Friday, May 29, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 66: The Dragon #9

Cover art by Bill Hannan

This issue of The Dragon is cover dated September 1977.  Tim Kask's editorial reflects on the recent Origins convention, held in late July (so the cover date for The Dragon is fairly accurate as to when it was released).  It was apparently down on attendance due to a heatwave, but there was enough new product for Kask to be confident in the growth of the industry.  He ends it by mentioning that the magazine is expanding to 40 pages next month, and including Tom Wham's board game, Snit Smashing.

In other news, Harry Fischer's "The Finzer Family" concludes, taking up the majority of the page count.  "Floating in Timeless Space" is a Tom Wham comic promoting his board game, "Finieous Fingers continues to do its thing, and "Wormy" by Dave Trampier makes its debut.

There's also an ad for the D&D Basic Set, which was recently released.

The ad for the first Basic Set

"Varied Player Character and Non-Player Character Alignment in the Dungeons & Dragons Campaign" by Gary Gygax: In this article Gary talks about alignment, specifically focusing on the kinds of conflicts that can arise from having characters of varied alignment within the game.  It's interesting from a historical perspective, because I'd say it's pretty likely that the things Gary is writing about here are scenarios he had to deal with in his own games.  He says that the most common problem in long-running campaigns is with cooperating blocks of players, who coerce new players into taking a certain alignment, and dispatching those who refuse.  It reminds me a bit of the early days of MMOs, where stronger characters would frequently prey on newbies.  Gary's recommendation here is that new players simply lie about their alignment, and play along until they are high enough level to stand up to the established guys.  He even says that it's fine for the players to keep their true alignment secret from the DM, which isn't something I thought I'd ever see from Gary's pen.

It's mentioned that, in the Greyhawk campaign, "good" is the desired end sought by the majority of humanity and its allied races.  Most planned actions are based on a threat to the overall good by the forces of evil, but there's still room for lawful good to go to war with chaotic good, with either aligned with evil beings of lawful or chaotic alignment respectively.

The article also has a very vivid description of the City of Greyhawk that I'll reproduce here in full: "This walled town was the area trade center and seat of feudal power, then began to decline when the overlordship transferred from a suzerain to the city itself, but is now undergoing a boom due to the activities of adventurers and the particular world system events (a new struggle between lawful good and chaotic evil, with the latter on the upswing). The oligarchs of the city are neutral in outlook, if not in alignment, viewing anything which benefits their city as desirable. Therefore, all sorts of creatures inhabit the city, commerce is free, persons of lawful alignment rub elbows with chaotics, evil and good co-exist on equitable terms. Any preeminence of alignment is thwarted by the rulers of the place, for it would tend to be detrimental to the city trade."  That mention of a suzerain is intriguing.  TSR products have the mad wizard Zagyg as a former ruler of Greyhawk, so I could make that a reference to him.  It's also interesting to note that "chaotics" are said to frequent the city.  Does that just mean chaotic humans, or are there orcs, goblins, gnolls, etc. walking around and doing business there?  Something to think about.

The article finishes up with the example of a cleric who opens a small shrine and starts selling holy water.  This doesn't attract much attention, but once he builds a church and starts seeking mass conversions, this attracts the enmity of other leading clerics of the city, as well as the government.  Assassination attempts are possible, and hefty taxes and bribes will be required for the cleric to navigate the paths of power.  It paints a picture of a city where the rulers are desperate to maintain some sort of an alignment balance, so as not to disrupt trade and commerce, or otherwise upset things.

"Seal of the Imperium" by M.A.R. Barker: Professor Barker answers some questions and provides rules clarifications regarding Empire of the Petal Throne.  Some interesting stuff here, but it's relation to D&D is tangential at best.  I'll keep it in mind for when I need to compile info on Tekumel.

"The Fastest Guns That Never Lived - Part II" by Brian Blume: Blume provides stats for the following fictional cowboys and actors:
  • Don "Red" Barry
  • William "Wild Bill" Elliot
  • "Hoot" Gibson
  • William S. Hart
  • Tim Holt
  • Allan "Rocky" Lane
  • Colonel Tim McCoy
  • Joel McCrea
  • Tom Mix
  • The Durango Kid
  • Bob Steele
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • The Cisco Kid and Poncho
Hardly household names these days, except for perhaps Lee Van Cleef, but I'll have to find a place for them should my campaign ever take a turn into the Old West.

"Tombs & Crypts" by James M. Ward: This is a set of charts for randomly determining the contents of a tomb. Always handy to have, and quite reminiscent of the kind of thing found in Judges Guild products.  I rolled on the charts and came up with the following:
  • A roll of 11 on 1d12 means that it's a wizard's tomb
  • The tomb is one room, cave or mound of dirt
  • It contains 2,000 gold pieces, 20 base 10,000gp gems, 2 base 500gp gems, a map, 4 pieces of base 500 gp jewelry, and a misc. magic weapon (10 arrows +1)
  • Guarded by vampires 
That was rolled up pretty quickly.  The system is perhaps a little too generous where gems and jewelry are concerned, but Jim Ward's defense that anyone special enough to be placed in a tomb probably had a lot of treasure to be buried with is hard to argue against.

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