Saturday, January 18, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 44: The Dungeoneer #3

This is the third issue of Jennell Jaquays' fanzine, The Dungeoneer, with a cover date of Nov/Dec/Jan. As usual with Dungeoneer, I'm working with the Judges Guild compilation of issues #1-6, and an online table of contents.

"The Arcane Elders Chapter III" by Jim Ward: In the last installment, the wizard's apprentice Rohcyl was captured by druids and sacrificed with a lightning bolt that left nothing behind. In this chapter, he inexplicably reappears in a subterranean cave where he's captured and enslaved by dark elves, befriends a barbarian named Theoran, and escapes.

Jim Ward has taken over this serial, which makes for three authors in as many chapters. It's possible that it might come together by the end, but at this point it feels very disjointed. The main thing of note is that this features dark elves, well before they are hinted at in the Monster Manual. This variety is small, brown-skinned and dirty, and any bright light will turn them to stone. Whether I apply these rules to dark elves in Judges Guild products or just write these off as an anomaly remains to be seen.

Monster Matrix: It's a monster extravaganza this issue, with a dozen new creatures introduced.

  • "The Ray Gun Robot" by Jim Ward: This war machine was created in the far, far future, where it roams the battlefields killing all living organisms. These future battles often cause dimensional rifts, and occasionally one of these machines is sent back in time to a dungeon or another place where rifts have been created by wizards or gods.  In combat, the robot will keep its distance, firing 3 energy rays per round that do 10d8 damage. With an AC of -2, 20 Hit Dice, a movement of 24 and 95% magic resistance, the Ray Gun Robot looks to me like it would be almost impossible to defeat without some clever tactics.  It's shown on the cover of this issue.
  • "The Anaswami" by Glen Taylor: This is an invisible, malevolent spirit that can animate non-magical metallic objects, such as weapons and armor. It's being extends into both the astral and ethereal planes, and some of them are psionic.
  • "The DNA Monster" by Mark Norton: As the name implies, this creature is a huge, enlarged DNA molecule.  They are only semi-intelligent, and unable to speak.  About a quarter of them have a poisonous bite.  They possess no regular treasure, but some atoms in their structure will be gems. No origin is given for this weird monster, but it's pretty safe to assume that they're the result of some magical experimentation. References to DNA are a little odd for a fantasy setting, but it fits in with my notion that magical research has resulted in a greater level of scientific knowledge.
  • "Smoke Creatures" by Mark Norton: These monsters of living smoke attack by suffocating foes, causing 1d6 damage per turn (I'll assume this means a combat round). Normal weapons will pass through them; they are only hit by magic weapons, which are said to be solid in the same plane that the smoke creatures exist in.  This is consistent with Gary's ideas about how magical weapons function.
  • "The Ibem" by Mark Norton:  A hideous octopus-like creature with four eyes, four mouths, and eight tentacles.  They can attack with tentacles up to three times per round from any side of their body, but will only use their bite on a victim that they have ensnared. Their alignment is said to be "hungry", which I'll take to mean Neutral. They're unintelligent, so that fits.
  • "Drolls" by Mark Norton: This creature gets no description: all we have to go on are an illustration and some stats (AC 9, MV 8", HD 6, a claw and bite attack, and low intelligence). They have a round hairy body, two legs, two arms, fingers and toes tipped with sharp claws, a fang-filled mouth, and two eyes on stalks. With nothing else to go on, I'm thinking of making this a troll hybrid of some sort. Perhaps a dwarf/troll, to go along with gnolls being gnome/trolls?
  • "Snake Turtle" by Mark Norton: Again, this monster gets no description, only stats (AC 2, MV 10", HD 6, bite, tail and claw attacks, unintelligent). It has an image though, showing a creature with the body of a turtle and the head and tail of a snake. I would have expected such a beast to have a poisonous bite, but nothing of the sort is indicated.
  • "Mud Creatures" by Mark Norton: These living muck creatures can turn flesh to unliving mud with a touch. They are immune to normal weapons, and magic weapons have a -2 damage. penalty against them. They are susceptible to mud to rock, though, having a penalty on their saving throw. They can appear in pretty high numbers, and with 10 Hit Dice are hard to kill; an encounter with these boys could be lethal.
  • "Mobil Dis" by Jim Ward: I only needed to see the number appearing (1-12 billion) to know that this monster was created by Jim Ward, the master of overstatement.  The Mobil Dis is a swarm of billions of voracious insects. They roam deserts and dungeons, eating everything in sight, always clustered together in a 3'x3' cloud. Only three things can harm them: cold, heat, and a special chemical called Mobil Dis Salt. They are said to deal 6d8 damage, so presumably they don't strip a victim to the bones until they've reduced its hit points to zero.
  • "Wood Golems" by Glen Taylor: These wooden golems are created by druids, and are made only from wood that has died a natural death. Fire deals them double damage, but they are capable of drinking fire resistance potions, and can also be protected with a spell.  Cold attacks slow them, and lightning either does nothing to them or kills them instantly (20% of the time). There's a decent chance they will flee if fire is used against them.
  • "Imps" by Mark Norton: Imps are said here to be a variety of demon. They come in seven varieties, labelled A through G, ranging from 1 Hit Die to 7. Each type has a number of magic powers: Type A can cast sleep and charm person, while Type G can cast fear, ice storm, a 7d8 fireball, protection from normal missiles, and can also conjure up a number of weaker Imps. Rather than being different sub-types, I'm thinking I'll just make these like age categories for dragons, with young Imps being Type A and the oldest Type G.  Imps will eventually appear in official D&D as an entry in the Monster Manual. The MM Imps are devils, not demons, and are generally found as familiars to lawful evil clerics and magic-users. Obviously, these are different creatures to the Imp described here. There's no reason two different monsters can't have been given the same name, but to avoid confusion I'll confine these Dungeoneer Imps to the Judges Guild setting.
  • "The Watcher" by David Marbry: This monster gets a full-page entry packed with lore.  It's story begins with Lykor, the Great Black Thunder-Wizard, the only living legend of the Old World, a descendant of the immortal "Elders". (None of the above connects to any established lore, but it's vague enough that I could tie it into just about anything.)  Lykor's only son was Liatris, conceived under the seventh moon of the third summer of the New World. The identity of Liatris' mother remains a mystery, except that she was not around to raise her son. Lykos was also too busy to look after his kid, and so left that job to The Watcher, a being that he created in a magical mishap. It appears as a winged, sickly humanoid figure. Nowadays, with Liatris presumably being dead, it is most often found at the side of a magic-user or other intelligent human, which it protects with extreme loyalty. It attacks by touch, with a grip that is difficult to break; effects of the attack range from 1d8 damage, stunning, insanity, and level drain. If alone, it will roam dungeons and ruins in quest of a suitable ward.  The Watcher seems to be a unique monster, and so will be confined to the Judges Guild setting.

"Borshak's Lair" by Jennell Jaquays: This adventure, apparently at the request of the magazine's readers, is specifically designed for low-level adventurers. I can't be certain, but it very well may be the first such adventure published; every other one that I've covered for this blog has been pretty high level.

It's set in a single-level dungeon that was originally built as a tomb for a fighter named Helmdar, Lord of Hram. Long after Helmdar's burial, a Wizard named Tim the Moonslayer carved out some extra tunnels and used it as his lair. Eventually Tim died, with rumours that he went mad and entered Helmdar's crypt, never to return. The complex filled with monster, but was otherwise uninhabited for about 100 years. Eventually, a band of orcs and goblinoids, fleeing from a war, took up residence, and are there now ruled by Borshak (a 4th level orc fighter) and Grandahg Theork (a 3rd-level orc magic-user).

The western areas of the map are mostly barracks for Borshak and his troops, while the eastern portion is what's left of Tim's laboratories, and contains more magical tricks and traps. Room 30 is Helmdar's tomb, which contains the greatest treasure but is guarded by two Spectres (the spirits of Helmdar and Tim). I'd contend that these guardians preclude this from being a low-level adventure, but I suppose the players don't have to go in their if they don't want.

There are quite a few instances in this adventure of spells being cast via magic mouth. There was nothing to preclude this in OD&D, but in a few months the Players Handbook will be released, and the version of magic mouth in that book specifically says that it can't be used in this way. I suppose that Tim the Moonslayer created his own version of the spell, that allows it to function as it does in this adventure.

If I have one complaint about this adventure, it's that it has some crazy amounts of treasure for low levels. That said, the major caches are well-guarded, one by spectres and one by a mummy. I very much doubt that low-level adventurers would be able to clear it out, which makes this a dungeon requiring some return visits.

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