Before we begin, may I just say how good it is to have an issue of The Dragon with actual D&D content in it? Empire of the Petal Throne may be rad, but it can't match the love I bear for its progenitor.
This issue has a number of articles that I won't be using in my campaign. The Dragon Rumbles editorial talks about fiction submissions, and the expansion of the magazine to eight issues per year. Out on a Limb features a letter defending fiction in the mag, another one implausibly trying to recruit 55 assistant DMs, a letter prophetically bemoaning the plethora of new rules and sub-classes, a continuation of the debate about Tolkien elves, and finally a letter from Garry Spiegle about how all sorts of gamers are needed to grow the hobby. Beyond the Wizard Fog is the second tale of Niall of the Far Travels by Gardner Fox, with more reasonably entertaining sub-Conan storytelling. And finally, the infamous Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User, in which the author tries to model Middle-Earth's most famous wizard in D&D terms. Silly man, doesn't he know Gandalf was a Cleric?
The issue kicks off with an article about Witches, but it's a lengthy bugger. I think I'll leave it for now, and maybe tackle it later in the week.
METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA ADDITIONS: This article features a number of small things that missed inclusion in the main rulebooks. There are rules for a gel that neutralizes radiation, fire extinguishers, radioactive material in containers, and a pendant that greatly enhances the senses. The article finishes with some notes about methods of curing poison. As usual, these rules will be incorporated into the campaign where appropriate. Some won't necessarily apply, given that D&D characters making trips to the Starship Warden will be operating under D&D rules.
TRIBAL SOCIETY AND HIERARCHY ON BOARD THE STARSHIP WARDEN: Gee, do you think Metamorphosis Alpha was a recent TSR release at this point? There has been a lot of content for it, and I suspect a marketing push.
Anyway, the article gives some brief details about the nature of tribal life, and especially the role that shamans play in the game (mainly to send the PCs on quests and provide some healing and knowledge). After that it gets a little bit into the goals of the Androids that have infiltrated the tribes, as mentioned in a previous article. It also talks about the Wolfoids, their sworn enemies, master weapon-makers who trade their skill for knowledge and devices. The information presented is basic, but gives just enough to present some adventure seeds for PCs who make the journey to this strange place.
CREATURE FEATURE – THE ANHKHEG: Huzzah, it's classic D&D monster time! The Anhkheg is a giant centipede-like creature that lives in the soil of forests and farmland. And since they like a bit of meat with their soil, I can imagine that they make life a bit hard for your average Greyhawk farmer. They generally attack with their mandibles, but when desperate can squirt digestive acids as a ranged attack.
Introducing these monster shouldn't be much of a problem, as I just need to have some farmers start whinging about being eaten. I may not even give a reason for the sudden anhkheg plague. Some things just happen without a nefarious plot going on.
HOW GREEN WAS MY MUTANT: Gary provides an article for Metamorphosis Alpha, and wouldn't you know it, it's a series of random charts! There are a apparently a lot of mutated humans on the Starship Warden, and these charts are designed to randomly determine what one might look like, from skin colour to head type to number of fingers. Useful, if not too intersting a read.
WIZARD RESEARCH RULES: This article is an extensive supplement to the rules for magical research already provided in the OD&D booklets. The writer has taken care to make things consistent with what already exists while providing a number of interesting options not previously available. I'll list the major ones below:
- Spells can now be researched to permanently increase ability scores, though only once per score per character. All I have to say here is, yikes. The ability increase gets higher with the caster's level, to the point where an 18th level caster can raise a score by 1d12! There are going to be a whole bunch of super-characters roaming my campaign after this beauty gets introduced... Luckily, I have a 'back-to-basics' plan in the offing, more of which I will reveal when the time comes.
- Only really high level casters (Wizards/Witches and Patriatchs/Matriarchs) may create or change magical items.
- Normal weapons and armor can be enchanted to +1 with an expenditure in time and money. You can create more powerful weapons, but the result is rolled on a lovely chart that has a number of cursed options to go along with the goodies.
- Spells can be embedded in items at significant cost.
- Magic items can be duplicated (except for scrolls, potions, weapons, armour, wands and rings containing spells).
- There are rules for making True Rings, as in Tolkien. This takes a load of gold and XP. They can contain a bunch of spells, and also can be used to totally control any lesser ring touched to it (including the wearer of said ring). Lovely, says I. The more Tolkien flavour in my D&D the better.
- Wizard Blades, magic swords that can be wielded by Magic-Users, can be created. They can hold a bunch of spells, and can even range up to +6, higher than anything else in the game thus far. Useful for modelling Gandalf, I suppose.
- There's a discussion of the XP costs of forging a True Ring or a Wizard Blade, and how there's no way to avoid said cost. I love this bit so much I must quote it: "Any attempt to evade this rule is taken as a personal insult by virtually everyone in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes."
- There's a great bit about wizards being able to permanently lose hit points in order to spontaneously create a magic item, by using a Power Word of Distress. This one could be abused, but hit points are so precious for magic-users that it's going to bite anyone who tries it as anything less than a desperate measure.
- Any PCs can sacrifice magic items to the gods in order to get some sort of aid or reward. It's a good way for DMs to get certain items out of the game, and the rewards are left up to DM fiat. Lovely...
There are a lot of new abilities given here for spell-casters, but I don't plan on inroducing it all in a big lump. I'm going to seed information about all of these abilities in various places throughout the dungeons. Perhaps the PCs will discover them, and perhaps not. Maybe an NPC will use the knowledge against them? Either way, it has to be said that this is great article with tons of flavour.
Next: I finish up The Dragon #5 with Witches and The Gnome Cache.