods. According to Bakey, there are 24 hyper-physical padrones which manifest themselves as colored jewels of six different disciplines. The concepts of Law and Chaos, and the gods themselves, originated in these jewels.

Note - I love how in the old days, an article that seemed like it was going to be campaign neutral suddenly decides on pretty campaign specific stuff that everyone should use. It's as though there was still an idea that all D&D campaigns really should be linked with each other, and therefore needed to have a solid foundation underpinning them.

The aforementioned disciplines are:

I - blue gems - abstract religion

II - purple gems - space, dimensions, form, motion

III - green gems - matter

IV - yellow gems - intellect

V - orange gems - individual and intersocial volitions

VI - red gems - affections, personal, moral, religious, etc.

He goes on to describe the basic characteristics all deities should have, and other statistics to define them. Then come the random tables for generating deities - this I like. The main table has a weird entry on it that might come from the digitizing of the magazines, but it covers the basic power level of the deity - from demi-god to "gods of the inner circle" to banished gods and rogue gods. There are tables for determining Armor Class and Hit Points, relations between the gods, alignment, gender, their portfolio, and extraordinary abilities and fantastic possessions. He goes on to present some sample pantheons, which appear to have an alignment factor to them (makes the whole rotating pantheons in power make more sense).

I dig that he includes "Dormamnu" as the god of paradoxes and energy. Ardnha, the "presence of swords and machines" and Quasiman, the goddess of black sorcerers sounds pretty cool as well.

Next is a variant on the Source of the Nile game by the authors, Dave Weseley and Ross Maker (I think). It's a collection of flow charts that are pretty meaningless without the game rules. Or maybe not - here's a sample:


Now that I look at them, they might be useful to somebody running a wilderness adventure. In fact, designing some flow charts of my own might be useful.

In the "Fantasy Smith's Notebook" we have "An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Ton of Paint". I always found this to be true when I painted minitures (Warhammer, mostly). A nice primer coat was a must, especially since I sucked at painting a good black undercoat really helped make my minis look way better than they would have otherwise. The article is a good guide to prepping miniatures, using dowels to hold them (wish I'd thought of that), filing them to correct problems with the casting, etc.

An interesting thing that was either an advertisement or a tiny article comes at the end of the previous article, for the Order of the Indian Wars (PO Box 7401, AC 501-225-3996, Little Rock, Arkansas 72217), a group dedicated to studying the American Indian Wars.

The coolest thing - still around! OIW's website is HERE.

Gary Gygax is up next with "From the Sorcerer's Scroll". Here, he introduces "The Half-Ogre, Smiting Him Hip and Thigh". Here, EGG mentions that he has seen many treatments of the idea, and now he's wading in with something official - and a warning.

"The character races in AD&D were selected with care. They give variety of approach, but any player selecting a non-human (part- or demi-human) character does not have any real advantage."

"Consider the various factors which must be taken into account when designing a race for game purposes. Remember that last part, game purposes; AD&D is, first and foremost, a game. Races, just as with classes, must be in relative balance with each other, as well as with the game as a whole."

Dear old dad
He actually gives some nice design advice on creating character races, and also on why he made the rules he made in AD&D to keep things balanced.

Time to roll up a half-ogre. Half-ogres have the following ability scores: Str 14-18 (use d6, with 5 and 5 equaling 18), Int 3-12 (3d4), Wis 2-12 (2d6), Dex 3-12 (3d4), Con 14-18 (as Str above) and Cha 2-8 (2d4).

Note - I suddenly love the idea of each race rolling different dice for its ability scores, instead of just using bonuses and penalties.

I roll up the following: Str 16, Int 7, Wis 7, Dex 7, Con 17, Cha 3 (or 6 with ogres and half-ogres ... so even my own people find me distasteful).

Half-ogres can be fighters (unlimited advancement) or clerics. I don't qualify as a cleric, so I guess my half-ogre, Zapp Smashigan, will be a fighter. As a half-ogre, I get infravision to 60', speak ogre, orc and troll (if raised by my ogre parent), a swarthy and dull complexion, dark and lank hair, an average height of 7.5 feet, roll two Hit Dice at 1st level, and then regular progression thereafter. So, as a first level fighter, I roll 15 hit points, plus 3 per hit dice for my high Con, so 21 hit points at first level. Not too shabby, actually. If the others chip in and get me a decent weapon and armor, I can really kick some tail and let the clerics focus on healing the other fighters in the group.

Next, Harold Pitt gives us "Curses: Never Get Even - Get Ahead". From the second paragraph:

"The curses spoken of here are the ones that the Dungeon Master may lay onto his players as a matter of the course of play, a penalty for acting out of character (alignment), or just as an equalizer for someone who has been exceptionally successful. Or for that character that has just succeeded in demolishing the trap you spent hours agonizing over (frustrating, isn’t it?) and feel that perhaps, somehow, he shouldn’t get away scot free. Remember: never get even—get ahead!"

Harold sounds like a fun DM to play with. "Hmm, Pete's thief has done pretty well this adventure, even got past that killer trap I set up. Guess it's time to curse him."

The advice in the article is sound and common sense - I use it when designing curses in my hex crawls. Basically - figure out what will really challenge a character, and use it. Curses really should be about challenging the players and making the game more interesting. As Harold puts it:

"In conclusion, cursing can be fun. It can become a battle of wits and resources between DM and player."

Still, I can't endorse the idea that the DM needs revenge on successful players. No good will come from that attitude.

Time for "Out on a Limb" and some thoughtful letters to the editor. I actually liked this bit in a letter from Marc Jacobs of Allentown, PA:

"Obviously, the feudal class structure of Europe will not work for D&D the way it is usually played. First, ruined castles and dungeons would probably be the property of someone, and adventuring in them would be akin to poaching in the king’s forest. In a magic-intensive world, it would be hard to hide the origins of your wealth."

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see this as a bug, but rather as a feature.

Dig this from the editor:

"To my knowledge, and I’ve been here since there has been a TSR Hobbies, Inc., there has never been an “enemies list” or black list. Not that we don’t take note of who the most vociferous critics are, naturally we do.

I don’t have a bad side; my answers are very much the product of the mood I’m in or how the particular letter struck me at the time. There are dozens of different ways to humiliate people in print that I would never stoop to using."

Good times. Good times.

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay now come waltzing in with another "Giants in the Earth". This month, we get Roger Zelazny's Shadowjack, a 25th level thief, 9th (18th) level fighter and 9th (18th) level magic-user. Also, Jack Vance's Iucounu, the Laughing Magician, a 20th level magic-user. Along with Iucounu, you get a bevy of Vancian spells: The Charm of Forlorn Encystment, The Charm of Untiring Nourishment, The Excellent Prismatic Spray, Felojun's Second Hypnotic Spell, etc. I'll reproduce one of these spells:

Thasdrubel’s Laganetic Transfer or the Agency of Far Despatch: when this spell is uttered, the recipient is bound as if by a hold person spell. A nycadaemon appears (i.e., is gated in), grasps the held recipient and flies him or her either to a point designated by the caster or 10-100 miles in a random direction. Range: 3”. Area of effect: 1 creature. Casting time: 1 round. Saving throw: none.

Idea - everybody picks a character from "GitE" and we hold a Google+ fight club using AD&D rules.

In the "Design Forum", Doug Green presents "Rewarding Heroism in D&D". It comes down like so: If a player or a couple players want to act for the entire group in situations where the life or freedom of the entire party is on the line, they attack as though twice their normal level (or apply spell rules as though double level, though they don't get additional spells), and take half-damage from attacks. All other abilities are +20%.

As Doug puts it, "This rule simulates the effect of adrenalin on a person in a life or death situation and the natural law present in most fantasy stories that good will triumph over evil."

Doug also gives the point man in the party +20% XP, and anyone praying after sacrificing himself has a percent chance equal to his level of getting a reaction from the gods. Also, heroic acts are worth 1,000 to 5,000 XP.

Not sure who wrote this next one, but it's called Inns and Taverns, and the art is groovy:


The article gives a nice guide to what inns and taverns are (or were), along with percent chance to find on in different sized communities (75% chance in a community with 150 people or less) and what to do without one (beg for lodgings). He notes that in 1453, Paris consisted of three square miles, within which lived 150,000 people and 5,000 inns and taverns.

He also covers prices (5 cp to 5 gp per night - quite a spread), what you get for your money, etc. Good, solid article. I have to reproduce the food prices:

Check out this little inclusion:


So now you know.

I also enjoyed this ad from Nimrod Games:


A couple links for you - Knights & Knaves and Surigao Strait.

J. D. Webster now gives us a variant - "Air War North Vietnam". It presents some new scenarios for the game, which I know little about. I do know that my favorite fighter plane when I was a kid was the F-4 Phantom II.


Thomas Holsinger now gives us "Smaller Than Man-Sized Weapons Table". Simple little article showing weapon damage for weapons as used by gnomes or goblins. Useful table back in the day, probably not as much now.

For those who like costumes and hitting people with sticks, Allen Hammack writes "Anatomy of an S.C.A. Battle - The Sleep War". This article introduces the ways and means of the Society for Creative Anachronism in terms of their battles.

Paul Karlsson Johnstone now tells us of the "Origins of the Norse Pantheon". Nice article about where it came from, what it meant, the cults. A good introduction to the topic.

Jerome Arkenberg gives us "The Mythos of Oceania in Dungeons & Dragons", with sections for Micronesia and Melanesia. I dig the Porpoise Girls (AC 2, HP 50, fight as 1st level fighters). Their ogres can also shapechange into giants, crocodiles, snakes, ospreys, fish, hawks and bears. That's actually a nice little variation.


How good were these miniatures? FIND OUT HERE!

"Strain and Spell Casting" is a nice article by Kevin Thompson. The editor notes that this is the first "spell point" system he has ever liked, possibly because it makes magic-users weaker. It is based on the idea that each spell cast causes strain on the magic-user. The magic-user's Constitution score determines their "strain multiplier".


You multiply this by his level to get his total strain points for the game. So, a 5th level magic-user with a 8 constitution has 2 strain points. When a spell is cast, the spell level is deducted from the strain points. Spells from magical implements cause half-strain, while potions cause no strain.

The magic-user can go over his normal daily strain total by consulting the Effectiveness Chart and roll D6.


You also have to roll on the Overstrain Chart:


I dig the system for the most part. It's pretty similar to what I did in Pars Fortuna. It does seem a bit severe, though, for mid-level magic-users who don't have great Constitutions.

I have a feeling this is my new half-ogre character
Now we get a few quick, short articles (often the best kind) -

"Trained Animals in Dungeons & Dragons" by Robert Greayer. It deals with using wild dogs, war dogs, wolves, dire wolves, winter wolves, worgs, pigeons, ravens, hawks, falcons, golden eagles and bald eagles as henchmen. I would give Zapp Smashigan a bald eagle for a pet, but I think his Charisma is too low. Poor Zapp.

Mike Crane gives us "Aging in D&D". He has a neat little chart of the percentile chance, at different ages, that a character keeps his Str, Dex or Con as-is, instead of losing a point or two. Simple and clean - I like it.

"Adventures in the Improbable" by Richard Dienst is a weird little story about using the thieves' guild charts in Greyhawk. I really don't know what to do with it.

Rick Krebs tells us "Non-Player Characters Have Feelings Too", a set of random tables to generate personalities for NPC's.

"Bazaar of the Bizarre" this month is the "Ring of the Necromancer" by Bill Howell and "A Working Design for Heward's Mystical Organ" by Steven Widerhoft.

The Dragon's Augury reviews dice by The Armory in Baltimore, new water-based paints (also by The Armory), Reich: The Iron Dream of German Unification by Chaosium, Raiders and Traders by Chaosium, a couple books on tanks and The Tolkien Quiz Book by Bart Andrews (love the cover).


The Dragon's Bestiary presents "Whiz-Bang Beetles (Coleoptera Conflagratio Amotensia) by John Hageman. These are tiny beetles that are like living bullets. They attack fire sources, and in their hives there is a 75% chance of finding 1d6 ounces of "whiz-bang honey" that might give people heightened speed (like a potion). I like these guys - they would make a good swarm creature in modern versions of the game.

In Wormy by Tramp, we get a nice summing up of what has happened up to this point, including Wormy stomping on dwarves, the arrival of the blue demon from the 8-ball, etc. I would super love to play a game set in the Wormy world - anyone out there game?

And this ends #29! Lots of interesting little articles in this one, and noticeably less war game-oriented than some of the recent issues. Hope you enjoyed it - have a groovy Sunday and an efficient week ahead.
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