Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 48: The Dragon #6

Cover art by Morno

Issue #6 of The Dragon was published 1977, cover dated April. Editor Tim Kask noted in his Dragon Rumbles editorial that readership has increased fourfold over the last year, so obviously the magazine is doing well. He also notes that they plan to expand coverage to a wider variety of games, but we'll see how long that lasts; I suspect it'll be mostly D&D before the end of the year.

I covered this issue previously, back in 2010, so I'll be skimming it a bit in this post. The relevant articles are below; the only article I'm ignoring is a short story called "The Forest of Flame" which was written by Morno (real name Bradley Schenck).

"An Alternate Beginning Sequence for Metamorphosis Alpha" by Guy W. McLimore Jr.: Instead of starting PCs off as tribesmen aboard the Starship Warden, this article gives suggestions for running a game where the players are clones of the original crew. I doubt I'll use this article as intended, but such clones might come into play should any D&D characters end up on the Warden.

"Sea Trade in D&D Campaigns" by Ronald C. Spencer Jr.: Some simple rules for determining the success of any sea trading ventures that the PCs may wish to get involved with. It uses a chart, with the number of ports visited determining how much gold is made. More ports equals more gold, but also increases the chance of running into some kind of hazard. I'll keep this article in mind if I ever get around to developing rules for trade.

"Legions of the Petal Throne Painting Guide" by M.A.R. Barker: An article detailing the colours of various troop types and monsters in the world of Tekumel, including clothing, armour, and even flesh tones. That Professor Barker is thorough. Various Tsolyani troops are included, as is the priest of Vimuhla, Yan Koryani troops, the priest of Hry'y, and the following non-human creatures: Shen, Ssu, Hlaka, Ahoggya, and Sro. I'll try to keep this info in mind should I ever have players stray into Tekumel.

"Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha" by James M. Ward: Clarifications on some of the vaguer mutation rules, some new rules to make being poisoned multiple times deadlier, and some changes to missile and vibro weapons. Again, this is all stuff I'll keep in mind for games on board the Warden.

"From the Fantasy Forge": The first official D&D miniatures have been released by Minifig. I'll probably do a post on them in the near future, so I won't cover them here.

"The Gnome Cache Chapter 6" by Gary Gygax: Dunstan joins up with a merchant caravan, but ends up fleeing for his life when it's attacked by bandits. Here are the setting tidbits I gleaned:

  • After a week's journey, the merchant caravan crosses the Aarn River and enters the walled town of Rheyton.
  • The men of the distant western plains are small and wiry.
  • The land that Dunstan hails from is known as Thalland, and the people that live there are called Thallites.
  • Northerners from Nehron or Kimbry are broad, burly and dark-haired.
  • The merchant is a Thallite known as Evan. The leader of his mercenary band is called Rufus, and Baldwin is his lieutenant. One of the Kimbry in the band is known as Vardabothet. All of them probably die at the end of this chapter.
  • The Kimbry live in the Kimbry Vale, beyond which are mountains.
  • After many days travel they reach the border keep of Blackmoor, which also has a village and a guardian castle. The Nehron peasants seem unhappy with their noble lord.
  • An evergreen forest begins a few leagues north of Blackmoor.
  • The bandits mention a Nehron uprising against Blackmoor, but this could be a ruse on their part.

"D&D Option: Determination of Psionic Abilities" by David W. Miller: Alternate rules for determining whether a PC has psionic powers, that allow a PC to test for them regardless of their ability scores. It also opens the psionic powers to all character types, rather than restricting them by class. Probably the most relevant thing for me is that it allows half-human PCs to test for psionics as well.

"Morale in D&D" by Jim Hayes & Bill Gilbert: An alternate morale system that assigns a Bravery score to NPCs and PCs alike. I originally dismissed these rules for taking agency away from the PCs - I don't like any rules that make PCs do things against their will, unless it's a magical effect of some sort.

The authors talk about their home setting of Fantorgn, where humans are predominant and demi-humans rare and mustrusted. I considered using this setting as a proto-Ravenloft, with a magical aura of dread to explain why the PCs are more fearful than usual. Sample PCs in this setting are: Klabath Durhn (6th level fighter, 14 bravery) and Maygreth the Fierce (7th level fighter, 15 Charisma). Their entourage consists of another 6th level fighter, three 4th level fighters, a 5th level magic-user, his three 2nd level assistants, three village priests from the local temple, a half-elf guide and two elf hirelings. In the example of play they are attacked by six ogres.

"Featured Creature: Death Angel" by John Sullivan: Grim reaper types that either act as oracles, warning of death, or as representatives of death itself to kill a specific creature. They are said to be "fingers of fate", and work for powerful entities such as gods, demi-gods, some liches and a few Evil High Priests of 20th level or higher. I plan on using these beings sparingly, pretty much as described.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 47: Dungeoneer #4

Issue #4 of the Dungeoneer fanzine was published in March 1977.

"The Arcane Elders Chapter IV" by Mark Hendricks: The story switches back to Lute the Bard and Ralph the Hobbit, who spend the chapter escaping from their barbarian captors. Pretty basic stuff, not much to glean here.

"Monster Matrix": Nine new monsters are introduced here. As usual, I'll be confining these to the Judges Guild setting, and probably making them quite rare where possible.

  • "Zappers" by Mark Norton: These creatures are sentient lightning bolts that are attracted to metal, and will try to destroy it. Regular items are destroyed automatically, while magic items get a saving throw. Any creature they strike takes damage based on the Zapper's Hit Dice, ranging from 1d8 to 6d8. Oh, and they have a movement rate of 100", so good luck escaping from them.
  • "Arora Energy Monster" by Jim Ward: In its natural state this monster looks like a cloud, but it has the power to assume the shape of the last creature that attacked it. It also has the power to reflect any damage done to it back on the attacker. This seems to include all forms of attack: spells, sword thrusts, arrows, etc. There's some obvious fun to be had by the DM with these abilities, but the monster is mindless, which prevents them from becoming too deadly.
  • "Bomb Monster" by Jim Ward: A winged bowling ball that explodes for 10d8 damage when touched. I'm not sure why it has wings, because it's never said that it can fly, but it does have a movement rate of 21 so maybe it can. After the explosion it will reform into a ball, and it can only be killed if 25% or more of its body is prevented from reuniting with the main body.
  • "Vorpal Bunnies" by Paul Jaquays: I suppose it had to happen eventually. As in Monty Python and the Holy Grail they appear as cute bunnies but are in actual fact very deadly. In D&D terms, their bite acts just like a vorpal blade. This is the kind of monster that's so ingrained into nerd culture that tricking PCs with one would be next to impossible, although we might be getting back to a point where there are players who aren't that familiar with Monty Python? Is such a thing possible?
  • "The Mirror Men" by Paul Jaquays: Chaotic humanoids that are made out of mirrors. They reflect light to blind their opponents, and if exposed to light for long enough can fire a heat ball that does 1d8 damage per round. If exposed to direct sunlight or other intense light, they will explode. They attack with sharp claws, and if struck for enough damage they might shatter and die instantly.
  • "The Agarrett" by Tom Siterlet: This creature is a winged mutant, about 10'-12' tall, with four arms and a horn in its forehead. They're said to be a distant relative of goblins, not that there's much of any resemblance. They reproduce through their saliva, and anyone struck by their tongue must save or become a zombie-like "incubator" for their young. After 3.5 months the victim must save or be charmed and eaten by the hatching young Agarrett.
  • "Ondoculi" by Cecil & Kaj Nurse: A subterranean race that has two heads, three legs and four multi-jointed arms. Some of them are clerics, and can be distracted by philosophical discussion. Some wield swords, and any Ondoculan sword has the ability to turn a creature struck by it to stone. If one of these swords is taken from an Ondoculan the magic fades after one month.
  • "Golcoduli" by Cecil & Kaj Nurse: Vicious dog-like creatures with lots of teeth and the ability to breathe a short cone of flaming acid. They are kept as pets by the Ondoculi. Some of them are intelligent, and can walk upright and speak the language of their masters.
  • "Dust Golem" by Tom Johnson: Dust Golem were apparently created when an "Ugly" (a kind of hunch-backed servant from earlier issues of this mag) forgot to clean out a Wax Golem Mold for a decade while it was in storage. The irate wizard turned said Ugly into a candle as punishment, but was later pleased to discover that the Dust Golem was powerfully strong, and immune to such things as charm, fireball, lightning, petrification and polymorph. A cold spell reduced the golem's AC to 3 for some reason. There's an oddity with this creature's Hit Dice, which is given as 1½d8. Does that mean 1d4? 1.5 times a d8? I'm really not sure, though I'm inclined to go with 1d4 given the Number Appearing is 2-300.

"The Room of Crocked Magic" by Paul Jaquays: This room (location unspecified) is the home of a bunch of gnomes who are happy to sell magic items. None of these items quite work correctly, and there are 20 examples given: a potion of growth that turns the drinker into a giant with an IQ of 3; leather armour +1 that weighs as much as plate mail; a potion of longevity that reduces the drinkers lifespan by 10 years; and so on. The gnomes have a wall-mounted death ray that they use as protection (which of course functions exactly as it should...). I suspect that this room is supposed to be found in a dungeon somewhere, but it would probably get more play if located in the PCs home town or city.

"Comments on Those Lovely Ladies" by Judith Preissle Goetz: In issue #2 Paul Jaquay wrote up some rules regarding female adventurers, and this article makes some objections and suggestions. The observation is made that if women have a higher Charisma where men are concerned, the opposite should also be true. Also, the author objects to the idea that women with a high Strength should have a lower Charisma. More suggestions are made regarding the relative Strength and Dexterity of men and women, as well as suggesting that women should get +1 Constitution due to having greater resistance to environmental stresses. I'm likely to ignore all of this, and just have men and women rolling the same stats.

"Metamorphosis Alpha" by Jim Ward: Jim spends a few paragraphs describing Metamorphosis Alpha and how much fun it is, which is hardly an unbiased review considering he wrote it.

"Magic, Tomes, Scrolls" by Paul Jaquays: Jaquays gives some interpretations on various rules to do with magic, including such things as scrolls, spell book, and how many spells a wizard may know. The most interesting tidbit here is that we finally learn what the Arcane Elders (which have been mentioned in a bunch of Dungeoneer articles) are: a group of nine demi-gods who distribute magic as they see fit to those who contact them through an arcane crystal.

"Tricks & Traps": This is a selection of 31 tricks and traps, as the title says, most of the being fairly whimsical. Some examples include a room that eats the intelligence of magic swords, or a mounted elephant head that shoots peanuts as missiles. Some are bafflingly pointless: a library which contain only fictional material? Another that requires a library card? I mean, why? The less said about the one that has R2-D2 and C-3PO joining the party the better. (Although it means that the cover date must be a fair bit behind the actual publication, as Star Wars was released in May)

"The Goodies Bag": Two new magic items.

  • "Necklace of Warriors" by Tom Filmore: A rope with 1d10 beads attached, each of which can be thrown to summon an obedient warrior. If attacked or betrayed by their master they will seek revenge, and the DM is encouraged to play them as annoyingly over-literal when following orders.
  • "Discs of Severen" by Jim Ward: The index I'm looking at says this is supposed to be in here, but there's no sign of it in the compendium of issues #1-6 that I have.

"The Pharaoh's Tomb" by Jim Ward: This is a pretty bonkers dungeon with some hefty treasure along with some very deadly dangers. There are pressure plate spear traps, rooms that fill with poison gas, rooms that fill with sand (a lot of those) and even an entire room that's full of sulfuric acid that floods out when you open the door.

I mentioned rooms that fill with sand, and that happens in every single one of the shaded rooms on the map above; I could see progress becoming painfully slow in this dungeon, to the point where it just becomes no fun to play.

As for monsters, there are plenty: mummies, displacer beasts, a rust monster, invisible stalkers, among others. If you do manage to make it to the tomb, it releases four 10th level fighters and a 30th level lich. Oh, and then there's the 25% chance of Anubis himself showing up to kill you on the way in, and a 50% chance on the way out. On the whole I think this dungeon might be deadlier than the much-vaunted Tomb of Horrors, but it's nowhere near as clever. Say what you want about the Tomb, but at least it plays fair and rewards caution.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 46: The Dragon #5

The Dragon #5 was published in March of 1977. I originally covered it back in 2009 if you feel like reading that again; I'll cover it here again but in a bit less detail. The Dragon Rumbles editorial mentions that the magazine is expanding to eight issues a year. Out on a Limb has a number of letters, including one that bemoans the plethora of new rules and sub-classes (I'm laughing at this guy from 2020). Beyond the Wizard Fog by Gardner Fox is another Niall of the Far Travels story/Conan knockoff. And then there's Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User, in which Bill Seligman tries to argue that Gandalf doesn't use much magic by D&D standards. He's right.

"Witchcraft Supplement for Dungeons & Dragons" by an unknown author: Witches are introduced here as an ancient order that's divided by alignment: 35% are Lawful, while the rest are Chaotic. The author seems to be working from the original alignment system, so it's possible that by AD&D standards the divide could be Good/Evil. Chaotic Witches are further split into Low Order, High Order and the forbidden Secret Order who never mix with other types of witches.

The history of the witch orders is given as follows:

"In forgotten ages past, in kingdoms unheralded and dead centuries of untold history, a fiery confrontation emerged between witch covens world-wide. The myriad witches of the woodlands and the fields formed an alliance which dominated all other covens. This group forcibly directed the studies of other witches, and great emphasis was placed on the magic of plants and animals, that they might grow stronger still in their respective domains. But there were those who sought darker and more Godly enchantments, pursuing powers of devastation and the very elements. They promised to teach what they learned, to enslave the world of men, and to shape raw power to the ends of witches everywhere. This the alliance would not permit, for power inspires fear, fear of those that have it. Those who allied with the new Secret Coven were cast out, and in time only the mountains offered refuge to the members of this radical coven."

Witch magic is its own thing, and it's said that Djinn, Efreet and clerics are all immune to it. Each type of witch gets its own spell list drawing from existing D&D spells, as well as a number of new ones introduced here. Particularly ancient Lawful witches (known as priestesses) can cast from the following list of mega-powerful abilities:

  • Youth: remove 40 years from a creature's age
  • Influence: Turn a creature Lawful
  • Banish Any One Creature: Instantly send one creature to Hell with no save
  • Enchantment: Create any magic ring, potion or weapon in one day, with no expense
  • Seek: Visualise the surroundings of any creature, object or place.

Chaotic witches have their own spell list, with High Order witches being more powerful than Low Order (as you'd expect). The following spells are new:

  • Pit: Opens a 15' deep hole.
  • Fire Box: Creates a cube of flame around a target
  • Diminish Plant/Animal/Men: Shrinks all the creatures within the target area
  • Plant Entrapment: Causes plants to entangle creatures in the area

There are Major Spells that are only available to High Order Witches.

  • Paralyzing Pit: Like Pit above, but all within the pit must save or be paralyzed.
  • Undead Control: Gives the caster control over 1-6 undead creatures.
  • Aging: Ages the target by 20 years.
  • Circle of Blindness: Creates a circle that prevents all within from seeing and hearing, as well as using magical detection spells.
  • Curse: A vague spell that can inflict pretty much any negative effect short of death.
  • Poison Touch: Coats an object in poison, or can be used as a save or die touch attack.
  • Curtain Wall: Creates an extradimensional room that the witch can use as a secret lair.

Secret Order Witches also have their own spell selection. Group A consists of spells from other lists, but Group B are all new, highly powerful special abilities:

  • Intensify: Greatly increases the power of any natural weather phenomenon.
  • Wither: Causes every living thing in the area to rapidly age and die.
  • Weight Concentration/Dilution: Controls the weight of any creature or object.
  • Quake: Causes earthquakes
  • Vaporise: Transmutes stone into fog
  • Solidify: Turns fog into stone, which can be used to entomb creatures in the area.
  • Volcanic Circle: Creates an expanding ring of lava that deals 10d6 damage
  • Reflections: Bounces spells cast at the witch back on the caster

The Secret Order Witches also have their own set of new magic items. A cleric who tries to wield on of these will die instantly; otherwise, only a witch priestess, High Order Chaotic Witch, or a magic-user of level 13+ can safely wield them.

  • Skull of Death: A dragon skull helmet that can command undead and cast finger of death.
  • Mountain Seeds: Become the size of a castle when thrown
  • Leech Dust: Forms a cloud that sucks the blood from those within.
  • Assassin's Eyes: Invisible eyes that can fly, cast charm person and shoot death rays.
  • Witch Wands: Can be used to cast a number of witch spells per day.
  • Serpent Belt: Said to be a more powerful form of snake belt, which is detailed below.
  • Seed Satchel: Contains seeds that can transform into things like a wall of thorns or a wyvern.
  • Hornet Cape: The wearer can fly, command other flying creatures, and fire stingers.
  • Potion Cauldron: Allows the user to create any potion in just one day.

There are also magic items that can be used by all kinds of witches, and could appear in any regular treasure hoard.

  • Snake Belt: Transforms into a snake strong enough to strangle a wyvern (how very specific).
  • Ivy Bracelets: Control and communicate with plants. They are very fragile.
  • Dart Rings: Fire poisonous thorns.
  • Locket of Satan: Only used by evil witches, grants command of any three Chaotic creatures within range.
  • Love Locket: Only used by good witches, makes any male humanoid within range smitten and under their sway
  • Thorn Twine: A 40 foot thorny vine that can be used to entangle or keep foes at bay.
  • Guardian Egg: Can be transformed into a Hill Giant, a Roc or a Dragon Turtle.
  • Hill Seeds: Expand in size when thrown, acting like cannonballs.
  • Luck Charms: Grant bonuses in combat, as well as wishes and greater luck when finding treasure.
  • Mirror-Crystal: Protects against charm person, sleep, paralyzation, curses, and other mind-affecting magic.
  • Amulets of Power: The caster can memorise more spells, and increase the power of their spells by 50%.

I'll include these witches as secretive orders in my campaign, keeping in mind that the Secret Order is said in the article to have only resurfaced recently. It should also be noted that Satan is referred to in this article, who I'll happily use as an Arch-Devil on par with Asmodeus and the like.

"Some Ideas Missed in Metamorphosis Alpha" by James M. Ward: Ward includes here a number of rules that missed the cut for his recently-released game. These include: chemical radiation neutralizers (gel that can nullify radioactive material); chemical flammable retardants (or fire extinguishers); radioactive material in containment; sensory intensifiers (a pendant that increases the senses of the wearer). It's also noted that the poison charts in the game are really deadly, but there are a bunch of ways to counteract that poison: shamans, antidotes, mutations, etc.

"Tribal Society and Hierarchy On Board the Starship Warden" by James M. Ward: A quick article that gives some details about how the tribes live and interact in Metamorphosis Alpha. Each tribe has a leader and a shaman, who pretty much exists as a healer and quest-giver (a tool for the DM to prod PCs in the right direction, in other words). It's mentioned that the two dominant life-forms aboard the Warden are Androids and Wolfoids. The Androids have infiltrated human society as shamans, and use the humans to fight the mutated intelligences on the ship. Not much is said about the Wolfoids, except that they know less about technology but more about mutation. It's also mentioned that a group of players recently killed four important android scouts, robbed them of duralloy shields and color bands, and discovered that their shaman is not human. I'll make sure to include this group as NPCs should I ever have players find themselves aboard the Warden.

"Featured Creature: The Anhkheg" by Gary Gygax (I assume): The Anhkheg makes its first appearance here, with a great illustration from Erol Otus.

"How Green Was My Mutant: The Appearance of Humanoids in Metamorphosis Alpha" by Gary Gygax: Gary provide some random charts to determine the appearance of mutants on board the Starship Warden. Doing some random rolling just now, I came up with a guy who has pocked skin that is striped grey, a very thick neck, a thin body, no nose, wide hands and feet, and webbed fingers and toes. The table results are a little bland by Gary's standards, to be honest.

"Wizard Research Rules" by Charles Preston Goforth, Jr.: These rules are additions to those found in D&D Vol. 1: Men & Magic and The Dragon #2, and are consistent with what has gone before. A bunch of new possibilities that can be researched, which I'll outline below:

  • Spells that can permanently increase one ability score (but only once per stat per character). The spell increase begins at 1 point, increasing to an absurd 1d12 points when cast at higher levels.
  • Weapons of +1 enchantment can be made with a simple expenditure of gold and time, but anything stronger that that requires a roll on a chart to determine the resultant magic bonuses (or curses).
  • A caster can "embed" a spell in an object (though it's not exactly clear what this is for).
  • Rules are given for creating "true rings", which can enslave lesser rings and function much like Tolkien's One Ring.
  • There are also rules for "Wizard blades", which are special magic swords that can be wielded by a magic-user.
  • The ability is given for wizards and patriarchs to spontaneously create magic items under duress, by speaking a Power Word of Distress. Such creation permanently drains the caster of 1d8 hit points, which is a fair bit by OD&D standards.
  • Magic items can be sacrificed as a way of seeking aid from the gods, although the gods aren't guaranteed to answer.

I'll introduce all of these options into the campaign, but probably as forbidden knowledge; only those PCs who find such knowledge will be able to use these abilities.

"The Gnome Cache" by Garrison Ernst aka Gary Gygax: In this chapter Dunstan and Mellerd join a merchant caravan heading north. Some relevant details:

  • The Upplands north of Crosshill Road are wild and desolate. Rabbits live there.
  • It takes a week by foot to travel from Huddlefoot to Deepwell.
  • Dolph is the liveryman in Deepwell. He can't read very well.
  • Evan the Trader is a dealer is rich furs from Nehron-land.
  • The town of Rheyton lies north of Deepwell, and further north are the forests of Nehron.
  • Not too far from Deepwell live the wild Kimbry, who are known to brand their horses.
  • Some coin types are named: plumbs, and gold scruples (or scrups).

Whether these details match up with later Greyhawk lore I have no idea. They might fit better with the world as it was before being published as a TSR product.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 45: Judges Guild Installment K

In February of 1977, Judges Guild sent out the third of its installments to their subscribers. This was Installment K, and contained the following items:

  • JG18 Campaign Map One: Judges
  • JG19 Campaign Map One: Players
  • JG20 Booklet K (providing details for the maps above)
  • JG21 Journal K
  • Ready Ref Chart: Wizard's Guide/Construction Costs

The maps both cover the same area, with the Judges Map filling in a lot more details. They show a pretty expansive area around the City State, far more than any Judges Guild product has done so far. Booklet K gives an overview of what can be found at many of the places on the map.

Before I dig into those, though, I'll quickly cover Journal K, for which I only have a snippet of the first page. I'm not having much trouble tracking down the other JG products, but those Journals are hard to find. What I have of this one concerns some of the rules for forging and enchanting weapons that were given in Installment J, mostly to note that the mithril and adamantite weapons shown for purchase aren't magical, and aren't of a high enough grade to be enchanted to +4 or +5. It then goes on to advise that such weapons should be difficult to find, and not available for purchase just because a PC has the money. Hard to argue! The rest is logistical JG stuff about late installments and con appearances, nothing that I'm particularly interested in.

And now, the maps. I purchased some full colour recreations, but those aren't exactly accurate to those that were sent out back in '77. These are the best images I could find of the originals:

Players Map

Judges Map

The City State is pretty much dead centre, just to the west of the big forest in the middle (the Dearthwood). Thunderhold, from Installment J, is about 90 miles directly north of that, not too far removed from the north coast. It's all pleasingly consistent with the rough map that was provided in Booklet J. The maps use a hex grid, with four-digit coordinates that can be used to find a specific hex. Hex 0701, for instance, will be seven across in the top row. Hex 1211 is twelve across and eleven down.

Booklet K features a lot of miscellaneous rules and guidelines crammed in, as is the JG style, but I'll focus first on the parts that are relevant to the maps above. The first of these sections is "Idyllic Isles", which gives a brief description of what can be found on all of the small islands on the map. They're short but evocative, and good adventure springboards. Here are some examples:

  • 1101: Isle of the Halflings - 27 shipwrecked Hobbits evading a Cyclops
  • 4611: Isle of Slumber - The ruins of an ancient city overrun by apes hide a wishing well.
  • 5116: Isle of Tombs - 1420 tombs full of undead and demons.

The book then goes on to highlight the small castle and village of Haghill, found in hex 2321 (not far from the City State). Haghill has been ruled by Huberic for the last 14 years, a portly fellow with large appetites and a delight in cruelty to animals. He lives in the former "Tower of Torpid Terror", which the locals believe sits atop the sleeping place of a terrible creature from the Elder Days. Huberic laughs of these superstitions in public, but has still had the dungeons below sealed.

Haghill is then described in much the same fashion as the City State, with the most prominent NPCs detailed, some legends and rumors suggested, and a map provided. To be honest, it's all a little too similar to the City State for my liking. I'm not sure why this place was chosen to be highlighted, because there's not really a lot going on. (Although there is a smith whose name is Stretchy Vagin, which is definitely a name that stopped me in my tracks.)

A map of Haghill

Two pages are then given over to detailing every settlement on the map: location, name, population, race of inhabitants, level of civilization, alignment, ruler, and their main resources. Somehow, all of this fits in a single line. Here are the first five villages:

That is compact: there are close to 100 settlements outlined in two pages here. The usual PC races are represented, but there are also a few goblin, orc and gnoll villages scattered about. The City State has its own line, with its population listed as 20,000. Its ruler is said to be a 16th level fighter named Balarnega; is this the overlord himself? Thunderhold is also listed, and said to be ruled by someone named Boralin. Booklet J had the ruler as Nordre Ironhelm, so I'm not sure what's going on there.

Close to 80 castles and citadels are scattered across the map, but those get much less detail than the villages: only the ruler and the number of men are shown.

The "Lurid Lairs" section is similarly sparse: there are over 100 lairs on the map, with all that's listed here being the type and number of monster found therein. Every monster in these lairs comes from TSR D&D.

That covers the bulk of the booklet, but there are a lot of other things in here which I'll go over in brief below:

  • Tables for determining the actions of NPCs based on their morale.
  • Tables for determining whether NPCs (presumably those allied to the PCs) get into altercations with other NPCs, including the reason why the altercation started.
  • Tables for negotiating, with modifiers for alignment and Charisma.
  • Some paragraphs to determine what exactly is a hireling (apparently any NPC controlled by a PC, excluding charmed creatures, insects, golems, and plants). There are also some rules here about polymorphing creatures, and whether a polymorphed creature can then become a hireling.
  • Civilization and technology levels, which are given on a scale from 0 to 10: anarchy, democracy, tribal, agrarian, religious, tributary, oligarchy, republic, aristocracy, feudal, dictatorship. These numbers are used in the village section above.
  • Rules for population density, with different land requirements for hunters and farmers. In general a hunting village needs 1 square mile per member, while one square mile of farmland can support 320 members. Are these numbers accurate? Buggered if I know.
  • Rules for how much land a player needs to clear out for their barony, as well as how to calculate income, and the safe levels of tax that can be levied before the peasants start getting angry.
  • A little bit about what it takes to shift the alignment of a settlement or area (police forces, temples, that sort of thing).
  • This installment's Malevolent Character Module is about Count Kaledric, who is a supposed weakling and social bore, but is secretly the Co-ordinator, the much-feared personal avenger of the City State's Overlord. He has five trusted retainers, and access to a lot of weapons to give him god-like powers and demon-strength. (None of these are outlined though.)
  • Some rules for determining how much can be made in trade based on a settlements population and the product on offer (including prices for some exotic monsters like balrogs).
  • Rules for randomly determining the various factors involved in a geas or quest spell.
  • Rules outlining what can be done with a wish and a limited wish, and the difference between the two (which seems mostly to be that limited wish can't create anything, but can change outcomes for up to a week in the past). Wishes are graded based on how greedy they are, and assigned a likelihood of success and a likelihood of some kind of curse or repercussion.

Finally, there's the Ready Ref Sheet. One side of it has guidelines for Wizards, and the other features the rules and construction times and costs for building a stronghold. The construction rules and prices given are consistent with those from D&D Vol. 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventure, but far more detail is given; the JG rules are much easier to understand and implement. There are also prices here for building Hobbit smials (burrows), and elven "tlan" (treehouses), as well as rules for using fantastic creatures in the building process.

The Wizard's Guide side has rules for creating magic items, and is very concrete about the time and money requirements. Featured are the prices for creating a decent selection of weapons, wands, staves, rods, rings and potions.