Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 27: The Dragon #1

Cover art by Bill Hannan

With TSR and the fantasy gaming hobby as a whole exploding in popularity, The Strategic Review was cancelled to make way for two magazines. The first, called Little Wars, dealt primarily with miniature wargaming, and I assume has little of relevance to D&D players. The other was The Dragon (later shorted to just Dragon), which covered fantasy and sci-fi gaming in all its forms, but primarily Dungeons & Dragons. It was initially overseen by Tim Kask, who would be the magazine's editor for its first few years.

The first issue is about a third larger than the last issue of The Strategic Review, and contains an eclectic selection of material. "Dragon Rumbles" and "In the Cauldron" do the standard introductory stuff, "Wargaming World" and "GenCon Update" give news about upcoming cons, "The Search for the Forbidden Chamber" is a short story by Jake Jaquet that's far too anachronistic for me to bother with, "Hobbits and Thieves in Dungeon" provide new character types for that board game, there are reviews for such games as Classic Warfare, Citadel, and White Bear and Red Moon, and Len Lakofka provides his own hefty set of mass combat rules as an alternative to Chainmail.

As for relevant D&D-related articles, here we go (in brief):

"Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Say Their Say" by Fritz Leiber: This article gives some details about the world of Nehwon, with some amusing banter from Fafhrd and the Mouser thrown in. I doubt there's much of relevance here, but this setting is eventually tied to D&D with Lankhmar: City of Adventure in 1985. I'll make a note to refer back to this article if necessary.

"The Battle of Five Armies in Miniature" by Larry Smith: This article gives suggestions for staging this battle from The Hobbit using the rules from Chainmail. For reasons I'll get to later Middle Earth could be relevant to my campaign, so I'll keep this article in mind.

"How to Use Non-Prime-Requisite Character Attributes" by Wesley D. Ives: This article provides what might be the first "skill system" for D&D, using a bunch of rolls against a PC's ability scores to determine success with any action. For my tastes it uses too many dice rolls, and also allows high-Dexterity character to outshine Thieves at lower levels.

The main thing of relevance from this article is the sample PC, Grod the Myrmidon. Grod is a 6th-level Fighter with the following stats: Str 17, Int 9, Wis 5, Con 14, Dex 14, Cha 12. At some point in his past he and three minions were attacked by two bugbears. He tried to convince his minions to hold them off while he rolled away a boulder blocking the exit to the dungeon. He also tried to use a censer of controlling air elementals. I'll use him as an NPC in and around Greyhawk.

It should also be noted that the article gives characters a small chance based on Intelligence to use items that their class normally wouldn't allow. I'll have to think about whether this is a possibility I want to include.

"Magic and Science: Are They Compatible in D&D?" by James M. Ward: This article tries to present the idea that magic and science are very compatible, and does so by introducing the Artificers, a highly technological race that lives on the island of Atlantis. It says they "teleported their island land Atlantis to another nearby dimension", which I'll have to interpret at some point. The Artificers are possessed of a lot of technology designed to counter magic: spheres that fire different rays, and a super-computer that can analyze and counteract any magic sent against it. I'll place this society somewhere in the campaign, either on an island or in a pocket dimension somewhere.

"Languages or, Could You Repeat That in Auld Wormish?" by Lee Gold: An article that delves into languages in D&D. It asks a lot of questions, such as whether animals, plants, bugs, bacteria, and even inanimate objects like stones have their own languages. The existence of "group" languages such as Equine (for horse-like creatures), Canine (for dogs), Auld Wormish (for older dragons), and the Great Tongue (for Giants) are also posited. Lycanthropes are given a greater chance than other monsters of speaking Common, which makes sense. Cavemen are said to speak "Cavish". Cultural and national languages are brought up. I can get behind the idea that every sentient creature has some form of language, and that there are certain non-human equivalents of Common. I'll adopt most of this, I think.

The idea is brought up that characters might be able to learn the alignment tongue of an opposing alignment, albeit with great difficulty. I'll hold off on adopting this one to see what later books say about it.

"Creature Features: The Bulette" by Gary Gygax (I assume): The bulette is introduced, said to be a cross-breed from snapping turtle and armadillo stock. They were thought to be extinct up until recently, and have a fondness for eating horses and hobbits.

"Hints for D&D Judges Part 2: Wilderness" by Joe Fischer: Some general tips for creating and mapping wilderness areas. It's solid, basic advice for beginners, but doesn't have anything I can pull out for the campaign.

"Mighty Magic Miscellany: Illusionist Additions" by Peter Aronson: Gives new spells and abilities for the Illusionist class, including spells of Levels 6 and 7 for the first time. The new spells introduced here are:

1st level
  • Detect Illusion
  • Color Spray
2nd level
  • Dispel Illusion
  • Blur
3rd level
  • Phantasmal Killer
  • Illusionary Script
  • Dispel Exhaustion
6th level
  • Mass Suggestion
  • Permanent Illusion
  • Shadow Monsters III
  • Programmed Illusion
  • True Sight
7th level
  • Vision
  • Alter Reality
  • Prismatic Spray

The vision spell allows an illusionist to contact higher powers and ask questions of them, but these ones don't punish the caster as harshly as those contacted by magic-users. Whatever powers they end up being, I'll probably make them Neutral in alignment.

"Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age Additions" by Lin Carter and Scott Bizar: Conan eventually gets some D&D modules, so I'll need to keep an eye on articles about the Hyborian Age. This one gives some details about the armies of Khitai, the Kushites, and Juma's Kushites specifically.

"The Gnome Cache" by Garrison Ernst: Psst, Garrison Ernst is Gary Gygax. This is the beginning of a novella that runs through The Dragon for a few months before quietly disappearing, unfinished. This installment tells the story of Dunstan, a youth unsatisfied with his lot as a merchant's son, who steals some of his father's gold and sets out to find glory.

The opening paragraphs are very significant. The parallel worlds theory is stated outright and applied to Oerth, which is specifically said to be a counterpart to Earth. It has a similar make-up, although Asia is a little smaller, and Europe and North America are a little bit larger. History apparently branched off significantly about 2,500 years ago. It should be noted that this is the first use of the name Oerth that we've seen, although it isn't specifically tied to Gary's D&D campaign world yet.

All of the above ties together a lot of stuff: references to real-world places in monster entries, the use of Earth mythology, adventures in Nazi Germany. It also allows me to incorporate Middle-Earth (in the very distant past) and the Hyborian Age (in a less distant past).

As for the story, it probably happened at some point in the past of the campaign world, though I'm not sure how long ago.  The following elements are included:

  • Dunstan, and his merchant father Rodigast
  • The small town of Endstadt, with the Nallid River looping around it to the west and north.
  • Rauxes, city of the Overking of Thalland

"Three Kindreds of the Eldar" by Larry Smith: An article that ties D&D elves to Tolkien elves. It equated Silvan Elves to Wood Elves, and Grey Elves to the Sindar. The greatest elves are said to be the Noldor (who I might relate to the Fairy Elves that have been mentioned a few times in early D&D and Chainmail). They get extra powers and different level limits, and are said to be immune to sickness and disease, but also have a longing to return over the sea to the land of the Valar. I probably won't use these rules, unless an elf who has somehow survived all the way from Tolkien times shows up (or the players do some time travelling). Current D&D elves are diminished from their ancestors, and the way to Valinor is closed so they no longer have a longing to cross the sea.

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