Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Dragon #7

Remember last issue when the editorial promised to expand the magazine coverage to different games? This where it begins, leaving me with a pretty small selection of articles to cover.

But first, the irrelevent ones. The Dragon Rumbles editorial talks about how far the magazine has come since issue #1, and also makes sure to point out that nothing they publish for D&D is considered official. What to Do When Dogs Eat Your Dice details ways to generate random numbers without dice. Mapping the Dungeons continues to show names and addresses of DMs. Mystery Hill – America's Stonehenge gives the history of a natural rock formation in the USA. The Journey Most Alone is a sequel to last issue's short story by Morno. And Editor's Library talks a bit about the classic game OGRE, and also gives the thumbs up to Judges Guild.

Gary Gygax on Dungeons & Dragons: This article sees Gygax writing about the genesis of the game, from the Castle & Crusade Society, to Chainmail, to Blackmoor to D&D. I won't go into the details here, because there are much better resources out there that have this info at hand. The only detail of note is that originally, Dave Arneson's barony of Blackmoor was situated north-east from the Great Kingdom. From what I remember of the official World of Greyhawk maps, the exact opposite is true. So I doubt I can make use of this, barring some past cataclysm that reshaped the land or something. But it seems a little drastic to fit around the established continuity. This is one I'll probably just have to turf out.

Military Formations of the Nations of the Universe: It's yet another Empire of the Petal Throne article by M.A.R. Barker. Say what you will of the man, he certainly was prolific and imaginative.

This is an article about the various military formations used by the nations of Tekumel. As with all EPT stuff I'm not going to get into this too much here. But this is thorough, and will really come in handy should the PCs get embroiled in mass battle on that world. Especially since the formations have names like 'The Oncoming Wings of the Hereafter' and 'The Five Fingers of Death'. Not only evocative, but completely rad.

Featured Creature – The Prowler: A Prowler is, according to the illustration here, a large green worm or serpent with creepy red eyes and a mouth full of tentacles. Their eyes have the power to irrevocably erase the mind of anyone who looks into them, turning them into a mindless zombie. They then implant eggs under the zombie's skin, then send them out to wander around for a bit until the eggs hatch and the baby prowlers eat their former host.

Although the word 'irrevocable'was used above and in the actual monster description, a zombie's mind can be recovered by three high-level Clerics all casting dispell evil. It's no wonder there are so many different ways to interpret Gygax's rules, because he contr4adicts himself here within the space of a coupleof paragraphs.

There's a cool bit about really smart Prowlers setting up hatcheries full of zombies that act as guards and egg hosts. I'm already picturing a creepy series of caves full of these bastards, so I think I have me a nice lair to place in the wilderness.

Oh, and I just checked the stats on this thing. 14 hit dice? Armor Class 1? 50% magic resistance? Constriction for 4-48 points of damage a round? Blimey, they're well hard.

One last thing – in the article here they spell zombie as 'zombei' repeatedly. I'm not sure if it's a typo or a way to differentiate from the regular undead zombie. I might put in an obnoxious sage type who insists on pronouncing the word with a slight inflection, and sharply corrects any players who pronounce it differently. (In case you don't know, I like to design NPCs just to irritate my players.)

The Gnome Cache Chapter 7: This is it, the final installment of Garrison Ernst's (aka Gary Gygax's) first novel. Except it isn't. The story ends on a cliffhanger and is never seen again. From what I've read the magazine's editor Tim Kask didn't care for it and cut it right out of there as quick as he could. Which I think is a bit of a shitty thing to do, leaving the serial unfinished. Surely there were some readers out there following it. I quite like it myself.

This installment sees Dunstan and Mellerd fleeing from the slaughter of the last chapter, and coming across a dwarf being pursued by giant frogs and frog men. The following details can be gleaned:

  • The Nehron uprising mentioned by the bandits last issue was no hoax, and they actually have taken Blackmoor.
  • East of Blackmoor is a jumble of broken terrain stretching out to the sea, home to roving bands of Nehronlanders.
  • West is a trackless forest which leads to the slopes of the Senescent Hills, an inhospitable place that is home to creatures that do not welcome men.
  • The Free City of Humpbridge bends from south-west to south across the base of the Senescent range.
  • South-west of Blackmoor, in a valley near the Senescents, is a strange black river.

With that out of the way, the question remains – what happens to Dunstan and Mellerd from here? I'm afraid to say that I am drawing the obvious conclusion: that they were killed by the giant frogs, and that's why their story ends so abruptly (don't blame me, blame Tim Kask!). That leaves the question of the frogs themselves, but earlier details make that an easy one. Giant Frogs and Frog Men near Blackmoor? It's all very reminiscent of the situation from The Temple of the Frog, the adventure module from Supplement II. I'll just have to put some evidence of the deaths of Dunstan and Mellerd in the surrounding area for the PCs to discover. Oh, and possibly include a treasure guarded by gnomes somewhere nearby – the story was called The Gnome Cache after all, even if it never got to that point.

Next: The Dragon #8

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