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Breaking into print

One of the questions we receive most often is some variation lines. Submissions without that form are returned unread. (You
on “How do I get to be a writer for TSR?” did remember the SASE, didn’t you?) Remember to spell out what
Writing for DRAGON® Magazine is a good start. you plan to write. Don’t just say “I’ve got 15 new magic spells” or
The first thing you need is knowledge of the magazine, of our “There are five new magical swords.” That doesn’t tell us any-
audience, and of the game system you plan to write about. thing. What are the spells? What do they do? What kind of
(Don’t write an article on FORGOTTEN REALMS® lore that includes swords, and why do we need them? That’s what creates interest.
defilers.) Think of yourself as a salesman. Be convincing.
You also have to know the mechanics — the how — of writing In your cover letter, tell us why you should write this article. If
for a magazine. For DRAGON Magazine and DUNGEON® Adventures, you are submitting something on Ancient Egyptian PC kits, for
the basics are in our writer’s guidelines, which you should example, We’d be more impressed if you had a small library of
request by sending us a note and a self-addressed, stamped on Egypt, studied the history, or even took classes in Middle
envelope (SASE). Specify which set of guidelines you want. Egyptian at U.C. Berkeley a few years ago. This tells me that you
There are other submission guidelines that are fairly standard know your material and aren’t likely to make whopping great
in the publishing industry. These include having your name, the mistakes.
article title, and a page number on every page; double spacing We prefer queries to whole articles because we may not be
your manuscripts; and using a font such as Courier in a legible interested. If we are, we’ll ask for the article. We may give you a
size. The standard is 12-point type. The reason for this standard deadline if a particular issue is coming up that suits your idea.
is twofold: legibility, and that each page is approximately 250 I generally discourage e-mail queries for DRAGON Magazine (it’s
words in length, and we can get an idea of word count by look- hard to put your best foot forward when you’re used to the infor-
ing at the manuscript. Small, single-spaced, proportional fonts mality of online banter), but if you are on an online service and
like Times or Helvetica hurts our eyes, and tends to make us pre- we are interested in an article, we may ask you to e-mail it to us.
disposed to dislike a submission. You can get more information Enough of the bad news.
from books and magazines on writing such as Writer’s Digest and If you want to break into print, an easy place is the depart-
The Writer. ments. Bazaar of the Bizaare, Dragon’s Bestiary, Arcane Lore, and
Now for the hard part. We return manuscripts full of basic the like are always popular.
grammatical or syntactical errors. For instance, know the differ- I’m not trying to discourage anyone from submitting material.
ence between their, they’re, and there. Punctuate your sentences In fact, I actively encourage submissions from new writers. So
properly. Know the difference between passive voice (“the ball why do some names pop up over and over in our pages?
was thrown”) and active (“I threw the ball”), and why we prefer Because they do it right, and they do it well. If you have an orig-
the latter. inal idea that is really good, and you can present it well and
If your cover letter is riddled with typos and misspellings, we clearly, you may find your name in the magazine one day as
can’t take your work seriously. That’s not being cruel; that’s being well.
realistic. We get dozens of queries and submissions every week, For an editor, few things are as exciting as opening an enve-
and we can spend only so much time on them. We have to know lope from a new writer and finding a piece that is just what we
which ones to look at and which ones not to waste time on. need. Will your submission be the next one?
Okay, you have all this down. Good. You’re
ahead of the pack. The next step is to send
us a query letter. Don’t forget the disclo-
sure form that’s attached to our guid-

Publisher Associate Publisher Editor-in-Chief Editor Art director


TSR, Inc. Brian Thomsen Pierce Watters Anthony J. Bryant Larry W. Smith

Associate editor Associate editor Subscriptions U.S. advertising U.K. correspondent/advertising


Dave Gross Michelle Vuckovich Janet L. Winters Cindy Rick Carolyn Wildman

Printed in the USA


DRAGON #226 3
February 1996
Volume XX, No. 9
Issue #226

The Magic Goes Away


Paul Fraser
What’s the secret to game balance? Could if be limiting
the number and power of users of magic?
Page 8
Rome May Not Have Been
Built In a Day, But...
David Clarke
Your campaign world can be.
This simple step-by-step walkthrough
shows how to make one in just a few hours
Page 17
Off-the-Cuff NPCs
Melissa C. Thompson
The key to an enjoyable gaming experience is
memorable NPCs, and now you can create a few
in no more time than it takes to read this blurb.
Page 22
Improve with Improv
Jason Strasser
Improvisational skills are not just for musicians.
Good DMs need to be able to make rulings
and come up with game elements on the fly.
Page 28

Dot to Dot
Michelle Bottorff
They may all look alike on the map, but not all
cities are identical. Don’t make all your towns clones
of each other.
Page 36
Powers From the Past
Andrew Turpin
Sometimes it’s the things people do that make
their objects magical.

Page 52

4 FEBRUARY 1996
Columns
3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Wyrm’s Turn
Arcane Lore: Monsoons So you want to write for TSR, eh? It’s not
really all that hard...
and the Power of Om 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . D-Mail
Michael A. Selinker Readers’ letters on castle defenses, obtain-
These powerful new wizard and priest spells ing back issues, and more.
come from the Indian subcontinent.
Page 42 74 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Forum
Letters this month contain advice for DMs
Game Wizards: The Ultimate and players, as well as a discussion on
women in gaming.
Dungeon Master’s Aid 78 . . . . . . . . RPGA® Network News
William® W. Connors Network coordinator Scott Douglas dis-
At long last! The AD&D game core reference cusses running a Network-sanctioned
books (and more!) are on CD-ROM. event.
Page 49
84 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Role of Books
Bazaar of the Bizarre: John C. Bunnell reads the newest novels
and keeps on Trekking.
Magical Scabbards and Sheaths
David Howery 89 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sage Advice
Sometimes, it’s not the sword that’s magical. . . Skip Williams answers questions on the
DARK SUN® setting and the ever-popular
Page 62 stoneskin spell

Rogue’s Gallery: Theahtyn 92 . . . . . . . . . . . Role-playing Reviews


Rick Swan plays some cool games.
Robert Martin
Meet Theahtyn, a powerful dwarven fighter. Just when
his life was calming down, tragedy struck. Now he is 96 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cons & Pros
coming out of retirement, and he has a mission. We let you know where the conventions
are and who’s going to be there.
Page 77
120 . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Current Clack
Campaign Classics: Allen Varney talks about the industry and
WotC’s big news.
The Magical Sands of Zakhara
Rudy Thalberger
When your world is surrounded by sand, that becomes
the fool you use. These wonderous sands were
Other Material
once fhe exclusive possessions of sha’irs.
Page 80 100 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DragonMirth
102 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gamer’s Guide
105 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Libram X
109 . . . . . . . . . . . . Knights of the Dinner Table
110 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Floyd
68 Miniature Player 115 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TSR Previews
Character Record
Sheets

DRAGON #226 5
caught my interest. When I finished it, I then writing the Mail Order Hobby Shop and
found that it was the first of a series of haunting gaming conventions looking for
articles about the land of Tumish. Does the issues you want. Good luck.
this mean that nothing is to be issued on
this subject for general publication? As I
have never been an RPGA Network Castles and magic defense:
member, does this mean that I cannot taking a second look
read about this and other areas of inter- Dear DRAGON,
est within the FORGOTTEN REALMS that have I have a problem with Jeffrey Paul’s
also appeared in POLYHEDRON? article “The Castle Designer’s Guide to
Phil Martin Coping with Magic and the Supernatural”
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, (issue #224). He’s overlooking the basic
England principal of castle defense: the castle
walls are the last line of defense.
POLYHEDRON has published a great deal of In his example, he illustrates what
Replacing old magazines interesting material that has never appeared happened to Hector, the hapeless DM,
Dear DRAGON, anywhere else. One of the good things about who was stunned by his players’ annihi-
In DRAGON® Magazine issue #166, you joining the RPGA Network is the access to all lation of his castle. Mr. Paul decided that
published a game called “Dino-Wars.” I this exclusive material. You can possibly get the problem was a design flaw in the cas-
liked this game so much that I cut the back issues from the Network, but I’d suggest tle. With the exception of his improved
pages out of the magazine and put them joining. I was amazed the first time I looked towers, he had some very good ideas.
in a notebook. Recently, my notebook at a POLYHEDRON. It may be TSR’s best-kept Unfortunately, any decently creative
was lost in a move. Could you please secret, but we’re trying to let people know players would be merely slowed by his
send me a copy of this article to replace that it’s out there. suggestions. Defending a castle isn’t
the one I lost? If it’s not possible, could about how tall the walls are or how you
you tell me where to write to buy a have built them. Both are important, but
replacement copy of the issue? Looking for defending a castle is about keeping an
G.S. James Giants in the Earth enemy from reaching the walls in the first
Lindale, TX Dear DRAGON, place. Defending the walls is the last
I enjoyed the series “Giants in the option of the despirate. The first line of
As you may guess, we can’t photocopy Earth.” To my dismay, I only have a por- defense is always information.
part of an issue and send it out. You can tion of the series. What I am hoping for is If someone wants to attack a castle,
order back issues from TSR’s Mail Order to obtain a copy of that entire series of they have to come from somewhere and
Hobby Shop, 201 Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake articles. If you can help me, I would have equipment and support personnel
Geneva, WI 53147 The number is 1-800- appreciate it. or retainers. Any decent network of
558-5972 John P. Hazen scouts will see them coming long before
Issue #166 costs $3.50 (plus postage). Masury, OH the party can get within spell range.
Devices such as the heliograph exist-
® “Giants in the Earth” was a series from the ed in Greek and Roman times. Systems
Exclusive material for RPGA old days of double-digit DRAGON issues. The like the pony express could be employed.
Network members series featured heroes from literature and leg- This doesn’t even consider such things as
Dear DRAGON, end done up with gaming stats. No compila- divination magic and crystal balls.
I recently sent for and received the tion of them has ever been done, and there’s Once sighted, a small group of sol-
TSR Mail Order Hobby Shop catalogue. never been an attempt to bring it buck. diers should be sent against the enemy
When it arrived, I also found information Sorry, but we can’t photocopy articles to test their strength and resources. This
on joining the RPGA® Network and a and send them out, either. Your best chance determined, the castleholder can launch
back issue (#96) of the P OLYHEDRON ® to get any old pieces you want is to find a series of appropriate attacks on the
Newszine. As I leafed through it, I noticed available back issues. party.
an article by Ed Greenwood called There was an index for all past DRAGON If the party is able to reach the castle,
“Mysterious Turmish.” I play and DM in Magazine articles in issue #214, so you can the castleholder still has at his disposal
the FORGOTTEN REALMS® setting, so this find out which issues you need. I’d suggest one of the most devastating weapons of

DRAGON® Magazine (ISSN 0279-6848) is published monthly by TSR, Inc., United Kingdom is by TSR Ltd. Send orders to. Random House, Inc, Order 02206, U.S.A. In the United Kingdom, methods of payment include
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6 FEBRUARY 1996
the middle ages: archers. Individually, walls, and castle defenses as consisting of his
low-level or zero-level NPCs are little
more than sword fodder to a high-level
loyal retainers and vassals. On the Cover
fighter, but 50 archers are not. In the What is and isn’t obsolete?
example by Mr. Paul, two towers of Dear DRAGON,
guards were wiped out by fireballs from I haven’t been gaming for very long
ground-level arrowslits. Most castles in but I’ve collected a moderate amount of
the real world avoided placing arrowslits material. Some recent events have me
that low; that was where the walls had to worried. With the new books out and
be the strongest. The only exceptions coming out (the new Player’s Handbook
were castles built in the middle of lakes and DUNGEON MASTER® Guide, and the
or rivers, where siege engine or battering PLAYER’S OPTION™ and DUNGEON MASTER
ram use would be unlikely. Option books), are the old PHB and DMG
Toward the end of the article, he pro- supplements obsolete? Are they worth-
poses a version of improved towertops. less now? Will there be any more of the
His idea was to dome over the towertop PHB and DMG supplements?
because they were exposed to aerial Christopher C. Decker
attack. If you don’t have a self-guided Frederic, MI
weapon, the best anti-air-assault defense
is to fill the sky with weapons. By doming If you mean the Complete handbook
over the towertop, the defenders have series (The Complete Wizard’s Handbook,
given up at least half of their arcs of fire. The Complete Paladin’s Handbook, etc.), I
An open, flat-topped tower is ideal for don’t think we’ll ever run out of material.
massive arrow volleys. (Note the recent Complete Necromancer’s
One may argue that arrows alone are Handbook and Complete Ninja’s Hand-
a poor defense against creatures like book.) Does PLAYER’S OPTION make any of
dragons or griffons, but if the defenders them obsolete? No, they just contain different Scott Burdick’s unique vision of
could launch several hundred arrows information. “The Eye of the Dragon” dramati-
before the dragon were to come within With this much optional material avail- cally portrays the immense size and
breath range, how would the dragon able for play, it is no surprise that some rules presence of these mythical beasts. It
likely fare? conflict with others. You’ll have to decide isn’t often that we get a glimpse of
One last point; if the party is blessed which parts work better for the style of cam- the intelligence and sensitivity these
with this juggernaut factor, so too should paign you run. It may sound like work (and it fearsome creatures are capable of:
be the castleholder and his lieutenants. If is), but you’ll have a really special, unique We here in the frozen tundra of
there is a powerful mage in the party, world when you’re finished. the upper midwest were also
give the defender one. If one of the party You could also do what a lot of gamers I drawn to the abundance of purple
is a high-level fighter, give the castle- know do; use everything you can find that cone flowers. With such an image
holder a powerful lieutenant. The point is interests you, and resolve the rare rule con- in circulation, can spring really be
that gadgets and gizmos don’t defend flicts as they occur using common sense and far behind?
castles. People do. Any DM who forgets DM fiat.
that should change his name to Hector.
James A. Mieritz
Reviewing the reviews
Interesting counterpoint. Dear DRAGON,
A similar sentiment was expressed by I notice in Rick Swan’s reviews that he
Takeda Shingen, one of my heroes, He was a never approaches the most important
Japanese daimyô of the Warring States point about the supplements he reviews.
Period (1570s) who was famous for among Do they make the game more fun? If not,
other things eschewing castles when castle- then regardless of how well-crafted, they
building was all the rage for his peers. He are useless and potential buyers should
wrote a poem that described his moats, be warned.

contrary are made prior to publication, DRAGON Magazine welcomes unso- States and Canada, contact: Advertising Coordinator, TSR, Inc., 201 TSR, Inc. Therefore, TSR will not be held accountable for opinions or
licited submissions of written material and artwork, however, no responsi- Sheridan Springs Road, Lake Geneva WI 53147, USA In Europe, contact: misinformation contained in such material
bility for such submissions can be assumed by the publisher in any event Advertising Coordinators, TSR Ltd. ® designates registered trademarks owned by TSR, Inc. ™ designates
Any submission accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope of Advertisers and/or agencies of advertisers agree to hold TSR, Inc. harm- trademarks owned by TSR, Inc. Most other product names are trademarks
sufficient size will be returned if it cannot be published. We strongly rec- less from and against any loss or expense from any alleged wrong doing owned by the companies publishing those products. Use of the name of
ommend that prospective authors write for our writers’ guidelines before that may arise out of the publication of such advertisements. TSR, Inc. has any product without mention of trademark status should not be construed
sending an article to us. In the United States and Canada, send a self- the right to reject or cancel any advertising contract for which the advertis- as a challenge to such status
addressed, stamped envelope (9 ½” long preferred) to Writers’ Guidelines, er and/or agency of advertiser fails to comply with the business ethics set © 1996 TSR, Inc. All Rights Reserved All TSR characters, character
c/o DRAGON Magazine, at the above address, include sufficient American forth in such contract. names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks owned
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Europe, write to Writers’ Guidelines, c/o DRAGON Magazine, TSR Ltd., DRAGON is a registered trademark of TSR, Inc. Registration applied for in
include sufficient International Reply Coupons with your SASE the United Kingdom. All rights to the contents of this publication are Second-class postage paid at Lake Geneva, Wis., U.S.A, and additional
Advertising: For information on placing advertisements in DRAGON reserved, and nothing may be reproduced from it in whole or in part with- mailing offices Postmaster: Send address changes to DRAGON Magazine,
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Inc. TSR reserves the right to reject any ad for any reason. In the United published in DRAGON®’ Magazine does not necessarily reflect the opinions of USPS 318-790, ISSN 02796848.

DRAGON #226 7
In D R A G O N Magazine #222, Swan I’ve never had a brownie, pixie, or sprite you might want to establish a name for your-
reviews The Complete Book of Necro- in any of my campaigns, but I wouldn’t say self by selling a few articles to gaming maga-
mancers. I would like to give my two we should have no rules for them. Rick may zines like DRAGON Magazine or DUNGEON®
cents worth. not always say in so many words that “X is a Adventures. If that route interests you, write
The new nonweapon proficiencies fun supplement,” but it should be fairly clear to us, ask for a copy of our writer’s guidelines,
and kits are useful. The Vile Pacts and from his review if he enjoyed it. If he didn’t, and enclose an SASE for them.
Dark Gifts are unnecessarily unbalancing. he’ll let you know. Good luck.
They do have weaknesses, but I have
added something. Good priests can turn
any recipient of Dark Gifts as specials. Jobs in the RPG industry How to contact us
This brings back game balance. Dear DRAGON,
Another point; the AD&D game is not I’m a junior at a small college on the If you have a comment, opinion, or
Call of Cthulhu*. Insanity spells and mad- Chesapeake Bay. Graduation is rolling question for the editors of DRAGON®
ness descriptions are unnecessary. The closer, and I’m facing the old question of Magazine, write us a letter. We’d like to
only thing I would have added is a com- what to do when I’m out in the real hear from you.
plete spell description of all the necro- world. I recently got to thinking about In America and Canada, write to:
mantic spells now available in the game. turning my long role-playing experience Letters to the Editor, DRAGON Magazine,
Having them all under one cover would and exposure to the gaming world into a 201 Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake Geneva,
be a big help. career. WI 53147, U.S.A. In Europe, write to:
Steve Shawler How does someone go about getting Letters to the Editor, DRAGON Magazine,
a job in the role-playing industry? Are TSR Ltd., 120 Church End, Cherry
It would be great if we could put every- there many positions available? Hinton, Cambridge CBl 3LB, United
thing in the Complete series that we’d like; Justin C. Keane Kingdom.
unfortunately, we’re constrained by space. If you expect a personal reply,
We can only include so much, so material I can‘t tell you about the availability of please don’t forget to enclose a self-
appearing elsewhere, like other necromantic positions. My experience is that if the right addressed, stamped envelope (SASE)
spells, have to be given only a mention. As person comes along, a position can be with your letter.
for the insanity rules, I must disagree. found. The best way to get hired by an RPG You could also address comments
Different campaigns call for different mea- company is to send in your resume. to us via e-mail at: tsrmags@aol.com.
sures. If you don’t have much of a track record,

8 FEBRUARY 1996
10 FEBRUARY 1996
by Paul Fraser
illustrated by Pamela Shanteau & Tom Baxa

Cutting down on spellcasters is the key to


campaign balance
very game master worth his dice agonizes over keeping lessness of traditional stone castles in a world with spells such
his campaign balanced. The fiend Monty Haul stalks every as fly, transmute rock to mud, and earthquake.
self-respecting GM. Magic makes it difficult to justify the feudal society that forms
One reason to limit magic is that an overabundance is the the backdrop of most campaigns. How can mortality rates and
easiest way for any fantasy role-playing campaign to get out of food shortages exist when a cursory reading of The Player’s
control. Spells and magical items can catapult a carefully bal- Handbook suggests the head priest of every village temple is at
anced campaign into Valhalla faster than too much treasure or least 8th level? That means every community has access to
too rapid level advancement, because magic is the most power- three cure light wounds, three slow poison, three cure disease or cre-
ful tool — and weapon — that player characters have. ate food and water, and two neutralize poison or cure serious
Another reason for limiting magic is authenticity. To make a wounds spells per day.
fictional world come alive to the players, it must be authentic. What about wizards? What’s the point of all those feudal
Many campaigns are patterned — however tenuously — on real- armies when a 5th-level mage with a fireball can kill up to 30 Hit
life examples. Medieval Europe seems the most popular choice, Dice worth of 0-level men-at-arms at a crack? Why should long-
but even if your campaign is based on Homer’s Iliad or Japan’s distance travel be difficult with teleport and teleport without error
Sengoku Era, you must still ensure your creation is faithful to its spells?
prototype. Magic also raises a much larger question about technological
Consider a typical ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® campaign development. Why bother with technological innovations (wind-
patterned after Europe during the Middle Ages. mills, crossbows, clocks) when magic can accom-
Your players have probably pointed out the use- plish the same results more efficiently? Indeed,

DRAGON #226 11
some campaigns (such as the MYSTARA® A greedy wizard ought to make a The DUNGEON MASTER® Option: High-Level
setting) boast highly magical worlds with killing selling easily produced magical Campaigns book proposes that only one
efreeti-driven steamships and the like. items. Similarly, a character with a person in 10 qualifies to become an
Some GMs are uncomfortable with decanter of endless water could exact a adventurer and break that 0-level barrier.
high-magic worlds and the logic prob- huge sum from a desert kingdom. In real terms, Florence in the 1400s,
lems generated by widespread magic, or Telling a player his character can’t with a population estimated at 40,000,
they want their campaign worlds to be establish a public lighting utility “because would have had about 4,000 adventur-
authentic reflections of a given era (such of game balance” is likely to annoy him. ing characters of all types and all levels.
as those DMs who use TSR’s excellent Good DMs must offer their players rea- Some DMs might feel even this guideline
historical reference campaign source- sons for the rarity of magic and its value of one in ten too generous and consider
books). within the context of the campaign. ratios of 1:20 or even 1:50 more in line
The historical reference books offer with the admonishment in the DMG.
plenty of practical advice on limiting It’s worth pointing out that the High-
magic in a campaign, depending on The root of the problem Level Campaigns book establishes the
whether the GM wants a historical, leg- Limiting magic means limiting spell- ratio for the sake of an example. The
endary, or fantasy flavor. Methods casters. They’re the ones who cast those ratio is based on the assumption that the
include lengthening spell casting times, troublesome spells. They create those minimum requirement for an adventurer
limiting spell selection, and restricting pesky magical items. is a 15 or better prime requisite ability
available character classes. Spellcasters must be rare. In too many score, a Constitution of at least 9, and no
There is more to consider than just campaigns (including some published other score lower than 8. A DM might
how to limit magic; one must consider worlds), priests and wizards are as com- chose more stringent minimums.
why to limit magic. The matter isn’t just mon as fleas on a junkyard dog. The
rules and campaign flavor; it’s game bal- DUNGEON MASTER® Guide stresses: “The
ance, pure and simple. great mass of humanity, elf-kind, the Words of wisdom
For instance, what’s to stop a clever dwarven clans, and halflings are ‘0-level’ The DMG explicitly states that spell-
priest or wizard PC from casting continual (zero-level) characters.” casting priests are rare: “Priest characters
light spells atop wooden poles to create The DMG goes on: “Only a few people are (obviously) not required to take up
public lighting for a city or town, setting actually attain any character level, no arms and set out on adventures to smite
himself up as a sort of public utility com- matter how low. Not every soldier who evil. No, their hierarchies require admin-
pany? Both versions of the spell are per- fights in a war becomes a fighter. Not strators, clerks, and devout workers of all
manent, and both are available at rela- every urchin who steals an apple from types.”
tively low level (3rd level for the wizard, the marketplace becomes a thief charac- No one expects a 10,000-strong army
5th level for the priest). ter.” to be made up entirely of 1st-level fight-
ers. Why should religious hierarchies be
made up of 1st-level (and up) spellcasting
priests?
According to the DMG, “it is possible to
have leaders within a religious hierarchy
who show no signs of special clerical
ability, only proper faith and piety.” The
measure of a priest is devotion, not raw
power.
Even the high priest of a faith need
not have spellcasting powers. Remember
that village head priest? He is most likely
0 level, with no ability to cast spells.
The DMG says only a few inhabitants
of a temple or monastery will be mem-
bers of the priest character class. Chances
are good many such places won’t have
any spellcasters.
After all, the ability to cast spells is a
powerful gift. Surely a deity will grant it
only to exceptional individuals, in much
the same way paladinhood is reserved
for a chosen elite. And surely those abili-
ties will be granted only to someone who
really needs them and will use them daily
— not the acolyte stuck at a monastery
copying books, but an adventuring priest
battling his faith’s foes. Spellcasting
priests should be the exception, not the
rule, in any clergy.

12 FEBRUARY 1996
The next time the PCs stumble into a Whittling down wizards
local shrine seeking healing from the res- The DMG takes a different view of wiz-
dent priest, they’ll be in for a surprise. ards. Although it requires “highly special-
Characters will be forced to rely on their ized training,” wizards are fairly common:
own resources. Resurrection and raise dead “Almost every village has a fellow who
spells will be much harder to come by. can whip up a few useful spells to help
Not only will characters be forced to pay with the lambing or simplify the con-
through the nose or trade favors to struction of a house. . . . Nearly all major
secure such aid, they’ll first have to track families, merchant princes and nobles
down the spellcasting priests. This could have a mage or two in their employ.”
be an adventure in itself. That’s a lot of wizards for the average
Plagues, famines, and high-mortality campaign world. Better would be to have
rates become a much more believable most village “wizards” little more than
danger in the campaign world, both for wise men who use non-magical herbal
the PCs and the NPC population. remedies to effect cures. A clever combi-
In my campaign, only the members of nation of chemicals and minor contrap-
certain elite fighting orders (patterned tions might produce “magic.” At most,
after the real-world Knights Templar, these hedge wizards would have access
Knights Hospitaller, and Teutonic Knights) to the cantrip spell. Even 1st-level spells
can cast spells, plus a few adventuring might be beyond them.
priests who live in unsettled areas or Many wizards should be charlatans
near the borders of pagan lands. who pose as spellcasters but are really lit-
The bulk of the priesthood are 0-level tle more than stage magicians. Their
men and women. Historically, priests magic is trickery and deception. More
tended to better educated, so the non- than one noble patron could be fooled into the wealth and power the priest-
spellcasting priests in my campaign have by a wily wonderworker posing as a hood likely offers. Or younger children
sage abilities. Local priests may not be mighty mage. are married off to make favorable
able to supply PCs with magic, but they Consider real-life examples such as alliances.
can offer information. Cagliostro and the Comte de Saint- Iconoclastic and independent wizards,
Germain. These conmen posed as work- as the DMG describes them, go through
ers of magic in the royal courts of 18th- money as fast as they accumulate it in
century Europe, telling fortunes, conjur- pursuit of their studies. Although wizards
ing spirits, and dabbling in alchemy. But possess great personal power in the form
their “powers” sprang from science and of spells, they do not necessarily acquire
showmanship, not spells. the influence or wealth (for long) that the
True wizards suffer many constraints upper classes find desirable.
in a given campaign world. They require
the correct material components (often
expensive and rare) to cast spells. And
Persecution and competition
the long periods of time they need to Non-spellcasters would rightly view
devote to their studies tend to keep their wizards and priests with grave suspicion.
numbers low. Think of the potential for havoc at a
The DMG implies that most wizards spellcaster’s fingertips. Little wonder they
are low level, because only a few are will- should be mistrusted by commoners and
ing to undertake the dangerous adven- the secular and religious authorities
turing career needed to accumulate alike.
experience points quickly. Priests are to some extent constrained
Most members of society wouldn’t by their hierarchies and their deities, but
have the offspring to spare for such a wizards have no such controls. Priests
pursuit. The lower classes need all the might view wizards as threats to their
hands they can get just to produce power, or at least capricious competitors.
enough food to survive. A nobility based Wizards might feel the same way about
on a warrior class might hold wizards in priests. In Glantri, a wizard-ruled nation
contempt for their poor fighting skills. of the MYSTARA® setting, priests are hunt-
The upper classes, such as the landed ed down as “heretics.”
gentry, wealthy merchants and expert The degree of persecution that exists
artisans, need their oldest child to carry in the campaign is up to the DM. Wizards
on the family tradition. may have to hide their powers, pretend-
Younger children are sent into the ing to be simple sages, apothecaries, or
priesthood to hedge a family’s bets, as it stage magicians. In wizard-dominated
were. If the oldest child can’t make a go areas, priests might have to pose as fight-
of it, maybe the younger one can tap ers or pilgrims.

DRAGON #226 13
Perhaps spellcasters are merely dis- Higher learning include priestly magic, or he might
trusted, rather than hunted. They can Spellcasters might want to keep their decide priests don’t operate under the
practice their profession openly, while profession an exclusive club. It might be same restrictions. Perhaps priestly magic
being careful not to provoke a backlash. for selfish reasons, like status, or for the differs in nature from that utilized by wiz-
A few bad apples might ruin things for best of intentions. They could argue the ards, and a person need not be born with
the bunch, of course. potential for harm is too great to teach a special gift to cast such spells, he needs
The more pious might look askance at magic to just anyone. Today, for instance, only to be sanctioned by his deity.
wizards because wizardly powers don’t we expect surgeons to go to medical
come directly from a deity, unlike those school before they begin cutting open
of the priest. How, then, can wizards be Paying a price
patients on the operating table.
trusted to use their powers wisely? Like the modern legal and medical It may be that the laws of magic
Literature and folklore the world over are professions, spellcasters might establish demand that a spellcaster make some
rife with stories of wizards who acted a quota system to keep their numbers sacrifice or suffer a curse or taboo to be
unwisely in the pursuit of knowledge, low. Perhaps aspiring wizards must able to cast spells.
power, or magic, thereby inflicting great attend officially sanctioned magic This is a common occurence in folk-
suffering on others. schools. Acolytes must spend time in a lore and fantasy literature. Wu jen (an
The young apprentice wizard Ged, in monastery or seminary. Oriental wizard kit from The Complete
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea, Only a few students would be admit- Wizard’s Handbook) who break their vol-
unleashes a terrible creature of unlife ted at a time. Enrollment might also be untary taboos lose levels, become ill and
upon the world while conjuring up a expensive, making it affordable for only can even die. In the Thieves’ World books,
dead spirit after being challenged in a few. Student training might involve haz- the wizard Randal was unable to cure
magecraft by a fellow student. ardous tests and trials. Like a modern himself of his allergies without greatly
The sinking of Atlantis is sometimes reducing his power to cast spells.
army bootcamp, not all cadets will pass
blamed on some terrible experiment — (or even survive) basic training. Consider Taboos could range from relatively
whether powerful magic or technology — the tests of magic in Krynn, of the minor (not letting anyone see the spell-
gone awry. Perhaps a mighty nation in caster eating) to major (never casting
DRAGONLANCE® setting.
your campaign world suffered a similar Spellcasters who practice their arts spells after dark). Curses might range
catastrophe thanks to a meddling wizard without proper accreditation risk arrest. from premature baldness to the utter
or priest, blackening the names of his fel- Rogue wizards would likely have their destruction of the character’s health, as
lows everywhere as a result. spellbooks confiscated. Priests might be with Raistlin in the DRAGONLANCE novels.
Spellcasters might also suffer persecu- excommunicated. Sacrifices might include fasting for
tion at the hands of other spellcasters. long periods of time (to purify the body
Powerful wizards or priests would find it and mind) or ritual mutilation (running
in their best interests to limit the number Inherent powers the gamut from simple body tattoos to
of young upstarts. It makes life safer for scarification or worse). The Norse god
In some campaigns, spellcasting could
them — fewer young whippersnappers Odin hung on the world-tree Yggdrasil
require more than just proper training.
looking to knock off a “big gun” to make Only those born with the power might be for nine days and nights to learn the
a name for themselves or rise in the hier- secrets of magical runes. He cast one of
able to wield magic. Perhaps the forces
archy. his eyes into the well of Mimir to gain
behind magic can be manipulated only
When you’re on top of the heap, you by those with a special gift for it (or curse, wisdom.
have nothing to gain by shaking up the depending on how magic is viewed). As spellcasters grow more powerful
status quo. Inexperienced wizards and Wizards and priests, in effect, are (i.e., gain more levels), the nature of the
priests might be hunted down by their mutants. curse or sacrifice grows more costly. At
more powerful and less scrupulous peers 1st level, a priest might need only to
Of course, proper study and training is
and enslaved, imprisoned, or even killed. still needed to actually cast spells. But swear never to ride a horse in the rain. At
For spellcasters in the business of pro- someone without “the gift” could study 5th level, the priest might be forced to
viding their services to wealthy clients, abstain from all alcohol. At 10th level, the
for as long and as hard as he likes and
reducing the amount of competition goes still be unable to cast a single cantrip. priest might tattoo his face.
to the heart of being successful. The This raises questions the DM must Given such costs, low-level wizards
fewer of you there are, the higher the answer. Do the gods decide who will and and priests would form the majority of
wages you can command. will not have this ability? Are there the spellcastering population. Only the
Spellcasters will also compete for groups seeking to control or eliminate most power-hungry would be willing to
spellbooks (in the case of wizards), magi- the gifted? Are the gifted revered or pay the price for access to high-level
cal items and necessary material compo- reviled? How is the gift recognized? spells.
nents. Depending on the alignments of The Tome of Magic offers a spell that Another price spellcasters might pay
the participants involved and the rarity of fits well with this view of magic. By ana- involves pacts with extraplanar powers.
the item in question, such competition lyzing a person’s aura, the spell wizard The witch, another kit from The Complete
could get fatal very quickly. At the least, sight permits the user to determine if Wizard’s Handbook, suffers periodic strug-
it will always be fierce. And one of the someone is or isn’t a spellcaster, or to gles with the extraplanar forces that
byproducts of “survival of the fittest” is sense if a non-spellcaster has the poten- teach her spells. The most famous exam-
that it helps thin the ranks. tial to learn and cast wizard spells. ple is Faust, who is granted sorcerous
A DM might expand the spell to abilities after making a pact with
Mephistopheles. Faust is able to conjure

14 FEBRUARY 1996
up the shade of Helen of Troy as his plenty of reasons why her character Although the AD&D game is used by
paramour and satisfy his obsession for should be able to establish a wizards’ way of example, the rationales offered
learning hidden lore. The price he pays, guild to attract other mages and appren- here could be applied to any game sys-
of course, is his immortal soul. tices, thus gaining access to allies and tem where magic exists.
In some sense, priests make pacts spells.
with extraplanar powers in return for A DM worried about the effect on
spellcasting abilities as a matter of game balance will have a much stronger
course. But perhaps wizards are unable hand to play if he can point out that not Paul Fraser is a full-time journalist in Nova
to cast spells in your campaign unless only was the last such guild broken up by Scotia, Canada. He has DMed successive
they too make some kind of pact or rival wizards fearing its power, but its AD&D campaigns since 1983. He has written
alliance with the Beyond. founder was tried and executed for for DRAGON® Magazine before.
Powers of Good are unlikely to exact witchcraft by the local religious authori-
as unpleasant a price as Mephistopheles, ties.
of course, but the cost might still be A happy side-effect of deciding on
severe enough to give any would-be rationales for limiting magic is that they
spellcaster reason to pause. Such a add flavor to your campaign. A world
Power would likely want the wizard to where wizards are hunted by the Holy Remember your SASE?
advance its interests and conform to its Inquisition — forced to work their magic
tenets, even if they conflict with the wiz- while posing as sages or apothecaries — If you are writing to DRAGON®
ard’s own — and good GMs will see to it is going to be a lot more memorable Magazine, don’t forget to enclose a
that they do. than a campaign where spellcasters are self-addressed, stamped envelope
just another group of mundane profes- if you want a reply.
sionals, like innkeepers or armorers.
On-the-job fatalities
Of course, spellcasting is a dangerous
line of work. Job-related deaths and seri-
ous accidents should prune the ranks
continually.
The relative weakness of low-level
wizards has been discussed in the pages
of DRAGON® Magazine many times. With
only 1d4 hit points and one 1st-level
spell, a 1st-level mage needs friends,
brains, and luck to survive. Beginning
priests have it slightly better, with 1d8 hit
points and the ability to wear armor.
Adventuring spellcasters face many
obvious hazards, including monters,
traps, and enemy magic. Even stay-at-
homes are vulnerable to famine, disease
(not the hardiest folk, most wizards), acci-
dents (“He never saw that runaway
wagon coming!”), and old age. Wizards
and priests might have access to power-
ful spells, but they don’t make the spell-
casters superhuman.
Spellcasters also work with dangerous
substances in their experiments (monster
body parts, acids, chemicals, etc.) and
dabble in Things Best Left Alone. The
accident rate is likely pretty high.
A DM could take inspiration from
nearly any story by H.P. Lovecraft. His
protagonists almost invariably end up
crippled, insane, or dead as they pursue
forbidden lore and traffic with terrifying
Elder Gods and their demonic servitors.
Rather than limit your options, use
several rationales to give yourself more
flexibility in the face of players’ efforts to
push the envelope on magic availability.
A canny player will have thought up

DRAGON #226 15
Quick and dirty worldbuilding
by David Clarke The other extreme is to have very little detail. Perhaps a map
and what type of culture you want to occupy each area will suf-
cartography by Roy Boholst fice for you and your players. In a combat-intensive campaign,
who cares who the Pasha of Phlegnar is, as long as you get to

A
t first glance, the process of creating your own campaign kill the fire giants in his mountains?
world may seem overwhelming. Consider the detail and The best approach for most people is one of moderation. This
breadth of the FORGOTTEN REALMS® and the GREYHAWK® set- approach gives you the detail you need immediately and allow-
tings. What DM, by himself, could create such a thing? ing flexibility to change things later on. You might decide to
The answer is you; and in a lot less time than you think. detail the areas where the campaign begins and add other
The process has only three broad steps — one of which you details to areas as the players travel there. Obviously, this will be
can do in a hammock with your eyes closed. Admittedly, each of a problem if your players don’t go where you expect them to.
these broad steps has smaller steps within, which is where the You might instead decide to add some detail to each area, just in
real work is. Based on what you do in Step One, though, creat- case. The problem now is either that an area is short-changed
ing your own campaign world can be as quick or easy or time- with too little detail or that you’ve overworked detailing every
consuming as you like. (We can even design one as we go). tree and bird. A lot depends on how much information your play-
ers want and what type of campaign you’d like to have.
You must next decide where to place the balance between sci-
Step 1: Decisions, decisions... ence and fantasy. If you choose a high-fantasy world, there can
You won’t need any graph paper or pencils for this stage, be steamy jungles in the middle of the arctic tundra, rain can fall
though it may ultimately be the most important. You must make up, dandelions can talk, and all unicorns can expect to be
three decisions, but don’t cast any of your choices in stone until addressed, “Your Hornedness.” In other words, you’ll be making
you’ve considered all three. up the rules by which your world functions. This choice is a good
First you will have to decide how much detail you want your one for those who don’t want to add much detail, since you can
world to have. make up whatever details you need, whenever you want and
“More is better” is not necessarily the correct idea. If you spend needn’t worry about players arguing that “it can’t be.” Keep in
400 hours developing every burg and bramble, you won’t have mind, however, that in a fantasy world where the rules by which
much time for actual DMing (or anything else, for that matter). the players live are void, they will probably have a lot of ques-
Also, if you have all the details worked out ahead of time, you tions. A high-fantasy DM must be very creative and inventive.
won’t have much flexibility later on if you have new ideas, if your On the other hand, there’s the scientifically accurate cam-
campaign changes, or if you find a module you like but can’t use paign world, based on the actual principles by which we live (at
because your world is too defined for improvisation. What may least to the extent that they’re used in the AD&D® game). This is
be worst of all is that too often DMs create wonderful, rich a choice favored more by detail-enthusiasts, because of the
adventures and settings for the places they think the abundance of languages, flora, fauna, climate, topography,
PCs will go, then the PCs go in the opposite direc- alphabets, political systems etc. While this method
tion, and all the work is wasted. offers immediate answers to questions like

DRAGON #226 17
“What season comes after spring?” and “Is low-detail approach does not work. Role- Your decisions may be influenced by
it cold up in the mountains?” it can be playing and intrigue both rely on NPCs the resources you have, such as the Viking
restrictive. If you follow geographical sci- and good stories. NPCs need homes, Campaign Sourcebook. To incorporate this,
ence, areas along rivers which flood year- backgrounds and experiences; stories use an area with a cold climate, moun-
ly must be fertile, even if in the middle of need settings. No matter how heavily tains, and fjords on a sea that borders on
a desert, whether you want them to be or based on fantasy, a low-detail, highly other cultures.
not. Likewise forests north of a certain improvised world soon develops people Another option is to choose features
point will have to be strictly coniferous and stories that should be connected but based on the monsters who inhabit them,
due to the extreme cold and lack of water. aren’t. Players quickly notice discrepan- such as a jungle and vegepygmies and
In such a world, you needn’t be as cre- cies and become disenchanted. This is not su-monsters. You may want hills for
ative, but you are somewhat more to say that a political campaign needs halflings and forests for elves. Bear in
restricted in terms of what is possible. (For notes as thick as a phone book, but it mind that you’ll have difficulty squeezing
our sample world, we’ll lean toward sci- does imply that more detail and work it together realistically if you choose too
ence but reserve the right to explain some may be necessary. much that is too diverse. It is better to
things with fantasy). have too many ideas and have to scrap
The third thing you must decide is the some than to not have enough. If you’re
type of campaign you want to play. As Step Two: Get the crayons planning a high-fantasy campaign, your
noted before, details like politics and per- Now that you’ve made your basic deci- topography may be somewhat unusual
sonalities don’t matter much to players sions, the concrete process of creation (or even weird).
whose goal is to kill monsters and collect can begin. By the end of this stage you’ll Next, list the various cultures and civi-
treasure. If this is the type of campaign have a map with civilizations and topo- lizations you want in your world. Keep in
you’ll be running, your job as world graphical features a plenty. mind that any PC races you want need to
designer is much easier. First, list the various climates and topo- have a homeland. If you have source-
If, on the other hand, you like geo- pol- graphical and geographical formations books such as The Roman Empire, Kara-Tur,
itics and intend to run a role-playing you want to use. You can also draw your or the AL-QADIM® setting, you can count
intense or political intrigue type game, basic land form(s) (e.g., a big island, sever- each of those as at least one culture.
you can be pretty much assured that the al small islands, continents, etc.). Really what you’re doing is paving the

Map one. At this stage, you are mapping out the generalities. This includes geographic features and which cultures inhabit what
areas. You may define some areas by the campaign materials you plan to use for them, as in the areas based on the AL-QADIM® and
RAVENLOFT® settings above.

18 FEBRUARY 1996
way for adventures and plots within your step can be easy or difficult. Likewise, if purpose. Not all states need to be sepa-
campaign. you’re designing a more fantastic world, rated by rivers and mountains; they
If you intend to play a “Law vs. Chaos” you needn’t worry too much about the might use stone markers or have borders
campaign, you might be able to get by rationale of any decision. established only by tradition. As usual,
with two vast empires and some small Elves and dwarves may live together fantasy worlds might have no borders
independent states. If you don’t want to (maybe even underwater) in a fantasy and no sovereign states, thereby avoiding
have to detail too much, you can just world, while the more reality-oriented these problems altogether. For adventur-
have a few nations. Civil wars and other designers will want to separate them a ing purposes, however, borders and bor-
political forces could always diversify bit. Keep in mind that if they’re too far der conflicts can be great plot motivators.
your selection later on. If you intend to do apart, you won’t be able to justify their
this, you may want to build cultural or traditional racial animosity toward each
religious differences into the country right other. Step Three:
from the start. A quick glance at the first map shows Then what happened?
Cities are a special problem, since you that there are four states based on class, At this point, we have a stage with
have to either own one that’s pre- four based on race, and five “sourcebook scenery but no play. Four things remain to
designed, such as the LANKHMAR™ cam- states.” Two states focus on political sys- be done to make the production a suc-
paign, Golden Huzuz, or Waterdeep, or tems, three are centered around mon- cess. The first (and easiest) is to name all
you must design your own. Consider that strous inhabitants, four are based on cul- the nations, cities, seas, forests, and so on.
each country probably has a capital too ture, and several areas are unoccupied by I find that taking names from the phone
(see Step Three). Important ruins, land- an established body. This arrangement is book or words from the dictionary and
marks, and religious sites might also be perhaps a little crowded, but so is Europe. switching a letter or two is a good way to
added to your list. Unlike Europe however, my states still come up with names. You might also try
You should now have a pretty impres- lack borders. twisting a synonym for the region, such
sive list of geographical and political fea- Because borders are often geographi- as Arcania (from arcane) for a nation of
tures ready to be placed on a map. This is cal features, they require some attention magic users.
the third task. Depending on the diversity at this point. As yet, we have no rivers on If you’ve chosen a rather scientific
and quantity of features you listed, this the map because I've saved them for this approach, be sure that the names you

Map two: Here is where you give everything names and draw the borders. Whether you actually deliniate borders or keep them in
your head, know where your empires and kingdoms are. Places previously idetified only as capitals, major cities, and game
world-based areas are named.

D RAGON #226 19
choose correspond to whatever language the Nomads on the other side of the The final step is detailing. Even if
you assign to an area. One interesting mountains. In Yeo, I’ve focused on the you’ve chosen initially not to add many
alternative to this might be not to label emergence of two new political and reli- details to your world, you will eventually
anything except where your players start gious leaders, while the entry under need some. If you’ve chosen to detail
(and perhaps where they’re from). As they “Elementia, League of” focuses on the your new creation heavily, you’ll quickly
travel through the world they can note social influence of the Elements in those find that there’s no end to what you could
names — which you’ve had plenty of time countries. The only uniformity I’ve held to do. For the sake of playability, there are
to think up — and draw their own map. is defining a nation’s borders, capital and several other subjects you should proba-
The map would be very valuable to the leader(s). A more detail-oriented DM bly focus on initially.
party (and other less scrupulous parties) might want to define the political, socio- Religions, weather, and languages
as would maps with information gathered economic, and historical background for tend to have a lot of impact on actual
by others. Imagine the PCs breaking into each country. Likewise, they might detail play. Folklore, customs, and etiquette can
Hegel Keep just to steal a look at the each capital city (which I did not do). be used a lot in dealings with foreign gov-
Chamberlain’s map of the northeast cor- With everything named and the story ernments. You may also choose to design
ner of the world. in motion, the third step is to define other your world like this sample one, where
If you chose this rather unorthodox major actors besides the PCs. In actual there could easily be another continent
approach, it could make your second step game play, most kings, queens, and somewhere off the map to the north. (My
more complicated; namely, devising the emperors will probably not be vital NPCs players have yet to learn that they can
plot(s) occurring in your world. This step is to the party, as they will be far too impor- cross the glacier and reach another land).
probably the most important if you want tant to waste time regularly on even high- Over the years, I’ve created four cam-
your campaign to exist in a vibrant, “liv- level adventurers. The nobles, merchants, paign worlds, and, using the aforemen-
ing,” world. Even if you chose a low-detail, generals, priestesses, and other charac- tioned system, can now create a playable
high-fantasy approach, a certain amount ters who will be helping, healing, and one in about three hours. Obviously, its
of plot is necessary to keep the game harassing the PCs however, should be not a high-detail world. For that I’d need
from getting stale. If you chose a more considered. several days. Adding details isn’t as
political type of campaign, you’ll definite- Some DMs prefer to play NPCs as they Herculean a task as it sounds. Nothing
ly want these plans well laid. arise, others have entire life histories writ- about creating your own world is difficult
For example, a civil war is beginning in ten up. Whichever extreme you choose, if you know what you want first and take
eastern Rathuric due to some Paladins’ this is the time to plan for those encoun- it one step at a time. You’ll find creating
beliefs that not enough is being done to ters. Again, if you know the route your your own world is the most satisfying
oppose Gnashskull. This area, known as players are likely to follow, you might be experience a DM can have.
Tarnation, has historically been the home able to develop NPC’s for the first few
of “Good” extremists, in the “Lawful vs. months of game time and worry about
Good, which is more important?” debate. any others later on. David Clarke lives in West Allis, Wisconsin.
The leader of this uprising is one Sir
Derek, assisted by his advisor, Nemur.
While Derek is Neutral Good, Nemur is
Chaotic Neutral and an agent of the Lord
of the Dark Lands. It is the Lord’s hope
that a divided Rathuric will be unable to
stand against the continental war he is
planning.
I’ve decided that the civil war will be in
full swing after one month of game time
(from the start of the campaign). After six
months, the Dark Lord will begin to mobi-
lize his forces, and within nine months the
war will be well underway. If my charac-
ters pass through Rathuric or the Dark
Lands, I know what’s going on there. If
they’re in another part of the world and
ask a Paladin for news, he can relate the
most recent news of the war. If I were
more interested in details, I could have
five such plots for each country and
region. Instead, I have one or two for
each, some related to others, all inter-
woven into the Dark Lord’s plans.
The plots in each country are mostly
political, but the details I’ve devised vary
from economic to political to social and
historic. In Grundee, I’ve focused on the
military fears of the Rift and relations with

20 FEBRUARY 1996
by Melissa C. Thompson
illustrated by Jim Holloway

he crazy radish peddler; the swearing barkeep; the scribe TABLE I - roll 1d6
who insisted that his pet iguana, Prissy, was once a 1-3 - go to Table II.
famous adventurer: all of these are NPCs that I have run 4-6 - go to Table III.
into during the course of gaming. The characters from the cam-
paign I was in didn’t interact with these NPCs for more than five
or 10 minutes, and they had absolutely no significant bearing on TABLE II - roll d100
the adventure at hand, yet they still stand out in my mind. Why? The NPC:
Well, they were quirky, funny, and just plain interesting. 01 - talks at twice the speed of the average person.
All too often, numerous NPCs take on the same personality: 02 - often falls into a reverie while talking, cutting off his
that of the DM. This phenomenon has occurred in quite a few sentences.
of the campaigns I have been in, but it is not necessarily the 03 - has a habit of twirling a coin between his fingers.
fault of the DM. Let’s face it, players often do unusual and unex- 04 - has facial twitches.
pected things, especially when it comes to meeting other char- 05 - hasn’t bathed in 76 days.
acters, and the DM can’t possibly be expected to anticipate 06 - is completely bald, with a large tattoo of a dragon on
them all. On occasion, the players will completely bypass the the top of scalp.
town sage, whose background and personality traits are listed 07 - only speaks in a whisper.
in detail in the module, in favor of speaking to a miscellaneous 08 - has no teeth.
street urchin. How could the DM ever guess that the party would 09 - blinks very rapidly.
try to question every single villager when the mayor’s chain of 10 - has slurred speech.
office was stolen? 11 - always flourishes his cape before introducing himself.
Times like these force the DM to think on his feet, and 12 - speaks in a language that none of the PCs understand.
although many of us seem to forget, DMs are people too; they 13 - has a potbelly that sticks out from underneath his shirt.
have their bad days just like everyone else. Maybe its late in the 14 - will stop and stare at every attractive woman/man that
evening and the DM is tired, or maybe the players have inter- passes by.
acted with so many NPCs that the DM just can’t think of any 15 - has an obsession with any jewelry that the PCs may be
more personalities. Whatever the case, the result is that the DM wearing.
switches into “generic town constable” mode, or she uses her 16 - has a pet ferret named “Stinky.”
“average city merchant” voice. (I am just as guilty of this as the 17 - is blind.
next DM.) While this serves its purpose well enough to get the 18 - will work the topic of her dead mother into any
characters through the plot, it does little to add to the excite- conversation, adding “May the gods bless her soul.”
ment of the story. 19 - hums under his breath. (If asked, he denies that he’s
The following tables present a possible solution to this prob- doing it.)
lem. They include various physical and behavioral characteris- 20 - tries to teach one of the PCs the latest dance from
tics, ranging from the the common to the downright weird. They Waterdeep.
are not intended as a substitute for NPC personalities generated 21 - refers the PCs to Anchor’s Aweigh, a very shady bar by
by the DM, because as we all know, no chart or table can pos- the docks.
sibly top the creativity of the DM when he’s on a roll; however, 22 - tries to convert the PCs (except clerics) to the religion of
they can be very handy during city adventures, for example, the DM’s choice.
when the players insist on conversing with every shopkeeper, 23 - sighs loudly every three minutes.
barmaid, and street vendor in town. And with the help of the 24 - is too intoxicated to talk.
DM, they can provide unique details that will stand out in play- 25 - loves animals and will speak to any horses or familiars
ers’ minds long after the adventure is over. that the PCs may have.
Give the tables a try. Maybe your next encounter with an 26 - is dressed in a court jester's outfit (but is not a court
NPC will be a moment you’ll never forget: jester).
“Oh, so you’re adventurers, are you? Ah, well, I know all 27 - has a hook instead of a left hand.
about that. My iguana friend here, Prissy, used to travel exten- 28 - invites the PCs to have dinner with her grandmother,
sively before she hooked up with me. Didn’t you her husband, and her eight children.
now, Prissy? Go on, girl, and tell the nice humans 29 - speaks in an unusual dialect. (DM's
about it. Now there's a good little lizard. . . .” choice.)

DRAGON #226 23
30 - constantly looks over his shoulder. PCs to repeat themselves more 76 - has a breathy tone of voice, a la
31 - has a nasal tone of voice. than once. Marilyn Monroe.
32 - munches a raw onion during inter- 54 - wears a horned Viking hat. 77 - offers to buy the PCs a round of
action with the PCs. 55 - only makes sarcastic remarks. drinks at the Rusty Nail Pub.
33 - pretends to cast spells, but is not a 56 - carries a small, potted plant. 78 - wants the PCs to try his latest
mage. 57 - does not trust mages. culinary creation.
34 - is accompanied by a pit bull 58 - does not trust clerics. 79 - mistakes the PCs for members of
named “Petunia.” 59 - does not trust anyone. the local thieves guild.
35 - begs the PCs for food and drink. 60 - is a “neatness freak” and tidies up 80 - shakes uncontrollably.
36 - has a beard 2’ long. after the PCs. 81 - asks to exchange a PC’s valuable
37 - is 4’ tall. 61 - talks to himself. weapon (DM’s choice) for five
38 - loves to tell jokes. 62 - tries to sell the PCs an elderly cow. “magic” beans.
39 - snorts when he laughs. 63 - attempts to pick the pockets of the 82 - has one pointed ear and one
40 - hugs all of the PCs to welcome largest PC. rounded ear.
them. 64 - mistakes one of the PCs for a 83 - wears a white, powdered wig.
41 - has a permanent sneer on his face. long lost relative. 84 - mistakes the PCs for the minions
42 - carries a staff with an ostrich egg 65 - is a know-it-all. of a personal enemy.
mounted on the top. 66 - smells like a garbage dump. 85 - is wrapped in a wolf skin.
43 - is a “mad scientist” type. 67 - stridently insists that the end of 86 - is a vegetarian.
44 - has fangs. the world is near. 87 - tells the PCs all of the local gossip.
45 - is dressed in black from head to 68 - asks one of the PCs for a date. 88 - brandishes a dagger as the PCs
toe and wears a veil. 69 - eats everything in sight. approach.
46 - has very low self-esteem. 70 - refers the PCs to his cousin’s hus- 89 - twirls his mustache.
47 - carries a large bouquet of flowers band’s best friend’s son, Darien 90 - wears numerous gold necklaces.
and gives it to a PC before depart- Stout, for blacksmithing work. 91 - slurps his drink.
ing. 71 - is mute. 92 - laughs at everything the PCs say,
48 - is a noble in disguise. 72 - has a habit of constantly winking humorous or not.
49 - wears a large nose ring. at people. 93 - has a chronic, hacking cough.
50 - has the physique of a body 73 - moves as if he were sneaking 94 - is annoyingly cheerful.
builder. around, even in broad daylight 95 - is annoyingly melancholy.
51 - plays the mandolin. with people watching him. 96 - has a romantic outlook on life.
52 - tries to convince the PCs to take 74 - falls in love at first sight with one 97 - fiddles with a string cat’s cradle.
him adventuring with them. of the PCs. 98 - gives the PCs excessively long
53 - is hard of hearing and asks the 75 - sings rather than speaks. (and boring) directions.

24 FEBRUARY 1996
99 - speaks at half the speed of the 31 - is dressed entirely in bright purple. 35 - asks the characters to join in a
average person. 32 - speaks with a lisp. chant of blessing.
00 - Go to Table IV. 33 - appears frightened of the PCs. 36 - dares a character (DM’s choice) to
34 - speaks in a blatantly patronizing a horse race.
tone. 37 - wears a medallion bearing a
TABLE III — roll d100 crossed wand and dagger.
The NPC: 38 - taps fingers impatiently.
01 - prefaces every sentence with 39 - trips and falls during conversation
“Excuse me, but...” with the party.
02 - is always chewing on a toothpick. 40 - asks, “Haven’t I heard about you
03 - pants as if breathless. before?”
04 - views the PCs as “beneath” him 41 - tries to convince a character (DM’s
and acts accordingly. choice) to marry a brother or sister.
05 - speaks in a shrill, high-pitched 42 - cleans fingernails with a dagger.
voice. 43 - kisses a PC in order to make a
06 - spits often. spouse jealous.
07 - informs the PCs of all of his health 44 - always smiles.
problems, from the corns on his 45 - never smiles.
feet to his migraine headaches. 46 - demands, “You want what!?” at
08 - refers to the PCs as “young miss” any request.
and/or “young lad.” 47 - disagrees with anything the char-
09 - advises the PCs that, when caught acters say.
in a dungeon with a low food sup- 48 - agrees with everything the charac-
ply, rats really don’t taste too bad. ters say.
10 - wheezes alarmingly every now 49 - espouses faith in the ability of
and then. local government officials.
11 - wears a fur hat regardless of the 50 - has a frog in a cage with a sign:
weather. “Kiss the Frog Prince, one copper
12 - is enamored by the stylish cut of a piece.”
character’s armor. (DM’s choice.) 51 - speaks with a drawl.
13 - tells outlandish tales of his own 52 - is incredibly clumsy.
adventuring days, all of which are 53 - has a tarantula on one shoulder.
obviously not true. 54 - has pieces of straw stuck in his
14 - whines. hair and clothing.
15 - feels the need to psychologically 55 - often trips over his own feet.
analyze each of the characters. 56 - repeatedly shifts weight from one
16 - argues with spouse while talking foot to the other.
to the party. 57 - has the contents of an entire tool
17 - gives each character a piece of box hanging from belts and ban-
candy at the end of the conversa- doliers.
tion and says, “Now run along.” 58 - has hair so long that it drags on
18 - has an intricate, tribal design tat- the ground.
tooed on his face and neck. 59 - claims to have seen a tarrasque
19 - has an accent. around the last corner.
20 - tries to pick a fight with the small- 60 - asks the characters for every little
est PC. detail of their adventures.
21 - wears a string of garlic around her 61 - wears a ring on every finger.
neck. 62 - mumbles.
22 - calls everyone in the party “dar- 63 - peppers conversation with reli-
ling,” “dearie,” or “honey.” gious affirmations like “Selune be
23 - constantly interrupts whoever is praised” and “May Tyr light your
speaking. path.”
24 - wears bright red lipstick. 64 - has a close friend who is “the best
25 - gives a few coins to the shabbiest sword fighter in this part of the
looking character as charity. realm. No, I really mean it!”
26 - has researched 127 different types 65 - makes throaty, growling noises.
of spores and fungus and shares 66 - goes out of his way to assist the
his knowledge with the party. characters.
27 - has built a secret flying machine. 67 - is a one-man band.
28 - hisses sibilants. 68 - has a witty retort for all of the
29 - travels with a dancing bear. characters’ comments.
30 - peddles wares by yelling, “Hey 69 - squints due to extreme short-
you! Buy this!” sightedness.

DRAGON #226 25
70 - has a bad case of the sniffles. 90 - belches. TABLE IV — roll 1d4
71 - wears too much perfume, causing 91 - cries easily. The NPC:
one of the PCs (DM’s choice) to 92 - offers to tell the characters’ future 1 - is schizophrenic and often hears
sneeze uncontrollably. by reading tea leaves, all for the “voices.”
72 - will answer only “yes” and “no” reasonable price of 5 gp each. 2 - is a Siamese twin, connected at the
questions. 93 - speaks in a monotone voice. hip.
73 - speaks in cliches. 94 - has pierced eyebrows. 3 - is a maniac. There is a 50% chance
74 - is 96 years old (human). 95 - speaks in pig-Latin. he will make an attack on the
75 - informs the PCs of the medicinal 96 - composes a poem in honor of the party.
value of prune juice and cayenne PCs. 4 - is dead. It takes ld6 rounds
pepper. 97 - wears a graduation-type robe and before the party realizes the
76 - complains about high taxes. a mortar board. NPC’s condition.
77 - has a limp. 98 - tries to sell the PCs rare “faerie
78 - is an undercover constable. dust.” (It is actually finely-ground
79 - can discuss no topic besides war. salt.) TABLE V — roll 1d4
80 - is not wearing shoes. 99 - can only talk to the PCs for two The NPC:
81 - taps one foot rapidly. minutes and 56 seconds, due to a 1 - has wings.
82 - fusses with his hairstyle. busy schedule. 2 - is psychic and can anticipate the
83 - has painted-on eyebrows. 00 - Go to Table V. player characters’ every
question.
84 - has a haunting voice. 3 - is invisible.
85 - clears throat before speaking. 4 - is undead.
86 - flexes muscles for the characters.
87 - is painfully shy and will flee in
embarrassment if dealt with
harshly. Melissa C. Thompson lives in Grayslake,
88 - uses rural, colloquial expressions Illinois. This is her first appearance in
such as “How do you like them DRAGON® Magazine.
apples?”
89 - has a quick temper.

26 FEBRUARY 1996
scales in response to the chord changes. Changing the scenario
by Jason Strasser to fit the changing characters is the key to improvisation. The
flexibility to adapt constantly to the mood, sentiment, and atten-
illustrated by Phil Longmeier tion span of your particular cast of characters lies in intelligent
and tasteful application of this principle.
Improvisation is a delicate balance between order and chaos,
ost people associate improvisation with jazz, a balance that constantly shifts and is extremely tenuous.
yet improvisation is the heart and soul of being Say, for example, that your players are between adventures
a good Dungeon Master. No skill is more useful or embarking upon a fresh one. A poor DM would simply tell
or more called upon, nor so separates the masters from the them what happens to lead them to the next scenario. This,
novices. however, is an excellent opportunity to draw your PCs in by
It is essential to the seamless progress of a tightly woven using a little improvisation. Instead of telling the players what
campaign that you, the DM, be ready for any eventualities that happens to them, let them do whatever they want to do. In fact,
the ever-crafty players may come up with. This is not merely a try to stay out of their way. Simply describe for them the loca-
matter of assuming a few probable courses of events and plan- tions they place themselves in. Then use NPCs and elements
ning for them, nor is it simply resorting to manipulation of NPCs natural to the setting to introduce plot threads. Be subtle, allow-
and settings willy nilly. Players deserve a reasonable, consistent ing the players and the natural inclinations of the NPCs to dic-
reality. tate the action. On the other hand, something dramatic must
A DM who tries to influence the players to follow a carefully happen in the first few minutes in order to hook your players in
plotted adventure inevitably winds up restricting them and and perk up their interest in continuing.
impinging upon the necessary illusion of freedom. No one I have seven “golden rules” useful in DM improvisation.
wants to play in a world where everything is obviously predes-
tined. Free will is important, as it draws the players deeper into
the game. It therefore behooves the wily DM to give the play- 1. Listen to the players
ers all of the rope they need to hang themselves. This is where DMs often ignore the valuable information that players
the improvisation comes in. knowingly and unknowingly hand them throughout the game.
Like a jazz musician, the experienced DM has a few scenar- The most important information you can glean from your play-
ios (scales) and characters (chords) up his sleeve to throw out in ers is whether they are having fun. Sometimes we forget why we
response to any situation he may find himself in. The real art is play these games, so it is vitally important to gauge the player’s
in the spontaneous application of these templates level of interest in a given subject or aspect of play.
in real time. As DM, you must be able to follow Try to ascertain what sort of adventure they
the changes, moving effortlessly between want, for what kinds of objects they would

DRAGON #226 29
quest, what kind of enemy they would exaggerating about their exploits, she with the how and a bunch of logistical
fight, what causes they would defend, assumes them to be worthy heroes and and descriptive details fairly quickly. Ask
etc. Are they hackers and slashers or puz- attempts to kidnap them. Neither brilliant yourself what kind of things you would
zle solvers? You need to know this right nor boring, this is the type of thread that find in the current locale. Try not to be
away. can be played at any time with a good too cliched, but really go after those
Listen to what they say, especially chance of snagging all the players into a things we take for granted. Avoid simply
their first impressions. Pay close attention series of events that would never have telling the players about details; rather,
to how your ideas work in execution. You otherwise happened. introduce details with action.
may be able to tailor future scenarios if Give players a chance or two to opt For example, when Uther the Barbar-
you are better aware of what has worked out of any situation, but also give them ian gets up and knocks a table over in
and what hasn’t. the chance to opt in. It is a good idea to the Red Crow Inn, this is a good time to
Use the words your players use. have a few divergent threads going mention details such as (a) the texture
Sometimes even repeating back the last simultaneously, allowing the players to and consistency of the pea soup Uther
object they spoke about in your descrip- follow whichever they please or none at was eating, (b) the relative positions of
tive reply can be a useful device. For all. the PCs and NPCs to the flying debris,
example, when Borundi the Bold says he Not all threads are huge events that and (c) a more detailed description of
wants to “grab the purple-headed serpent just seem to happen; many are simply Uther and his demeanor. You may want
by the neck and crush the life out of it,” interesting NPCs or inviting locales (e.g.; to describe some things with a magnify-
then you reply with, “As you grab the pur- scuffling noises emanating from a circus ing glass, while allowing other details to
ple headed serpent by the neck and tent after hours). Once the players have go unreported.
attempt to crush the life out of it, it spits taken a thread, however, you can choose Much of this is a question of style.
a stream of acid at your eyes. [Rolling the plot pieces. Improvisation is about know- Your campaign may be filled with jokers
dice.] Oooh! You might wanna make a ing where you can smoothly go to from and be something of a comedy. On the
saving throw.” Don’t overuse this device, where you are now. Smooth is the key other hand, your campaign may be more
however, as it can get monotonous. word. of a standard action adventure.
When used in moderation, it gives the If you are paying attention to your Even within the traditional sword and
players the feeling that they have an players, you will know when to use sorcery genre there is room for many
effect on the outcome, or at least that which plot piece and which ones grab styles. Dark fantasy requires a different
you are listening to them. specific players. You may have to work a touch from epic fantasy. It is quite possi-
Listen, listen, listen. This cannot be little to bring them all in. The PCs may ble that you prefer a minimalistic style,
said enough. Listen to the tone of voice require different threads. Seemingly dis- and just want to cut to the chase. Most
your PCs are using. You can give yourself similar threads can, in fact, be different campaigns jump genres to some degree
a pat on the back and know that you entrances to the same scenario. while staying within a fantasy frame-
have done well if you hear them laugh- Plot pieces from different scenarios work. Many times a perceptive DM will
ing or displaying some other emotion. If can be used anywhere they fit, but they change the tone of the campaign to
they sit up and pay closer attention to never force the PCs into anything. Allow match the current mood of the PCs.
your words, then you are on a roll... go free will to draw them into whatever sce- Again, this is up to you as the DM, but in
with it. nario they would most thoroughly enjoy. any case, be prepared to conjure believ-
Let them think they are chosing their able details out of thin air, regardless of
own destinies; only you need know they the style or tone of your campaign.
2. Break scenarios into plot are following your plans. Remember that Even the best written modules are
pieces and threads storytellers are illusionists. Strive to use merely outlines that your words flesh out.
Start by taking all of your scenarios plot pieces in as unobtrusive a manner as Your spontaneous ability to turn flat, two-
and breaking them down into the small- possible. If the the hand is quicker than dimensional scenarios into vivid, larger-
est amount of action possible. Separate the eye, then how much more so is the than-life, technicolor dramas is constantly
out all of the “plot pieces” that do not mind? called upon as a DM. It’s worth spending
require any previous action for their logi- a little time honing this skill by practicing
cal usage at any time. visualization exercises and enacting mul-
These are your threads, and with 3. Practice creating details tiple “what if” scenarios. Much of this is
them you can weave any story into your on the spot daydreaming, so to speak. In fact, the bet-
players’ destinies. No matter how well you plan ahead, ter you can daydream, and the more con-
Compile, a list of each thread with all there will be something in the course of trol you can exert in those dreams, the
relevant details (such as NPC and monster play (more likely many somethings) for better DM you will come to be.
stats with a brief description). When the which you couldn’t have planned. Your
players find themselves in a likely loca- players will wind up asking questions for
tion, you can apply any suitable thread. which you haven’t prepared answers. It is 4. Determine the probability
Good threads immediately create conflict therefore to your advantage to be able of success for any action
and moves the story along quickly. create details on the spot. Many times Many times, players attempt to do
For example, a woman in the room is this is just a matter of asking yourself something for which you either can’t
actually the goddess Artemis in disguise, some key questions. remember the rule or for which there is
and she is looking to abduct a few Your scenarios should include a well no rule. Back in the early days of RPGs,
decent woodsmen for her annual mortal answered who, what, where, when, and when rules were more ambiguous, DMs
hunt. Having heard the PCs bragging and why, but you need to be able to come up had to make quick judgments on the

30 FEBRUARY 1996
spot as to what should happen. Even the plot. DMs are missing out on a gold The more thought you put into your
today there are many circumstances for mine of overlooked methods to draw PCs NPCs, the better they will serve you in
which the rules are silent. You have to be further into the game. Interesting NPCs this regard. This paradox, like many of
able to judge the ease players will have can provoke players into situations they life’s little secrets, is only contradictory on
in performing some action or another. might never have found themselves in the most obvious level. It may seem like
Once the players get into a flow and otherwise. thinking about your NPCs beforehand
are quickly moving along, you should do Whenever you are called upon to play would work against spontaneity and
everything in you power not to break the an NPC, do your best to get into that improvisation, but in actuality you are
spell. In any event, a good DM should be character’s mind. What motivates that more likely to improvise well and gener-
familiar with all the rules; you should be particular character? Put some thought ate believable dialogue if you have some
able, when necessary, to come up with into what this character would say or do idea as to what their principle motiva-
quick percentages or modifiers to speed in a given situation. Make them complex, tions are.
things up and not break the flow of the realistic, and living beings. If you have already run through all of
game. NPCs are seldom privy to the deeper your pre-generated NPCs and you need
Begin by giving everything a 50/50 secrets of a campaign and may act for to come up with someone on the spot,
chance or an attribute roll, and apply many very different reasons. It adds think of some character from fiction, film,
modifiers as you see fit. For instance, if another layer to the scenario if the NPCs or your life who could be cast in the role.
Phylo the Nimble has the priceless Eye of think that something other than what is Even without statistics, simply having a
Imhotep and is running down a slick happening is happening. It can be useful personality in mind while you play the
marble hallway from two burly temple to allow a delusional NPC to steer the NPC adds a whole new level of reality to
guards, and he comes to a dead end, the players down the wrong path. the scene. There is nothing worse than a
player may desperately come up with Let the players get to know your DM who plays all of his NPCs the same
some impossible move (probably seen in NPCs, and use the same NPCs (especially way. Unless you’re trying to slip a little
some movie) to save him. Say Phylo the villains) over and over again during Twilight Zone effect into the campaign,
decides to run full speed at the wall with the course of a long campaign. Nothing you should avoid making entire groups
the intent to flip backwards off the wall adds more continuity than recurring of people think and act the same way.
and kick both guards in the head. characters and locations. Bring old char-
Ludicrous, you say, and you are right; but acters back in new locations and old
Phylo wants to try it, and he does have a locations with new characters. This is a 6. Juxtapose things to add
Dexterity of 17. So, instead of wasting sure-fire way to grab the characters. variety and interest
time looking the issue up in the DM’s (What is Father Johnston doing 1,500 Get creative. How many more balding,
guide, you bite the bullet and make a rul- miles from his church out here in the fat barkeeps or inn proprietors with an
ing. Due to the complexity of the maneu- bush of some tropical island?) ear for gossip do we really need? And
ver, you may start with 51%, or three It would be even more intriguing if in about those damsels in distress....
times his Dexterity rating. Then, because past adventures the PCs had stumbled A quick and easy way for a swinging,
of the slick floor, subtract maybe 10%, upon some small piece of evidence that jazzy improv-DM to be rid forever of
and maybe another 10% for having his the church was involved in smuggling cliches and overused stereotypes is to
arms full, and you get 31%. Using per- slaves. Perhaps the characters are swap opposites in any traditional setting.
centile dice, allow Phylo the chance to searching for a treasure described in the For instance, instead of the ogre who
pull off his Bruce Lee dream move. (Of journal of some shipwrecked slave crashes at the gates in the wee hours
course, even if he makes it, he still must traders. The possibilities are endless. being a man-eating savage brute, make
successfully roll his attacks.) Never get too attached to your NPCs. the ogre a scholarly priest fleeing from a
Whether the percentage accurately You must be willing to let the PCs slaugh- hideous army of zombies and wraiths
reflects Phylo’s chance of actually accom- ter, ridicule, or — even worse — ignore that have destroyed his temple and uni-
plishing the act is not as important as your NPCs. They are fodder, grist for the versity. Why not? Ogres can be educated
whether you have to spend five or 10 mill, and as such their sole purpose is to and religious, too. It makes for an inter-
minutes looking up the actual rule. In give you a pre-made cast of characters to esting story.
general, if the players can think it up, fall back upon. Sometimes they are just Although few campaigns live up to
then give them some chance at succeed- filler, like the dark-eyed rogues in the their potential, RPGs are about the real-
ing. This doesn’t have to be realistic; the marketplace with the smug grins. Other time interactive creation of a story with
players are fantasy heroes and expect to times they become essential story several people. Even though most cam-
be able to do things impossible for nor- movers, like the Dwarven prince who paigns wouldn’t make it as reruns of
mal people. By all means, if someone hires the PCs to escort him home. He-Man cartoons, they have the potential
rolls a 01, let him do just about anything. When necessary, you can improvise to create interesting dramatic fiction.
Even David killed Goliath. and change things so the rogues from Instead of having the characters start
the marketplace can become would-be a new adventure by leaving their homes
assassins hired by a rival kingdom to kill to go search dungeons for treasure again
5. Really get into the the sole heir to the dwarvish throne and again, try having the characters live
NPC’s heads before he can get back to the safety of in the dungeon (as prisoners) and go
NPCs are generally shop-worn stereo- his homeland. It really doesn’t matter. searching the palace upstairs for treasure
types or thin, penciled-in extras. Worse, The important part is the ability to impro- after an earthquake releases them from
the typical DM plays NPCs with little or vise well and to keep the player charac- captivity. If you need a blacksmith NPC
no differentiation and solely to further ters interested in the game. because Gan-Win Chung has broken his

32 FEBRUARY 1996
spear and wishes to have it fixed, you 7. Always ask what the ball back to the players only to find, upon
could use your typical bare-chested, glis- players want to do the ball’s return, that the players have
tening bald guy with a hammer, but per- The final golden rule is perhaps the keyed in on something the DM may
haps a young woman, the only daughter have overlooked.
most pertinent and useful of all.
of a late master craftsman, might be If you happen to be on a roll and the
Throughout the game, the DM is con-
more refreshing. (Even more so if she has stantly asking the players what they PCs are listening raptly, then ride, cap-
a higher Strength than the strapping tain, ride. But, the moment you notice the
want to do. The key to artistic improvisa-
Gan-Win Chung and bests him in an arm- players becoming distracted, start think-
tion is deciding when to ask. Now, obvi-
wrestling match.) ing about asking them what they want to
ously, you can’t play the entire game in
What seems frequently to be askew or do. Wind up the monologue, and get
melee rounds, asking the players what
wrong somehow is, in fact, inherently back to a moving dialog.
they want to do every minute of the
powerful. I would recommend trying as Allow players to do what they want
game, but you can and should ask them
many off-the-wall characterizations and unless or until something prevents or
after every new description or major
settings as you can come up with. Think makes it difficult to do so. Say, for
action. The time frame in which they
of something you’ve often seen or read instance, that Brother Lawrence tells you
answer should set the pace of the game.
before and simply throw in a major twist. he wants to try to sleep in a makeshift
Asking the players what they want to
Oftentimes, this propels the scene along, lean-to he built in the forest. Fair enough;
do involves them in the decision-making
practically doing all the work. he is basically successful in this, other
process to a higher degree and gives you
Take special care to flesh out the odd- a break. than the fact that every hour or so, you
ities realistically when using juxtaposi- may want to roll on the local wandering
After any cursory description, espe-
tion. Give bizarre things a bit of normalcy monster table. If a wandering monster is
cially one involving material previously
and vice versa. If done correctly, this generated, then most likely Lawrence will
unplanned, you owe it to yourself to stop
technique has the ability to generate have to wake up. The point is that his
and ask the players what they want to
complex and rewarding scenarios for intent to sleep remains the same and car-
do. This gives you the opportunity to
many sessions to come. breathe and think about the situation. It ries him through hours of game world
also supplies needed feedback on what time. (Of course, hearing a troll gibbering
is getting through to the PCs and what outside his lean-to might get him to
they wish to pursue. A DM at a loss to change his mind.)
come up with something often tosses the Realizing that, while gaming, you are
either describing something to the play-
ers or listening to their intentions, you
can surmise that these are the two most
important aspects of being a DM.
A DM can’t plan descriptions ahead of
time; it is impossible. Nor can a DM be
expected to know the players’ intentions
before they actually express them.
Improvisation therefore becomes an
essential factor in the effectiveness of a
DM.
The most essential tool any DM has in
his improv-arsenal is the golden ques-
tion, the role reversing, polarity shifting,
rhythm defining question: “What do you
guys want to do now?”
Spontaneity, as the central force in
improvisation, is unrehearsed creativity.
Although many jazz solos are unre-
hearsed, the musicians are in no way
unprepared. This holds true for DM
improvisation as well.

Jason Strasser is traveling. He was in


Turkey recently, and when last heard of, he
was somewhere in Israel.

34 FEBRUARY 1996
Ideas for interesting towns

by Michelle Bottorff
illustrated by David Home,
and Dee Barnett.

E
xciting Actropolis is where the vile
underlord Morticus spins his cruel
plots. The adventurers have discovered
a message from him on the body of one of
his hirelings and are heading toward the
mighty city. Fewmar eagerly looks at his
map. “Look here! If we travel across country
we’ll cut weeks off the journey.”
The adventurers head out into the
wilderness, make a few bad rolls during a
river crossing, and finally, sick and tired of
roughing it, they run across the road to...
Poketon? The DM stares blankly at the dot
on his map. The players are sick of random
wilderness encounters and are ready for
some real role-playing, but he knows
absolutely nothing about this place!

Just because the DM is improvising does-


n’t mean that all the small towns on the
map need to end up generic and boring.
The players may want a change of pace, or
the characters may need a bit of nudging to
get them back on the path of the planned
adventure, or maybe the DM just wants to
add some realism to his campaign.

36 FEBRUARY 1996
Whatever the reason, here are some playing with a cup and ball game stops bustling town square conveys a totally
ideas for making improvised towns inter- to stare at you. Suddenly a door is flung different mood than one built on a grid,
esting, exciting, memorable and maybe open. A young woman runs out and with one small tavern and no inn, with
even useful. grabs the boy, hauling him inside. The only a way-house at the nearby religious
door crashes shut behind them. retreat.
Lady Ariadne: (Placing her hand on Another more subtle indication of
The personality of the place her rapier and frowning after the van- town personality is how quickly it accepts
One method is to give the town its ished child.) My friends, this town seems new ideas. Progressive towns are inter-
own mood. The original edition of the less than friendly. ested in news of other places and are
AD&D® DUNGEON MASTER® Guide has many Beran the Brave: Much less! delighted by anything that is innovative
splendid lists of adjectives. (If you don’t Fewmar: I wonder why they’re so sus- and new. Anti-progressive towns aren’t
have it, try a thesaurus.) These were orig- picious... interested in the rest of the world and are
inally intended for the fleshing out of scornful of any device (or fashion) they
NPCs but work equally well when deter- When creating a “mood town,” most haven’t seen before. Some towns are
mining the character of a town. Pessi- of the people in the community will mixed, with half the populace eager for
mistic, aloof, dreamy, soft-hearted, share its dominate characteristic, but be change, while the other half clings des-
spendthrift; all these adjectives, and a careful not to overdo it. Even the most perately to the past. This alters not only
host of others, can be used to describe suspicious of towns probably has one or the mood of the town but also its tech-
towns as well as people. With practice a two friendly characters. nology level. The technology levels that
DM can generate a whole town from a The inhabitants are not the only thing are possible depend largely on your cam-
randomly picked adjective. that affects the mood. Architecture is an paign world, but don’t hesitate to go to
important factor, and it is much more extremes. Inventors do not always live in
DM: Tall fences line both sides of the likely that the buildings fit the adjective the city, so Poketon may well be a few
road. Past them and to the left you can better than the people. A friendly town years ahead of the rest of the country,
see a farmer working in his fields. for instance, might have thatched roofs while the neighboring town is centuries
Though he shouts no greetings, you and brightly painted cottages; an extrav- behind the times.
seem to sense his head turning as he agant town would have peaked arches
watches you go by. Soon you find your- and impressive façades. Other things to
self among the stone buildings of the lit- take into consideration are the town lay- Disputes
tle village. Stout oak doors with peep out and the types of businesses. A town If the players are bored, the DM may
holes line the narrow street. A little boy with numerous taverns built around a decide not to take the time to build a

DRAGON #226 37
mood but opt instead for quick action. Lady Ariadne: Nonsense, my good After all, a good fight is always amusing.
The easiest way to do this is to have the man. That fellow in High street didn’t say Bartender: Well, we’re not attacking
town already involved in some kind of anything! them, precisely, you understand. It’s a
fight. A special dispute not only keeps the Guard: High street is in Upper protest march.
players happy but also serves to make Poketon. You’re in Lower Poketon now. Beran: A what?
the town stand out in their memory. Come with me. Fewmar: What are you protesting?
Feuds work well. Take, for example Bartender: Those scurvy knaves have
the story of Romeo and Juliet. It’s about If Poketon has a close neighbor, then been under-cutting our prices! We’re
two important families whose feud is so it would be quite likely for them to have going to lay down the law to those das-
severe that they manage to involve a developed a rivalry. This rivalry is most tards! Either they put their prices back to
good part of the city. In a small town this commonly expressed by strong competi- where they used to be or we retaliate!
sort of situation is even more deadly. It’s tion in sporting events, with a number of (The bartender shakes a fist in the direc-
virtually impossible for anyone to remain towns going so far as inventing their own tion of Rivalburg, then realizing he’s
neutral; even chance visitors need to events. For instance there are two towns making a scene, looks back at the adven-
take sides at least to the degree of decid- in England that annually compete over a turers.)
ing whose inn they will sleep in that side of ham. The ham starts at a midway Lady Ariadne: I’m sorry. I don’t do
night. point between the two towns, and the demonstrations.
town that gets it into their own town Bartender: (Shrugging.) Sheriff wanted
DM: You awake to the smell of smoke square first gets to keep it. A fun varia- some heavy-weights around in case
and the sound of shouting. Footsteps are tion could be to have a whole live pig, there was trouble. We’ll pay you, of
clattering down the hall outside your which would, of course, be doing its best course.
door. to get away. Any type of contest will do:
Beran: (Leaping to the door and and there are many to choose from; Poketon doesn’t need to be fighting
throwing it open.) What’s going on here!? team sports, wrestling, greased pole another town; they could be fighting out-
DM: A peasant boy turns to face you, climbing, target shooting, seeing how laws, a renegade magic user, an appro-
waving his dagger and shouting, “Death high you can count before taking a priate monster or some kind of spell
to all Saiger-lovers!” breath. Try to pick something that will effect gone wild.
Beran: (Picking the boy up and shak- interest your player’s characters.
ing him.) I love only Galyna, Lady of Whether there is a sporting event
Hearthkeep, and I’ll kill anyone who says actually going on, there are many people Points of interest
otherwise! in a rival town willing to bore the players Some “points of interest towns” are
Fewmar: What’s a Saiger? Wasn’t that to death by giving blow by blow considered so interesting that they
the the name of the innkeeper? accounts of every event that occurred expect people to come visit them. The
Lady Ariadne: Never mind that; I think during the last 10 years. It is important to PCs are not likely to turn tourist, but the
the inn is on fire! remember that according to Poketon’s townsfolk don’t know that and will
loyal citizens, Poketon is clearly superior. expect them to be fascinated by the local
Another interesting situation occurs Anything Rivalburg does, Poketon does points of interest. Some points of interest
when the town is divided politically. For better. This attitude carries over from can even prove useful to the characters.
instance, the last election was a tie, and sporting events to industry and almost all Tourist towns are usually easy for the DM
both candidates now consider them- other aspects of small town life; to invent, since he can “borrow” a town
selves mayor. If the situation is violent, Poketon’s cows produce better milk than that he has actually been to and alter it
the players will be called upon to choose Rivalburg’s cows, their priest is more to fit his campaign world.
sides, but there is always the possibility pious, their blacksmith better skilled. Buildings are common points of inter-
that there is no fighting, just two town In extreme circumstances a rivalry est, though they rarely contribute directly
sheriffs enforcing two sets of laws, two develops into a war, to a campaign. Buildings are generally
tax collectors, two places they must get notable for their architecture, purpose,
their weapons licensed, etc. DM: The small shifty-eyed man and historic association. Good choices for
Each mayor could have his own dis- behind the bar leans towards you. small towns are: the Deserted Tower of
tinct territory, but it is generally more fun Bartender: Are you from Rivalburg? Joe the Ultra-magical, the tavern where
to just have each mayor claim the whole Lady Ariadne: Use your eyes, my Black Bart the famous Outlaw ate his last
town or to at least have the border line good man. Do I look like somebody from meal, or one of the Royal Hunting
between sections irregular and indistin- Rivalburg? Lodges. Haunted buildings are also good,
guishable so the players never know Beran: Never heard of the place. especially if the characters actually get to
which set of laws they are subject to at Bartender: Then I’m glad you’re here. meet the ghost.
any given moment. You two look like you’d be useful in a When inventing a notable building,
fight. The sheriff asked me to look out for keep in mind what people might be stay-
Guard: Ho there! anyone who might be willing to join our ing there. These people can often be use-
Fewmar: Yes? march on Rivalburg! ful to the characters. For instance, the
Guard: You just used magic! Fewmar: Why are you attacking country residence of a VIP will be popu-
Fewmar: Err, yes. Rivalburg? lated by his dependents, who can act as
Beran: You got a problem with that? Bartender: (Ignoring Fewmar.) What a source of valuable introductions and
Guard: It’s against the law to use do you say? provide an excuse for getting the players
magic in Poketon. Lady Ariadne: Hmmm. Why not? back on the road to Actropolis.

38 FEBRUARY 1996
Lord John: You wouldn’t by any Miller: Didn’t you know that he was Some collections are singularly use-
chance be heading to Actropolis? smuggled out of the country disguised as less; old theater props for example, and
Beran: Yes. a sack of grain? decorated chamber pots; but they still
Fewmar: Why do you ask? Fewmar: I thought he disguised him- add immeasurably to the flavor of the
Lord John: I was hoping you could self as a serving maid. town. In fact, useless items are often
deliver a message to my brother, the Earl Beran: The brewer told me he hid in a more distinctive than useful ones. Who
of Swaite. keg of ale. could forget a giant hammer, a floating
Lady Ariadne: We’re entirely at your Lady Ariadne: What? Not a cart load building, an illusionary organ grinder and
service, milord. Where is he staying? of cabbages? monkey, or the statue of a moose?
Miller: It was a grain sack, I tell you! I Things that are odd or out of place are
Other points of interest are a trifle know all about it. noticed and remembered. You must use
harder to make useful. Natural features, this technique sparingly, however,
for instance are mostly just boring for the It can be difficult making a historic because if there is something peculiar in
players because most of them look inter- town useful unless the town also contains every town the players will come to
esting. Of course you can use boredom a collection of historic artifacts. Often expect it, and it will no longer be memo-
to convince the characters that they are some historian or collector lives in a small rable.
in a hurry to get out of town. After hear- town so he can pursue his hobby in
ing eight or nine people tell them how peace, and many of these can provide
spectacular the local waterfall (mountain, genuine assistance to adventurers. He Unforgettable Characters
rock formation, centuries-old tree, etc.) is might lend them some special magical Often a town is remembered not for
they will be happy to climb right back on item, or they might be able to peruse itself, but because of someone who lives
their horses. ancient documents for clues to the loca- there. You don’t even have to make up a
Much more interesting is the town tion of this ancient ruins, or that powerful character; you can just steal one from
with historical associations. This is the item. another source. Just remember that
town that has a real place in history and Usually a collector demands yet when you are in a town, character is
capitalizes on it. Some towns may invent another item to add to his collection as established not just by how the DM
a place in history, and, unless one of the payment. This often leads to another describes a character but by how the
characters has an education, it comes out adventure. If you do not wish to create other townspeople talk about them. A
to much the same thing. As a rule of another adventure (it does not have to character that is interesting to the players
thumb, half of the people in a “historic” happen immediately; the collector may is also likely to be interesting to his fellow
town have an encyclopedic knowledge be willing to wait) then another form of citizens.
of the historic event in question, and the payment must be found.
other half thinks the whole thing is a DM: It’s a town, about average size.
great bore. At least half of those who Collector: I call it a collusion detector. Only one street is paved, the one you are
know exactly what happened will know It’s a very rare item, and not very useful on, the rest are packed down dirt.
a vastly different version from the other in a fight, but invaluable for uncovering Players: Where’s the tavern?
half, and at least one person from each secret plots. It’s how King Connie finally DM: A sign showing a foaming mug
side likes nothing better than to argue discovered Prince Ed’s treachery. hangs over a building ahead and to the
about it. Fewmar: It must be very valuable. You right. As you approach you pass close to
Historic towns are a lot of fun but are wouldn’t want to lend out something so a young man. He wears tattered rags,
easier to improvise if you already have a unique! and his bright red hair looks like it has
good grasp of the history of the cam- Collector: Well, I offered it to his never been combed. He is looking about
paign area. If the campaign area has no majesty when I first found it, but he pre- vacantly, but when his eyes pass over
predetermined history and you are ferred to rely on the services of the Royal Lady Ariadne he starts and rushes over to
inventing it, remember to take notes. Wizard. It’s terribly easy to counter, you her, grasping her sleeve.
Absolute consistency, however, is unnec- see, so it’s really only useful if no one Lady Ariadne: Hands off, sirrah!
essary since most history tends to get dis- knows you have it. DM: One of his eyes stares earnestly
torted. In fact, it is more authentic to Beran: What price? into your face, while the other eye wan-
have several versions of a particular his- Collector: You wouldn’t happen to ders about. “Who?” he asks. “Who?”
torical incident. know where King Connie’s Crown has Lady Ariadne: I am Lady Ariadne
gotten too? Wynn. Hands off knave!
Miller: Don’t you sneer at me milady! Fewmar: In the capital? Townswoman: Don’t mind him none,
I’ve a respectable trade. And it was a Collector: Oh dear me, no! That one is Milady, he’s just Moe, the town idiot.
miller, after all, that hid King Connie quite fake. (Looks at adventurers and DM: Moe releases your arm and wan-
when his brother Ed tried to usurp the sighs.) Oh well, I could use some help ders off to the side of the road. As you
throne. about the place. There is a terrible man- enter the tavern, the bartender, a tall
Lady Ariadne: I sneer at whom I like. power shortage here in Poketon. man with a mop of improbable yellow
Fewmar: Besides, it was a blacksmith Inventory perhaps, and if you could help curls addresses you.
who hid King Connie. me move some of the larger pieces and Bartender: So you’ve already met the
Miller: Nonsense, it had to be a miller. do the dusting... town idiot.
Who else would have such a large supply Lady Ariadne: Sir! I’ll have you know, Beran: He seems harmless enough.
of grain sacks? I don’t dust! Bartender: Surely, but there is some-
Fewmar: Grain sacks? thing about him. Normally he seems to

DRAGON #226 39
have the wits of a rabbit, but then he Getting any kind of a license requires is on High Street, he carries hardtack
says something so remarkably apt... finding the person with the proper guaranteed to survive flood, spell, and
(Shakes his head wonderingly.) And then authority. This is not necessarily any eas- hard journeying. Our armorer is just
there’s the way he arrived! ier to do in a small town than in a big there, across the square, and...
Fewmar: Oh? How was that? city. A common problem is that no one is
sure who the proper person is. The land- Yes, Poketon is certainly an interesting
The town’s interesting character may lord sends you to the mayor, who sends place. It will be long remembered by your
not live there any longer. This is poten- you to the sheriff, who sends you to the players, who are now back on the road
tially very useful. If he is a personage of priest, who thinks that really Lord So-and- to Actropolis. At least they were back on
importance in your planned campaign, such ought to be the one to sign it, only the road to Actropolis until a random
this is a great way to let the players dig he’s off hunting or something and no encounter with some horse thieves
up some back-ground information on one knows when he’ll be back. By having somehow put them on the road to
him. Not only do the townspeople know the locals waffle back and forth you can Sameville. Sameville is another dot on
all about his childhood, but they likely keep the characters running around for the map, but there is no problem making
have a very good idea of what he is up some time. This is not a good idea if you it distinctive. The dots themselves may
to now. are trying to hurry the players off to look identical, but by using one of these
Actropolis, but it works fine if you just ideas you can guarantee that Sameville
thought of a neat adventure they could won’t be the same at all!
have right here if only you have enough
Establishing the legal limits time to work out the details.
A small town may have developed it’s Another important thing to remember Things to remember:
own set of laws and rules. Though most is the powerful effect that organizations
of these rules had a very good reason can have on a town. At some points in Personality
behind them when they were made, not history, the guilds were more powerful 1. Pick an adjective, any adjective
all reasons last as long as the rule does. than the monarch. A guild (or local equiv- 2. Technology level
Not knowing the reason for the rule, alent) flexing its muscles is a good way to
(which may indeed no longer exist,) the make a town memorable. Merriment and Disputes
players are likely to find some of the vil- cheer are in short supply at the tavern if 3. Feuds
lagers’ rules ridiculous in the extreme, the brewers are on strike; the players 4. A Town Divided
such as: anyone walking down main may have to brave the picket-lines in 5. Sporting Rivals
street must wear a hat; no lighting fires order to buy supplies at a non-union gro- 6. Other battles
out of doors; no talking in the town cer, or the Tanner’s Guild may have
square; or anyone who sleeps in town picked this very town for their annual Points of interest
overnight must first introduce himself to conference, and the stench is making the 7. Buildings
the priest. place uninhabitable. Even lesser organi- 8. Natural features
Other rules are obvious as to the rea- zations can have quite an impact. Never 9. Historical
soning but irksome to the players: one underestimate the power of the PTA or 10. Collections
way bridge, no wearing of unregistered the Civic Improvement Association; the 11. Oddities
weapons, no mounts allowed in the vil- local busybodies may well decide that
lage proper, no killing the local wildlife adventurers make rotten role-models for Characters
without a license, taxes. their children and attempt to run them 12. The Character
out of town. 13. He used to live here
Sheriff: Have you got a license for that
there creature? Townsman: Are you a member of the Legal Limits
Fewmar: Shasta is a marmot. She’s Magistar and Wonderworkers’ Union? 14. Ridiculous rules
my familiar. Fewmar: No, I can’t say that I am. 15. Bureaucracy
Sheriff: Doesn’t matter. All domesti- Townsman: In that case we would 16. Guilds
cated animals require a license if you really rather you moved on, this being a 17. Other organizations
want to bring them into Poketon. You union town and all.
also need licenses for your horses. Fewmar: Can’t I just promise not to
Lady Ariadne: Don’t be ridiculous, my use my magic?
good man! Townsman: If I just say a few words to Michelle Bottorff lives in Saint Paul,
Sheriff: Oh, you needn’t worry, horse my fellow citizens this town would Minnesota, with her husband and three chil-
licenses are easy to get. Just walk into become less than comfortable: ridicu- dren. This is her first appearance in DRAGON®
town, take a left at the Mermaid, and lously high prices, full inn, that sort of Magazine.
pretty soon you’ll find Jasper’s stables. thing.
Jasper will come out here and inspect Lady Ariadne: We will not be threat-
your beasts for a reasonable fee, and ened!
then I write out your license. Simple! I Beran: We are trying to get to
don’t know about that marmot creature Actropolis. We only stopped here to get
though. Never done a license for a mar- some more supplies.
mot! Townsman: Oh? Well in that case I
would be happy to direct you. Our grocer

40 FEBRUARY 1996
by Michael A. Selinker
illustrated by Terry Dykstra

T
hese magic spells for the AD&D®
game are inspired by Indian history
and legend, but they are not meant
to be historically accurate. These spells
can be integrated into existing cam-
paigns or used in conjunction with the
article “Caste of Characters” in DRAGON®
Magazine issue #225. Together these arti-
cles can help form the basis of a cam-
paign set in a civilization based on India.
“Caste of Characters” described Indian
kits for different character classes. The
Indian mage kit is called a Swami. Mage
spells below are available to all Swamis
as well as Fakirs (an Indian bard kit) and
Yogis (ascetics; see Legends & Lore, page
125). Yogis do not need material compo-
nents for any spells, including those
below; neither do they need spellbooks
to cast spells. Conversely, they cannot
read mage scrolls. Non-Swamis and
Fakirs (i.e., “conventional” mages and
bards not from Indian-based civilizations)
may have access to the spells below at
the Dungeon Master’s discretion, per-
haps after seeing them or learning them
while on some quest to an area based on
Indian culture.
Brahmins (the Indian priest kit) gain
spells as do most other priests, with the
highest-level spells being granted by
avatars (manifestations) of their deities.
Brahmins have access to all priest spells
listed below, provided the spheres are
compatible. Non-Brahmins may gain
access to these spells at the Dungeon
Master’s discretion, though steep soma-
juice should be limited in its travels. In
campaigns set in the FORGOTTEN REALMS®
or other settings that do not feature an
Indian culture, modifications may have
to be made to some spells before they
can be included.
Several spells below deal with con-
cepts unique to Indian philosophy, all of
which are explained in Legends & Lore,
pages 123-126. Karma should be a rul-
ing force in the lives of those playing PCs
based on Indian culture. Specific atten-
tion should be paid to the rules on rein-
carnation on page 126, with the practical
restrictions on raise dead and resurrection
spells used on Indian kit characters, who
should automatically be reincarnated
within a day. Attempting to alter this
cycle is dangerous.

42 FEBRUARY 1996
Swami Spells sary before memorization of spells. The Skin of the fire tiger
material component is a lock which must (Alteration)
be unlocked during casting. Level: 3
Cloud messenger
Range: Touch
(Conjuration/Summoning)
Components: V, S, M
Level: 1
Range: 0
Distract Duration: 3 rounds/level
(Enchantment/Charm) Casting Time: 3
Components: V, S, M
Level: 3 Area of Effect: 1 creature
Duration: Special
Range: 0 Saving Throw: None
Casting Time: 1
Components: V, S, M
Area of Effect: Special
Duration: 2 rounds/level When cast on the caster or another
Saving Throw: None
Casting Time: 3 creature, this spell imbues the subject
Area of Effect: Special with glowing orange stripes across his
This spell, based on a classical pane-
Saving Throw: Special skin. These stripes generate a deep inter-
gyric poem, can be cast only on a day
nal warmth that acts as a resist cold spell.
with cloud cover: mist, rain, snow, and so
A mage can use this spell to distract all While in effect, the subject’s skin is scald-
on. The spell summons a small cloud to
within hearing distance who are trying to ing hot to the touch, so anyone touching
act as a messenger for the caster. The
do any sort of work other than combat. the subject’s open skin suffers 1d3 points
caster can impart a message of up to five
The material component of the spell is a of damage. If the subject uses an
minutes length to the cloud, which then
flute. While the caster plays the flute (no unarmed combat attack or is attacked by
hurries across the sky to the intended
proficiency necessary), those wishing to an unarmed foe, the damage is applied
recipient. Its maximum Move is 96,
continue in their work must make a to the subject’s foe. The subject and his
though favorable gales might increase
Wisdom check each round to concen- garments are unaffected by the scalding
this. The cloud messenger must be told the
trate on their task at hand. Wisdom effect but are not otherwise protected
location and general appearance of the
checks are at +4 if stopping work would from fire or heat. After the spell elapses,
recipient; it is incapable of asking for
result in imminent harm (failing to shore the subject will be incapacitated for one
directions. It is not entirely substantial
up a seawall during a monsoon, for round due to shivering unless endure cold
and so can go through tiny openings and
example). Distracted persons cannot for- or resist cold is cast on him. The material
survive heavy winds. It can carry objects
mulate strategies, instruct others, write, component of the spell is a tiger-eye
weighing up to 10 pounds for delivery.
draw, or otherwise do complex work. gem.
When it reaches its recipient, it relates the
However, the spell does not pacify those
entire message including whatever emo-
present, so they may attack the caster if
tion it heard in the caster’s voice. The
they desire. If the caster stops playing the
cloud messenger then returns to its caster;
flute before the duration is over, the
one may follow it to the caster’s location.
effect ends.
The material components are fresh flow-
ers and a bottle of rainwater.

Waking light of dawn


(Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 1
Range: 10 yards
Components: V, S, M
Duration: Special
Casting Time: 2
Area of Effect: 1 creature/level
Saving Throw: None

This spell causes sleeping creatures to


awaken. If naturally asleep or affected by
a sleep spell, the creatures awaken
instantly. If under the influence of a more
powerful enchantment, the creatures are
given new saving throws against the
effect, modified by +1 per four levels of
the caster. If the creatures are suffering
from a sleeping poison or disease (such
as that from the tsetse fly), the spell
works exactly as a slow poison on the
affected creatures. The spell does not
simulate the effects of a good night’s
sleep, nor can it reduce the sleep neces-

DRAGON #226 43
Serpent garland Mourning stone Third eye
(Alteration) (Abjuration) (Evocation)
Level: 4 Level: 4 Level: 7
Range: 0 Range: Touch Range: 0
Components: V, S, M Components: V, S, M Components: V, S, M
Duration: 1 round/level Duration: Permanent Duration: 1 round/level
Casting Time: 4 Casting Time: 5 Casting Time: 7
Area of Effect: 1 item Area of Effect: Up to 1 ton/level Area of Effect: Caster
Saving Throw: Special Saving Throw: Special Saving Throw: Special

By casting this spell, the mage turns This spell channels a person’s grief This spell creates a swirling spiral on
his ordinary scarf, necklace, or other over loss of a loved one into stone. When the caster’s forehead which casts beams
neckwear into a poisonous snake. The cast upon a subject and an amount of of annihilation. The third eye fires a ray
snake appears to be the normal piece of stone, the spell pulls the grief from the which has the same attack roll as the
clothing or jewelry until the caster desires subject’s heart and forces the stone to mage. The beams must attack a target
it to attack. It strikes as a Warrior with a grieve instead. The subject gets a saving every round, living or otherwise.
level equal to that of the caster. Its bite throw vs. magic to avoid the effects if he Creatures hit by the third eye’s ray must
causes 1d2 points of damage, plus it also wants to retain his grief. When affected save vs. spell or be killed, while inani-
injects a poison if the victim does not by the spell, the subject feels the weight mate objects must save vs. disintegration
make a saving throw vs. poison. The poi- of sorrow unburdened from his heart. or break apart. While this spell is in
son may be of the caster’s choosing: The stone shows its grief by becoming effect, the caster may use no other spells
lethal (save or die), paralytic (save or be pristine white and refracting light like a or attacks. At the end of the spell, the
paralyzed for 4d4 turns), or soporific prism, never appearing exactly the same caster must make a System Shock roll to
(save or fall into a coma for ld4 days). twice. Persons viewing the stone are avoid falling unconscious for 3d4 rounds.
The snake may attack once per round, awestruck and saddened for one round
during which time it is revealed as a ser- though not stopped from acting. Within
pent. Reversing the sticks to snakes spell 10’ of mourning stone, emotion, and other Life illusion
cancels this magic, and the snake is sub- such spells and effects are cancelled. (Illusion/Phantasm)
ject to snake charms. When the duration Stone enchanted by this spell can be Level: 8
elapses or the effect is dispelled, the gar- used to erect buildings, in the manner of Range: 10 yards/level
ment or jewelry returns to normal. beautiful and enigmatic mausolea like Components: V, S, M
the Taj Mahal. Duration: Special
Casting Time: 8
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Saving Throw: Special

Similar to a maze spell, the life illusion


spell creates a new mental world in
which the subject can live. The illusionary
life (maya) can include any manner of
new persons, surroundings, and even
new classes and abilities for the subject.
The subject is allowed a saving throw vs.
spells to avoid entering this new world,
but if he fails, the subject retains only
dream-like memories of his real life.
Entire months or years can pass in this
new life, though time passes much faster
here than in the real world. No method
of exit is allowed while in the illusory
world, except the priest spell penetrate
cosmic ignorance. The illusion seems real
but may contain flaws and mispercep-
tions based on the subjects lack of
understanding of his new surroundings.
Thus, the subject is allowed new saving
throws vs. spells every so often based on
his Wisdom score. If a saving throw is
successful, the subject returns to reality
with much of the memory of the illusory
life, though no new abilities are retained.
New saving throws are allowed on the
following schedule:

44 FEBRUARY 1996
Subject’s Time Brahmin Spells Sanctify ghi
Wisdom Between (Alteration) Reversible
Score Saving Throws Om Sphere: All
under 3 2d4 days (Abjuration) Level: 1
3-6 1d4+1 days Sphere: All Range: Touch
7-10 2d8 hours Level: 1 Components: V, S, M
11-14 1d8+1 hours Range: 0 Duration: Permanent
15-18 1d4 hours Components: V Casting Time: 8 hours
19 and up 1d4 turns Area of Effect: 2 ounces/level
Duration: Until ceased
Casting Time: 1 Saving Throw: None
The material component is a sketch of
Area of Effect: Caster
the environment in which the subject will Saving Throw: None This augments the holy clarification of
stay. If the sketch is marred or destroyed butter into a liquid substance called ghi.
during the spell’s duration, the subject Cow or buffalo milk must be churned,
This simple chant creates a deep clar-
immediately returns to reality. ity in the caster’s mind. All outside boiled, and blessed to make holy ghi,
sounds and sights are blocked out, allow- which can be used on undead as holy
ing the priest to regain spells or hit points water. When drunk, the holy ghi acts as a
Monsoon at a 50% faster rate; however, the priest mild curative, healing 1d3 points of dam-
(Conjuration/Summoning) cannot focus on anything outside him- age per ounce. The reverse of this spell,
Level: 9 desecrate ghi, is used by evil priests to cre-
self. Anything that disrupts concentration,
Range: 0 ate a liquid butter version of unholy
such as an attack on the priest or a con-
Components: V, S, M water, which harms paladins and
scious action by him breaks the spell.
Duration: 2 turns/level Kshatriya. Either of these spells can be
Spells cast on the priest are affected by
Casting Time: 1 turn used to counter the other.
the om spell. The priest is immune to
Area of Effect: 10d100 square miles sleep and charm effects while chanting,
Saving Throw: None
and receives a +4 on all saving throws
that allow Wisdom bonuses; however, Karma sight
This spell can only be cast in a climate the priest forfeits saving throw bonuses (Divination) Reversible
which could have monsoons, such as a Sphere: Divination
for Dexterity or anything else requiring-
semi-tropical coastline. When cast, the Level: 2
conscious thought. Magical healing is not
spell conjures up the most powerful of Range: 10 yards
affected by the spell’s increased healing
wind and rainstorms to ravage the area. rate. Components: V, S
Winds come at hundreds of miles per Duration: 1 round/level
hour, smashing boats and unstable struc- Casting Time: 2
tures. Rain pounds the area, swamping Area of Effect: 1 creature/level
piers and depressions. The spell causes Saving Throw: Neg.
siege damage as by a screw or drill on all
structures and trees in the area of effect,
and all unmoored ships must make sea-
worthiness checks. (DUNGEON MASTER®
Guide, pages 105 and 170). Creatures that
cannot take adequate cover on high
ground must save vs. paralyzation to
avoid drowning. From the caster’s point
of view, the most dangerous aspect of
this spell is its range of zero. This means
the caster must be amid the effect; if he
is not protected, he is subject to the same
effects as everyone else. The monsoon
can be countered using a control weather
spell, but the caster of that spell must roll
greater than the monsoon creator’s
Intelligence on a d20, with +1 added to
the roll for each level that the control
weather caster exceeds the level of the
monsoon creator. Once the monsoon is
unleashed, the caster has no control over
it, and it may combine with existing
weather conditions to have greater dura-
tion and effect than anticipated.

DRAGON #226 45
This spell determines the number of the caster. The caster sees and feels licly known deeds of any one individual
karma points that a target creature has. everything sensed by every person, cater exactly as they happened. The subject
(For rules on karma, see Legends & Lore, pillar, tree, and rock in the area of effect. may be living, dead, or even not yet
pages 124-126.) In creatures from soci- (A first-time caster will be surprised how born; the deeds may reflect the past, pre-
eties not based on India, it determines much a rock feels.) The onrush of sensory sent, and even possible futures. The sur-
level or Hit Dice. Unless the creature is a information allows the caster to know of face of the water reflects the images as if
willing target, it is allowed a saving throw all beings and objects in the area, includ- they were happening at the moment,
vs. spells to avoid the revelation of its ing hidden and invisible creatures, traps, and at the speed at which they occurred.
karma. This spell does not directly affect and magic items. The caster does not The caster must know of the stories that
the mind of the target, so Wisdom sense thoughts or detect powers of crea- he wants to reflect, but he need not
bonuses and mind shielding do not help tures and objects contacted. Because the know the details. If the caster wishes to
avoid the effect. The priest may examine spell accesses thoughts, any being whose reflect deeds that are not publicly known,
multiple targets, but if a creature saves thoughts are masked cannot be spotted he may try The subject makes a saving
against the effect, it cannot be examined solely with this spell. While the spell is in throw vs. spells to keep secrets unre-
again during that casting of the spell. The effect, the caster may take no other vealed; this roll is at the subjects level at
reverse of the spell, karma musk, hides a action, including movement and speech. the time of the revealed deeds.
subject’s karma for 24 hours, though any The caster may discontinue the effect at The caster may create a pool of deeds
divine being can see through the mask. any time during the spell’s duration. that reflects his own future, but the
images may leave out critical details to
prevent tampering with the future. The
Steep soma-juice See all faces caster should expect whatever appears
(Alteration) (Divination) to come true, regardless of his efforts to
Sphere: Protection Sphere: Divination change it. The pool is activated by toss-
Level: 2 Level: 4 ing in a handful of colored powder.
Range: Touch Range: 10 yards
Components: V, S, M Components: V, M
Duration: One week Duration: 1 round Conceal lifeforce
Casting Time: 8 hours Casting Time: 4 (Abjuration)
Area of Effect: 2 ounces/level Area of Effect: 1 creature Sphere: Necromantic
Saving Throw: None Saving Throw: Neg. Level: 5
Range: Touch
This spell is per Legends & Lore, page This spell requires that an item Components: V, S
132. It is primarily for those of Indian belonging to the target be in the caster’s Duration: 1 day/level
societies, though others could be allowed possession. When cast, an unwilling tar- Casting Time: 5
to use it or their deities could grant it if get must make saving throw vs. spells or Area of Effect: 1 creature
the Dungeon Master desires. When the have all major aspects of his personality Saving Throw: None
priest brews and blesses the soma plant’s revealed to the caster. Thus, if the target
leaves, he creates a powerful magical is a mage, a rajah, a lothario, or a liar, the This spell hides a being’s lifeforce
juice. Those drinking at least one ounce a caster knows it. Note that the see all faces (shakti) from detection, preventing spells
week receive two benefits: an increase of spell reveals only truly major aspects; if like karma sight and reincarnation sight
one point of Constitution and immunity the aforementioned target also liked from working on the creature. It can also
to non-magical disease. These effects dis- chocolate and raga music, this would not be used for a much more dangerous pur-
sipate at the end of a week without be revealed. Since this spell does not pose: to prevent the creature from being
soma-juice. The priests generally restrict affect the mind, mind shielding and reincarnated, at least temporarily. By cast-
the usage of the juice to nobles and Wisdom bonuses are not effective ing conceal lifeforce on a creature within
priests. defenses. an hour of its death, the creature’s self
(atman) is hidden from the divine agents
who attend to reincarnation. During the
That art thou Pool of deeds spell’s duration, the character may be
(Divination) (Enchantment) raised or resurrected. (This should be the
Sphere: Divination Sphere: Divination, Elemental (Water) only way raise dead or resurrection can be
Level: 3 Level: 5 used on a character from an Indian-
Range: 0 Range: 10 yards based culture or with an Indian-based PC
Components: V Components: V, S, M kit more than a day after death; see
Duration: 1 round/level Duration: 24 hours Legends & Lore, page 126.) Using this spell
Casting Time: 1 Casting Time: 6 turns for this purpose is a violation of the cos-
Area of Effect: 30’ radius sphere Area of Effect: 1 pool mic order and may trigger divine wrath.
Saving Throw: None Saving Throw: None

By uttering the phrase “tat tvam asi” The pool of deeds spell turns any pool
(“that art thou”), the caster’s senses of water, from as small as a birdbath to
become one with all beings and objects as large as a small lake, into a storyteller.
within a 30’ radius sphere centered on The enchanted pool can recount the pub-

46 FEBRUARY 1996
Reincarnation sight Penetrate cosmic ignorance Call avatar
(Divination) (Divination) Sphere: All
Sphere: Divination, Necromantic Sphere: Divination Level: 7
Level: 6 Level: 7 Range: Unlimited
Range: Special Range: 0 Components: V, S, M
Components: V, S, M Components: V, S Duration: Special
Duration: 1 round Duration: Special Casting Time: 6 turns
Casting Time: 6 Casting Time: 7 Area of Effect: Special
Area of Effect: 1 creature Area of Effect: 108/level radius Saving Throw: None
Saving Throw: None Saving Throw: Special
This risky spell allows the priest to
This spell reveals the presence of a This dangerous spell is based on the summon an avatar of his deity. The spell
reincarnated character. Using a piece of age-old belief that the world is just illu- opens up a gate to another plane, and,
clothing belonging to the original charac- sion and that mortals may not compre- though the avatar is compelled to come
ter, the priest may use this spell to dis- hend it. Penetrate cosmic ignorance allows through the rift, it is not compelled to stay
cover the reincarnation of that charac- a partial piercing of that veil. When cast, more than an instant. Even if it chooses to
ter’s name, appearance, and approxi- the spell reveals the divine hands behind hear the requests of the priests, the avatar
mate location. If found, a reincarnation every creature and object present. The may or may not grant them. The avatar
has only vague memories of his past and caster learns of characters’ patron deities, may also make demands on the priest as
will be unlikely to recognize any of his consecrated spaces, holy relics, spell well, and the priest would do well to heed
compatriots. The spell can cross planar residue, and extra-planar creatures. It them. The avatar may stay as long as it
barriers, but it cannot penetrate barriers tells every character’s level, every magic likes, often at great expense to the caster.
like conceal lifeforce or amulets of life pro- item’s power, and every monster’s spe- The spell requires a relic of the deity in
tection. cial abilities, among many other revela- question; when the avatar leaves, it takes
A second use of this spell is to reveal tions. Wherever the hands of deities the relic with it. Casting this spell ages the
to a person all of the memories of one of manipulate life — and they do so every- caster five years.
his reincarnations. The priest needs where — the priest will know it.
merely to touch the subject, and he Using this spell requires the caster to
knows all that his past life contained. make a saving throw vs. breath weapon,
Using the two uses of this spell in order modified only by Wisdom bonuses. If the Michael A. Selinker is a game designer
can reacquaint old friends, at least in a character fails, he is driven insane by the who lives in Seattle, Washington. This is the
superficial way. (Note that these spells revelation; if ever cured, he forgets second in a series of three articles he has writ-
allow a slain PC to rejoin the campaign everything he saw. In addition, using this ten on bringing the Indian subcontinent into
with his memories intact, and perhaps spell wipes all other spells from the cast- the AD&D® game.
his level and abilities. See the reincarna- er’s mind, and the character must rest a
tion table on page 126 of Legends&Lore.) full night before learning new ones.

DRAGON #226 47
Between then and now, a great
by William W. Connors many things have changed.
Leeching fell out of favor in the
medical community, the colonies
remember a time, long ago, declared their independence from
when I was not the cynical, jaded Great Britain, someone invented
computer guy that I am now. I the compact disc, and a second
used to go over to the apartment of edition of the ADVANCED DUNGEONS &
Larry Smith (not the one on the DRAGONS® game was written.
D RAGON ® Magazine staff), a very Have you figured out where this
good friend of mine, and spend is headed yet? Good, then I can
hours attempting to delve deeper make an announcement that a lot
into the depths of the first of people have been wanting to
Wizardry* game. If you aren’t fully hear (or read, actually) for many
aware of the time scale involved years: In August of 1996, at the
here, let’s just say that Larry was GEN CON® game fair in Milwaukee,
the proud owner of a brand new, Wisconsin, TSR, Inc., and Evermore
top-of-the-line, cutting-edge Apple Entertainment, Inc., will be releas-
computer. The word “smokin”’ ing a CD-ROM version of the
comes to mind. AD&D® core rules. Encumbered
Larry and I were avid fans of with the rather staggering name of
role-playing games, both electronic AD&D CD-ROM Vol. I, Core Rules, this
and paper versions. We would product promises to revolutionize the
spend far too many hours gaming, way in which the AD&D game is played.
talking about gaming, and talking you play AD&D and own a computer that
about talking about gaming. With employs either Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, then
that in mind, you can imagine our this program is going to be a must-have.
delight when we saw a new series Now, in describing this new tool for the eager player and
of “Dungeon Master’s Assistant” Dungeon Master, I could go on and on with a list of impressive
programs on the shelves of our sounding things. Consider the following:
local computer store. Of course, we I could, for example, tell you that it includes all the material
bought them on sight and went home to in the Player’s Handbook, D UNGEON MASTER® Guide, MONSTROUS
see what wonders might be on those unas- MANUAL™, Tome of Magic, and Arms and Equipment catalog. Every
suming little discs. word of text, every table, every spell description, every monster
We weren’t disappointed. These programs allowed us to cre- — all rendered in an electronic format compatible with virtually
ate characters, generate encounters, and dozens of other things. every word processing program known to modern man.
What more could modern science do for the gamer? I might even mention that all of this text could be easily cross
Of course, that was many years ago. Monochrome displays, referenced, sorted, and compiled. A user who wanted to do a
primitive vector graphics, load times measured in minutes, and search for every rule that affects a character’s THAC0 would
300-baud modems were the rule. In fact, a lot of us used cas- only need to type in a few simple command and — ta-dah! —
sette recorders instead of magnetic discs, and even if you did there it would be.
have one of those 300-baud modems, you couldn’t do much But I know the readers of DRAGON Magazine. They don’t want
with it except call up other people with 300-baud modems and to hear about stuff like that. If they did, it would make sense for
admire the fact that you were both, in a word, geeks. me to tell them other things as well.

DRAGON #226 49
Character generation is
faster and easier than ever
before. Every option that’s
available at every step of the
process is laid out. Mistakes
are a thing of the past.

one I’m writing this for, would


want to know how this program
would help them in the long run.
They’d demand that it allow them
to keep character records and
such on file in an electronic for-
mat. Beyond that, they’d insist
that, when they update one num-
ber on the sheet, all of the charac-
teristics derived from it would be
adjusted automatically. They’d
insist on the program doing all the
nit-picky things that no one really
enjoys, like calculating encum-
brance categories or movement
rates, so that they would have
For instance, I could point out that the audience would be demanding to know more time for carving up mon-
CD-ROM includes a number of programs where they could buy a product like this. sters, saving princesses (or princes), and
designed to automate the more time- They’d be standing by their phones, cred- otherwise having fun.
consuming aspects of the game. From it cards in hand, eager to give their name Well, the nice folks at Evermore
complete character generation to the cre- and number to an operator who would Entertainment have done all that. In
ation of detailed treasure hordes, from drop a copy of this fine product into the addition, they’ve taken the time to create
the compilation of individual spell books mail as soon as they hung up. But you a visually stunning cinematic tour of a
to the design of customized magical aren’t the average consumer, are you? medieval village. They’ve combined elec-
items, it’s all here. I didn’t think so. tronic versions of TSR’s best art with
By now, of course, a less sophisticated A truly demanding audience, like the graphic images commission specially for
this program. Down to the small-
est detail, they’ve gone out of their
way to make this program as visu-
ally appealing as it is useful.
Let’s not forget that no amount
of electronic wizardry will change
the fact that AD&D is a pen-and-
paper game. When you need a
character sheet, you just press a
button and your printer zaps out a
nice-looking, easy-to-read-and-ref-
erence character sheet. Remem-
ber how nice a new one looks?
Now you can have one at the start
of every game session.
But, of course, that’s what you’d
expect, isn’t it? So I’m not telling
you anything you don’t already

The mapping tool lets DMs


create detailed dungeons,
villages, cities, castles, and
wilderness areas. It shows any
view in 3-D, cutting guessing
what characters can see from
where they’re standing.

50 FEBRUARY 1996
One of many screens that
help DMs create adventures is
the treasure generator. The
computer never forgets the
tiniest copper coin.

know (or hadn’t guessed), am I?


So what is it that you want from
me? What do I have to tell you
about this program to impress
you? Do I have to tell you that it’s
been created with the aid of some
of the most respected designers in
the game industry? That people
like Jim Ward, Tim Brown, Steve
Winter, and Paul Jaquays have
worked closely with Victor
Penman, who helped create SSI’s
award winning AD&D gold box
games (as well as the original
Dungeon Master’s Assistant* pro-
grams I mentioned early on)?
No. I know gamers better than
that. They’re a caring and sensitive AD&D computer tool would be produced. Now, 15 or so years later, my diaboli-
bunch. They want to know about emo- Sure, my scheme was subtle. I used devi- cal plan is almost complete. Soon, I will
tional side of this project. They want to ous methods that even the CIA frowns have the computer program that I’ve
hear about the fact that this has been a upon. But in the end, I got my way. People always wanted.
labor of love for everyone involved. They who never even met me were doing
want to know that we did it for them. things that I had planned years ago. Even William W. Connors is a game designer at
That the first question we asked at the the folks at Evermore, who thought this TSR, inc. He is currently hard at work on the
start of every step of this process was: whole thing was their idea, didn’t suspect new DRAGONLANCE®: THE FIFTH AGE box set.
how can we make this program better the truth. Gradually, one-by-one, the
pieces of this complex puzzle fell into * indicates a product produced by a company other
for all those gamers out there? They than TSR, Inc.
want to know that everyone involved in place.
this project has come together in
the spirit of democracy and free-
dom that liberated Eastern Europe
and brought peace to the Middle
East.
Well, I suppose that’s mostly
true, too.
The fact is, ever since the day I
first started playing around with
the original Dungeon Master’s
Assistant programs, I’ve thought
they could be improved upon. Way
back then, long before I wrote my
first adventure or attended my first
convention, I started working on a
plan to see to it that the ultimate

Users get a fully-animated


AD&D® adventure and village
tour. Game veterans will
enjoy the detailed medieval
setting and encounters, while
newcomers get to see first-
hand how the action unfolds
during a role-playing session.

DRAGON #226 51
by Andrew Turpin
illustrated by Robert Klasnich

Can PCs’ actions affect their belongings?


E
rin drew the sword from its scabbard. brighter in the burnished steel, tendrils of actually wields it falls in to shadow, betraying
The flickering torchlight danced in the smoke seemed to curl down into its depths, those that they love, gradually spreading
mirror-like surface, glinting as it fought rather than upward to the ceiling. darkness wherever they go.”
back the shadows. No runes or decorative “It reminds me of the story of Aranth “What happened to Aranth?”
scroll-work marred its simple beauty, and its Backstabber He drove his sword though his “No one knows for sure. . .” Tom paled as
leather hilt was worn smooth by constant King’s back, dooming his people as they he looked from Erin to the sword.
use. It was a plain blade made for an ugly fought for their lives during the Ogre Wars.” Erin dropped it and quickly rubbed her
purpose: killing. “You think this might be the sword?” Erin hand against her cloak. Not such a nice
“This feels strange, Tom. Is it magical?” shivered. sword after all.
she asked. “It might be. I wouldn’t use it though. The
Tom moved the torch closer. “I didn’t blade was tainted by his evil; you yourself Throughout the life of a character, he
notice it at first, but now that you mention it can feel something of that aura, and you are comes into contact with many wondrous
there is a certain aura.” The frame burned not trained for such things. Anyone who magical items. The player’s reaction

DRAGON #226 53
ranges from bored to dismissive when strive for honor, helping those in danger
the Dungeon Master reveals the item’s and offering aid wherever it is needed,
abilities. The only time an eyebrow is while others kill their associates for gain.
raised is when the item has earth-shat- The more dramatic an action, the more it
tering powers. Game balance teeters on will be talked about in the years to come,
the brink while the player saves the moving the character further along the
world in a single combat round, but road to becoming a legend.
when asked what the item’s history is, With each action, there is a chance of
the PC probably says, “Er, dunno. It can a reward. The more dramatic an action,
splat an orc at a thousand yards though!” the more powerful the reward. A charac-
The magical item is noted on the PC’s ter who constantly trips his friends with
record sheet, becoming merely a list of his staff, sending the poor fellows plum-
abilities and bonuses that add very little meting to their death, might receive a
flavor to a hobby that thrives on the negative reward. Perhaps his staff will
imagination. Any DM who has worked strike out at his friends during combat,
hard at breathing life into his campaign earning muttered curses from the other
will feel his efforts wasted as the charac- heros. He will be eyed suspiciously wher-
ters turn into lists of combat bonuses, ever he goes, everyone afraid of what he
personalities lost among the faint might do when their backs are turned.
pencil marks. Perhaps, in some cases, Rewards should be treated carefully.
it is not only the players who have lost They should not be powerful enough to
the urge to forge a new legend in a world tip the balance completely in the charac-
of heroic deeds; a DM who has lost inter- ter’s favor, nor should it cause any play-
est is even more of a problem. er to feel he has been treated unfairly.
All items will have a history. How were Each time a power is given, a list of
they created? Why were they created? interesting role-playing possibilities
Details such as these will bring a cam- should be thought up and presented to
paign to life, helping both DMs and play- the players. A power might not benefit
ers as they strive to create an enjoyable the party, but it can still be interesting to
adventure that will be remembered use, causing mayhem in the midst of a
many years down the road. Characters’ melee, or just being an amusing trick that
possessions will be linked to them, carry- the players can use when things start to
ing their legends into the future, creating get a little serious.
a legacy for the ages. A character’s sword Each time a character takes an action,
will be held in awe for centuries after his he adds bit by bit to the ongoing legend
death, his heroic nature part of its steel. of his life. Whether his possessions gain
Perhaps it will “grant powers” to powers is based on how dramatic his
those who wield it in the future, actions are: the more dramatic the action
powers that will enable others to the higher the chance that an item will be
live up to the legend. One need not affected in some manner.
have a magical sword to have a worthy
blade; any weapon that the character
uses in a dramatic fashion will be remem- Action ratings
bered. To asses the probability of an action
These rules will enable you to create giving some magical power as a reward,
“magical” items based upon the actions use the following list to gauge the wor-
characters take to keep their names alive thiness. There are six ratings: normal,
in the ages to come, helping the players low, high, very high, exceptional, and
to create and maintain their legends, and unique.
helping the gaming group to enjoy their Actions of a normal rating are not
hobby. highly heroic or evil in nature. They are
everyday actions that someone would
do without any danger involved. A low
Creating a legend rating means that something the charac-
As the players role-play their charac- ter did was slightly out of the ordinary.
ters’ actions, they make many deci- For instance, dragging a friend out of a
sions. Every action becomes part burning house would come under this
of the character’s history, threads rating. A high rating means that the char-
that will be woven to form the pattern of acter made a conscious choice to face
a character’s personality. Players define danger. The character in the example
the boundaries of what their characters above who had just dragged his friend
are willing to do. Every character has a out realizes that his younger brother is
different range of possible actions: some locked inside the house. He turns around

FEBRUARY 1996
and rushes back into the der around some of the other kegs and
flames in an attempt to save him. An throws his keg away. Kneeling, he strikes
action that would be given a very high his flint and steel together, sending a
rating is deliberately guiding the rest of spark leaping into the powder. He turns
your party to their deaths at the hands of and charges through the open door just
a group of marauding orcs. as the powder room explodes. The blast
Exceptional means that you have hurls Tom clear and buries the guards
done something that few people would under a pile of old stone and burning
even consider. Fighting single-handed- wood. The DM decides that Tom’s fool-
ly against overwhelming odds for the hardy action has a very high rating,
sake of strangers, for example. which has a Spell Points value of five. He
The unique rating describes once-in-a- rolls dice to see whether a reward is due
lifetime actions such as laying down your and manages to beat the 15% target.
life for someone else, or perhaps regi- Tom’s player and the DM decide that two
cide. spells will be embedded in that flint and
The table below lists each of these rat- steel: deafness and gust of wind. These
ings and gives the corresponding per- were chosen as the combined effect
centage chance that the action would be similar to the result of the
receives a reward. explosion. The two spells are embedded
Whenever you feel a in the flint and steel and activate when
character has done some- the two are struck together.
thing dramatic, you may Should a character be carrying a mag-
make a roll, but only two successful rolls ical item when he “creates a legend,” that
are allowed per level (or per year of item will act against any roll made to
game time if the character can no longer gain powers. To reflect this, subtract 20%
advance). The first of these rolls can be from any roll made, so only actions of a
for either a good or evil action. The sec- unique nature will grant any powers.
ond must be for an action of an Even if a roll is made, only one spell point
opposite moral stance. So, if the first should be given. Think of how the peo-
roll was for an heroic action, the ple would tell the story of a character’s
second can be only for an evil deed, or actions when using this ruling. If a war-
vice versa. rior armed with nothing but a magical
One other column is present in the mace faced a horde of screaming orcs,
table: spell points. This determines the the action would not be deemed quite so
maximum number of spell levels that can heroic, even though the warrior’s bravery
be rewarded for a certain would still be praised for many years to
action. come; but if all he had to fight them off
Any spell up to this with was a rough wooden club. . .
level can be embedded Whenever a magical item is created
into an item, it is up to the player and the using this method, the DM must decide
DM to choose them. If the spell points how many times each power may be
value is high, you may allow more than used a day.
one spell to be embedded, but the com- An embedded spell can be cast once
bined spell levels must be no greater per day for each time it is embedded, but
than the original number of points. each duplication of the spell costs double
the number of spell points. For example,
powers are rewarded for an exceptional
Table: Action Ratings action, granting seven spell points. The
Rating % Chance Spell Points character and DM decide to embed a 1st-
Normal 0 0 level spell three times. The first time costs
Low 5 1 one point, the second two, and the third
High 10 3 duplication four points for a grand total
Very High 15 5 of seven. All of the spell points have
Exceptional 20 7 been used up, enabling the spell to be
Unique 25 9 cast three times per day. Using this
method, only spells below fourth level
For example, Tom runs may be cast multiple times per day, pre-
into the powder room venting the more powerful ones from
of the castle and grabs unbalancing a campaign.
one of the powder kegs. Certain powers function continuously
From outside he can hear the guards and therefore don’t need to be cast more
shouting and charging towards the than once. These effects are very special
room. Quickly, he sprinkles a bit of pow- and will probably only be available

FEBRUARY 1996
through actions that are rated at excep- maximum of a +5 bonus for a sword they get over the next few months of
tional or unique status. when using nine Spell Points. game time.
If you wish you may also allow items Bonuses that weapons receive can
that have combined powers to use them also be combined with other effects to
all simultaneously once a week for a create more unique abilities. Just as with Using a legendary item
grand effect. Going back to the flint and other combined powers, the total levels For an item’s powers to be activated,
steel example, gust of wind and deafness must be no greater than the original the user must be aware of any legend
can both be cast once per day. Once a number of spell points. associated with it. For the character who
week, though, they can be cast together, originally possessed the item, this is no
combining their effects to recreate the problem; but as the years go by, and the
event from which they were formed. Manifestation of item powers story is forgotten, it prevents the item’s
The adventure continues once the powers from being used until the full his-
item’s powers have been decided upon. tory is discovered.
Spell restrictions The characters move on down the road If a detect magic spell is cast on an
Due to the immense power of some of to becoming a full-fledged legends. The item, it will radiate an aura equivalent to
the higher-level spells, some restrictions magical item awaits, gradually growing the highest-level power embedded. A
should be imposed. in power as the story of its creation bard’s ability to learn the general use of
As a starting point, you may wish to spreads. To reflect this slow increase in a magical item can be used to find out
consider limiting spells that cause a large power, the final spells embedded in the the legend behind the item’s creation.
amount of damage, such as fireball, or item should not be activated straight This only gives the story; specific details
spells that do not allow a saving throw, away. They take months or perhaps as to the nature of the item’s powers still
as is the case with most of the power years to become fully active, their effect remain a mystery. Once the entire story is
word spells. One type of spell that should growing in power until they finally known though, anyone who uses the
be considered very carefully is the wish achieve the desired state. item can feel what the powers are and
spell. This delay should have a minimum may use them freely.
All spell effects function at 12th-level number of months equal to the number Should a player keep a legendary item
magic, unless the power actually requires of spell points. The more powerful the (thinking that it is normal), no effect is
a higher level. In such cases, the power is spell, the longer the delay. Think up vari- immediately visible. There is a manifesta-
used at the minimum level required to ous abilities that are slightly less powerful tion period, similar to the one mentioned
normally cast the equivalent spell. than the desired result, and have them earlier, over which the item will exert its
activate at various times throughout the power to let the user know what it is. The
manifestation period, gradually increas- character begins to have obscure dreams
Weapon combat bonuses ing their power as time goes by. about past events that the item has seen.
Magical weapons often give bonuses For example, Tom’s flint and steel will One dream keeps recurring, telling of the
to rolls made during combat. These can eventually have deafness and gust of wind dramatic event that transformed the ordi-
range from being beneficial on some embedded in them. Five spell points were nary into the extraordinary. It is up to the
weapons to being penalties on those that used in creation, so they take a minimum player to decipher what these dreams
have been cursed. of five months for the two spells to mean. Only when he has singled out the
To imbue a weapon with a bonus, use become fully active. Over the next few repetitive dream as meaning something
the number of Spell Points as a guide. For months Tom and Erin witness strange special will he begin to realize the item’s
every step above six, the item receives a things around their camp at night: they power. You must then tell the player
+1 bonus (-1 for cursed items). For don’t seem to be able to light any fires, which of his items is magical and what its
example, seven Spell Points yields a +2 and, when they do, the flames burn with- powers are.
weapon. This gives a maximum of a +3 out a sound, no spits or crackles can be
bonus when using nine spell points. Evil heard as the eager flames consume the Andrew Turpin lives in Wales.
items may not necessarily have a nega- wood.
tive bonus. (They may, under certain cir-
cumstances, make it easier to hit, such as Five months after causing that incredible Are you a gamer?
when attacking a friend, or when assas- explosion, Tom tries to light the campfire
You should consider joining the
sinating someone.) once again.
RPGA® Network.
For some reason, lost in the mists of He strikes the flint and steel together and
time and past AD&D® rule books, swords is blown off his feet us a powreful wind gusts You should also check out Cons &
are able to be enchanted with a higher through the woodland clearing. Erin returns Pros on page 96 to see what gaming
bonus than +3. Perhaps they are easier a few moments later to find Tom dusting events or conventions may be held in
to work with, the care that goes into their himself off. your area.
crafting enabling a mage to pour more “No luck with the fire,” she says us Tom If you are planning on holding a gam-
magic in than any other item is capable notices her. ing event or convention, let us know
of holding. “I can’t hear!” he says, much too loudly. about it and we’ll be glad to publish the
Whatever the reason, magical swords information in Cons & Pros.
Write to us at Convention Calendar,
must be treated differently than any If you wish, you can create a magic
DRAGON® Magazine, 201 Sheridan Springs
other weapon. To work out the bonus item without letting the players know the Road, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, U.S.A., or
that a sword can receive, give a +l final effect. You can have fun watching e-mail us at tsrmags@aol.com.
bonus for every step above four, to a them try to figure it out, using the clues

58 FEBRUARY 1996
by David Howery
illustrated by Anthony J. Bryant

W
hen King Arthur first received
Excalibur, says one legend,
Merlin asked the future king
which was more valuable: the sword or
its scabbard. Enraptured by Excalibur
(who wouldn’t be?), Arthur replied that
the scabbard was beautifully made, but
the sword was obviously the greater
treasure. Merlin shook his head. The
scabbard was also magical and would
prevent wounds from bleeding. Excalibur
could take the lives of Arthur’s enemies,
but the scabbard could save his.
Arthur’s attitude is also found in the
AD&D® game. There are dozens of mag-
ical swords available, but the
ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA™ lists only two mag-
ical scabbards. A magical scabbard can
make an ordinary sword more useful
and a magical one truly fearsome.
Herein, the term “scabbard” may be
taken to refer to sheaths from knife to
great sword sizes. When a magical scab-
bard is found, the DM rolls on the table
below (or the table on page 1336, vol. IV,
of the ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA™ book) to find
its size.

Magical Scabbards and Sheaths 1


2
3-4
bastard sword
broad sword
dagger
5. knife
6-8. long sword
9. scimitar
10-11 short sword
12. two-handed sword

Bondbreaker
In many cities, weapons must be
peacebonded. This means that a cord is
tied around the sheathed sword’s guard
and the scabbard so it can’t be drawn
quickly in the heat of anger. The bond-
breaker magically unravels the peace-
bond instantly upon command, allowing
the sword to be drawn at normal speed.
Paladins and other lawful characters nat-
urally despise this scabbard, while
thieves and other nefarious types pay
much for one.
XP Value: 300. GP Value: 1,500

Quickarm Scabbard
This scabbard has two main func-
tions. One command word teleports the

62 FEBRUARY 1996
sword that is sheathed in the scabbard Scabbard of Flame nent; even anti-magic and dispel magic
into the wielder’s hand from up to 20’ Any nonmagical sword placed in this spells do not affect the inert sword.
away. The wielder therefore does not scabbard for one continual day without XP Value: 700 GP Value: 3,500
incur any initiative penalty for taking being drawn gains the powers of a
time to draw his weapon, and he does flametongue sword (ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA, Not all magic is beneficial. Just to keep
not even have to be wearing the lV:1369). These powers last for one PCs on their toes, here are three cursed
sheathed sword. The second command hour, then vanish. The sword can be scabbards.
word recalls or returns the sword, tele- resheathed for another full day and
porting it back into the scabbard, with a regain the powers, again for one hour Cursed Scabbard of Binding
range of 50’. This latter function is espe- only. The sword can be used over and This appears to be a normal scabbard
cially useful if the sword is accidentally over in this scabbard. Magical swords and is often found with a magical sword
dropped into a pit or river. are not affected by this scabbard. sheathed in it. The scabbard works nor-
XP Value: 2000 GP Value: 10,000 XP Value: 3,000 GP Value: 15,000 mally at first. But when the character is
in a combat situation and tries to draw
Scabbard of Adjustment Scabbard of Protection the sword, the scabbard clings fast to the
This scabbard changes shape, shrinks, This scabbard provides a +1 bonus to blade. The sword cannot be drawn
or enlarges to fit any sword, dagger, or its wearer’s Armor Class. It can be used in regardless of the character’s strength.
knife, as needed. combination with normal or magical Once activated, the scabbard never lets
XP Value: 250 GP Value: 1,000 armor and shields. At the DM’s discre- go of the sword, even when the combat
tion, it might not be effective when worn is over.
Scabbard of Care with other magical items that improve Unlike other cursed items, the scab-
Any sword placed in this scabbard for AC. bard does not stick to the character; it
one full turn is cleaned and oiled, regard- XP Value: 1,000 GP Value: 5,000 sticks only to the sword. The scabbard
less of blood, dirt, water, or anything else and sword can be discarded. A remove
on the blade. If sheathed before the Scabbard of Sharpening:
sword is destroyed, the scabbard A nonmagical sword placed in this
removes even the acidic secretions of scabbard for one full day without being
monsters like puddings, green slime, etc.; drawn is magically sharpened. When
the scabbard itself is immune to such drawn, the sword is equal to a sword of
secretions. sharpness (ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA, IV; 1392).
XP Value: 300 GP Value: 1,500 The bonus lasts for 24 hours. The sword
can be used over and over in this scab-
Scabbard of Empowering bard, recharging for one full day, and
This scabbard gives magical bonuses gaining the bonuses for 24 hours each
to nonmagical swords (it has no affect time. Magical swords are not affected by
on magical swords). For every full con- this scabbard.
tinuous week that the sword is left in the XP Value: 3,000 GP Value: 15,000
scabbard without being drawn, the
sword gains a +1 bonus, to a maximum Scabbard of Weightlessness
of +3. Once the sword is drawn, the This applies to the sword, not the
bonus slowly fades, losing each +1 wielder. A sword placed in this scabbard
bonus per week. Resheathing the sword is effectively weightless and does not
does not recharge the bonus nor pre- count against the character’s carrying
vent the bonus from fading, until the capacity.
bonus has faded to 0. The sword can XP Value: 500 GP Value: 2,500
then be resheathed and recharged;
again, the sword regains and loses +1 Scabbard of Wound Closure
bonuses per week. Thus, the sword can Modeled after the wondrous scab-
be used over and over again in the mag- bard for King Arthur’s sword Excalibur,
ical scabbard. this functions exactly like a periapt of
XP Value: 2,000 GP Value: 10,000 wound closure (ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA,
Il:827).
Scabbard of Forging XP Value: 1,000 GP Value: 10,000
This scabbard repairs broken swords.
If all the pieces of a broken sword are Scabbard-sword
placed in the scabbard and left for one This is a one-use magical item. If the
full day, the sword is repaired and sharp- wielder finds himself weaponless, the
ened, good as new. Note that magical command word polymorphs the scab-
swords are rendered nonmagical when bard into a sword of the appropriate size
broken; the scabbard can repair them (e.g., a scabbard sized for a long sword
but cannot restore their original magical would become a long sword). The sword
bonuses. is well balanced and finely made, but it
XP Value: 1,000 GP Value: 5,000 is nonmagical. The change is perma-

DRAGON #226 63
after all others involved in the combat.
This happens every round in which the
character tries to draw the sword in bat-
tle. The scabbard cannot be discarded; it
always reappears when the character is
in combat, displacing any other sheath
he wears. A remove curse spell is needed
to be rid of the scabbard.
XP Value: 0 GP Value: 1,000

Cursed Scabbard of Tripping


This scabbard does not hinder the
character in drawing the sword; how-
ever, when he is in combat, it tangles
itself around his legs. The PC must make
a Dexterity check every round of combat.
Failure means he trips and falls, losing
that round in getting back on his feet.
The scabbard cannot be discarded. It
always reappears at the character’s belt
during combat. A remove curse spell is
“Gee, he’s sleeping so peacefully, I almost hate to overthrow him.” needed to negate the curse of this item.
XP Value: 0 GP Value: 1,000
curse spell is required to negate the character who wears it is in combat and
curse. tries to draw the sword, the scabbard
XP Value: 0 GP Value: 10,00 twists the hilt away from his hands. Since
a scabbard can’t move far, the character David Howery lives in Goading, Idaho. He
Cursed Scabbard of Cowardice eventually gets his hand on the hilt and estimates he’s written something like 29 arti-
This seemingly mundane scabbard draws the sword; however, he automati- cles for DRAGON® Magazine and DUNGEON®
performs normally at first. When the cally loses initiative that round, acting Adventures over the past few years.

64 FEBRUARY 1996
For both Dungeon Masters and players!
If you’re like most Dungeon the capabilities and equipment of the Note that there are four different
Masters, you probably have a book or characters in the campaign. sheets for each basic character class.
two, a bunch of dice, a notebook, They’re comprehensive enough for Players with multi- and dual-classed
some pencils, the odd map, and lots of players to use, and they have slots for PCs should use whichever sheet seems
scraps of paper hidden behind your the PLAYER’S OPTION™ information on more appropriate.
DM Screen. It gets pretty cramped, subcharacteristics. Specific kits fit under any of these
doesn’t it? At 6 ¾” × 3 ¾”, the pages are stan- subheadings. For example, a player
With the availability of small refill- dard size for the smaller portable note- playing a kshatria (an Indian paladin
able notebooks, it doesn’t have to be books. You can pick one up at any sta- kit outlined in “Caste of Characters” in
so crowded back there. You can put tionery or office supply store. While issue #225) would use the warrior
maps, campaign notes, and just about you’re there, you can get plain white, character record sheet, and someone
everything in one of them. lined, or even graph filler paper as playing a ninja (from The Complete
Along those lines, DRAGON® Magazine well. Ninja’s Handbook) would use the rogue
is pleased to present our first small All you have to do is cut out the character record sheet.
notebook gaming accessory: player sheets and punch out the pre-marked For all intents and purposes, these
character mini record sheets. These holes. You can photocopy these as sheets function in the same way as
sheets don’t hold all the information often as you wish for personal use full-sized character record sheets, but
their full-sized cousins do, but they only. (We suggest you photocopy they’ll leave the DM much more room
have most of it — and just about every- before cutting.) Or you could just buy for dice, handbooks, and wicked
thing the DM will need to keep track of extra copies of this issue. schemes for their players.

68 FEBRUARY 1996
Priest sheet (suitable for clerics, priests, druids, etc.)

(By permission of TSR, Inc., this page may be reproduced for personal use only. ©1996 TSR, Inc. All rights resewed.)

Rogue sheet (suitable for rogues, thieves, bards, etc.)

DRAGON #226 69
Priest sheet (suitable for clerics, priests, druids, etc.)

(By permission of TSR, Inc., this page may be reproduced for personal use only. ©1996 TSR, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Rogue sheet (suitable for rogues, thieves, bards, etc.)

70 FEBRUARY 1996
Warrior sheet (suitable for fighters, rangers, paladins, etc.)

(By permission of TSR, Inc., this page may be reproduced for personal use only. ©1996 TSR, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Wizard sheet (suitable for wizards, mages, illusionists, etc.)

DRAGON #226 71
Warrior sheet (suitable for fighters, rangers, paladins, etc.)

(By permission of TSR, Inc., this page may be reproduced for personal use only. ©1996 TSR, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Wizard sheet (suitable for wizards, mages, illusionists, etc.)

72 FEBRUARY 1996
3) Try the PLAYER’S OPTION™: Skills ciate hearing any possible solutions (out-
Powers book to add more to the game. side ostracizing the individual).
You might trade a few special abilities for Tim Nutting
the advantage of weapon specialization. Everett, WA
I have found it useful to set up a few
small adventures (DUNGEON® Adventures is I’d like to comment about the letter in
a great source for these) with the express issue #221, where Hussain Adulhaqq
purpose of trying out new rules. The complains that his DM has problems pre-
players make up new PCs for these one- venting the characters from breaking the
shot adventures and everyone gets to try law and acting in evil ways, which the
something new. This also adds some- players choose because it is easier.
thing to the game play, as the players are What I’m wondering is, how do these
more willing to risk the lives of their people act in real life? I mean, would the
“one-shot” characters. players go about robbing stores and
I would also like to address Leyshon beating up people if they knew they
Forum welcomes your comments and Campbell’s letter regarding the haste spell could get away with it? Maybe I’m just a
opinions on role-playing games. In the in the same issue. While I applaud your little over-sensitive now (a few days after
United States and Canada, write to Forum, detailed analysis of the spell (and some my prime minister was assassinated), but
DRAGON® Magazine, 201 Sheridan Springs really interesting side-effects), I have killing innocent PCs for four years, as a
Rd., Lake Geneva, WI 53147 USA. In Europe, found that such an extreme emphasis on method, makes me worry about these
write to Forum, DRAGON Magazine, TSR rules interpretation slows down the players.
Ltd., 120 Church End, Cherry Hinton, game too much. This is supposed to be If you really want to give the charac-
Cambridge CB1 3LB, United Kingdom. You heroic (or sometimes not) fantasy. I have ters a taste of their own medicine, have
may also send e-mail to: tsrmags@aol.com found in my games that this “rules a stronger party come at them at night,
We ask that material be neatly typed or lawyering” causes general player dissat- steal all their equipment, and try to kill
handwritten. You must give us your full isfaction and extreme discontent, as them “because its cheaper than buying
name and mailing address if you expect your some other player who knows it all the stuff.” See how they like it. (But this is
letter to be printed (we will not consider a let- debates the issue with the DM. not really the method I’d recommend.)
ter sent anonymously), but we will not print You are right in that no one really Eyal Teler
your name if you ask us not to do so. We will looks at all the side-effects of the magic via e-mail
print your complete address only if you in the game, but this is a game, after all,
request it. not a medical journal. Magic has this spe- I would like to respond to several let-
cial way of going outside science and the ters from issue #224.

T
laws of physics to do what it wants. After My first response is to George Keefe,
he ability for gamers to air their all, the human body is incapable of chan- who was having DM troubles. I am a DM
thoughts and concerns about the neling the extreme amperage to make myself and I fail to see the point in what
AD&D® game here in Forum is help- the lighting bolt as effective as it is, and your DM is doing. Whenever I have new
ful and refreshing. There comes a time, the poor wizard’s hands would simple people join one of my campaigns, I try to
however, when there is too much of a wither away with the casting of burning do the opposite that he does. I agree that
“good thing.” There is just too much hands. new characters shouldn’t be given magi-
incessant complaining that pops up in This is not intended as a knock down; cal items, but I make sure that the new
every other issue about “game balance.” rather, it is just something to think of. PCs are equal to the lowest character cur-
I have no problems with people airing I’ve been experiencing an extreme rently in my campaign. I also let the new
their complaints; it’s just that after a hun- problem in my games with certain peo- players do as much as possible, although
dred issues or so, reading them gets a bit ple who could be classified as rules this sometimes leads to embarrassing sit-
tedious. I would like to point out some lawyers. I’ve tried every solution, from uations requiring some work to get out
solutions. throwing out the rules at hand to getting of. If necessary, I try to make light of the
1) Take it up with your DM. Explain just as picky as the lawyer. All I’ve man- situation, not make fun of the players.
your views to him and give him sugges- aged to do is endanger and old friend- I’m not sure why your DM is doing
tions as to how the problem could be ship. The situation is rapidly spiraling this, George, unless he just likes to humil-
corrected. The DM is supposed to be neu- downward as other players are com- iate newcomers, but he’s definitely hurt-
tral, and should at least listen to the plaining about the lawyer’s domination ing his campaign by turning off the peo-
problem. If you are a DM yourself, of game play and extreme obsession ple he asked to join. All I can suggest is,
change the rules. After all, the Dungeon with the rules. (He even insisted that if his tell him this and hope he uses a little
Master® Guide points out from the start character was wearing even a simple sense.
that all these rules are optional. gold ring that his damage in bare-hand- My next response is to Linda Edwards,
2) Look at the Player’s Handbook sup- ed combat should equal killing damage.) who had trouble finding a campaign that
plements (e.g., The Complete Fighter’s While the DM’s word is supposed to would accept her. I doubt very much if
Handbook). For Daniel Arenson in issue be final, it gets rather hard to uphold that any DM would allow a 50th-level drow
#219, The Complete Ranger’s Handbook when pretty close to every judgment — in his game. This is well beyond the sug-
offers many career-broadening solutions. from the awarding of experience points gested retiring time for characters, and
(Don’t forget the ranger’s species enemy. to the adjudication of a gambling match the fact that your PC is one of the pow-
A +4 attack bonus is pretty hefty!) — is called into question. I would appre- erful, magically-inclined, and dangerous-

74 FEBRUARY 1996
ly evil drow makes it even harder to han- someone announces that he is going to founded.
dle. Starting off at 1st level again isn’t the chat up all the NPCs with a high I’ve been playing for many years in
answer, though. Ask if you can make a Charisma score, tell him to re-read the this “male-dominated” game and only in
new character that is the same level as Charisma section in the Player’s the past two hears have we had a female
the lowest level character already in that Handbook. If a male player is trying to gamer in our circle. This is not because of
campaign. If that doesn’t work, then chat you up using his character to chat active persecution, but because of the
maybe you are right in that part of it is up your character, try role-playing your lack of female interest. Let’s fact facts:
that you’re a girl. Although I would wel- response, The possibilities are almost generally, fantasy role-playing games
come a girl into one of my campaigns, endless. If you’re a virtuous priest, give attract males, especially those at a
there are some DMs who wouldn’t. him a lecture on the perils of the tempta- younger age. Also at younger ages, your
It isn’t that hard to start your own tions of the flesh (preferably when he’s a best friends tend to be of the same sex.
campaign. Quite a lot of people read fan- captive audience). If you’re a mischie- These were your close friends, the ones
tasy or play fantasy video and computer vous thief, why not borrow something of you usually played with.
games. Find them and talk to them or try his or planting something embarrassing I must ask for understanding from
to show them parts of the AD&D game in his backpack when he’s not looking? female gamers. I play in three role-play-
that they might like. Inquire at your local Even a low-level mage could find a rela- ing games a week with my friends. In two
hobby shop. Mine used to put up names tively harmless spell to cast to make of them, we have a female gamer, and
of players seeking DMs and vice-versa. someone look foolish. we would always welcome anyone else
Good luck. Sexist DMs placing restrictions on who would like to play, sex notwith-
Ryan Leach your character for no good reason is a standing. There is out third game, in
Tappen, B.C., Canada harder one. All I can say is, talk it through which few are welcome and all are male.
with your DM. Challenge him if you think Why? It is very simple. It’s the “guy’s night
I have been inspired to write by Karrie a restriction is unreasonable; see if you out.” In other words, male bonding. Call it
Hull’s letter in issue #223, regarding sex- can’t reach a compromise. what you will, it is nothing more than the
ism in gaming and the scarcity of women Finally, a word to Karrie. If you want to guys getting together to have fun. Some
players. This is a theme that has kept be taken seriously, please don’t start any guys on their nights out play poker, drink
recurring over at least the last four or five more letters by telling us that you’re 27 beer, and smoke cigars; some play pool;
years, and seems to crop up both in the and attractive. I’m sure its very nice for others go bowling. We happen to be
U.K. and America. I agree that it is an you, and would very important if you role-playing gamers. It is just us males
issue that needs addressing, but I am want to be Miss America, but to be a getting together once a week to talk,
concerned about the image that we are good role-player and DM, who cares? brag, and joke with the freedom of not
portraying to new or potential gamers. Eleanor Clarke having to watch what we say, or worry
In the interests of balance, let me Birmingham, England ing about who may hear us.
share my experiences with you. William Valentine
I ply regularly in two weekly games. This is in response to all those letters 185 Slater Park Ave.
There are six of us in one group: three about female gamers with their cries of Pawtucket, RI 02861
men and three women. In the other “they wouldn’t let me play because I’m a
group, it is six men and me. All my fellow female!” Many of these gripes are well-
gamers are normal, well-adjusted human
beings and when we meet up, we chat a
bit, consume large quantities of choco-
late cookies, and we get on with role-
playing. In short, we have fun. There’s no
hassle, no pressure, and no sexism
(unless, of course, someone is role-play
ing a character with unreasonable preju-
dices, in which sexism is no more likely
than “classism” — as in “all fighters are
idiots” — or elfism or dwarfism).
I’m not denying that there are some
sad people out there with hopelessly out-
dated sexist attitudes. All I’m saying is,
don’t assume that you will automatically
encounter them if you join a role-playing
group.
If you do encounter the sexism of the
sort Karrie described in her letter, don’t
act the meek little woman and suffer in
silence: do something about it. If you
object to a product’s cover art, write to
the company concerned and tell them
why you object (and tell them that it has
stopped you from buying the product). If

DRAGON #226 75
by Robert Martin
11th level fighter

STRENGTH: 15
DEXTERITY: 12
CONSTITUTION: 14
INTELLIGENCE: 10
WISDOM: 11
CHARISMA: 9
AC: 5
THAC0: 10
MOVE: 9
HIT POINTS: 68
ALIGNMENT: LG
SPECIAL ATTACKS: +l to hit orcs, half-orcs,
goblins, and hobgoblins.
SPECIAL DEFENSES: + 3 vs. poison
MAGIC RESISTANCE: + 3 vs. magical attacks from
wands, staves, spells, and rods.
SIZE: 4’ 3”

Special Abilities/Bonuses: 60’ infravision. “Natural” dwarven


skills (detecting grades, slopes, etc.) are only 50% as effective as until disaster struck. He went to visit his foster family for a few
other dwarves. Attacks 3/2 rounds. days and returned to find his home a smoking ruin, with no sign
of his wife, their two children, or any of his retainers. That was
Weapon Proficiencies: Broadsword (master specialization), five years ago. He has wandered ever since, looking for clues as
dagger, dagger (thrown), axe. to what might have happened, and where his family could be,
if indeed they are even alive.
Nonweapon Proficiencies: Armoring, blind fighting, hunting,
rinding (land-based), singing, survival. Equipment: Theahtyn considers himself on a quest, and will
wear nothing but armor until he has achieved his goal. He usu-
Physical Appearance: Theahtyn is an older dwarf; by human ally wears a coat over his mail, and a cloak if necessary to con-
standards he is in his middle age. He is balding, with a pale gray ceal the armor. If a town requires him to be unarmored and
beard which he always keeps neatly braided and tucked into his unarmed, he will immediately go elsewhere. Everything else —
collar when he is in the field. What hair he has left he lets grow rations, tools, water — he carries in a large backpack.
long. He has several scars from his youthful campaigning days,
including a very noticeable one on his forehead. Magical Items: Very few of his possessions survived. He has
only the things he had with him when he went to visit his old
Background: Theahtyn doesn’t know how old he is for sure. home and the few he was able to acquire lately. Sword of sharp-
He was orphaned when he was very young. His village was ness, dagger +2, ring (Draupnir II), amulet of health.
overrun by orcs, and the remaining villagers fled in the night.
One of them was his mother, who managed to carry the infant Role-playing Notes: Much of the light has gone out of
10 miles to a farmer’s home before she died from arrow Theahtyn’s existence. He was once a jolly, jovial man, but now
wounds. The farmer and his wife raised him as one of their own he is taciturn. He has been called gloomy and obsessed, but to
sons, but as they had too many mouths to feed already, when him nothing matters but finding his family. Theahtyn is not a
he was old enough he left to seek his fortune on the adventur- typical dwarf; since he grew up in human surroundings, he
ing trail. He was alone for several years, and made quite a rep- shares many of their interests and tastes. He also has no hatred
utation for himself as a fearless warrior and dauntless foe of orc- or ambivalence about elves, and the few halflings he knows he
kind. In time, he’d gained enough wealth to go back home and considers fine fellows all around, He has little interest in mines,
buy a large homestead for his foster parents. In a few more caverns, gems, or gold; fellow dwarves find this odd. Another
years, men began to flock to him and treat him as a leader. The side effect of growing up in the company of humans is that,
local duke called him friend. Theahtyn married the daughter of while he can speak dwarvish, he can speak few of the other lan-
a penurious noble dwarf, settled down, and retired from cam- guages most dwarves can (e.g., kobold, gnome, etc.), but he has
paigning. With the leave of the duke he built himself a small learned orcish. His life above ground and with humans limits his
estate on the border. He lived well and in peace for 75 years ability to detect slopes or traps underground.

DRAGON #226 77
by Scott Douglas

Conventions generate a lot of interest tabulation. Winner lists are also posted, here, and then they’re entered into the
for RPGA® Network members, and though some conventions prefer to give Networks points system so that judges
though not all game players attend these out awards at a ceremony at the end of and players can accumulate points to
events, they can be a great deal of fun the event. improve their Network rankings.
those who do. In 1995, the Network pro- The Network always provides prizes Playing and judging RPGA Network
vided sanctioned tournaments to over for sanctioned tournaments. Most often sanctioned tournaments at conventions
200 conventions in North and South these come in the form of gift certificates can provide the most fun gaming experi-
America, Europe, and Australia. to TSR’s Mail Order Hobby Shop, but new ences you might ever enjoy. It takes a bit
This is how it works: a convention or vintage products are given away on of effort to plan and organize, but the
writes us, saying that they’d like to offer some occasions. Some conventions even reward of seeing friends have the gam-
Network tournaments. The convention’s provide trophies or plaques for top event ing experience of their life can be well
gaming coordinator contacts us at least winners. worth the investment.
four months ahead of the convention After all of the excitement of the con-
date, six months if asking for first-run vention has passed, the gaming coordi-
Scott Douglas is the RPGA® Network
scenarios. There is a form to fill out and nator has one duty left to perform: to
Coordinator.
there are some fees to pay, but the return the completed scoring packets and
process is relatively quick and painless. any unused prizes back to Network head- *indicates a product produced by a company other
The Networks tournament coordina- quarters. We give them a final inspection than TSR, Inc.
tor sends a complete mailing to the gam-
ing coordinator about six to eight weeks
before the event date. This mailing con- The RPGA® Network is the world’s largest game club, with over 7,000 mem-
tains copies of the scenarios requested. bers in North America, and another 2,500 around the world. While originally cre-
Most Network scenarios include copies ated as a D&D® fan club, the Networks real mission is to encourage excellence
of pregenerated characters for the play- in role-playing gaming by providing members opportunities to meet enthusiastic
ers’ use as well. In addition, we include and experienced gamers like themselves. Network members often meet through
prizes, scoring forms to assist in deter- gaming activities at conventions, but many form their own Network-sanctioned
mining winners, and RPGA Network clubs, either in their communities or online. There are RPGA Network sanctioned
membership forms for distribution at the clubs on GEnie, on America Online, and on the Internet.
convention. Network members receive the POLYHEDRON® Newszine monthly; the newszine
A good gaming coordinator makes keeps members informed about goings-on in the Network, with monthly articles
sure that judges are well-prepared for the from members and from well-known authors such as Ed Greenwood and Roger
event. Care must be taken that judges Moore. Network members are also entitled to play in members-only tournament
get their scenarios early enough to give events. The Network sanctions member-written tournaments at local conven-
them thorough study; likewise, judges tions, tournaments in Call of Cthulhu*, Shadowrun*, Star Wars*, the AD&D® game,
must be instructed in advance as to and many other popular game systems.
when and where they’ll be needed. Many members especially favor the Networks AD&D-based shared-world
At the convention site, the gaming campaigns: the LIVING CITY™, the LIVING JUNGLE™, and the LIVING DEATH™. In addi-
coordinator is responsible for making tion, the Network also sanctions two other campaigns: Virtual Seattle, a
sure players get marshalled out to tables, Shadowrun-based setting, and Threads of Legend, a setting for the Earthdawn*
judges have additional character sheets game.
and scoring packets, and results get Scott Douglas is the RPGA Network Coordinator, making him the head
turned back to the convention’s gaming Dungeon Master for the LIVING CITY, the world’s largest shared-world campaign.
headquarters area. Those scoring pack- For more information about the RPGA Network or any of the Living settings, write
ets are tabulated and double-checked. to Scott at: RPGA Network, 201 Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake Geneva, WI 53147, or
Lists are then compiled of the players e-mail him at rpgahq@aol.com.
advancing to semi-final and final rounds;
those lists are usually posted soon after

78 F EBRUARY
is a remarkable sub- unless otherwise stated. To compensate
stance. It’s dry, yet for their bulk, magical sands, unlike most
fluid, rippling under the potions or powders, can have a cumula-
desert winds like water tie effect if more than one handful is
in an ocean. During a used.
storm, its capable of blinding and cut-
ting, yet, when melted to make glass, it’s
smooth. When it covers the ground from
Magical Sands Crystal Sand
Crystal sand can be used to form crys-
talline objects in any shape the possessor
horizon to horizon, it symbolizes the
emptiness of eternity, yet we use its
grains to measure the passage of time.
of Zakhara desires. The object can weigh up to five
pounds per handful of sand used, and
can be a weapon, a key, a plate, a gob-
The following magical items all take their by Rudy Thauberger let, or anything else. The crystal is hard
inspiration from the physical and as steel, has AC 0, and is +2 on all saves.
metaphorical properties of sand and the illustrated by James Holloway Weapons made of the crystal are +1 to
desert. hit and damage. All objects have 5 hp
Zakhara, the Land of Fate, is not sur- Each container contains 1d10+10 hand- per handful of sand used to create them.
prisingly the source for these magical fuls of sand, each weighing roughly half To make an object, the possessor
sands. a pound. Magical sand is slightly more must pour the sand on a flat surface in
cohesive than regular dry sand and can roughly the shape desired, then speak
General Information be thrown up to 20’ without losing its the name of the object (sword, ladder,
Magical sand is usually found in a effectiveness. The area of effect is typi- cup, etc.). A three-dimensional object
sack or a jar. Unlike magical dusts, where cally no more than 10’ wide. All saving then forms out of the sand. The quality of
a pinch is sufficient, a handful of magic throws against magical sand attacks are workmanship reflects the creator’s
sand is required to produce an effect. made with adjustments for Dexterity. degree of skill. The object remains solid
Thus the containers are relatively heavy. Saves are made vs. breath weapon, for one hour, after which it shatters, caus-

80 FEBRUARY 1996
ing 1d6 hp damage to all creatures with- Sand Cage from the outside. This requires a Dexter-
in a 10’ radius (save for half). When a handful of this magical sand ity check and a successful initiative roll. If
XP Value: 1,000 is thrown at a target, it forms a sandy the victim’s initiative beats that of the
whirlwind in the shape of an inverted whirlwind, an attack can be made. A
Fire Sand cone roughly 8’ high and 4’ wide at the price is paid for this tactic. Each time the
Fire sand is an extremely volatile sub- top. The whirlwind flies at the nearest liv- victim enters or leaves the whirlwind, he
stance, capable of creating sheets of flame ing creature and envelopes it. The crea- suffers 1 d6 hp damage.
when it strikes an object or is ignited. ture must be no larger than man-sized The whirlwind pursues its victim until
It can be used in two ways: as an area and suffers 1d6 hp damage when he dies or the whirlwind ceases to exist.
spell or to create a flaming wall. When enveloped. Once trapped, the victim is A sand cage lasts for 2d6 rounds. If sub-
thrown, it flies up to 20’, spreading out to unable to attack or cast spells and suffers sequent handfuls of this sand are thrown
cover a 10’ × 10’ area. The force of impact an additional 1 hp damage every round on an existing whirlwind, all damage
ignites the sand, causing 3d6 hp damage he remains inside the whirlwind. Because inflicted by it is increased (doubled, tre-
to all creatures in the area of effect (save it consists of sand, the whirlwind severe- bled, etc.) and the duration is increased
for half). If the sand is poured carefully in ly reduces visibility and makes a loud by another 1 d6 rounds per handful.
a line on the ground and then ignited, hissing noise that drowns out all but the XP Value: 2,000
either by a flame or a sharp blow, a wall loudest sounds. The victim can still move,
of fire results, inflicting 6d6 hp damage however, although the whirlwind moves Sand of Mirages
to any creatures attempting to move along with him up to a movement rate of This sand creates an illusion that can
through it. The wall is 20’ long per hand- 24. The whirlwind itself can be attacked be anything the possessor desires, so
ful of sand and burns for 3d4 rounds. from outside. long as it is created outdoors under the
XP Value: 2,000 The whirlwind is AC 2 and it can with- light of the sun. The area of effect is a 50’
stand 20 hp damage before falling apart. cube for each handful used. The illusion
Rasping Sand Only magical weapons or spells can lasts as long as the sun shines on it. No
This sand tears away at the surface of affect it, however, and there is a 50% illusory creatures can be created with this
any object it touches, living or non-living. chance that the victim inside the cage is sand. Physical contact with a living crea-
The effect of the sand lasts for 3 rounds. damaged as well. The victim of the sand ture does not destroy the illusion but
Non-living objects must save vs. spell cage can attempt to step out of the whirl- merely exposes its true nature.
every round with a cumulative -1 modi- wind for a moment, in order to attack it XP Value: 1,000
fier each round after the first. If the object
fails its save, the sand tears it apart.
There is a limit to the size of the object
that can be affected. This varies some-
what, depending on what the object is
made of, but generally should be no
more than 100 pounds per handful of
sand used against it.
Living creatures suffer excruciating
pain when struck by rasping sand, suffer-
ing 2d6 hp damage in the first round, 3d6
in the second and 4d6 in the third. A sav-
ing throw vs. paralyzation must be suc-
cessfully made each round or the creature
is incapacitated by pain.
Rasping sand dissolves in water. If at
least a gallon of water per handful of
sand is thrown on it, it immediately ceas-
es to cause damage. If a creature with a
natural AC 5 or better, all damage is
halved. Creatures with AC -1 or better
suffer 1 hp damage per round. Characters
wearing armor are similarly protected,
although the armor itself falls victim to
the sand and must make the appropriate
saving throws.
This sand is so deadly that the posses-
sor must use a specially treated glove to
handle it, lest he fall victim to its malign
power. The glove is made of the same
substance as the bag that contains the
sand and is usually found alongside it.
XP Value: 2,000

DRAGON #226 81
Sand of Obscurement
When thrown into the air, sand of
obscurement creates a small, highly local-
ized sandstorm, blinding all within its
area of effect. The storm lasts for 2d4
rounds and covers a 50’ cube. All within
the storm must make a saving throw or
be blinded during the storm and for an
additional 10 rounds afterward. This peri-
od can be reduced if the victim escapes
the storm and spends 1 round rinsing his
eyes with water. Vision is then restored
immediately. Those who save still cannot
see in the storm, but once they leave the
area they suffer no blindness. The char-
acter who used the sand of obscurement is
not immune to its effects, but as he
knows what’s coming, it is assumed he
has closed his eyes, allowing him to save
automatically. He is still blind inside the
storm however. Additional handfuls of
this sand thrown up during a storm
increase the duration of the storm by
1d4 rounds each.
XP Value: 1,000

Sand of Restoration
When sand of restoration is sprinkled
on the ruins of stone or brick buildings,
the buildings are momentarily restored.
Broken walls, cracked floors, and col-
lapsed ceilings all appear as they once
did, except now they are made of
translucent, shimmering sand. Fifty cubic
feet of building can be restored with each
handful of sand. The restored building is
sturdy for normal purposes, providing
shelter from the elements, but if it sus-
tains even 1hp of structural damage, it
collapses. The restored structure remains
in existence for 12 hours.
XP Value: 1,500

Sand of Sinking
Sand of sinking creates a 108 × 108
square of “quicksand” whenever it is
thrown onto sand, earth, or stone. The
effect lasts for 2d4 rounds. Victims stand-
ing on the affected area sink at a rate of
5’ per round, to a maximum depth of 10’.
When the effect of the sand wears off,
the material solidifies, trapping anyone
still caught inside it. The sand can also be
used against stone walls and the like, cre-
ating a 10’-deep opening similar to a
passwall spell. Because the “quicksand”
flows down, out of the wall, the opening
is permanent. Additional handfuls of this
sand do not create deeper holes, but
they can be used to broaden the area of
effect.
XP Value: 2,000

82 FEBRUARY 1996
duration of the pain. Once the sand is fin-
ished draining moisture, it falls in wet
clumps at its victim’s feet. If additional
handfuls of thirsty sand are thrown at a
victim before he has had a chance to
replenish the lost liquid, his saving throw
is made with a cumulative -2 modifier.
One gallon of water is necessary to
replace the lost moisture and avoid this
penalty. Water-based creatures suffer
double damage from this sand.
XP Value: 1,000

Sand of Scintillation
When this sand is thrown into the air,
it explodes in a burst of blinding, hypnot-
ic light. All who see this flash of light
must save vs. spells or be stunned for
2d4 rounds. The effect extends for 50’ in
all directions. If two or more handfuls are
thrown up at once, the light is brighter
and the area of effect extends by 50’ for
each additional handful. In addition, sav-
ing throws made inside the first 50’ suf-
fer a -2 penalty.
XP Value: 500
Slow Sand ing pain for 1d4 rounds, suffering -2 on
This form of magical sand makes time attack and damage rolls, as well as a +2 Rudy Thauberg lives in Vancouver, British
stand still. Up to three man-sized crea- penalty on Armor Class and initiative. A Columbia. He has written for DRAGON®
tures may be affected, provided they are successful save halves the damage and Magazine before.
all within 10’ of each other. Any who fail
their saving throws become frozen in
time, effectively held, for 5 rounds. They
are not aware of the passage of time and
aren’t affected by anything that occurs
while they are in stasis. Those who make
their saving throws are merely slowed for
1 round. If a second handful of sand is
thrown on an affected creature, either at
the same time or after the first handful
has taken effect, the duration increases
to one hour. A second save is made at -4
with no Dexterity adjustments allowed.
XP Value: 1,500

Solid Sand
Solid sand can be scattered onto any
soft surface—sand, soft earth, mud,
quicksand, even snow — and it immedi-
ately hardens, forming a shell that can
then be walked upon. The shell is solid
and stable, allowing for good traction
and balance. The area of effect is 500
square feet per handful. The shells lasts
for 1d4 turns.
XP Value: 500

Thirsty Sand
Similar to dust of dryness, thirsty sand
drains moisture, but from creatures, not
bodies of water. Only one creature can
fall victim to this sand, but he suffers 3d6
hp damage and must endure excruciat-

DRAGON #226 83
Bast, at least, cheerfully acknowledges subdivides her stories into groups of
modern neo-paganism’s checkered histo- related pieces. The riskiest element of this
ry and the diverse, eccentric character of strategy is that most of the anthology’s
many of its adherents. These are charac- comic pieces are deliberately stacked at
ters for whom magic is as real as the the the front of the book — but it’s a risk
World Trade Center and the Macy’s that pays off. All three of these light-toned
Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Edghill tales are sophisticated and successful.
captures the contrast wisely and well. Kevin Andrew Murphy’s inversion of the
Bast, especially, is a remarkably pragmat- Grimm and Andersen fairy tale arche-
ic yet deeply spiritual heroine, and her types displays the most wicked sense of
grapples with Wiccan theology are a wit, while Ken St. Andre skillfully relates a
©1996 John C. Bunnell major part of the story Edghill is telling. jovial bit of Arthuriana, and Katherine
By contrast, the novel is only mildly Lawrence offers a pleasantly subversive
startling as a puzzle story, as it’s fairly evi- tale in which novice PI Kit Marlowe uses
dent early on who’s behind the odd lessons from two worlds to solve her first
thefts and the murder that grows out of case.
them. Yet this is less of a problem than The mood then switches from amus-
Book of Moons one might expect in a mystery yarn. ing to haunting. Lawrence Watt-Evans’
Rosemary Edghill Though most readers will identify the “Out of the Woods” is the transition piece,
Tor/Forge $20.95 criminal long before Bast does, Edghill — a story in which a faerie wood proves to
and perhaps Bast herself — seem almost be other than as originally advertised.
A plot-description of Book of Moons to expect this. The result is a tale that’s Then we shift to viewing the wood from
doesn’t do much to help classify it genre- less a whodunit than one about what the inside out, nowhere more eerily or
wise. The publishers describe it as a mys- Bast learns as she learns it. There’s still intimately than in Connie Hirsch’s
tery, but the label of “supernatural sus- suspense, but of a different and more “Viridescence.” Best of the other tales in
pense” fits equally well, though the tone realistic character than is often found in this section is Brook and Julia West’s
is mild enough to suggest contemporary the average mystery. account of a scientific expedition which
fantasy rather than horror. Yet at the This, just possibly, makes Book of proves unexpectedly harrowing; the
same time, “fantasy” seems an unlikely Moons singularly appropriate reading for Wests neatly balance a pulp-monster-
description for a novel whose modern- devotees of role-playing. Regardless of movie premise with the smooth plausibil-
day witchcraft has a ring of authenticity whether one finds Bast’s world of mod- ity of more modern, realistic chills.
that’s rare in any branch of genre fiction. ern witchcraft adaptable to a game cam- Beyond this point, the subthemes
Edghill’s narrator, Bast, is a modern- paign, this is a story in which the journey begin to fade into each other, some more
day Wiccan with a job in a New York City is as important as the ending, and that’s clearly defined than others, but nearly all
graphic-design studio. As this second of certainly one of the major attractions of of the stories attempt a sophistication
her adventures opens, though, she’s got the RPG hobby. well beyond the average sword-and-sor-
a trickier problem: someone is stealing cery or coming-of-age yarn. Among the
Books of Shadows. “Part logbook, part most memorable contributions are
Enchanted Forests Michelle Sagara’s “Ghostwood,” about
recipe book, part liturgy, and part magi-
cal diary,” as Bast describes it, a witch’s Katharine Kerr 8 two siblings’ devotion to each other at
Book of Shadows is her most valuable and Martin H. Greenberg, editors nearly any cost, Susan Shwartz’s memory-
intimate possession. In theory, the miss- DAW $5.50 driven tale of a childhood summer camp
ing books could be recreated without adventure featuring more than one sort
much difficulty, but in practice the impli- Go into a forest expecting magic, and of monster, and a uniquely clever addi-
cations of the thefts are worrisome. And you may find anything from a talking tion to Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”
meanwhile, another Book of Shadows is wolf to a gingerbread house to the King from Karawynn Long.
the object of much avid speculation: of the Dragons. Or you may find any of One story element does cross between
someone is hunting for the reputed gri- the numerous magical folk populating Kerr’s subsections, that of the tree-spirit or
moire of Mary, Queen of Scots. Enchanted Forests, the latest in DAW’s dryad, usually as romantic object. Some
What’s distinctive about Book of seemingly endless stream of theme half a dozen stories address this idea and
Moons is that Edghill presents the anthologies. This time, however, the relationship with varying degrees of orig-
Wiccan lore with dead-on insight that’s theme brings together a more than usu- inality. The two strongest come from
both good-humored and thoughtful. Her ally diverse assortment of tales. Dave Smeds and Kate Daniel, the first
witches are sincere in their beliefs, but As with her previous anthology, Weird featuring strong characters in a sword-
Tales from Shakespeure, lead editor Kerr and-sorcery setting and the second com-

84 FEBRUARY 1996
bining the original Greek myth with a Four get top billing, Nancy Collins’ novel ing design for page headings.
uniquely American milieu. is really centered on Namor, the Sub- What readers end up getting is a story
Most of the other entries are at least Mariner, effectively leaving the Four to that’s very much a comic book tale
intriguing if not challenging in some way. act as guest stars in their own book. The mutated into straight text. Characteri-
The chief exception to this is Lawrence plot revolves around a bid by a palace zations, including those of the FF, tend
Schimel’s “Ties of Love,” a vignette whose rival to stage a coup and take over the toward one-note status, while the story-
punchline is out of touch with its setup. undersea kingdom of Atlantis, and only line runs to visually-oriented action
And the oddest of several very odd tales when they encounter and rescue a dying sequences. Collins also commits the clas-
is easily Gregory Feeley’s “In Fear of Little Namor do the FF enter the picture. sic comic-book device of entirely chang-
Neil,” which draws two well-known liter- Likewise, while legendary archvillain Dr. ing the story’s agenda in the final chap-
ary worlds together with decidedly dis- Doom gets back-cover billing as the pri- ters, pulling new McGuffins out of her hat
turbing results. mary antagonist, he, too, is a back- and revealing that all that’s gone before
All in all, though, Enchanted Forests is ground figure who scarcely appears was a smokescreen for the real plan.
easily one of the least predictable and onstage. Unfonunately, as often happens with the
most varied theme anthologies DAW has It also doesn’t help that the novel is a comics, there’s no apparent foundation
presented in recent years, and chief edi- good deal shorter than it looks. Counting for the shift, and what sometimes works
tor Kerr (with the acknowledged assis- Namor, Doom, and her Atlantean char- in graphic form is far less successful in
tance of Jo Clayton) has assembled a vol- acters as well as the FF, Collins is working plain prose.
ume that’s a great deal more ambitious with nearly a dozen significant players Yet if To Free Atlantis isn’t notable for
than the title might suggest. and a double-stranded plot, so space for its story or characters, Collins has at least
viewpoint scenes and character develop- managed to pull a surprisingly large
ment is limited at best. Not surprisingly, quantity of Marvel-Universe detail into
Collins chooses instead to concentrate her narrative. Purely as an introduction to
on her action-driven structure, and she the world in which these characters live,
generally succeeds in the attempt. But the novel is fairly effective and remark-
while Collins hasn’t padded her prose, ably compact. But as the debut book-
the book’s designers have padded its length adventure of one of comicdom’s
page count with relatively large type, longest-lived hero-teams, the novel
unusually wide margins, and a space-eat leaves a great deal to be desired.

The Fantastic Four:


To Free Atlantis
Nancy A. Collins
Boulevard/Byron Preiss $5.99

By comic-book standards, the


Fantastic Four are latecomers to the
world of tie-in fiction, lagging well behind
Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and
even Iron Man. Then again, the super-
intelligent Reed Richards may have sus-
pected what To Free Atlantis demon-
strates — namely, that it’s more difficult to
novelize a super-team’s adventures than
it is to chronicle the exploits of a solo
hero in prose form.
Part of the problem is evident from
the book’s title alone. While the Fantastic

DRAGON #226 85
Star Trek Concordance pared to the assorted “official” technical and drawings by a host of talented
Bjo Trimble manuals and encyclopedias, whose artists.
Citadel Press $19.95 authors’ chief familiarity is with the more There are, as with any large reference
recent television and movie projects. work, a few nits to be picked. The most
While there is no shortage of episode notable is a design problem — many lex-
The Art of Star Trek guides to the classic shows, Trimble adds icon references point to the separate
Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens to this material by several orders of mag- “cosmos” or “vessel” subsections, but no
Pocket Books $50.00 nitude. The least of these are the most typographic convention notes this fact,
complete indexes of actors and technical so that unwary readers may find them-
Whatever else the Star Trek franchise personnel yet seen for these productions. selves looking fruitlessly for lexicon
may have become, it’s generated a very Also notable is the Concordance’s com- entries for “cosmos” and “vessel”.
large and complicated universe over the prehensive treatment of the animated Secondly, while the Star Trek material is
last three decades. Just how large and episodes, which Trimble cogently defends painstakingly well-supported, notes per-
complex it is can be gathered via even a as entirely canonical despite reluctance in taining to real-world history and mythol-
quick glance at these two recent addi- some quarters to acknowledge them as ogy are occasionally questionable (Isis,
tions to the avid Trek fan’s reference shelf. such. for example, is referred to as the
The Star Trek Concordance is actually The main body of the volume, though, Egyptian goddess of nature, which is
something of a legend. Originally com- is its encyclopedic lexicon of creatures, decidedly misleading).
piled and circulated by Bjo Trimble as a characters, and other terms used in the But while the art in the Concordance is
fan project, it eventually saw professional series. In this, Trimble presents a unique notable for its variety, that in The Art of
publication in an edition now long out of and mind-bogglingly detailed body of Star Trek is notable for other reasons.
print. This new, updated volume brings information, comprising more than all This is a huge, full-color coffee table
the Concordance back into the market- but the most die-hard fans will ever need book; where the Concordance provides a
place, and while its focus is squarely on to know about the Star Trek universe. thorough written guide to the original-
the “original series” characters, the feature Included separately are catalogs of series Trek universe, Judith and Garfield
films and relevant references from current Starfleet vessels and of the stars and star Reeves-Stevens have assembled a spec-
Trek shows are included. systems which figure in the series. And tacular and equally thorough visual
The original-series focus gives the vol- perhaps most striking, the book is gener- record of the entire run of Trek history,
ume a useful and distinctive slant as com- ously illustrated with detailed sketches from the earliest days all the way for-

86 FEBRUARY 1996
ward to the present Voyager series. nonetheless entirely in Bat-character, and tale of dungeon-delving replete with
While there are plenty of vivid full- those who can handle a tale of all-too- devious traps, insidious creatures, and
page space panoramas, this is as much of real evil should find it compelling. the deepest foray yet into Under-
a reference volume as Trimble’s; there Elizabeth Scarborough’s The God- mountain’s depths. Anthony is a good
are also design-sketches for a variety of mother’s Apprentice (Ace, $19.95), by con- hand with Toril’s magic, and some of the
models, costumes, and props as well as trast, retreats for the most part from the devices in this novel are well worth an
photographs of the materials themselves. social-commentary agenda of its prede- investigation.
And the various starships are represent- cessor to tell a sometimes silly, some-
ed in detail, inside and out, though here times chilling tale in which godmother-
the emphasis is on the more recent ships trainee Snohomish Quantrill must cope John C. Bunnell is a writer and reviewer
rather than the first U.S.S. Enterprise. with an absent-minded tutor, a pilgrim- who lives in Portland, Oregon.
Captions and supporting text give clear age of cats, and the general sense of
descriptions and amplify considerably on bewilderment that can result whenever
the production process; readers will learn an American tourist visits Ireland. More
a good deal about the mechanics of cos- structurally sound than the prior book, Have a Question?
tume and prop design from studying the this is lively reading.
relevant sections. Finally, a trip to the FORGOTTEN REALMS®
Do you have any questions on
But valuable as the volume is as a world finds two new titles from Mark
TSR’s game products? Write to
craftsmanship text, its primary appeal is Anthony among the highlights. Curse of
“Sage Advice” for the answer!
— as it should be — as an art book. Again, the Shadowmage (TSR, $5.99) is a sequel
Send your questions to Sage
its far from merely a collection of outer- to his previous book about Caledan
Advice, DRAGON® Magazine, 201
space shots; there are a number of Caldorien and a worthy tale in itself, fea-
Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake
impressive background matte paintings, turing a solidly traditional but very well-
Geneva, WI 53147 USA. In
and the volume closes with a full-page executed quest involving a magical arti-
Europe, write to Sage Advice,
DRAGON Magazine, TSR Ltd., 120
rendering of Data’s amusing, Picasso-like fact and Caledan’s very possible doom.
portrait of his cat. There is a great deal to Escape from Undermountain (TSR, $5.99)
Church End, Cherry Hinton,
look at and admire in the compilation, moves across Faerûn to the legendary
Cambridge CB1 3LB, U.K.. You
and it’s presented in a high-quality pack- dungeons beneath Waterdeep, introduc-
may also send your questions via
age. ing a new set of protagonists in a lively
e-mail to: tsrsage@aol.com
By themselves, both the Concordunce
and The Art of Star Trek are valuable
additions to a Trek fan’s reference collec-
tion, all the more so if one is a devotee of
the now out-of-print Star Trek RPGs. But
taken together, the two volumes are
even more striking, one giving a pictorial
record while the other provides a win-
dow into the internal logic of the Trek uni-
verse. Though not inexpensive, this pair-
ing is very possibly indispensible to the
serious student of the Federation and its
most notable citizens.

Recurring roles
Over on the fictional side of Star Trek
publishing, the most notable recent entry
is The Captain’s Daughter (Pocket, $5.99).
Peter David gives us a “Captain Sulu”
adventure that also provides a history for
Demora Sulu, the daughter seen in the
most recent feature film. As usual, David
is both a witty and touching storyteller
who is among the very top rank of writ-
ers in the Trek fold.
In a darker vein, Batman: The
Ultimate Evil (Warner, $19.95) is as dis-
turbing as the brown half-paper jacket
suggests. With its strong and mature sub-
ject matter, this is emphatically not a
book for the squeamish or the very
young, and it wears its politics vividly on
its sleeve. But Andrew Vachss’ tale is

DRAGON #226 87
sunrise, and the defiling effect of memo-
rization might be minimal, a radius of
inches. Over the next few weeks or
months, gradually increase both the
radius of the defiling effect and decrease
the number of hours in a day that the
effect can be avoided. You might even
want to design a series of adventures
that would allow your PCs to prevent the
If you have any questions on the games Here are individual experience awards change — if they want to.
produced by TSR, Inc., “Sage Advice” will for the two races:
answer them. In the United States and Can the undead trolls, kobolds, ogres,
Canada, write to: Sage Advice, DRAGON® Aarakocra: orcs, lizard men, pixies, gnomes, and
Magazine, 201 Sheridan Springs Road, Demonstrate deep and abiding respect goblins that roam the Dead Land, Small
lake Geneva, WI 51347, U.S.A. In Europe, for nature: 20 xp/day Home and the City of a Thousand Dead
write to: Sage Advice, DRAGON Magazine, Abuse nature: -50 xp be raised, resurrected, or reincarnated?
TSR Ltd., 120 Church End, Cherry Hinton, Since these races actually continue to
Cambridge, CB1 3LB, United Kingdom. We Pterran: exist on Athas, why wouldn’t a reincar-
are no longer able to make personal replies. Pursue life path: 20 xp/day nate spell be able to reincarnate a char-
Please send no SASEs with your question. Revere Earth Mother: 30 xp/day acter as one of these “dead” races?
SASEs are being returned with copies of the Provide specific, meaningful service to According to my colleague Bill
writer’s guidelines. You can also e-mail ques- Earth Mother: 50 xp Slavicsek, the creatures you’re asking
tions to tsrsage@aol.com. about have been dead since the Cleaning
This month, the Sage visits the newly Page 26 of the Age of Heroes book Wars 3,500 years ago. That puts them
revised DARK SUN® setting and considers says defilers destroy the environment well beyond the reach of any raise dead,
some optional rules and spells, including yet when they cast their spells, which is how resurrection, or reincarnate spell.
another look at the dreaded stoneskin spell. defilers were originally handled. Page Generally speaking, a reincarnate spell
67, however, says defilers cause transforms a recipient into some creature
The Way of the Psionicist book in the destruction when they memorize their that is more or less characteristic of the
revised DARK SUN boxed set (and the spells. Which is correct? If the latter is world where it is cast. Trolls, kobolds,
psionics section in the PLAYER’S OPTION™: true, how should DMs of ongoing cam- ogres, orcs, lizard men, pixies, gnomes,
Skills 8 Powers book) says that charac- paigns explain the change? and goblins are not typical of Athas, even
ters with chaotic alignments cannot The text on page 67 is correct. Note though there are sizable populations of
become psionicists. This is incorrect, at that in addition to causing damage when undead specimens on the planet. Even if
least on Athas. The Will and the Way ref- memorizing spells, defilers also must there were hidden populations of living
erence lists several chaotic psionicists. make Intelligence checks to see how suc- trolls, kobolds, ogres, orcs, lizard men,
Are chaotic psionicists no longer cessful they are (see Table XVII on page pixies, gnomes, and goblins (and by all
allowed on Athas? 28) in acquiring the spells. Defiling is no accounts there are not), they still would
Chaotic psionicists have never been longer a sure thing. not be representative enough to appear
allowed on Athas (or anywhere else for How you should implement the new on the creature list for reincarnate spells.
that matter; see The Complete Psionics defiling rules into an established cam-
Handbook, page 10); at least not as play- paign is a problem you must solve on What are the thief ability adjust-
er characters. Pages 37 and 38 of the your own. The simplest way is to ignore ments for Athasian races that can’t
Rules Book from the original DARK SUN them and stick with the old rules. For become thieves but can become rangers
boxed set contain several Athas-specific most campaigns, you can just announce or convict gladiators?
changes to the psionics rules, but refer that reality has changed and that things Here are the adjustments:
readers back to the CPH for anything not will be different from now on. To add a
covered there. Changes to the alignment little mystery, you might want to explain Race Hide in Move All
requirement for psionicists are not that no one, not even the PCs, remem- Shadows Silently Others1
included in the Rules Book. The chaotic bers any other kind of defiling. If you’re Half-Giant - -10% -10%
psionicists from The Will and the Way are feeling a bit cruel, you might rule that the Thri-kreen +5% +5% -15%2
anomalies; exactly how they managed to PCs remember the old way of doing
become psionicists and retain their things, but no one else does. 1. For convict gladiators only
chaotic alignments is unrevealed. If you favor a more dramatic 2. Thri-kreen never gain the ability to climb
approach, you can introduce some spec- walls.
The Age of Heroes book in the revised tacular or cataclysmic event (the appear-
DARK SUN boxed set gives individual ance of a hitherto unknown comet If someone punches a person who is
experience awards based on character would do nicely) that causes the change. protected by a stoneskin spell, does the
race, but there are no entries for the In either case, you might introduce the attacker suffer damage? Does the recip-
new PC races of aarakocra and pterrans. change gradually. For example, perhaps ient of a stoneskin spell look different in
Is this an omission? Or are there no defilers only have to make Intelligence any way? The Player’s Handbook seems
bonuses for these two races? checks when memorizing spells after to suggest that a charge of a stoneskin is

DRAGON #226 89
lost even if an attacker rolls a miss when DARK SUN boxed set. If you are using sub-
fighting, is this so? If this is so, what is abilities, I recommend the adjustments
the reasoning behind it? on the tables below.
A stoneskin spell never damages an
attacker. The spell description does not Balance
specify any change in appearance for the
Subability Move Hide in Climb
recipient of a stoneskin spell, but that
Score Silently Shadows Walls
doesn’t mean the DM can’t specify one.
3 -30% -30% -30%
A spell loses one “charge” each time
4 -30% -25% -25%
the recipient is subjected to an attack,
5 -30% -20% -20%
that’s just the way the spell works. Note
6 -25% -20% -20%
that an attack roll usually isn’t necessary,
7 -25% -15% -15%
just mark off a charge from the spell. The
8 -20% -15% -15%
only time you need to make a roll is
9 -20% -10% -10%
when the attack can damage the recipi-
10 -15% -5% -5%
ent in spite of the stoneskin spell. Note
11 -10% — —
also that an attack that bypasses the
12 -5 —
- —
spell and damages the stoneskin recipient
13-16 — — —
still negates a charge.
17 +5 +5% +5%
18 +10% +10% +10%
If a clay golem hits a character, will a
19 +15% +15% +15%
successful dispel magic allow a priest of
20 +20% +17% +20%
less than 17th level to heal the charac-
21 +25% +20% +22%
ter?
22 +30% +22% +25
No.
23 +33% +24% +27%
24 +35% +27% +30%
Table 29 in the PLAYER’s OPTION: Skills &
25 +35% +30% +33%
Powers book shows adjustments to
thieving abilities for high Dexterity
scores, but they are different from the Skip Williams is a game designer and edi-
adjustments shown on Tables 4 and 5. for at TSR., Inc. If you have any questions on
What are the correct adjustments? TSR products for the Sage, you can write to
Tables 4 and 5 are only for use with him at 201 Sheridan Springs Road, Lake
the new rules for subabilities in Chapter Geneva, WI 53147, or you can e-mail him at
Two. If you’re not using subabilities, skip tsrsage@aol.com. We regret that personal
Table 29 and use either table 28 from replies are not possible.
The Player’s Handbook or Table XXI from
the Age of Heroes book in the revised

Aim
Subability Pick Open Find/ Escape Forge Tunneling
Score Pockets Locks Remove Bonds Documents
Traps
3 -30% -30% -30% -30% -30% -30%
4 -25% -25% -25% -25% -25% -25%
5 -25% -20% -20% -25% -25% -20%
6 -20% -20% -20% -20% -20% -15%
7 -20% -15% -15% -20% -20% -15%
a -15% -15% -15% -15% -15% -10%
9 -15% -10% -10% -15% -15% -10%
10 -10% -5% -10% -10% -10% -5%
11 -5% — -5% -5% -5% —
12-15 — — — — — —
16 — +5% — — +5% —
17 +5% +10% — +5% +7% —
18 +10% +15% +5% +10% +10% +5%
19 +15% +20% +10% +12% +15% +10%
20 +20% +25% +12% +15% +17% +15%
21 +25% +27% +15% +17% +20% +20%
22 +27% +30% +17% +20% +22% +25%
23 +30% +33% +20% +22% +24% +30%
24 +33% +35% +22% +24% +27% +35%
25 +35% +35% +25% +30% +30% +35%

90 FEBRUARY 1996
(Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, Glacial Rift
of the Frost Giant Jarl, and Hall of the Fire
Giant King, repackaged in 1986’s Queen of
the Spiders anthology and worth search-
ing out). Now, at long last, comes
Giantcraft, a compendium of background
notes, campaign tips, and new rules for
characters of the gargantuan persuasion.
There’s a lot of thoughtfully presented
material here, and most of it makes the
grade; but at the risk of sounding like an
ingrate, there’s also less than meets the
eye.
First, the good stuff. The book opens
with the history of the Faerun giants,
which traces their origin from an adulter-
ous relationship between the demigod-
dess Othea and a minor sea god named
Ulutui. Their union produced four sons
rue confession: when I’m playing a Ever since Jack clambered up his first

T
who would establish the giant-kin dynas-
character in a fantasy game, I opt beanstalk, giants have been a mainstay ties. Othea’s husband responded by
for a no-frills, plain vanilla human. of fantasy fiction. Not so in the AD&D® killing Ulutui and casting his body into
Understand, I like gnomes and lizard game. Sure, they occasionally pop up as the Cold Sea, where radiation from his
men as much as the next guy. But I have villains, and no MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM™ magical amulet caused the waters to
a hard time getting a handle on their per- volume would be complete without a freeze and create the Great Glacier. It’s a
sonalities; when I play a lizard man, he gigantic something-or-other. But to find a enchanting story, well-told, made all the
comes off as Arnold Schwarzenegger with book that gives the big guys their due, more compelling by the unusual arctic
scaly skin. If you’re having similar prob- you have to go all the way back to 1978 locale.
lems — or if you’d just like to spice up and the G1-G3 adventure series From there, the book clears up some
your games with some offbeat guest myths (think all giants are evil? Nahh...
stars — here’s some help. Role-playing games’ rating they’re just misunderstood), then pro-
ceeds to a clutter-free discussion of char-
Giantcraft Not recommended
acter creation. Along with the requisite
ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® ability scores and saving throws, we’re
game supplement offered lucid, sensible rules for adjudicat-
May be useful
128-page softcover book ing strength checks, determining clan
TSR, lnc. $15 Fair heritage, and casting runes, a form of
Design: Ray Winninger with Troy Denning magic that employs symbols and inscrip-
and Jeff Grubb Good tions instead of spoken incantations. A
Editing: Karen S. Boomgarden helpful role-playing section advises the
Illustrations: Matt Cavotta and Daniel Excellent DM to stand on a chair when portraying
Frazier The BEST! a giant, which serves the dual purpose of
Cover: Jeff Easley intimidating the players and making
them giggle.

92 FEBRUARY 1996
The book also takes a detailed look at guide to AD&D’s tallest inhabitants, it mation to get the characters off the
the Ice Spire mountain range, which falls a bit, er, short. ground; there’s not enough material to
serves as a base for giant-centered cam- sustain them through a long campaign.
paigns. Located west of the Great Desert GURPS Fantasy Folk I’d be up for a GURPS Great Eagles to
of Anauroch and south of the Endless Ice GURPS* game supplement explain exactly how these weirdos live
Sea, the frigid mountains are home to a 144-page softcover book c _ and work.
volatile mix of humans, giants, and mon- Steve Jackson Games $19 Fantasy Folk would be just another
sters. It’s a fascinating setting, bursting Design: Chris W. McCubbin and Sean competent but unremarkable supple-
with adventure possibilities. The barbar- Punch, with Loyd Blankenship and ment were it not for its race generation
ians of Harsvale stage ceremonial hunts Steve Jackson rules, one of the most elegant systems
involving reindeer sleds and human prey. Editing: Lillian Butler for creating original characters I’ve ever
Cloud giants place bets on whether they Illustrations: Shea Ryan and Dan Smith seen. Introduced in GURPS Aliens, the sys-
can coerce a particular woman to fall in Cover: Ken Kelley tem allows players to build characters
love with a particular man. A clan of hill from an allotment of points, spent on
giants stage competitive eat-offs, vying Giants also lurk between the covers of advantages, disadvantages, and skills.
for the title of Master Eater; fellow clans- Second Edition GURPS Fantasy Folk, as Racial modifiers determine attribute
men look to the Master Eater for political do elves, centaurs, leprechauns, and 20 scores; the higher the modifier, the better
leadership, as well as “gastronomical other nonhuman races. It’s undeniably the attribute. By expending the required
inspiration.” ambitious; the races can be used as number of points, players can buy spines,
Unfortunately, many strong concepts either PCs or NPCs, making it the GURPS extra limbs, and spells. The resulting
are underdeveloped. We’re told that equivalent of TSR’s Complete Book of characters are not only functional and
giants have unique concepts of good and Humanoids or MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM reasonably balanced, but a lot of fun to
evil, called maat and maug. But aside book. Alas, it promises more than it deliv- play; I whipped up a two-headed goat
from a few behavioral examples — hon- ers. Fantasy Folk claims to treat nonhu- man that I’m itching to unleash in the
oring family members is maat, killing man races as “unique cultures made up Mad Lands (the official GURPS fantasy
another giant is maug — the definitions of individuals, not as sketchily-defined setting, desscribed in the GURPS FantasyII
are fuzzy; in essence, maat is just a funny monsters.” But that’s not quite true. supplement).
word for good. Archetypes are no sooner Part of the problem is the rigid format, Evaluation: If you’re a GURPS fanatic
introduced than they’re jerked away; the which allows only four or five pages for too lazy to cook up your own statistics
Patron (a stone giant storyteller), the each race. Consequently, major races like for dwarves and kobolds, Fantasy Folk
Glutton (a leader of the hill giants), and elves and halflings receive the same might be worth the investment. If you
the Weirdner (a frost giant rune caster) amount of space as minor leaguers like own the first edition, you can probably
receive only a paragraph each of descrip- gargoyles and fauns. That in itself isn’t skip the upgrade; the new edition fiddles
tion, and they deserve full-blown charac- necessarily bad — the M O N S T R O U S with the point costs and rewrites a few
ter kits. Elsewhere, the designers take COMPENDIUM format is just as tight — but abilities, but adds nothing essential. If
unnecessary detours. A discussion of an the writing feels cramped, too, suffering you’re not a GURPS player, there’s little
ogre settlement eats up several pages of from an abundance of generalities and a of interest here. Still, even if you decide
the Ice Spires section. The appendix is shortage of specifics. The elves entry tells to pass, I’d sneak a peek at the chapter
devoted to creatures like shadowhounds us that elves “behave with elegance and on race generation — it’s pretty terrific.
and krotter yak, whose connection to style” but offers no examples of the
giant-kin is dubious. The wind chill table, alleged behavior. We’re informed that
frostbite rules, and other meteorological the elves once waged a great war against
miscellany — much of it recycled from the the dwarves, but we learn nothing about
FR14 Great Glacier supplement — seems where the war occurred, what was at
superfluous; do giants really worry that stake, or how it was resolved. Giants
much about frostbite? “have few customs and little culture.” Oh
Evaluation: In fairness, Giantcraft really? Not according to Giantcraft. Ogres
doesn’t pretend to be the last word in love to fight, centaurs are nomadic
giants, as it concentrates on the mythos hunters, halflings prefer country life, and
introduced in Troy Denning’s Twilight if you think maybe you’ve heard this
Giants novel trilogy. If you’re looking for before, well, if you’ve been role-playing
giants other than those from the for any length of time, you probably
FORGOTTEN REALMS® setting, you’ll have to have.
keep looking. There’s not much here for The oddball races fare better than the
the DRAGONLANCE®, AL-QADIM®, or RED conventional ones. Fantasy Folk permits
STEEL® campaigns; for that matter, there’s players to assume the roles of exalted
not much generic material, either. And horses (stallions and mares with
the designers’ penchant for hopping enhanced senses), bales (blood-drinking
from topic to topic weakens the book’s madmen), and great eagles (magical
impact; instead of a cohesive whole, it birds). Informative sidebars provide inter- The Complete Ninja’s Handbook
reads like a collection of magazine arti- esting adventure hooks and astute role- ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®
cles. Within its narrow focus, Giantcraft playing advice. But the superficial game supplement
delivers the goods. But as an all-inclusive descriptions provide only enough infor- 128-page softcover book

DRAGON #226 93
TSR, Inc. $18 messages to the ninja players containing Basic combat consists of a few modifiers,
Design: Aaron Allston information the other players don’t need and few damage bonuses, and that’s
Editing: Barbara G. Young to know. And throughout the book, about it — call it Martial Arts Lite. (Those
Illustrations: Jim Holloway, Clyde Caldwell, Allston scores with imaginative flourish- wanting more detail should refer to The
Fred Fields, and Les Dorscheid es: a ninja wizard who uses finger-wig- Ultimate Martial Artists, the sequel to Ninja
gles as spell components, a magical dust Hero, reviewed in DRAGON® Magazine issue
Aaron Allston wrote the book on mar- that causes floors to squeak, a metallic #221. The Ultimate Martial Artist includes
tial arts — literally. His Ninja Hero — a sup- smoking pipe that doubles as a club. conversion notes for “level-based” sys-
plement for the Hero System* game, pub- The book describes two martial arts tems — in other words, AD&D.) That said,
lished in 1990 — remains the definitive systems, one for beginners, one for The Complete Ninja’s Handbook stands a
guide to Oriental role-playing. The advanced students. In the basic system, a first-rate resource, another notch in the
Complete Ninja’s Handbook is no Ninja character with the martial arts skill belt for one of the industry’s top design-
Hero, but its close, a masterful set of makes a normal attack roll, then, if the ers. With his effortless affinity for all
directions for transforming run-of-the- attack succeeds, makes a second roll on things oriental, Aaron Allston is role-play
mill PCs into exotic spies and assassins. the Martial Arts Results (MAR) Table. The ing’s answer to Bruce Lee.
Drawing on ideas from Ninja Hero, The MAR Table indicates a maneuver and the
Complete Fighter’s Handbook, and TSR’s amount of inflicted damage. For instance, Faeries
late, lamented Oriental Adventures game, a roll of 13 indicates a Vitals Punch, good Ars Magica* game supplement
Allston recasts ninja characters as part of for two points of damage. If the character 144-page softcover book
the rogue class. Ninja share the same expends a proficiency slot to specialize in Wizards of the Coast $17
experience levels, hit dice, and proficien- martial arts, he receives a +1 bonus to Design: John Snead and Sarah Link
cy slots as rogues, along with their his attack and damage rolls, as well as to Editing: Bob Kruger
weapon options and talent for backstab- his rolls on the MAR Table (the higher the Illustrations: Amy Weber, Anson Madocks,
bing. They’re burdened, however, with MAR roll, the deadlier the maneuver). Bryon Wackwitz, Chris Rush, Doug
more stringent ability requirements (13 in The advanced system encourages Shuler, Eric David Anderson, Jeff
Dexterity, 10 in Intelligence) and reduced players to select fighting styles, such as Menges, John T. Snyder, John Ueland,
thieving skills (a base score of 0% in Pick tae kwon do or karate. A style consists of Julie Baroh, Mark Tedin, Rosemary
Pockets, Open Locks, and Find/Remove a principal attack form (hands, feet, legs), Roach, and Susan Van Camp
Traps). To compensate, ninja have access a set of weapon options (fencing blades, Cover: David O. Miller and Maria Cabardo
to a form of nonverbal communication clubs, chain weapons), and a list of spe-
called “clan signing,” as well as a host of cial maneuvers (Circle Kick, Stunning Campaign in the doldrums? Maybe
new proficiencies, like Water Walking, Touch, Arrow Parry). When employing his you need a few faeries. I’m not talking
Escape, and Giant Kite Flying. Players can style in a combat encounter, the player about the human mosquitoes that flitter
customize their ninja by selecting from makes an attack roll and consults the around Disneyland. I’m talking about the
the dozen-plus character kits; among the description of the maneuver he’s immortal, godlike spell-casters of
choices: Pathfinder (a skilled tracker and attempting to execute. The Circle Kick medieval European legend, brought
woodsman), Shadow Warrior (a weapons description, for example, requires the vividly to life in this off-the-wall source-
expert), and Intruder (an oriental James character to spin in a complete circle and book. This, by the way, is the second ver-
Bond). The extensive equipment section land a kick on the targets upper body; if sion of Faeries, though it doesn’t say so
describes a warehouse full of merchan- successful, the maneuver adds 1-2 hp on the front cover. White Wolf published
dise, including samurai swords, eggshell damage to the character’s normal martial the first one a few years back, before
grenades, and, of course, giant kites. arts damage. Most maneuvers penalize Wizards of the Coast acquired the rights
The Complete Ninja’s Handbook is the attacker for failure; if he blows a to Ars Magica. If you own Version One,
more than just a bunch of numbers and Circle Kick, he loses his balance, which dump it; Version two improves on the
gizmos. Allston gives his ninja three lowers his Armor Class by two points and original in every way.
dimensions by emphasizing their familiar deprives him of his attack in the next That’s not to say Faeries is for every-
ties and obsession with secrecy. Every round. The system is complicated and one, since the format is as eccentric as
ninja belongs to a clan, which not only costly — complete mastery of a style the subject matter. Half the book consists
determines his alignment, but designates requires the character to expend his of a series of first-person anecdotes, with
his status, role, and resources. Further, entire allotment of proficiency slots — but titles like “A Troubadour’s Tale” and “A
clans impose taboos (no marriage out- the maneuvers make it worth the effort. Guide to Our Order by Rebecca, Chief
side the clan, no unauthorized expendi- My favorite: Steel Cloth, which enables a Librarian of Harco.” Some anecdotes fill a
tures) and edicts (destroy a rival clan, pro- ninja to eviscerate an opponent with a column or two, others consume several
mote the worship of a particular god), handkerchief. pages. Throughout, the reader is referred
forcing players to sharpen their PCs’ per- Evaluation: Problems? Nothing major. to footnotes and sidebars explaining var-
sonalities and work toward clear goals. The spell list doesn’t amount to much, ious faerie facts. For example, in the trou-
Most clans insist that their members con- comprising a set of so-so effects like less- badour’s tale of a house beset by the
ceal their true identities, even from their er distraction (the victim hears a faint sounds of breaking glass, a footnote
comrades. To that end, Allston provides noise or sees something indistinct) and reveals that such sounds indicate the
clever suggestions for maintaining secre- detect the living (the opposite of detect strengthening of a faerie aura. In Redcap
cy within the campaign, ranging from undead). The kits could’ve used more Arcadia’s story of a mystical realm called
false character sheets to “paranoia development; the Pathfinder and Shadow Arcadia, she recounts an encounter with
notes,” where the DM passes written Warrior fill less than half a page each. a stubborn faerie who demanded a flask

94 FEBRUARY 1996
of beer; a footnote explains that faeries exquisitely creepy scenarios for the game so absorbing is the mind-boggling
often bargain for beer in exchange for RAVENLOFT® setting pits a group of mid- number of options; players can attempt
information. You might find this tedious, level adventurers against the mysterious orbital bombardments, tinker with psion-
especially if all you want are hard facts to Vistani and their ghostly allies. Kurtz’s ics, even deploy veterinarians to look
use in a role-playing adventure. I found it stylish writing yanks the players from after a battalion’s animals. Veteran
charming, a welcome respite from the shudder to shudder at a rippling pace. Traveller fans will appreciate the atten-
humdrum approach employed in most Want to get hooked? Try this: “And when tion to continuity; the Zhodani units, for
RPG supplements. Yes, as a reference the handsome gentlemen disrobed, she instance, are drawn from back issues of
book, Faeries makes a good doorstop. thought it hardly unusual to see a pair of the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society and
And yes, the writing could’ve been black, bat-like wings unfolding into a Travellers’ Digest. Not for beginners,
stronger, evidenced by awkward pas- canopy of darkness. Gabrielle welcomed Striker II is science-fiction warfare at its
sages like, “I live by my wits and grow the incubus into her embrace.” Yikes! sophisticated best.
wild, and one man’s land is a place I
never stay in long.” But overall, it’s a suc- Star Wars Miniatures Battles Starter Set* Crossroads* game, by Jason Andrew and
cessful experiment, carried off with game, by Stephen Crane and Paul Tina Andrew. Xanadu Games, $15.
insight and humor. Murphy. West End Games, $35. This far-reaching fantasy RPG simu-
The rules section, comprising the sec- Striker II* game, by Frank Chadwick with lates a cosmic struggle for the essence of
ond half of the book, is less successful. I David Nilsen. GDW, Inc., $20. humanity. (And you thought you had
liked the bestiary, a Who’s Who of Lets be honest. — miniature simula- your hands full clearing orcs out of dun-
faeries from around the world (the tions are a lot of work. First, you have to geons.) Players take the roles of Sentinels
hunchback koutsodaimonas lives in master a set of complicated rules; these (good guys sworn to protect innocent
Greece; the padfoot, who resembles a are, after all, war games, and war game mortals) or Defilers (bad guys represent-
green dog, hails from Germany). And the designers are notorious for their obses- ing humanity’s vilest tendencies). To cre-
role-playing chapter does a good job of sion with detail. Then, you have to round ate your good guy or vile guy, you dis-
delineating the pros and cons of faerie up all the figures, and they don’t come tribute 40 character points among eight
characters. But too many ideas are sabo- cheap; an army of miniatures can set you attributes (including Strength, Dexterity,
taged by a lack of development. The back a hundred dollars, easy, and that’s and Perception), then assign another 40
rules for interdimensional travel involve not counting the brushes and paint. points to a list of skills (Leadership,
a confused tangle of aura ratings, power Those with the time and the money, Anthropology, Military Tactics). To
realms, and ability rolls. The character however, will find these two products to resolve an action, the referee determines
creation chapter explains that faeries be excellent examples of an underappre- a difficulty level, the player rolls a few
have an aversion to iron (“Coming into ciated genre. Both address tactical dice, and the result is compared to the
contact with [iron] is like coming into ground combat in the distant future, and relevant skill or attribute score. Typical
contact with a decaying dead animal”). both derive from popular RPGs. adventures involve confrontations with
But how does this aversion operate in a The Star Wars Miniatures Battles Dream Lords and Death Knights.
campaign? Does a faerie flee when he Starter Set boxes the revised rules manu- Characters engage in metaphysical bat-
sees an iron door? Or does he just hold al (originally published in 1993) with a tles as well as physical ones; the referee
his nose? Faeries, it says here, can speak dozen metal miniatures and a handful of awards Power Points to any PC who ful-
with animals. Fine. But which animals? six-sided dice. As in the Star Wars* role- fills his Psyche (essentially, his life’s goal)
Insects? Earthworms? And can the ani- playing game, the Starter Set focuses on and penalizes a bungler by fiddling with
mals speak back? skirmishes between the Rebels and the his Essence (similar, sort of, to alignment
Evaluation: If you’re not an Ars Magica Imperial thugs. Employing clear explana- in AD&D). There’s a lot going on here,
player, don’t let that scare you away. Ars tions and plenty of examples, the book much of it baffling; I had a hard time fig-
Magica is barely mentioned in the first shows how to design soldiers, execute uring out how to satisfy my Essence, and
half of the book. As for the second half, maneuvers, and recruit womp rats and I wouldn’t recognize my Psyche if it
anyone with a calculator and a couple of krayt dragons to augment the troops. walked up and shook hands. More back-
nights to kill ought to be able to translate Combat involves skill tests and opposed ground notes would’ve helped, too. Still,
the statistics to the system of his choice. rolls, concepts imported from the Star this a game with a brain, and one worth
I’m not crazy about fiction in role-playing Wars RPG. It’s fast, tense, and, for a revisiting — I mean, if I don’t straighten
supplements; most game designers are miniatures game, surprisingly easy to out the cosmos, who will?
about as good at writing fiction as rock learn. Information: Xanadu Games, PO Box
musicians are at composing symphonies. Striker II, spawned from the Traveller: 28065, Spokane, WA 99218.
But here, it’s engaging and cute. And if The New Era* role-playing game (by way
you flinched at the word “cute,” consider of the Command Decision* game, anoth- Sorcerer’s Crib Sheet, by Sanford
spending your money elsewhere. er military simulation), is more demand- Berenberg and Bill Olmesdahl with Greg
ing but much richer. Players issue orders Farshtey. West End Games, $15.
to their subordinates by laying down Here’s a grimoire with attitude, a col-
Short and sweet command chits (included with the book); lection of spells for the Bloodshadows*
The Evil Eye, by Steve Kurtz. TSR, Inc., orders include Cautious Advance, game that’s both goofy and grim. Thug
$10. Disengage, and Regroup. Units move and from beyond transforms a human skull
As he demonstrated in The Complete fire in accordance to their orders, with into a cadaverous bodyguard. Wingding
Book of Necromancers, Steve Kurtz knows outcomes determined by die-rolls and causes the victim to experience one emo-
his way around a corpse. This set of difficulty modifiers. What makes the tional extreme after another: first despair,

DRAGON #226 95
then boredom, then lust. To activate cre- Software, a collection of cyberware for 4-6, that’s wishful thinking. I’d say 6-8 is
ate cult elder, the caster must dissolve a the Shatterzone* game, covers much of more like it. A low-level thief will have to
vampire’s brain in an herbal soup, then the same ground. But with its emphasis be very smart or very lucky to survive the
add a severed head. A few spells are old on the mundane — robots, cloned limbs, showdown with the fish monsters.
hat (increase strength, poison), some are skill chips — it seems tame compared to
just plain dumb (writing pen, neon sign). Cybertechnology. Nevertheless, Cyber- Sorcerer’s Crib Sheet, by Sanford
But the keepers outnumber the duds by a technology wastes a lot of space on lame Berenberg and Bill Olmesdahl with Greg
considerable margin. commentary, like this observation from Farshtey. West End Games, $15.
Colonel Cobra: “So anybody with all this Here’s a grimoire with attitude, a col-
Cybertechnology, by Tom Dowd, with stuff is pretty much a walking tank.” lection of spells for the Bloodshadows*
Carl Sargent, Diane Piron-Gelman, and Cybertechnology may be the better read, game that’s both goofy and grim. Thug
Michael Mulvihill. FASA Corporation, $15. but Hardware/Software is the better from beyond transforms a human skull
Hardware/Software, by Elaine Hinman- value. into a cadaverous bodyguard. Wingding
Sweeney and Brain Sean Perry, with causes the victim to experience one emo-
Shaun Horner, Randal W. Horobik, Mike Thief’s Challenge II: Beacon Point, by tional extreme after another: first despair,
Roberts, and Stephen Smoogen. West Terry Amthor. TSR, Inc., $7. then boredom, then lust. To activate cre-
End Games, $18. The enjoyable One-on-One series — ate cult elder, the caster must dissolve a
Hardcore Shadowrun* game players, AD&D® adventures for a single player vampire’s brain in an herbal soup, then
Cybertechnology is right up your alley: character and a single Dungeon Master — add a severed head. A few spells are old
its a catalog of high-tech gadgetry for continues with this brisk, easy-to-run hat (increase strength, poison), some are
turning human bodies into killing thief scenario. The action takes place on just plain dumb (writing pen, neon sign).
machines. You can buy dart guns for the pirate-infested island of Beacon But the keepers outnumber the duds by a
your eyeballs, artificial fingertips contain- Point, where the PC must navigate considerable margin.
ing poison needles, and cranial bombs treacherous terrain, investigate an
that shower passers-by with skull frag- enchanted lighthouse, and elude the DUNGEON MASTER® Screen & Master Index,
ments. Between shopping sprees, you clutches of a giant crab. The encounters by Jim Butler. TSR. Inc., $10.
can amuse yourself with the adventures are well-staged, the villains are familiar To coax consumers into buying regula-
of Meat Boy — if you have to ask, this but fun. Though the cover claims the tion game screens instead of making their
isn’t the book for you. Hardware/ adventure is suited for a thief of level own, publishers have taken to bundling
their screens with all sort of doo-dads:
adventures, character sheets, posters,
book covers, even window stickers. The
doo-dad accompanying the latest TSR
screen is a pretty good one: a 32-page
index to AD&D’s seven core rule books.
Looking for a list of altar requirements?
Check page 100 of The Book of Artifacts.
How do you compute a monster’s knock-
down chance? Page 32 of P L A Y E R ’s
OPTION™: Combat & Tactics has the answer.
As for the six-panel screen, it contains the
expected combat charts and morale mod-
ifiers, along with some unusual stuff like
critical hit tables (from Combat & Tactics)
and a diagram of the outer planes. Unless
you’re a collector or a numbers junkie,
you can probably struggle along without
this. But if you’ve got 10 bucks to spare...
oh, what the heck.

A former medical student, rock musician,


and newspaper editor (in that order), Rick
Swan is the author of The Complete Guide to
Role-Playing Games (St. Martin’s Press). You
can write to him at 2620 30th Street Des
Moines, IA 50310. Enclose an SASE if you’d
like a reply.

* indicates a product produced by a company other


than TSR, Inc. Most product names are trademarks
owned by the companies publishing those products. The
use of the name of any product without mention of its
trademark status should not be construed as a challenge
to such status.

96 FEBRUARY 1996
Convention Calendar
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In order to ensure that all convention
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information, all material should be
either typed double-spaced or printed Cremecon 2 6585, Athens GA 30604, or e- Strategicon, 333 N. San
legibly on standard manuscript paper. Feb. 2-4, WI mail: moc@ix.netcom.com. Fernando Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
The contents of each listing must be Manchester East Hotel & 91502.
short and succinct. Suites, Glendale. Guests: Sue Prezcon
The information given in the listing Weinlein, Lawrence Wyatt-Evans, Feb. 15-18 VA Total Confusion X '96
must include the following, in this
order:
C.H. Burnett, and Richard Russell. Best Western Mount Vernon Feb. 22-25 MA
1. Convention title and dates held Events: role-playing, card, board, Hotel, Charlottesville. Events: Best Western Royal Plaza
2. Site and location and miniatures games. Other role-playing, card, board, and Hotel, Marlboro. Events: role-
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4. Special events offered masquerade ball. and work- ties: tournaments. Registration: tures games. Other activities:
5. Registration fees or attendance shops. Registration: $30 on site, $20 on site. Justin Thompson, miniatures painting contest.
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Convention flyers, newsletters, and
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D RAGON #226 97
games. Other activities: tourna- card, board, and miniatures ers, and films. Registration: $20. mail: puche@ariel.ucs.unimelb.
ments, charity auction to benefit games. Other activities: tourna- Technicon 13, c/o VTSFFC, P.O. edu.au.
the Red Cross Hurricane Relief ments and interactive gaming. Box 256, Balcksburg, VA 24063.
Fund. Registra-tion: $35, Registration: $14 Can. Western Oeontacon
Hurricon, 328 N. Eglin Pkwy., Ft. Gaming Society, Room 340, UCC Egyptian Campaign ‘96 Apr. 12-14 NY
Walton Beach, FL 32547 University of Western Ontario, Mar. 29-31 IL Morris Complex on the SUNY,
London Ontario, Canada, N6A Southern Illinois University’s College at Oneonta, Oneonta.
Johncon ’6 3K7, or e-mail: gaming@ Student Center, Carbondale. Events: role-playing, card, board,
Mar. 1-3 MD mustang.uwo.ca. Events: role-playing, card, board, and miniatures games. Other
Johns Hopkins University, and miniatures games. Other activities: a masquerade ball and
Baltimore. Events: role-playing, Coastcon XIX activities: an auction and a a dinner. Registration: $11/week-
card, board, and miniatures Mar. 22-24 MS painting contest. Registration: end, or $5/day. Kelly Loucks, 47
games. Other activities: semi- Mississippi Gulf Coast $10 preregistered, $12 on site. East St., Apt. #2, Oneonta, NY
nars, dealers, an art show, and Coliseum & Convention Center, Egyptian Campaign, c/o Strategic 13820.
auction. Registration: $30 pre- West Beach Blvd., Biloxi. Guests: Games Society, Office of Student Madison Games Con
registered, $40 on site. John Elizabeth Moon, Tim Beach, Development, 3rd. Floor Student Apr. 20-21 WI
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Office of Student Activities, 122 Dupre. Events: role-playing, card, e-mail: ECGamCon96@. Center, Madison. Events: role-
Merryman HII, 3400 Charles St., board, and miniatures games. playing, card, board, and minia-
Baltimore, MD 21218. Other activities: tournaments, Norman Conquest VI II tures games. Other activities: an
dealers, costume contest, art Mar. 29-31 OK auction and a RPGA® Network
Con of the North show, auction, and talent show. Dale Hall, The University of tournament. Registration: $8.
Mar. 8-10 MN Registration: $25 before 3/l/96, Oklahoma Campus, Norman. Pegasus Games, 341 State St.,
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Events: role-playing, card, board, P.O. Box 1423, Biloxi, MS 39533, and miniatures games. Other
and miniatures games. Other or e-mail: coastcon@aol.com. activities: tournaments. Registra- O-Con ’96
activities: tournaments. Registra- tion: $9. Norman Conquest VIII, Apr. 21-23 NY
tion: $15. Con of the North, P.O. Coscon ’96 215-A OMU P.O. Box 304, 900 Morris Convention Center,
Box 18096, Minneapolis, MN Mar. 22-24 PA Asp Avenue, Norman, OK 73019. Oneonta. Events: role-playing,
55418. Days Inn Conference Center, card, board, and miniatures
Butler. Events: role-playing, card, Spring Offensive VI games. Other activities: work-
Katsucon Two board, and miniatures games. Mar. 29-31 IL shops, demos, contests, and
Mar. 8-10 VA Other activities: tournaments, Illinois Central College, dealers. Registration: $10 prereg-
Holiday Inn Executive Center, dealers, and an auction. Regis- Peoria. Events: role-playing, card, istered, $12 on site. Buran
Virginia Beach. Devoted to anime tration: $15 before 3/l/96, $20 board, and miniatures games. Doyon, 5 Valleyview St.,
and manga. Special guests: Steve thereafter. Circle of Swords, P.O. The Game Room, 1293 Peoria Oneonta, NY 13820, or e-mail:
Bennett, John Ott, Bruce Lewis, Box 2126, Butler, PA 16003. St., Washington, IL 61571. doyoir96@snyoneva.cc.oneor-r-
Tim Eldred, Michael Ling, and ta.edu.
Richard Kim. Registration: $35 Neovention XV East Coast Hobby Show ‘96
preregistered, $40 on site. Katsu Mar. 22-24 OH Mar. 30-Apr. 1 PE Noah Con ’96
Productions, P.O. Box 11582, Gardner Student Center at the Ft. Washington Expo Center, Apr. 27-28 OH
Blacksburg, VA 24060, or e-mail: University of Akron, Akron. Philadelphia. East Coast Hobby Aqua Marine Resort, Avon
katsucon@vtserf.cc.vt.edu. Events: role-playing, card, board, Show, 4400 N. Federal Highway, Lake. Events: role-playing, card,
and miniatures games. Registra- Suite 210, Boca Raton, FL 33431. board, and miniatures games.
CCC Game Aution tion: $15/weekend or $6/day. Other activities: tournaments,
Mar. 9 CT University Gaming Society, Conquest ‘96 demos, a miniatures painting
Comfort Inn of Darien, Gardner Student Center #6, Apr. 5-8 ❖ contest, and an auction. Regis-
Darien. CGC, P.O. Box 403, University of Akron, Akron, OH Melbourne University High tration: $3/day. Matrix Games &
Fairfield, CT 06430. 44325. School, Melbourne. Events: role- Diversions, 5384 East Lake
playing, card, board, and minia- Road, Sheffield Lake, OH 44054.
Nova 21 Midsouthcon 15 tures games. Other activities:
Mar. 16-17 MI Mar. 22-24 TN demos and dealers. Conquest,
Oakland Center on the Brownstone Hotel, Memphis. 40 Glenlyon Rd., Brunswick,
Oakland University Campus, Events: role-playing, card, board, Victoria 3056, Australia, or e-
Rochester. Events: role-playing, and miniatures games. Other
card, board, and miniatures activities: guests, dealers, and an
games. Other activities: tourna- art show and auction. Registra-
ments, anime, and dealers. tion: $25 before 3/l/96, $25
Registra-tion: $8 preregistered, thereafter. Midsouthcon, P.O. Box
$10 on site. Order of Leibowitz, 11446, Memphis, TN 38111.
Oakland University, 49 Oakland
Center, Rochester, Ml 48309, or Technicon 13
e-mail: jjputman@oakland.edu. Mar. 22-24 VA
Best Western Red Lion Inn,
Contamination Blacksburg. Events: role-playing,
Mar. 22-24 ❊ card, board, and miniatures
Raddison Hotel, London games. Other activities: a dance,
Ontario. Events: role-playing, an art show and auction, deal-

98 FEBRUARY 1996
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DRAGON #226 109
110 FEBRUARY 1996
DRAGON #226 111
112 FEBRUARY 1996
DRAGON #226 113
Warriors and Priests of the Realms
A FORGOTTEN REALMS® accessory
by John Terra
Now you can finally develop PCs that
are unique! This book introduces new
regional kits for Realmsian Warriors and
Priests. Included are special abilites and
role-playing notes, new proficiencies,
and a new subclass of each character
archetype to help make your PC a true
product of his home town.
$20.00 U.S./$26.00 CAN./£11.99 U.K.
TSR Product No.: 9509
ISBN: 0-7869-3686

Forged of Darkness
NEW PRODUCTS The Sliver Key A RAVENLOFT® accessory
An AD&D® adventure by William W. Connors
FOR FEBRUARY
by Ted Zuvich A collection of artifacts that the DM
This mid-level adventure turns the can use in his RAVENLOFT campaign are
SPELLFIRE™ Runes & Ruins Booster
tables on PCs by making them the fugi- contained within this 64-page book. Each
Pack, Set 8
tives in a land filled with angry orcs. This artifact has a history and a curse associ-
A SPELLFIRE booster pack
32-page adventure can be used in any ated with it, including the horror behind
by Kevin Melka
campaign setting. Azalin’s personal collection of artifacts!
Your favorite characters from the orig-
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inal AD&D® game return in this new set.
TSR Product No.: 9508 TSR Product No.: 9510
Also included: classic places like the Tomb
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of Horrors and the Keep on the
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$2.50 U.S./$3.50 CAN./£1.99 U.K. Lords of the Last Sea
A DARK SUN® accessory
TSR Product No.: 1151
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The Last Sea is the greatest wonder
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boxed set includes two booklets and a
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TSR Product No.: 2444
ISBN: 0-7869-03678

Greatheart
A BIRTHRICHT™ novel
by Dixie McKeone
Sielwode has changed
little in the 500 years since
the cataclysm of Mount
Deismar. Elves lead a resis-
tance against humans
who destroy their pre-
cious forests and groves.
Now, a sacred burial
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TSR Product No.: 3113
ISBN: 0-7869-04801

115
Escape from Undermountain NEW PRODUCTS The Book of Magecraff
A FORGOTTEN REALMS book FOR MARCH A BIRTHRIGHT™ accessory
by Mark Anthony The secrets of the mysterious wizards
Artek the Knife must travel deeper BLOOD WARS™ Expansion Pack #4: of Cerlilia are detailed in this 128-page
into the deadly labryinths of Under- Insurgents of the Inner Planes tome for the BIRTHRIGHT campaign. Also
mountain than anyone before him to res- A BLOOD WARS™ expansion explained are the mystical ley lines that
cue a missing noble. Getting in will be the This new expansion pack details the grant wizards far-reaching powers.
most difficult thing he’s ever tried, but powers of the Inner Planes and opens a $20.00 U.S./$26.00 CAN./£11.99 U.K.
getting out is next to impossible! new, elemental door to players. This set TSR Product No.: 3117
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ISBN: 0-7869-04771 TSR Product No.: 1137 Binsada Domain Sourcebook
ISBN: 0-7869-03651 A BIRTHRIGHT accessory
Immortal Game by Allen Varney
A FIRST QUEST™ book The Rod of Seven Parts Binsada’s cavalry is one of the finest
by Douglas Niles An AD&D hardcover novel known, but they must fight daily to sur-
The third volume in the Quest Triad by Douglas Niles vive against the Abominations that plot
concludes the story of the farmboy Kip Kayle, a halfling thief, becomes against them. Be the one to lead the
Holton. The knight sets out with his part of a quest to restore the Rod of Khinasi to victory!
friends the absent-minded mage, the Seven Parts and is drawn into a battle $7.95 U.S./$l0.00 CAN./£4.99 U.K.
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TSR Product No.: 8157 TSR Product No.: 8040 Sword of Roele
ISBN: 0-7869-0478X ISBN: 0-7869-04798 A BIRTHRIGHT adventure
by Wolfgang Baur
Chimaeron is a domain of brigands
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Can your heroes survive more than a
week in this ravaged land, testing their
limits against Chimaeron’s monstrous
regent? This adventure is geared toward
mid-level characters.
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TSR Product No.: 3118
ISBN: 0-7869-03740

Something Wild
A PLANESCAPE™ adventure
by Ray Vallese
Carceri is a prison plane
for the evil and insane, and
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two have nothing in com-
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The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King Murder in Cormyr Winged Magic
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by Lynn Abbey By Chet Williamson by Mary H. Herbert
Follow the story of Hamanu, a sor- When a messenger from King Azoun Kelene and Gabrina are abducted by
ceror-king of Urik, as he struggles to pre- turns up dead in a sleepy town, a retired someone who wants to conquer the
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Theros lronfeld
A DRAGONLANCE® novel King of the Dead TSR Announces New
by Don Perrin A RAVENLOFT novel Customer Service Lines
Discover Theros Ironfeld’s pre-War life by Gene DeWeese TSR, Inc., proudly announces its new
as a gladiator, soldier, and mercenary Discover the horrific tale of the lich Consumer Services and Store locator phone
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The Veiled Dragon
A FORGOTTEN REALMS novel
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The latest Harpers novel features the
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TSR Product No.: 8565
ISBN: 0-7869-04828

Unless otherwise noted:


® designates registered trademarks owned
by TSR, Inc.
™ designates trademarks owned
by TSR, Inc.
© 1996 TSR, Inc. All Rights Reserved

DRAGON #226 117


Shadowrun* game magazine called
Clack Shadowland. For subscription information
Continued on page 7 write to Shadowland Magazine, 2820
Sunset Lane #116, Henderson, KY 42420
Zeb Cook returns (e-mail: swrdknght@aol.com).
to the Outer Planes
Interplay Productions (Irvine, CA) has
hired David “Zeb” Cook, creator of the Notes from around the field
PLANESCAPE™ campaign setting for TSR’s GDW (Chicago) has ceased publica-
AD&D® game, as senior designer for the tion of Challenge magazine. The publisher
company’s licensed line of PLANESCAPE of the Traveller* and Twilight: 2000*
computer games. Interplay, publisher of RPGs has closed its offices, reduced its
Descent, Stonekeep, Castles, and many full-time staff to three, and is concentrat-
other computer games, has created an ing on its core product lines.
internal division of over 50 people to The In Nomine* RPG, announced by
produce games based on TSR’s Steve Jackson Games (Austin, TX) over
PLANESCAPE and FORGOTTEN REALMS® set- two years ago but never published, is
tings, as well as a computer version of being wholly rewritten to reflect a new
the DRAGON DICE™ game. focus. SJG managing editor Scott Haring
Zeb is reputed to be “older than dirt”. makes an analogy to the film business:
In his many years as a staff designer at “It’s like a producer saying, ‘I want to
TSR, Cook wrote scores of products and remake Gone With the Wind, but let’s set it
several novels, and was the mastermind in France, and make Scarlett O’Hara the
for the AD&D 2nd Edition project. The adventurous rogue, and they’re all dogs.’
PLANESCAPE box was almost his last work This isn’t quite ‘and they’re all dogs,’ just
before he left the company in early 1995 a refocusing of existing concepts.” No
to work at Magnetic Software publication date has been set.
(Washington, D.C.).

Gaming company
FASA licensee goes AWOL e-mail addresses
FASA Corporation (Chicago) has post- Here are Internet addresses for some
ed a reminder that AWOL Productions, gaming companies. This list continues in
Missouri administrator of the KA-GE and future columns. An international list of
MechForce North America fan clubs, no role-playing company addresses is main-
longer has rights to the clubs. FASA tained on the World Wide Web at
pulled the license in March after numer- www.cgs.washington.edu/~surge/
ous complaints from subscribers. Some gaming/companies.
older FASA products contain ads for
AWOL Productions, and checks sent to Atlas Games: atlas@io.com
the company since March have been Avalon Hill: AHRPG@aol.com
cashed. However, no services have been Chameleon Eclectic: cee@bev.net
provided, and the company has appar- Chaosium: chaosium@aol.com
ently abandoned its post office box, leav- Daedalus Games: jgarcia@io.org
ing an outstanding debt. FASA: FASAMike@aol.com
FASA’s Louis Prosperi advises, “If you CDW: gdwgames@aol.com
find that your check has been cashed Hero Games: hero.games@genie.com
and you have not received services, ICE: vaice@aol.com
please contact the Missouri Consumer Mayfair Games: mayfair@aol.com
Protection office at (314) 751-3321. Leave Metropolis, Ltd.: seraphim@io.com
your name and number, and they will R. Talsorian: talsorian@aol.com
send you a complaint form. The more Steve Jackson Games:
complaints they receive, the sooner sjgames@io.com
they’ll take action.” TSR, Inc.: tsrinc@aol.com
FASA is now handling MechForce North Wizards of the Coast:
America, the Battletech* game organiza- questions@wizards.com
tion. For an application, write to Send news to Allen Varney at a.var-
MechForce NA, 1100 West Cermak Suite ney1@genie.com.
B305, Chicago, IL 60608 (or e-mail:
fasamna@aol.com).
FASA has licensed Sword of the Knight
* indicates a product produced by a company
Publications, publisher of the increasing- other than TSR, Inc.
ly fine Earthdawn Journal, to produce a

DRAGON #226 119


Record earnings of desperation about this move,” says
©1996 Allen Varney The cancellations were announced in Wolfgang Baur, former DRAGON® Magazine
a press release that began with a report editor and leader of the cancelled Magic
Shakeout at Wizards of record sales and profits for 1995. “By RPG project. “It was more like, ‘We’re
of the Coast concentrating on its Deckmaster* games, going to do what works, and stop doing
related competitive events, international what doesn’t work.“’
On Dec. 5, 1995, Wizards of the Coast
expansion and new opportunities in According to sources within the com-
(Seattle, WA), publisher of the Magic: The
electronic and computer-based gaming pany, the decision to cancel was made
Gathering* trading card game, abruptly
in 1996, the company expects to contin- less than 24 hours before the announce-
laid off 30 employees and cancelled
ue to grow and maintain its position of ment.
most of its product lines.
leadership in the industry.” WotC has made many unprofitable
The company continues to support
“To do this effectively,” said WotC expenditures: the purchase of Nightfall
the Magic*, Vampire*, and Netrunner*
founder and president Peter Adkison, Games, which published three products
trading card game lines and The Duelist
“we need to focus our energy and in a year; a “Theatre Alchemy” group that
magazine. WotC will keep selling the
resources in the Deckmaster line and produced promotional videotapes; the
Great Dalmuti* and Roborally* games,
new product areas.” In a follow-up letter Magic game World Championship in
reprinting them if demand warrants, but
posted on the Internet, he said, “Our August, when WotC flew competitors
will not produce new expansions. WotC
sales are at an all-time high. [The Magic from 19 countries to Seattle and covered
cancelled all other lines, including the
game] is doing better than ever. Sales the proceedings on closed-circuit TV;
Ars Magica* role-playing game (10 days
and profits this year have doubled over having 150 workers at the 1995 GENCON®
before its fourth edition was to go to the
last year, and we are expecting further Game Fair in Milwaukee; a $2 million
printer), the Everway*, Primal Order*, and
growth in the future. . . . Unfortunately, remodeling of a new office building,
SLA Industries* games, the projected
not all of our current lines of business are huge company parties, and so on. Four
Magic RPG, and the entire book publish-
as promising. days before the layoffs, WotC announced
ing division. WotC retains its events divi-
“I have come to the conclusion that if a “Pro Tour” series of five professional
sion (in charge of tournaments and con-
anyone is going to do something great Magic game tournaments, beginning in
ventions) and Customer Service depart-
and innovative with RPCs, it’ll probably February in New York City. The 256-play-
ment.
be someone else. I bow from the field. . . . er Seniors tournament offers cash prizes
Employees laid off received three
I do not look at this as a disservice to totalling $30,000, and a 128-player
days’ notice and a month’s severance
RPGs. I think we were doing a disservice Juniors match offers scholarships of
pay. About half a dozen of those laid off
to RPGs by not giving them adequate equal value. WotC is flying in the top
were expected to take new positions
support. We simply do not seem to be eight finishers from the World Champion-
within WotC, working on the surviving
able to do a great job in the RPG busi- ships for the tournament.
product lines. Before the layoffs, the five-
ness. We have never admited this before, WotC employees expressed shock at
year-old company employed about 275
but we have lost money on every single the sudden layoffs. The reaction of Janna
people.
RPG product we’ve published.” Silverstein, head of the book depart-
Some cancelled game lines may be
As for book publishing, “While we’ve ment, was typical: “I’m deeply disap-
sold or spun off into smaller companies.
built an excellent team for publishing pointed, slightly bewildered, and trying
Dave Allsop, designer of the SLA
books, we think we can better support to figure out what to do next.” Ars
Industries game, was laid off from
our game lines by working with major Magica line developer Wade Racine said,
WotC’s United Kingdom division; he will
book publishing companies that focus “I was told they were going to support
continue SLA under the reborn Nightfall
on this business and understand it better my line, and they did for a time. Then it
Game, SLA’s previous publisher (which
than we do.” all came crashing down on Black
WotC purchased in 1994). Atlas Games
Adkison said WotC will probably Wednesday.”
(Northfield, MN) expressed interest in
resume publishing table games such as On the Friday following the
acquiring the Ars Magica game. Atlas’s
the Roborally game in the future. announcement, employees gathered in
first products were licensed supplements
the landscaped courtyard of WotC’s new
for ArM when it was published by White
Reasons and reactions building to hold a formal wake, complete
Wolf Game Studio (Atlanta, GA).
The layoff appears to be part of a with bagpipe, candles, and expressions
straightforward restructuring of the fast- of grief.
growing company. “There wasn’t a whiff Continued on page 119

120 FEBRUARY 1996