Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Dragon #2 part 2

First things first, apologies for missing my posts over the last week. I have been very ill, and I suspect that I was level-drained by a KFC fillet burger. But enough of that! Hale and hearty, I continue with The Dragon #2.

THE GNOME CACHE part 2: The second part of this serialised novel sees Dunstan encountering a bunch of no-good bandits who easily convince him that they are of the noble sort who rob from the rich and give to the poor. There's nothing here as significant as what was in the first part, but a number of minor details can be gleaned.

  • Three leagues from Endstad (the village that Dunstan came from), the Wild Road runs into the King's Way, and there is a shrine there to Saint Cuthbert of the Cudgel (who has already been introduced by way of Supplement III).
  • A short walk through the woods from the shrine is a thorp that is home to the Inn of the Riven Oak.
  • Along Wild Road is the Edgewood, and therein is a castle inhabited by Baron Teric.
  • There are "strange lands" westward beyond Far Pass.
  • As I've said before, these details may have nothing at all to do with the World of Greyhawk as it was published, but I'll try to reconcile the details if I am able.

HINTS FOR D&D JUDGES Part 3 – THE DUNGEONS: This article gives some advice on spicing up your dungeons, mostly in the form of sample tricks and traps. Given that the author's own dungeon of Castle Blackstar was used as an example in a previous article, I'll be using the various tricks described here to flesh out that place. Such details will include:

  • Entrances under the nearby town, the guard barracks, and a peasant's hovel.
  • A shattered skeleton that, when reassembled, will either attack, serve the party until destroyed, lead to the nearest unguarded treasure, or lead to his master (a high-level magic-user).
  • There's a chart here for determining traps on treasure chests that I will use only in Castle Blackstar.
  • Some of the coins in this dungeon are sentient, and will attack, or scream if taken from their resting place.
  • Somewhere in the dungeon is a dragon who has a hoard of gold pieces that are really made of chocolate wrapped in gold foil. (Ehhh. This one I might ignore.)
  • There's an area here guarded by a realm of chaotic dwarves.
  • Some gems in this dungeon can be commanded to transform into a random monster.
  • Some monsters in this dungeon will turn into gold pieces when killed. (Just like in Super Mario!)
  • The following destinations can be reached via portals in Castle Blackstar: the Santa Maria on its way to discover America, the Normandy beaches on D-Day, the USS Nautilus (a nuclear-powered sub) on its shakedown cruise, and the Little Big Horn as blue-clad cavalry attack. Other destinations are Larry Niven's Ringworld, Tolkien's Moria, Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea, Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World and Fritz Leiber's Nehwon, the Starship Enterprise and the Bermuda Triangle.
  • The following special monsters may be encountered here: those found in the works of HP Lovecraft, the sandworms of Dune, Larry Niven's "Puppeteers", Dickson's "Dorsai", and the martians from War of the Worlds.
  • There's a 10'x10' room that will shrink anyone crossing it so that it seems to be 200'x200'. This serves to drive mappers crazy.
  • There's a room maze full of transporters that constantly return the party to the centre.
  • There's a room with unguarded treasure that, when touched, activates secret doors allowing hordes of hobgoblins to attack.
  • There are underground rivers and lakes here, as well as a random chart for determining the inhabitants of islands.
  • Somewhere in the dungeon is a Pool of Endless Ogres.
  • Somewhere in the dungeon is a room full of gems. Three turns after the gems are taken from the room, half of them turn into orcs and attack.
  • Some magic items found in this dungeon: a ring that works like a Staff of Wizardry, an Unholy Sword, a dagger that works like a Wand of Fireballs, an idol that answers yes/no questions once a week, and an incense burner that works like a Crystal Ball.

So what I have is a hodge-podge of stuff that will make up Castle Blackstar. The real trick here will be combining it into something resembling a cohesive dungeon, but I think it can be done. The result may not be convincing, but I'm not so sure a good dungeon has to be.

Oh, and more importantly, we get a few tidbits about Castle Greyhawk. Besides the main entrance at the castle, it has entrances in an old dry cistern, a simple hole in the ground, and even a pool of quicksand. Now the quicksand entrance has been disavowed by Gary, which makes me believe here that the author was just trying to hose prospective players. "Yeah, suuuure that quicksand leads into the dungeon! Of course it's safe! Lots of good treasure to be found!" That's how I plan to use the "quicksand entrance" in my campaign: as a rumour started by malicious NPCs trying to rub out the competition.

Lastly, there are a number of new magic items given here that I will probably only place in Castle Blackstar: the Hobbits' Pipe (which can blow controllable multi-coloured smoke rings), the Pipeweed of Tranquility (which calms hostile creatures), the Pipeweed of Stoning (which turns creatures to stone), Pipeweed of Illusion (acts like Phantasmal Force), Pipeweed of Acapulco (makes the smoker over-friendly and dazed), the Ring of Magic Missiles (can fire magic missiles and be recharged by the spell), Bag of Infinite Wealth (turns base metals to gold), the Helm of Forgetfulness (makes the wearer forget everything he knows), and the Ring of Infravision (see in the dark).

And I have to say, there sure is a lot of pot humour in early issues of The Dragon.

THE FEATHERED SERPENT: This article gives factual information on the ancient god Quetzalcoatl. There's little here that's directly relevant to D&D, but should my PCs ever venture into a land where this god is worshiped I'll go back to this article to flesh out various details.

A NEW D&D CLASS – THE ALCHEMIST: We get another new class for the game, but this one was never used in future products. The basic gist of the class is that they can create and use a whole bunch of different types of potions and other useful things such as acids and poison. I won't go into too much detail, except to say that I don't really see the appeal. Given that the class didn't make it into AD&D, I'll restrict these guys to NPCs that can be hired by the party. There is already a Guild of Alchemists derived from material in earlier D&D books, so this class will a sort of adventuring subset thereof.

There is an interesting section at the end of the article that overhauls the poison system. Animal poisons now have levels of potency based on the monster's hit dice, and will have more or less effect based on the hit dice of the victim. I will use this to supplement the regular 'save or die' system, but for the life of me I can't think of a way to justify it. Eh, maybe later. I'm tired.

D&D OPTION – WEAPON DAMAGE: The concept of weapon mastery for Fighters and Thieves is introduced here. Fighters master one weapon per 3 levels gained, and Thieves every 4 levels. The bonus is minimal – each weapon simply gains a slightly higher damage range. Thieves are restricted to swords, daggers and the sling – poor buggers are always getting the short end.

Another option instead of higher damage is to choose a weapon combination to dual-wield. You need a Dex of 13 to do this, and only one-handed weapons are allowed. Dex 16 is required for two swords, or for sword and flail. Alas, you can't use two flails at once – logic trumps awesomeness for now. Any character who does this can attack twice per round, or attack and still count as shielded.

Oh, and I see a weapon called the Dwarf Hammer is intoduced here. There are no details given besides a damage range, but there it is.

Aaaaand we finish the issue with an ad for Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes, which I'll be attempting to gloss over next.

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