Monday, November 16, 2009

The Dragon #3 part 1

My epic trek continues, with a foray into The Dragon #3. As usual, I'll begin with a brief description of those articles which have no bearing on my mammoth project.

Dragon Rumbles starts the issue with an eloquent editorial defense of the use of fiction in the magazine. Does Anyone Remember War of the Empires sees Gary reminiscing about an early play-by-mail sci-fi wargame. The Adventures of Finieous Fingers and Fred and Charly sees the debut of a classic comic strip, and the aforementioned title character. Wargaming World talks about some new miniture releases, while Mapping the Dungeons continues its list of DMs. Out on a Limb features one letter from a guy who likes the mag despite his utter lack of knowledge about D&D, another from a guy who's annoyed that TSR won't let him photocopy their stuff, and yet another from a Tolkien nerd who disagrees with the new elven rules from last issue. Two Penultimate Sub-Classes introduces the Idiot and the Jester as potential classes for D&D, but they are very silly. I'm not against silliness and humour in the game, but it's a subjective thing and I know what's going to work at my table and what isn't. So I'm exercising my right to exclude parody elements here. Finally, Gencon IX's Elimination Tournament answers the many complaints about that event and names the various winners.

Otherwise there is a ton of D&D stuff in this issue, so bear with me. This one might take a couple of posts.

Notes on Women & Magic – Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D: Ah yes, this article. This is the first time that D&D (at least so far as TSR is concerned) tries to differentiate between male and female characters. It does so by the usual method of lowering the female ability scores, but at least they get some extra abilities to balance it out. It's too bad the whole article is full of sexist attitudes, but I'll try to include it in my campaign nonetheless (as you may have noticed, I find this less problematic than bad jokes).

First off, female characters are limited to becoming Fighters, Thieves, Clerics or Magic-Users. It is not said whether this includes the various sub-classes, but I'm inclined to think that it does. I see no reason to further penalise someone for choosing to play a woman.

Ability scores for women get a change as well. Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity and Contitution remain unchanged, but Strength is now rolled with an 8-sided die and a 6-sided die, for a range from 2 to 14. Charisma is replaced by Beauty, which is rolled with two 10-sided dice, and this ties into a number of spells described later.

Next, the four classes each get a new experience table, complete with gender-specific titles for each level. So a 2nd-level female Fighter is known as a Swordswoman, and a 1st-level Thief is called a Wench, that sort of thing. It's apparent from a quick glance at the experience tables that women advance quicker than men, so it's not all about limitations and weaknesses. There's a note at the end advising to subtract one level from the fighting ability of female characters, with the reasonable excuse that otherwise they would outstrip their male counterparts due to faster advancement.

The article then goes into the differences between the classes when used by females. Thieves are first, and they are now given the ability to cast some minor spells at high levels. Some are pre-existing spells, such as Light, Read Languages, Sleep, Mirror Image, Detect Magic, ESP and Knock. Others are new, such as Charm Man, Charm Humanoid Monster and Seduction. They also get the ability to read Tarot Cards, with the ability to answer simple yes/no questions, but I have the same reservations here that I have for anything that lets players predict the future.

Fighters can use the spells of Seduction, Charm Man and Charm Humanoid Monster. They also have to accept penalties on encumbrance and the use of heavy weapons and armour, as their Strength is lower. They do get a +1 bonus when using a dagger (as do all female characters, apparently) but it's hardly a balance.

Magic-Users get a bunch of new spells that I'll briefly go over here. Seduction allows the female to do exactly what the name suggests, with a chart for success chance based on the race of the caster and the victim. The inclusion of Orcs on the chart is amusing, especially when you see that they are more attracted to Elves than to their own kind. (Then again, that is true of all the races present.) Charm Men is a variant on Charm Person (and seems less effective at that). Charm Humanoid Monster is another variant on the same. Poison lets the caster poison food or drink at a distance. Magic Mount summons a Wind Horse, presumably a type of equine elemental. Mind Meld lets two Magic-Users combine their minds to increase in power, though any damage suffered is likely to result in insanity for the two so melded. Spirit is a spell that lets the caster move around in an incorporeal form. Horrid Beauty lets the caster affect the target with her beauty, the exact effect depending on whether her Beauty score is high or low.

Female Clerics are not alowed to use their Beauty unless they are Chaotic. Chaotic Clerics can use the Worship spell, which is yet another charm variant.

Now, the tricky part is to incorporate this into the campaign. I was initially thinking of an anti-female movement on the part of the Adventurer's Guild, but that doesn't really fit with the increased rate of advancement. Also, I'm not into making a player operate by different rules just because he or she wants to play a female character. So I'm going with a somewhat opposite approach: a decidedly pro-female movement within the guild, one that emphasizes the use of feminine wiles as a way to empowerment. I'll make it a purely optional thing, in that any female character will be invited to join. If they accept, they get a whole lot of extra abilities and faster advancement at the cost of lower Strength and some sexist attitudes. Otherwise, there is always the option of refusing, in which case the female PC will use the same rules as before.

Next: The Dragon #3 continues.


  1. That's a good way to handle it, methinks.

  2. Thanks. There are a lot of potential hot-button issues in old-school D&D, and I think making them optional is always the best way to go.