Monday, May 04, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 63: The Dragon #8

Cover art by Bill Hannon

The Dragon #8 was cover dated July 1977.  I originally covered it in more detail back here, so I'm going to skim over it this time.  Tim Kask's "Dragon Rumbles" editorial talks about how proud he is to have Harry Fischer writing fiction for the magazine, and he also lies about the potential return of Gygax's "Gnome Cache" serial.  The story by Fischer - "The Finzer Family" - is interminably long, taking up far more real estate than any fiction should in a gaming magazine.  "Featured Creature" presents an Erol Otus illustration and asks the readers to design a creature around it. I'll cover that when the time comes. Finally, "So You Want Realism in D&D" by Brian Blume provides a satirical method of ability score generation designed to gently mock those calling for greater realism.

"Planes: The Concept of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D" by Gary Gygax: This one is real doozy folks.  It's here that Gary first sets out the planar cosmology of D&D, complete with a diagram, the names of all the planes, and how they interact with D&D spells and magic items.  Here's the diagram:

The diagram is kind of pointless with annotations, so I'll list out all of the Planes as well.

  1. The Prime Material Plane (where most D&D worlds sit)
  2. The Positive Material Plane
  3. The Negative Material Plane
  4. The Air Elemental Plane
  5. The Fire Elemental Plane
  6. The Earth Elemental Plane
  7. The Water Elemental Plane
  8. The Ethereal Plane
  9. The Astral Plane
  10. The Seven Heavens
  11. The Happy Hunting Grounds
  12. The Twin Paradises
  13. Olympus
  14. Elysium
  15. Gladsheim
  16. Limbo
  17. Pandemonium
  18. The 666 Layers of the Abyss
  19. Tarterus
  20. Hades
  21. Gehenna
  22. The Nine Hells
  23. Acheron
  24. Nirvana
  25. Arcadia

Many of these are appearing in D&D here for the first time, but some have been mentioned before.  The elemental planes have been at least implied in the rules about elemental summoning, and the Astral and Ethereal Planes have specifically appeared in certain spells and monster descriptions (particularly in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry).  Heaven, Paradise, Elysium, Limbo, the Abyss, Hades, Hell and Nirvana all got mentioned in an article on alignment from The Strategic Review #6, and placed on a chart the I'll show below.

The planes shown here correspond with their placement on the chart above, which is the kind of consistency that I'm here for.  Unfortunately, it gets shifted around a bit by the time the Players Handbook tackles the subject in 1978.  The change is in the order of planes 11 to 14, which are shown as: 11. Twin Paradises; 12. Elysium; 13. Happy Hunting Grounds; 14. Olympus.  The version in the PHB is the one that sticks going forward, so I can only conclude that the planes can be shifted around somehow, or that early planar scholars were incorrect about the configuration.

In addition to the planar cosmology, Gary delves into the idea that creatures that can only be hurt by magic weapons exist on multiple planes at once.  Creatures hit only by +1 weapons exist in two planes at once, those hit only by +2 weapons exist in three planes, etc.  Similarly, magic weapons extend into multiple planes depending on their bonus, and those that deal more damage to specific monsters have a more intense nature in the plane relevant to that monster.  The idea is even posited that every type of creature is somehow connected to its own sub-plane, to explain those magic weapons that deal extra damage to monsters who aren't immune to normal weapons.  It's all pretty wild stuff, and very AD&D in flavour; in fact, Gary casually drops at the end of the article that he's revising the whole game to incorporate these ideas.

"The Development of Towns in D&D" by Tony Watson: This article gives some advice on laying out the PC's home town, including how to map it out, what types of shops and areas it should include, and notes on population and how NPCs should be generated. The following examples are given that I can include as part of the Ultimate Sandbox:

  • An inn named Falgrave's, which is run by a dwarf named Falgrave and mostly frequented by demi-humans.  Falgrave is up on all the non-human gossip.
  • Blatherson of Hillock, an NPC with the following stats: Str 12, Con 9, Int 13, Cha 15, Dex 8, Wis 7.  He's 4th level, and I assume a fighter. He's Lawful, old, loyal to his friends, cooperative and friendly.  He likes to frequent the Golden Goblet tavern, where he constantly drinks mead and tells stories about his exploits in the Goblin Wars.

There are also some examples of goods and services given that I may or may not use:

  • Cartographers sell wilderness and dungeon maps for 100 to 600 gp, depending on how remote the area is.
  • A shave and a haircut at the barbers costs 1 gp.
  • Armour and weapons can be bought at pawnshops, but they have a 1-in-6 chance of being defective.
  • There is a 1-in-4 chance that a foreign merchant or two will be present in the main square.
  • Horses can be boarded at the stables for 2-3 gp per week.
  • In the seedy area of town, there is a 1-in-8 chance per turn of encountering a thief or a band of brigands.
  • Soothsayers charge 20 gp to predict how a planned adventure might turn out.
  • There are magicians who will cast spells for a fee of 50gp x spell level. Now this is something I will have to limit to very low level spells, probably only 1st or 2nd. The price is far too low for anything more powerful, and only the weakest and poorest of magic-users would resort to selling their services for such a low price.
  • Brothels charge 20gp (and 35 gp for the special!). Bribes of 10-100 gp can be made to find out information.
  • Surgeons can heal 1-6 hit points for 25 gp with a 50% chance of success. They have a 1-in-6 chance to cure poison for 35 gp.
  • Scholars at the library can research facts for a fee that begins at 100gp and goes up as the info required gets more specific.

"Introduction to: Gamma World": This article gives a brief overview of the backstory of Gamma World: in the 23rd century a mysterious group known as "The Apocalypse" issues an ultimatum to the world powers to stop fighting or be destroyed.  Mankind bands against them, and the resultant war devastates the Earth.  Gamma World gets into my campaign because the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide has conversion rules for it.

"A Re-Evaluation of Gems & Jewelry in D&D" by Robert J. Kuntz: This article presents more comprehensive tables for determining the value of gems and jewelry, as well as their type.  I'll keep this in mind for when I get around to working up some comprehensive charts of my own.

"Still More Additions to MA" by James Ward: This article presents twenty new mutated plants and animals for use in Metamorphosis Alpha: jawed lily pads; fungus domes; red puff balls; stalkers; radiation vines; island plants; jawed creeping vines; reflector brambles; spear trees; poison thorn grass; tigeroids; gorillaoids; bulleroids; rabners; blumers; carrins; kerasks; gygarants; sotherlans; and wardents.  You might have figured out that the last have dozen or so are based on TSR staffers, and have abilities that are based on the personalities of those folks.  It's all a bit inside baseball, but the monsters are workable and the names not too stupid, so I'll use them.

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