Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - August 1981 (52)

With the 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure essentially done (well, almost done), I can get back on track with these Dragon reviews. Number 52 is from August of 1981, and features a Boris Vallejo cover of a butterfly-winged dragon and beautiful naked woman ... which of course is a rarity for a Boris painting. Boris gets a little full article inside the magazine as well.

So - I've got Mystery Science Theater 3000 on the television and a gin gimlet in my belly, and I'm ready to show off the bits and pieces that I found useful and/or inspirational in #52 ...

First and foremost, a nice piece of comic/advertising work by Bill Willingham, one of my favorites from the olden days.


This involves the adventurers Auric, Tirra and the wizard Khellek (who does not appear to be this guy - scroll down a bit). Auric is an ill-armored fighter, Tirra could be a thief or fighter and Khellek is a wizard. They tangle briefly with a jackalwere and then ... to be continued.

The first real article is dedicated to the much maligned cleric class. "The Role of the Cleric - Warriors with Wisdom" is by Robert Plamondon, and it does a nice job of explaining the class, some of its inspirations and ways to play it well. If the image below, by Jim Holloway, doesn't make you want to play the class, I don't know what will ...


The article has a few nice bits that might stir the creative juices of players and GM's out there, such as a list of acts of worship, in order of potency:

1. Thinking religious thoughts.
2. Formal prayer.
3. Attending rites or church services.
4. Feasts, festivals, fasts, self-punishment, vigils- as part of religious rites.
5. Sacrifice of valuables.
6. Dying in a holy conflict.
7. Killing an enemy in a holy conflict.
8. Sacrifice of an unbeliever.
9. Sacrifice of an unwilling believer.
10. Sacrifice of a willing believer.

#10 seems like a dicey prospect for Lawful clerics.

Douglas Loss adds a bit more with his article "The Land is My Land ...", including this bit about clerics and swords, including this from The Song of Roland ...

Turpin of Rheims, finding himself o’erset,
With four sharp lance-heads stuck fast within his breast,
Quickly leaps up, brave lord, and stands erect.
He looks on Roland and runs to him and says
Only one word: “I am not beaten yet!
True man never failed while life was in him left!”
He draws Almace, his steel-bright brand keen-edged;
A thousand strokes he strikes into the press.
Soon Charles shall see he spared no foe he met,
For all about him he’ll find four hundred men,
Some wounded, some clean through the body cleft,
And some of them made shorter by a head.
    — The Song of Roland, Laisse 155

So Turpin got to swing a sword, why doesn't your cleric? Well, to start off with, Turpin also doesn't get to cast spells or turn undead. Douglas thinks the rule should be thrown out, because its not "realistic" and because in AD&D the mace is as good as sword. I disagree - swords are more than just a damage range, but the "no sharp weapons" rule also takes many magic weapons out of a cleric's hands, thus helping the old fighter stay relevant.

Douglas Loss is back with "The Sense of Sacrifices", and this is a neat one about the chances of deities granting clerics spells they aren't high enough in level to cast. It all hinges on sacrifices of inanimate objects (valuable or symbolic, of course), animals and sentient creatures of a wildly different alignment than the cleric. To boil it down - 2% per 100 gp value of inanimate objects, symbol items 5%, animals 2% (or 3% if it is favored by the deity) and 5% for sentient beings. The chance shouldn't be higher than 50%, and each subsequent miracle should have a 5% penalty applied if the cleric tries this too often.

Sage Advice is cleric-centered as well. I enjoyed how this answer began:
Q: What happens when a Resurrection or a Raise Dead is cast on an undead?

A: Hmmm. It stands to reason ...
In other words - crap, we hadn't thought of that.

For lovers of the old school, the cleric stuff is followed by two articles concerning the new Basic D&D set. The first is written by J. Eric Holmes, author of the first edition, and the second by Tom Moldvay himself. Holmes has the longer article, and it explains the hows and whys of Basic D&D. Holmes fans have probably already read it, but if they haven't, I would highly suggest it.

For modern gamers, Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "The Undercover Job Guide" can be useful ... especially if they're setting a game in 1981. Written for TOP SECRET, it covers a number of jobs and gives you some ideas on their access to travel and their salaries. Here are a couple of items:

Home Economics: travel potential moderate to high; starting salary $20,000/year (variable); almost no connection with what the field is normally thought of to include: agents in this field will very likely be chefs, or connected with the creation of fashion or decoration: female agents have a good chance of being models (salary quite variable).

Physical Education: travel potential high; starting salary quite variable; almost certainly an agent will be an athlete in this AOK: by preference, one in a sport played throughout much of the world. Tennis is an excellent choice; golf, soccer and track & field are also good.

Yeah, a pair of spies who work in a high school would be pretty fun.

This issue's Giants in the Earth by Katharine Brahtin Kerr covers Prospero (Lawful Good 14th level magic-user), his pals Ariel (a neutral "high-grade" air elemental - I would have gone sylph, mostly because Ariel is a sylph) and Caliban the chaotic evil half-orc, and Circe (chaotic neutral 18th level magic-user). Here's a nice bit ...

The best way to get the upper hand over Circe is to possess the strange herb known as moly. The god Hermes gave Ulysses some of this herb, said to grow only in Olympus. With it, Ulysses mastered Circe’s magic and made her turn his crew back into men from swine. If the DM wants moly available in the campaign, it should either be fantastically expensive or else a gift to a cleric from his or her god.

If a character wears moly, all of Circe’s polymorph spells will fail against that character, and the power of her other spells against that character will be weakened considerably; the character should get a +2 on all saving throws against her magic. Circe cannot touch this herb to steal it away, nor can her maidservants.

For more information on moly, click HERE.

We also learn Circe's spell list: 1st-charm person, comprehend languages, friends, read magic, sleep; 2nd-detect invisibility, ESP, forget, ray of enfeeblement, web; 3rd-fly, hold person, dispel magic, slow, suggestion; 4th-charm monster, confusion, fear, polymorph other, massmorph; 5th-animal growth, feeblemind, hold monster, passwall, transmute rock to mud; 6th-control weather, enchant an item, legend lore; 7th-charm plants, mass invisibility, vanish; 8th-mass charm, polymorph any object; 9th-imprisonment.

Dragon #52 also has a groovy little Gamma World adventure by Gary Jaquet called "Cavern of the Sub-Train". This might sound like a subway romp in the ruins of New York, but it's actually a romp through something more like Elon Musk's hyperloop. This network spanned the entire North American continent.

The adventure is left open-ended, so should come in handy to folks playing post-apoc games.

Victor Selby and Ed Greenwood introduce the Rhaumbusun in Dragon's Bestiary. Here's a quick B&T-style statblock:

Rhaumbusun, Small Monster: HD 1+2; AC 13; ATK 1 bite (1d3); MV 20'; SV 16; Int Low; AL Neutral (N); NA 1d2; XP/CL 100/2; Special-Gaze attack (40' range; paralyze for 3d4 turns)

Lewis Pulsipher has some interesting, peaceful gas-filled beasts called pelins. Not much for a fight, but they're semi-intelligent, so maybe they could be helpful in completing a quest if the players are smart enough to be nice to them and attempt communication.

Michael Kluever gives a nice history of siege warfare in "Knock, Knock!". Worth a read for people new to the subject.

Up next are three - count 'em three - takes on the bounty hunter class by Scott Bennie, Tom Armstrong, and Robert L Tussey and Kenneth Strunk. Lets judge them by the most relevant part of the class - the class titles!


The use of revenger, head hunter and manhunter are nice, but the inclusion of esquire by Armstrong wins the competition. Anything that can bring Bill & Ted into the conversation can only be good for a D&D game.

Hey - what the heck is this?


A Google search brings up a computer game designed for use with the Fantasy Trip. Pretty cool!

There are reviews of some cool miniatures from Ral Partha (hill giant, storm giant, cold drake), Heritage USA (hill giant and beholder and superheroes and supervillains), Castle Creations (condor and skull splitter giant), Penn-Hurst/Greenfield (a plastic castle), Citadel (ogre, giant spider) and Grenadier (the dragon's lair), as well as Basic Role-Playing, TIMELAG and Dungeon Tiles.

Not a bad issue - more advice-centric than number-y, but you get bounty hunters and a paralyzing lizard, so what the hey!

I leave you as always with Tramp ...


Remember - never trust gamers discovered in the wild!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Player Motivation

I was recently thinking about the people I've played games with over the years, and what motivated them. I think a big part of being a successful Game Master is figuring out what gives players a thrill and then trying to find ways to work those things into your game.

Understand, I'm not talking about winning here. Most (if not all) players enjoy winning. Everyone can't be a winner all the time. But consider war games, even such a venerable war game as chess. In a game of chess, one player wins and one player loses (unless there's a draw), and yet people keep coming back to the game. Winning really isn't everything.

The motivations I'm talking about are the situations that give people a charge while playing a game. Sitting behind my GM screen, I could see, as events unfolded, the way eyes would light up. Taking note, I tried, when it was possible, to present the situations people enjoyed in every session to give people a charge and leave them smiling at the end of the night, even when things didn't go quite as planned.

Oh, and when you run into a player for whom winning is everything, don't let them into your group. Nothing but heartache and headache will follow. Unless you actually are the parent of the player in question, it's not your job to teach them how to be a good loser. Maturity matters.

Here are the player types I remember:

1) Combat Junkie - loves rolling dice. Loves a good challenge, whether it's a big monster that has to be swarmed or a mass of minor monsters that have to be waded through, or some weird challenge they have to figure out. While it is true that players in the early version of the game often did their utmost to avoid combat and walk away with the treasure (more on that in a moment), many modern players come for the dice rolling, and put up with the exposition in between.

2) Ladder Climber - loves to level up, buy the better armor, build the stronghold, etc. They love success. This doesn't mean they throw a fit when they don't win, or their character loses a level or dies. That's part of the game. But they really love moving up the ladder, getting the new skills and abilities, and generally showing progress.

3) Make Believer - love to play a roll. Maybe they're wicked, maybe they're motherly or fatherly, maybe their something else, but they like the chance to interact with fictional characters and help write the game along with you.

4) Problem Solver - loves to figure things out. Sometimes these are min-maxers, who place all their focus on bending the game rules to their will. Those guys are a pain in the ass. The best ones are the ones who enjoy solving problems that are in-game - puzzles, riddles, strategy, tactics, mysteries. They love the mental challenge that does not involve dice rolling.

The tricky part about running a game, of course, is balancing these different interests. It is possible that not everybody will love every game all the time - in fact, this is likely. But throwing people a bone in the midst of an adventure that doesn't push their buttons is a good idea, and can make the game better for everyone else.

For example, we'll take the good old fashioned dungeon crawl. Dungeon crawls have been so successful over the years because they tend to make #1, #2 and #4 happy. Plenty of monsters, so plenty of opportunities for combat. Plenty of XP and treasure, so the ladder climber is happy. Problem solvers get traps, tricks, etc. to keep them interested. However, the make believer doesn't always get what they want in a dungeon crawl. What to do? Throw in the prisoner who was kidnapped by the monsters and needs help getting back to their home. Throw in the hesitant monster who wants to parlay (but can she be trusted). Give them some personalities with whom they can interact, and better yet - in whose life they can have an impact - and the rest of the dungeon crawling becomes more palatable.

Here are a couple ways to "throw players a bone" without breaking the game ...

Pointless Fights - You don't want to overdo this - and it's very easy to overdo - but once in a while throw the combat junkie a melee party. Throw a mass of minor monsters into the game who probably will not score a TPK, but who give the junkie a chance to roll some dice. Think of this as the opening scene of an action movie, where the hero and his or her prowess is introduced by them beating the crap out of a bunch of pointless mooks. It doesn't really forward the story, and since it's the first scene you know the hero is in no danger, but it's a bit of fun nonetheless. Again - don't do this too often, and if you're playing something other than an old school game where the combat can be played out with relative ease, think hard before you do it at all.

Story Arcs - A story arc that shows up as recurring characters or a situation that gradually gets dire and then gradually gets better by the players' actions can help keep the ladder climbers (who need more power to face the greater evil), make believers (who can make a fictional difference and interact with the recurring characters) and problem solvers (who must unravel the villain's master plan ... even if there isn't one*) happy, without too much extra work or time spent for the GM.

* Sometimes, the best master plan is actually created by the players. As they discuss what they think is happening, adopt their ideas, or roll randomly for who is right, and then from time to time throw in a curve ball. They think they're figuring it out, when in reality they're writing the script.

The players have some work to do as well. Much ink has been spilled over what the Game Master should do to keep players interested ... but what about the players? Think about it - the Game Master has probably invested far more time, energy and money into the game than the players, and they outnumber him or her by four or five or six to one ... but it's the GM's job to make the game successful? Doesn't sound right, and it isn't right.

What the players can do to help make a game a success is to recognize what their fellow players enjoy, and to indulge them their obsessions. In fact, try to get into those obsessions yourself. Player X likes role playing, Player Y likes rolling dice. Instead of rolling your eyes when the other player is getting what they like, try to find the fun in it yourself. Get outside the old comfort zone, fake it to make it, grow as a gamer - you never know what you're missing until you try.

Just a few thoughts on playing the game ... more crunchy stuff to come. The Monster book will be out tonight .It would be out already, but I can't use rpgnow at work ... I can't imagine why? Oh well - time to write about real estate - see you all later!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blood & Treasure Going Hard (Cover)

Hey boys and girls, I finally have the Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook up for sale as a hard cover book! The book runs $24.99, and as always if you buy the hard cover book and email me with your Lulu receipt and I'll send you a link for the PDF.

My next steps are as follows:

* Get Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monster book up for sale as a PDF (this week)

* Get Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook up for sale as a paperback (next week)

* Get NOD 30 up for sale as a PDF (next week)

* Get Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monster book up for sale as a hard cover and paperback (two to three weeks from now)

* Get NOD 30 up for sale as a paperback (two to three weeks from now)

Then I get the chance to work on some mini-games and figure out how to do a B&T TK Screen!

And now, since you've suffered through the commercial, here are a couple spells to play with:

Footfalls (Divination)
Level: Cleric 1, Magic-User 2
Range: 300 feet
Duration: 1 round per level

This spell permits the caster to hear all movement on the ground within 300 feet, even if that ground is separated from the caster by thick walls, etc. The caster knows the general direction of the footfalls, the size of what is moving and the general number (single creature, small group, large group, etc.)

Wildfire (Transmutation)
Level: Magic-user 5
Range: 30 feet
Duration: See below

This spell turns a fire or portion of fire (campfire size minimum) into a swarm of tiny fire elementals who run wild and cause as much havoc as they can before they're destroyed. The swarm has the following statistics:

Wildfire Swarm (Tiny Elemental): HD 4; AC 14 [+1]; ATK Swarm (1d4 fire); MV 30 feet; SV 15; INT Low; AL N; NA 1; XP/CL 1,200/6; SP-Immunity (fire), vulnerable to cold.

The swarm moves and attacks as a single creature. It covers a 10' x 10' area, with all creatures in that area suffering an attack from the creature, and all inflammable items in the area forced to make an item saving throw or catch fire.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Animorph, an Animal for All Seasons

How the time does fly, and the world robbed of my nonsense for a couple weeks while I prepared nonsense of another sort.

Here's a quick rundown - finished editing the B&T Monster book - yay! - so I should get it up for sale soon. Just need to work in the changes, fix some images, etc. This could be a rough week for my mom, so I have no idea how much RPG work I can get done, but the last weekend was productive, so we'll see. I'm also about half-way there on NOD 30. I've been so into writing rulebooks the last few months I'm really missing writing the fun stuff.

In the meantime, here's a little half-baked idea for gaming fun ...

The Animorph

The animorph can change into an animal.

Skills
Animorphs are skilled at handling animals and riding (which they can do with no riding equipment at no penalty).

Abilities
An animorph can shift shape once per day per level (and shifting shape means from one form to another, but not back - that counts as a different shift), can only take the form of natural animals, and cannot take an animal form with more Hit Dice than they have levels. While in animal form they retain their own mentality (though not the ability to speak) and current hit points, but make attacks as though they were that animal (i.e. as a monster, with no bonuses for Strength or Dexterity, multiple attacks if the animal has them, special abilities if the animal has them, etc.) rather than as a character.

Animorphs gain an additional +1 bonus to save vs. polymorph and other transformations. They are immune to lycanthropy.

3rd level animorphs can speak to animals (non-magically). 6th level animorphs can also take the shape of giant insects, provided they do not normally have greater than animal intelligence.

Animorphs can deal damage to monsters only hit by silver or magic weapons if they have more levels than the monster has Hit Dice.

At 9th level, animorphs begin attracting animal friends. At each level from 9th to 12th level, an animorph attracts a number of HD of animals equal to their level (thus 9 HD of animals at 9th level, another 10 HD of animals at 10th level, etc.) These animals serve faithfully, but if killed are not replaced. The animorph can add these animals all at once, or over time, and they can only add animals native to the environment in which they currently reside.
Animorphs are wanderers - they cannot construct a stronghold of their own, though they can reside for up to a month at the stronghold of an ally, or in a village (but never a town or city).

Other Info:

RQ Wisdom 13+, Cha 11+
HD d6 (+2 hp per level after 10th)
W/A Can use light weapons, can wear up to leather armor (but must remove it to take animal shape)
ATK As druid
SV As druid
XP As fighter

Edit: Added a bit about hit points and such - nothing major

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lords of Light? Not Quite

I finished reading Thundar, Man of Two Worlds, last night and this is my promised book report. As always, I will keep it short and try to avoid spoiling it for folks who want to read the book themselves.

First and foremost, the book is an homage to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was published in 1971, but reads more like something written in the 1930s (for good and ill). The author, John Bloodstone, is really writer Stuart J. Byrne. Byrne wrote pulp sci-fi back in the 1950s and 1960s, wrote a couple episodes of Men into Space (which I kind of dig) and a couple movies in the 1970s, and later wrote translations of Perry Rhodan stories.

The book concerns the adventures of Michael Storm, who is a mountain climber and swordsman (all such characters need to have a knowledge of sword fighting before they wind up in a swords and sorcery setting) who winds up in the far future through his reckless daring. Once in the far future, he gets into all sorts of trouble - again, I don't want to get into specifics, because blabbing about them would ruin all the good (which is little) this book has to offer.

Unfortunately, the book lacks ERB's creativity, or his pace reminiscent of old movie serials, with each chapter ending with the protagonists in a terrible situation, and the next beginning with how they escaped it ... only to fall into another by the chapter's end. You get a little of this in Thundar, but not enough, and like most fan fiction it doesn't completely gel. The book was clearly intended to be followed by others which, to my knowledge, did not materialize.

Now, as to whether this book could have influenced the Thundarr the Barbarian cartoon (1980-1982) ... maybe, but only in very small ways. If it had any influence, I would guess it was a matter of the creators of the cartoon having a hazy remembrance of the book. Cartoon Thundarr looks a little like the guy on the cover, but the resemblance ends there. There is no Ookla the Mok (and the Mogg in the book can only have influenced the word "mok", and nothing else about old Ookla), though there is a "dawn man" called Koom (and he's pretty cool - more Koom would have made for a better book in my opinion). There is no Princess Ariel (though there is a Princess Cylayne, who does help Thundar and mostly serves as a Dejah Thoris stand-in to motivate our hero). There is some super science, but no sorcery. There is no sun sword, though there is a blade of Damascus steel. There was a catastrophic cosmic event that screwed up the Earth, but the story is set a million years in the future, so there are no remnants of the 1980s. In short ... very little influence. There is suggestion that this world was the origin of the advanced peoples of South America, but the people we meet in this future earth don't apparently resemble them at all - I kept expecting this and was disappointed.

Can gamers get any inspiration from the book? Maybe, but I doubt it. The world building is pretty simplistic. You have mountains and a jungle and an inland sea and two rival cities on its shores, and not much else. I would expect that every DM's first stab at making up a campaign world was as good as anything you would get in this book. There's almost a cool hook involving technology's influence over the world, but it remains vague, perhaps to be dealt with in more detail in the later books that didn't happen. Even if technology had been more fully explained, it mostly shows up as a deus ex machina, which wouldn't be too handy to a DM writing a campaign world. The way Michael Storm ends up in the far future could be copied for a game - it was pretty fun,  but not revolutionary.

Final grade: C-

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Three New Monsters

Boy, have I been on a roller coaster ride lately. Work continues on the Blood & Treasure Second Edition Monster book, but has been slow due to some medical issues. Amidst the stress and activity, I'm still editing and working on some one-page dungeons that will be included in the book. Hopefully won't take too much longer, but you can't rush these things, and medical issues certainly have to take precedence over make-believe.

In the meantime, I managed to cobble together a few new monsters for your edification and enjoyment over lunch. The artwork is my half-assed sketch of a brazen godling ...

Parrot Man

Type: HumanoidSize: Medium
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 12 + armor
Move: 30′
Attack: Bite (1d3) or by weapon
Save: 16; 20 vs. mental control
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Varies
No. Appearing: 1d10
XP/CL: 50/1

Parrot men look very much like human beings, except for their parrot’s beak and their brilliantly hued skin, often spotted in place or marked with whorls or jagged stripes, especially on the arms and legs. They are garbed in looks tunics, perhaps to better show off their skins with which they take a terribly amount of pride, and they rarely carry more than staff slings and truncheons to defend themselves. Warriors are almost unknown among them, though some become thieves (up to 9th level) or magic-users (up to 6th level).

Parrot men are noted for a singular lack of original thinking. What they read or hear they believe and repeat until they’ve heard something new. This makes their alignments highly variable (exposure to a new alignment has a 3 in 6 chance of persuading the parrot man to adopt it), yet always lacking in conviction.

Brazen Godling

Type: OutsiderSize: Large
Hit Dice: 9+3
Armor Class: 17
Move: 40′
Attack: 2 slams (2d6)
Save: 12; 9 vs. mental effects; MR 25%
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 4,500/11

SD-Immunity (disease, poison), resistance (electricity, fire)

Brazen godlings are formed from the heroic frustrations of the weak and cowardly, becoming encased with demon stuff on the Astral Plane and then deposited in a sheath of bronzed flesh in the wastelands of the Material Plane. They are universally handsome and mad.

Brazen godlings attack with their fists or, when they have lost them, the black tentacles that lie beneath their flesh, for every brazen godling is really a black, tentacled demon heart encased in a tall, strong humanoid body. Attacks against the brazen godling that deal damage have a chance on a d20 equal to that damage of tearing away a bit of the monster’s outer flesh. Roll on the table below to discover what it has shed.

D12 Body Part
1. Leg, left lower
2. Hand, left
3. Posterior
4. Arm, right lower
5. Leg, right thigh
6. Arm, right, upper
7. Leg, left thigh
8. Arm, left lower
9. Hand, right
10. Leg, right lower
11. Arm, left upper
12. Head (reveals tentacle, giving an extra attack each round)

When head and limbs have been removed, the next attack destroys the torso and permits the demon within to be attacked directly. It has 30 hit points and the same stats presented above, save it can only be damaged by magic weapons of +1 or better. The demon heart has five black tentacles (one hidden in each limb, and one curled up in the head), which continue to ooze the creature’s black tears (see below).

A brazen godling, while it retains its head, cries tears of black ichor that have the same properties as unholy water. In melee, these tears may land on attackers, forcing them to save or fall into a terrible despair (-2 to attack and save) for 24 hours. When the being’s flesh is removed, the demon heart continues to secrete this ichor in battle.

Laserhawk

Type: Monster
Size: Small
Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 13
Move: 20′ (Fly 150′)
Attack: Talons and bite (1d4) or laser rays (2d6 fire)
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 100/2

Laserhawks are large birds of prey with scaled skin and golden feathers. They can emit laser rays from their eyes, both directed at the same target. The rays permit a saving throw, and if that is failed deal 2d6 points of fire damage to their target.
Laserhawk blood can be used to make an unguent that provides complete immunity to fire, but at the cost of one’s eyesight. Both effects last for 24 hours, even if the unguent is washed off.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - July 1981 (51)

If I hadn't been so busy with writing 2nd editions, I could have done this review in the same month it was published, just 35 years later. Oh well - can't always get things done as quickly as you would like. On with the review ...

Let us begin with one of my favorite bits of old D&D lore - the definitive statement regarding make believe:

"First, an AD&D magic-user is not a fighting class. He or she resorts to a dagger, dart or quarter staff as a last resort. His or her main interest (read, only interest) is magic."

And now you know!

In "Make Your Own Aliens" by Roger E. Moore we have a nice set of table for making random alien species for Traveller. You don't see too many "modern" issues of Dragon kicking off with articles for a non-TSR game, and there are more to come. As to the article's utility, let's make a random alien:

Our new species lives primarily on land. They have bilateral symmetry and one brain, so they probably won't be too alien to us. Their brain is in a head, they have no tail and they have 2 feet (I'm starting to think I'm randomly creating human beings). They have 2 arms ... but only three fingers and toes on each hand/foot. They also have plantigrade feet which are more like paws than human feet. These aliens are omnivorous hunters, so they are communal, cooperative and aggressive. They weight 50 kg (or 110 lb.) on average. They have no natural weaponry or armor and are covered with feathers or down. They are warm-blooded creatures, give live birth and have two sexes. Their primary sense is auditory, and unlike humans they have light-enhancing vision and heat-tolerant tactile sense.Their auditory organs on on their body rather than head. The roll of the dice say they don't have any special abilities, but I'm going to roll one anyways and come up with a chameleon-like body covering.

Not too bad - quite a few rolls, but not too many. I'm deciding they are mostly covered with down that can change color to blend in with woodland settings. They have a mane of longer feathers around their neck, and this is what they hear through. I'll assume they are a primitive people - something like bad-ass barbarians - who are hired as mercenaries by criminal types as body guards.

This article is followed by four more Traveller articles, including one by Marc Miller. Since I've never played the game, I can't really tell you if they're great or not, but if you play the game, checking out this issue may be worth your while.

At this point, it's worth noting a couple ads of interest. The first is a sign that the big boys were getting interested in this weird D&D thing that was all the rage ... Mattel's Dungeons & Dragons game! It looks like a real hoot - just a wee bit before I was aware of the game, so I don't remember seeing any. Alas.



Our next ad of interest comes from Mr. Arneson and Mr. Snyder - Adventures in Fantasy, a complete and consistent system of fantasy rpgs (no shot intended there, I'm sure). This is the second edition of the game, produced after Arneson bought back the rights from Excalibur Games using his settlement money from TSR. Ah - the drama of the rpg industry!


Up next we get back into D&D territory with William Lenox's Winged Folk, a new monster. They look like humans with wings, and they are essentially humans with wings with slightly better Hit Dice and AC. Great art with the article, though, and I like the bit about females have 1d4+1 carvings made from wood, gems, etc. Of course, there will only ever be one group of winged folk for me.


Hell yeah! These guys also get some info on being used as playable race, and honestly, the art by Todd Lockwood is pretty great.


Lakofka has an article about what it takes for a character to become 1st level. It gives some XP requirements to become 1st level, after going through a couple pre-1st level stages. Fighters, for example, can begin as 0-level recruits, then move on to becoming 0-level men-at-arms before finally becoming 1st level veterans. I think I like the level titles best (of course I would). It has a bit more about running 0-level characters - good stuff.

If you're into RuneQuest, or just dig their rules for cults you should check out Eric Robinson's "The Worshippers of Ratar" for an example of one

I know nothing of Metagaming's MicroGame #2: Chitin, so I can't comment much on the article "A New Breed of Bug" by Ben Crowell, but I do like the art by Paul Jaquays.


Up next are two articles addressing the Lawful Good alignment, and specifically how it impact paladins. This was always a popular topic in the old days - much argued over, much lamented. The prolific Roger E. Moore wrote "It's Not Easy Being Good" and Robert J. Bezold added "Thou Shalt Play This Way: Ten Commandments for Paladins". I can only imagine how many letters in subsequent issues of Dragon will address these articles.

If you like mini-games, you'll like this issue, for it includes "Search for the Emperor's Treasure". It has a map and counters and looks like it's lots of fun.

How about this questionaire in this issue's The Electronic Eye?


How many big disks do you have? Paddles?

Also, special mention for the most tortured spelling of "Basics" ever ...


About the only reference I found was on the Internet Archive.

The winged folk were a bonus in this issue, because we still get a "Dragon's Bestiary" by Mark Cummings. He created a fun monster called the Dark Dweller, close kin to trolls, but 1000 times better because of this ...


Yep, they ride the Antrodemus dinosaur! Underground!! This issue also has stats for Pirahna Bats!!! Good for the DM, bad for the players.

All in all, I declare this a groovy issue, mostly for the monsters, all of which would have a place in my campaigns.

As always, I leave you with Tramp.


That Wormy will never be a theatrical animated film is really sad. Sometimes, stories don't have happy endings.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes - First to Second Edition


I have a few minutes today, so I want to get a post out on the changes from the first to the second edition of Blood & Treasure. I won't swear that this is exhaustive, but it's pretty close to it.

  • Messed with multi-classing a little on races, tried to relate them a bit more closely to their original incarnations
  • Classes each have their own XP chart now, and some were re-calibrated
  • Assassins don't cast spells anymore, but can cast spells from scrolls at high levels
  • Got rid of bard, paladin and ranger spell lists - they now cast off the magic-user, cleric and druid lists respectively
  • Added some abilities to classes around 6th level to make the game a bit more distinctive and to hit some fantasy tropes missing in the original:
  • Assassins can brew their own poisons
  • Bards can carouse their way to valuable rumors … but may end up in the stocks or making enemies
  • Clerics can temporarily convert sentient creatures to their own alignment – not always easy, and doesn’t necessarily last long, but I thought it might be a fun non-combat way to get through encounters
  • Druids can harness greater bits of power by sacrificing the despoilers of the natural world
  • Fighters can subdue monsters and use them as mounts (as in every cool 70s rock album cover and van art ever produced)
  • Magic-users get access to little bits of arcane knowledge, ranging from something as simple as making phosphorous to making hot air balloons or understanding the healing arts
  • Paladins gain chivalric badges that give them access to royal and ecclesiastic courts and tournaments (a minor bonus, but the paladin already has some pretty cool abilities)
  • Rangers can pick up a loyal hunting beast (again, inspired by many pieces of fantasy art – particularly this one 
  • Thieves can assemble teams of rogues for capers – bypasses the normal henchman rules … but can the thief trust these guys?
  • Changed the way a fighter's multiple attacks worked, since lots of folks thought it was too powerful; also beefed up the barbarian a bit, as well as the sorcerer (see below)
  • Got rid of the basic/advanced/expanded concept to make B&T more its own game than a reference to old games, but I did keep the idea of basic and advanced spells; to learn or prepare advanced spells classes have to make a quick roll under their Int or Wis minus the spell level; specialists get free access to certain advanced spells, but treat others as though they were a higher level
  • Made some big changes to the sorcerer to keep it from being just a variant magic-user - they can now sense magic and do impromptu casting of spells they don't know (with dire circumstances for failure); they might also choose bloodlines, and might be related to other magical creatures (got this idea from Bewitched I'm proud to say)
  • Changed some of the class variants, added a few - the monk has a ninja and ronin variant for example
  • Tweaked the equipment charts - more weapons because I like cool weapon names, got rid of some 3E alchemy I never liked
  • Worked on the adept spell list to better reflect its origins
  • Tried to streamline rules wherever I could; fixed errors in time and movement, changed reaction rolls a bit (simpler, based on alignment), made task checks easier (roll 1d20, 18 or over to succeed, add bonuses, add level if "skilled")
  • Changed saving throws so that it's now just one number, but you get a bonus to save vs. stuff that takes your character out of play (death, paralyzation, polymorph), magic from magic items (wands, etc.) and spellcasters get a bonus vs. spells - so a little like the old D&D saving throw categories, but streamlined
  • Different disease system - I think better – focused on the effects and overcoming them
  • Added a table of the mass of different materials - helps when adventurers want to pick up a golden idol and carry out of a dungeon and you need to figure out how heavy it is
  • Got rid of a few spells (not many) and streamlined the rest when possible; I also got rid of 0-level spells, bumping them up to 1st level (sometimes with modification) - I never liked the 0-level thing
  • Redid the treasure tables (I'm still not satisfied completely - I think I'll add some alternate scheme in Esoterica Exhumed)
  • Streamlined the magic items, especially weapons and armor, and added some items that might be familiar from movies and cartoons; also added some sci-fi items as optional magic items for those who enjoy that – includes a mutation chart (for the mutagen capsules)
  • The appendices cover inspirations, conversions (other systems, and notes like these for 1st to 2nd edition, though not super extensive), a couple additional "specialty mages" to show how one can devise their own lists of advanced spells, did some racial classes for folks who like them, made a list of all the spell components and foci for quick reference, and then made a quick reference chart of common dice rolls in the game
That's all that comes immediately to mind. I'm working diligently on the Monsters book now. Stay tuned, true believers!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Blood and Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook is Released!

Just a quick one today, boys and girls - the Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Rulebook is up for sale as a PDF on RPGNow.com and Lulu.com. $9.99. I'll get the hard cover and paperback version up ASAP - just need to get a review copy first.

This is a combination of player's book and referee's book, with all the classes, races, spells, rules, magic items and info on making dungeons, wilderness, settlements and other planes.

The monsters will be in a second book called, appropriately I think, Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters. I'm shooting for getting that one up for sale in 1 or 2 weeks - there's some editing to do, and I want to include some mini-dungeons as well.

Anyhow - here's the ad copy for the Rulebook ...

Blood & Treasure is the fantasy role-playing game for people who want to spend less time arguing over rules and more time playing, and the new 2nd Edition continues this tradition.

Compatible with old school games, it strives to be rules lite and options heavy.

You get ...

Thirteen character classes, as well as suggested variations on the existing classes

The classic fantasy races

A streamlined and easy optional feats system

Hundreds of spells and magic items - you can run games for years without running out of new things to try

Optional scientific treasures for those who like science-fantasy

Quick and easy rules for exploration, combat, mass combat, naval combat, strongholds and domains and a simple task resolution system

Guidance on designing dungeons, wilderness, settlements and even the cosmos

Suggestions on converting to other old school systems and changes between the first and second edition

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition is designed to give you years of enjoyment in just two volumes, this book and the forthcoming Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monster book, which features over 600 monsters to challenge players.

Blood & Treasure doesn't want to tell you what kind of fantasy game you should enjoy, it just wants to put all the tools in your hands and let you play YOUR GAME, YOUR WAY
Once the Monster book is finished, I'll jump into updating the NOD Companion, which will be retitled Esoterica Exhumed (and have a few new bits as well) and the Monster Tome, which will be retitled Monsters II. After that, whew - I'll rest.

Then I'll get busy on finishing up the next issue of NOD and writing some shorter books and some blog posts.

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.
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