Saturday, December 07, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 43: JG15 Thunderhold/Sunstone Map, JG16 Booklet J, JG17 Dungeon Level Maps J1-4 and Ready Ref Chart J-5

In December of 1976, Judges Guild sent out Installment J, the second of its bi-monthly subscription packages. Included in this packages were the following items:

  • JG15 Thunderhold/Sunstone Cavern Map (one for players and one for Judges)
  • JG16 Booklet J
  • JG17 Dungeon Level Maps J1-4
  • JG21 Journal J
  • Ready Ref Chart J-5

JG 15 Thunderhold/Sunstone Cavern Map

These maps depict the Castle of Thunderhold and the surrounding wilderness. The judges' map has all of the buildings and features labelled, while the players' version leaves all of these blank. The judges' map also has a dungeon printed on the back, the Sunstone Cavern. More details of these are given below.

JG16 Booklet J

This booklet is the meat of the installment, detailing the dwarven citadel of Thunderhold and the nearby Sunstone Caverns (with some other extraneous bits and bobs thrown in). It's only twelve pages long, but as is customary with Judges Guild products it's absolutely jam-packed with content. I'm not sure how much a JG subscription cost, but I'd be willing to bet that folks were getting their money's worth.

Thunderhold lies to the north of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, as shown on the map below:

The lands north of the City-State (note that north is to the left of this image).

Thunderhold castle had once been the stronghold of a tribe of men called the Moonrakers, who traded with dwarves who lived in the Sunstone caverns nearby. This alliance was broken up by an invasion of gnolls, led by the evil wizard Lychin and his minotaur/priest ally Bragash, who took possession of the caves and the castle.

Another tribe of dwarves lived in the Majestic Mountains, south of Thunderhold, but they were driven from their homeland by the dragon Ancalegorn and its three young. They moved north, led by Nordre Ironhelm, defeated the gnolls and took control of the Sunstone Caverns (rumoured to have a lode of mithril) as well as Thunderhold. Lychin was apparently killed, but the minotaur Bragash escaped deeper into the Sunstone Caverns. Now the dwarven population of Thunderhold is about 2,000, and Ironhelm maintains close ties to the City State, holding a seat in the senate.

It's mentioned in the book that the dwarves worship Goibhnie, blacksmith of the gods, who is a part of the Celtic mythos in Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods & Heroes. Still on the subject of gods, it then goes on to give this quite bizarre passage which I'll write out in full: "It is rumored that a god called Emig XXV died near the Thunderhold two years ago and gave birth to a mortal named 'Defect'. The mortal and a portion of the dead Emig was supposedly sold to the Overlord for a considerable sum. This rumor was probably started to explain the fire which began leaping from the Cryptic Citadel to kill any flying creature venturing over it since the mortal was also supposed to have inherited a magic limb of Emig named 'Autocannon'. The dwarves have always produced superior weapons but legion blades of recent make are attributed to the corpse of Emig." I'm not sure what exactly Emig is supposed to be, but the hints are definitely there for a race of technologically advanced gods or invaders. And if the Overlord has an autocannon on his roof, I'm all for it.

This is followed by a list of some of the prominent NPCs of Thunderhold, and the shops contained within the stronghold. They're given in much the same abbreviated style as those of the City State, but the shops receive much less detail: only the stats of the proprietor are given, with the type of shop only being written on the Judge's Map.

This is the players' version of JG15, the Thunderhold Map. The judges' version
has all of the buildings and other features labelled.

The Sunstone Caverns are marked to the southwest of Thunderhold. They only cover a single level, but it's a big level, split over three pages in my PDF (although the original was printed on the reverse of the judges version of the Thunderhold map). I've stitched them together as best I can.

There are a number of factions and other interesting features in the caves, although they're only described in a very broad fashion. The mithril lode (now depleted) is located in the areas to the northwest. The Bandits of the Man-Ape dwell to the west. Their leader Carpen Gartirn is chaotic good, so I assume that they're Robin Hood types, and they have been fighting with the Chaotic forces in the caves. Who the "man-ape" is is unspecified, but Carpen does have a Charisma of 5, so it might be him. Near the centre dwells a white dragon called Gorgomat, who was trapped inside the caves 120 years ago, and is worshipped by gnolls. The middle southern caves are inhabited by a hill giant called Muakruar the Unblest, as well as his family (and their pet hydra). North of that, still near the centre, is the lair of the Minotaur Bragrash, and his ghoul minions. The spectre Zagrath roams the areas to the north-east, seeking his long-lost dog companion. South of that is the Oracle of Bubastis, a large statue which is believed to be divine, but is actually a scam being run by some magic-users. The areas to the southeast are the old Sunstone Mine, and still have areas that can be mined for gems.

(The dwarves aren't mentioned here, so they obviously don't hold the caverns anymore. It's mentioned that nobody ventures in since the spectre Zagrath was first encountered, so it's possible he drove them away.)

The most intriguing area, though, lies to the southwest: the Tribunal of Chaos. This is kind of a court for chaotic monsters, with judges, guards, and executioners. There are various factions vying for control (orcs, wererats, wereboars, trolls, ogres), with the verdicts usually coming down in favour of whichever is on top at the given time. Lots of potential for role-playing and adventure hooks here, especially if the players find themselves captured while in the caves.

The booklet also has a number of adventure hooks scattered throughout. Some are given as legends and rumours that may be handed out by NPCs (such as the Dungeon Vault, a huge cave complex below the Majestic Fastness; the Night Watchers, a group of spectres riding manticores; or the Sun-Driven Dwarf, a flying dwarf adventurer who departed 140 years ago). Others are given as songs or poems, to be used whenever the PCs listen to some minstrel or tavern bard. Here's an example of one:

After the long and cold retreat
The Witch-Queen deigned to take her seat,
By the ancient Sleeping River clear,
Where harpies singing charm the ear.

They're all similarly vague, and the intent is for the DM to take these snippets and craft his own adventure around them.

A recurring segment is introduced called "Malevolent Character Module", which is intended to introduce an NPC or monster that could be the basis for an adventure or two. This one introduces Lady Kostbera the Sorceress, who is a former beggar who ruthlessly carved her way up the ranks of society to join the Black Lotus, the Overlord's personal spy ring.

The rest of the booklet is crammed with bits and pieces that expand on the rules and setting, as follows:
  • Exchange rates for various coins. The standard D&D coins are all used (copper, silver, gold, electrum, platinum), and there are also iron coins, mithril coins and adamantite. The exchange rates are as follows: adamantite = 20gp; mithril = 10gp; platinum = 5 gp; electrum = 2gp; 1gp = 10 silver; 1 gp = 50 copper; an iron coin is worth 3 copper, which irritatingly doesn't fit neatly into a gold piece. One copper is worth about 5 hours of labour.
  • Rules are given for armour and weapons made of metals other than iron or steel, including adjustments to effectiveness and price. In general, adamantite grants a +2 bonus, mithril a +1 bonus, and the various previous metals have a penalty of -1, while copper is the least effective at -2.
  • Some rules are given for gems, and the values of different varieties that might be found. Prices are given for making certain objects out of gemstones. There's also a chart for special gems, which includes the various magical ones already established along with some new types: glowstone, geas stone, prayer stone, quest stone, selenite (can write moon runes), possession stone (charms at -4), moonstone (raises Int by 1 after a year), warstone (can be made into a +2 handaxe), wish stone.
  • Charts are given for gaining information from beggars, some of whom are said to have the ability to predict the future. The Beggar's Guild is also established, which is one of those pulp fantasy staples that has always seemed a little absurd to me; it's an idea that works in Pratchett's Discworld, and not really anywhere else, but apparently the City-State has one.
  • A system is given for testing a PC's ability scores, which basically boils down to using the relevant score as a percentage chance for success. A player gets one chance to succeed, unless rolling against their prime requisite, in which case they get to keep trying.
  • Three rules are given for allowing PCs to recover from being wounded below 0 hit points. The first allows any player to recover 1-4 hp after a battle, so long as they bandage their wounds immediately; someone with hp of 0 or below can be healed in this manner by another player. With the second method, a player dropped below 0 hp rolls 2d6, and subtracts the number of hp below zero. This is the number of rounds they have until they die. For the third method, the dying PC rolls a d6 for each of their hit die, and the result is the number of rounds they have until they die. I may be mistaken, but I think that these are the first rules in D&D that allow a PC to survive after losing all of their hit points.
  • Tables are given for when the PCs are stopped by guards, with random determination for the reason they were stopped and what they guards may want. It could be as simple as asking for imformation, or something worse like suspicion of spying, or even impressing them to dig ditches for a day.
  • Rules are given for using insults and witticisms in combat, which usually results in the target being stunned or incapacitated. The Buffoon class is given as a sub-class of Fighter with a low Charisma, who can use a number of these witticisms per day. I've never been a fan of these kind of classes, or of the use of ability score rolls to influence NPCs with conversation. If I use it as an NPC class, the witticisms will definitely have a magical basis rather than just being regular speech.
  • Rules are given for alchemists and wizards to research and create poisons. Common poisons such as belladonna, opium and arsenic are easier to find and create, while the rarer sorts (from a wyvern, water naga or purple worm) are more difficult. A chart is given for the various poison types, which no longer kill instantly: instead they deliver a set amount of damage per round on a failed save, while also making ill, paralyzing or putting their victim into a coma.
  • A chart is given with reasons as to why an NPC might be attacking the PCs, ranging from mistaken identity to drunkenness to religious hatred.
  • Finally there's a table that fleshes out some of the special encounters than can happen in the City-State: fires, epidemics, holidays, jail breaks, and various other events or declarations. Special attention is given to roaming vigilantes for some reason.

JG17 Dungeon Level Maps

In addition to the Sunstone Caverns, there is another cave dungeon to the north-west of Thunderhold. Four levels of this dungeon are provided as maps that came with the installment, labelled as product JG17. No further details are given for these caverns aside from what's printed on the maps themselves (which is mostly smells and sounds). There are paths that lead down to levels 5 and 6 of the dungeon, but no maps are given for these. There's also a cave that leads to the planet Venus. This is the first level:

JG21 Journal J

Alas, I haven't been able to find a complete copy of this journal anywhere. All I have is a snippet of the first page, and a very blurry one at that. From what I can gather, it's an article about regaining balance in a campaign that's gotten out of control, by lowering the levels of the PCs, raising the levels of the monsters, or eliminating certain trouble-making PCs.

Ready Ref Chart J-5

Like the other Ready Ref Charts, this is a single sheet of paper that summarises various rules for ease of reference.

This chart summarises the surprise rules, and I don't believe it adds anything new. It also gives a chart showing how monster will generally react to a party, based on their intelligence and whether or not the party outnumbers them; this is based on a line from OD&D Vol. 3 stating that monsters will generally attack unless they are intelligent enough to avoid an obviously superior force. A chart is also given showing the intelligence levels of monsters, categorising them as Unintelligent, Semi-Intelligent or Intelligent. Most of these could be ascertained from the monster descriptions already given, but there's definitely been some extrapolation done here by the Judges Guild crew. Guidelines are given for how long certain actions might take, with all actions given in rounds; this is all new material. Rules are also given for whether a creature will believe a Phantasmal Force spell, based on level and a roll of 2d6; this is also new material. Finally, a chart is given to determine who goes first in combat based on the weapon, spell or attack they're using, modified by armor worn and Dexterity. Glances, breath weapons, low-level spells and missile fire are quick, weapons go first based on length, and high-level spells and scrolls are the slowest. How this ties into the already established initiative rules (such as they are) is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 42: JG10 Guide to the City State

Dropping late in 1976, JG10 Guide to the City State was the follow-up to Booklet I. But whereas that first booklet contained info on the buildings and residents for a handful of streets in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, JG10 crams its 64 pages with entries for pretty much every important building on the City-State map. Unfortunately it doesn't replicate what was in Booklet I, so a bit of book juggling will still be required to use the full city, but it's so chock-full of content I'm not sure where that stuff would have fit anyway.

I should note at this point that I'm writing this up quite a number of weeks after I finished reading JG10, so my memories of it all are a little hazy. I took some notes, but it's likely I might make mistakes or misremember some things. It's one of the perils of taking a blog hiatus, I suppose.

In addition to detailing the city, this book gives us our first details about the Judges Guild setting, beginning with a couple of maps which I'll reproduce below.

This map's at the end of my PDF of JG10, but I'm not
100% sure it was in the original booklet.

The City-State was apparently founded 1,358 years ago (in the year 3075 BCCC) by a unification of nomad tribes, and has grown so powerful that it only pays tribute to one nation located far in the west (possibly the City-State of the Emperor marked on the map). The barbarian Altanians, who share an ancestry with the people of the City-State, dwell to the south. Thunderhold lies to the north, ruled by Nordre Ironhelm, king of the dwarves.

It's said that over 300 religions are practiced in the City-State. The Overlord allows them all to operate, taxing them all. As in Booklet I, there are actual gods dwelling in the city as well, among them a toad god in the swamp and Balder himself in a wine shop.

The city now runs on an embryonic feudal system, which came into place 456 after the Revolt of Craftsmen, when the craftsmen wrested a measure of freedom from the warrior-dominated ruling faction.

The calendar mentioned above (BCCC) is Balozkinar's Corrected Common Calendar, and was instituted 453 years ago. Balozkinar was a warrior-king, after the discovery and interpretation of an ancient calendar obelisk (I think, the wording is a little vague). The calendar year is split into 18 months of 20 days, with a five or six day celebration at the end of each year.

The obelisk mentioned above, called the Chronology of the Dragon Kings, is shown below:

Given the founding of the city state in 3075 BCCC, these kings all ruled well before its existence. It's mentioned that the founding happened precisely 5,466 years after something called the Uttermost War, and supposedly 11,683 years after "the creation" (according to Ralibarn the Wise, a Patriarch of Odin). It's also mentioned that there's a gap of about 2,500 years in the City-State's history, due to the destruction of records on a nation-wide scale, but I'm not sure how that can be, as it was only founded 1,358 years ago. Perhaps that gap refers to the history of the region as a whole, rather than the city-state itself.

With the history stuff out of the way, the book then gets into detailing the streets and buildings, in exactly the same fashion that it did in Booklet I. As before, it's dense and pretty rough going as a read. It's only 65 pages, but it took me a few weeks to get through. The buildings are grouped by street, with each one giving the stats and personalities of major residents, as well as wares offered and treasures held. There's a lot packed in, and just about every building has some sort of a springboard that could be used to generate an adventure.

Of the various city supplements I've read over the years, this might be one of the most practical and usable. My only real gripe is that buildings are often grouped with those on a street that they are a fair distance away from. For the most part they can be found quickly, but there's the odd one here and there that would be very difficult to find without a lot of flipping through the booklet.

The book finishes up with some more charts, with things such as random boons and duties that the Overlord might ask of a noble, lots of charts for determining the looks and disposition of any women encountered (with the possibilities including ones with golden fur and tail, feathers and wings, and scaly half-mermaids), and rules about law and justice in the city-state (including wills, oath-breaking, and proclamations that might be posted in the plazas and at the gates).

The booklet ends with the following calendar, which has 12 months in contradiction to the 18-month calendar mentioned earlier in the book. It's possible that the one below is used by the common folk, with the other being favored by nobles and officials.

From this we can learn the general temperature at different times of the year (in Fahrenheit, seemingly), as well as the names of several of the gods worshipped in the city-state: Modron, goddess of rivers; Mabon, god of the sun; Harmakis, god of destruction; Teutates, god of war. These deities seem to exist alongside pretty much everything from Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods & Heroes. It's also mentioned that month 5 (the Yellow Moon-Dog) is "pardon month", when the Overlord can be petitioned to pardon any crime. Any petitioner not pardoned is often exiled beyond the city gates.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 41: The Dragon #4

Cover dated December 1976, The Dragon #4 is a special issue devoted almost entirely to Empire of the Petal Throne. It seems like an odd move for a magazine so early in it's run, but TSR was selling EPT at $25 a pop, and no doubt were pretty keen to shift some units. Most of the articles in it were for EPT, and thus only of minor relevance to the Ultimate Sandbox; I do plan to use Tekumel as a setting, but only as a peripheral world that the PCs might visit, not as a central part of the campaign.

Articles not relevant to that project are: "Miscellaneous Oddball D&D Stuff" which presents a number of overtly comedic game elements, which I'm not including because they are very silly indeed; "Mapping the Dungeons" which has more names and addresses of DMs; and "Wizards Defined" which outlines the abilities for various levels of magic-user in an attempt at humour.

Relevant articles are listed below. I'm including them here for my own reference, but since they aren't D&D-related I'll gloss over them pretty quickly. I covered this in more detail some years ago.

"Reports Submitted to the Petal Throne" by M.A.R. Barker: This is a follow-up to a previous article, and features a number of reports to the Emperor about goings on in Tekumel. It's very dense stuff, but an intriguing look into the weird, alien world of EPT.

"Notes on Androids on The Starship Warden" by Jim Ward: An article detailing the history and use of androids on the Starship Warden of Metamorphosis Alpha, which I'm using as another possible setting for adventures in my campaign.

"Jakalla Encounters" by Steve Klein: A random table for generating encounters in the Foreigners' Quarter of EPT's Jakalla.

"The Battle of the Temple of Chanis" by M.A.R Barker: An account of a large-scale battle in Tekumel, complete with the fictional account of one of the soldiers. The battle is waged between an army from Mu'ugalavya and one from Tsolyanu, which the Mu'ugalavyani lost.

"Creature Features - The Mihalli": Stats and description for the Mihalli, a non-human race that hitched a ride with humanity to the planet of Tekumel (back when humans were still a star-faring race). Most of them were wiped out with fission bombs ages ago.

"Creature Features - The Vriyagga": A weird creature that trundles around on fleshy wheels, dwelling in the fabled subterranean City of Red-Tiled Roofs.

"Roads from Jakalla" by Jerry Westergard: Some adventurers are hired to transport a book to the Emperor, to prevent a plot to assassinate a prominent general.

"Wargaming World": Shows some of the earliest miniatures for D&D and EPT. The pictures are quite low quality, but it looks like the orcs are pig-faced (some of the earliest images of that style of orc). The pictures of the EPT figures might come in handy if I need to see what certain types of troops are meant to look like. It's not hard to find visual aids for D&D, but EPT is more difficult.

"Fantasy/Swords & Sorcery Recommended Reading" by Gary Gygax: This is a list of recommended books from Gary, a precursor to the one in AD&D. Some authors have specific works listed, and some dont. I'll list them below.

  • Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson
  • Algernon Blackwood
  • Leigh Brackett
  • John Carter of Mars (et al) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Warriors of the Worlds End by Lin Carter
  • The Incompleat Enchanter and Castle of Iron (et al) by deCamp & Pratt
  • Gates of Creation (et al) by P.J. Farmer
  • Kothar the Barbarian (et al) by Gardner Fox
  • Conan the Conqueror (et al) by R.E. Howard
  • Hiero's Journey by Sterling Lanier
  • Swords of Lankhmar (et al) by Fritz Leiber
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Creep Shadow Creep, The Moon Pool, Face in the Abyss and Dwellers in the Mirage (et al) by A. Merritt
  • Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock
  • Changeling Earth by Fred Saberhagen
  • Margaret St. Clair
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Eyes of the Overworld and The Dying Earth by Jack Vance
  • Stanley Weinbaum
  • M.W. Wellman
  • Jack of Shadows (et al), Lord of Light and Nine Princes of Amber series by Roger Zelazny
Of the above, I've only read the first five of Burroughs John Carter books, all of Howard's Conan, a good chunk of Lovecraft, the two Moorcock books, both Tolkien books, and both of Vance's books. Fritz Leiber is probably the most glaring thing on this list that I haven't got to yet. Alas, most of my youthful fantasy reading went on official TSR novels and epic fantasy from the 1980s and onwards. I need to check out some of this stuff.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 40: The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth

The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth was written by Gary Gygax for use as a tournament module at Wintercon V, late in 1976. Metro Detroit Gamers, the organisation that ran the con (and seemingly still does!) were given permission to sell the module. Apparently there were only about 300 made, sold as looseleaf sheets in ziploc bags. The adventure was later reworked by Gygax and published by TSR as S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, but today I'm only dealing with the original tournament version.

As can be seen on the cover above, it begins with a healthy dose of Greyhawk lore. To summarise, decades ago the archmage Iggwilv conquered the marches of Perrunland, and took loads of its treasures, including an artifact known as Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn. Legend said that he hid these treasures somewhere between the Sea of Dust and the Duchy of Geoff. Later, Iggwilv was slain by the demon Graz'zt, and his minions were scattered by an uprising of oppressed subjects. Much of the treasure was regained, but the Lanthorn and a number of arcane tomes were never recovered. This fits with later stuff from official TSR materials, except for one thing: Iggwilv is described here as a male, but later as a female. It's an inconsistency, but not an insurmountable one. I could always chalk it up to faulty knowledge from sages, or the ubiquitous sex-changing magic that is rampant in old-school D&D.

The tournament scenario involved teams of six players each. It looks to me as though all the teams used the same characters, with each team coming from a parallel world due to the caves being a dimensional nexus. There were six teams exploring the upper level in round 1, with the best player from each being taken to form a single team to explore the lower level in round 2. Those PCs were: Cathartic, a 7th level human cleric; Ethelrede, an 8th level human fighter; Flemin, a 6th level dwarf fighter; Dunil, a 9th level hobbit thief; Weslocke, a 4th/9th level fighter/magic-user; and Hockerbrechte, a 4th/4th/5th level fighter/magic-user/thief. I'll use these characters (complete with multi-dimensional make-up) as an NPC party in that region that has been into the caverns.

The tournament rules are odd, in that damage done is averaged out rather than rolled on dice. So a hit from a sword will always do 5 points of damage. I suppose this is an attempt to mitigate at least some of the game's randomness, which is probably a good idea for tournament scenarios.

The goal of the adventure is to penetrate into the central room of the Greater Caverns, where the Wondrous Lanthorn lies. That chamber has six doors, all of which must be opened before it can be entered. Opening a door other than the final one results in teleportation to another location, making the whole process more difficult.

The caverns themselves are very much a monster zoo, with blink dogs, displacer beasts, stirges, dragons, cockatrices, giants, and many other creatures living side by side. There aren't any brand new monsters, except for a giant snapping turtle. The hill giants are oddly specified as being Chinese, which could be literal if the dimensional nexus aspect of the caves is taken into account. Most of the monsters gets a brief physical description, and for some this might be the first time ever. The Rust Monster, for example, wasn't described in Supplement I: Greyhawk, but here it's said to be a "large armadillo-like creature with 2 tentacles on its head near mouth".

The central chamber, and the treasure, is guarded by a female Vampire Lord. In the later module this will be Drelzna, the daughter of Iggwilv, but here she's just a vampire with no particular backstory. Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn is a lantern artifact that sheds a golden light. Different effects can be obtained from it depending on the use of various coloured lenses.

Obviously, I'll include this adventure as a location in my version of Greyhawk, but I won't point any adventurers towards it until I get to the release of the module version. If anyone stumbles across it before that, they'll get to play the tournament version (without the tournament rules, of course). I've checked, and the maps are identical between both versions, so any discrepancies shouldn't be too hard to reconcile.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 39: JG3 Initial Guidelines Booklet, JG4 City State Player's Map & JG8 Dungeon Level Maps

In addition to the Dungeon Tac Cards and Ready Ref Charts, the initial Judges Guild installment also came with three more items. All three of these provided more information for the City State Map they had sold at Gen Con: JG1 Initial Guidelines Booklet gives details about the City State itself, right down to specific streets, buildings and inhabitants; JG4 City State Players Map is a smaller scale map of the city with some of the details removed; and JG8 Dungeon Level Maps I provides maps for the first five levels of a dungeon beneath the city. I'll tackle them each in turn.

JG5 Initial Guidelines Booklet

This booklet is only 16 pages, but it is dense. That's the actual cover above, and you can see that there's absolutely no space wasted. You certainly can't accuse Judges Guild of not giving its customers their money's worth.

The book begins with tables that are used to determine the types of characters encountered, along with their social standing and what they want. There are some wild potential results here. Most of the encounters will be with humans, but you could also find yourself being sexually propositioned by a Blink Dog or a Wight.

There are six levels of hierarchy in the City State, with various Social Levels within each. As I understand it, Social Level is more important than hierarchy; a sheriff (top of the General hierarchy) is of higher rank than a page, high born or thane (bottom three of the Noble hierarchy). Of course, you can rise higher in some hierarchies than others and anyone at the top of their hierarchy can move into the Noble hierarchy by spending loads of money on a festival.

The most unfortunate thing here is that women are seemingly very low on the totem pole. Most seem to be slaves, "houris", concubines, amazons (not so bad by comparison), daughters, and barmaids. Some that show up will be ladies or dames, and the odd goddess (more on that later). But overall, the City State seems to be a very male-dominated place, at least based on the charts.

The City State is ruled by a hereditary monarch (the Invincible Overlord), as well as a senate. Pretty much everyone on the senate is a top level character class (Lord, Patriarch, etc.), and they seem to be divided by alignment. The overlord himself is said to be Lawful Evil, leaning towards Good. I guess that means he's evil but not, like, all the way evil? He apparently remains above alignment disputes, and uses characters of all alignments to serve him. His secret police, called the Black Lotus, pervade all levels of society. He also has a pretty sizable treasure hoard, which is said to be guarded by the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o, which gives me a location for one of the artifacts from Supplement III.

Within the city is a secret society called FEAR (the Fraternity for Eradication of Armored Riff-Raff), which is dedicated to pressuring lower-level characters into not wearing platemail. I wonder if this is a class snobbery thing? It's said to be coming from the Knights of the Inner Circle (citadel guards) so it could just be to make law-enforcement easier.

The Barbarians of Altanis live to the south-east, and have a voice in the senate. To the south-east are the Orcs of the Purple Claw, and their Amazon Queen-Priestess. Goblins live in a reservation outside the walls, and a network of tunnels beneath. They are permitted to work in the city, but must leave by sundown, and aren't allowed to buy alcohol.

The significant streets and buildings are then described, in incredibly terse fashion. It doesn't cover the entire city, just a section in the lower east corner. Even as condensed as it is, it would be nigh-impossible to detail everything on the map in 16 pages. I found this section fairly hard going, to be honest. Here's a sample of what it's like to read:

GARRICK ONE-EYE; CLASS FTR; ALIGN LE; LVL 4; HTK 14; AC 7; SL 6; S 14; I 8; W 7; CON 12; DEX 4; CHAR 5; WPN Dagger
Ten barmaid slaves FTR, N & LE, 1 HD, 2-5-1-2-4-3-3-1-2-5 HTK, AC 9, daggers. 4 sculliary slaves FTR, N, 1 HD, 4-5-4-2, short swords, 2 cooks, FTR, N, 2 HD, 6-5 HTK, AC 7, swords, two-handed sword hidden under counter, 20 SP & 15 CP on person, 110 GP hidden in boars head above bar, will relate Legend of the Druid Stone . . pilgrim place of druids . . large meteorite for 2-12 GP, patrons include barbarians, bandits, & berserkers NA 1-6 @, pig roast 1 GP, ale 1 SP, entertainment Bullfrog Bertha FEM Orc, 2 HD, 10 HTK, AC 5, and her two bellydancers FEM slaves N, 1 HD, 1-3 HTK, daggers, gormets roll for Cholera PROB 2%/Meal. HO 25%

As you can see there's a lot there, even if it can get a little hard to parse. There are various legends and rumours that players can learn, and those are always written in a cursive font. I have no clue what "HO 25%" at the ends means.

There's too much for me to go through in detail, but some of the more interesting locations include Hell-Bridge Temple (where the Assassins' Guild members got to worship), the Thieves Guild, and even the local butcher, who likes to hook people from his roof and reel them in to become tomorrow's cutlets. Pretty much every location described has an adventure hook of some sort.

I'm struck by two things that I haven;t seen a lot of in D&D cities. The first is that monster races are all over the place. Orcs, goblins, trolls, gnolls, wererats, you name it and they're living in the City State. The second is the presence of the gods. The city is filled with temples to the gods from Supplement IV, even ones drawn from the Elric mythos. The gods are very real in the City State, and can be met in temples, bars, or just on the street as random encounters. It's pretty wild and very pulpy, and I like the tone it suggests a lot.

The booklet ends with a three page description of the legal system, which takes into account all sorts of things: the Social Level of all involved, the crime, the circumstances, how the magistrate is feeling, bribes, and even the weather on the day of the trial. You're more likely to get off on a sunny day than a rainy one, which makes a weird sort of sense. Results range from the judge ruling in your favour to being drawn and quartered. At a cursory glance, it looks like a workable system, albeit a rudimentary one. I'm not sure I'd want to implement anything more complex than this, to be honest.

JG4 City State Player's Map

I haven't got much to say about this one. It was printed as four 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper, making it (I think) a quarter of the size of the original City State Map. It has the names of the streets and the geographical features, but the buildings are unnamed, and their interiors have no detail. It looks like a good way to get the players to explore the city without revealing anything they shouldn't know.

JG8 Dungeon Level Maps I

These five dungeon level maps are accessible from beneath two taverns (the Wild Boar Tavern and the Cut-Throat Inn). They're freely available at the Acaeum, so I'll show them all here. They aren't stocked, but there are some nice details on the map, such as sounds and navigation hazards.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 38: JG0 Journal I & JG5-7 Ready Ref Charts

In October 1976, the initial Judges Guild installment was sent out to subscribers. It consisted of the first Judges Guild Journal, a set of Ready Ref Charts, two maps of the City-State of the Invincible Overlord (one for DMs and one for players), and Booklet I, which gives details for many of the locations on the maps. In this post I'm going to look at the Judges Guild Journal and the Ready Ref Charts.

The Judges Guild Journal (designated I for "initial") consist of two pages, and is written mostly from an in-universe perspective. Bob Bledsaw is given an alter ego as Maed Makistakator, a noted sage, while Bill Owen's alter ego is Llangewellen the Blue, who dwells in a tower. The two of them share an ogre servant named Woody. The segments, in brief, are as follows:

Jocular Judgments: An introductory paragraph, explaining that the JG material is intended to supplement your personal D&D game, rather than supplanting your own creativity. There's a little bit of DM advice thrown in, mostly about not giving away too much treasure. The DM is advised to be "cheap, strict, limiting and friendly" which I feel actually sums things up pretty well if you're condensing things down to four words.

Scrolls from the Archives: Written from the perspective of Chancellor Seneschal, Archive Archon, which pretty much just exists to introduce the two alter egos of Bledsaw and Owen.

Shrewd Slants from the Sagacious Sage: This is Bledsaw's section, written as Maed Makistakator. He begins by explaining that some folks at TSR took them to task about the historical accuracy of the weapons in their Dungeon Tac Cards, and they're planning to have them redone. I wonder if the illustrations were updated for the 2nd printing?

GenCon IX is mentioned, as are Judges Guild's new offices, and apparently there's a poison chart coming in the next issue.

Tips From the Tower: This is written by Llangewellen the Blue, aka Bill Owen, who mostly explains how the Dungeon Tac Cards are supposed to be used. He finishes up by mentioning that Booklet I, with its details about the City State, is just a taste, and that the full 40-page book will be coming in December.

There's not much for me to glean for my campaign from this, though I'll use Chancellor Seneschal, Maed Makistakator, Llangewellen the Blue and Woody as NPCs in the City State. I might even make their status as writers on Earth canon, if it becomes relevant to the game.

The Ready Ref Charts are simply sheets of paper with some of the more important charts compiled on them for ease of reference. The ones that came with installment I are shown below:

The first sheet, Men Attacking, includes the standard to-hit charts with Strength bonuses noted below (although it's curiously lacking the mods for exceptional Strength), the Weapon vs. AC table, modifiers for missile range, saving throws, and the monster XP values from Supplement I: Greyhawk. The second sheet has the Man-to-Man chart from Chainmail for some reason. I guess there were people who preferred it over the D&D to-hit chart? It also has the saving throw chart that was on the first sheet, so this one seems fairly superfluous. The final sheet has the to-hit chart for monsters, extending all the way up to AC -9. It also has an extensive list of monsters and their damage ranges. As far as I can tell, none of this data is changed from the original rules (although the extension of the monster to-hit charts is an extrapolation that isn't from a TSR product).

These charts came with the initial installment, but were also sold separately. As far as I can tell, product JG5 came with five copies of the Men Attacking chart and one of Monsters Attacking; JG6 came with five copies of Man-to-Man and one of Monsters Attacking; and JG7 came with six copies of Monster Attacking.

These charts would have been useful back in the day, when these charts were spread out across multiple books. In many ways they're the primordial form of the DM's screen, which we've all used at one time or another. The idea was a good one, but the form it's presented in hasn't quite been perfected yet.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 37: The Dragon #3

Cover-dated October 1976, the third issue of The Dragon was released not long after Swords & Spells (it has a full page ad for the product, as well as for the Lankhmar wargame). It kicks off with an editorial defense of including fiction in the magazine by Tim Kask, and has the following articles that are irrelevant to this blog: Gary's reminiscences about an old play-by-mail wargame called War of the Empires; more DM listings in Mapping the Dungeons; a round-up of recent miniature releases in Wargaming World; an defense of the way the D&D tournament was run at Gen Con IX, and list of the winners; and the first letters column, Out on a Limb, wherein Scott Rosenberg uses the lack of TSR accessories to defend his rampant copyright violation, and Lewis Pulsipher goes Full Tolkien Nerd in criticising the article about the Eldar from issue #1. Also we have the first installment of the Finieous Fingers strip, and I should have noted that the Dirt strip started back in The Strategic Review #7.

Now, the articles that are relevant:

"Notes on Women & Magic - Bringing the Distaff Gamer into D&D" by Len Lakofka: We just had Jennell Jaquays' ideas about female PCs in Dungeoneer #2, and now it's time for Len Lakofka to weigh in on the matter. It begins by limiting a female's Strength score, and replacing Charisma with Beauty, which is certainly a whole thing I don't want to get into. Apparently they also "surpass men as thieves". Yup, I'm just going to move on here.

It then provides alternate level titles for each class, which I'm happy to include as an option for whoever wants to use them. They're different to the ones in Jaquays' article; I'll use those for the specific classes he introduced, and these for generic fighters/magic-users/theives/clerics. They are:

  • Fighters: Fighting Woman; Swordswoman, Gladiator, Battle Maiden, Shield Maiden, Myrmidon, Heroine, Valkyrie, War Lady
  • Clerics: Novice, Initiate, Postulant, Apostolate, Sister, Deaconess, Canoness, Prioress, Superioress, Matriarch
  • Thieves: Wench, Hag, Jade, Succubus, Adventuress, Soothsayer, Gypsy, Sibyl
  • Magic-Users: Medium, Seer, Sage, Mystic, Oracle, Enchantress, Illusionist, Sorceress, Witch

Female thieves are given spellcasting abilities, and the power to see the future via tarot reading, at higher levels. I think I'm going to split these off as an NPC faction; the thief titles above (which are pretty rough) will apply only to members of that faction. Fighters get a few seduction abilities, and magic-users get some female-only spells. Female clerics are the same as males, except that Chaotic clerics get access to the worship spell. For the sake of simplicity, the faction I posited above will include fighters, thieves and magic-users. Clerics are unchanged enough that I don't think they need to be a part of it.

Here are the new spells below. Very few of them are ever used going forward in D&D:
  • Charm Man I through III
  • Tarot Reading
  • Seduction I through VIII
  • Charm Humanoid Monster I through IV
  • Magic Mount
  • Mind Meld
  • Poison
  • Spirit
  • Horrid Beauty
  • Worship

As you can see, most of them are variants of charm spell. I'll have them known and in use by the faction I mentioned above, but it's doubtful they'll survive in the campaign long-term (unless a PC gets hold of one and takes a liking to it).

"The Search for the Gnome Cache: Chapters 3 and 4" by Garrison Ernst (aka Gary Gygax): In these two chapters Dunstan gets away from the ne'er-do-wells he hooked up with last issue. He also hires a tableboy named Mellerd to go along with him on his journey.

Some details I need to remember:
  • The Inn of the Riven Oak is run by Innkeeper Krell, with the help of Meggin the buxom tavern wench.
  • The soldiers searching for Dunstan serve the Overking, and are called Warders.
  • Silver pieces are known as nobs, and there are 20 coppers to 1 silver. This is different to the exchange rate from D&D, which is 5 copper to a silver, and the one from AD&D (10 cp to 1 sp).
  • South of the area around Endstad are forbidding deserts. To the east, not far from Endstad, are the Monley Isles. West lies the vast expanse of Silent Forest, and beyond that the outpost of Far Pass and then nothing but arid steppes. North the realm of the Overking stretches for a time, into the blue Upplands, until reaching Arnn River, where the independent northern folk give strong resistance.
  • The Overking is named Eddoric IV.
  • The badge of knighthood in the Overking's realm is a pennon and acorn.
  • Huddlefoot is a small village at the base of the Upplands, about a day's ride by horse from the Inn of the Riven Oak. It is on a secondary lane which connects Forgel Road at Dyrham to the Wild Road just above Edgewood. It has a large inn, stables, a blacksmith, other businesses and yeoman's cottages.
  • Mellerd is a stableboy at Huddlefoot's inn, apprenticed to Master Grund. His brother is named Taddy.
  • About half a day's walk north from Huddlefoot is a stream that is the only inlet to Lake Dyrn. The Hills of Dyrn continue for two days travel beyond this, at which point Crosshill Street cuts across them.
  • Not far from the Hills of Dyrn are the Hills of Nyrn, said to be home to gnolls, and slimy creatures that live in cursed lakes.

"Birth Tables for D&D" by Brad Stock and Brian Lane: I don't know that I'll ever use birth tables for PC generation, but there are some things about the setting that can be gleaned from reading the tables. Bastards (the Game of Thrones variety) are a thing. Peasants exist, as do knights, orators, courtiers, sheriffs, and magistrates. Barons, Counts, Earls, Marquis, Dukes and Royalty exist as part of the nobility. Half-goblins and (more significantly) half-orcs are mentioned for the first time.

Also included is the first ever D&D skill system, or at least a determination of the skills a PC might have based on their father's occupation. Here's the full list:

  • Vagabond
  • Farmer
  • Serf
  • Tinker
  • Miner
  • Woodsman
  • Sailor
  • Fisherman
  • Craftsman
  • Soldier
  • Adventurer
  • Merchant/Master Merchant
  • Scribe
  • Seaman
  • Slaver
  • Animal Trainer
  • Shipwright
  • Bird Trainer
  • Asassin
  • Spytracker
  • Sheriff
  • Magistrate
  • Sage
  • Alchemist
  • Physician
  • Artist
  • Sculptor
  • Musician
  • Engineer
  • Interpretor
  • Writer
  • Astronomer
  • Don Juan (yes, really)
  • Orator
  • Actor
  • Dream Interpreter
  • Biologist
  • Gambler
  • Astrologer
  • Tailor
  • Smith
  • Fletcher
  • Cobbler
  • Horseman
  • Weaver
  • Carpenter
  • Armorer
  • Bowyer
  • Mason
  • Cartographer
  • Jeweler

The article also changes the rules for ability scores, giving different races a different amount of dice to roll for certain abilities. For example, a Hobbit rolls 4 dice for Dex and Con, but only 2 for Str. I wouldn't use this, especially not for PCs, but it's interesting to note that this is about a year before demi-humans get any sort of ability score adjustments in the official rules. There's also a chart for starting experience points, which can allow a character to start at higher than 1st level. Again, I wouldn't use this for PCs.

It's noted that demi-humans can't rise higher than the rank of earl in human lands. Elves are never less than gentlemen or nobility, and half-orcs and half-goblins are never more than commoners. There's also an example character created at the end, a noble, well-to-do bastard whose father was a 4th level magic-user, a duke, a courtier, and an interpreter. I named the character Briad Stane by combining the names of the article's authors. Briad is a 2nd level cleric.

"A Plethora of Obscure Sub-Classes"

  • "Healers" by C. Hettlestad: This is a spell-casting class with a spell list that includes cleric and magic-user spells. They can't be Chaotic. I'll keep them as NPCs, possibly as part of a healer god's church. Some new spells are included as part of this article:
    • Detect Phase
    • Cure Blindness
    • Energy
    • Cure Lycanthropy
    • Wake Spell
    • Cure Paralysis
    • Longevity
    • Size Control
    • Improved Cure Serious Wounds
    • Sterilize
    • Remove Charm
    • Cure Deafness

  • "Scribes: New Specialists Described" by David Mumper: A new type of specialist that has the ability to copy spells from scrolls and books into the spellbooks of the PCs. They're said to be the only ones who can do so without going insane, but this obviously doesn't apply to magic-users, who can also do this job. They still have a small chance of insanity, so I'll say that they're the only non-spellcasters who can do it without going mad for certain.
  • "Samurai" by Mike Childers as modified by Jeff Kay: A fighter sub-class that's very attached to their katana, wakizashi and composite bow. Their main ability is to strike critical blows that can deal extreme amounts of damage, and sever limbs. They can also throw people about and stun them with judo. I'll include them as a type of fighter, but any critical strike ability will simply be folded into whatever standard critical hit system I use.  These are, I think, the first D&D appearances for the katana, wakizashi, yumi (japanese bow) and samurai armor. Any samurai in the campaign will hail from the same land that ogre magi originate from.
  • "New D&D Character Subclass: The Berserker" by John Pickens: Not just fighters that can go berserk in battle, this class also has a "were-shape" ability. Each of them belongs to a clan dedicated to one of the varieties of lycanthrope, and at higher levels they can change into that animal's form when going berserk. They can gain bards as followers, so I'm going to tie these clans to the barbarians that follow the druids. Each of the clans has a single Clanmaster, who can be duelled for the title.
  • "A New View of Dwarves" by Larry Smith: An article that brings dwarves more in line with Tolkien. There are said to be seven families of dwarves, and seven dwarf kings. One of these is the line of Durin. They get their own level titles (Dwarf, Warrior, Spearman, Dwarf Hero, Swordbearer, Axewielder, Champion, Dwarf Lord, Dwarf King). A duel must be fought to become a Dwarf King, unless the post is absent. They get a number of new abilities related to appraising gems, recognising magic arms and armor, and weaponsmithing. They hate orcs and goblins, dislike elves. They reach adulthood at about 50, and live to around 250. This fits well with my use of Middle-Earth as the campaign's distant past, but I won't be using it to alter current-day NPCs. It'll only come into play if the PCs somehow find themselves in the past.
  • "The Idiot Class" by Gordon Davidson: A very stupid person that can be hired to come along into the dungeon with the purpose of confusing monsters with their idiocy. You can hire one with dwarfism for a bit extra, which apparently gives a bonus to the confusion chance. You guys, it was 1976. I'll probably leave this out altogether, to be honest, it's very silly.
  • "The New Category: Jesters!" by Charles Carner, William Cannon & Pete Simon: A uses humor and jokes to incapacitate its foes. They can only use weapons such as smelly socks, pillows, and dirty underwear, and their spells are mostly in the form of terrible jokes and puns. I almost have to respect a class that has a spell called "ballbuster", but this is well past my tolerance for bad D&D humour. As with the Idiot class, this one's going right in the bin.

"Combat Modifiers for Dexterity" by Steve Cline: A chart that grants bonuses to melee attacks, damage, missile attacks and Armor Class for having a high Dexterity. It even takes into account the exceptional Dexterity score introduced in The Strategic Review #7. I doubt I'll incorporate thisstuff beyond what's already in the core D&D rules.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 36: JG2 Dungeon Tac Cards

While writing Booklet I, the first details for the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen came up with the idea for the Dungeon Tac Cards. They were shipped to subscribers in the initial Judges Guild package, but were printed before any of the other products sent out.

The first set consisted of 135 cards, and the 2nd printing had 140. The cards featured such things as weapons, to-hit charts, and actions such as jumping and parrying; the intention was that players would keep these cards in front of them and hold them face up when a certain action is performed or a weapon is being used. It reminds me of the cards that I saw a lot of players using to keep track of their powers and abilities during 4th edition.

I don't have a copy of these cards, but I found a list of what was on each card. Some cards have two actions on the. From the first printing:

  • 6 Move/Charge Move cards
  • 6 Parry/Get Up cards
  • 6 Punch/Grapple cards
  • 3 Heavy Crossbow cards
  • 6 Dagger cards
  • 3 Horsebow cards
  • 4 Sword cards
  • 4 Short Sword cards
  • 3 Shortbow cards
  • 4 Hand Axe cards
  • 6 Shield cards
  • 6 Mounted Lance/Pike cards
  • 6 Miscellaneous Equipment cards
  • 6 Morning Star cards
  • 6 Flail cards
  • 4 Two-Handed Sword cards
  • 4 Battle Axe cards
  • 6 Mace cards
  • 4 Halberd cards
  • 3 Composite Bow cards
  • 6 Spear cards
  • 3 Light Crossbow cards
  • 4 Pole Arm cards
  • 4 War Hammer cards
  • 4 Staff/Wand cards
  • 3 Longbow cards
  • 6 Torch cards
  • 3 cards with the Men Attacking and Saving Throw charts
  • 3 cards with the Monster Attacking and Monster Damage charts
  • 3 cards with the Man-to-Man melee charts from Chainmail

Later printings with 140 cards don't add anything new, they just have different amounts of certain cards. It's possible that these numbers were tweaked due to play-testing, but I have no idea. Below is an image of what the cards were like.

The weapon cards appear to have the Weapon vs. AC charts, as well as damage against man-sized and large opponents. The topmost pink card features a rule for parrying that doesn't come from any of the D&D rulebooks: a character can negate the damage from any blow, but their weapon will be broken. It finishes with the rule from Supplement I: Greyhawk that allows Fighters (and only Fighters!) an AC bonus for having a high Dexterity. I don't mind that as a desperation play to avoid a particularly nasty hit, but I'm not that keen on weapons breaking with every parry.

There are also actions written along the sides of the cards, such as Fly, Speak and Read. Presumably you can indicate different actions based on the orientation of the card.

I wouldn't adopt a card system like this, unless I was playing something with tons of powers like 4th edition. Original D&D is a simple enough game that they seem unnecessary, and a potential limiting factor to the game's free-wheeling nature. Still, it's interesting to see companies like Judges Guild thinking outside the box, and stretching the boundaries of what a D&D product can be.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 35: The Dungeoneer #2

The Dungeoneer #2, cover dated September 1976, was the second issue of Jennell Jaquays' fanzine. As with issue #1, I don't have the original, so I'm working with a Judges Guild reprint of the first six issues and an on-line table of contents.

"The Arcane Elders" by Jennell Jaquays: Continuing from last issue, the apprentice Rohcyl meets up with some adventurers after his master was ambushed and killed by barbarians: Lute the bard and Ralph the Hobbit. The three of them are captured by a group of druids and barbarians, and Rohcyl is tied to a druid's altar and blown away with a lightning bolt in the cliffhanger.

Jaquays has taken over from J. Mark Hendricks, and it's definitely more enjoyable. It's still not great, but the prose is less purple, and there's some amusing banter. Whether this can be fit into my campaign anywhere is still an open question.

"Those Lovely Ladies" by Jennell Jaquays: This article presents three NPC sub-classes for use by female characters. I'm not particularly interested in expanding PC classes beyond those presented in core D&D, and I'm even less interested in character options being dependent on gender. I'm happy for these types to exist in the world as NPCs, though, probably somewhere in the Wilderlands setting if they fit there.

The article begins with some ability score adjustments for female characters. They're restricted to 18 Strength (meaning no exceptional Strength roll for fighters) and they get a +2 bonus to Charisma as far as men are concerned. It's not as bad as some other articles on this subject (I'm thinking of the Len Lakofka article from The Dragon which I'll get to before too long), but it's still not the sort of thing I want to engage with in the rules.

Daughters of Delphi: This class is open too female clerics with a Wisdom and Con of 14+, and an Int of 9+. Initially they're no different than regular clerics, but at 3rd level they gain some prophetic ability, similar to a commune spell (yes/no questions answered by a divine entity). They also gain a form of clairaudience/clairvoyance that can be used to get a glimpse of the recent past, present, or limited future. Their healing spells are also a little more effective then those of regular clerics.

Level Titles: Novice, Vestal Virgin, Oracle, Prophetess, Mother Superior, Priestess, Holy Woman, High Priestess, Matriarch

Evil Female Clerics: Evil female clerics are given some alternate level titles as well: Initiate, Cult Virgin, Black Oracle, Black Prophetess, Overseer, Evil Priestess, Unholy Woman, Evil High Priestess, and Queen of Darkness. It's not specified, but given the names I'd use these for evil Daughters of Delphi.

Daughters of the Dragon: Monks in OD&D are a subclass of cleric, and thus female monks that meet the prerequisites can also have prophetic abilities (albeit with higher XP requirements).

Valkyries: These are the same as fighters, but at 6th level a lawful good maiden can seek out a unicorn as a mount. Likewise, at 10th level any fighting-woman can seek out a pegasus (it's not clear if the same alignment and maidenhood requirements must be met in this case). Dwarves and elves can take this subclass, with level limits.

Level Titles: Shield Maiden, Maenad, Hell-cat, She-devil, Heroine, Amazon, Super-heroine, Valkyrie

Circeans: This is a sub-class of magic-user, requiring an Int of 15, and a Cha of 16. In addition to their regular spells, a Circean can charm someone merely by speaking, with a 10% chance modified by the target's level. They can also brew chemical potions, with a wide variety of effects (or a powder at higher levels). For the sake of completeness, I'll list them below:

  • Poison I, II, III, IV and V
  • Sleep I and II
  • Depressant I and II
  • Paralytic I and II
  • Stimulant I and II
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinogen I and II
  • Drunkenness
  • Cowardice
  • Bravery
  • Beaker of Berserkers (great name)
  • Potion of Subjection
  • Insanity
  • Potion of Pain-Ease

Level Titles: Charmer, Cybil, Conjuress, Lamia, Siren, Enchantress, Witch, Sorceress, Wizardress

"Alcohol in D&D" by Jennell Jaquays: This is a system for determining when a character becomes drunk, something that has always been egregiously absent from the official D&D rules considering how many adventures start in a tavern. It's based on the character's constitution (although tolerance raises as you gain levels). Each drink is worth a number of points, and as these points add up the character will move through four stages of drunkenness. Numbers are given for wine, beer, brandy and liquor. An average person can down about five beers before having a chance of falling unconscious, and six before alcohol poisoning sets in. These numbers are absurdly low, coming from my Australian perspective; we are a nation of dedicated piss-heads. I'll have to work up some alcohol rules, and I'll keep this article in mind when the time comes, but the numbers will be quite a bit higher.

Monster Matrix: Presenting four new monsters.
  • "Fuzzies and Steelies" by Jennell Jaquays: These creatures are similar to beholders, but instead of eye-stalks they have three tentacles that can wield weapons, constrict, or deliver electric shocks that can also paralyze. They're statistically the same except for Armor Class: Fuzzies are furry with AC 7, and Steelies are metal-plated with AC 0. They're telepathic, and can also have psionic abilities. Not a terrible monster, and one I'll be happy to plonk into the Wilderlands somewhere.
  • "Draconette" by Bruce Jaquays: A small dragon, created by a magic-user in much the same way as a homunculus, only using dragon blood instead of human. They don't do a lot of damage, but they do have a weak breath weapon depending on the type of dragon blood they were created from (all the chromatic and metallic dragons are represented). Some can talk, but they're not that smart. Some can be found in the wild, descended from escaped or freed draconettes.  This is a nice enough forebear to the pseudodragon, and would fit just about any D&D setting well.
  • "The Tin Foil Monster" by Mark Norton: This monster is made of tin foil, and loves to eat treasure. Some are made of copper or silver foil, making their corpses valuable. This is possibly the first genuinely dumb monster I've encountered so far, but I have a certain fondness for it. It'll go in the campaign, but needless to say I won't be spreading it far and wide.
  • "Darkness Monster" by Jim Ward: A monster that absorbs all light with 15 ft., regardless of the source. Its reptilian nature means that it gives off no heat, and so can't be seen using infravision. Is this the first instance we get of infravision being dependent on heat signatures? Gary Gygax eventually goes this way, and Jim Ward would certainly know how Gary ruled it at this time. Regardless, this monster would be fine were it not for the absurd 8-64 damage it deals with each paw. For comparison, a Storm Giant does 7-42 with a single attack. If I use this monster as is, it will probably be as a special encounter or boss monster; I certainly wouldn't spring it as a random encounter.

"The Booty Bag: More Decks of Many Things" by Lewis Pulsipher: Pulsipher notes the potential game-breaking nature of the standard deck as introduced in Supplement I: Greyhawk, then goes on to detail two decks with lower risk and reward: the Deck of Several Things and the Deck of a Few Things. I'm not too keen on the names, but the idea and execution are both good. I love the suspense of the deck, but sometimes it's a pain to deal with the consequences, so these are good alternatives.

"The Fabled Garden of Merlin" by Merle Davenport: This adventure presents a dungeon location, with no backstory or rationale provided. With messages scrawled in the Lawful, lammasu and shedu languages, it works well as a dungeon designed by a lawful wizard. One of the ultimate rewards at the end can be an audience with Merlin himself, so I'm happy enough to declare this all as a test by Merlin to see who's worthy of his wisdom. Like "F'Chelrak's Tomb" from Dungeoneer #1, this dungeon is very much designed with the vertical plane in mind. It doesn't have a ton of combat; it's more of an investigative dungeon, and a lot of that investigation can get your character in trouble. I'll place this somewhere out of the way in either Greyhawk or the Wilderlands, depending on which of those is more likely to have had Merlin active at some point in the past.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 34: Dungeon Geomorphs Set One: Basic Dungeons

While I was reading up on the origins of Judges Guild, I saw a quote in a few places that the TSR only had one game aid available for D&D at the time that Bill Owen and Bob Bledsaw came calling: that product was Dungeon Geomorphs Set One: Basic Dungeon. I had no date for it, except that it was available at some point in 1976. Judges Guild was formed in July of that year, so we know for sure that the geomorphs were available by then (as long as that quote is true, I guess). So now is as good a time as any to take a look.

In the 1970s, dungeon exploration was the major focus of D&D, and the geomorphs are an aid for DMs looking to whip up a quick map. The product consists of five sheets, each with a different section of dungeon map. These sheets can be cut up into sections and arranged to make any number of map combinations. Here's an example sheet below:

That page above features three sections - two squares on the left, and a long rectangle on the right. The exits all line up, so you can combine them however you want, and along with the sections on other pages there are a lot of combinations available.

Gygax designed this product, so this is actually one of the earliest examples we have of what his dungeon levels might have looked like. It also features for the first time the classic blue and white map style that TSR would use for quite some time into the 1980s.

There's a written section that explains how the geomorphs are supposed to be used, which is followed by an example. Each of the sections is labelled with a letter, and each side of the section has a roman numeral. The layout example is given below:

So in the upper left, you'd use geomorph B, arranged with numeral II at the top. To the right of that would be geomorph D with numeral IV at the top, and so on. I messed around with this in Paint and this is what the map would look like.

It's a little weird, because geomorph I is one of the long rectangular strips, and it has a large open section in the middle, so it's really two quarter-size geomorphs. I considered cropping the other part of it and bringing it across, but that's not how it would work if I was using the paper version, unless I wanted to cut the geomorphs even smaller. The result is a nicely functional dungeon layout, although I'd block up all of the passages that aren't connected to anything. There are also some areas with no doors or entrances marked; I'll either fill them in, add some doors, or leave them as secrets only accessible by magic.

Following this is an encounter key, with some sample rooms that Gygax has knocked up. I'm going to reproduce them in full below, because it's actually pretty hard to get a hold of the originals. I don't believe they're out there as PDFs, and the later set that collects the three original geomorph products doesn't have them. Buying the originals is pretty much the only way to see them, so here they are below.


1. A rudely furnished room with an old holy man (lawful/good) who has sworn a vow of silence. He will not fight if attacked. He takes only 2 hit points. There is a pottery flask containing his drinking water in one corner; a small container near his near his pallet has a handful of lentils (all of his food); there are some rags hanging from a nail in the wall, and a wooden begging bowl on a rough wooded table near the door holds 1 silver piece and 3 coppers. If he is impolitely treated or his room is searched he will do nothing, but he will never aid the offenders. If so much as a single copper piece is dropped in his bowl, he will make a holy sign which will add 1 hit point permanently to all the party's members. After doing the latter, he will disappear when the party leaves, and he will be replaced by 1A.

1A. An insane fiend conforming generally to the description of 1. above. He will say nothing until a party is in his abode, but will then attack with two hidden daggers. He takes 12 hit points, with an armor class equal to 5 due to his 18 dexterity. He has no treasure to begin with...

2. A seemingly empty room which contains a gold tube worth 230 gold pieces. It is invisible. Inside the tube is a map to stairway #7, indicating that it leads directly to the 4th level down. If the room is searched, there is a cumulative chance of 2% per person per turn of general searching that it will be stumbled upon.

3. 4 LARGE SPIDERS, H.P.: 6, 5, 3, 2. They tend to lurk directly above the entryway and have a 50% chance of surprising any party entering. Only the largest has normal poison, and if the other 3 bite, the victim has a +4 on his saving throw. Bite damage is 1. If the room is searched, it will be noted that there are heavy cobwebs in the corners. In the SW corner they conceal a small space, and in that space is the skeleton of a man - including a suit of plate mail, a lantern, 2 flasks of oil, 4 vials of holy water, a dagger, a sword, and a mace. There are 167 silver pieces in a rotting leather bag at the far end of the space. All other possessions of the dead fighter have rotted.

4. Steps down to the 2nd level (geomorph E I, central portion).

5. False door which fires an arrow directly out when it is opened. The arrow is magical (+1), and if it fails to hit it will be usable. After the first magic arrow, it will fire only non-magical ones which will break whether or not they hit.

There's no indication of where those encounters should be placed on the map, so I'll have to do it myself. I'd put the entry stairs right where the B is in the upper left. The holy man should live in one of the more interesting-shaped rooms; I'm thinking the triangular one marked E in the lower left. The invisible tube could be anywhere, but I'd prefer it to be somewhere that the PCs might actually think to search: maybe the secret room to the upper left of geomorph E; they're more likely to search a room that's hard to get to. The stairs down to level 4 should be similarly difficult to find, so I'd put them in the triangular secret room of geomorph D. The spiders need to live in a room with a SW corner. It should also probably have no doors, so that the spiders can get about. I'll go with the long,  wide east-west hallway at the top of geomorph D. The false door with the arrows can be the door heading north, right at the top of geomorph B. Finally, there are stairs down to the 2nd level: I'll put those in the cul-de-sac just north-west of the entry stairs: not too hard to find, because I like to make it easy for PCs to venture to lower, more dangerous levels.

I'd be tempted to place this level somewhere in Greyhawk Castle, given its Gygaxian pedigree, but Gygax has said that the encounter keys from the geomorphs weren't drawn from his home campaign, and were made up for the products. Besides, it doesn't match up with Castle Zagyg, which will be the basis for my version of that dungeon. I also considered the sample dungeon cross section from D&D Vol. 3: The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, but it doesn't match up: I need a dungeon with stairs from level 1 all the way down to level 4, and I am trying to fit all this stuff together as it appears in the original books. It's something that will need more thought.

Finally, Gygax recommends that about 75% of the dungeon rooms should be empty, with 25% containing monsters, treasures and other notable items. 1-in-5 of these occupied rooms should have a trap. He says that one or two slanting passages, teleport areas, or chutes per level is a good guideline. To me, that seems very sparsely populated, but I'm coming at it from a more modern perspective, having started playing in 1988. This is Gygax writing in 1976, with a solid five years of DMing under his belt, so presumably these numbers worked for him. They definitely suggest a far different, much less combat-oriented play style than what D&D would evolve into.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 33: JG1 City State Map

Judges Guild was founded in July 1974, by Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen. Their goal was to sell D&D products, and so they made a trip to TSR headquarters hoping to convince the company to publish some of the material from their home campaign. They weren't achieve that, but they did get verbal approval from Dave Arneson to produce their own line of D&D play aids.

Their first product was a huge city map, which they sold on the first day of GenCon out of the trunk of Owens' Mustang. By Saturday they had their own table, and the maps continued to sell. At a size of 34" x 44" (so big that it was actually sold as 4 sheets of 17" x 22") and with over 300 buildings, the detail was staggering, and people started asking Owens and Bledsaw what was actually in those buildings. These details hadn't been written yet, but Bledsaw came up with the idea of selling subscriptions to the City State on that day. Within a couple of months the first installments were being mailed out, and Judges Guild was a going concern.

Bill Owens left Judges Guild in late 1977, but with Bob Bledsaw at the helm it would go on to publish scores of products for D&D, AD&D, and other RPGs such as Traveller and Runequest. By the early 1980s it started to decline, and stopped producing new products in 1983, but in its hey-day Judges Guild was a vital part of the hobby, and D&D in particular.

I wasn't able to get a hold of the original City State Map, as they are something of a rarity and there don't seem to be any scans on-line. There's a reproduction available at, which features a number of maps with varying levels of detail, some intended for the DM and some for the players. Most are in colour, but one is black and white like the original. Here's an image below.

Obviously that image is too small to give away any of the finer details, but every single street has a name, every building is mapped, and most of them are labelled to show their purpose. There are so many intriguing areas I want to read more about: the Cryptic Citadel, the Goblin Reservation, the Redoubt of the Dead, the Plaza of Profuse Pleasure. I gather that every location on the map is detailed eventually, and I'm psyched to read it (in approximately six posts' time).

Eventually these details get fleshed out into the Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign, which I guess is the first published campaign for D&D? Given that Judges Guild were producing TSR-approved material, their stuff is at least semi-official, so I have to include it in the Ultimate Sandbox. I already have a long list of portals to other worlds that I need to include in and around Castle Greyhawk, and I so no reason not to add one that leads to the City State. If I ever got to the point where I can run multiple groups, I'd consider basing one in the City State as well. There's certainly no lack of material.