Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #78

Ok. I will admit. Today is a total cheat. I was not due to post this issue for a few more weeks., but given yesterday's discussion on Psionics and Deyrni I went to my collection and pulled this one out.  Glad I did. This is one of my favorite issues.  So let's mentally project ourselves back in time to October 1983 for issue #78 of This Old Dragon!

As usual, let's start with that cover.  Butterfly winged dragon-like creature feeds their young. Looks like a cool alien landscape too.  I always liked this cover a lot. It had a great Sci-fi and Fantasy feel to it.  Perfect for Dragon really.

The Editorial cover the 1983 (and not the 1988 typo) Gen Con.  Some nice reminiscing.

Letters mostly covers a list of complaints. About copyright issues, about spell rulings, about Sci-Fi being shuffled off to Ares.  Nothing Earth shattering or terribly interesting to us today.

Ah. Here is the main feature and why I grabbed this for today.
Mind Games deals with all sorts of psionics.

Arthur Collins is up first with Psionics is different. . . And that's putting it rather mildly.
First he details what I think was always assumed but never explicit in the rules. Magic comes from without, but psionics are powered from within; the power of the characters' own minds.  Collins also makes some comparisons between AD&D and OD&D psionics AND the issue of whether or not elves should be psionic (I say no).  He spends nine pages discussing all sorts of situations that come in psionics.  So psionic character creation, ability use and of course combat. It is very detailed and honestly, I would not play AD&D 1st Ed psionics without this guide.

Sage Advice deals with various psionic questions. Some seem to contradict advice given in Collins article (namely about psionic elves) but all in all a good read too.  Three full pages of this advice too.

GREAT ad for what would become one of my favorite adventures, Ravenloft.


Yeah. I ate that up.

Next is Overhauling the system. A three-part remedy for problems with psionics by Robert Schroeck.  This deals largely with the fact that you get all your psionic strength points at once. So a first level character with high mental scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and good rolls can have a ton of points. I think 350 was the maximum, but that is a memory and I am likely wrong.  Schroeck solution? It's a good one really, start with 25 points at 1st level and then gain 15 points per level till they reach their max.  He also suggests a "use them or lose them" option, so psionic characters need to keep using their powers, even if that means that monsters will be attracted to them.   He also suggests some changes to psionic combat.  I like all three of his suggestions and would use this as well.  Astute readers will see that many of these ideas would later be adopted in some fashion or another in 2nd Edition.

Another treat from the past and my past in particular, an ad for Bard Games "Compleat" series.


Arthur Collins is back and this one is a big one, again both in terms of the issue and for me.
And now, the psionicist. A class that moves psionics into the mainstream gives us exactly what it sounds like.  It is based on Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books and it looks great.
The Psionicist is it's own class and it has a monk-like feel to it. The class has some ability score minimums, but nothing at all like I would expect.  It is avialable to humans and half-elves only, but I would say that half-orcs could as well.  No armor, no shields, minimal weapons and no spell use at all.  So no multi- or dual classed magic-user or cleric characters here.
The class progression reminds me of the Magic-User. The psionicst gets a d10 for first level hp and then a d8 till 4th, then a d6 till 7th and then a d4 at 7 and on.  This represents the psionicsts deepening devotion to mental pursuits and not physical ones.  It's an interesting progression.
As expected they get attack modes, defense modes, minor and major Disciplines,  as well as the new Grand Disciplines which they don't even get till 12th level.
Additionally, we get two new minor (devotions) disciplines, two new major (sciences) disciplines, and six all new grand (arts) disciplines.  In particular is the dreaded "healers" power of Severance or the ability to disconnect another's psychic powers.
Whether it looks like this is left to the individual DMs.


The article ends with a great section of psionic-related magic items from the DMG and a bunch of new "magic" items.

This article is followed, again by Collins, about the Deryni race.  It is adapted by Collins with the permission of Katherine Kurtz.  We get a Monster Manual like entry and some notes on Deryni as a race. They can be multi-classed psionists/magic-user or clerics.

We end this section with another one from Collins (seriously did anyone else write this month?) all about the Heroes & villains of the Deryni. This includes the famous Camber of Culdi.

Honestly, if I stopped here that would make this a great issue.  But we are less than halfway through.

Our big adventure is next.  Citadel by the Sea was designed by Sid Fisher.  I remember this one and had a lot of fun with it. But more importantly it was the adventure that convinced me that I could write my own adventures AND get them published.  I mean Sid Fisher, whomever that was, was just a regular guy. He wasn't named Gygax or Moldvay or Holmes and he got his adventure published.  I never got my earliest adventure published, the Knight of the Serpents, but i did get stuff done.
The adventure is a low-level sea-side mystery at a full 16 pages.  I do wish it had been more connected to the psionic stuff, especially since it is for 1st to 3rd level. Ah well, can't have everything.

A couple pages on miniatures from various manufacturers.
A page of the then hottest conventions.

Ah, now here is something.  I remember this article so, so well.
Be thy die ill-wrought? Only those that pass the chi-square test can play by D. G. Weeks asks the age-old question.  Do my dice suck?
This article gives the basics (huh huh) of the Chi-square (x2) goodness of fit test to see if your dice are biased in any way.  You get the basics of the Chi-square test and even a BASIC program to test them.  I remember typing in this program into my TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (I did not have my upgraded Color Computer 3 yet) but I never could get it to work.  I think now it is because I just didn't really understand how the Chi-square worked.  Today I would just drop my numbers into Excel.

The hits keep coming.  Roger Moore gives us a GREAT one.  The ecology of the mind flayer. Not just great information on the Mind Flayer, but also the githyanki and githzerai. This is also the first time I read the word illithid. Like the article The Sunset World that would appear six years later I read and reread this article many, many times. A huge part of my now current adventure campaign, Come Endless Darkness, comes from these articles.

Kim Mohan is getting in on the psychic action too with Spells can be psionic, too. How and why magic resembles mental powers. This lengthy article (6 pages) covers all sorts of Player's Handbook Spells that emulate psionic powers.  We took the opposite approach and looked at how powers could be like spells. I know we referenced this article many times for that.

I know I do this one a lot, but here another ad for my favorite local game store.  Of course at the time Games Plus was 200 miles away from me.  Now it is a very short dirve and I get tickled whenever I see one of these ads. Plus I don't mind giving them some free press. I ordered from them for years via mail.

They still have the same phone number, only the area code has changed around them. 312 to 708 to now 847.

Wow. 3/4ths of the way through and this issue has delivered more to me than 2 or 3 other issues combined.

Pop the clutch and roll! is a set of rules for car chases for Top Secret.  It's a good-sized article, 4 pages, but I can really say anything intelligent about it.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh is up with a Dragonquest article on hunting in The thrill of the hunt.  DQ is one of those games I always wanted to try out but never did.  I now have a copy of the 1st edition and I am looking forward to trying it out.

Oh and don't look, but the answers to the later "What's New" quiz are listed here.

A few full-page ads. The Gamer Guide has a bunch of smaller ads. Including ads for War Games West and "The Floppy Disk" a store for wargame and RPG software.

Two pages of What's New features some logic problems, maze, and other silliness.
A page of Wormy, and three pages of Snarf Quest.

We end with big ads for Hârn and Middle Earth Roleplaying games.

So. Wow. What an issue. Not only was it full of great 1st Edition material for psionics there is material here that I am STILL using.

Just a great, great issue really.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #46.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Class Struggles: Psionics, D.S. al Coda

I have not done a Class Struggles in a while, but something came up to make want to look back at a few I did in the past.


Jason Vey, author and game designer of many systems (currently working with the Troll Lords on Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures), recently did a deep dive into the psionic systems of both OD&D and AD&D.  If you have not read his blog, please do. He is more knowledgable about OD&D and AD&D than many of the self-professed experts out there.  He will be the first to claim he doesn't know everything about the games and he has still more to learn, but I will take the opinion of a quiet sage that claims to know only little than a loud-mouthed fool that claims to know a lot.

Anyway, his posts are here:


If you have any interest in psionics or OD&D/AD&D in general then it is a great read. 

I covered similar, but with a different focus, in my Class Struggles posts on Psionics and Psychic Classes, Part 1 and Part 2.  I also covered the Pathfinder Occult heroes book and the Judges' Guild Psychic Witch in detail. 

That's a lot of actual and virtual ink spilled on the subject of psionics.

Today though one of my biggest questions is this.
Do psychic powers belong in Fantasy Role-Playing Games?

Now there are a lot of GREAT game books on psionics and psychic powers.  That is not what this question is about.  This question boils down to a few things in my mind. Should psychic powers exist alongside magic? If they do, can psychic powers interact with magic? Can a character be psychic and magical? 

Jason addresses some of these questions in his first post. He addresses it as his Point 1 ("They [Psionics] are science-fiction feeling and simply don't have a place in a fantasy game.") and later states that it is not the focus of his post.  That's 100% fine. It's not the purpose of his, but it is the purpose of this post. 

Psionics in Fantasy Role-Playing Games

Maybe it was because I grew up in the 70s and played a lot of *D&D in the 80s this question seems bigger to me than maybe it really is.   

Back in my AD&D days, we played in two separate psionic focused games. The first was our regular big AD&D game in which psionic people were inequivalent of witches or mutants. We read a lot of X-Men back then.  So there was a class of psychic characters that would use their psychic abilities to mimic wizards just to survive.  It was a great meta-plot and I have not done anything similar to it for a while.  We also did a limited run "Deryni" game using OD&D but the AD&D psionic rules. I thought they had been the OD&D Eldritch Wizardry rules, but re-reading Jason's posts made me realize that what we were doing was closer to AD&D.

In these games, this worked for us because we kept magic and psionic powers completely separate. Detect Magic would not detect psionic powers. For example, the spell Detect Invisible would not detect someone that was invisible due to psychic powers.  We decided that magical invisibility would "bend the light around you", thus the idea that "shadow" ala the Hobbit, could be seen.  Psychic invisibility edited the person from the minds of those looking.  So mindless creatures could still see a psychically invisible character. 
We had a lot of discussions on what worked when and how.  As I got older I wanted things to be simpler.  

The trouble lies not in the complexity or simplicity of the systems really. The trouble lies in my own bias.


D&D 3.x made some great strides in fitting Psionics into their Fantasy Magic game by largely making psionics just another type of magic.  This is a good thing that helps deal with the host of natively psychic monsters (grells, mind flayers, brain moles, intellect devourers, aboleths) and keeps the D&D 3 mantra of one single system going.  Trouble is with this idea is that psychic powers now do feel just like another form of magic.

D&D 4 also did this, a bit more powerfully and it kept the unique feel of psychic powers <> magic.  Which is quite a feat given that one of the legitimate complaints of D&D 4 is that all the classes feel the same. 

Thinking back to the 70s and the Occult Revival magic and psychic powers were all wrapped up in the same ball of weird-ass, new age, stuff.  While I certainly think that psionics, as they are written in OD&D and AD&D, were influenced more by science fiction stories there is certainly a feeling of the 70s mentality on what these powers are.

For simplicity sake maybe it is as simple as this.
Magic is a power external to those using it. Be it from a god, pact, bloodline or the ability to learn to how to manipulate those same forces. 
Psionics are power from within.  They can mimic magic but are not the same.

So what is the difference then between a Pyromancer (magical fire) and a Pyrokneticst (psychic fire)?  Maybe none from the outside, but one has spent more time in school learning how to use their powers and the other likely spent their time in a mental hospital for using theirs.

Another way I guess to look at it is through the lens of books and television shows. Magic-Users are more like the Magicians, Harry Dresden, and Harry Potter. They study a lot, they know the rules of magic because others have written them down before them. In the case of Harry Potter the magic is outside of them and they manipulate it and in Magicians it takes a lot of learning and practice.  
Psychics are like Tomorrow People or The Gifted.  There are certain things they can do but they have had no training, and sometimes it is painfully obvious they haven't.  

I guess in the end here I still don't really have an answer.  
Maybe that is fine. Maybe I don't need an answer to "do psychics belong in a FRPG?" becasue that is not the right question to ask.
Maybe the right question to ask is to borrow from a current meme "Does it bring you joy?" or the question I ask everytime I design a new game or piece of a game, "Will it be fun?"

Do psychic powers belong in Fantasy Role-Playing Games?
Will it be fun?

If yes to the second question, then yes to the first.

Everything else are just details.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Plays Well With Others: DP&D Cryptid Manual

There is just over a week to go for the Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual and I have been enjoying the hell out of my preview copy.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s I devoured books about cryptids, monsters, and UFOs.  Honestly, when I wasn't reading books about the occult or witches, I was reading this stuff.
I guess that is one of the reasons why this book (and this game) hit such a nerve with me.

Plus I love monster books. Always have.

So naturally, I want to use this book everywhere I can.


First and foremost, the Cryptid Manual is 90% compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box. There is not a lot of overlap in monsters, so this makes the CM a perfect monster book for S&WWB players.  Also, there are a lot of "new" monsters in S&W for the DP&D player/GM.  Who's to say that an alien life form could resemble an orc or a wyvern.

In fact, this is true for nearly every clone. The clone game provides monsters for DP&P and the Cryptid Manual provides new monsters for your clone of choice.  You just need to justify why they are there.


The tone of The Hero's Journey is different than the other Clones, but with a tiny bit of tinkering the adventure-centric tone of THJ can work with the dark conspiracy tone of DP&D.  I mean really, isn't a Bigfoot just another kind of forest spirit?  I bit like a wilder, but less evil, ogre or troll.



B/X Essentials is an interesting game and one I will delve into more on future posts.  There is essentially a B/X Essentials Monster Manual.  Either or both can be used with both or either game and all fit well.  I think the only overlapping monster is the Medusa, and they are close enough to each other as to be the same creature with local variations.
Both games have a monster Morale score.  I have not done the math to see if these morale scores are 100% compatible, but they feel that way and are based on the same Basic mechanic.
If you like either game then consider picking up the other monster book for even more monsters.




I think the claim that the Cryptid Manual is a good book for any OSR game is a solid one.
I have been wanting to add a Hodag to my games for YEARS.

Now adding this book to an OSR/Clone book is easy. The hard part is figuring out why or how Chupacabras are out running around with the likes of elves and dragons.

Something that might help is looking at other games that cover many of the same creatures and ideas.


Dark Places & Demogorgons holds the same place that is/was occupied by Chill.  I can pretty much take any Chill adventure I developed and re-run under DP&D.  The Chill Monsters book covers a lot of the same ground as the Cryptid Manual.  The advantage of picking up the Monsters book has more information on each creature and a few new ones.  The Cryptid Manual also has a few new creatures for Chill players as well.  For conversions, I would find similar creatures in the books and use that as a template.

Chill's focus is more international and more adult.  BUT a great idea I had was to play a Chill game with some investigators and do a "flashback" adventure of when they were kids using DP&D.  Players of both games should check out the other books for lots of ideas.



The same is true of Eden's Conspiracy X 2.0.

The focus is even more X-Files than Chill is.  There is also a greater focus on Extraterrestrials than in Chill.  Like Chill, there is a feeling that Con X might be the "sequel" of the DP&P game.  Again a fun idea would be to run a Con X game, but pull out DP&D for a "flashback" adventure to when the characters were all children. 

Think about it in terms of the X-Files.  You are playing Fox Mulder as an FBI Agent working on the X-Files (Con X), but the GM wants to go back and try playing Fox as a kid when his sister gets taken by Aliens (DP&D).  It could be a flashback, an alien device that makes him relive it or he is in therapy and his doctor tries memory regression.  There is a ton of different things you can do. 

The systems are not compatible, but I am pretty fluent in both systems and did some of the work already for my Sunny Valley, OH Buffy game.

So, yes the Cryptid Manual is a remarkablly useful and flexible book that I can already use for a dozen or so games, and I plan on doing so.  Hodags! Hodags in every game!!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Bionic Bigfoot

The Kickstarter for the Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual is doing well.

Justin Isaac is also a huge fan of DP&D and has been creating some great material for it on his blog Halls of the Nephilim. He just recently gave us another version of Bigfoot to go with the ones found in the Cryptid Manual; the BMX Bigfoot.  It's fun and really works well with DP&D to be honest.

He then challenged me to do my own and suggested I do the Bigfoot from the Six Million Dollar Man.  So I said yes in a heartbeat! I mean how could I not?

I grew up watching the 6M$M fairly religiously. So yeah I had to jump on this.

Bigfoot in the 6M$M was not just a Bigfoot, but he was also bionic! And an alien! And played by none other than Andre the Giant in the first Bigfoot episodes and then Ted "Lurch" Cassidy.  I mean really? Could anything be more 70s than this?

The Bionic Bigfoot would fit in perfectly into any DP&P game.  Bionic, alien, either with his memory intact or still erased he would make for a fun ally or enemy.

Bionic Bigfoot
Armor Class: 14
Hit Dice: 5+4
Move: On Foot - 18 (ignore rough terrain)
Actions: 2
Morale: 9
Terror: 12
HDE: 7

Attack Damage: Fist (d8), Slam (d8), Rock Throw (d6)

Special: Bionic creature, 20 STR, Toughness +4, Immune to Cold, can run x4 Move

Bonuses: +5 to Melee attacks, +5 to Melee damage, +8 to Spot (bionic eye), +6 to Listen, +8 to Stealth, +2 to Initiative, +4 to Track.

Hug Attack: In combat, if he attacks with his fists and both hit, he will deliver a bone-crushing hug attack for an additional 2d6+4 hp damage.  A successful DEX check by the target will grant half-damage.

The Bionic Bigfoot is not a natural creature, but one created by an alien race as their protector.  The creature is unnaturally strong, even more so than other Bigfoot creatures due to it's bionics.  If the creature is discovered in it's normal state it will be intelligent and generally passive,  though it will lead anyone away from the aliens he protects.  If he is discovered in a damaged state (75% of the time) he will think and act like a normal sasquatch.




Friday, January 25, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Zorro!

I will admit I have a certain fondness for Zorro.  No surprise really, in him we see the beginnings of what would later become both Indiana Jones and Batman.  So it is not a big surprise to see there is a new Zorro RPG coming out.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/zorrotm-the-roleplaying-game

I mean we have a Flash Gordon RPG, a John Carter of Mars RPG, and a Conan RPG, Zorro seems like a no-brainer.

The game uses the new d6 2E system; the second edition of the West End Games classic d6 system.  Personally, I think that is a GREAT fit for this.

They made their funding in the first day, but I am certain they will meet their stretch goals too.
For me?  I am hopping that the section of Zorro vs. Dracula gets written.  Zorro's battle with the supernatural (which in a way also gave us Santo) were always my favorites.

The first stretch goal has been reached and it will be an adventure from the OSR's own James Spahn.

Anyway. Check it out!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Featured Artist: Hope Alexandra

I met today's Featured Artist, Hope Alexandra, in the D&D Fantasy Art Facebook Group. She is new to me artist but I really like her style.

Here is hope in her own words.
My name is Hope, and I've been an artist for the last 20+ years. I've always loved bringing characters to life for people to see, as it seems to make people really happy. I always try to incorporate the character's personality into my art to truly bring it to life. I've been mostly experienced in traditional art, though lately I am becoming better every day with digital art. I stream my art live on twitch at SheGamesHeGames, and you can find me on DeviantArt by the name littletzili. Thank you for taking the time to learn about what I do, and please don't hesitate to contact me on either platform for commissions.
Excellent! Here are some of her works.


This dark elf reminds me of a character I have, a drow necromancer.



This one is so cute. I just love the freckles on her face.




This dark elf reminds of my youngest son's warlock character.



Great stuff.

You can find Hope on these sites:

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #53

Time again to set the Wayback machine, TARDIS or DeLorean back to a time when hair was feathered and big and that was just on the guys. "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie dominates the airwaves. The Summer's biggest hit, Raiders of the Lost Ark, still rules the movie theatres.   Sandra Day O'Connor becomes first woman justice on U.S. Supreme Court. In Dallas, a child is born with a huge destiny, known to us today as Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.  On the shelves are the last three parts of the A series for Advanced D&D and B3 for Basic D&D and issue #53 of This Old Dragon!

Again, no cover for this one which is a shame since I consider it one of my favorites.  It's one form Clyde Caldwell of a woman wizard and a black dragon.  It is a pretty simple cover but the colorful background really sells it to me.  The blonde wizard doesn't hurt either. Kim Mohan's editorial (below) tells that this picture is called "Dragon Spell".

Publisher Jake Jaquet has an editorial on the "Assassination" game that was popular at the time. We played it in high school a lot. Got into a lot of trouble too.  Jaquet goes on about this is "not" role-playing.  It's not, but I also don't think anyone ever claimed it.  Interesting snapshot of the time.

Editor Kim Mohan lets us know about finding the gem that is The Garden Nefaron.  We will get into that later.

Out on A Limb covers the ethics of reprint exact copies of old issues. Another reader lets us know he has been a DM for 3 years (which is at the time about half of D&D's lifespan) and he wants more PC classes not NPC classes, like the Witch, the Anti-Paladin and more.

Speaking of which, Philip Meyers is up first with Why isn't this monk smiling?  A new take on the AD&D monk class.  I am a long time removed from the AD&D 1st ed monk, so I have no idea how well this article covers it.  As a class read through though it feels pretty good to be honest.  To date I have played exactly 1 monk character, so I also have no play experience to back me up on this.

Continuing the monk discussion is Defining and Realigning the Monk by Steven D. Howard and Sage Advice which cover monk questions.  Both look to cover questions and rule interpretations regarding the monk.  Again, I wish I had some good monk anecdotes from the time to share, but I never really was interested in the class except in an academic way.

That section ends with an ad for my most desired "Holy Grail" item. A set of intact, still in the blister case, blue Dragon Dice.


I still have a full set, but I would love to have some that are still on the card.  These and the Percentile ones on the dark blue card.

Speaking of classes, here's a new one!  And one I don't believe I knew about.

The Oracle: When he talks, everybody listens by Andrew Dewar is up.  Before I delve into what looks like a really good class but I have to ask; why "he"?  The most famous oracles in history have been female. Why not "She"?  It's a minor point but one that irks me. Granted TSR/Dragon/Dewar were addressing their audience, who was primarily male, but this was a HUGE missed opportunity in my mind.  Though EVERY example given is female.


Anyway, off my soapbox now, the class is pretty cool.   The Oracle needs a good combination of Wisdom and Intelligence which makes sense since they situated between Clerics and Magic-Users.  They have a lot of shared spells with the Cleric and Magic-User classes and even some Witch spells from a previous Dragon.  The class is spread out over the issue but takes up seven pages.  I think I should check it out in more detail.  Maybe compare it to the Pathfinder Oracle class some. That would be fun.  There are a lot of different types of divination mentioned in this article as well.  Great for any class that tries to divine the future.

We have not heard from Lewis Pulsipher in a LONG time here, but he is back now with Understanding Armory which is about heraldry.  There is quite a bit of scholarship here distilled down to a game-friendly use.  But that describes most of Lew's work really.

Ah, now this is the sort of thing that was my go to back in the day.  World building.  Some universal rules. Making your own campaign — and making it work by Roger E. Moore covers a little about make your own universe but mostly it covers on how not steal from others.  He gives examples of worlds that are common to us all, Hyboria, Zothique, Middle-Earth, Oz, and Earth mythologies. He talks about how difficult it can be to disentangle elements from these worlds AND ALSO make it fit AD&D.  The part though I love is where he covers how these different universes can be explored without breaking things.  I tend to be a bit more relaxed in my world building but I am sure Moore would question, or at least look akance, at my overall internal logic.  That's OK. There is so much good stuff here.

And speaking of soapboxes, the Up on a Soapbox feature is back. This time we have Judith Sampson and Adventuring with shaky hands: Where there’s a will, there’s a way to play.   This covers how you can accommodate players with physical disabilities.  Way ahead of its time really. This could have been a blog post today or a YouTube talk and people would be praising her for her insight.  We still should there are some good insights here.  Sampson suffers from choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy, which is a motor control issue. She typically types up all her character sheets for ease of reading and use in the game.  She talks about how D&D is a perfect game for her really since it doesn't really require a lot that could be difficult for her.  It's a good piece.

David Nalle is next with the Larger than Life feature of mytho-historical NPCs. This time it is The
Bogatyrs of old Kiev.  We get a lot of old Russian characters from myth and legend.  Among others, we get Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich, Dobrynya Nikitich, Svytogor, Gorynich, and Baba Yaga.  Lots more that I don't recognize (Russian folklore was never a big interest to me).  But reading these NPCs, I think I am going to have to check out more of these tales.

Our adventure is next.  The Garen of Nefaron by Howard de Wied is a well-sized adventure at 16 full pages.  That's a full module inside your Dragon.  It looks fun with a strong Raiders of the Lost Ark feel about it.  One of the issues I have with it is that the adventure is much more difficult to complete if your party is of good alignment and easier if they are all evil.  I prefer it the other way around to be honest. 

Merle "The Administrator" Rasmussen is up with the Rasmussen Files for Top Secret.  You know I don't feel Merle gets enough credit. Since I have started doing these Dragons I have been more and more interested in Top Secret and coming to the conclusion that Merle more or less invented the Spy RPG genre. Now maybe there were other games before Top Secret and there were many after.  But I have to give the guy a LOT of credit.  The fact that he is still out evangelizing Top Secret is really damn cool.  This article covers how to control various pieces of equipment that agents can get ahold of in a game.  Based on rarity and what might be confiscated from other agencies.
I can't help think of Ilya Muromets (not related to Illya Kuryakin) above how awesome a Man from U.N.C.L.E. game would be. Set in the 60s would be best.

The Dragon Bestiary covers a magic eating lizard man, The Argas.  A weird ass eye monster, Oculon, and a cow with a human head, the Narra.  I don't think I have seen these before or since.

Lenard Lakofka covers doors, their strengths and hp in Leomund's Tiny Hut.  I think this would work great in just about any version of D&D to be honest.  Will have to clip this one for the tool-box.

Mark Nuiver covers one of my favorite monsters in The Ways of the Triffids.  I also did some Triffid stats a while back, but his are more powerful.  Triffids are sure under-used these days. It could be because the book and the later movie are both pretty old now, but not so much then.

Dennis Matheson is next with some new Traveller rules for Merchants and how to expand the "class".  Again, Traveller is one of the games that I wished I spent more time on.
I will say this, this weird-ass combination of a Klingon D7 and the Space:1999 Eagle is kinda cool.



Reviews are next. G. Arthur Rahman covers "Junta".  Tony Watson covers "Stalin’s Tanks". Bill Fawcett takes on "Warlock" and "A House Divided".

We get the convention schedule for Fall 1981.

DragonMirth is next.
We get one of the last Finieous Fingers.  There is a nice line for me and Dragon; the Before and the After.  It is the before I started reading and after. This is roughly the same time period of when Finieous Fingers appeared in Dragon.  I have no real emotional attachment to the comic save that it represents a time "before".

A similar relationship with What's New With Phil and Dixie, I just happen to like this comic more and I made an effort to read the back issues.

Then we get this comic/ad in the very back the Molvay Basic Set.

Of course, there were no beholders in D&D B/X, but hey that's just details right?

So all in all a really fun issue. Lots of great stuff that I can still use today.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from this same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #26.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

True Detective: The Forests of Leng

If you have been here for a while you will know that I am a fan of the murder mystery show "True Detective".  Of course, I loved the first season and really disliked the second season (hate is too strong of a word).   Well the third Season started last week, we got three episodes so far and I am completely hooked.

I am not going to give out too much of the story but it revolves around Detective Wayne Hays, played by the amazing Mahershala Ali and the kidnapping and murder of two children (so far).  While investigating the room of 10-year-old Will (one of the missing children) we get to see this:


Yup. That's an AD&D book "The Forests of Leng".  A book we all know does not exist.

There are a few problems of course.  This book uses the trade dress of the 2nd printing of the AD&D 1st ed books featuring covers by Jeff Easley, but this scene takes place on November 7-8, 1980.

We can't see the cover very well, but there appears to be a tentacled monster on it.


Film Goblin does a fantastic break down of the cover and the Leng-Carcosa connections in both Season 1 and Season 3 of True Detective.  Go there for the Lovecraft and G.R.R. Martin connections as well.

I will not retread that ground here.
I do however want to speculate what a Forests of Leng book might be.

So we know that in 1980 the idea of a mega-module, ala T1-4 was still some ways off.  But I look at this and think that this would be a good mega-module...but that is not really enough is it.

No the closest thing I think this could be is a campaign world book like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms or World of Greyhawk books.

It should have new classes, spells, monsters and of course locales include the titular Forests of Leng and the dread city of Carcosa.

Back when TD Season 1 was out I thought how fun it would be to run a Southern Gothic adventure with Ghosts of Albion.  I even called Ghosts of Albion: Carcosa.

I should come up with something.

EDITED TO ADD:


These mockups appeared on Juan Moore's Instagram accountHe designed these props for the True Detective show.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: From Hell it Came! Tabonga the Tree Monster

Spent the weekend doing a combination of X1 Isle of Dread and I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City.  They finished up the city and then continued down the east coast of the island.


They got to the village Tanaroa where I essentially had them in my version of King Kong.  Save instead of a gargantuan ape I had them fight a gargantuan troll-like monster I alluded was Vaprak the Destroyer (which is just an aspect of Demogorgon in my games, and I have an LJN AD&D Troll toy to use for him) and the Blood Apes.


But the monster that I was most excited for was FINALLY getting to use something I have wanted to use for years; pretty much ever since I had a copy of Isle of Dread.  Tobonga the Tree Monster.

If have talked about Tabonga before. This stupid thing scared me so much as a little kid that to this very day I get gifts of tree monsters from my brothers and sisters on Halloween as gag gifts.

Well, this past weekend my sons' group the Treasure Hunters killed his demonic wooden ass.

Tabonga
The demonic monster known as a Tabonga is the cursed soul of a murder returned from the dead.  The first tabonga was buried within the trunk of a tree, believing that the spirit of the tree would prevent the murderer from coming back. However, the demonic influences on the tree caused it to return as a twisted mockery of both human and tree.  No longer fully human, plant or undead the monster is now demonically driven to commit more murders starting with the ones that condemned it to death.

Tabonga attack with two slam attacks.  It will attack until it's chosen victims are dead.  Usually, nothing but fire will prevent it from pursuing or attacking its victims.

Some tabonga have a unique kill. Some can only be killed by using the same knife, sword or axe that originally condemned them to death. Others may be killed normally via fire or radiant damage.



Tabonga
Basic/Expert Stats
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 11
Move: 45' (15')
Attacks: 2 blows
Damage: 2-12/2-12
No. Appearing: 0 (1)
Save As:  Fighter 11
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic

Special: Save vs. Paralysis or be affected as per a Cause Fear spell.
When not moving the tabonga is 90% indistinguishable from a tree.

Tabonga

D&D 5e Stats
Huge plant (demon), chaotic evil
  • Armor Class 16 (Natural Armor)
  • Hit Points 142 (13d12+60)
  • Speed 25 ft.
 STR         DEX       CON       INT         WIS         CHA     
23 (+6)     8 (-1)     21 (+5)     12 (+1)    16 (+3)     10 (+0) 
  • Vulnerabilities Fire, Radiant
  • Damage Resistance Bludgeoning, Piercing
  • Senses passive Perception 13
  • Languages Abyssal, Common
  • Challenge 10 (5,900 XP)
  • False Appearance. While the tabonga remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal tree.
  • Fear. The tabonga can cause fear as per the spell. The Wisdom save DC is 14.

Actions


  • Multiattack. The tabonga makes two slam attacks.
  • Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: (3d6 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Winter Witch in Print!

Got home last night after a LONG day at work to a little brown box I have been desperately waiting for.  Inside was my print copy of The Winter Witch for Swords & Wizardry!


It looks gorgeous if you ask me.  And it looks great next to her "sisters".




 IF you ordered the PDF before now and want a print copy then please check your notifications on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.  I sent you a discount code for $3.00 off the print price (to cover the $2.99 PDF cost).


Winter is Now!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Featured Artist: Claudio Pozas

I got the chance to meet today's Featured Artist when he put out a notice for commissions.  Once I answered him and I got the details over to him I remembered where I had seen his work before.
Claudio Pozas has done some great work for Wizards of the Coast for both 4e and 5e.



Getting a commission of my witch Larina gives her a certain air of authenticity in the D&D 5 art style.

Here is Claudio in his own words,
Claudio is a fantasy illustrator from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A gamer since 1987, Claudio worked in Advertising before switching careers to pursue his art, which he has been doing for almost 20 years. He did art and design for D&D 4th edition, and has been illustrating D&D 5th Edition since its launch in 2013.
He has done some really excellent work.







You can find Claudio Pozas on the internet here:
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