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.