Dragon Magazine #214
Issue #214
Vol. XIX, No. 9
February 1995
TSR, Inc.
Associate Publisher
Brian Thomsen
Kim Mohan
Associate editor
Dale A. Donovan
Fiction editor
Barbara G. Young
Editorial assistant
Wolfgang H. Baur
Art director
Larry W. Smith
Renee Ciske
Tracey Isler
Janet L. Winters
U.S. advertising
Cindy Rick
U.K. correspondent
and U.K. advertising
Carolyn Wildman
Printed in the U.S.A.
The Complete Half-Elf — Greg Jensen
Give your half-elf PCs these kits designed specifically
for them.
Bazaar of the Bizarre — Christopher Kutarna
Add these elven artifacts to your campaign.
Dragon’s Bestiary — Norman Abrahamsen
Meet the smallest (and furriest) elf-friends of all.
Hunter Under the Sun — Brent J. Giles
The pursuit of justice is as relentless as the sun’s glare.
Role-playing Reviews — Rick Swan
Try these alternative fantasy RPGs.
Eye of the Monitor — Lester Smith
“Review” Les’ rebuttal to an earlier computer-game review.
From the Forge — Ken Carpenter
Join Ken as he explores miniature terrain.
DRAGON® Magazine (ISSN 0279-6848) is published
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First Quest — Harold Johnson
Harold wears a lot of hats—no, really, a lot of hats.
Rumblings — The staff
Read the latest about TSR—on TV and movie screens.
For Truth and Justice — Chris Avellone
Create better superheroic exploits with this adventure
Ecology of the Neogi — Jon Winters
This is but the first of two (count ‘em) “Ecologies” in
this issue.
Game Wizards — Bruce Nesmith
Check out these solitaire rules for the SPELLFIRE game.
Sage Advice — Skip Williams
Skip again runs his fine-tooth comb through the AD&D®
and SPELLFIRE game rules.
Nasty Tricks — Bruce Nesmith
Try these stratagems on your next SPELLFIRE game
Ecology of the Owlbear — Johnathan M. Richards
Yes! This long-promised article finally makes it into print.
Lost Empires — David Howery
“Discover” a lost land such as Atlantis for your
game world.
Alan Pollack's dramatic cover
painting for this issue suggests the
valuable spelunker's axiom, "don't go
exploring caves alone." This is especially
true when those caves may be occupied
by the dark elves known as the drow.
Convention Calendar
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a question about an article or have an idea for a
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publish anonymous letters. We will withhold
your name if you request it.
Sorry, Tim
Dear Dragon,
Your reply to Mark J. Beeley (under “Beginners Only?” in “Letters,” issue #213) was quite
nice, telling Mark about many of the fine
products TSR, Inc., has created for high-level
characters, but you left out an important one.
The RED STEEL™ campaign setting, released
in October 1994, describes the Savage Coast, a
war-torn and cursed land. The curse that covers
the land gives each person a Legacy, a magical
power. These powers come with a price because
the curse also twists people, changing them
according to their Legacies. An amulet made of
cinnabryl can protect someone from the worst
effects of a curse—but cinnabryl only works for
a while before its protective powers fail. Depleted cinnabryl becomes red steel, a magical
metal as strong as normal steel but lighter.
People fight constantly over cinnabryl and red
steel, the keys to survival and power on the
Savage Coast.
Some people, known as Inheritors, gain multiple Legacies. These folks are almost like
superheroes—or supervillains. There are new
PC races, new kits, new proficiencies, new
monsters, and new weapons—including smoke
powder pistols. It’s a fun, challenging campaign.
In other words, it’s great for high-level characters, or for experienced players with low-level
And it’s wonderfully written. (Well, at least my
mom thought so.)
Tim Beach
Down the Hall, TSR, Inc.
Mea culpa, Tim. The omission was not intentional. I really should’ve remembered the Savage Coast setting, since it previously appeared in
these very pages as part of Bruce Heard’s “Princess Ark” and Known World Grimoire” series.
Losing my memory at 28. Sigh.
Ian steps down
Look no further
Dear Dragon,
Due to recent changes in my life, I will be
unable to continue my function as a clearing
house for gamers interested in playing by mail.
Therefore, I am requesting that one of your
most stalwart readers volunteer to take my
place. To the first person who responds to this
letter by writing to DRAGON Magazine (please
don’t write to me personally), I will send all
player material I have received and compiled so
that she may continue where I have left off. As
a side note, I was quite pleased and impressed
by the sheer number of replies I received to my
original letter. I hope all your games work out
for you.
Ian Reid
The Dalles OR
Dear Dragon,
I’ve been searching desperately for two books
that I have discovered are out of print, or at
least so I’m told. First is the Outer Planes Appendix of the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM® accessory, and the second is from the TOP
SECRETS/S.I.™ game and I believe is called G4,
The Guide to Guns, Gadgets, and Getaway Gear:
I’m hoping maybe you have some suggestions
for where to look.
Jeremy Woolsey
Grand Forks, B. C.
Hats off to you, Ian, for a job well done—and
for being conscientious enough to let us know
when you couldn’t continue doing it anv longer
Anyone out there who’s seriously interested in
picking up where Ian is leaving off should drop
us a line. For more information on what this is
all about, see Shayne Posers letter in issue #200
and Ian’s letter in issue #202.
Eriflleps rewsna
Dear Dragon,
I really enjoy the SPELLFIRE™ card game, but
something has been bugging me about it for
In the Booster Pack set of 25 characters, do
the following mean anything backwards?
Card #4, Gib Ekim (Big Mike, perhaps?)
Card #7, Fejyelsae (Jeff Easley?)
Card #11, Gib Evets (Big Steve?)
Card #13, Gib Htimsen (Big Nesmith?)
Please tell me if this has any significance, or
am I just losing my mind?
Kevin Gardiner
Whitevale, Ontario
There’s nothing wrong with your mind, Kevin.
It could be that some of the characters in that
pack just happen to have names that turn into
other names when you spell them backward . . .
or it could be that somebody on the design team
—Gib Mik
decided to have a little fun.
I have suggestions galore, Jeremy. Here goes:
Although it may be difficult or impossible to
find in stores anymore, the Outer Planes Appendix is still available from TSR’s Mail Order
Hobby Shop. You can place an order by calling
the Hobby Shop’s toll-free number l-800-5585977 from 8A.M. to 5P.M. Monday through
Friday. You also can ask to be sent a free catalog
of all the Hobby Shop’s merchandise, which
includes limited supplies of some old TSR
products you can’t get anywhere else.
The news isn’t as good on The Guide, which is
many years old and long out of print. There
might be people out there willing to sell one to
you, but we have no way of knowing who they
are. Good luck in your search.
Finally Jeremy’s letter gives us a chance to
announce a couple of new services being offered by TSR that could answer a lot of questions for a lot of people. You now can call a
toll-free number, 1-800-384-4TSR, to find out the
name of the store nearest you that sells TSR
products. And if you have a question about any
TSR product, call Rob Taylor at 1-414-248-2902
he’ll do the best he can to tell you what you
need to know.
Thanks, Dino
Dear Dragon,
I have been an avid reader of your magazine
for some time. In the last three months, however, four events have transpired that will
forever change the way I view the good people
at TSR.
First, after three years of buying DRAGON
Magazine from my local bookstore, I finally
convinced myself to subscribe.
Continued on page 118
Artwork by Christopher Miller
Last issue, Larry Smith asked the readers of Dragon® Magazine for their
thoughts, opinions, and concerns regarding gaming and the direction this magazine should take in the future. Your
literate and enlightening responses have
begun to arrive on our doorstep (thanks,
we appreciate the effort!), but some of
your comments have been a bit . . . vague.
In order to best accommodate your wishes,
we need you to be as specific as you
can be when you contact us. Since I've
been around this magazine for over five
years now and like to think that I know it
pretty well, I thought I'd take it upon
myself to help you narrow the focus
of your letters and e-mail messages. For
those of you who’ve already contacted us,
please use the list below to re-examine the
comments you’ve given us. If you’ve not
informed us of your opinions, why not
take the time right now to read through
this list, formulate your thoughts, and
drop us a line. (If you put it off until later,
you may never get back to it. I know, I do
that all the time.)
DRAGON Magazine is ultimately defined
not by the editorial staff, but by its readers who pluck down their hard-earned
bucks each month. So, pick up a pen or sit
down at the keyboard and tell us what
you really think. Please explain why you
feel the way you do. You don’t need to
delve into excruciating detail, but a sentence or two detailing the reasons for your
choice would be most helpful. The questions are in no particular order (just like
my office).
Themes: Do you like the idea of having
the front section of the magazine devoted
to articles all linked by a common theme?
Which themes do you find most useful in
your game campaigns? Which themes do
you find the least helpful? Should we drop
the whole concept of themes? Should we
increase the size (page count) of the theme
Reviews: Which review columns do
you regularly read? Which columns do
you never read? Should we publish more
(game, computer, book, miniatures) reviews? For the games, computers, and
miniatures columns with multiple reviewers, do you tend to agree with Reviewer
“A” more often than with Reviewer “B”?
Do you read columns only by a certain
reviewer? (If so, tell us whose columns
you do agree with or read most often.)
coverage of (the COUNCIL OF WYRMS™,
Masque of the Red Death, or the
PLANESCAPE™ campaigns, or R. Talsorian’s
games)? Should the magazine cover more
products from other publishers? (If so,
which products?) Should the magazine
publish articles on fantasy, SF, or historical
board games? Do you prefer articles that
focus on only one game system or general
articles that are pertinent to entire genres
of role-playing games?
Contributors: Who are your favorite
authors for the magazine? Whose artwork
just blows you away every time it appears
in the magazine? Who is your favorite
cover artist? Do you like to read articles
by TSR staff members about new game
products and the inner workings (such as
they are) of TSR, Inc.? Should the magazine publish more material written by
game designers from other companies?
Features: Of the columns and departments that appear in every issue of the
magazine (such as the FIRST QUEST™,
“Letters,”“ Sage Advice,” “TSR Previews”
columns, and so on), which do you find
the most entertaining to read or the most
helpful to your games? Are there too
many of this type of article?
DRAGON Magazine has another variety
of feature article: the “Arcane Lore,”
“Dragon’s Bestiary,” “The Wizards Three,”
and other columns that do not show up in
every issue but that appear regularly.
Which of these do you most look forward
to reading and using in your game world?
We’ve created a few new columns in the
last year or two (“Elminster’s Notebook,”
“Rumblings,” and “Campaign Journal”);
which of these do you most enjoy?
Genres/Settings: Are there genres of
gaming (science fiction, superhero, horror,
Victorian-era, etc.) that you’d like to see
more coverage of in the magazine (if so,
which)? Are there AD&D® game settings
that we give too much coverage to in the
pages of the magazine? Which new games
or settings would you like to have more
Miscellaneous: (The following is a
hodgepodge of questions that don’t fit into
any of the above categories.) What don’t
you like about DRAGON Magazine? (Remember to be specific; we can take it.)
What’s the one topic you’ve always wanted
to read about in the magazine? Should the
magazine cover fantasy and science fiction
from other media such as TV, movies, and
comic books? If you could change any one
aspect of DRAGON Magazine, what would
it be? How would you change it?
The addresses to which your comments
should be sent follow. Our mailing address is:
DRAGON Magazine, c/o Counter Intelligence, 201 Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake
Geneva WI 53147.
You can fax your opinions to: 1-414-2480389, Attn.: DRAGON Magazine, c/o
Counter Intelligence.
You can e-mail your thoughts to us at:
[email protected] Attn.: Counter
* indicates a product produced by a company other
than TSR, Inc.
FIRST QUEST is the title of TSR, Inc.'s
Audio CD Introduction to Role-playing Game.
This series is a feature where veterans of
role-playing describe their first experiences
in the hobby.
by Harold “Wisconsin” Johnson
Hats. I like to wear hats, all sorts of hats.
Ask anybody at the GEN CON® Game Fair.
“Where’s Harold? He’s over there somewhere. Just look for a guy in a brown
I’ve been wearing hats all my life, literally and metaphorically. Just ask anyone at
TSR. “What’s Harold’s job? Which one? He
wears so many different hats.”
So when Dale asked me to write about
my first experiences in role-playing, I had
to ask, “Which one? Do you mean adventure gaming?”
“Look, just read a couple of the other
FIRST QUEST™ articles in previous issues
to get an idea,” he said, rolling his eyes as
if I’d asked which shoe to put on first.
Fine. So I read them. I read them all.
After an hour I came to the conclusion
that this column shouldn’t be called FIRST
QUEST, it should be called ANNOYING
QUEST. Every installment showed that
TSR employees loved to play characters to
annoy other players and DMs. Hmmm?
Now that’s an interesting hat to try on. I
bet I’ve got them all beat. I’ve played ten
times more characters and annoyed ten
times more players in my history as a roleplayer.
In my high school years in Lincoln,
Nebraska, way back in the late ‘6Os, one of
the hats I wore was the class weirdo.
Some people would have called me a nerd,
but thanks to Bill Cosby, I was called “ol’
weird Harold.”
I was a history and science major, a
member of the science and chess clubs,
and a co-founder of one of the early Star
Trek fan clubs. All of which was really an
excuse to play games, all sorts of games.
War games, strategy games, miniatures
games, assassin games, water-fight games,
mystery games, and we even created our
own naval computer game requiring you
to guess the distance and angle to the
target. We played party games, and roleplayed even before the term was coined.
We called it “having fun!”
A second hat I wore at the time was that
of a professional entertainer, writer, and
playwright. I performed on stage, radio,
and television for years, mostly character
acting, though I did win a local award for
my portrayal of Faust. Once again, I was
already role-playing, I just didn’t know the
pastime had a name.
Eventually, I survived my youth and
went off for my senior years of college to
Northwestern University to pursue my
future, a fateful move if ever there was
one, for it put me in close proximity to
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the birth place of
role-playing. In those days I was not quick
in making friends, and my first year was
all studying and no gaming! I don’t know
how I survived. Luckily, as the summer of
1975 rolled around, I packed my bags and
returned home.
Upon arrival, I was met by my old gaming comrades and regaled with tales of a
great new game, called the DUNGEONS &
DRAGONS® game, which they insisted I
try. “It’s like playing a part in a fairy tale,
only you ad-lib the story as you go.” I could
do that I thought, but what about the
rules? I was shown three photocopied
books (it was years before I ever saw an
actual copy of the game) and was pretty
daunted. “Oh don’t worry about it. You
don’t need to read the rules. We’ll tell you
what you have to do as we play.” Okay
then, let’s get on with it.
On our third day of gaming, we decided to
pull an all-nighter. I raided a prop attic of a
local theater group and came loaded with
prop chests, bags, treasures, rubber snakes
and spiders, and more. I had vanilla wafers
for gold coins and hard candies for gems.
We were ready to overindulge in gaming.
Unfortunately, as 9 P.M. rolled around, our
DM packed up his stuff and said that was it,
he was tired and going home. We were
stunned. What could we do?
Never a bright fellow, I tried on a new
hat and said, “Hey guys, I can create an
adventure on the spot. That’s no big deal. I
just don’t know the rules, if someone
wants to co-judge, I’ll be the DM.” What
choice did they have? So half an hour
later, after some hasty sketching of what
became the core of my campaign world, I
embarked on the grand mysteries of running a fantasy RPG.
Now role-playing a hero is fun, but just
imagine what it’s like to suddenly be the
center of attention, playing a dozen different characters simultaneously, each with a
unique character voice (I was once clocked
as having 39 different character voices)
and entertaining everyone. The ego rush
was huge, like performing on stage for a
small audience. It was great, and the players thought so too. Unfortunately, this
meant a premature retirement for my
career as a player, as the rest of the summer I became the group’s resident DM.
No problem, I thought. When I get back
to Northwestern, I’ll find a gaming group
and bring my hero out of retirement.
Wrong. I couldn’t find a gaming group, so I
had to organize my own, and now I was
the veteran, so I had to be the DM for the
My first players were Rai Kunstmanas (a
Lithuanian name, small world, ay?) and
David White. We experimented with several new things. Using the EN GARDE*
game rules we developed backgrounds for
our characters. Bored with dungeon
crawls (I didn’t have time to design a
dungeon and could just ad-lib wilderness
adventures) our adventures explored the
wilderness, warfare, story-telling, and
mythology. We invented new rules for
swimming, acrobatics, and merchant
trading. I continued to build a repertoire
of stock characters to delight and annoy
Some of my favorites were the loquacious bartender, the crotchety old gypsy,
the cowardly goblin, and the angry ogre.
In addition to this stock, I created a set of
13 unique powerful personalities that
created motivation for intrigue, politics,
and adventures in my world. One of the
most notable was a befuddled old wizard
named Rislan, who was more powerful
than he knew, and despite his senility
always lucked out with the right spell.
Rislan was one of the inspirations for
another befuddled mage named Fizban of
the DRAGONLANCE® Saga fame (though
both Tracy Hickman and Jeff Grubb had
their own prototype mad mages as well).
In the summer of 1976, I found a new
hat to try on; I attended my first GEN CON
Game Fair, the first one officially managed
by TSR. There I complained about the lack
of role-playing events, and the poor quality of DMs to one of the organizers. He
responded by drafting Rai and myself to
create and run our own tournament at the
show. Our game was the last one running
at the close of the show. I’ve been running
events at the Game Fair ever since.
As a result of running events at Game
Fairs a friend from the Northwestern
gaming group started recruiting me to run
events on the spur of the moment at the
Game Fairs. It was there that I learned to
create an adventure using a spring board,
a generic event chart, and the players’
feedback to create spur of the moment
adventures to remember.
It all began with one very trying adventure. Every hero present exhibited some
major flaw, and I decided to exploit these.
Continued on page 70
Fighter/Thief kits
My favorite PC race in the AD&D® game
also is the race with the least written about
it. Half-elves are living enigmas, spanning
two cultural worlds, and are outcasts from
both. Prejudice is a daily reality for halfelves. They are not fully accepted by either
their human or elven contemporaries due
to their mixed heritage and the stereotypes
each race attributes to the other. Humans
tend to see half-elves as frivolous and lazy
wastrels, who will steal your money and
your daughter without a thought. Elves
(particularly Gray and Sylvan) tend to see
half-elves as greedy and power-hungry,
with little or no respect for nature. None
of these assumptions are necessarily true.
Being raised in such an environment gives
half-elves a unique perspective of the world.
They lack the fierce racial loyalty of most
other races, therefore they tend to rely
more on themselves. This self-reliance, combined with relatively long life spans and
learning ability, make half-elves the most
versatile characters of all. If you count the
multi-classed combinations, half-elves have
more classes open to them than any other
The character kits presented in the PHBR
series help to greatly expand a character’s
role and motivation. Most of the multiclassed combinations for half-elves have no
character kits. This article alleviates this
lack by presenting kits for multi-classed
half-elves, finally giving such characters
identity. Please note that no kits for singleclassed half-elves are presented here as
those presented in the PHBR series (Complete Fighter’s Handbook, Complete Thief’s
Handbook, Complete Priest’s Handbook,
Complete Bard’s Handbook, and Complete
Ranger’s Handbook), are in most cases just
as appropriate to half-elves as to humans.
Also note that some kits from the Complete
Book of Elves also may fit a half-elven character. Check with your DM first, as some
kits, such as the Spellfilcher and the Bladesinger, are usually available only to elves.
Note: Nonweapon proficiencies marked
with * are found in The Complete Thief’s
Handbook. A * * indicates a proficiency
from The Complete Bard’s Handbook.
Description: The Shadowblade is considered an elite member of the thieving
community. She is a dark and foreboding
character combining the subtlety of a thief
with the deadly skills of a warrior. Many
thieves’ guilds will have one or two in their
employ. Other Shadowblades hire themselves out to the highest bidder. Whether
it’s assassination, bounty hunting, enforcing, or just plain larceny, if there is a roguish job that requires some extra muscle,
the Shadowblade is the person to call.
Requirements: Shadowblades must
have a Strength of 13 or greater, and a
Dexterity of 12 or higher. As with all
thieves, they may not be of Lawful Good
Role: As many half-elves find little acceptance with the mainstream society, they
often feel more at home with thieves’
guilds (who pragmatically appreciate their
multi-faceted talents). Shadowblades are
well known and respected in the underworld for their fighting skills.
Secondary skills: Any.
Weapon proficiencies: A Shadowblade
may spend her weapon proficiencies any
way she wishes. Whether or not multiclassed fighters are normally allowed to
specialize in weapons, the Shadowblade
character should have this option.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Information Gathering*, Intimidation*,
Thieves’ Cant. Recommended: Blindfighting, Disguise, Jumping, Tumbling, Endurance, Tracking, Weaponsmithing, and
Alertness *.
Skill progression: Shadowblades usually progress about equally in their thief
skills. The exception is Pick Pockets, which
they tend to find unimportant.
Equipment: No special equipment is
preferred. Like all multi-classed thieves,
Shadowblades may not use any thief skills
but Read Languages, Detect Noise, and
Open Locks in armor heavier than leather.
Special benefits: Shadowblades are
well respected in the underworld and
therefore receive a +2 to all reaction rolls
from thieves who know of the character’s
status. Shadowblades also gain a +10% to
Hide in Shadows, and a +5% bonus to
their Move Silently skills.
Special hindrances: Regardless of
actual alignment, Shadowblades have a
notorious reputation and therefore receive
a -2 to reactions from non-thieves and
-4 reaction from law enforcement officials if they know of the Shadowblade
status. Shadowblades also receive a -10%
penalty to the Pick Pockets ability.
Military Scout
Description: The Military Scout has
many differences from the scout kit in the
Complete Thief’s Handbook, not the least
of which is an increased fighting ability.
This is a well-rounded intelligence gatherer, as much a spy and guerrilla warrior
as a wilderness thief.
Requirements: The Military Scout
must have a Strength and Dexterity of 10
or more and an Intelligence of 11 or higher. They cannot be lawful good.
Role: Just as the Shadowblade finds
acceptance in a thieves’ guild, some halfelves find their niche in a standing army.
In the military, a half-elf’s talents usually
don’t go unnoticed, and their ability to
combine skills makes them excellent
scouts. They are trained for reconnaissance, sabotage, and other intelligence
gathering, sometimes even infiltrating
enemy camps. As the opportunity for
treason is high for military scouts, they
are treated better than the common soldier to maintain loyalty.
Secondary skills: Required: Bowyer/
Fletcher, Fisher, Forester, Hunter, or
Weapon proficiencies: Military
Scouts must be proficient with a knife.
The other proficiencies may be filled as
the player wishes. Military Scouts may not
specialize in weapon use.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Direction Sense, Disguise, and Survival or
Tracking. Recommended: Alertness*, Fire
Building, Fishing, Modern Languages,
Weather Sense, Set Snares, Endurance,
Skills progression: Hide in Shadows,
and Move Silently are favored skills. Pick
Pockets and Open Locks are the least
important, but they still may be helpful in
information gathering.
Equipment: Scouts usually have standard outdoor equipment: rations, a bedroll,
a knife, rope, etc. They usually take equipment specific to the mission they are on,
often including a disguise kit.
Special benefits: When in a wilderness setting, Military Scouts have a bonus
of +10% to the following thief skills: Find/
Remove Traps, Move Silently, Hide in
Shadows, Detect Noise, and Climb Walls
(for trees and cliffs). Military Scouts have a
patron who can provide aid, usually a
standing military unit. This is mostly a
role-playing consideration.
Special hindrances: In an urban
12 FEBRUARY 1995
setting, Military Scouts have a -5% penalty to all thief skills except Pick Pockets,
Open Locks, and Read Languages. Having
a patron can be a hindrance as well as a
benefit. Scouts must report to their commanders, and may be called on missions
that go against the plans of the adventuring party.
Fighter/Cleric kit
Description: A Crusader is a half-elf
devoted to spreading of his faith. The
Crusader seeks to defend the faithful,
combat the church’s enemies, and bring
his religion to the heathens.
Specialty priests: If the Complete
Priest’s Handbook is being used, the following priesthoods may have Crusaders as
well as clerics: Community, Culture,
Death, Everything, Evil, Fire, Good, Guardianship, Justice/Revenge, Race (half-elf),
Redemption, Strength, War, and Wisdom.
Requirements: Crusaders must have a
Strength of 13 or greater, a Wisdom of 14
or higher, and a Charisma of 12 or greater.
They may not be of chaotic alignment, as
chaotic people hold the individual’s freedom as or more important than the morals
the Crusaders attempt to spread. Although
most Crusaders are good, some are more
interested in destroying “infidels” than in
protecting the faithful. That type of Crusader may be neutral or evil.
Role: This is as close to a paladin as a
demihuman can get. Like their human
cousins, Crusaders are holy warriors who
stand for a cause. However, this cause is
not always lawful good, although most
Crusaders are lawful good. Crusaders
always put the interest of their faith ahead
of their party.
Secondary skills: Required: Armorer,
Weaponsmith, or Scribe.
Weapon proficiencies: The Crusader
may spend his weapon proficiencies as is
wished. However, a crusader must abide
by the weapon restrictions of his faith.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Religion. Recommended: Etiquette, Heraldry, Modern Languages, Riding (Landbased), Ancient History, Spellcraft,
Blind-fighting, and Endurance.
Equipment: Crusaders should get the
heaviest armor and most deadly weapon
they can afford and that their priesthood
will allow.
Special benefits: When in combat
against a member of an opposing religion
or philosophy (the DM will decide which
priesthoods and creatures qualify), or in
defense of their own priesthood’s followers, the Crusader gains a bonus of +1
on attack and damage rolls. Crusaders
have a permanent +1 to all saving throws.
Special hindrances: A Crusader must
serve his priesthood first and foremost.
The Crusader must try to convert or fight
those who oppose his religion, and defend
followers of the Crusader’s religion with
his life.
Fighter/Druid kit
Wilderness Avenger
Description: When nature is wantonly
abused and destroyed, those who care will
try to stop it. These people will use force if
necessary. Normally these individuals are
rangers. If the one destroying nature is
very unlucky, it will be a Wilderness
Avenger. These people are similar to rangers, but rangers always show at least a
little mercy toward their opponents. Wilderness Avengers are not so forgiving.
While not evil, they are more inclined to
believe the end justifies the means.
Specialty priests: If the Complete
Priest’s Handbook is being used, the following priesthoods may have Wilderness
Avengers, as well as druids: Agriculture,
Animals, Earth, Elemental Forces, Fertility,
Hunting, Life/Death/Rebirth Cycle, Race
(half-elf), Seasons, and Vegetation.
Requirements: Wilderness Avengers
must have a Strength and Constitution of
14 or greater, a Wisdom of 12 or higher,
and a Charisma of 15 or greater. Neutrality
must be an element of their alignment.
They still must abide by the alignment
restrictions of their priesthood.
Role: Where rangers protect people
and natural creatures, Wilderness Avengers are merely trying to preserve the
natural balance, and are not picky about
how they do so. They allow some hunting
and harvesting of wild animals and plants
(DMs: Please use common sense in determining this), but if it upsets the balance of
nature, Wilderness Avengers are not
averse to using militant methods to stop it.
Wilderness Avengers normally get along
well with rangers, people they are often
confused with. They see the rangers’
overprotectiveness of the good races as a
flaw, however. They draw their power
from being in tune with the forces of
nature rather than a reverence for life.
Secondary skills: Required: Forester.
Weapon proficiencies: Scimitar and
one missile weapon (whether or not these
are allowed by the priesthood). All other
weapon proficiencies must be allowed by
the avenger’s priesthood.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Tracking, Survival, Animal Lore. Recommended: Agriculture, Animal Handling,
Animal Training, Alertness*, Direction
Sense, Weather Sense, Herbalist, Hunting,
Fishing, Set Snares.
Equipment: Wilderness Avengers may
not wear metal armor, but may use metal
shields if allowed by their priesthood.
Special benefits: A Wilderness Avenger gains a bonus of +1 on attack and
damage rolls when fighting “unnatural”
creatures. Such creatures include those of
extraplanar origin, undead, golems, and
artificially created beings. A Wilderness
Avenger also gains a 5% chance to hide in
natural surroundings and move silently
per level (use highest level; i.e., a 2nd/3rd
level fighter/druid Wilderness Avenger
would have 15% in both skills).
Special hindrances: Wilderness
Avengers are rugged and unkempt looking, thereby receiving a -3 to reactions in
urban social settings. They cannot specialize in weapon use. A Wilderness Avenger
will not let an act of destruction against
nature go unavenged.
Fighter/Mage kits
Description: Spellarchers belong to a
fraternity of half-elves fighting prejudice
and oppression. They fight to change the
rules of society with both arms and magic.
They combine the two, using their arrows
to increase the range of some spells.
Requirements: Spellarchers must
have a Strength of 9 or greater, and Dexterity and Intelligence scores of 15 or
higher. They must be chaotic in alignment.
Role: Spellarchers are a self-proclaimed
group of half-elf freedom fighters. They
study magic in an unusual way; combining
it with archery. The method of spellarchery has so far remained a mystery to all
but these half-elves. If a Spellarcher tries
to teach this to someone of another race,
other Spellarchers will hunt her down and
put an end to student and teacher permanently.
Secondary skills: Required: Bowyer/
Weapon proficiencies: Required:
Spellarchers must specialize with the long
bow. They may not specialize in any other
weapon. The remaining weapon proficiency slot may be filled as the player wishes.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Bowyer/Fletcher, Spellcraft. Recommended: Fire-building, Herbalist, Reading/
Writing, Blind-fighting, Hunting, Running,
Equipment: All Spellarchers start out
with a finely-crafted long bow (+1 bonus
to material saving throws) and a quiver of
flight arrows free of charge.
Special benefits: Spellarchers have
the ability to cast touch-delivered spells
onto their arrows and fire those arrows
normally. This allows such touch-delivered
spells to affect targets out of reach of the
Spellarcher. Obviously, spells that can be
cast only on the character’s self, such as
change self or chill touch are ineligible for
this ability. The spell-carrying arrow must
strike its target (i.e., a successful attack
roll) for the spell to take effect. All normal
saving throw attempts are allowed. Note
that even if the target makes his save vs.
the spell, he still takes damage from the
arrow. If the arrow misses its target, the
spell is lost. (DMs: One possible exception
to this is if the spell-carrying arrow strikes
a viable target for the spell other than the
one the Spellarcher intended to hit. Use
the grenade-like missile rules and scatter
diagram on pages 62-63 of the DMG to
determine where the errant missile falls.)
Special hindrances: Spellarchers may
not cast spells from the school of divination. They may never wear any armor.
Spellarchers must aid the cause of halfelves over the rules of elves, humans, and
other races.
Description: Occasionally a human
noble and an elf will marry. Their half-elf
children are brought up in luxury, with
the best schools and tutors money can
buy. Although almost any character may
by a member of the aristocracy, not all are
eligible for the Aristocrat kit. The Aristocrat is a foppish, swashbuckling dandy
who combines swordplay with lessons in
sorcery. The Aristocrat is the epitome of
elegance and wit.
Requirements: Aristocrat PCs must
have a Strength of 9 or greater, and Dexterity and Intelligence scores of 13 or
higher, and a Charisma of at least 14.
Role: The Aristocrat excels at three
arts: fencing, sorcery, and looking good.
She prefers to use light “gentleman’s”
weapons rather than the bastard swords
and battle axes. Aristocrats’ abilities and
status make them tend to feel that they
are better than others. This usually annoys other characters, but their wit and
charm makes Aristocrats hard not to like.
The Aristocrat can be honorable and
naive, a fun-loving prankster, or a spoiled
machiavellian conspirator.
Secondary skills: Usually none; Aristocrats don’t need to earn a living.
Weapon proficiencies: All the Aristocrat’s initial proficiencies must be filled
with the following weapons: main gauche,
rapier, sabre, stiletto, and crossbow (hand
or light). The Aristocrat may specialize in
one of the above weapons, and once specialized, she may never specialize in another weapon.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Etiquette, Heraldry, Reading/Writing.
Recommended: Animal Handling, Animal
Training (falcon), Dancing, Riding (Landbased), Appraising, Disguise, Gaming,
Tumbling, Spellcraft, Musical Instrument.
Equipment: See below.
Special benefits: The Aristocrat starts
with twice as much money as a normal
fighter. She also may be able to demand
shelter in many places (especially from
other nobles). Aristocrats may take rogue
proficiencies at the normal cost. Because
of an Aristocrat’s debonair charm, a bonus
of +3 is given on reaction rolls to members of the opposite sex. When armed
with the specialized weapon, the Aristocrat gets a +1 bonus to her armor class
due to extensive training from childhood.
Special hindrances: An Aristocrat
will not tolerate shoddy goods and services, and demands the best that money can
buy. In game terms, this relates to being
charged 1.5 to 2 times the normal prices
for items. Less may be accepted in an
emergency, but if it becomes a habit the
Benefits of this kit can be lost. Other
wealthy individuals also may demand
shelter from the Aristocrat.
Cleric/Ranger kit
Description: Getting lost or injured in
the wilderness can be a fatal experience in
a fantasy campaign. The frequency of
man-eating monsters and infrequency of
fellow travelers to provide aid makes such
a predicament seem hopeless. Luckily,
some half-elves have devoted their lives to
the humanitarian cause of finding and
aiding those who require help, be they
human, demihuman, humanoid, or animal.
Requirements: A Rescuer requires a
Strength of 14 or greater, a Dexterity of 13
or higher, and a Wisdom of at least 15.
Like all rangers, a good alignment is
Role: For religious or moral reasons,
the Rescuer finds fulfillment in helping
others. Although usually a member of an
organized religion, the Rescuer finds true
spiritual communion in the majesty of
nature rather than in a man-made church.
The Rescuer’s goals may not fit in with the
party’s goals, as she feels the need to provide help to any unfortunates. Many parties would do well to learn from the
Rescuer’s example.
Specialty priests: If the Complete
Priest’s Handbook is being used, the following priesthoods may have Rescuers:
Animals, Culture, Dawn, Everything,
Good, Guardianship, Healing, Light, Moon,
Nature, Oracles/Prophecy, Peace, Race
(half-elf), Redemption, Strength, Sun, and
Secondary skills: Any.
Weapon proficiencies: None are
required. Weapons chosen must be allowed by the PC’s priesthood.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Tracking, Survival, Healing. Recommended: Direction Sense, Fire-building,
Rope Use, Weather Sense, Herbalist, Religion, Animal Lore, Endurance, Hunting,
Equipment: A Rescuer should have
standard outdoor equipment, as well as a
healing kit.
Special benefits: The innate kindness
of a Rescuer always seems to shine
through, giving her a +3 bonus on reaction rolls to good or neutral beings. Because a Rescuer draws spiritual power
from nature as well as a deity, any healing
spell cast in natural surroundings receives
a +1 point per die bonus to hit points
regained. Any animal followers of the
Rescuer may be trained to help locate and
escort people to safety automatically after
being with the Rescuer for one month.
Special hindrance: A Rescuer must
aid any living creature in need if she is
able. This rule does not extend to the
character’s species enemy, or to nonliving
creatures, such as undead. Although Rescuers will fight and kill in self-defense or
in the defense of their allies, they try to
heal friends and enemies alike after the
battle is over. Rescuers may kill creatures
for food to feed themselves and their
Mage/Cleric kit
Description: The Arcanist is a half-elf
in search of esoteric knowledge, arcane
lore, and spiritual enlightenment. An
Arcanist’s entire life is devoted to gaining
knowledge of the supernatural. Because of
a half-elf’s dual-world upbringing, many
do not think along conventional lines.
Thus, the Arcanist considers priestly magic and wizardry to be merely extensions of
one another. The Arcanist considers himself to be a practitioner of an entirely
different, more pure form of magic, and
hopes to eventually attain mastery of all
Requirements: The Arcanist must
have Intelligence and Wisdom scores of at
least 15.
Specialty priests: If the Complete
Priest’s Handbook is being used, all forces
and philosophies may have Arcanists, as
well as the deities of Ancestors, Arts,
Culture, Darkness/Night, Dawn, Death,
Everything, Fertility, Fate/Destiny, Light,
Magic, Messengers, Mischief/Trickery,
Moon, Oracles/Prophecy, Peace, Race (halfelf), Sites, Sun, Time, War, and Wisdom.
Role: The Arcanist is a very useful
addition to a party, not only for the benefits of his spells, but also for the vast
knowledge of various mystical subjects
this character possesses. This character is
fascinated by all forms of magic and is
constantly seeking to add to his store of
arcane knowledge, and will often accompany adventures just to encounter new
magical items, spells, or creatures.
Secondary skills: Required: Scribe.
Weapon proficiencies: Any allowed
by the priesthood.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Ancient History, Reading/Writing, Religion,
Spellcraft. Recommended: Heraldry, Ancient Languages, Astrology, Herbalist.
Equipment: Aside from spell books
and religious symbols, none are required.
Only elven chain mail may be worn by
Special benefits: The Arcanist has an
ability similar to the Bard’s magical-item
identification (legend lore) ability. The
Arcanist has a 5% chance per level to
identify the history and background of
any magical item she encounters.
Special hindrances: The Arcanist has
a “spooky” feel to her, and has a -2 reaction penalty to all characters except spellcasters (wizards, priests, paladins, rangers,
and bards).
Thief /Mage kits
Guild Mage
Description: A wizard can be a very
useful addition to a thieves’ guild. A sleep
spell on guards, invisibility, spider climb,
darkness, Tenser’s floating disk, and many
other spells are invaluable in pulling off a
heist. Many thieves’ guilds have therefore
found it in their best interest to hire a
Guild Mage or two. Although elves and
14 FEBRUARY 1995
gnomes (and dual-classed humans) may be
employed by guilds as resident mage/
thieves, only half-elves are eligible for the
Guild Mage kit.
Requirements: Guild Mages require
Dexterity and Intelligence scores of 13 or
greater. They may not be lawful good.
Role: As stated under the Shadowblade
Kit, many half-elves find the acceptance
lacking in their communities to exist in a
thieves’ guild, and guilds make use of halfelves’ multi-faceted talents. Half-elves that
show both magical and larcenous promise
are trained to be Guild Mages.
Secondary skills: Any.
Weapon proficiencies: Any normally
allowed to thieves.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Information Gathering*, Reading/Writing,
Thieves’ Cant. Recommended: Disguise,
Forgery, Gaming, Local History, Ventriloquism.
Skill progression: Guild Mages have
no preference.
Equipment: No special equipment is
needed by most Guild Mages. They may
not wear any armor.
Special benefits: Due to his close
association with professional thieves, a
Guild Mage gains a bonus of +5% to his
abilities to Open Locks, Hide in Shadows,
and Climb Walls.
Special hindrances: A Guild Mage is
not used for petty thefts, and has a -15%
penalty to his Pick Pockets skill.
Description: This mage/thief is similar
to the bard in that they both have a talent
for entertaining crowds. The Prestidigitator, however, not only entertains crowds,
but robs them blind as well. A showman
and con man, a Prestidigitator exemplifies
the trickster.
Requirements: An Intelligence of 12
or greater, a Dexterity of 11 or higher, and
a Charisma of 15 or greater are required
of the Prestidigitator. They may not be
lawful good.
Role: A Prestidigitator is a half-elf who
turned to magic as a means of getting
attention, but was always a rogue at heart.
Often, mages will earn a living showing off
their magical skills to entertainmentstarved crowds. A Prestidigitator combines sleight-of-hand with real magic to
excel in this career. She also can boost her
income by picking a few pockets at the
show, and burgling a few houses before
moving on to the next village.
Secondary skills: Required: Gambler.
Weapon proficiencies: Any available
to thieves, but they prefer small, easily
concealed weapons such as knives.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Crowd Working* *, Observation. * Recommended: Animal paining, Etiquette, Modern Languages, Local History, Disguise,
Gaming, Ventriloquism, and Fast Talking. *
Skill progression: The Prestidigitator
makes use of the Pick Pockets skill far
more than any others. All other skills are
useful to help get the character out of
sticky situations when luck runs out.
Special benefits: The Prestidigitator
has two main abilities. The first is sleightof-hand or prestidigitation. With a successful Pick Pockets roll, the Prestidigitator
can perform simple yet impressive tricks
of “stage magic.” The DM should modify
this roll to fit the situation as is appropriate. For instance, palming a small coin
should be done at a +15% bonus, while
making a small animal (like a rabbit) disappear should have a -15% penalty. Obviously, making something the size of an
elephant disappear would take a lot of
preparation or real magic to pull off. Although not a specialist, the Prestidigitator
prefers spells from the schools of illusion/
phantasm and conjuration/summoning.
She gains a bonus of +5% to learn spells
from these schools.
Special hindrances: Prestidigitators
suffer a -5% penalty to learn spells from
any school other than the two listed
above. Half of a Prestidigitators initial
discretionary thiefly skill points must go to
the Pick Pockets skill.
Fighter/Mage/Cleric kit
Description: A Redeemer is a half-elf
who combines spiritual, martial, and magical skills to help destroy a foe. He is a
serious character dedicated to bringing
vengeance on a nemesis. Generally, this
foe also is an enemy of the church, and
the Redeemer considers this creature to
be an abomination.
Requirements: A Redeemer must
have Strength, Wisdom, and Intelligence
scores of 14 or greater and also must be of
lawful alignment due to his intense dedication to the destruction of a specific enemy.
Specialty priests: If the Complete
Priest’s Handbook is being used, the following priesthoods may also have Redeemers: Competition, Culture, Everything, Evil,
Good, Justice/Revenge, Light, Race (halfelf), Redemption, and War.
Role: A Redeemer has made it his life’s
purpose to hunt down and kill a certain
foe. Often this is because of a childhood
tragedy that the Redeemer feels compelled
to avenge. This intensity often makes the
Redeemer seem to be grim and brooding.
The Redeemer will try to persuade other
characters to aid this personal war.
Secondary skills: Any.
Weapon proficiencies: Any allowed
by the PC’s priesthood. Redeemers may
not specialize in weapon use.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
Ancient History (for species enemy), Blindfighting. Recommended: Religion, Spellcraft, Endurance, Hunting, Tracking,
Equipment: Redeemers always carry
any weapons or items specifically designed
to take advantage of a foe’s weaknesses.
For example, if the species enemy is were-
wolves, the Redeemer will never leave
home without a good supply of silvered
weapons. Redeemers may cast wizard
spells only when clad in elven chain mail
or no armor.
Special benefits: The Redeemer has a
special species enemy of the player’s
choice, similar to a ranger. The character
has a bonus of +1 bonus on attack and
damage rolls, and a +1 bonus to armor
class when fighting that creature only.
Special hindrances: A Redeemer’s
hatred for his species enemy runs deep,
and may become irrational. If an opportunity to attack a species enemy occurs and
the player does not wish his character to
attack, the character must roll under his
Wisdom to avoid taking this action.
Fighter/Mage/Thief kits
Description: A Dilettante is a half-elf
who has difficulty finding a niche. As a
result, she becomes the proverbial “jack of
all trades, master of none,” drifting from
profession to profession.
Requirements: A Dilettante must have
a 12 or greater in all characteristics except
Wisdom, as Dilettantes often, but not
always, lack self-discipline implied by a
high Wisdom score. They also lack the
dedication to be of any lawful alignment.
Role: Dilettantes have trouble staying
with one job for very long, but this is
certainly not due to any lack of talent or
intelligence. Along their way, they dabble
in warrior, rogue, and mage skills, among
others. Dilettantes usually are from one of
the upper classes, much like Aristocrates,
for the lower classes are not often afforded the opportunity to drift through various crafts. Many humans also resemble
Dilettantes, but they don't have as long of
a life span as half-elves, and therefore
don't learn as many skills as a Dilettante.
Secondary skills: A Dilettante should
roll 1d6 times for secondary skills.
Weapon proficiencies: Any. As with
most skills, Dilettantes may not specialize
in weapon use.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Bonus:
None, but see “Special benefits” below.
Recommended: Any.
Equipment: No special equipment is
required of the Dilettante. They prefer
goods and services of the highest quality,
but this is not a requirement.
Special benefits: Dilettantes may
choose nonweapon proficiencies from the
warrior, mage, and rogue groups at normal cost. Further, they get three extra
nonweapon proficiency slots.
Special hindrances: A Dilettante may
never devote extra proficiency slots to any
nonweapon proficiency to improve that
skill. She also may never devote more than
five points (ten points at first level) per
level to any single thief skill. Dilettantes
receive a -2 penalty to reaction rolls from
any serious artist or scholar, as these
individuals are annoyed with the superficial dabbling of the Dilettante.
Description: Being from two distinct
cultures and having to walk the line between them, half-elves make excellent
diplomats. Although a half-elf of any class
may learn the arts of diplomacy, only a
Fighter/Mage/Thief is eligible for this kit,
for they alone have the well-rounded
abilities suited to this profession.
Requirements: A Diplomat needs a
Strength and Dexterity of 9 or greater, an
Intelligence of 12 or higher, and a Charisma of 14 or greater. Unlike most
thieves, they may be of any alignment.
Role: A half-elf Diplomat’s job is to
moderate disputes and attempt to keep
peace between two nations (usually either
human or elven). They learn many skills to
aid them in their career. In their party, the
Diplomat will be the individual to call
upon to parley with monsters. The other
skills make her just as valuable an asset
when negotiations fail.
Secondary skills: Scribe.
Weapon proficiencies: The Diplomat
should be proficient with at least one
small, easily concealable weapon (dagger,
knife, hand crossbow, etc.). Diplomats may
not specialize in weapon use.
Nonweapon proficiencies: Required:
The Diplomat must purchase at least two
extra Modern Languages. Bonus: Etiquette,
Local History. Recommended: Fast Talking,
Heraldry, Ancient History, Reading/
Equipment: Although no special equipment is required of a Diplomat, heavy
arms and armor tend to make one look
more threatening than is preferred in
such a profession.
Special benefits: Due to his dealings
with them, a Diplomat has a +4 bonus to
reaction rolls for leaders or politicians of
any other race. Diplomats occasionally
may be offered “diplomatic immunity” for
crimes, but this will depend on the country of operation, and possibly the crime in
Special hindrances: Diplomats do not
operate with as much freedom as other
characters. They are still in the employ of
and are answerable to their king or queen.
Further, if the Diplomat character does
offend a foreign nation, the king or queen
will hasten to discipline the character to
keep peace.
These kits should help the half-elves in
your campaign expand their identities, but
this list is by no mean complete. DMs are
encouraged to modify these kits to suit the
campaign or invent new kits. Half-elves
from the DARK SUN® setting of Athas, or
the dark domains of the RAVENLOFT®
campaign could be radically different than
those of most AD&D games. Players and
DMs alike always should be considering
options to make the games more fun for
“Magic. Often it means the difference between success and failure,
life and death. It is a marvelous, mysterious force,
a source of awe and fear.
Of all the myriad
creatures that
walk the earth,
few understand
magic as well as
the elves.”
Azurel Eriedor,
elven mage
by Christopher Kutarna
Artwork by Bob Klasnich
Arcane elven artifacts
Because of their longevity, elves have the
opportunity to explore the realm of magic
far beyond the research of others. True, a
human mage may achieve more magical
might than his elven counterpart, but as
the elven saying goes, “Perfection is the
greatest power.” Indeed, an experienced
elven mage may have a much more comprehensive understanding of magic than a
human mage considerably more powerful.
Elves, as a race, are entranced by the
arcane arts. Having been created, according to legend, from the blood of a god,
elves have a natural affinity toward magic.
Over a span of many generations, they
have learned how to mold their magical
powers to best suit their needs. As a result,
numerous magical items have been created
that are distinctly elven in nature and purpose. For the most part, elves jealously
guard them from the other races. The following magical items, which are only a few
among many elven creations, are found
almost exclusively in the possession of
Arrow of entrapment
This plain-seeming arrow has a magical
+1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. In
addition, any target up to the size of a hill
giant hit by the arrow of entrapment is
wrapped in a thick mass of sticky webbing
that prevents or, for larger creatures, restricts movement. If a target is hit by the
arrow, the webbing is unavoidable.
Medium-sized or smaller creatures are rendered immobile by the mass of webs for
one turn, while larger creatures have their
movement rates reduced to one-third of
normal. Every point of Strength over 15
possessed by the trapped individual lessens
the entrapment by one round. Flames of
any kind will burn away the webbing in
one round, but the entrapped creature will
suffer 2d6 points of fire damage in the
If the arrow of entrapment does not contact a creature in its flight, it creates a
mass of web at the point of impact, equal
to a wizard‘s web spell cast at 6th-level
The arrow breaks upon impact and cannot be reused.
XP value: 250
Bow +1, enchanter
This finely crafted bow confers a +1
bonus to attack and damage upon arrows
fired from it. Unlike other magical bows,
the enchanter imbues the arrow itself with
the +1 bonus the moment it leaves for its
target. Thus, a normal arrow fired from
the enchanter could hit a monster invulnerable to normal weapons (e.g.: a mummy). Once the arrow has ended its flight, it
loses its enchantment.
XP value: 900
Bow +2, ironheart
This bow is particularly prized by elven
rangers. It grants a +2 bonus to attack
and damage rolls upon arrows fired from
it. In addition, the ironheart can, at the
wielder’s mental command, quickly change
into a +2 melee weapon. Generally, a long
bow becomes a long sword and a short
bow becomes a short sword. There are a
few ironhearts that become magical broad
swords or scimitars, but such instances are
rare. There is no limit to the number of
times the ironheart may change shape. If it
is broken in either form, the item’s magic is
XP value: 2,000
Bracelet of mental contact
This plain gold bracelet allows its wearer
and any other people designated by the
wearer, up to 10 individuals, to communicate via telepathy. The telepathic link can
be maintained over a distance of 100 yards
between individuals, allowing communication of thoughts and emotions but not
mental images. By passing telepathic messages down a line of linked individuals, a
person at one end can communicate a message to a person beyond 100 yards away,
so long as the individuals forming the link
are within 100 yards of the next person.
Receiving a telepathic communication in
no way disrupts a person’s actions such as
spell-casting, but sending a message requires a full round of unbroken concentration. If the sender’s concentration is
broken, the telepathic message does not
reach others in the link.
The bracelet has a maximum of 50
charges. Each individual in the link uses
up one charge when the bracelet is activated. The telepathic link remains for up
to one hour. Other individuals may join the
link after it has been set up, provided
there are no more than 10 members in the
link. When one of the linked individuals
dies or falls unconscious, all other members of the link are aware of the break in
contact, and can identify which person
broke the contact. Contact cannot be
broken voluntarily, except by spells or
devices that shield thoughts. The bracelet
can be recharged with the wizard spell
XP value: 2,500
Harp of courage
When this beautifully crafted harp is
played and a command word spoken, a
wave of courage passes through all creatures friendly to the person playing the
harp, in a 100' radius sphere from it. The
wave of courage increases the fighting
ability of those affected, granting them a
+1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. It
also heightens the listeners’ defensive
awareness, resulting in a +1 bonus to
armor class and saving throws. The effect
remains as long as the harp is played.
Any enemies in the 100’ radius are affected by a wave of despair that inhibits
their fighting potential and causes a -1
penalty to attack and damage rolls, armor
class, and saving throws. Creatures of ten
or more hit dice are unaffected by the
The magic of the harp of courage may
be invoked once per day, for a maximum
duration of two turns per use. Note that
for the magic to affect a creature, it must
be able to hear the harp’s music.
XP value: 3,000
Lock of security
This plain-seeming lock is often used to
ensure the safety of precious elven artifacts or tomes from thieves and accidents.
When the lock is clasped on a chest no
larger than 30 cubic feet and the key is
removed, an invisible barrier of magical
force surrounds the chest, as well as all of
the lock except the keyhole. The barrier
protects the chest from fire, impact, and
all other sorts of damage. The only way to
open the chest is by removing the lock.
Attempting to pick or otherwise tamper
with the lock sends a shock of magical
energy to the person responsible, causing
3d8 points of electrical damage. The only
way to unlock the lock of security is with
its key, a limited wish or a wish spell.
Consequently, owners of a lock of security
guard the matching key very carefully.
XP value: 4,000
Manual of nature’s harmony
This very rare tome is highly prized by
rangers. Scribed in natural inks and bound
in raw leather, it contains instructions for
a series of mental and physical exercises
that together serve to heighten a ranger’s
abilities and his link with nature. Any
ranger who reads the tome and spends
one month alone in the wilderness practicing the exercises goes up to the midpoint
of the next higher level. The manual disappears after being read, but knowledge of
the proper exercises remains for one-half
year. This information cannot be recorded
or related in any way.
Although the magic of the manual benefits any ranger, it is almost unheard of for
these books to be found outside elven
circles. With their natural affinity toward
nature, elves treasure this book even if
they are not rangers. In fact, any elf may
read the manual without ill effect. Wizards, priests, or thieves of other races lose
10,000 to 60,000 (1d6 X 10,000) experience
points after scanning the tome. Other
classes who read the manual lose 1,000 to
6,000 experience points.
XP value: 8,000
Pendant of augmentation
This very powerful item is usable only
by an elven wizard or priest. Typically, the
pendant is a silver disc inscribed with an
oak tree or some other nature symbol. By
concentrating on the magical energies of
the pendant, an elven priest or wizard
draws strength from his surroundings to
augment his own magical powers to their
fullest potential. The first spell cast by the
priest or wizard after activation of the
pendant always has maximum possible
duration, damage, and effect. For example,
a cure critical wounds spell would automatically restore 27 hit points, and a
fireball cast by a 5th-level wizard would
inflict 30 points of damage (saving throws
still apply). Furthermore, the spell is always successfully cast. The wizard or
priest’s concentration is absolute for this
casting, and an attack on his person does
not prevent it from taking effect (unless
the spell-caster dies or is knocked unconscious before completing the casting). The
pendant may be used twice per day.
XP value: 4,000
Pendants of Azurel
Developed by the great elven mage
Azurel, these pendants have saved many
an elf from a hopeless situation. These
small circular discs, usually found singly,
do not display any magical effects until
they are attuned to a specific pair of people. This involves dabbing a pair of the
discs with each person’s blood under a full
Once attuned, the pendants are worn by
the pair. If one of the wearers falls unconscious, dies, loses control of mental or
physical faculties, or utters the other
wearer’s name while holding the pendant,
a distress call is sent to the wearer of the
other pendant. The receiving person gains
a clear understanding of the other’s situation, as well as an exact view of the distressed person’s location. This allows the
person receiving the distress call to move
unerringly in the other person’s direction,
regardless of the distance separating the
two, and also follows for teleportation
magic to work with no chance of error.
The pendants do not function if not on the
same plane of existence.
XP value: 1,000
Potion of resistance
Imbibing this potion spreads warm
healing magic throughout an individual’s
body, curing it of any magical and nonmagical diseases that affect either the
body or the mind, excluding lycanthropy.
Furthermore, the imbiber is immune to
such diseases and cannot contract them
for a full day. The entire potion must be
quaffed in order for its magic to take
XP value: 1,500
Ring of cooshee summoning
Activating this ring, which only functions outdoors in natural surroundings,
sends out a beacon to any of the large
elven hounds known as cooshee within a
five-mile radius. Summoned cooshee arrive in one turn. The chance of successfully summoning a cooshee depends on the
Heavy growth
Light growth
Open fields
Rocky terrain
If the summons was successful, one to
six cooshee will respond. They remain
with the summoner, who can control them
with telepathic commands, for one hour
before returning to where they originated.
The ring’s power may be invoked once
each day.
Cooshee: Int: Semi-(4); AL N(G); AC 5;
MV 18, sprint 24; HD 3+3; THAC0 17; #AT
3; Dmg 1-4/1-4/2-8; SA overbearing; SD
camouflage; MR nil; SZ M (4’); ML Steady
(12); XP 270.
XP value: 1,200
Sword +2, orcslayer
This melee weapon always offers a +2
bonus to attack and damage rolls. Against
orcs and orc-kin (orogs, half-orcs, etc.), the
full powers of the orcslayer become apparent. Wielded against any of these creatures, its magical bonus increases to +3.
Furthermore, and much more devastating,
the sword confers two extra attacks with
the weapon at the end of each melee
round, which may or may not be used
against the same opponent.
The orcslayer automatically glows soft
blue when it approaches within twenty
22 FEBRUARY 1995
yards of an orc or orc-kin, thus alerting
the wielder to its presence and eliminating
the chance of the wielder’s being surprised by the orcs. The glow is not bright,
and is easily concealed by a normal
XP value: 2,000
Add these little guys to your campaign’s elven forests
by Norman Abrahamsen
Artwork by Terry Dykstra
The Kercpa
CLIMATE/TERRAIN: Temperate forests
DIET: Herbivore
INTELLIGENCE: Average to High (8-14)
ALIGNMENT Neutral to Chaotic Good
MOVEMENT. 9, Cl 15
THAC0: 19
24 FEBRUARY 1995
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Surprise, +4 on
attacks with bows
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Surprised only on 1,
dodge missiles, saves as 7 HD creature
SIZE: T (1’~1½‘)
MORALE: Steady (12); with elves, Elite (14)
2 HD Defender: 120
3 HD Defender: 175
4 HD Defender: 270
Shaman, level 1-4: 175
Shaman, level 5: 270
Wizard: + 1 HD
The Kercpa (both singular and plural)
are a reclusive race inhabiting dense forests, far from civilization. Shy of most
races other than elves, and exceptionally
skilled at remaining undetected, they are
rarely seen even when their dwellings are
Seldom exceeding 1½’ in height, kercpa
appear as bipedal red squirrels, complete
with bushy tails to assist in keeping their
balance. Eyes are usually green or hazel,
although blue is not known. They favor
garb similar to that of the elves who usually reside near to, colored so as to enable
them to blend in more easily into their
surroundings. Hands and feet are never
covered, however, as that would impede
their ability to climb. Among the trees
they are as nimble and acrobatic as normal squirrels, running and leaping from
branch to branch and tree to tree with
astonishing ease and grace.
Kercpa speak their own language. In
addition, many have learned one or more
languages of other forest-dwelling races
such as sylvan or wild elves, treants,
pixies, and sprites. About one in ten will
have picked up at least a smattering of the
Common tongue.
Combat: Kercpa are peaceful by nature
and always avoid combat when possible.
However, should it become necessary, they
are quite capable of defending themselves,
their homes, and those of their elven allies
with an efficiency that belies their diminutive size and rather harmless appearance.
The squirrel-folk move with great stealth
through the woodland, imposing a -5
penalty on others’ surprise rolls. Due to
their keen senses, they are themselves
surprised only on a roll of 1. Hiding motionlessly in any forest terrain, kercpa are
90% unlikely to be seen. They make all
saving throws as 7 Hit Dice creatures,
adjusted, where applicable, as if possessing a Dexterity score of 19. Although they
never wear armor of any kind, their size
and phenomenal agility combine to give
them an excellent armor class. A kercpa,
furthermore, may attempt to dodge any
missile directed at it, provided that it is in
a position to see the attack launched. A
successful saving throw versus death
magic (modified by Dexterity, as above) the
kercpa successfully dodged the attack,
regardless of whether the attack would
normally have hit. Up to two missiles may
be dodged per round by each kercpa.
If forced into melee, kercpa wield tiny
swords or spears that inflict 1d3 points of
damage. However, well aware of the disadvantage they suffer against most foes, they
strive to avoid hand-to-hand combat. The
preferred weapon of any kercpa is a bow.
Although the seemingly toy-like kercpa
bow has but half the range and damage
causing potential of a normal short bow,
an innate skill honed by intense training
make them formidable weapons in the
squirrel-folk’s hands nonetheless. Some
26 FEBRUARY 1995
kercpa routinely best their elven allies in
short-range archery contests.
A kercpa may fire up to three arrows
per round, with each such attack at +4 to
hit. a typical kercpa strategy is to take to
the trees, surround the enemy, and while
darting in and out of concealment, rain
down a relentless barrage of stinging
projectiles from all sides. It is not uncommon for a band of orcs, gnolls, or other
forest marauders thus assaulted to believe
themselves under attack by scores of the
creatures, when in reality they are faced
with only a dozen or so. Certainly the
kercpa do their best to encourage this
mistaken impression.
Should their opponents be too numerous
to drive away or destroy in this manner,
the kercpa shift tactics and attempt to lead
them out of their territory, goading them
to the chase with taunts and jeers if the
squirrel-folks’ enemies prove reluctant to
pursue them. By this the kercpa hope to
fragment a larger band, get them hopelessly separated and lost in the woods, and
then deal with the more manageably sized
groups one at a time. Some tribes, especially those dwelling in or near enemyinfested lands, will attempt to lead
pursuers through an area of forest that, in
preparation for such a contingency, the
kercpa had rigged with concealed pits,
snares, deadfalls, and other traps. When
such tactics fail, the kercpa send runners
off through the trees to alert the elven
settlements the squirrel-folk seldom live
far from.
Kercpa are able to communicate over
distances of up to 100 yards by utilizing a
simple language of whistles and bird calls.
While limited in its range of expression,
this method of communication is sufficient
for them to coordinate or alter tactics
without the need to regroup, an invaluable
advantage in combat relying on cunning,
stealth, subterfuge, and deception.
Throughout the kercpa territory will be
stashed caches of arrows and other supplies (in hollow branches, etc.), eliminating
the need to return to the village to restock. All adults are intimately familiar
with the areas in which they live and,
except in certain unusual instances (such
as quarry empowered with flight or utilizing a pass without trace spell) can track
intruders as a ranger throughout.
Those kercpa with spell-casting ability
(see below) employ magic in combat to
complement and enhance the squirrelfolks combat tactics. Favorites include
ventriloquism, taunt, wall of fog, and
mirror image.
Habitat/Society: A typical kercpa tribe
consists of 100-300 adult squirrel-folk,
with an additional number of young equal
to roughly 20% of the population. Male
and female kercpa are equally skilled
fighters, while the young are noncombatants. One in every 20 kercpa will be an
individual with 2 Hit Dice. For every 100
in a community, there will be an additional
leader with 3 or 4 Hit Dice. As the most
skilled warriors in the village, these exceptional individuals (or “defenders” as they
are known) are primarily responsible for
its safe-keeping from malevolent outside
forces. Their duties include the organizing
of patrols, the maintenance the village’s
defenses, and leading the tribe in attack,
retreat, and, it necessary, evacuation.
Kercpa defenders take this role very seriously and will not hesitate to sacrifice
themselves for the tribe if the situation
warrants. A defender’s THAC0 and saving
throws are proportionately superior to
others of their kind. A 3 HD kercpa, for
example, would have a base THAC0 of 18
(14 with a bow) and make saving throws
as a 9 Hit Die creature. Through trade
with elves and sprites, kercpa sometimes
manage to acquire a limited supply of
their sleep-inducing arrows; any defender
has a 25% chance to carry ld4 of them in
his quiver. These precious arrows will not
be wasted on opponents the squirrel-folk
believe can be overcome by other means.
All kercpa tribes will be led by a shaman
of the 4th or 5th level of ability. For every
50 kercpa in the tribe, there will be an
additional 1d2 lesser shamans of 1st
through 3rd level. Shamans receive an
additional 1d4 hit points for each level
they possess beyond the first, and for
every two levels fight as if having one
additional Hit Die. They may cast spells
from the following spheres: All, Animal,
Creation, Divination, Healing, Plant, Sun,
and Weather. In addition, kercpa shamans
are skilled herbalists with the ability to
concoct effect remedies to numerous
ailments and afflictions. Among these is a
minor variety of healing potion that restores 1d4+1 hit points to the imbiber.
Any kercpa venturing outside the village is
75% likely to have such a potion in her
possession. Kercpa shamans are responsible for preserving the tribe’s health, providing advice and spiritual guidance, and
presiding over ceremonies. In theory, the
shamans also are responsible for governing all internal matters within the tribe,
but in actuality there is little need. Kercpa
seem to be by nature cooperative, working
together for the common good of the
forest community. Internal or inter-tribal
strife among them is unknown.
The role of the defenders usually falls to
the male kercpa, while the females comprise the majority of the shamans. This
tendency is by no means a rule, however,
and exceptions either way are not uncommon. The sexes in kercpa society are in all
ways equal (as well as being difficult for
outsiders to tell apart). They marry for life
and mates are fiercely protective of their
young and of each other.
Perhaps due to their close relationship
with elves, some kercpa dabble in magic;
any adult has a 5% chance of being able to
cast spells as a wizard of the 1st to 4th
level. Kercpa rarely learn spells of an
offensive nature, and never those involving fire.
Kercpa villages consist of numerous
small buildings situated high among the
branches, and are usually spread out
among several trees. An elaborate highway of vine ladders and bridges connect
the various buildings. The village is difficult to see from the ground; even observant outsiders have but a 5% chance of
noticing it. Actively scanning the trees
increases the chance to 10%. Villages set
among deciduous trees are more easily
spied in the winter-time, increasing the
probabilities to 15% and 50% respectively.
Under normal circumstances, the kercpa’s
vigilant scout patrols and sentries make it
impossible for an intruder to come within
a mile of one of their dwellings without
their knowledge.
The squirrel-folk live by foraging.
Dozens of small bands strike out daily
from early spring to late fall to gather
food, water, and other necessities. Surplus
is stored away for the winter. Unlike true
squirrels, kercpa do not hibernate. They
do, however, tend to be less active during
the winter months, and often sleep for
much greater lengths of time. At least a
third of the tribe will remain active at all
times in the event of a threat. Kercpa are
strictly vegetarian so, despite considerable
archery skill, their bows are not used for
hunting. Foraging expeditions rarely take
them more than 10 miles from the village.
If a tribe becomes too large to be supported by the immediate area a group consisting mainly of younger couples breaks off
to found a new village elsewhere. Tribes
within the same region often converge on
an annual basis (usually on the summer
solstice) for a great festival. These celebrations, sometimes lasting several days,
serve as an opportunity for various tribes
to renew familial ties, hold council on
matters of mutual concern, introduce
young adults to possible mates, and to
exchange goods and information. Music,
song, dance, story-telling, friendly contests
of archery, tumbling and speed, as well as
an over-abundance of food and blackberry
wine round out the festive nature of the
The simple kercpa religion pays homage
to a single deity, a nameless earth goddess
who, while said to be able to take any
form in nature, is usually depicted as a
vast oak tree. Religious ceremonies are
few compared to those of most other
races, and pious obligations are fulfilled
simply by living in harmonious accord
with nature. Faced with an ethical dilemma, kercpa seek a precedent in the fables
of Rititisk the Clever—the mythical patriarch of the race—and try to emulate his
example. In addition to being entertaining
stories of adventure in their own right—
tales of Rititisk thwarting monstrous evil
spiders, outwitting oafish giants (humans),
questing to the ends of the earth for enchanted ever-striking arrows and the
28 FEBRUARY 1995
like—the fables are believed by the kercpa
to contain lessons to guide them through
all aspects of life. They are essential to
every young kercpa’s education.
Strangers traveling through kercpa
lands will be trailed and their actions
scrutinized (ideally without the kercpa
revealing their presence) but will be allowed to pass unhindered if they do not
cause harm to the forest. This remains the
case even with obviously evil creatures
such as orcs and goblins. The only exceptions to the kercpa’s reclusiveness include
certain sylvan neighbors who share an
interest in preserving the woodland. With
elves, sprites, and treants do the kercpa
have ties of friendship and alliance. To the
elves the kercpa are indispensable, as the
squirrel-folk convey messages back and
forth between camps, run errands for
them, and keep them up to date on the
latest happenings of the greater forest. In
exchange, elves serve at times as guardians and mentors for the squirrel-folk’s
children. Young kercpa delight in the
company of these elegant, graceful beings,
running amok through their homes and
pestering their long-lived friends with
endless questions and requests for tales of
“olden times.” Most elves seem to genuinely enjoy the kercpa’s company as well.
On infrequent occasions, some human
rangers and druids have made contact
with and befriended (and were befriended
by) the kercpa. A few bolder members of
the species have even been known to
befriend parties of good-aligned adventurers (especially those containing elves),
acting as guides for them and otherwise
assisting them with their knowledge of the
wilderness. It must be noted, however,
that such examples of eccentric behavior
are not common.
Ecology: Kercpa make negligible impact on their ecosystem; forests inhabited
for twenty generations appear even to
careful scrutiny as virgin woodland.
As the desire to accumulate wealth
and the very concept of money are
unknown to them, the kercpa have
produced and amassed little that
others are interested in acquiring.
This has not prevented evil
creatures from hunting them
out of sheer malice, however.
In addition, giant spiders of all
kinds, ettercaps, stirges, and
even some raptors (such as
large owls) are frequent
threats to them. Kercpa
are usually born singularly,
although twins and triplets are
more common than with humans.
They become mature at about
age 15 and usually marry soon
thereafter. Kercpa have an average
life expectancy of 60 years.
The players are assembled. They are
sitting across from you, their brows dripping with perspiration as they wait for
you to draw the curtain back from the
adventure’s opening scene and allow their
heroes, powers blazing and muscles flexing, to burst on your unsuspecting adventure and carry it dragging and screaming
into the depths of defeat. They’ve been
waiting all week, dealing with routine
school, home, and office work, and now
they want action. The kind of action only a
hard-working GM can provide.
But you’ve got that nagging feeling in the
back of your mind—something’s missing.
And you have no idea what it is. You’ve
planned for every contingency, for every
player foul-up, for every radical direction
the characters may take. Still, you worry.
Unless you remember halfway through
the adventure what it is you’ve forgotten,
you’ll be slapping your head in frustration
as the players find the weak chink in your
adventure and crack it open like a rusty
suit of power armor.
That’s where the “adventure checklist”
comes in; it can help a GM answer the
question, “Have I forgotten anything?”
before an adventure begins and includes
tips for smoothing the flow of gameplay in
a superhero campaign. It also gives suggestions for improving the quality of adventure design, dealing with game mechanics,
combat, and adding to the “feel” of a
superhero adventure.
Before the game
These suggestions may help a GM who’s
suffering from “GM’s block” to find a direction for the adventure. For GMs who
already have an adventure plot in mind,
these suggestions should help improve the
adventure by making it more characterintensive.
30 FEBRUARY 1995
Character consideration— The history
and psychology of a PC can design an
adventure for the GM; arch-enemies,
dependents, and personal problems can
become the core of several evenings of
enjoyable gameplay. Before constructing
an adventure, the GM should take a moment to analyze each character and her
potential role in the adventure. The more
character-specific an adventure is, the
more players will enjoy it; it lets them
know the GM is taking an interest in their
character backgrounds and personalities.
As such, it should never be considered a
sign of weakness to question a player on
what type of role-playing situations the
player wants to be involved in and work it
into the adventure; the GM should provide
the players with events and NPCs that
allow them to develop their heroes and
flex their psychological limitations and
personal codes (some players never let on
what their characters would like to do and
doom themselves to a silent desperation).
Some characters want romance, others
want to do heavy research and investigation, and some just want to trash a lot of
criminal scum.
Before focusing on the adventure details
and game mechanics such as villain design,
the GM always should have an up-to-date
copy of each hero; this allows GMs to look
up character skills, powers, and characteristics that can be used in the adventure or
against villains. Allowing seldom-used
character skills and powers to unearth
clues and pull the PCs through tight spots
makes characters appreciate their powers
more and gives each player the feeling her
character is contributing to the adventure.
The GM should consider rewarding characters who have “useless” skills (which
they bought to round out their character
concept), by including places to use them
in the adventure. For example, the Artiste,
a New York hero, has the Knowledge Skill:
New York Arts Scene. While this is useless
in battling the iron-clad villain Scraps, the
GM could create an adventure where a
villain uses a New York art exhibit to give
the Artiste clues to his plans.
Villain consideration— How the villains
act, the crimes they commit, and their
relationships to the characters are important to the adventure. The thrust of superhero games is role-playing and combat; to
do it well, villains should be as physically
and psychologically developed as the PCs.
In short, villains can serve three roles in
an adventure: A.) as a physical threat
(primarily a combat threat), B.) a social
threat (concerned with affecting a character’s social relationships in a manner detrimental to the character) or C.) as an aid to
the characters (the Worm may not be a
powerful villain, but he’s always willing to
let characters know what’s going on in the
campaign’s criminal underground). These
roles should effect the villains’ abilities and
skills (combat monsters should be designed for fighting, social threats should
have skills and contacts, and villain aids
should have streetwise or scientifically
useful skills to help the characters).
Villains also should be designed with the
characters—and the players—in mind.
Some players can’t stand to think that
anyone is better at a skill or power than
they are; other players enjoy good bouts
with equal foes and pounding weaklings
can get a little tiresome. Martial Artists
may want to match opponents circle kick
for circle kick, and may not be thrilled
with fighting invulnerable energy projectors all the time.
If a villain has met a PC before, the GM
may want to include references to the past
combat within the adventure or during
their next confrontation.
Research— Once an adventure plot has
been roughed out (it doesn’t have to be too
complex—something as simple as a “streetlevel adventure with a lot of gang warfare”
is sufficient to get started), some research
may help give the GM a direction or improve the quality of the plot by injecting a
level of realism into the adventure. Reading
newspapers for contemporary issues,
knowing jargon (especially street lingo), and
technical details varies according to the
Artwork by Michael Scott
level of realism in a campaign, but having a
grasp on the basics is important. If an evil
business empire is attempting to financially
undermine a PC’s company, it might be
worthwhile to research corporate warfare.
Trial procedures, mythology, ethnic values,
racial history, police procedures, and current articles on new technology (science
magazines can provide realistic campaign
items to introduce: new viruses, microchips, etc., as well as good pictures and
handouts) can supplement a campaign;
giving a level of realism to these items will
reinforce the player’s view that GMs know
what they are talking about. If a Genre
Fiend is in the campaign, research is a
There is nothing wrong with ad-libbing,
as long as it sounds convincing. If you
don’t have time to research every tourist
spot or important street or park in a campaign city; just say an earthquake or supervillain attack has terraformed the city
into what you want it to be like.
Busy work—Once a rough plot has been
determined, the villains created, and the
players have agreed to play, doing some
busy work before the adventure takes
place can improve the speed and the quality of the time spent role-playing. “Busy
work” is essentially streamlining game
mechanics: making attack routines or
Speed charts for each encounter (During
scene one at the hero headquarters, who
acts first when Dung Beetle assaults the
building?), the energy costs and maneuvers of the villains are detailed (How many
times can Dung Beetle use his stench
power before he collapses from exhaustion?), the name list for random NPCs is
ready (“Er . . . the police man you are
talking to is...Billy...Billy Carter. Yeah.”),
wandering encounters are prepared (“As
you are flying home from the crime you
suddenly see . . .“) and all necessary villain
statistics are in order.
Villain descriptions and names can be
irritating and can detract from the flow of
play. Photocopying villain pictures, or
drawing one’s own, enables GM to “show”
the villain without resorting to a verbal
description, and if the villain’s picture is
labeled too, this prevents using canned
dialogue in an obvious attempt to anDRAGON 31
nounce the villain’s name. (“Ah . . . the
Artiste. You are no doubt concerned about
my appellation—reflect on this, fool, as
you inhale my rancid stench—I am the
insidious Dung Beetle!”)
Busy work also involves researching the
power limitations of the villains used in
the adventure. If a villain is using his N-ray
Extra-Dimensional Travel power, it is necessary to know the power’s limitations and
jot them down to prevent misuse or having to waste time looking it up during
game play. Usually, the limits of the power
can be taken in terms of the areas where
the powers will be used in the adventure
(i.e., if the power is being used on a city
street, the environmental limitations will
not be the same as if it were being used on
the moon). Once again, having a copy of
the PC sheets can help identify any problems or obvious uses of a villain’s power (if
one character has mental defenses, this
obviously will effect how capable a mentalist villain will be in attacking them; if
the villain needs to mind-control a character for the purposes of the plot, then the
GM should consider raising his Mind Control level to compensate for any Mental
Defense). The GM should be familiar with
powers and rules to such an extent the
players do not know more than the GM
does; it lowers players’ respect for the GM.
A list of NPC names with an identifiable
trait so the PCs can remember them easily
(“Ah, Billy Carter, the sniffling cop with
hayfever!”) comes in useful if the players
decide they want to speak to every scientist, guard, and orderly in the laboratory
before getting on with the rest of the
adventure. In addition, having instant NPC
names and traits ready will impress the
players. Along the same lines, the use of
specific street names helps set the location
of the adventure (“The huge robot has just
stepped on the Cameron-Leeds Industries
building on 4th and Main. Any heroes in
the area, please respond . . .”), and GMs
might want to have a list of street names
ready also.
Props—Lighting, music, costumes, and
handouts can set the mood; dimming the
lights during a horror adventure or playing a tape of an alarm sounding while the
characters invade the base of an enemy
organization can spice up the adventure.
Costumes can help characters get into
their personas (some role-playing parties
may involve getting together in costume
and consuming food their PCs like). The
inclusion of supervillain files, case histories, medical records, FBI reports, newscasts, and building blueprints also give an
authentic feel to the adventure.
The adventure
Now that the preliminaries are out of
the way, the adventure itself becomes
paramount. A rough plot should be percolating in the GM’s mind, and attention to
these specific areas of the adventure can
help solidify the plot.
32 FEBRUARY 1995
One word of warning: While a rough
outline is good to have, the GM may want
to avoid detailing an adventure more than
one session in advance—character actions
may force the adventure to take a radical
turn (“Larry, you got to believe me, I had
no idea that my stray blast would kill that
cop!“), and by deciding how the adventure
ends or trying to force the characters to
follow a certain path can be frustrating
for the GM and the players. In addition,
resentment towards “the hand of fate”
may build up in their minds.
Introduction—How does the adventure
start? The GM may choose to write a narrative that leads the characters into a fight
scene, or relate a news report of a mysterious event the characters decide to investigate. Where the adventure starts is
important: a good exploration technique is
to have the characters at their jobs or
seeing NPCs at the start of the adventure,
for they may not have time to do it once
the energy blasts start flying. The introduction should avoid being choppy and
disorganized, as it sets the pace for the
rest of the adventure.
Flow of the adventure—This portion of
development locates flow problems. The
GM analyzes the plot to make sure the
players can move smoothly from one
scene to the next: they may be captured
and taken to the villain’s base, a clue leads
them to the villain, a contact tips them off,
etc. Psychological disadvantages can be
used to aid these transitions; for example,
the GM wants to lead the Artiste into a
trap in order for him to be captured and
taken to the villain’s hideout. Knowing
Artiste hates art critics, the GM lures him
into the trap by using fugitive art critics as
bait. Examining the flow of the adventure
should be done partly to anticipate trouble
spots in the adventure and create contingency plans if the PCs fail to find information vital to the continuation of the plot.
If character separation occurs in the
adventure, try and work out a way for all
players to participate or else boredom will
set in while they are waiting their turn.
One way to handle this problem is to
provide the PCs with communicators or a
mindlink that allows all of them to interact
at once, no matter where the location is;
thus, they can still offer advice and give
suggestions to acting players even though
they are not there.
As a final note, it is a bad idea to force
the PCs to play the “waiting game” during
an adventure (i.e., the heroes must wait
and see what the villains will do); the
players should be able to act and react at
all times.
The end—The ending is as important as
the introduction. Finishing the adventure
cleanly and tying up loose ends with a
smooth transition to the next adventure
prevents anticlimactic endings. The end
can foreshadow a coming threat, leaving
the PCs with a desire to see what happens
next time.
Plot devices
Outside of the basic plot, these adventure techniques focus on game mechanics
and underhanded ploys that can help PCs
become more involved in the plot. Use
them at will.
Time limit— This is an effective tension
builder. (“We have five minutes to find the
bomb and defuse it before it explodes.“)
This technique forces the characters to
act; if gameplay is bogging down because
of arguing and stalling by the PCs, throwing a time limit in can clear up the roleplaying congestion pretty quick.
Let ‘em plan—This is a way of reducing
the GM’s burden of always having to keep
the adventure moving. By having the PCs
plan how to protect an installation targeted by a group of terrorists, or having
them plan a danger room session for each
other, leaves the GM free to do last minute
touch-ups or compute important villain
Wearing ‘em out—This technique throws
three or four threats at the PCs at once. If
a battle is going well for the PCs, this
technique can turn the tables. Should they
put out the blazing fire, rescue their
trapped comrade, or stop the villain’s
getaway car? A number of minor threats
occurring at once can be as challenging as
confronting a major supervillain; the GM
should force the PCs to think on their feet.
Battle zones
The set-up of a battle zone plays a big
role in all superhero games. Clobbering
Dung Beetle with the nearest lightpost or
telephone pole may be the most important
thing on a character’s mind during a fight,
and the GM should make sure every battle
site is detailed enough to stage a brawl in.
Counters and miniatures—Counters and
miniatures give a 3-D feel to the battle site.
It also lets the GM and players know exactly where the villains, the threats, the
agents, and teammates are at a glance.
Cardboard counters can suffice for PCs
and villains; for enemy agents, using numbered counters keeps track of them during the battle (“Agent 1, Agent 2,” and so
on). Trying to remember which agent was
wounded during the last phase can be
frustrating; if the character decides to “hit
#2 again,” however, the agent’s statistics
can be cross-referenced and his hit points
deducted easily. If the agents are each
using different weapons, numbering the
counters eliminates weapon confusion.
If time permits, counters can be made
for cars and movable objects. Having
counters for throwable objects helps PCs
interact with the battle field; in addition,
counters for radius effect attacks, explosions, darkness fields, craters, crowds, and
rubble add to the battle zone environment. (It also prevents heated arguments
about whether an attack would have hit a
Maps—A map, either a rough drawing or
a detailed battle site, should be done for
every battle scene in an adventure. Detailed maps, in the interests of time, might
be made to simulate generic battle sites
within the campaign: a city street map, a
map of the hero’s base, an alleyway, etc.,
are locales that can be used over and over
again if necessary. It is always nice to do a
detailed map of the battle that heralds the
climax of the adventure.
If no detailed maps are available, scrap
paper should be on hand for sketching
rough maps. Rough maps are better than
fighting blind, and as long as the players
can judge distances, heights, and where
common objects are located, a map is
doing its job.
Anticipating the needs of players when
making a map is necessary; knowing
whether Artiste can jump from building to
building will be important to the character
concerned if he will be chasing a villain
across rooftops. Heroes with earthquake
powers will want to know information
about how strong the nearby foundations
of buildings are, water controllers may
want to know where the water mains are
beneath the street, PCs may want to know
where the nearest fire hydrant or fountain is if they are fighting the Flaming
Fear, etc.
If the GM wants the villains to escape,
the battle site should be designed with an
escape route they can employ and the
heroes can’t (water-breathing villains
diving into the river, stealth characters
vanishing into the darkness of alleys or
sewers, or shapeshifters running into a
crowd of people).
Battle events—Events may occur during
combat that force PCs to rescue civilians,
put out fires, or deal with the police as
they arrive on the scene. These events
should have counters and details already
worked out before the battle begins (such
as making a note that “the gas station will
explode in a fiery inferno one minute after
the characters arrive, in a 10’ radius doing
the following damage . . .” and preparing a
counter for its radius attack). The National
Guard may show up, kids may rush into
the middle of a combat scene, reporters
may place themselves in danger to get
prime footage, crowds may gather as the
Flaming Fear begins to use radius-effect
explosions, etc.
Villains and heroes should be allowed to
manipulate the battle field for dramatic
effect. A water elemental could cause a
20-story tidal wave to strike a beach, or a
weather-controlling villain in the Arctic
could immerse the heroes in a mile-long
ice storm, far beyond his normal abilities.
If the same leeway is given to the characters, it can simulate “mystery powers.” The
Artiste may know exactly where to pull on
a stage curtain to have it collapse on the
Dung Beetle. Mr. Wizard, with his technical expertise, might be able to seize control of a building’s computerized defense
systems and turn them against foes. PCs
appreciate these touches as long as they
do not tip the battle in a villain’s favor
(though that is fun for the GM once in a
Villain statistics—Writing down a villain’s
combat statistics (especially energy,
chances to hit, and hit points) on a scrap
sheet of paper and keeping a running
check through the battle speeds play, and
making a Speed chart of all heroes and
villains involved for each combat removes
the confusion of deciding who acts first.
These points and suggestions are intended to improve adventure design, speed
play, and improve the quality of the game.
Next time your players lash out at your
adventure, you can fend off their actions
with military precision and even make a
quick response that leaves them scrambling to come up with contingency plans,
all the while leaning back in your chair as
their desperate pleas and mad gambles fill
the air. As you sip your soda, you can
reflect on your new freedom from that
nagging feeling which distracted you from
the demanding work of being a superhero
game GM.
1995 by Rick Swan
Role-playing games' ratings
Not recommended
Poor, but may be useful
The best
Don’t mention this to TSR, Inc., but
there’s more to fantasy role-playing than
the AD&D® game. I’m not just talking
about FASA’s EARTHDAWN*, Avalon Hill’s
I.C.E.‘s LORD OF THE RINGS* games;
though solid efforts, none of them strays
too far from genre traditions. Nor am I
referring to old-timers such as the ROLEMASTER* and CHIVALRY & SORCERY*
games, nice tries suffering from too many
rules. And I’m certainly not referring to
the myriad of AD&D game wanna-bes,
unmemorable clones—make that unbearable clones—too numerous to list.
Nope, I’m taking about the weird stuff,
the outrageous stuff, the bend-overbackward, try-anything efforts like the
TALISLANTA* game, which replaces elves
and dwarves with Sunra Aquamancers
and Zandir Charlatans. Such as Phage
Press’ AMBER* game, a remarkable experiment in diceless mechanics. Like White
where misfit magicians struggle to survive
in an urban nightmare. Not only do games
such as these provide relief when we’ve
overdosed on dragons and magic wands,
they jar us out of our ruts, reminding us
that there’s more to fantasy than J.R.R.
Tolkien. Here are two new rut-jarrers,
guaranteed to make you reconsider the
way you look at RPGs.
ARIA* game
500-page softcover book
last Unicorn Games
Design: Christian Scott Moore and Owen
M. Seyler
Editing: Kirsten Kaschock
Illustrations: Janet Aulisio, John Bridges,
Paul Daly, Liz Danforth, Craig Gilmour,
Sam Inabinet, John Keefer Jr., Darrell
Midgette, Nene, William O’Conner, Jeff
Parker, Mark Poole, Marc Radle, Mark
Ryberg, William Ellery Samuels, Oscar
Stern, Ruth Thompson, George Vrbanic, Karl Waller, and Tim Wilson
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
ARIA Worlds Book
304-page softcover book
Last Unicorn Games
Design: Christian Scott Moore with Owen
M. Seyler
Additional design: William Ellery Samuels
and Marc Radle
Editing: Kirsten Kaschock and Jesse Fure
Illustrations: Janet Aulisio, Paul Daly, Liz
Danforth, Darrell Midgette, William
O’Conner, Jeff Parker, Mark Poole,
Marc Radle, Mark Ryberg, William
Ellery Samuels, Oscar Stern, Ruth
Thompson, Karl Waller, and Tim Wilson
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
The “Understatement of the Year” Award
goes to Last Unicorn Games for this observation, from Chapter 2 of the Mythmaking
section of the ARIA rule book: “ARIA is
meant to be played on a larger scale than
most role-playing games.” And World War
II was a more significant skirmish than
Celebrity Week on Jeopardy These two
hefty volumes, as fat as the Des Moines
phone book, provide guidelines for designing every element of a fantasy RPG from
scratch: races, settings, magic rules, religious systems, you name it. You say you’re
sick of stock PCs, like warriors, thieves,
and wizards? The ARIA rules allow players to assume the roles of entire
societies—we’re talking player nations that
wage war, build economies, and develop
cultures. Working together, player nations
establish sprawling continents with histories that span eons. The scope of the ARIA
game is mind-boggling; comparing it to,
say, the basic DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®
game is like comparing a computer to an
Player nations derive from two concepts
unique to this system: Narrative Environments (self-contained regional units, like
villages or kingdoms) and Interactive Histories (phases of societal advancement).
Under the referee’s supervision, players
begin the game by creating the game
world, consisting of one or more Narrative
Environments. By following the meticulous, step-by-step design procedure, players determine the Environment’s
geography, political framework, demographic composition, philosophical orientation, and status divisions. They also put
together a rough time line, noting the
game world’s pivotal events (battles, landmark legislation, diplomatic alliances) and
major personalities (military leaders, political figures, aristocratic families). Along the
way, players decide which components of
the Narrative Environments will serve as
societal alter-egos—their player nations.
A set of statistics, called Determinants,
define the player nations; in a sense, the
Determinants are to player nations as
attributes are to player characters. The
Determinants are divided into three
groups, Environment, Economic, and
Political, each of which comprises several
sub-categories. The Environment Determinant, for instance, has ratings for Scope,
Military, and Technology, while the Political Determinant encompasses Power,
Authority, and Suppression.
The player nations’ simultaneous evolution (their Interactive Histories) forms the
campaign. In most cases, a game turn
consists of a single unit of Aria Time,
roughly equivalent to five years. Aria Time
consists of activity phases called Historic
Intervals, where player nations respond to
crises, make political decisions, and develop their resources. An Historic Interval
begins with an Event introduced by the
referee, analogous to a D&D® game random encounter, substituting a catastrophe
(a famine, an earthquake) for a monster (a
dragon, a ghoul). A phase of Internal Developments follows the Event, involving
the resolution of Critical Junctures. A
Critical Juncture may occur when a Determinant approaches a dangerous level; a
high Suppression rating, for instance, may
lead to citizen unrest. Next comes the
External Developments phase, where
players interact with each other (conduct
espionage, make attacks, and so on).
Throughout, players declare Internal and
External Actions, which the referee resolves in the final turn segment.
A player may perform two Internal
Actions per Interval, along with a number
of External Actions equal to half his player
nation’s Scope rating. The Action menu
lists more than two dozen options. The
Research Action invests in a technological
breakthrough, such as a new agricultural
style or metal smelting technique. The
Fundamental Action alters one or more of
the nation’s political tenets; a democracy
might become a monarchy, a free market
economy might give way to socialism. The
Invade Action may lead to war. Despite the
abstractions, the system encourages vigorous role-playing. Instead of a player declaring, “I’ll use the Fundamentals Action”
when he wants to change governments, he
announces something along the lines of:
“In a special administrative session of the
Swanville council, a small but vocal faction
of freshman senators convinced the party
elders to suspend the constitution and
install a temporary monarchy.”
A potpourri of tables and formulas help
the referee resolve the Actions. Mostly, he
relies on d10 rolls, called Trials, that pit
Base Chances (fixed values given in the
rules) and Ranks (derived from applicable
Determinants) against Difficulty ratings
(the likelihood of favorable outcomes) with
as many modifiers as he cares to include.
Outcomes range from Mythic Successes
(achievements of historic proportions) to
Catastrophic Failures (devastating setbacks), which in turn improve or reduce
one or more of the affected Determinants.
A successful Fundamentals action that
switches governments might result in
improved Authority and Military Determinants. A failure might result in reduced
Relations and Humanities Determinants.
Major Actions—a declaration of war, a new
economy—also might affect attribute subcategories called Incidentals, which measure demographic trends like Population,
Wealth, and Cost of Living. To root the
game in reality, the rules favor temporary
changes over radical upheavals; the designers note that societal inertia tends to
nudge a culture’s basic elements back to
their original levels. That’s not only good
game design, it’s good anthropology.
The system isn’t easy—here’s one of the
formulas for the Civil War Action: [(Power
Value + Consent Value + Authority Value)/3]
X 0.1 = Percent of Total Forces Controlled
By Ruling Agency—but it rewards the diligent with a gaming experience of unprecedented sweep. ARIA isn’t just a role-playing
version of Parker Brothers’ RISK* game; it’s
more like Microprose’s Civilization computer
game (or for that matter, Avalon Hill’s CIVILIZATION* board game) where players manage every aspect of cultural development.
While the particulars differ from traditional
RPGs—juggling Humanities Determinants
instead of Strength scores takes some getting
used to—the dynamics are surprisingly
similar. Where a D&D game group might
include a greedy warrior and a curious
wizard, an ARIA game group might include
an avaricious village and a philosophic municipality. In either case, a memorable campaign depends on the players remaining true
to the values of their alter egos. Adventures
involve the interaction of strong personalities—which in the ARIA game, include
groups as well as individuals—and solving
problems in an unstable setting. And though
ARIA players can declare war, promote
instability, and make life miserable for one
another in a number of other ways, they
soon learn the value of cooperation, a lesson
any good RPG should teach. Despite some
bugs—the Narrative Environments tend to
conform to Medieval European models;
there aren’t enough examples of play—this is
groundbreaking work.
Those not up to the challenge of playing
villages may choose standard characters
instead. Depending on the style of the
campaign, ARIA players may shift back
and forth between player nations and
player characters, or forego player nations
altogether. But while the designers provide
rigorously complete character-creation
rules, they favor complexity over elegance.
And once they start piling on complications, they reach the point of diminishing
returns in a hurry.
A player begins by roughing out a general personality type indigenous to one of
the active Narrative Environments. If the
referee approves of the personality type,
the player receives a number of Interaction Points based on the PC’s age; the older
you are, the more points you get to buy
attributes and skills. But the procedure is
an obstacle course of ambiguous rules
(“Negative Interaction Point Costs indicate
a bonus IP award for selecting an Underdeveloped Potential [Rank less than 5].”)
and mind-numbing gamespeak. (“The
Expertises available to Personas during the
years of Early Development are determined by their Status Archetype, the
Environ Class of their Developmental
Setting, and the Vocational Expertise of the
Family Head.”) Numbers are assigned to
characteristics that ought to be role-played
rather than quantified, like personality
traits. Some of the numbers are baffling;
what’s the difference between the Influence Pool and the Leverage Pool ratings,
both of which measure a PC’s aptitude for
persuasion? Incredibly, I found it easier to
create a Narrative Environment—an entire
setting—than a player character. And it
was a lot more fun.
To resolve actions, player characters use
essentially the same mechanics as player
nations, making Trial rolls that incorporate
Base Chances, Ranks, and Difficulties.
Assuming the referee has a knack for
accessing Difficulties—the text offers
general guidelines but few specific
examples—the rules are fine. Not so the
36 FEBRUARY 1995
combat system, a quagmire of brainstraining dictums involving Action Intervals, Fatigue Trials, and Impact Reactions.
To block a parry, for instance, the player
must make a Challenged Trial roll against
the opponent’s Strike Chance (applying a
Strength bonus to both the Speed and
Defense modifiers), then cross-index the
Attack Success against the Defense Success on the full-page Block Parry Results
Table, which gives results like AF3 (Attack
Parried/Fumble [Attacker makes Fumble
Trail vs. Difficulty]) and DB (Defender
Breaks Weapon [Defender makes Breakage
Trial vs. Standard Difficulty]). Even walking is a nuisance; since you’ve got to consider Action Movement Rates, Quickness
Ratings, and T&rain/Weather Modifiers,
I’d just as soon be carried. Still, everything
seems to work, and as a stand-alone tactical combat game, it’s not bad. As a subsystem for an RPG, though, it’s more trouble
than it’s worth.
The ingenious magic chapter features
do-it-yourself mechanics in place of conventional spell lists. Working with the
referee, the players first determine the
Reality of the universe; that is, the master
plan that explains the nature of Quintessence (the raw material of magic) and the
Reality Origin (the source of Quintessence). The Origin Template consists of
Form (the vehicle from which the Origin
arises), Orientation (the Origin’s relationship with rival Origins), and four other
elements, each of which is divided into
several categories, such as Totality and
Peripheral. It sounds difficult, but the text
helps the players fill in all the blanks. The
resulting cosmology is self-consistent and
impressively complete.
Since the text doesn’t describe specific
spells, mages invent their own effects
using a cut-and-paste technique reminiscent of the ARS MAGICA game. After
deciding on a desired effect, the player
roughs out a formula called a Paradigm,
consisting of a Configuration, Method, and
several other components. If the referee
approves, the player assigns a base Cost
(in Quintessence) needed to trigger the
effect. The referee regulates the amount
of magic in the game world with Ease of
Access ratings, numerical values attached
to spell categories that represent the difficulty in accessing the Reality Origin. Creating a magic system from the ground up,
even with rules this lucid, takes time. But
if you have the patience, it’s a fascinating
way to spend a weekend. Or two.
The impressive ARIA Worlds book provides guidelines for creating realistic game
settings, not just for the ARIA game, but
for any fantasy RPG. Using statistical profiles, historical models, and a generous
number of examples, the book explains
how to design environmental profiles,
economic infrastructures, and legal codes
for eras ranging from the Stone Age to the
Early Renaissance. The Technology and
Innovation chapter features a clever meth-
od for measuring technological evolution,
as well as suggestions for transferring
discoveries from one culture to another.
The Politics and Kinship chapter discusses
the pros and cons of more than a dozen
types of government. Nine sample societies, ranging from Pure Timocracy to
Insane Visionary, round out the book. An
inspired effort, marred only by stuffy
writing, Worlds is a must for ARIA referees. And game designers, amateur and
pro alike, should find it an indispensable
reference, regardless of the systems they
Evaluation: The four-pip rating represents an average; the ARIA rules earns at
least five pips for the player nation system, no more than three for character
creation, five for the magic rules, and
about four for everything else. If Moore
and Seyler would’ve ditched the player
character system and developed the player
nation material a bit more, I suspect we’d
be looking at an easy six-pipper.
Intricate and demanding, ARIA isn’t for
beginners; the combat rules alone are
enough to make the average dungeon
crawler bury his head in his hands and
cower in the corner. And though the designers contend that “the numerical aspects of an ARIA persona should be down
played,” that objective pretty much goes
down the toilet by the end of chapter two.
The ARIA game is such a hodgepodge of
breakthroughs and boo-boos, it’s hard to
believe it all sprung from the minds of the
same two guys. But I’m willing to overlook
the missteps; I’m not the kind of guy who
discovers a talking dog then complains
about its diction. Borderline brilliant, the
ARIA system may be the harbinger of an
entirely new genre—and that’s no understatement. (Write: Last Unicorn Games,
PO. Box H, New Cumberland PA 17070.)
224-page softcover book
R. Talsorian Games, Inc.
Design: Michael Alyn Pondsmith
Editing: Derek Quintanar, Janice Sellers,
Mark Schumann, and Benjamin Wright
Illustrations: William C. Eaken, Gloria Yuh
Jenkins, Erik Hotz, and Mark Schumann
Cover: William C. Eaken and Mark Schumann
I never could be a game publisher because I have no insight whatsoever as to
which products will fail and which will
succeed. Never in a million years would I
have believed that White Wolf’s VAMPIRE:
THE MASQUERADE* game would catch
on like it did, and I cavalierly dismissed
game as a fad, the gaming equivalent of
Beatle wigs.
Then again, maybe the pros don’t know
any more than I do. They persist, for
instance, in revisiting topics that the mar-
ket repeatedly snubs. I’m thinking of Far
East RPGs such as TSR’s Oriental Adventures, and Fantasy Games Unlimited’s
SUN* games. And RPGs of the wild west,
like TSR’s BOOT HILL® game and Steve
Jackson’s Old West GURPS* game variant.
And the Viking supplements from the
Avalon Hill Game Company, TSR, and Steve
Jackson. Played any of these lately?
Quality, apparently, has little to do with
long term success; most of these products
are pretty good, Oriental Adventures and
GULPS Old West in particular. Some topics, I guess, gamers resist, no matter how
good the package.
Here’s hoping that the Victorian-era
trend, because friends, this is about as
good as it gets. We’ve been down this road
before, with products as diverse as
Chaosium’s Cthulhu by Gaslight expansion
for the CALL OF CTHULHU* game and
GDW’s stellar SPACE: 1889* game. But
where previous efforts stuck pretty close
to the literary traditions of 19th century
London, Mike Pondsmith, ace designer of
the underrated TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE* and DREAM PARK* games, has
turned the Victorian era upside down.
First, this isn’t Victorian London per se,
but an alternative reality that’s one part
fact, ten parts fun house; it’s as if Pondsmith tossed a history text, a copy of Alice
in Wonderland, and a Monty Python video
cassette into a blender. New Europa, the
game world, is a crazy quilt of steam-age
technology and social anarchy. Dwarven
engineers program clockwork computers
and fit Napoleonic War amputees with
robotic limbs. Dragons operate restaurants. Queen Victoria hires necromancers
to send love letters to her dead consort.
The cast of characters includes the bizarre
Mad King Ludwig, sort of an evil twin of
Elvis Presley, and Marianne, “a fashion
model with the reflexes of a cat and the
fighting instincts of a rabid badger” whom
I intend to marry in my next life. [Note:
Get in line, buddy. I saw her first.
Most of the action takes place in the midNew Europan country of Bayern, a cluster
of gingerbread villages and lush woodlands overrun with leprechauns and nature spirits. It’s a delightful setting,
bursting with potential. Characters can
hunt vampires with Dr. Van Helsing, explore the Atlantean Ocean in Captain
Nemo’s submarine, or arm themselves
with pepperbox revolvers and take on the
Steam Lords of Britain.
The lavish presentation makes for an
almost sensual experience. Half the book is
printed in lush colors, highlighted by
pastel portraits of King Ludwig and Marianne, vivid maps of New Europa, and a
full-page depiction of a dragon shaking
hands with a Victorian gentleman while a
steam zeppelin hovers overhead. Tinted
sidebars adjoin illustrated essays in a
seamless blend of words and images.
38 FEBRUARY 1995
Pondsmith shuns jargon and self-indulgent
digressions in favor of an uncluttered,
conversational tone; any wonder he’s one
of the industry’s premiere stylists?
A FALKENSTEIN player character uses
neither statistics nor character sheets. Instead, he’s defined by a set of number-free
descriptions (FALKENSTEIN doesn’t use dice,
either). To construct a PC, the player first
settles on a general template based on sex:
men are Heroes (Heroic, Tragic, or Flawed),
women are Heroines (Innocent, Clever,
Tragic, or Fallen; incidentally, Pondsmith
sidesteps Victorian sexism by assuring us
that New Europan females enjoy a higher
status than their real-life counterparts). Next,
the player chooses an archetype from a list
including Anarchist, Diplomat, Dashing
Hussar, Mad Scientist, and Steam Engineer.
Each archetype includes a brief description,
an inventory of possessions, and a few aptitudes (called Strong Suits). The Diplomat, for
example, owns a sword cane and a code
book, and has Strong Suits in Education and
Perception. The Anarchist has Marksmanship and Charisma as Strong Suits; he carries
two bombs and a copy of Marx’s Das Kapital.
The player then creates a Character Diary
for his PC, outlining his background, virtues,
and ambitions. An excerpt from the diary of
Captain Andre LeCorbessier, an Heroic Hero
Dashing Hussar, reads: “In this year of Our
Lord, Eighteen seventy, I take pen to paper
to chronicle my adventures in the Service of
King and Country . . . My goals in life are
simple: to command my own company, to
become recognized for my soldierly skills,
and to one day meet and marry a lady of
refinement and breeding.” Though keeping a
diary is a little like having homework, those
with even a modest flair for writing ought to
be able to pull it off. For the journalistically
challenged, I suggest an additional archetype: the Illiterate Heathen.
Players who’ve had their fill of human
PCs may opt for dragons, dwarves, and
faeries. But while each has distinct
advantages—dragons breathe fire,
dwarves resist magic, faeries fly—they
come with so much baggage that they’re
barely worth the effort. FALKENSTEIN
dragons aren’t the terrifying behemoths
familiar to AD&D game players, but lightboned wimps about as threatening as
professional wrestlers. Faeries must avoid
metal; riding on iron warships gives them
headaches. Dwarves aren’t bad, but they
all have to be male (they mate with the allfemale faeries). I got so sick of my dragon
PCs complaining about their physiques
and the faerie PCs shrieking whenever
they saw a nail that I banned them from
the game. Stick with human PCs; consign
dragons and faeries to the supporting cast.
Once he’s done with his diary, the player
rounds out his PC by consulting the list of
skills. Choices range from standard stuff
like Athletics and Courage, to the exotic
Exchequer (economic status) and Etherealness (the ability to assume a mist-like
form). Skills are ranked at six levels, expressed as adjectives: Poor, Average, Good,
Great, Exceptional, and Extraordinary.
Regardless of his PC’s archetype, the player selects one Great skill, four Good skills,
and one Poor skills. All leftover skills are
automatically Average.
Skill resolution uses a deck of ordinary
playing cards. At the outset of a game, the
referee deals everybody a set of four
cards, himself included. Each card has a
rating equal to its face value; the eight of
hearts is worth eight, the Jack of diamonds is worth 11. Skills also have face
values, derived from their levels; Poor
skills have a value of two, Extraordinary
skills have a value of 12. When a player
wants to try an action, he decides which
skill applies; swimming probably would be
considered an Athletics skill (if in doubt,
the referee decides). The final ability score
equals the face value of the relevant skill
plus the values of as many cards as he
wishes to play. He compares this score to
the feat’s difficulty value, determined by
the referee; swimming across an icy lake
might be an Exceptional feat, giving it a
difficulty value of 10. The referee may
play cards from his hand to make the feat
more difficult still. If the player’s score is
less than the difficulty value, the attempt
fails; if it’s greater than or equal to the
difficulty value, it succeeds. Combat operates essentially the same way. Sure, it’s a
gimmick—the cards work no better or
worse than dice—but it’s a refreshing
gimmick, one requiring a knack for bluffing and a good poker face.
Spell-casters use a second deck of cards,
called the Sorcery Deck. When a player
wants to cast a spell, he draws one Sorcery Card for every two minutes of game
time until he acquires enough power to
make the attempt. If he’s lucky, the spell
works the way he wants it to. Otherwise,
the spell may backfire, triggering an earthquake or summoning a demon. And if a
joker pops up in the Sorcery Deck, the
spell goes off spontaneously. Because it
takes time to cast spells and backfires can
be disastrous, the system discourages
players from spewing death wish and
shake the earth at the drop of the hat.
The sample adventure, an engaging
quest for the mysterious Man in Black,
hints at the game’s possibilities, though at
less than three pages, it doesn’t do it justice. Referees not up to designing their
own scenarios will have to wait for the
supplements. And players wanting more
detail about Bayern, clockwork engineering, and the Unseelie faeries—a cadre of
supernatural bad guys who’ll probably
turn out to be FALKENSTEIN’s main
villains—also have to wait. If the source
book material seems superficial in spots,
consider it a consequence of ambition;
Pondsmith has more good ideas than space
to put them in.
Evaluation: The text is presented as a
first-person account of Thomas Edward
Olam, a “friend” of Mike Pondsmith who
was whisked away to New Europa, then
sent the game’s manuscript to Pondsmith’s
house to share his discoveries. The contemporary viewpoint makes for a brisk
read and user-friendly mechanics, and I
think—I hope—it’ll spare the CASTLE
FALKENSTEIN game from oblivion. Pondsmith seems optimistic, as he’s promised
an extensive line of expansions and source
books; Engine Magick looks especially
intriguing. At any rate, I’m keeping my
fingers crossed. The CASTLE FALKENSTEIN game deserves serious support. If it
winds up in a grave next to the LAND OF
THE RISING SUN RPG, I’ll be terribly
Short and sweet
GATEWAR* game by Ken Burridge and
Robert Finkbeiner. Escape Ventures, Inc., $30.
Though it doesn’t say so on the cover,
this is the third edition of the ELEMENT
MASTERS* game, an eccentric RPG noted
for its odd blend of science fiction and
fantasy. The rules are fairly standard, oldfashioned even, with a race-based
character-creation system using everyday
attributes such as Strength, Constitution,
and Appearance. Skill rolls resolve most
actions (roll your ability score or less on
1d100—you know the drill). Though Vinya,
the game setting, won’t make anyone
forget Glorantha or Krynn, it boasts an
appealing cast of characters and an extraordinary menagerie of wacky creatures. Instead of human and elven PCs, the
GATEWAR system features Bruff, squat
mountaineers with a penchant for snowboarding, and the Unspeakable, furcovered water-dwellers with webbed toes.
Vinyans make pets of Mips, sort of a cross
between a squirrel and a grasshopper, and
covet Licking Wonders, living tongues who
slurp their owners clean (yikes!). Unfortunately, the GATEWAR game relies too
much on stock fantasy conventions to
make it a contender. The spells don’t get
much more imaginative than ghost missile
and invisibility, while the weapon list reels
off the usual assortment of long swords
and war hammers. Still, the whimsical
flourishes, like the essay titled “How to
Prepare and Cook Mip,” make the GATEWAR RPG worth a look for fans of the
offbeat. (Write: Escape Ventures, Inc., PO.
Box 65077, Virginia Beach VA 23467.)
Maps 2: Places of Legend, by Debora
Kerr, S.S. Crompton, Anita, William Kerr,
Mike Keller, Eric Dinehart, Bryan C. Bullock, and James Walker. Flying Buffalo,
Inc., $12.
And speaking of offbeat, how’d you like
to help Santa Claus prevent a hostile takeover of the North Pole? Or defend Oz’s
Emerald City against an incursion from
the Deadly Desert? These are but two of
the mythological settings outlined in this
charming anthology, which also includes
Camelot and the Bermuda Triangle. Like
its predecessor, Maps 1: Cities, Maps 2 is
statistic-free, usable with any RPG system.
It’s an invaluable resource for those who
want to design their own fantasy adven-
tures but don’t know where to begin.
Planes of Chaos, by Lester Smith and
Wolfgang Baur. TSR, Inc., $30.
Of the various subdivisions of the AD&D
game cosmology, the chaotic planes are
arguably the most interesting and potentially the most disappointing. For years, we’ve
been assured that Limbo, the Abyss, and
Pandemonium are mind-blowing locales
teeming with adventure possibilities. But in
the absence of hard information—anyone
recall seeing a Pandemonium source
book?—we’ve had to take these assurances
on faith. This dazzling PLANESCAPE™
setting boxed set exceeds expectations. The
four volumes, spanning some 240 pages,
reveals the secrets of the spectre wars of
airless Naratyr, describes an elven city
concealed in the limbs of Grandfather Oak,
and takes us up the Infinite Staircase of
Ysgard that winds through all time and
space. Bleeding winds blow through the
tunnels of the Cocytus, the second layer of
Pandemonium. Young tritons battle florescent kraken in Caletto, a turbulent water
realm in the plane of Aborea. A text-packed
poster map summarizes dozens of the
layers of Abyss; bat-winged monstrosities
inhabit Layer 377, Layer 13 marks the site
of a baatezu incursion. With crisp prose
and vivid descriptions, Smith and Baur not
only have captured the setting’s eerie majesty, but have done so in astonishing detail.
Royalty and Rogues, by Christopher
Hussey. FASA Corporation, $10.
Good adventures for FASA’s MECHWARRIOR* game haven’t exactly been
falling out of the sky, so this book-length
scenario comes as a pleasant surprise. The
player characters visit the devastated
planet Bryceland to investigate a piracy
ring and challenge some ‘Mech-riding bad
guys to a duel in the Antallos desert. A lot
of stuff blows up, a lot of ‘Mech-riders bite
the dust. Well-organized and filled with
glitzy hardware, what the plot lacks in
characterization it makes up in breathless
action. Though the book suggests the
referee use 10 (!) FASA products as reference, ranging from the Solaris VII boxed
set to a quartet of Technical Readouts, we
got along just fine with only the MECHWARRIOR and BATTLETECH* game rules.
King of Chicago, by Gary Sumpter, Ugo
Bardi, L.N. Isinwyll, and Tadashi Ehara.
Chaosium Inc., $11.
Al Capone meets the Deep Ones in this
Prohibition-era adventure compilation for
the CALL OF CTHULHU game. Against a
backdrop of afterhour casinos and bootleg
liquor, Sumpter’s “King of Chicago” plops
the Investigators in the middle of a bloody
gangland war. Set in southern France,
Bardi’s “Secret of Marseilles” features
Corsican extortionists, a fortune in gold,
and an island that oozes slime. Smart
stories, authentic atmosphere, good
scares. Not many monsters, though.
Fighters Player Pack and Thief’s Player
Pack, by William W. Connors. TSR, Inc.,
$20 each.
One of the joys of any hobby is collecting
all the junk that goes with it. These AD&D
game accessories (which also come in wizard and thief versions) are a pack rat’s
dream come true. Each case comes with
everything a newcomer needs to get his PC
campaign-ready, and I mean everything: a
pad of character sheets, a stand-up reference screen, a brief but informative player’s guide, seven high-quality polyhedral
dice, three pewter miniatures, and even a
shiny red pencil. As a bonus, your Player’s
Handbook (not included) fits snugly inside
the lid. Though recommended for ages 10
to adult, the Player Packs tilt toward the
younger end of that scale—I can’t imagine a
40-year-old hauling around a plastic briefcase. But if you’re trying to lure a reluctant
youngster into your campaign, you couldn’t
ask for better bait.
Rick Swan, the author of The Complete
Guide to Role-Playing Games (St. Martin’s
Press), has designed and edited nearly 50
role-playing products. You can write to
him at 2620 30th Street, Des Moines IA
50310. Enclose a self-addressed envelope
if you’d like a reply.
l indicates a product produced by a company other
than TSR, Inc.
The Complete Druid’s Handbook, by
David Pulver. TSR, Inc., $18.
The now-familiar format of this line
serves up a host of new kits (Beastfriend,
Hivemaster, Shapeshifter) and spells (animal spy, cloudscape, needlestorm) along
with an informative discussion of sacred
groves (druids prefer ponds to streams,
because still water is less distracting). Of
particular interest to novice players,
Pulver uses clear examples to explain the
art of playing neutral characters; for instance, a druid won’t kill a dragon just
because it’s evil, but he might if it threatens his forest. A satisfying entry in one of
TSR’s most ambitious projects.
You can send us news, press releases,
and announcements using the Internet at
[email protected] We also welcome your comments at Rumblings,
DRAGON® Magazine, 201 Sheridan Springs
Rd., Lake Geneva WI 53147, U.S.A.
Lead Story:
MCA/Universal, TSR, Inc., and Ground
Zero Productions have entered a major
multimedia agreement to produce the
WILDSPACE live-action TV program and
an interactive theme park event. Twentytwo one-hour episodes of the show are in
development for prime-time network
television; the theme park event will be at
Universal Studios (natch). WILDSPACE
electronic games, a board game, and
action figures also are likely; announcements are likely at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Toy Fair in
New York.
Jeff Segal, president of MCA/Universal
Studios, explains, “Everyone at MCA/
Universal believes that WILDSPACE has
the kind of breakout, hit potential, that . . .
will be a fitting launch to a long-term
relationship between ourselves and TSR.”
Flint Dille, President of Ground Zero,
describes the filming technique as something unique that “will look like a live
comic book—combining live action, animation, and computer generated images in a
way never done before.”
In movie news, Sweetpea Entertainment
has acquired the exclusive motion picture
and merchandising rights to “DUNGEONS
& DRAGONS®: the Movie.” Rumor has it
that the movie’s budget tops $100 million.
Special-effects wizard Stan Winston also is
reported to be handling the film’s special
Turn of a friendly card game
The BLOOD WARSTM card game is due to
be released (or is that unleashed?) any day
now. Designed by TSR veteran Steven
Schend, the game is a graphically-lush set of
334 cards featuring new art by Tony DiTerlizzi, Newton Ewell, Dana Knutson, Robb
Lazaretti, and Dave Sutherland. Players take
on the roles of fiends and struggle to conquer the planes, and may use either of two
modes of combat: political intrigue or bloodletting with legions on the battlefield. Look
for a complete card listing in a future issue
of DRAGON® Magazine.
The HIGHLANDER* card game license
has been picked up by Thunder Castle
Games, the same company that produced
the TOWERS IN TIME* card game. The
HIGHLANDER game involves a sword
battle between two immortals; it will be
released in March, to coincide with the
release of the third Highlander movie.
(Hopefully, this film will be better than the
woeful Highlander II.) The cards’ images
and art will be drawn from the TV series;
the game’s designer is Mike Sager. Thunder Castle also will release the Greek edition of TOWERS IN TIME game in March.
game is out, and the first expansion is
already well under way. Based on Margaret Weis’s novels of the same name, the
game is designed by Don Perrin. Due to
the small size of the alpha print run, this
game should be extremely collectable.
Bryan Winter, designer of the DOOM
TROOPER* card game, may soon be
watching a midnight sun. Rumor has it
that Target AB, the company that owns the
DOOM TROOPER and MUTANT CHRONICLES* trademarks, has offered him a fulltime position. First the KULT* game, now
this; can the Swedes claw their way to
worldwide role-playing dominance?
Keith Parkinson is rumored to be putting together a card game with assistance
from fellow freelance artists. Jim Lee of
Marvel and Image Comics fame also is said
to be pondering a collectible card game.
When will the madness end?
We stand corrected
It seems that one previous rumbling was
ill-informed: White Wolf Game Studio and
Dirt Merchant Games do not have an
agreement to reprint DMG’s HoL. Rumblings regrets the error.
Jumping ship
Mark Copplestone, Grenadier’s number
one sculptor, has accepted a position with
Heartbreaker Miniatures.
Tony Szczcudlo has moved from FASA to
TSR; he is best known for his fine artistic
contributions to FASA’s EARTHDAWN*
game. At TSR he is working on developing
the look of the BIRTHRIGHT™ campaign
world, a new setting that allows players to
run entire feudal domains, as well as take
their chances with traditional quests,
Freelancer Newton Ewell, known for his
work for Palladium Books and TSR, has
joined Magnet Interactive Studios as an
animator on the Hellraiser CD-ROM project. His current work is described as both
“gooey” and “spiky.” Don’t take any
chances, Newt, that Pinhead dude can be a
A minor miracle
FASA Corp. was apparently caught unaware that the BATTLETECH action figures were already on sale; almost unheard
of in the industry, the figures shipped two
months early! Just in time for last Christmas, how convenient.
White Wolf weirdness
Stephen Pagel, the national SF, Fantasy,
and Role-playing buyer for Barnes & Noble chain of bookstores, joins White Wolfs
sales staff this month. The move is welltimed, since White Wolf hopes to launch
its fiction line into a wider market this
year. Mr. Pagel is well-known in the book
trade as an expert in SF and fantasy.
In other WW weirdness, a posting on
the Internet claims that White Wolf Magazine will be relaunched as INPHOBIA, a
glitzy mass-market magazine for a highschool and college Goth/horror/trendoid
The WW TV show reported in these
pages a few months ago has indeed come
to pass; the setting will be San Francisco,
and the series will air on the Fox Network
beginning in summer or fall of this year.
Magazine madness
The TSR Magazine staff has undergone a
big round of musical chairs recently. Barbara Young, editor of DUNGEON® Adventures, has been promoted to managing
editor of the TSR Book Department.
Wolfgang Baur, the associate editor, will
take her place at the helm of DUNGEON
Magazine. Congratulations to them both!
Dale Donovan, the driving force behind
DRAGON Magazine, is moving to the
Games department to join TSR’s worldfamous design staff. Good luck, Dale!
l indicates a product produced by a company other
than TSR, Inc.
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The information given in the listing must
include the following, in this order:
1. Convention title and dates held;
2. Site and location;
3. Guests of honor (if applicable);
4. Special events offered;
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Convention flyers, newsletters, and other
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Accurate information is your responsibility.
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contact us immediately. Most questions or
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European conventions should be directed
to TSR Limited, (0223) 212517 (U.K.).
indicates an Australian convention.
indicates a Canadian convention.
indicates a European convention.
* 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.
Important: DRAGON Magazine no
longer publishes phone numbers for conventions. Publishing incorrect numbers is always possible and is a nuisance to both the
caller and those receiving the misdirected
call. Be certain that any address given is
complete and correct.
To ensure that your convention listing
makes it into our files, enclose a selfaddressed stamped postcard with your first
convention notice; we will return the card to
show that your notice was received. You also
might send a second notice one week after
mailing the first. Mail your listing as early as
possible, and always keep us informed of
any changes. Please avoid sending convention notices by fax, as this method has not
proved to be reliable.
preregistered; $30 on site. Write to: STRATEGICON, PO. Box 3849, Torrance CA 90510-3849.
JAXCON ‘95, Feb. 24-26
This convention will be held at Wyndham
Hamilton Hotel in Itasca, Ill. Guests include
Nancy Kress, Lucy Synk, and Sue Blom. Events
include anime, panels, demos, workshops, film,
a cabaret, a masquerade dance, art shows, and a
blood drive. Registration: $40 on site. Write to:
CAPRICON XV, PO. Box 60085, Chicago IL
This convention will be held at Marriott Hotel
in San Ramon, Calif. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include card games, seminars, tournaments,
video games, movies, dealers, and a flea market.
Registration: $35/weekend or $15/day on site.
Write to: DUNDRACON, 1145 Talbot St., Albany
CA 94706.
This convention will be held at the Holiday
Inn Southeast in Denver, Colo. Events include
role-playing, board, and miniatures games.
Other activities include computer gaming, a
figure-painting contest, auctions, and dealers.
Registration: $15 preregistered. Write to: Denver Gamers Assoc., PO. Box 440058, Aurora CO
KATSUCON ONE, Feb. 17-19
This anime/manga convention will be held at
the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Virginia
Beach, Va. Activities include panels, workshops,
an amateur film fest, an art show, dance, and
anime. Registration: $30. Write to: Katsu Prod.,
PO. Box 11582, Blacksburg VA 24062-1582; or email at: [email protected]
ORCCON 18, Feb. 18-20
This convention will be held at Airport Hyatt
Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif. Events include all
types of family, strategy, and adventure board,
role-playing, miniatures, and computer gaming.
Other activities include flea markets, an auction,
dealers, seminars, and demos. Registration: $25
This convention will be held at the Ramada
Inn Conference Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
Events include role-playing, board, and miniatures games. Other activities include door
prizes, dealers, and a flea market. Registration:
$22 on site. Single-day rates are available. Write
to: JAXCON, PO. Box 14218, Dep't. M, Jacksonville FL 32238-4218.
RADCON 1C, Feb. 24-26
CAPRICON XV, Feb. 16-19
This convention will be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in
Marlboro, Mass. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include a dinner-theater production. Registration: $30/weekend or $10/day preregistered;
$12/day on site. Write to: TOTAL CONFUSION,
PO. Box 1463, Worcester MA 01607.
This convention will be held at the Best Western Tower Inn in Richland, Wa. Events include
role-playing, board, and miniatures games.
Other activities include workshops, dealers, an
art show, movies, demos, and gaming. Registration: $18. Write to: RADCON lC, 2527 W. Kennewick Ave., #162, Kennewick WA 99336.
POINTCON II, Feb. 25-26
This convention will be held at the University
Center on the UW-Stevens Point campus in
Stevens Point, Wis. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include tournaments, door prizes, and dealers.
Registration: $2/event; $3/4 per tournament.
Send an SASE to: GASP, Box 41, Univ. Activities
Office, Univ. Center UWSP, Stevens Point WI
CONCENTRIC ‘95, March 3-5
This convention will be held at Ramada Hotel
O’Hare in Chicago, Ill. Guests include Lynn
Abbey and Larry Elmore. Events include roleplaying, board, computer, and miniatures
games. Other activities include an art show,
seminars, films, anime, the blood drive, and a
masquerade ball. Registration: $17 on site. Write
to: Concentric Circle Inc., 114 Euclid, Box 287,
Park Ridge IL 60068.
March 3-5
This convention will be held at Southern
Illinois University’s Student Center in Carbondale, Ill. Guests include David Gross. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include a game auction,
and miniatures-painting and art contests. Registration: $10 preregistered: $12 on site. Singleday and visitor passes are available. Write to:
Games Society, Office of Student Development,
3rd Floor Student Center, Carbondale IL 629014425.
TENN CON ‘95, March 4-5
This convention will be held at the Knoxville
Convention Center in Knoxville, Tenn. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include card-game
events. Registration: $25 (plus tax) on site. Write
to: TENN CON ‘95, c/o Gameboard, 3018 B Mall
Rd. N., Suite #161, Knoxville, TN 37924.
This convention originally was scheduled to take place Dec. 3, 1994. It be held at
Drew University in Madison, N.J. Events include
role-playing, board, and miniatures games.
Other activities include a miniatures-painting
contest, a raffle, an auction, and door prizes.
Registration: $5. Write to: Richard Ditullio, PO.
Box 802, C.M. Box 1405, Madison NJ 07940.
March 10-12
This convention will be held at the Landmark
Center in St. Paul, Minn. Events include roleplaying, board, computer, and miniatures
games. Registration fees vary. Write to: CON OF
THE NORTH, PO. Box 18096, Minneapolis MN
COSCON ‘95, March 10-12
MAGE CON NORTH I, March 24-26
EX UNICON II, March 11-12
This convention will be held at Reed Hall on
the Exeter University campus in Devon, England. Events include role-playing, board, and
miniatures games. Other activities include a
charity auction. Write to: Exeter Univ. Games
Society, c/o Mr. R. Stewart, 25, Victoria St.,
Exeter, Devon, ENGLAND EX4 6JQ.
This convention will be held at the Sheraton
Hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J. Events include roleplaying, board, and miniatures games. Other
activities include card games, dealers, a game
auction, seminars, and demos. Registration: $20/
weekend on site. Single-day rates vary. Write to:
Multigenre Inc., 142 South St., Unit 9C, Red
Bank NJ 07701-2502; or e-mail:
[email protected]
MIDSOUTHCON 14, March 24-26
This convention will be held at Wilson Commons on the University of Rochester campus in
Rochester, N.Y. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include tournaments, dealers, and open gaming.
Registration: $8 before March 15; $10 thereafter. Tournaments fees are $3; most other
event fees are $2. Write to: SIMCON XVII, c/o
URSGA, CPU 277146-River Station, Rochester
NY 14627-7146.
48 FEBRUARY 1995
This SF convention will be held at the Best
Western Airport Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. Guests
include Timothy Zahn and Alan Gutierrez.
Events include role-playing, board, and miniatures games. Registration: $25 before March 1;
$30 thereafter. Write to: MIDSOUTHCON, PO.
Box 22749, Memphis TN 38122.
This convention will be held at the Student
Center of the University of Akron in Akron,
Ohio. Events include role-playing, board, and
miniatures games. Other activities include card
games and videos. Registration: $15 preregistered; $17 on site. Write to: University Gaming
Society, Gardner Student Center, Office #6,
Univ. of Akron, Akron OH 44325.
SCOTCON ‘95, March 24-26
This convention will be held at Lowry Center
on the College of Wooster campus in Wooster,
Ohio. Events include role-playing, board, and
miniatures games. Other activities include card
games. Registration fees vary. Write to: Avery
Leckrone, Box C-1706 COW, Wooster OH 44691.
TECHNICON 12, March 31-April 1
This is a revised, updated listing.
This convention will be held at the Miss. Gulf
Coast Coliseum/Convention Center in Biloxi,
Miss. Guests include Mike Stackpole, Steve
Perry, Jennifer Roberson, and George Alec
Effinger. Events include role-playing, board, and
miniatures games. Other activities include an art
show and auction, a charity auction, dealers,
videos, and writing and costume contests.
Registration: $25 before March 1; $30 thereafter. Write to: COASTCON XVII, PO. Box 1423,
Biloxi MS 39533-1423.
I-CON 14, March 31-April 2
This not-for-profit convention will be held at
the SUNY campus in Stony Brook, N.Y. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include SF&F, comics,
and anime. Write to: I-CON, PO. Box 550, Stony
Brook NY 11790-0550.
UBCON ‘95, March 3l-April 2
This convention will be held at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Events include roleplaying, board, and miniatures games. Other
activities include dealers and movies. Write to:
Pentagonal Committee, c/o Kris Mayo, 219
Willard Way, Ithaca NY 14850; or e-mail:
[email protected]
This convention will be held at North campus
of the State University of New York at Buffalo in
Amherst, N.Y. Guests include Sam Chupp.
Events include role-playing, board, and miniatures games. Other activities include card
games, an auction, dealers, anime, and SCA
demos. Registration fees range from $5-10.
Write to: UB-SARPA, 363 Student Union, SUNY
at Buffalo, Buffalo NY 14260-2100; or e-mail:
[email protected]
RAWACON ‘95, April 1
This convention will be held at the gymnasium on the campus of Lebanon Valley College in
Annville, Pa. Events include role-playing, board,
and miniatures games. Other activities include a
miniatures-painting contest, dealers, and artists.
Registration: $2.50 preregistered; $5 on site.
Write to: RAWACON ‘95, 33-B N Railroad St.,
Palmyra PA 17078; or e-mail:
[email protected]
This convention will be held at Claremont
Colleges in Claremont, Calif. Events include roleplaying, board, and miniatures games. Other
activities include card games and a card-game
tournament. Registration: $5 preregistered; $15
on site. Write to: Thomas M. Kane, 150 Annapolis Dr., Claremont CA 91711.
This convention will be held at Oak Park &
River Forest High School in Oak Park, Ill. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include card-game tournaments. Registration: $4 preregistered; $6 on
site. Write to: Oak Park & River Forest HS, c/o
Sandy Price, 201 N. Scoville Ave., Oak Park IL
GAME FAIRE ‘95, April 21-23
This convention will be held at the Student
Union of Spokane Falls Community College in
Spokane, Wash. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include a used-game auction, anime, a
miniatures-painting contest, tournaments, and
open gaming. Registration: $18 before April 11;
$20 on site. Write to: Merlyn’s, N. 1 Browne,
Spokane WA 99201.
FRANKCONSTEIN ‘95, April 21-23
This convention will be held at the Best Western
Red Lion Inn in Blacksburg, Va. Guests include
Christie Golden, Melissa Scott, Don Sakers, and
Tom Atkinson. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include card games, panels, an art show and
auction, filking, videos and anime, computer
games, and dealers. Write to: TECHNICON 12,
c/o VTSFFC, PO. Box 256, Blacksburg VA 240630356; or e-mail via the Internet:
[email protected]
OPCON ‘95, April 8
COASTCON XVIII, March 31-April2
PENTECON VII, March 31-April 2
SIMCON XVII, March 23-26
This convention will be held at the Howard
Johnson Hotel in Sioux Falls, S.D. Events include
role-playing, board, and miniatures games.
Other activities include dealers and a silent
auction. Registration: $15/weekend or $8/day on
site. Write to: MAGE CON NORTH I, PO. Box
114, Sioux Center IA 51250.
This convention will be held at Whig Hall on
the Princeton University campus in Princeton,
N.J. Events include role-playing, board, and
miniatures games. Other activities include an
AD&D® game variant that lets you play one
character all weekend. Registration: $15. Write
to: Aaron Mulder, 46 Holder Hall, Princeton
Univ., Princeton NJ 08554; or e-mail:
[email protected]
GAMER’S CON II, March 17-19
This convention will be held at the Danbury
Hilton & Towers in Danbury, Conn. Guests
include Jean Rabe and Sam Lewis. Events include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include RPGA® Network
events, miniature-painting, costume, and art
contests, and an awards banquet. Write to:
CONNCON, PO. Box 444, Sherman CT 067840444.
This convention will be held at the Days Inn
Conference Center in Butler, Pa. Guests include
Jean Rabe. Events include role-playing, board,
and miniatures games. Other activities include
RPGA® Network events, dealers, and demos.
Registration: $20 thereafter. Send an SASE to:
Circle of Swords, PO. Box 2126, Butler PA
PRINCECON XX, March 10-12
CONNCON ‘95, March 24-26
This convention will be held at the Radisson
Hotel Clayton in St. Louis, MO. Guests include
Glen Cook, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Laurell K.
Hamilton, and Wilson “Bob” Tucker. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Other activities include panels, a masquerade, a dance, videos, dealers, and filking.
Registration: $15 before March 1; $22 thereafter. Write to: Name That Con, PO. Box 575, St.
Charles MO 63302.
April 22-23
This convention will be held at the Charles I.
Lathrem Senior Center in Kettering, Ohio.
Events include role-playing, board, and miniatures games. Other activities include RPGA®
Network tournaments, computer games, card
games, and a game auction. Registration: $2/day.
Write to: Bob Von Gruenigen, 804 Willowdale
Ave., Kettering OH 45429.
MAGIC CARPET CON 3, April 28-30
This convention will be held at the North
Georgia Convention and Trade Center in Dalton,
Ga. Guests include Elizabeth Moon, Tom Deitz,
and Mark Poole. Events include role-playing,
board, and miniatures games. Other activities
include a masquerade, an art show and auction,
and a con suite. Registration: $25 before March
15; $30 on site. Write to: MAGIC CARPET CON
3, P.O. Box 678, Rocky Face GA 30740; or SusanB14 on America On-line.
SPRINGCON ‘95, April 28-30
This gaming convention will be held at the
ReUnion Building in Lincoln, Nebr. Events
include role-playing, board, and miniatures
games. Registration: Free to the public. Novices
and interested nongamers are encouraged to
attend. Write to: SPRINGCON Committee, Box
1126, 905 N. 16th St., Lincoln NE 68508.
GENERAL CON ‘95, April 29-30
This convention will be held at the Carlisle
Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Events include
role-playing, board, and miniatures games.
Other activities include dealers and tourna-
50 FEBRUARY 1995
Join over 2,400 players in the largest
continuing adventure in the AD&D®
game world of the RAVEN’S BLUFF
setting. Enjoy five rounds of first-run
RPGA® Network events over the course
of a weekend. Contact any of the following cons near you for more information.
GRYPH CON ‘95, April 1-2
Write to: Malcolm Wood, Box 764, West
Lorne, Ontario, N0L 2P0 CANADA.
VILLE-CON ‘95, April 1-2
Write to: Rob Nichols, 1714 C Amelia,
Columbia MO 65201.
April 8-9
ments. Registration fees vary. Write to: M.
Foner’s Games Only Emporium, 200 3rd St.,
New Cumberland PA 17070.
April 8-9
Write to: Scott Douglas, 316.5 E.
Duffy, Norman OK 73069.
April S-S
Write to: Randall Lemon, PO. Box
9005, Highland IN 46322.
Write to: Eric Kline, PO. Box 90182,
Honolulu HI 96835.
CAP CON ‘95, April 15-16
Write to: Trella White, 7645 Garners’
Fair Rd., Apt. #1009-F, Columbia SC
Write to: Chris McGuigan, 2010, Hillside
Dr., Burlingame CA 94010.
April S-S
Write to: Don Weatherbee, 86A Dafrack Dr., Lake Hiawatha NJ 07034.
April 8-9
April S-S
Write to: Patrick Connolly, 2509 Deming Ave., Columbus OH 43202.
CON-TROLL ‘95, April 22-23
Write to: Terry Hawkins, 4734 Warm
Springs, Houston TX 77035.
by Jon Winter
Artwork by David 0. Miller
“Ship ahoy!” The sharp cry from the
crow’s nest launched the crew into a flurry of frenzied activity; loading ballistae,
hoisting sails, grabbing hand weapons, and
lashing barrels to the decks.
“Raise the cloaking helm!” Captain Orlando shouted down to the bridge. A shimmering, colorless wall of magical force
materialized around the Blue Jay. To an
onlooker, the shrikeship and her elven
crew would have simply vanished, blending perfectly with the starry backcloth of
Red and wicked, a massive neogi deathspider cruised effortlessly toward the
smaller ship. Web-like sails glistened between its huge grappling claws, scattering
silver-orange light below. Blood Glory was
the name daubed in black on the deathspider’s hull.¹ Slowly, ominously, silently, the
claws parted. The forward shell of the
‘spider retracted, exposing the deck beneath. Even from this distance tiny figures
could be seen, swarming about the weapons platform between the catapults, fol-
lowed by lumbering, hulking monstrosities.
“They’ve spotted us!” At the shout from
above, Orlando’s heart sank. A catapult
stone from the ‘spider whisked past, dangerously close.
“Hard a-port!” The shrikeship suddenly
rolled onto one side, throwing the gravity
plane out of line for a brief instant. The
deathspider spun, and the stars spiralled
across the void. The Blue Jay lurched
forward, doubling its speed as it passed
the shell of the ‘spider.
“Fire at the hulks!” Three ballista bolts
shot whining from the shrikeship, then
their scream was abruptly silenced by the
void. A barrage of missile fire followed
from the elves, their arrows streaking
toward the larger ship. Cheers from the
crew greeted the sight of two of the massive hulks falling from the ‘spider, pierced
with arrows and ballista bolts.
Slowly, almost ponderously, the deathspider turned on the shrikeship. With the
attack the Blue Jay’s cloak had fallen, and
the neogi were upon them. . . .
Crunch! The whole ship shook violently
under the impact of a huge catapult stone.
As Alvirath watched the battle unfolding
from her position at the helm, sharp flashes of white pain stabbed at her mind;
jettison fire crashing onto the upper deck.
Wheeling around, the shrikeship dove
beneath the Blood Glory, which hung
motionless in the void, impossibly huge,
defying gravity. Numerous ballistae fired
their lethal bolts at the Jay. The small ship
heaved as cracks appeared in the hull and
one wing was torn away.
“Return fire!” Captain Orlando’s voice
rang out clear above the surviving crew’s
cries of alarm. Simultaneously the shrikeship’s three ballistae fired. Three bolts
sped toward the ‘spider, crashing silently
into her crystalline hull. The elves cheered
raggedly, but their dwindling courage
evaporated as the ‘spider mercilessly bore
down upon the crippled Blue Jay once
Bright signal lights flared from lamps at
the bow of the shrikeship. Red, yellow,
yellow; the code for parlay. Orlando
crossed his elven fingers, praying the
stories he had heard of the neogi were
exaggerated.² He did not breathe until a
returning flash came, seconds later. He
mouthed the words silently as he translated them:
“Surrender or die.”
Before Orlando even had time to order a
retreat, the Blood Glory moved. Colossal
grappling claws crashed onto the Jay's
deck, ripping through the rails and crushing the hull. Already figures swarmed
down the grappling legs; weak, pale human slaves shambling vaguely as if they
were undead, and hulking blue-black
creatures with swirling, mesmerizing
The next few minutes were chaos. The
Jay's crew hacked randomly at anything
that moved, but the neogi’s slaves quickly
eliminated resistance. Four of the spiderlike neogi scuttled down the legs of the
deathspider and stood on the edge of the
Jay's deck, dancing and chanting strange
hissing words of arcane power in their
foul language.4
Orlando shouted to his crew to attack
the spell-casting neogi, but most were
already bewitched by the hulks. They
slashed at each other, the hulks, or anything else that was near. Feeling a stabbing
pain in his lower leg, Orlando recoiled in
horror as a neogi sank its fangs into his
flesh. Lethargy coursed through his veins
and, almost in slow motion, he stumbled
backward. A sharp cuff over the head sent
Orlando reeling toward the deck and into
Within five minutes the ship was overrun; the hulks began stripping the shrikeship of anything even remotely valuable.
The bodies and surviving crew of the Blue
Jay were bound by the mindless zombieslaves, and dragged back into the ‘spider.
Leaving the shrikeship a drifting wreck,
the Blood Glory turned and left the gruesome scene, ‘jamming off into the depths
of the Stellar Main.6
In the distance, a dim star changed its
course and began to follow. . . .
Allowing his sensitive elven eyes to
adjust to the dim light, Orlando sat up
Neogi statistics modifiers
Neogi aging modifiers
2 months
Neogi level limits
5 4
slowly. His head was still throbbing from
the blow he had received. As the room
came into focus, he could see he was in a
dark, dismal cell.7 The stench of death was
nauseating. Low, agonized groans of pain
from nearby cells identified his surviving
crew—they were not many. Orlando tried
to stand, but his throbbing legs would not
support him.
“Rest my son, you are still weak.”
Orlando giddily turned to face the unseen speaker, fumbling for his sword-it
was gone! An old man stood behind him,
eyes as black as the void. Cocking his head
slightly, the stranger smiled a little, as if
amused. His voice was strange, almost
“Do not worry, I mean no harm. I too am
a prisoner here. Forgive me for startling
you.” The man placed a cool hand upon
Orlando’s forehead, muttering something
under his breath. Warmth and vigor
flowed through his hand into Orlando-he
felt refreshed, healthy even.
“You are a priest?”
“Yes, my son. I am Feldar, of Ptah. Drink
this. It will help.” He held out a half-full
waterskin. Orlando stood, took a swig, and
spluttered as the powerful brandy burned
inside him.
There was a pause before Orlando spoke
again. “How long have you been here?
What do they want with us?”
“I do not know, my son. These neogi are
attacking all ships within range. I fear they
wish to provoke the elves into another
war. I suspect they will want to interrogate you.”8
Orlando shuddered. He had heard many
tales of those “questioned” by the neogi
losing their limbs, eyes, nose, or ears to
the vile creatures. His throat tightened as
fear gripped him. Something approached
the cell. Striding clumsily down the corridor was the dark form of an umber hulk,
a neogi cradled in its arms. The pair
stopped outside one of the cells opposite
his own. The hulk bellowed a deep growl,
and Orlando saw Alvirath—his wife—
scrambling to her feet in the feeble light.
“Ga’kah’ki’zid am I,” hissed the foul
neogi. It paused, as if it expected the poor
elf to be impressed. “Priest of Thrig’ki I
am. Master hungers for meat. Meat with
me will now come to Overmaster.”9
15 years
Str - l , D e x - 1
30 years
Str - l , D e x - l , C o n - 1
Specialist wizard
There was a sharp creak as the hulk
heaved open the massive cell door, and a
cry of pain as the lumbering monstrosity
grabbed Alvirath by her silver hair and
pulled her from the cell. Protesting frantically, Alvirath was roughly shoved along
the corridor. She beat her fists against the
hulk’s stony chest, but it ignored her angry blows.
Frustration and anger welled inside
Orlando. “No!” he shouted, reaching
through the bars in a vain attempt to save
the elf, “You can’t do that to her!”
Ponderously, the hulk turned about,
clacking its huge jaws. From its cradle in
its lord-servant’s arms the neogi grinned a
cruel, toothy smile. “Want you to come
too?” it snickered gleefully. “Master-lord
pleased to meet this Meat will be.”
On command, the hulk lurched forward
and unbolted Orlando’s cell door. Rudely
seizing Orlando by the neck, the huge
hulk pushed the two prisoners in front of
it. Feldar shook his head in despair as the
cell door slammed, hoping Orlando’s death
would be a quick one.
Perched atop the hulk’s massive head,
the neogi flexed its legs eagerly, anticipating a great feast for its Overmaster. The
loathsome creature’s eyes glittered evilly
in the dim light. Orlando struggled in vain
to escape the iron grip of the hulk, but his
neck was just squeezed more tightly. He
reached across the hulk’s broad chest, to
touch Alvirath. Mute with fear, she could
not speak, but her eyes said farewell.
The party left the cell block and stumbled along a narrow corridor deeper into
the ship. The air became putrid and uncomfortably warm as the group emerged
into a low-ceilinged hall. A set of double
doors filled the south wall of the room.
Orlando guessed from the two hulk
guards on either side of the doors that
whatever was inside was important.
Their neogi captor, from its vantage
point on the hulk’s head spoke again. “Now
to meet Broodmaster we go.” On a sharp
command the hulks heaved open the huge
doors. The fetid odor of stale air and
death washed over Orlando. His stomach
Slowly and deliberately, their hulk captor dragged them forward, its colossal
strength no match for two elves. The
neogi on the hulk’s head danced with a
bloodthirsty furor, its sharp talons clattering on its lord-servant’s iron-hard skin.
The stench worsened as they advanced
into the huge room. Orlando could now
see that the floor in the center had been
cut away, revealing a gaping pit below into
the cargo hold. His heart clenched in horror as he saw movement in the darkness
below. Something huge twitched, glistening in the dim light with thick slime. A
great watery eye appeared in the mountain of rotting flesh, its hideous gaze washing over the group. Another eye flicked
open, and with a rumble, a cavernous
mouth widened. Wickedly-sharp teeth
gleamed as a deep bellow erupted from
the monster.
There was movement across the room,
and from the shadows scuttled more of
the foul neogi. Hissing and spitting they
advanced, circling the pit. The two captives stood inches from the edge of the
chasm, still held firm by the hulk. From
the pit the massive beast rose, squelching
and growling hungrily. A humanoid creature across the pit caught Orlando’s eye.
His squinted to make out its form.
Greetings and farewell. The voice slithered through Orlando’s mind as he
strained to see. Sibilant and cool, it was
quickly evaporated by the heat of Orlando’s rage. An illithid! He had always suspected the slimy devils worked with the
neogi, and here was proof.10 Struggling
with renewed vigor, he tried desperately
to escape from the grasp of the hulk.
Escape is futile. Orlando felt his muscles
suddenly seize up, and an agony of
cramps shot through his body. He knew
Alvirath felt the same pain. Mentally cursing all illithids, Orlando prayed to the
elven gods to save him.
They cannot hear you out here. The
illithid seemed amused by Orlando’s futile
“The time of the broodmaster is nearing!
Slake its thirst for meat we shall now! For
the glory of Thrig’ki!” the small neogi
screamed, spittle flying from the corners
of its mouth. The hulk moved to throw
Alvirath over the precipice.
“The glory of P’kk!” another of the small
creatures shrieked. “The glory of
“All the Holy Ones glory have!”
A sudden explosion rocked the ship, and
searing flames erupted across the chamber. Terrified by the intense fire, the neogi
scattered, screaming. The hulk holding
Alvirath and Orlando reflexively shuffled
backward, away from the pit, dragging its
prisoners with it.
Orlando’s fear and anger forced the
illithid from his mind as he struggled
against the iron grasp of the hulk. With
grim satisfaction he noted the mind flayer’s robe was burning, and he felt its shrill
mental screeches of pain.
The far wall of the room suddenly collapsed, pierced by the barrel of a massive
gun. The thunderous force of the ram
threw Orlando and the hulks to the floor.
Through the breach swarmed giff marines, brandishing cutlass, pistol, and all
manner of outlandish weapons. The hulk
holding the elves cropped his captives to
enter the fray. Striking his head on the
deck, Orlando once again fell into unconsciousness. Alvirath’s tears splashed warm
on his cheek as she kneeled next to him.
Below them the broodmaster was
aflame, cracks opening in its warty sides.
Young neogi erupted from its decaying
flesh, spilling across the floorboards.11
Neogi look like a foul cross between a
spider and a moray eel, and are about the
size of a small dog. All neogi and their
slaves are tattooed; the garish and intricate patterns announce name, age, number of slaves owned, and social status.
Neogi are covered in coarse brown hair,
which is frequently dyed bright colors as a
status symbol. Their eight spidery legs are
long and thin with sharp nails and flexible
joints. Their heads are those of serpents or
eels, with two forward-facing eyes and a
mouth of sharp teeth for rending flesh.
More information on neogi may be found
in the Lorebook of the Void from the original SPELLJAMMER® campaign boxed set.
They also appear in the MONSTROUS
MANUAL™ hardcover book.
1. The names of neogi ships show little
imagination. Most involve the words
“slave, “blood,” “death,” or “pain.” Neogi
ships tend to be painted red, black, orange, or purple with silver and gold highlights also being popular.
2. Neogi brutality is legendary, for they
have no morals and less sympathy. Weak
or injured neogi are killed and devoured.
All slaves are eventually eaten, except the
umber hulks that are too valuable. Any
5 5
who surrender to the neogi are enslaved
or placed in a lifejammer helm. Any slave
refuses to or is incapable of working is
eaten. Kender, halflings, and gnomes are
not valued slaves because of their irritating habits; they are usually just tortured
and eaten. Most other races are considered prime slave material, especially humans, elves and ogres.
3. Each mature neogi has an umber hulk
slave, valued as its most treasured possession. Most neogi insist upon being carried
everywhere by their hulks since they
themselves can scuttle around only slowly.
Powerful neogi own two or more hulks.
The neogi have an overdeveloped concept of ownership—everything is the property of a neogi. They consider themselves
the supreme race in the universe and
therefore own everything in it. This superiority complex leads to the strange titles
they use: umber hulks are called “lordservants,” other neogi “kinsmen-slaves,” the
ship’s master “captain-owner,” and all
others are “servant-slaves” or simply
4. Roughly one in 10 neogi has magical
ability as a wizard of levels 1-8. Some
neogi have aptitude enough to rise to 14th
level, and rumors persist of magic-using
neogi liches. Specialist neogi mages may
choose between the schools of Necromancy, Conjuration/Summoning or Invocation/
Evocation; other schools are unavailable or
5 6
considered too weak to be of consequence.
The foul creatures have developed many
new spells of their own (see DRAGON®
issue #184's article, “Magic with an Evil
Bite” by Jason M. Walker for examples).
Neogi speaking human tongues overemphasize the letters s, z, and k, making
their voice sound harsh and guttural.
K’azz’jak’n, the neogi language, is reminiscent of snakes hissing and the whirring of
thri-kreen. The structure and word order
of the neogi tongue is very complex, but
when speaking Common neogi do not
bother with grammar.
5. Neogi possess a poisonous slowing bite
that they use infrequently, because they
must be close to their victim to administer
the poison. The cowardly neogi are reluctant to place themselves in danger for the
goods of others, preferring instead to send
their slaves into combat.
This slowing poison also acts as a charm
agent when administered over an extended period of time, helping to brainwash
the slaves so they will not rebel. The effects are hard to reverse, requiring dispel
magic and neutralize poison spells.
6. Umber hulks are trained to loot ships,
and they enjoy this task immensely. They
can recognize valuable metals, gemstones,
and weapons, and usually can locate spelljamming helms. Food and drink often is
devoured on the spot, as are any dead
When an enemy vessel has been stripped, neogi always leave the shell behind as
a warning to other spacefarers—who can
recognize the work of the neogi from its
sheer brutality.
7. Neogi eyes are sensitive to light. Although bright light causes them no harm,
neogi prefer to keep their ships in dismal
darkness. They possess infravision to a 60’
range. Neogi are not clean creatures, and
the filth and smell of their quarters aboard
their ships is quite nauseating. DMs should
feel free to impose Constitution checks the
first PCs encounter the stench.
8. Neogi torture methods are the stuff of
fearsome tales. The pain that victims are
forced to endure is hideous enough to
make human torturers’ stomachs turn.
Neogi eat flesh, preferably alive and
screaming, be it human, neogi, or illithid.
Their normal diet is one pound of meat
per day, although neogi may live without
food for up to two weeks. Torture is their
favorite method of “preparing” it.
9. One in 20 neogi has priestly abilities,
and each spelljamming vessel is overseen
by at least one priest. Priests are permitted to add the word ki’zid after their
name, meaning “favored of deities.” The
Powers of the neogi are referred to as
“deity” and not “god’ or “goddess,” as there
is no distinction between male or female
amongst the sexless neogi. Deities are
viewed as servants by the insolent neogi,
who continually demand favor and good
fortune. Neogi never pray, and rarely offer
sacrifice, since they see themselves as
more important.
Pronouncing the name of a neogi deity
incorrectly is an invitation to be killed
slowly and painfully. Humans, who tend to
find neogi pronunciation difficult, are
advised not to attempt saying deities’
names. There are five neogi deities:
Thrig’ki (lesser power), Align: NE,
Plane: Karish (Abyss), Portfolio: “love”
Although the deity of “love,” Thrig is
better translated as jealousy or hatred. To
neogi, jealousy and love are the same.
Thrig’ki appears as a neogi with writhing
snakes for hair and twelve spidery legs.
P’kk (lesser power), Alignment: LE,
Plane: Ki’pik (Baator), Portfolio: fear,
P’kk is the favorite deity of captains and
neogi in positions of power who enjoy
bullying and manipulating their lessers.
P’kk is seen as an umber hulk with the
head of a neogi.
T’zen’kil (lesser power, Alignment: NE,
Plane: Karish, Portfolio: torture, pain,
The name of T’zen’kil is invoked by
neogi torturers and those in charge of the
slave pens. Worshippers are tattooed with
grotesque black symbols of pain. T’zen’kil
looks like a black neogi with a whip for a
Kr’tx (lesser power), Alignment: CE,
Plane: Jik’qu (Gray Waste), Portfolio: war,
brutality, strength.
Kr’tx is the neogi deity favored by umber hulk slaves, who delight in brutality
and wanton destruction. The favor of
Kr’tx is always demanded before a major
battle. Kr’tx is seen as a red neogi with
continually burning claws and hair.
Kil’lix (lesser power), Align: LE, Plane:
Karish, Portfolio: death, murder, poison.
Kil’lix is the patron of murderers and
assassins in the neogi world, and is seen as
the darkest of shadows. Its horrid laugh is
high-pitched and whining, yet also deep
and booming, and is said to be heard by
those who are about to die.
All neogi priests gain access to the same
spheres of spells. Major access: All, Astral,
Charm, Combat, Elemental, Healing (reversed only), Necromantic, War. Minor
access: Protection, Summoning.
10. The neogi have no allies except for
corrupt mind flayers, and this alliance is
tenuous at best. Even the foul drow loathe
the neogi, branding them blasphemers
against their Spider-Queen Lolth. Illithids
work for large profits as intermediaries
between the neogi and the Arcane, who
are unwilling to deal with the neogi directly.
11. Neogi reproduce asexually by poisoning old, frail captain-owners with a variety
of toxic chemicals. The victims rapidly
collapse into coma, and slowly expand into
Great Old Masters” or “Broodmasters.”
58 FEBRUARY 1995
These foul creatures grow fat on the flesh
of slaves, all the while being eaten from
the inside by developing young neogi.
When broodmasters near the Time, their
flesh begins to split. In a final ritual they
burst, spilling out live young neogi. The
young fight over the remains of the broodmaster until it has been devoured, then
attack each other. From a litter of forty,
only six or seven will survive, but these
will be the toughest, most brutal neogi of
the group. Natural selection therefore
helps the race to remain powerful.
This violent reproductive process has a
number of repercussions on the race.
Neogi are sexless, and they cannot understand the concept of gender or love in
other races. Many consider human women
to be a different race from human men.
The viciousness of their early lives leads
their evil and hateful natures. Dominant
neogi emotions are hatred, jealousy and
fear, and it is these which keep lesser
neogi in place under their masters.
Captain-owners become broodmasters
when their underlings grow tired of senile
rulership. If left to live their full lifespan,
neogi die at about age 45, but most are
assassinated before they reach 30.
The only neogi fable of interest to sages
details the neogi creation myth. Their
legends claim the universe was created by
a Being named Ka’jik’zxi. This deity con-
structed the Planes, Spheres, Flow, and
the planets. Finally it created five more
deities, each like itself only weaker. The
five, named Thrig’ki, P’kk, T’zen’kil, Kr’tx
and Kil’lix, each represent one of the desirable aspects of the neogi race. These deities squabbled over their areas of control
until Ka’jik’zxi grew tired of their bickering and punished them. Furious, the five
hatched a plot to kill Ka’jik’zxi. Concocting
a fatal brew with the “foulest ingredients”
(including friendship, mercy, and compassion) they poisoned their Creator.
Ka’jik’zxi swelled up to a huge size, and
the young deities hid, fearful of Ka’jik’zxi’s
wrath. Suddenly, Ka’jik’zxi burst, spilling
its entrails across the spheres. Some landed in the Outer Planes—the parts containing mercy and compassion became the
gods of good. Some of Ka’jik’zxi landed in
the Lower Planes and became the evil
gods. Ka’jik’zxi’s brain landed in a
forgotten Crystal Sphere.
After much searching, the neogi deities
found the brain. There they were amazed
to discover life—the first neogi had been
“born.” The deities taught the neogi of the
multiverse and their destiny to conquer.
The neogi built ships and left their
homeworld—referred to in legends as
Ka’jk’z. They have never returned, but the
neogi know their mission: to conquer all
the Spheres.
In search of cosmic balance
[Editor’s Note: Due to circumstances
beyond everyone’s control, this issue’s Eye
installment is not by that stalwart trio o f
gaming gods: Zeb Cook, Paul Murphy, and
Ken Rolston. Instead, we welcome one of
our RPG reviewers, Lester “Multimedia”
Smith to a new section of the magazine.
Les chose to share his own thoughts on a
computer game reviewed in a previous
issue of DRAGON® Magazine. Always one
to support intelligent discussions of differing viewpoints (and not being above tossing a little controversy into these pages
now and then), I hope you’ll enjoy reading
Les’ opinions.
It isn’t often in life that you get a chance to
atone for an earlier mistake. But here, due
to an unusual set of circumstances, I find
myself filling in for the regular stable of
computer-game reviewers this month, and it
provides me with a rare opportunity to
make amends for what I consider an old
error on my part, at least in a strange sort of
cosmic sense, while addressing a new one.
Allow me to explain.
Years ago, when Games Workshop first
released the SPACE HULK* board game, I
snatched up a copy eagerly. I already had
become addicted Leading Edge’s ALIENS*
solitaire board game, and the SPACE HULK
game promised to deliver the same sort of
action, but for two players rather than
one—and with GW’s characteristically
glitzy components. The game turned out
to be even more impressive than I anticipated. Its mechanics are simple yet elegant. The time limit on the marine player’s
turn is a stroke of genius. And the balance
of genestealer advantages (their rapid
movement, the use of “blips” to represent
uncertain numbers of them outside of
marine line of sight, and their deadliness
in hand-to-hand combat, for instance)
versus marine advantages (ranged weapons with unlimited range and ammunition,
and randomly drawn “command points”
each turn to allow a few extra actions) is
excellent. Finally, the different scenarios
provided call for variations in tactics,
©I995 by Lester Smith
keeping the game fresh play after play,
while also pointing up the option of creating your own unique missions.
But early in my experience with the
game, I began thinking that it wasn’t quite
even-handed in its treatment of marines
and genestealers, and I wrote an article
for GDW’s CHALLENGE* Magazine, suggesting ways to give the marines a better
chance of standing up to the alien monsters. It didn’t take long for letters to start
arriving at the magazine’s office in response, defending the game’s balance, and
chastising me for blaming the game for my
failures as a marine player. And after
gaining a bit more familiarity with the
game, I had to admit that they were right.
Now, years later, I find myself strangely
mirroring that situation. The reputation of
the computer version of the SPACE HULK*
game has been sullied (as I sullied that of
the board game) in the very pages of
DRAGON Magazine—see the Eye of the
Monitor in issue #213 by Jay and Dee—
and I’m here to set the record straight.
(With my karmic balance thus restored,
perhaps I’ll be able to sleep at night once
In their review, Jay and Dee had several
complaints about the game. I’ll address
those complaints one by one, pretty much
in the order Jay and Dee presented them.
First, they say that the computer game
tries to recreate the board game’s mix of
“timed turns combined with the ability to
interrupt your opponent’s turns,” but that
it fails. I couldn’t disagree more. To me,
the most impressive thing about the computer version is that it doesn’t try to mimic
these aspects of the board game, but rather seeks to convey the bug-hunting experience on its own merits, using the
computer’s strengths. Instead of having a
timed turn, the marine player has “real
time” action at a one-to-one ratio, interrupted at will by a limited supply of
“freeze time,” which halts the action completely while the marines’ HUDs (Heads-Up
Displays) are checked or a top-down view
of the overall area is consulted. The trick
in succeeding at the computer version lies
in using both of these views to best effect.
But Jay and Dee complain that the HUD
view gives too many things to watch at
once. In response, I’ll repeat: the judicious
use of freeze time allows breathing space
while HUDs are checked. Also, it is no
accident that the game distinguishes between the large display of the primary
marine and the smaller ones of his four
squadmates. Left-clicking the mouse on
any of the smaller screens simply causes
that marine to fire his weapon straight
ahead at waist level. But the cursor can be
aimed in the primary marine’s display,
allowing more accurate shots (even into
the mouths of side halls); moving it to the
very edges of the display and left-clicking
allows single-step movement commands;
and right-clicking picks up items and
opens and closes doors. Given this set-up,
an important strategy in the game is to
choose as primary the most important
marine for a scenario—a flamer for
“cleansing” missions, for instance—and
control him carefully while scanning the
smaller screens for trouble as those marines follow longer orders given during
freeze time in the overhead view.
Next, Dee and Jay complain that the
marines are really dumb in the computer
game, and the truth is that they are prone
to get into “traffic jams” when given orders to all move through the same interDRAGON 63
section at once from different directions,
for example. But the solution to this is
simple: Give them commands in smaller
bits. Have one marine move to the edge of
the intersection and stop there while the
others move through. While he is waiting,
have him provide covering fire for them.
After all, the whole point of squad-level
action is summed up in “move and cover.”
That is, infantry squads in real life are
taught to “leap-frog” toward their objective, one squad taking up a covering position while the other moves forward, then
the other providing covering fire while the
first advances, and so on. That is exactly
the sort of thing the SPACE HULK computer game encourages. In general, the
best way to lose a mission in the game is to
get impatient and give the marines commands to move too far at once. Shorter
moves allow the player to better react to
genestealer actions.
As Dee and Jay point out, it is really
painful to run out of freeze time and be
stuck running the marines in real time.
But they go on to say that generally freeze
time accrues more rapidly than is actually
necessary. From my own play, I have noticed that typically it is at the beginning of
a scenario that I feel the most time pressure, while trying to get orders to all the
marines before the genestealers run rampant. Once the squad is up and running, it
is fairly easy to freeze things just long
enough to update one or two marines’
orders at a time. But even when time is
pressed, there are a couple of ways of
“cheating” the genestealers. For one thing,
a simple shift-left-click on a marine automatically duplicates the orders of the
marine currently selected, allowing the
player to give a complex set of orders to
several marines simultaneously within
bare seconds. For another, it is possible to
give a marine at the rear of the formation
a huge movement order, knowing that he
can’t complete it until the others get out of
his way. That saves time early on, because
the blocking marines can be closely monitored and moved a bit at a time, with the
rear marine consequently following automatically each time they advance.
In other words, this isn’t an arcade
game: you have to use some cleverness
and planning if you want your marines to
survive and beat the genestealers. In this,
it parallels the board game, which also
requires planning and cleverness from the
marine player who wants to succeed—that
and cool-headedness, which is of great use
in both the board and computer games.
One of my strongest contentions about
the review, however, is that Jay and Dee
intimate that after losing a SPACE HULK
computer game mission, it requires some
sort of elaborate sequence of commands to
begin the scenario again, unlike the
DOOM* game, which automatically resurrects you. All you have to do when the
“failed mission” screen comes up is rightclick to get right back into the scenario.
Like the DOOM game, the SPACE HULK
game starts you at the beginning of that
mission again. Following this, they comment that there is little reason to play in
the HUD view, given that the overhead
perspective gives a better view of where
everyone is. And then they complain that
any artifacts can’t be seen in the overhead
view. The fact is, there are several reasons
for using the HUD view. One thing is the
aforementioned ability to aim fire for the
primary marine. Also, it is much easier to
take reactive actions in the HUD view,
such as firing a flamer at an approaching
‘stealer. (And given that—just as in the
board game—sometimes ‘stealers survive a
first spray of flame, it can be critical to see
that in HUD view and trigger the flamer
again.) Only in the HUD view can you
readily move a marine step by step, which
can be essential at times. More than once,
I’ve had to back a marine rapidly to keep
him out of the claws of an advancing
‘stealer long enough for his gun to unjam.
As a matter of fact, you can’t see the
“jammed” indicator in the top-down view.
Given all this, it is better to play the game
as it was designed to be used, switching
back and forth between top-down and
HUD views as necessary.
Next, the reviewers say that they got a
result of “mission failure” even though
they thought they had fulfilled the mission
requirements, and they dicker back and
forth as to whether Dee dropped the
artifact or not. I’ll admit to having had a
similar confusion in one mission: I thought
I had to pick up an artifact, but it turns
out that one of the marines begins the
mission carrying it. There is an icon to
indicate this in the HUD view; I just hadn’t
noticed it in my rush to begin playing that
scenario. A second look cleared up the
problem entirely.
Finally, Jay says that he doesn’t want to
keep playing a mission over and over until
he’s found out exactly where the monsters
are. But that complaint is more applicable
to the DOOM game (which he obviously
likes) than to the SPACE HULK game. From
my play of both games, it seems that in the
SPACE HULK game there is considerable
randomness as to where the genestealers
appear and how many do. Like the boardgame version, I could never quite be sure
how much time I had before running into
them, and how many there would be
when I did. It seemed to change from play
to play even within the same mission.
Overall, then, I don’t think Dee and Jay
give the SPACE HULK computer game a fair
shake. As to their complaint that the sound
made the program crash, my own experience has been primarily with sound
through the PC speaker, and the program
has never crashed on me. What little play
I’ve done of it on a system with a SOUNDBLASTER* card also was trouble-free (and
the sound was impressive).
Obviously, I’m quite happy with the
SPACE HULK computer game. I’ve found
that different missions require different
strategies: Some I’ve won only by cautious
advances with lots of covering fire, and
others have required an all-out run for the
objective. One of the most satisfying things
about the game for me has been that even
after winning a mission, I want to come
back to it later and see if I can do even
better at it (getting out with more marines
alive, for example). Add to this the fact
that there are multitudinous individual
missions to play, including the campaign
level, and the result is lots and lots of play
time from this product. And it is easy
enough to pick up that you can leave it for
a few weeks and come back without having to learn the interface all over again.
What’s more, the game is just old enough
that you can most likely find it marked
down in price nowadays. (I bought my
copy recently at an Electronics Boutique
store for only $9.99!) As an aside, another
mark of its age is that it is obviously designed for the 386. While it runs smoothly
on faster machines, the mouth of the
marine who briefs you before each mission moves at a near blur on them.
For die-hard SPACE HULK board-game
fans, in particular, this computer game is
virtually a necessity. I rate it a 5 out of 5.
*indicates a product produced by a company other
than TSR, Inc.
Solitaire SPELLFIRETM game rules
by Bruce Nesmith
So you’ve built the world’s finest
SPELLFIRE deck and you want to test it
out. (For those of you who’ve been reading
my other articles, my Speed deck was
eventually and convincingly beaten.) Your
problem is that you can’t get find anyone
to play with just now. The solution? Solitaire SPELLFIRE game rules!
Playing the SPELLFIRE game solitaire is
a great way to test out a deck. It’s also a lot
more fun than a regular game of solitaire.
Having a need to test out many of my own
decks, I have come up with some solitaire
SPELLFIRE game rules.
Solitaire SPELLFIRE games are played
against an imaginary opponent. The cards
themselves work just like they do in any
other game. However, rules are needed to
direct the play of the imaginary opponent.
Only one deck is needed to play the
SPELLFIRE game solitaire. You will be
laying out realms normally, but the imaginary opponent will not. He has no realms
of his own. He attacks your realms and
razes them. You attack your own razed
realms, which he defends. If your attack is
successful, the realm is rebuilt. It is possible to affect two realms in the same turn.
You can lay down a new realm and regain
a razed one during combat, all in one turn.
The game is over when you run out of
cards in your deck. You can keep playing
until you are out of options, but you may
not reshuffle the discard pile. Since both you
and your imaginary opponent are drawing
from the same deck, the game will be shorter than you might think. Most of the games I
tried ran about 15 minutes. All of the other
basic game rules are identical to those in the
SPELLFIRE rules booklet.
Solitaire rules
1. The imaginary opponent always
draws her cards one at a time, not in a
group. The order in which they are drawn
can effect how they are played.
2. Her realm cards and holding cards are
discarded immediately. If your deck has
fewer than 10 realms, adjust the victory
conditions to four unrazed realms.
3. Event cards are played as soon as they
66 FEBRUARY 1995
are drawn, unless the card itself indicates
otherwise. In that case, the event is played
as soon as possible. For example, Calm
events must wait until you throw a harmful event and The Caravans event must
wait for the end of the imaginary opponent’s turn. Events that are useless to her,
such as Labor of Legend, are discarded
4. The imaginary opponent always puts
all her champions in her pool during step
2 of her turn. I recommend you put her
pool of champions to the left of the realm
formation and yours on the right.
5. When she draws a magical items, she
places it on the champion with the fewest
magical items in her pool. In the case of
ties, see the rule below. A magical item is
never placed on a champion that already
has that exact same power. For example, a
Viper Hand that allows the champion to
cast wizard spells is never placed on a
champion that can cast wizard spells.
6. Artifacts also are attached to champions as soon as they are drawn. However,
some artifacts will have to wait until a
champion of the proper world is available
7. Spells castable before and after combat (steps 3 and 5) must be cast the same
turn they are drawn. If they cannot be
cast that turn, they are cast on the first
turn they can. For example, if the imaginary opponent does not have a wizard in
her pool, she may have to hold her step 3
spells until she draws the right champion.
8. The imaginary opponent must attack
each turn. She always attacks first with
the champion that has the highest overall
level. In case of ties, see the rule below.
She always attacks the foremost exposed
realm, even with flyers, which it is legal
for her to attack. For realms in the same
row, see the rule below. If the imaginary
opponent razes a realm, she gets spoils of
9. The highest level spells and allies are
played first. In case of ties, see the rule
below. Spells that have no effect due to
events, realm powers, champion powers,
etc., are never cast. Your imaginary opponent isn’t stupid, just mechanical.
10. The imaginary opponent defends
razed realms using the same rules she
uses to attack. If she defeats one of your
champions, she gets spoils of victory.
Rule of ties
The imaginary opponent always uses the
highest level card first. However, it is easy
to have two cards with the same level to
choose from. All ties are resolved by card
number. Lower numbered cards are chosen first. When dealing with booster sets,
cards are chosen in order of publication
first, then by card number.
Order of Publication for 1994:
Original set of 420
Original chase cards l-25
RAVENLOFT® booster cards l-100
DRAGONLANCE® booster cards l-100
DRAGONLANCE chase cards l-25
FORGOTTEN REALMS® booster cards
FORGOTTEN REALMS chase cards l-25
Rule of selection
Many cards require the player to pick a
champion, realm, magical item, etc. If the
imaginary opponent is required to pick,
she always chooses the highest level card.
In the case of ties, see the rule above.
Random draws: Some cards will require
you to draw randomly from the imaginary
opponent’s hand, or for her to draw from
yours. For such random draws, turn the
cards face down and shuffle them, then
draw the appropriate number of cards.
Like any solitaire game, winning a solitaire SPELLFIRE game is tough. To completely win, you must have six unrazed
realms on the table. Most of the time you
will not win. I score most games by how
many unrazed realms I have when I run
out of cards in my draw pile. A score of
zero or one is pathetic. Having two or
three realms unrazed is average. Managing to keep four or five realms unrazed is
a good game.
“Forum” welcomes your comments and
opinions on role-playing games. In the
United States and Canada, write to: Forum, DRAGON® Magazine, 201 Sheridan
Springs Rd., Lake Geneva WI 53147 U.S.A.
In Europe, write to: Forum, DRAGON
Magazine, TSR Ltd, 120 Church End, Cherry Hinton, Cambridge CB1 3LB, United
Kingdom. We ask that material submitted
to “Forum” be either neatly written by
hand or typed with a fresh ribbon and
clean keys so we can read and understand
your comments. You must give us your
name and full mailing address if you expect your letter to be printed (we will not
consider a letter submitted anonymously),
but we will withhold your name if you ask
us to do so. We will print your complete
address if you request it.
I’m writing in response to the letters of
Vincent Nasso and Talus London Young,
which were featured in the “Forum” section of DRAGON issue #195. I have been
playing a multi-classed character in the
AD&D® 2nd Edition game for the last two
and a half years. In the current campaign,
my PC is the oldest surviving member of
the party. The other current members are
an llth-level wizard, a dual-classed 6thlevel cleric/9th-level psionicist, a 12th-level
paladin, an llth-level fighter, and an llthlevel cleric. My character is a 10th-level
mage/9th-level fighter.
When I joined the campaign it was my
style to keep the details of my character
relatively secret, playing my character as
somebody who prided himself on being a
“Renaissance man.” The response of my
fellow gamers was along the lines of, “Boy,
your character sure kicks butt.”
As time has progressed, this attitude has
changed to “Boy, whatever happened to
your character, he’s just not as tough as he
used to be.” The simple truth of the matter
is that at lower levels, multi-classed characters are superbly versatile. At higher
levels, their advancement slows down
such that they remain versatile but their
level of expertise in each field is not as
good as a single-classed character. Whilst
in a one-on-one fight with another member of my group, I have a distinct advantage and I would probably easily beat all
but the fighter and the paladin, in an
adventuring situation, my character is the
rear-guard man. Due to my halved XP
rate, I will never be as good a wizard as
the other mage, and I will never be as
good a warrior as the paladin or the fighter. Aside from this lack of advancement at
68 FEBRUARY 1995
higher levels, I also have a severe hit-point
deficit, due to my halved hit-point total.
My 64, as opposed to our fighter’s 110,
doesn’t last long if I’m not wearing armor.
(It’s not allowed if you wish to cast spells.)
My point is that if the correct rules are
followed in the construction of a multiclassed character, then the character will be
balanced. In the short term, they are versatile front-line characters; in the long term,
they are versatile back-up men, who complement other, single-classed characters and are
invaluable when a fighter goes down or a
mage is feebleminded. I chose my character
not because I’m a role-playing megalomaniac, but because I wanted him to be something of a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none,”
and I didn’t particularly care for a bard
character. I’m certain there are multitudes of
other players just like me. I think it’s about
as fair for a DM to say, “You can’t play multiclassed characters in my campaign because
in my opinion they’re not balanced,” as it is
for a basketball referee to suddenly allow
players to run into each other, because he
personally likes the idea.
I think that if you play a multi-classed
character for an extended period, you’ll
find that they are balanced. It’s unfair to
place 10% ability failure checks on a character who trains for twice as long as a
single class to get to a certain level. I think
it’s a good idea to have high-level, expensive tutors for a character, and I think it’s
a good idea to have enemy NPC multiclassed characters (my campaign nemesis
is a drow 12th-level mage/llth-level fighter). If I sound a bit harsh in what I say,
then I apologize, but in my opinion, a lot
of people play RPGs to do something that
they can’t do in real life. If they wish to
play multi-classed characters, let them. In
the long term, if you stick to the proper
rules, you’ll find that they’re a properly
balanced character class anyway.
Paul Morgan
Brisbane, Australia
I want to respond to Adam Panshin’s
letter in “Forum” in issue #207; specifically
his suggestion for dealing with multiclassed characters. I have seen two ways
of handling this in action, and both work.
The first method is to treat the character as a, say, FighterMage (or fightermage), rather than as a fighter/mage. This
is done by adding the experience points
needed for the next level together, and
requiring that total as the number needed
to advance. The PC is called a 3rd-level
fighter-mage, rather than a 3rd-level
fighter/3rd-level mage. Hit points are
rolled for each class, then averaged.
The second method starts by abandoning the XP-for-gp method for all PCs, and
figuring experience based on what the
character actually did. If this method is in
use, it is fairly easy to divide a multiclassed character’s experience points according to how much the abilities of each
class were used. For instance, a fighter/
mage who cast no spells throughout a
particular adventure would get no experience points added to the mage XP
amount—they’d all go to improve the
fighter side of things. On advancing a level
in either class, hit points are half of what
they’d be for a single-classed character.
I am deliberately leaving these descriptions rather sketchy, as all DMs will have
to adapt these ideas to their own campaign. I think, however, that either method could prove useful.
Christopher Davis
Snoqualmie WA
I would like to respond to a letter published in issue #195’s “Letters” written by
a “Good old Mom, who is sometimes allowed to play.” The writer wanted to hear
from us misfits.
I’m a 16-year-old guy and I’ve been playing the AD&D game and several other
role-playing games for about four years.
Most of my characters have had mostly
low or average ability scores and I’ve had
lots of fun playing them nevertheless.
Unless I’m completely wrong, role-playing
is a bit like acting—you have to try to
become the character, not make the character into a copy of yourself.
One of my characters was a gnome
illusionist with an Intelligence of 10 and a
Dexterity score of 16. The rest of the
ability scores were 10 or under, and I still
reached 3rd level with him. He survived
because I used my wits, not some rolledup stats. So all you role-players out there,
even if your character seems to be a loser
at first, don’t throw her away. Try to identify with her and you’ll see that she is a lot
more interesting to play than all those
supermen you’ve created so far.
Jarmo Gunn
Helsinki, Finland
Is it just my campaign, or has everyone
jumped on the bandwagon of the drow?
As soon as one of our players brought
home the Drow of the Underdark, everyone went out and made drow characters
(except me). Our new group didn’t even
play in the Underdark, we were full on
the surface. Did R. A. Salvatore put subliminal messages in his novels to worship
drow? Of course, everyone has become
power-hungry megalomaniacs. Are there
any campaigns that don’t have this problem? There are no other DMs in my area.
Am I the only gamer who believes powerful monsters and races should stay in
the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM® accessory? In my area, I’m the only person who
hasn’t had at least one drow character. I
think that if they made a Complete Tarrasque Handbook everyone would flock to
the opportunity to have one of them as a
character. Please print my address so that
I may hear the horror stories from other
John Morris, Jr.
93 Roosevelt Ave.
Erial NJ 08081
In some issues, the Forum has been largely
concerned with “power gamers,” those who
destroy fun by comparing statistics fanatically, and attempting to “defeat” other players by being as dominating and stubborn as
possible. Needless to say, these “characters”
have no character.
I have dealt with them many times, and
have found numerous ways to make life
more difficult for them. I hope these methods will work for you, too.
For those having trouble with players
who cannot grasp the idea of a character
being anything more than a page of statistics: take away those statistics. Remove all
essential components from your system
(stats, bonuses, skills, numbers . . . all that
“power gamers” hold dear). Simply play a
complete game without any rules. It can
be done! Most players enjoy such freeform
role-playing, and GMs get quite a workout
for improvisation. If this seems too drastic
or chaotic, then use a ridiculously easy
system (Gamescience’s TWERPS* multigenre game seems to work well) and keep
your current setting in place. Only use this
as long as you have to, for players eventually will become sick of it. Other times are
appropriate for this as well, such as when
introducing a new player.
If you don’t like the idea of leaving your
current game system, even temporarily,
then introduce a few subtle changes. Try
eliminating the entire concept of professions and character classes. WotC’s ARS
MAGICA* game gives great advice for this,
as does the CHARACTER LAW* & CAMPAIGN LAW* component to ICE’S ROLEMASTER* system. When character classes
are eliminated, stereotypes are as well,
allowing individuality.
If your players are the type who try to
dominate the game and “steal” the action,
gently embarrass them. I do this by bringing in a “babysitter” NPC that exists only to
save the life of that character. It is quite a
humbling experience.
Finally, a reminder for those who have
players that they consider unmotivated.
Game masters are often critical of players,
when the blame should be placed on them.
Making the game interesting is a primary
responsibility on the part of the GM, and
bored players are often the result of a
“dry” game. Don’t be too hard on players
that you feel aren’t playing up to code. Be
sure that the player is causing a problem
before criticizing their role-playing style.
Phillip Dale
Farmland IN
I write this letter in reply to Bryan Fairfield (issue #195) and many others like
him. Bryan was complaining about how,
with the large range of AD&D game player handbooks, it made it very easy to
create super-powered characters.
The simplest answer I have for him is:
So? Honestly, what is the fun playing a
character that can do everything and has
no flaws? In nearly all role-playing systems, overpowered characters can easily
be manufactured, from the “half-elf
fighterblades” in Bryan’s letter to the grizzly old cyberpunk vets of the 2020s.
I, being in the majority of gamers, have
played such characters; usually as a raw
recruit, looking for the most powerful
characters possible. But my most memorable characters have been flawed. Who can
forget the pacifist fighter or my all-time
favorite: Harvey Fat, the Middle-earth
hobbit scout? It was with this vertically
challenged individual that I became known
as “Snake Eyes” Martin, the unluckiest
gamer this side of the Atlantic.
But seriously, as a DM in the position of
having a super character disrupting the
balance of the game, I would take him
aside and explain carefully why I thought
it would be wrong to continue using that
particular character. Of course, if he didn’t
heed the DM’s kind advice, the aforementioned player could find himself ejected
from the party and told to find himself a
group of power gamers.
The answer is to find a balance between
power and “role-ability.” Hopefully the PCs
can determine such a balance alone. But it
occasionally needs the DM’s gentle hand.
Thomas Martin
Roxbrughshire, Scotland
I read with interest the letter in issue
#195 from Bryan Fairfield on the subject
of bard kits contained within the Complete
Bard’s Handbook. It strikes me that he may
be missing the point slightly.
As a DM I do not make a player take a kit
in any class, and I certainly do not choose a
kit for every character that I play. After all,
what are kits but a means to come closer to
a character and thus be able to role-play her
better? If the player is able to do this without the dubious benefit of a restricting kit,
then full marks to them. The message I get
from Mr. Fairfield is that he sees kits as a
means to make his characters more powerful without needing to expend much effort
in making them so.
In the case of the Complete Bard’s Handbook, I welcomed the publication, as I
myself make my living in the field of entertainment, and it opened doors to my
role-playing that I had scarcely even imagined. Even so, I did not, and even postCBH, do not find the true bard a “boring”
character class, as Mr. Fairfield seems to.
He has his own share of abilities and skills
that the other kits do not have access to,
and can be equally exciting as the other
kits if properly role-played—they only
appear boring because of their familiarity,
right from their fairly raw first appearance in the bard appendix in the first
edition rule books. What you have to
consider is the personality, not the
powers, of the bard that set him aside
from the other mortals on this earth—it is
a difficult, frustrating, and often lonely
path to tread.
My solutions to the problem of power
gamers who would take a kit purely because of the abilities and powers of that
character are fairly simple. A standard
house rule in my game is that the multiclassed option is definitely not two separate classes combined in a single body.
With a multi-classed character you don’t
keep separate track of THAC0s, saving
throws, proficiencies and all the rest for
each character, so why should the other
skills be any different? Thus, similar skills,
such as the case of the thief skills for the
gypsy/thief and the spells for the
loremaster/mage that Mr. Fairfield mentioned are gained only for the class that
performs them the best, which in these
cases are the thief and the mage.
A second solution is to impose penalties
and difficulties to the character who does
not correctly role-play the character he
possesses. Obviously, the definition of
correct role-playing will be different for
every character, but as an example, bear
in mind that most bards will not willingly
leave their own performing arena, be it
the animals in the forest or a packed theater in the center of the city of Greyhawk
or Waterdeep. Almost all performing
artists (I have observed this in others as
well as myself) like to be seen, to be recognized and appreciated by their public, and
it is unlikely they will embark on long
wilderness treks that will affect their
fluctuating reputation and ability to practice and hone their skills.
The most important thing to remember,
however, is game balance. This is as much
the job of the players as it is of the DM. Is
it really realistic for every character to be
some kind of bard, especially from arenas
as diverse as blades, gallants, gypsies, and
meistersingers? Also, such things as a
sword of dancing being possessed at only
6th level are, to my mind, ridiculous. (I
agree that the power of these items is
immense in the hands of a bard, and all
the more reason for the DM to watch
where he gives one out.) As for druids
fighting to attain level advancement, I
threw that one out as soon as I read it in
the rule book.
Any kit, regardless of character profession, has the ability to unbalance the
game. What must be remembered is that
this is a role-playing game, not a power
struggle to see who can kill the most orcs
in a round. My message is to keep the
kits—but just be careful that they are roleplayed well and realistically.
Andrew McLeish
Spalding, Lincolnshire, England
I write this in response to Bryan Fairfield’s letter about half-elf bards in issue
#195. Although using only the rules in The
Complete Bard’s Handbook, bards may
seem unbeatable, there are many more
“Special Hindrances” not covered. These
are not represented by dice rolls, but
mainly how people treat the character.
Imagine, for instance, that the fighter/
blade you mentioned was staying and
performing at the castle of a well-known
and loved noble. If this noble was killed,
the pressure would be on the local authorities to catch the killer quickly. If he was
killed without a sound or trace, apparently
by a skilled assassin, then the eye of suspicion would fall on the fighter/blade. This is
not represented by any rules or dice rolls,
but by the reaction of the NPCs.
Also, imagine how hard it could be for a
well-known bard to simply walk down the
street. People would pester him, bother
him, and generally get in his way. Now
imagine how hard it could be for him to
flee from the local authorities down a
busy street. Not only would people still
pester and bother him, but his reputation
would be destroyed. This, too, is not covered by any rules.
The life of a thief/gypsy would be difficult as well. Consider how suspicious
people in the real world were of gypsies in
the past. If something valuable was missing, you can guess who would be blamed.
Or, think of how aggravating it would be
for a jester to try to get anybody to take
him seriously, even if he was warning the
king of an assassination plot.
Aside from reactions of regular NPCs,
another balance to gameplay is to enforce
the rule of training. This is an effective
balance to all powerful classes, including
some of the kits in The Complete Book of
Elves. Most bard colleges could effectively
tutor standard bard kits, but where would
a druid/meistersinger find a teacher?
Experience points don’t matter if you can’t
find a teacher to raise you to 2nd level.
Even some of the more exotic singleclassed bard kits, dwarf chanters, elven
minstrels, and even jongleurs might have
trouble. The higher level that these characters get to, the harder it will be to find
a teacher.
Gray Calhoun
Bryn Mawr PA
70 FEBRUARY 1995
Continued from page 8
There was the paladin, who claimed to
have four abilities scores of 18, including
an 18 Charisma (in my opinion he exhibited a Charisma of 3), a thief who didn’t
think romance had any place in an adventure, and a ranger who felt that children
were a burden and nothing but trouble. I
put on my parent hat creating challenges
that would make the players re-evaluate
their characters’ attitudes. The paladin
was asked to choose between personal
sacrifice and slaying an innocent to benefit
the greater good. He tried a third route
and lost his paladinhood. The thief quickly
fell head-over-heels in love with a woman
who couldn’t stand him, just because he
misinterpreted all the signals. And the
ranger rescued a sweet little girl from an
angry mob that had burned her parents as
witches. He became her guardian (though
the girl really was a witch, of course).
Eventually, I was hired by TSR (how is
another story) and found much of my
weekly gaming coming to an end due to
the workload.
I did manage to put on my DM hat once
for the creative staff, to show them the
answers I had developed for creating nondungeon adventures. The players were
Lawrence Schick, Zeb and Helen Cook,
Allen Hammack, and others. I began by
having each player create characters.
Then I sorted and handed out pregenerated backgrounds that gave their
characters motivations. Then I started the
game, with each hero playing solitaire.
Their homeland had become an enemyoccupied nation.
Within half an hour, every one of the
characters had broken the law and was
arrested! I stripped the heroes down to a
loincloth and dyed their left arm purple,
just in case they should escape. The night
past in the jail, and Helen’s mage learned
one spell from a dying old wizard in the
cell with her. Then these criminals were
sailed across the bay to the bluffs on the
other side and a big wooden door in the
cliffs. Still the heroes did nothing, until the
mighty bar was lifted from the door and it
swung open. A frightened goblin bolted,
making a mad dash for freedom, and fell
face first in the surf with one of the
guard’s arrows in his back. Now the heroes panicked.
Things didn’t look good. The weaponless
heroes were forced into a minotaur’s
labyrinthine lair and told to survive using
their wits. Naturally I had seeded the
adventure with sand and riverstones, flint,
bamboo, vines, and many other resources
including a hidden scroll, a spell carved in
one wall, and a second tattooed on a dead
body. It was a grand time, and amazingly,
half of the party managed to escape and
went for help for the remaining members,
alive but trapped in the labyrinth.
Interestingly, the next day, Lawrence
Schick recommended we write that year’s
AD&D® game Open tournament as a
product series—he already had an idea for
the final round. The heroes would be
caught, stripped of all their possessions
and dumped into a monster’s lair to survive. “Original idea,” I commented. Thus,
the A-series of modules—the Slaver Saga—
was born. I had found a new way to annoy thousands of players with my
By this time I missed the chaos I could
cause when playing a PC. So I dusted off
my player hat occasionally just to see if it
still fit.
My hero Almar Tann, a wandering halfling thief, was created to playtest the
Desert of Desolation module series in a
campaign run by Tracy Hickman. Almar
was a clever little fellow with the heart of
a true hero and more pluck than men
twice his size. Other than having a knack
for getting into trouble due to his curiosity
and willingness to take a risk, and making
the rest of the party deal with it, Al’s tenacity and luck helped the party to
emerge victorious in the end and win a
limited wish. Almar wished for a coin
pouch that would always refill with nine
gold coins once it was emptied. This
seemed very practical and not too greedy
at the time. Tracy was very agreeable.
Little did I suspect that Tracy was about to
whisk Al and the others off to the developing world of the DRAGONLANCE Saga and
the first adventure, Dragons of Darkness.
Gold has no value on Krynn.
Almar left his mark on the world when
he discovered a lone pillar standing in the
middle of a room. He climbed the pillar to
the top and found nothing there. I told
Tracy that it didn’t make sense to have a
pillar just sitting in the middle of the room
with nothing on top. Tracy said it wasn’t
important to the adventure. So Al opened
his coin purse and left a stack of coins for
the next adventurer to discover.
Almar went on to discover many new
things in the ruins of Xak Tsaroth, until
we decided that halflings had no place in
this new world, especially since Almar also
had a ring of invisibility; it all sounded too
much like another story. So Almar went
wandering off into the barbarian plains of
Abanasinia and was never seen again.
It was up to me to create a replacement,
so I found my God of Krynn hat and fashioned the incorrigible kender, that childlike race that refuses to grow up, and the
first kender representative, Tasslehoff
Now anyone who has ever played a
kender, had the misfortune to bump into a
kender, or even heard of kender has swiftly discovered there is no more aggravating, though brave and clever, race of
creature in the multiverse. Let’s see somebody top that for annoying!
* indicates a product produced by a company other
than TSR, Inc.
Add an Atlantis
to your campaign’s
by David Howery
Artwork by Bob Klasnich
72 FEBRUARY 1995
One of the foundations of fantasy games
and literature is the legend of lost empires.
History has numerous examples of lands
that once ruled far and wide, but later fell
into decline and vanished: Troy, Rome,
Babylon, Persia. Fantasy worlds have
similar legendary empires, and many are
the source of powerful magic and lost
lore. The GREYHAWK® campaign world,
for example, has no less than three lost
lands: the Suel Imperium, the Bakluni
Empire, and the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.
The DRAGONLANCE® setting of Krynn has
Istar, destroyed by the gods in the Cataclysm. The FORGOTTEN REALMS® setting
is littered with the ruins of empire:
Netheril, Illefarn, Imaskar, and others.
The most fascinating legends of lost
empires from our own folklore tell us of
lands that have disappeared beneath the
ocean: Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu. Explorers have sought traces of these lost lands
throughout history. Columbus hoped to
find remnants of Atlantis on his first trip
across the Atlantic ocean. Many English
and Spanish settlers thought the Native
Americans were Atlantis’ survivors. Other
explorers searched for lost lands in the
Indian and Pacific oceans.
The existence of places such as Atlantis
and Mu has been argued for centuries.
Certainly Atlantis features prominently in
many works of fiction, comic books, and
B-movies, but to date, no one has proven
that Atlantis really existed, at least not to
the satisfaction of the scientific commu-
nity. In the pure imagination of fantasy
games, however, lost empires are easily
added and discovered. This article
presents background information on three
famous legendary lost lands (Atlantis,
Lemuria, and Mu) and describes how to
integrate them into a fantasy campaign
No legend of the past has created more
controversy and interest than Atlantis.
Several authors have tried to prove that
Atlantis really existed, but to no avail—
books on Atlantis are still usually placed in
the “occult” or “speculation” sections of
The roots of Atlantean lore are two
works of Plato called Timaeus and Critias.
Timaeus is a dialogue-form manuscript of
a conversation between four Greek sages.
Socrates asks Critias to tell a story of ancient days. Critias responds by telling of
another sage, Solon, who traveled to Egypt
and discussed history with a priest of Sais.
The priest told Solon about a huge island
or continent in the sea beyond the Pillars
of Hercules (Gibraltar). The manuscript
also mentions a mysterious “opposite
continent” beyond Atlantis, which modern
scholars interpret as the Americas, although it is amazing that ancient Greeks
knew about the New World. Atlantis was a
great and powerful nation that colonized
much of the Mediterranean world. Their
empire lasted until the Greeks, led by
Athens, defeated the Atlanteans and drove
hem out of Europe. Soon after, Atlantis
sank in a cataclysm of earthquakes and
floods. Even proponents of Atlantis dismiss
his story as propaganda, designed to prop
up Athenian morale at a low point of her
Plato’s other dialogue, Critias, delves into
Atlantis in much greater detail. Critias
relates that Atlantis was established by
Poseidon, who divided the land and its
colonies into ten kingdoms with ten kings.
Atlantis was extremely wealthy, with
mines of gold, silver, and a mysterious
metal called orichalcum. The island had
plentiful timber, fresh water, and abundant crops. Cattle, horses, and elephants
were common, as were mysterious huge
and voracious carnivores. Extensive canals
and magnificent palaces of marble and
gold connected and decorated her cities.
The Atlantean army was large, much
larger than any in Europe or Africa, and
the fleet numbered 1,200 warships. The
last part of Critias tells of the decline of
the divine nature of the Atlanteans, and
their fall into debauchery, greed, and
madness. Zeus calls the gods together to
speak with them about Atlantis’ fate—at
which point, the Critias ends abruptly.
Other sages of ancient times wrote
about Atlantis, but long after Plato.
Diodorus Siculus, of Julius Ceasar’s time,
wrote an epic tale of Atlantis’ war with an
Amazon tribe. Tales of Atlantis, or isles of
a similar nature, were written by Strabo,
Pomponius Mela, Theopompus, Proclus
and numerous writers of medieval times.
In more modern times, Ignatius Donnelly,
an Illinois politician during the Civil War,
published the first logical attempt to prove
Atlantis really existed, with his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882. Lewis
Spence, a Scottish author and authority on
occult subjects, published The History of
Atlantis in 1926. Dozens of other books
have been published about Atlantis since.
One of the latest and best entries in the
field is Atlantis, the Eighth Continent by
Charles Berlitz (1984). Berlitz postulates an
Atlantis of high civilization existing on a
large continent in the Atlantic ocean. The
current Canary and Azores islands are the
highest of what were once Atlantis’ mountains. Atlantis’ colonies included the Americas, northern Africa, and western Europe.
Atlantis’ sinking about 12,000 years ago
inspired the tales of the Great Flood that
exist in nearly every culture. Remnants of
Atlantean culture can be found in mysterious ruins on the Canary Islands, Brazil,
Spain, and the Caribbean. Berlitz also hints
that the Atlanteans had some ultramodern technology, such as atomic bombs
and the ability to manipulate the earth’s
natural magnetic fields to move huge
stones. In spite of Berlitz’s effort, Atlantis
is still a myth.
While Atlantis’s existence isn’t proven,
many authors have linked several ancient
ruins around the Atlantic shores to the
legend. The Canary Islands were inhabited
by the Gaunches, who were exterminated
by the Spanish. Although the Gaunches
practiced a bare subsistence agriculture,
he islands have ruins of circular buildings
hat the Gaunches could not build or repair, stone tablets they could not read, and
no boats; odd, for an island race. The
Portuguese found no natives when they
discovered the Azores, but they did find a
statue of a mounted warrior on Corvo.
Berlitz considers the ancient Spanish city
of Tartessos a ruin of Atlantean culture.
Lost cities of stone have been reported in
several places in the Amazon basin, and
ERTS satellites have located pyramids and
other structures there, lost cities which no
expedition has studied yet. Many proponents of Atlantis have pointed out that
both the Egyptians and the Mayans built
pyramids, which these authors consider
an Atlantean trait passed down to both
cultures. While there could be better
explanations for these ruins, mysteries like
these show that we still have much to
learn about ancient civilizations, whether
they are descended from Atlantis or not.
This land, by that name, does not have
an ancient literary heritage. The name
Lemuria was coined by Philip L. Sclater in
the 19th century, and given to an imaginary land mass in the Indian ocean. The
theoretical continent was meant to explain
the existence of lemurs—primitive primates that live in areas as separated as
Madagascar and Asia—before the theory
of continental drift was known. The name
Lemuria also is mistakenly applied to
imaginary sunken continents in the Pacific
ocean. Robert E. Howard made this error
in his imaginary history of the Hyborian
world, the setting for his Conan stories (in
which Lemuria was the ancestral home of
Mongolian peoples).
While Lemuria is a recent invention,
several ancient stories seem to refer to an
ancient civilization on a now-sunken landmass in the Indian ocean. Sumerian epics
refer to the eastern land of Dilmun. A
Persian tale, the Book of Kings, tells of
Kangha, a sunken eastern island. An obscure ancient Indian text, the UpaPuranas, tells of the legendary Golden
Land, Hiranya-Dwipa, and the history of
its kings. Lin Carter’s “Thongor of Lemuria” novels are based on what seems to be
the one and only complete English translation of the Upa-Puranas.
Other modern scholars have also theorized and imagined much about Lemuria.
The Secret Doctrine, written by a Theosophical group in the late 19th century,
decrees that humans originated on Lemuria. W. Scott Elliot wrote about both Atlantis and Lemuria, creating lots of imaginary
history about the peoples who supposedly
lived there. The wildest account of Lemuria comes from the mind of Richard S.
Shaver, who wrote a series for AMAZING
STORIES® Magazine in the 1940s. Shaver
wrote about two godlike races, the Titans
and Atlans, who built incredible prehistoric civilizations but were later forced to
leave Earth. Humans found some of their
machines on Lemuria, and tampered with
them. Their meddling released weird
radioactive rays that transformed the
humans into evil “detrimental robots,” or
deros (Is there a connection to the AD&D®
game’s derro, the evil dwarflike race of
the Underdark?). Shaver made the deros
into a type of demon or gremlin, responsible for many of the world’s evils. Shaver’s
stories were popular, and even Raymond
Palmer, then editor of AMAZING STORIES
Magazine, supported the dero theory.
Strangely enough, other people wrote to
the magazine, claiming to have seen the
deros in caverns. Sadly, Shaver actually
believed what he was writing, and continued to write about deros and Lemuria
long after the world lost interest.
Unlike Atlantis, no ruins are tied to
Lemuria. The lands around the Indian
ocean include some of the oldest civilizations known, including those of India and
Arabia. All of the ruins here have been
firmly slotted into known civilizations;
there is no need to link them to Lemuria.
The south Pacific is a vast array of islands, coral atolls, and sea mounts, with
wide stretches of ocean separating the
large land masses. Often called Oceania,
this area holds many mysteries. Many of
the islands’ natives have tales of sunken
lands that had a high civilization. The best-
known of these legendary lands is Mu, of
Hawaiian origin. Many cultures of Oceania
attribute their learning to strangers from
a land now sunken. Oddly, these strangers
are sometimes said to have had fair skin
and red hair. Survivors of this sunken land
escaped to carry their knowledge around
the Pacific.
While Mu sometimes shows up in fiction
or speculation, few authors have dealt
with the subject. The most comprehensive
book is The Lost Continent of Mu by Col.
James Churchward. He claimed to have
deciphered the mysterious “Naacal Tablets” (which no one else has ever seen),
which tell the story of Mu. According to
Churchward, Mu’s civilization began about
80,000 years ago, and had a population of
64 million! Mu was the Garden of Eden,
and the fount of all historical cultures. Mu
was destroyed and sunk by a massive
cataclysm, which spread survivors and
their knowledge around the world. Of
course, this book is pure nonsense. The
end of the book is a diatribe against human evolution, which perhaps shows
Churchward’s true reason for wanting to
establish a “real” Garden of Eden.
Charles Berlitz’s new book, The Dragon’s
Triangle, deals with the subject of lost
civilizations in Oceania, much as he did
with Atlantis. Berlitz digs up some fascinating archeological oddities, and he ties
together ancient ruins and native folklore
into his theory of a sunken civilization.
Berlitz suggests that a Pacific race of fairskinned, red-haired islanders lived on a
now-sunken island that was the center of
a far-flung ocean empire. The empire
touched lands as distant as Easter Island,
New Zealand, Peru, and Ponape. The
capital island sank about 12,000 years ago,
at the same time as Atlantis, throwing the
race across the Pacific as refugees. As with
Atlantis, Berlitz hints that the islanders
had some ultra-modern technology.
While Berlitz’s theory is probably totally
wrong, there are some mysterious ruins
across Oceania. A large ruined city called
Nan Madol covers 175 acres on the island
of Ponape. The city was built of massive
basalt slabs and features a protective sea
wall, a palace, tombs, temples, and dwellings. The natives of Ponape don‘t live in
Nan Madol, don’t work stone, and know
little of the ancient city. A ruin of pyramidal pillars still stands on Tinian island; the
native Chamorros say the pillars were
built by people who came there before
them. A series of hilltop forts still stands
on the island Rapiti, forts which the natives don’t use and don’t claim to have
built. The Bounty mutineers who settled
on Pitcairn island found a huge platform
with four statues, but no natives. Similar
ruins have been found on several other
islands, few of which match up with the
culture of the native populations.
The most famous ruins of the Pacific are
those of Easter Island, with its huge stone
heads, called moai, at hundreds of sites. A
lot of nonsense has been written about the
moai, linking them with U.F.0.s and occult
topics. Most of this ignores the fact that
the natives have clear oral records of
erecting the moai as clan boundaries and
status symbols. In the process, every tree
on the island was cut down, which put an
end to constructing both moai and boats.
Still, Easter Island has other mysteries,
such as a massive stone wall and ancient
stone tablets that no one alive can read.
The current islanders tell stories of the
“long ears” who came to the island in the
distant past and dominated the native
“short ears” for a time. Thor Heyerdal,
author of Aku Aku, suggests that the long
ears were Incas from Peru, while Berlitz
thinks that they are the red-haired race of
his lost-empire theory. In any case, a lot of
undiscovered history remains in Oceania,
and the islanders did develop cultures of
considerable technology.
Lost empires in fantasy RPGs
Vanished empires such as Atlantis are
ideal models for fantasy campaigns. They
can be added to a campaign in several
ways: sunken beneath the waves and
drowned, sunken but surviving underwater, a strong culture on the surface, or
a once-strong but now decadent culture.
Even better, the legendary lost empires
were the most advanced and powerful
cultures on the planet. In addition to unstoppable military might, the empire also
had great wealth and magical power. What
greater temptation does an adventurer
Atalya: A lost empire
An island empire, Atalya, is described
here as an example of how to present a
lost land in a fantasy campaign. Atalya has
a history similar to Atlantis: a long history
of warfare culminating in a unified empire, a strong expansionist phase with
colonies on bordering continents, a decadent phase, and finally, destruction by a
massive earthquake. The notes below
explain how to include these phases in a
campaign. The differing phases share
several points in common.
Location: Atalya is located far out on
the ocean, between the PCs’ home and
whatever lies across the ocean. In the
FORGOTTEN REALMS® campaign, for
example, Atalya would lie between Faerun
and Maztica.
The fleet: Atalya’s fabled fleet not only
vastly outnumbers those of the normal
campaign area, it is a fleet of superior
vessels and weapons. Instead of the small
cogs, coasters, and galleys of the PCs’
world, Atalya has massive galleons (use the
deck plans from the first SPELLJAMMER®
boxed set or “The Lady Rose” adventure
from DUNGEON® Adventures #34) and
clipper ships (from the SPELLJAMMER
War Captain’s Companion boxed set).
Atalyan weapons include Greek fire
launchers, catapults, and ballistae. However, Atalya does not have spelljamming
helms (unless the DM decides they dol.
Before its unification under a single
emperor, Atalya resembles the Flanaess or
Faerun, a divided land of feudal kingdoms.
Many kings dream of uniting the island
continent under their own rule, and wars
of conquest are fought continually. The
largest kingdom is Tollan, based in the
port city of that name. The Tollanites hold
the eastern third of the island. The culture
is feudal and European. In this time frame,
PCs who visit Atalya will find a land much
like their own. For this reason, the barbaric years provide the least satisfying scenario to use in an RPG.
due to the recent wars there. Faerun
stands armed and ready, but no single
realm has the technology or troops to stop
Dilmun’s assault.
The first sign of the invasion is the Atalyan fleet anchoring offshore. The fleet
makes short work of the small ships of the
PCs’ homeland, securing the coastal waters
for the troopships to move in and land the
huge Atalyan legions. The chaotic feudal
armies find it nearly impossible to oppose
the Atalyan legions, but the large, wellorganized oriental armies might fare better. Dilmun will accept nothing less than
colonial overlordship of the PCs’ homelands; his armies must be totally defeated
before he will give up. If the PCs rise to
the occasion, they can prove to the world
that they are the stuff of legends, by opposing the Atalyan advance.
Alternatively, the PCs could go to Atalya
as ambassadors, or accidently discover it
on a sea voyage. Adventures based around
the Atalyan homeland in this era will
involve court intrigue, diplomacy, and
assassination, rather than open combat.
Atalya is heavily settled, with little wilderness left; one reason for the Atalyan explorations is that the empire needs more
farmland to feed its people. Only a few
dangerous monsters survive, mainly in the
mountains. The cities are beautiful places,
clean and orderly and made to last. The
Atalyans build with granite and marble
quarried from the hills. Commerce is
brisk, and travel is swift over sturdy roads
and bridges.
To the PCs, Atalya may seem like a place
out of myth, and it could be just that.
Columbus sailed to the west in search of
India, and thought he might find the remnants of Atlantis. In the Maztica novel
trilogy, Cordell of the Golden Legion sailed
west, found Maztica, and brutally conquered it. If Cordell’s ships had found
Atalya, the general would quickly have
found himself outmatched.
Dilmun and the new empire
The decadent age
In this setting, the island has recently
been unified by the king of Tollan, who
calls himself Dilmun I, Emperor of Atalya.
The capital is the city of Tollan. The empire is young, vibrant, and eager to expand. The legendary fleet is being built,
and 500 vessels soon sail to every corner
of the ocean. Dilmun has organized the
army for tight control; it is organized into
legions, cohorts, and maniples commanded
by centurions, optios, and tribunes. With
no foe left at home, the army turns to
wars of conquest overseas.
Dilmun has sent his warships out across
the ocean, east and west, in search of new
lands. What they find depends on the DM:
it could be a typical feudal land (Oerth,
Faerun, Krynn), an eastern land (Kara-Tur,
Zakhara), or the New World (Maztica).
Whatever the ships find, Dilmun seeks to
conquer the PCs’ world. Krynn could be a
tough target, with its dragon-backed armies, but Oerth would be very vulnerable,
This scenario presents Atalya in decline.
The overseas colonies have been lost to
revolt and conquest by outsiders. The
once-orderly army is now no more than a
handful of bullying legions that deposes
emperors who cut their pay. The rich
farmlands are failing from overuse. The
Dilmun line of emperors was usurped
centuries ago; many lines have ruled since,
but none for long. The cities and roads are
slowly crumbling. Only the legendary fleet
remains, 1,500 ships strong, enough to
discourage would-be invaders.
The PCs could arrive in Atalya as discovers of a legendary land, as ambassadors,
or even as spies sent to learn the secrets of
Atalyan shipbuilding. In any event, the PCs
find a land with all the evils of a stagnant
empire: Mad emperors issue bizarre decrees, constant civil wars rage, gladiatorial
arenas amuse the masses, dissidents are
fed to lions, and debauchery is the only
constant fashion among the nobility. Ban-
The army: Atalya’s army is very organized and efficient, like the ancient Roman
army, but with medieval weapons. It is a
model of discipline. Auxiliary units include
sappers, engineers, a huge siege train,
elephants, and skirmishers, all backed up
by a system of supply units.
The people: Atalyans are a race of
light skinned, dark-haired humans. Like
humans in other lands, they vary in
height, weight, alignment, and character
class, and they have no racial bias toward
a particular size, moral code, or class. All
speak the same language. No demihumans,
humanoids, or manlike monsters live on
the home islands.
Character classes: Atalyans have the
same classes as other AD&D game settings: warriors, priests, wizards, and
rogues. All subclasses and kits are allowed
per DM approval.
The land: Atalya is a temperate island,
slightly colder in the north and warmer in
the south. A chain of mountains runs
down the island’s spine, and all of Atalya is
blessed with fertile soil and tall forests.
The wildlife is pseudo-European, including
bears, boars, cattle, horses, lions, deer,
buffalo, and so on. The islands also harbor
a few tropical creatures: crocodiles, parrots, leopards, and herds of elephants.
Atalya: The barbaric years
76 FEBRUARY 1995
dits and marauding monsters from the
mountains are seizing outlying farmland,
but no one seems to care. In the emperor’s
palace, intrigue, deception, and assassination are fine arts. Worst of all the Atalyans
have turned away from their gods, in
pursuit of revelry and pleasure. The
scorned deities are preparing to destroy
Atalya with a massive earthquake that will
sink the island to the bottom of the sea.
First, they will send signs of their displeasure: plagues, insects, boiling seas, and
lightning storms. Because most Atalyans
are blind to such signs, the PCs might be
the only ones who notice that something is
wrong. However, if the PCs mention it to
Atalya’s mad emperor, Marat, he is as
likely to behead them for treasonous talk
as listen to them. Unless the PCs take
action on their own and turn the history’s
tide, Atalya is doomed.
Gone but not forgotten
After the cataclysm, Atalya has sunk into
the ocean depths, and only a few of the
highest mountain peaks remain above
water. However, its influence was not
destroyed—Atalya’s legacy of ruins, artifacts, and legends remains.
If the DM includes a lost land like Atalya
in his campaign, it should clearly be a
forerunner of the earliest human cultures.
Ancient ruins of Atalya’s colonial cities lie
in the most desolate areas: swamps, deserts, and jungles. The ruins should different from the PCs’ culture. For example,
pyramids or ziggurats in a European culture would stand out as alien, as would
gothic architecture in Kara-Tur, Zakhara,
or Maztica. The DM can give free reign to
his imagination when designing Atalyan
ruins. They may be not only alien in design, but also superior in their construction. Atalya’s magic and special materials
like orichalcum explain the ruins’ extraordinarily high towers, bridges, and arches.
Of course, the ruins may not be totally
abandoned. Such places are ideal homes
for monsters, including undead Atalyans,
ancient Atalyan monsters, and dragons
attracted to the ruins because of the
wealth they hold.
Magic is the greatest legacy of lost Atalya. Many of the powerful artifacts and
relics found in the PCs’ world were made
eons ago in Atalya. Newly-discovered
spells and magical items (such as those
presented in DRAGON® Magazine) may be
of Atalyan origin. The language of magic
itself may simply be a corrupted form of
High Atalyan, the tongue spoken at court
in the golden age.
In addition to the colonial ruins, there
are the ruins of Atalya itself. The continent was buckled and broken in the cataclysm, and most of the cities were reduced
to rubble. By chance, the capital city of
Tollan sank on an even keel and went to
the bottom intact. The emperor’s palace
still stands, but is choked with sand. Many
sea creatures swim through the ruins;
sharks, rays, giant octopi and squid, dol-
phins, and lacedons. Intelligent sea races
occupy much of the ruins, including mermen, sahuagin, kraken, sea elves, and
skrags. These creatures war with each in
the streets where Atalyan legions once
marched. Powerful PCs can explore sunken Atalya, but the problems of air and the
crushing depths of the sea are difficult to
overcome. It is worth the effort, because
Atalya’s legendary wealth was submerged
with her people. [Editor’s Note: For more
on undersea campaigns, see DRAGON®
issue #190’s article, “Deep Beneath the
Waves” and issue #165’s article, “Undersea
Priests.” Both contain much helpful information on running fantasy campaigns set
beneath the water’s surface.
The descendants of a few Atalyan refugees still live on the islands that once were
her mountain peaks. They have regressed
to a savage culture, surrounded by colossal ruins of marble and granite they do not
understand. The savages avoid the ruins
and the advanced tools found within. Like
the rest of the world, they have ancient
legends of Atalya, but nothing else remains of the legendary empire.
The undersea kingdom
Instead of destroying the empire utterly,
the DM may choose to have the remnants
of the lost empire survive underwater. In
this scenario, Atalya is still a drowned
ruin, except for the city of Tollan. Some
agency preserved the city as it sunk. The
savior may be high sorcery, technology, or
the pity of a deity. In any event, an envelope of air around the city preserves the
inhabitants, and the inhabitants themselves may have adapted to an amphibian
existence, becoming selkies or airbreathing sea elves. Still, the empire is
gone. For generations, the people of the
city have struggled to survive, growing
small gardens and taking fish from the
sea. The wealth and splendor of the city
are only fading decorations now, because
there is no commerce. Most of the legendary technology is gone, either destroyed in
the cataclysm or forgotten from disuse.
As in the previous scenario, Atalya remains a legend in the surface world. The
PCs could be led to the undersea kingdom
by stories of the lost land and its sunken
wealth. Even if the PCs gather the magic
and lost lore they need to survive the
depths and find the sunken city, they will
find themselves among people who struggle daily just to eat. They also may be
caught in the middle of an ongoing war
between the Atalyans and the sahuagin.
The fishmen have the advantage of numbers, but the Atalyans fight with the
strength of desperation. If the sahuagin
can collapse the air envelope around Tollan, they can move in and loot the city.
The Atalyans are a heartbeat away from
extinction, the last of a legendary empire.
The fate of Atalya’s remnants is in the
hands of the heroes. If the PCs intervene
and drive off the sahuagin, the Atalyans
may gain enough time to recover their
strength and even return to the surface
world. If the PCs simply take what treasures they can, the Atalyans surely will be
overwhelmed. A cruel DM might even
decide that the Atalyans’ treasures have
long since been carried off by the prince
of the sahuagin, and now rest deep in the
ocean trenches.
A lost land like Atlantis, Lemuria, or Mu
adds good background details to a game
world, and it helps the DM link adventures
through myths, rumors, ruins, and treasure caches. Oddly enough, empires that
are lost or vanished become the most
enduring of legends, both in fantasy and
Berlitz, Charles. Atlantis, The Eighth Continent, Ballantine Books, 1984.
Berlitz, Charles. The Dragon’s Triangle,
Ballantine Books, 1989.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, Gramercy Publishing Co.,
Spence, Lewis. The History of Atlantis, Bell
Publishing Co., 1926.
by Skip Williams
If you have any questions on the games
produced by TSR, Inc., “Sage Advice” will
answer them. In the United States and
Canada, write to: Sage Advice, DRAGON®
Magazine, 201 Sheridan Springs Rd., Lake
Geneva WI 53147, U.S.A. In Europe, write
to: Sage Advice, DRAGON Magazine, TSR
Ltd., 120 Church End, Cherry Hinton,
Cambridge CB1 3LB, United Kingdom. We
are no longer able to make personal replies; please send no SASEs with your
questions (SASEs are being returned with
writer’s guidelines for the magazine).
This month, the sage examines a few
particulars about the AD&D® 2nd Edition
game, including initiative rules, backstabs,
and spells. The sage also fields more
SPELLFIRE™ game questions.
Why do innate abilities have initiative modifiers (+3 according to page
55 of the DMG) when innate abilities
are not like spells and do not require casting times (DMG, page 64)?
Can an innate ability be disrupted as
a spell can?
Although an innate ability requires only
a brief mental command from the user,
they don’t take effect instantaneously
when triggered. It often is possible for an
opponent to complete an action before an
innate power comes into play. An innate
power, however, does not require a casting
time and cannot be disrupted as a spell
can be.
Magical devices such as rods,
staves, and wands have initiative
modifiers of up to +3; can they be
disrupted as spells can? What about
rings and potions?
If your game is not using the optional
command word rule (see DMG, page 156)
rod, staff, or wand use cannot be disrupted, although the initiative modifier still
applies. If you are using the command
word rule, I recommend that you allow
the process of activating any of these
devices to be disrupted, but the DM must
make the final decision.
Rings (and miscellaneous magical items)
generally do not require command words
and they usually work just like innate
abilities. That is, all they require is a mental command which cannot be disrupted,
though there is an initiative modifier.
A potion cannot be disrupted once imbibed. However, the DM might decide that
78 FEBRUARY 1995
the container holding the potion is
smashed or lost before the user can drink
it. Drinking a potion has an initiative modifier of +1, but there is an additional modifier of 1d4+1 until the potion actually
takes effect. Note that the +4 modifier
listed on table 41 in the DMG is just an
average figure.
Where is the information on alignment tongues in the current editions of the Player’s Handbook and
Alignment languages are not part of the
AD&D® 2nd Edition game.
Would a thief’s backstabbing attack always qualify as an ambush as
defined on page 111 of the Player’s
Handbook? What about surprise?
Would the thief automatically gain
surprise if she wasn’t seen and
made a successful move silently
The penalties for being ambushed (no
chance for a return attack and roll for
surprise to see if the ambusher gets a
another free round of attacks with surprise) do not always apply to the victim of
a thief’s backstab attack. To qualify as an
ambush, the ambusher must be aware of
her victim and prepare her attack ahead
of time. In addition, the target must be
unable to detect the foe prior to the attack. For example, a thief who hears a
monster approaching, successfully hides in
shadows until the monster passes, then
successfully moves silently and closes to
the attack probably deserves to be credited with an ambush. On the other hand, a
thief who turns a corner and finds herself
facing an opponent’s unguarded back
should be allowed to make a backstab
attack, but cannot stage an ambush.
Technically, a thief must surprise an
opponent before she can claim any backstab bonuses (see PHB, page 40); that is,
the backstab requires surprise, it does not
guarantee it. Note that an unseen thief
who makes a successful move silently roll
has an extra chance to achieve surprise,
see DMG, table 57, page 102; the target
should suffer a -2 penalty for the thief’s
silent movement and very likely an additional -2 for not seeing the thief lurking
In any case, most DMs I know dispense
with the surprise roll and allow a backstab
anytime a thief makes an attack from
behind against an opponent who is unaware of the thief and has no compelling
reason to suspect a rear attack. In such
cases, I still recommend a normal surprise
roll. If the victim is surprised, the thief
gets two attacks before there is an initiative roll. The thief’s first attack gains the
backstab bonuses and the second attack is
a normal rear attack. If the surprise roll
fails, the thief is assumed to win initiative
and gets the backstab bonuses for the first
attack and the victim and turn around and
return the attack if she survives.
The third-level priest spell protection from fire negates 12 points of
fire damage per caster level if the
caster uses it on himself. If an incoming fire attack allows a saving
throw for half damage, does the
character get to attempt a saving
throw to reduce the damage subtracted from the spell’s total? What
if the character also is wearing a
ring of fire resistance?
What of the
caster also has magic resistance?
A protection from fire spell negates fire
damage that the protected creature actually suffers. If the character can avoid
damage altogether courtesy of a magic
resistance roll, then no damage is subtracted from the spell’s total. If the actual damage inflicted is reduced due to a successful
saving throw or a protective device, then
only the reduced damage is subtracted
from the spell’s total.
Does a symbol spell fade after
taking effect or does it remain and
possibly affect several creatures?
A wizard’s symbol spell remains until
triggered, then fades. It is entirely possible
for entire groups of creatures to be affected by a symbol however; as several creatures might read or otherwise trigger it
A priest’s symbol spell lasts for one turn
per level of the caster and can affect any
number of creatures who are exposed to it
within that time.
Because there is a second-level
priest spell detect charm, I think
that a detect magic spell, which is
first level for wizards and priests,
cannot detect spells such as charm
person. Am I right?
I don’t know. If you’re the DM, you’re
On the other hand, detect magic reveals
magical emanations within the area of
effect. Now, I don’t find anything in the
charm person, charm person or mammal,
suggestion, mass charm, fire charm, or
charm monster spell descriptions implying
that any of these spells do not produce
magical emanations just like any other
spell does.
Let’s pause for a moment, however, and
examine what detect magic can and cannot do. Detect magic can detect magical
emanations from a charmed creature. If a
priest casts the spell, all it reveals is the
approximate strength magic, weak to
overwhelming; the priest who cast the
spell learns nothing else. If a wizard casts
the detect magic spell, there is a 10%
chance per caster level of identifying the
exact type of magic; in this case,
Enchantment/Charm magic, not charm
person or any other specific effect. Note
that this kind of accuracy is not always
possible. The percentile roll to determine
the type of magic can fail and the DM can
rule that there are so many conflicting
types of magic present that no one of
them can be singled out. This might very
well be the case if the charmed character
also is carrying several magical items, has
consumed a potion, and has also has received some other type of spell.
Detect charm exists as a separate spell
for two reasons. First, it allows priests to
identify magical charms when they find
them; something that their version of
detect magic cannot do. Second, it allows a
magical charm to be identified exactly,
right down to the specific type—it can
distinguish a charm person effect from a
rod of beguiling effect even when there
are several different types of magic affecting the creature being examined; something that not even the wizard’s version of
detect magic can do. Note, however, that if
the creature being examined has been
subjected to several different charm effects all at once not even detect charm can
distinguish between them.
How many missiles can a character wearing gloves of missile snaring catch in a single round? Is the
number reduced if the characters
wears only one glove?
Generally speaking, a character must
wear both items in a pair of magical items
before getting any benefit. One cannot, for
example, wear one boor of speed and
expect to go hopping off at a brisk pace. A
character wearing gloves of missile snaring can grab one or two missiles each
round. To grab two missiles, both hands
must be free, that is, not holding weapons,
shields, or other equipment.
What kinds of magic can a rod of
actually destroy? The
item description seems to imply that
the rod only works on magical
items, but there are some spell effects, such as walls of force whose
descriptions say that the rod destroys them.
A rod of cancellation can drain any
magical item according to the rules given
in its description (DMG page 152), and
some spell effects. If a spell is subject to
cancellation, its description will say so.
Some DMs I know also allow rods of
cancellation to drain spell effects that can
be touched and that operate continuously.
Such effects include the various wall and
Bigby’s hand spells, prismatic sphere (one
layer only), and unseen servant, but not
spells that summon creatures or animate
plants or objects. If you use this variant,
you’ll have to decide what can be canceled
on a case-by-case basis.
How is a wand of negation supposed to work? Does it act like a
dispel magic spell, negating effects
that already are in place, or does it
prevent the target device from
working in the future? If the latter
is true, how long does the negation
last? The wand is supposed to be
100% effective against other wands,
but only 75% effective against other
devices. Is a spell a device? What
about wands with multiple functions; is a wand of negation
effective against the wand’s primary
function (or the first one targeted)
and only 75% effective against other
functions? What is a spell-like
A wand of negation prevents wands and
other magical devices from producing
spells or spell-like effects during the round
in which the wand of negation is used. It
does not affect spells in any way. A wand
of negation does not affect spells or spelllike effects that are already up and running, so the wielder must win initiative to
be effective. The negation lasts one round
and effects wands 100% of the time, even
multi-function wands. A wand of negation
also effects (75% of the time) any nonartifact magical device that produces spells
or spell-like effects including rods, staves,
rings, unusual weapons, and miscellaneous magical items.
A spell-like effect is anything that the
user can invoke at his own discretion.
Effects that operate continuously are not
spell-like effects. For example, the defensive bonuses provided by rings of protection, bracers of defense, or magical armor
are not spell-like functions. The attack and
damage bonuses from a magical sword are
not spell-like, but any extra, non-combat
powers that the sword has, such as flight
or trap detection, are.
In the original Player’s Handbook,
there is a +4 bonus for attacking
motionless opponents, but the modifier is not included in the current
PHB. Under what circumstances
does the modifier apply? For instance, does it apply when
a sentry standing at his post? Why
has the modifier been dropped from
the current rules?
The +4 modifier applies when the opponent is incapable of moving or capable of
only very limited movement, see the original DUNGEON MASTER Guide, page 70.
The unmoving sentry in your example
could be attacked with a +2 modifier for
a rear attack (if the attacker were behind
the sentry), but not the +4 for being
motionless (because he is capable of moving freely). If the sentry were asleep at his
post, however, the +4 modifier would
apply. The current rules still contain the
+4 modifier (see PHB, page 90), but the
term “motionless” has been dropped to
help avoid confusion.
Page 73 if the Player’s Handbook
says creatures can use weapons one
size larger than themselves if they
use two hands. What happens when
a gnome uses two hands to wield a
bastard sword? Does the gnome use
the two-handed statistics or the onehanded statistics?
A bastard sword is a size M weapon no
matter how it is wielded. So, your gnome
80 FEBRUARY 1995
could use either set of statistics, it all depends on where the character grips the
sword . Note that the sword has a slower
speed factor when used two-handed.
DMs who don’t care for this idea should
feel free to treat a bastard sword used
two-handed as a large weapon. The sword
doesn’t actually get any bigger when used
with two hands, but the wielder is employing more of the sword’s overall length and
mass. (See “Sage Advice” in DRAGOX issue
#213 for more on gnomes using bastard
SPELLFIRE™ game questions
What does “immediately” mean in
the context of the game? For example, the Intellect Devourer (#86)
immediately destroys an opposing
champion of level 5 or less. Is the
champion’s level checked at the
instant the card is played or does
the opposing play have a chance to
play a card or two to increase the
champion’s level?
Immediately means that the card takes
effect the instant it is played, before the
other player involved does anything. Note
that the champion in your example gets
the benefits of any already attached cards
when determining his level.
When an attacker wins a round of
battle and proceeds to another
round, he has to use a different
champion. What happens if the battle lasts more than two rounds?
When a champion has been used
once in a battle can he attack again,
that is, as often as every other
round, or is the champion forbidden
to attack until a new battle begins?
Most champions can be used only once
per battle, no matter how many rounds
the battle lasts. There are, however, some
champions that can be used to attack or
defend more than once, this special ability
is always listed on the champion’s card if it
When a card is played during a
round of battle, does it affect cards
played previously in the round? For
example, if one player has played
three ally cards, what happens if the
other opponent plays the Net of
Entrapment (#217), which prevents
allies from being played? Are all the
first player’s allies discarded? What
about the Orb of Power (#3l0),
which negates offensive spells; does
the Orb negate spells already in
Generally, a card affects previously
played cards. The Net of Entrapment
causes allies already in play to be discarded and prevents the opponent from playing any more allies. The Orb of Power,
however, cannot negate spells already in
play, the spells are assumed to take effect
when played and are beyond the Orb’s
power. Once the Orb is attached to a
champion, further offensive spells cannot
affect that champion.
How does the Ghost Ship
(RAVENLOFT® set, #73) work? If I
attack the front realm in an opposing formation and the defender places a champion to defend the realm,
can I attach the Ghost Ship to my
champion and switch the attack to
another realm? If so, can the defending champion follow the ghost ship
or does the defender have to use a
different champion? If the defender
must use a different champion, does
the original champion go back into
the pool?
The Ghost Ship allows a player to switch
his attack to another realm when it is
played. When the attackers leave on the
ship, the defending champion returns to
the pool and any allies or spells played
during the round are discarded. The defender must choose a different champion
to defend the new realm. The attacker can
switch realms only once. If the attacker
does not choose to switch realms when
the ghost ship is first played, he cannot
switch realms later in the round.
Can a Dispel Magic (#346) spell be
dispelled itself? Can a spell that has
been turned with Spell Turning
(#398) be turned or dispelled? Can a
Spell Turning be dispelled? Who
picks the target of spell once it has
been turned?
Dispel magic and Spell Turning are two
cards that cannot be dispelled with either
of the two Dispel Magic cards (card #358
is the cleric’s version of the spell). My
colleagues at TSR haven’t quite gotten
around to explaining exactly why this is
so, but that’s the way it is.
Though Spell Turning can’t be dispelled
itself, any turned spell is subject to turning
or dispelling, just as if it had been used
offensively in the first place. A turned
spell is always directed at the card that
originally cast the spell. If the card is immune to the spell or the spell just isn’t
applicable (a spell-casting realm subjected
to a spell that only affects allies or champions, for example) there is no effect. Note
that some spells can affect more than one
card. In these cases, the player whose
spell was turned suffers the full effect. For
example, Sunray (#362) destroys all undead in the opposing pool; if this spell is
turned, all undead in the original caster’s
pool are discarded even if the card that
cast the spell is not affected itself.
Having a convention?
If you’re having a gaming convention,
why not tell the world about it? Check
our address in this issue’s “Convention
Calendar” and send your announcement to us—free of charge!
I live for the look of terror on my opponent’s face. Seeing his crestfallen expression when I play that Loup-Garou ally or
attach Johydee’s Mask to Hettman Tsurin
is just a bit thrilling. I’m not a cruel or
heartless person. In fact, most of my
friends would describe me as the opposite.
But something comes over me when I play
the SPELLFIRETM card game.
In fact, I’m not trying to break the other
guy’s spirit. Trumping him is just a demonstration of skill. That’s the real jolt, showing
that I am good at the game. Unfortunately, I
am on the receiving end of such tricks as
often as not. Sigh.
Let me tell you some of the tricks I have
suffered from recently. Each is named
after the person I know that first used it. I
have tried to research all possible card
combinations and counters quite thoroughly. The number for each card appears
in parentheses after its name.
Winter’s flyers/No flyers: Several
FORGOTTEN REALMS® realm cards prevent flyers from attacking them. They are
Menzoberranzan (2), Pirate Isles (10), The
Great Rift (12), and Evermeet (29). By
attaching the Border Forts (198) holding to
one of these cards, the realm becomes
almost invincible. Border Forts requires
that the attacking champion be a flyer.
Any champion attacking the realm must
be a flyer, but cannot be a flyer! Lots of
realms force an attacker to be a flyer, but
no other world has a holding that excludes
The only way to break this combination
is to eliminate the holding, or negate the
power of either the realm or holding. A
Cataclysm! (99) event, Siege! (203 & 150)
event, Iuz the Evil (167) champion, and
Disintegrate (393) wizard spell can destroy
the realm. Anavias (262) the DARK SUN®
hero negates a holding’s power. The
Ankhtepot (84, RAVENLOFT® set) monster
ignores holdings. The Crown of Souls (67,
RAVENLOFT set) artifact ignores a realm’s
power. The Crime Lord (55) FR hero and
Kapak Draconians (49, DRAGONLANCE®
set) ally can destroy a holding. The Silver
Spring (244) holding razes an opponent’s
realm. Takhisis’s Helmet of Power (18,
DRAGONLANCE set chase cards) magical
item will eliminate the realm’s immunity.
Many of these cards are quite rare. Your
best bet is to use a Cataclysm!, Siege!, or
Crime Lord, all of which are easier to find.
Nesmith’s everpresent Amarill: The
Labyrinth Map of Shut (410) artifact prevents the champion from being discarded if
it is defeated. Instead the champion, along
with all his magical items, is merely out of
play for a turn. This is a wonderful artifact
for any champion. However, for a select
few it provides some nasty surprises.
If Amarill (77) the cleric is defeated,
another champion in the player’s discard
pile is returned to his hand. Notice that
this happens when Amarill is defeated, not
when he is discarded. With the Map at-
tached to him, Amarill may be defeated,
but comes back after a turn. When a
player is attacked, he can defend with
Amarill and intentionally lose. Amarill goes
away for a turn and the player can retrieve a champion from his discard pile.
The attacking champion is spent and cannot be used again in this battle. You can
retrieve champions from your discard pile
over and over! Amarill is an uncommon
card, but the Labyrinth Map of Shuc is
extremely rare. It is only found in the 2nd
edition printing, which comes in a blue
To beat the everpresent Amarill, you
have to get rid of his artifact. Fast Talking!
(210) and Ancient Curse (399) are about
the only cards that do this. However, there
is a sneakier way to defeat him. For the
turn that Amarill is out of play, another
player can lay down Amarill into his pool.
Under the Rule of the Cosmos, Amarill
cannot return to the original player’s pool
and must now be discarded.
If the Ego Coin (419) magical item is
attached to a champion, it can carry any
number of artifacts from any world. It
would allow the Map of Shuc to be attached to other champions as well. The
Ego Coin is just as rare as the Labyrinth
Map of Shuc. My hat is off to anyone able
to collect them both.
The Ego Coin and Labyrinth Map with
Iuz the Evil (167) is very deadly. Iuz can
raze any other player’s realm if he is defeated. With the Map attached to him, a
defending player can intentionally lose
with Iuz, raze a realm, and still have Iuz
around to do it again.
Any card that can eliminate the Ego Coin
will ruin the entire setup. For example,
Midnight (46) would cause lots of problems, as would the Fast Talking! (210)
event card.
Peek’s Loup-Garou two-step: This
ally states “opposing champion is automatically defeated unless he has or can play a
magical item.” If the Loup-Garou (79,
RAVENLOFT set) is played with a card that
does not allow the opponent to play magical
items, it is an automatic victory. Fortunately, there are no cards (yet) that do this.
A lesser technique, but still deadly, is to
play the Loup-Garou with a card that
destroys magical items or is immune to
them. The magical item still can be played,
thereby satisfying the Loup-Garou, but it is
either discarded or ineffective. Generally
speaking, the player should play the other
card, eliminating existing magical items,
then the Loup-Garou. Cards that eliminate
all magical items in play are italicized in
the list below. The rest just provide immunity or some other lesser defense. Midnight and the Flesh Golem are considered
to be the best choices.
Qualifying cards: Icewind Dale (20)
realm, Midnight Goddess of Magic (46),
Giant Skeleton (192) ally, Kiara (171) hero,
Codex of the Infinite Planes (152) artifact,
Wind of Disenchantment (377) event,
Crushing Fist (344) wizard spell, Lightning
Bolt (332) wizard spell, Orb of Power (310)
magical item, Captain Kazhal (299), Sky
Singers (278) event, Fast Talking! (210)
event, Antimagic Barrier (68,
DRAGONLANCE card) wizard spell, Wand
of Telekinesis (63, DRAGONLANCE card)
magical item, Irongnome (57,
DRAGONLANCE card) magical item,
Harkon Lukas (87, RAVENLOFT set) monster, Adam (83, RAVENLOFT set) monster,
Flesh Golem (73, RAVENLOFT set) ally,
Knights of the Rose (6, DRAGONLANCE
chase cards) hero, Gib Evets (11, 1st edition chase cards) monster, Gib Htimsen
(13, 1st edition chase cards) monster, Alicia
(18, 1st edition chase cards) wizard.
As a side note, the Magical Champion
(402) magical item can make the LoupGarou into a champion. A frightening
thought indeed! However, the Loup-Garou
is defeated instantly if the Magical Champion is discarded. Many of the cards listed
above can do just that.
Danovich’s double trouble: The key
to this trick is getting champions into the
player’s pool that automatically defeat
certain types of attacking champions.
Done right, no matter what type of champion the attacker puts forward, the defender can choose the champion that will
automatically defeat him.
The best combination to date is the
Lovely Colleen (22, 1st edition chase
cards), which automatically defeats monsters, and the Living Scroll (408), which
automatically defeats clerics and heroes.
Fortunately for most players, both of these
cards are extremely rare. Using cards that
can negate wizard spells, such as the Tantras (32) holding, just make it tougher on
the poor attacker.
Similar effects can be obtained with the
Heartwood Spear (318) artifact and the
Living Scroll. The Heartwood Spear automatically defeats monsters. The Heartwood
Spear is a common card, but you need a
DARK SUN champion to attach it to.
Defeating this combination is tough. You
either must use wizards to attack the
realm, or eliminate one of the two champions from your opponent’s pool before
combat. Such spells as Fear (348), Geas
(394), Banishment (395), Death Spell (392),
Bribery (204), Treasure (312), Takhisis’s
Mirror of Life Trapping (14,
DRAGONLANCE chase cards), and Takhisis’s Abyssal Gateway (13, DRAGONLANCE
chase cards) can do this.
The most dangerous addition to this
nasty trick is to lead with the Slave Realm
of Tunek (405). No cleric or wizard can
attack this realm. With Colleen and the
Living Scroll in the pool, effectively no
champion can attack you. The Slave Realm
of Tunek, unfortunately, is one of the
rarest cards in the SPELLFIRE game.
Ward’s Cataclysm: The Cataclysm! (99)
event card can earn you a spoils of victory
card. Attack a realm, wait until your oppoDRAGON 83
nent selects a champion, then play the
Cataclysm! event on that realm. Any interaction between the champion’s powers
must be resolved before the Cataclysm!
event is considered. The realm is destroyed, unless the opponent plays a Calm
(400) event or Delsenora (10, 1st edition
chase cards), and the battle is over. According to the rules, the attacker is now
entitled to spoils of victory. Similar tactics
can be used with the Siege (150 & 203)
event, if your own first realm is already
razed or discarded.
Beach’s unstoppable monster:
second tactic for making a champion invincible is to make it immune to as many
different types of supporting cards as
possible. The best example of this is the
Gib Htimsen (13, 1st edition chase cards)
monster with the Net of Entrapment (217).
Gib Htimsen is immune to spells, magical
items, artifacts and events. The Net of
Entrapment prevents an opponent from
using allies. Not much left but defensive
spells and magical items!
Another example of this is the Tembo
(310) monster, which prevents the opponent from using allies, with the Orb of
Power (310). The Orb of Power makes the
champion immune to offensive spells and
magical items. Just about any champion
with the Net of Entrapment and the Orb
of Power can do the same thing. But that
takes two cards on the champion instead
of just one. Dagaronzie the Green Dragon
(6, 1st edition chase cards) with the Orb is
pretty tough. Dagaronzie can force your
opponent to discard up to two allies. Attaching the Orb and the Net to the Tithian
(301) hero, who automatically razes a
realm if victorious, also creates a vicious
None of these is as powerful as the Gib
Htimsen combination. However, the Net of
Entrapment and Tembo are uncommon
cards, the Orb of Power is a common
card, and Tithian is a rare card. Gib Htimsen and Dagaronzie are extremely rare
Melka’s eternal dragons:
The Night
of the Eye (42, DRAGONLANCE) rule card
allows up to three DRAGONLANCE event
cards to remain in effect at the same time.
For most of the DRAGONLANCE events,
this is no big deal. However, with the
Bronze Dragons (97, DRAGONLANCE)
event it is a big deal. Bronze Dragons
prevents anyone from attacking you until
your next turn. With the rule card, you
become immune to attacks! You can just sit
back and play your realms out each turn
with no fear of being attacked. Unfortunately both of these cards are rare.
There are only a few ways to stop this
combination. Anyone who plays another
rule card will stop it. Desenora (10, 1st
edition chase cards) or a Calm (400) event
card will allow that player to attack. Playing enough other DRAGONLANCE event
cards eventually gets rid of the Bronze
84 FEBRUARY 1995
Dragons. However, the best way around
this combination is not to attack. Use the
Cataclysm! (99) event, Siege (150 & 203)
event, and Disintegrate (393) wizard spell
to destroy and raze realms.
The catch-22 champion: Nobody has
actually played this on me yet, so it isn’t
dedicated to anyone. The Lovely Colleen
(22, 1st edition chase cards) and Edormira,
Red Dragon (2, 1st edition chase cards)
both can automatically defeat monster
champions, although Edormira’s power
works only when attacking. The Skull of
Fistandantilus (10, DRAGONLANCE chase
cards) artifact only allows wizards or
monsters to defend against it. If the Ego
Coin (419) is used to get the two together,
only a wizard can be put up in defense.
This is an unlikely combination since all of
these cards are extremely rare. Any card
that can eliminate the Ego Coin will ruin
the entire setup. For example, Midnight
(46) would cause problems, as would the
Fast Talking! (210) event card.
Gross’ march of the undead: The
Sea Barons (133) realm gains the power of
whatever holding is attached to the Great
Kingdom (123). In most cases nothing
special happens. However, the Arms of the
Great Kingdom (145) holding doubles the
level of all of your undead allies, even if
they aren’t being used to defend it. If this
holding is attached to the Great Kingdom,
it is effectively also attached to the Sea
Barons. This means that all undead allies
have their level quadrupled!
This combination is easily defeated.
Razing or destroying one of the realms or
the holding will do it. Unfortunately, undead are vulnerable to many different
cards. Quadrupled level doesn’t help much
if the undead champions or allies are
discarded or automatically defeated. Water
Hunters (276), Protection (360), Sunray
(362), Holy Word (365), Invisibility to Undead (370), The Avatar (20, 1st edition
chase cards), Andra the Wise (24, 1st edition chase cards), Turn Undead (41,
RAVENLOFT set), and Holy Symbol of
Ravenkind (68, RAVENLOFT set), Takhisis’s
Mirror of Underworld Minions (15,
DRAGONLANCE chase cards), and Blessing
of the Gods (20, DRAGONLANCE chase
cards) all destroy or prevent the use of
undead. The Selune (39) holding prevents
that one realm from attack by the undead.
Beach’s ultimate punisher:
Nibenay (226) realm must be razed twice
before it is flipped over. This means that
technically it can be razed once, but retain
its holding. On the second razing, it is
flipped over and any holding attached to it
is discarded. For most holdings, this
doesn’t make much of a difference. However, for Silver Springs (244) it makes a big
difference. Silver Springs states that when
the attached realm is razed, one of the
opponent’s realms is also razed. When
Silver Springs is attached to Nibenay, you
can raze two of your opponent’s realms if
he razes Nibenay!
One of the best uses for Nibenay is to let
it be razed once in an attack. This negates
one of your opponent’s champions at no
cost to yourself. If Silver Springs is attached, when you let your opponent raze
Nibenay the first time, you get to raze one
of his realms. You can then go on to win a
later round of combat and draw spoils of
The only way to avoid being punished
by this combination is to eliminate the
realm or holding without attacking it. A
Cataclysm! (99) event, Siege! (203 & 150)
event, and Disintegrate (393) wizard spell
can destroy the realm. Anavias (262) the
hero negates a holding’s power. The
Ankhtepot (84, RAVENLOFT set) monster
ignores holdings, but since the holding
isn’t affecting Ankhtepot, Silver Springs
isn’t stopped. The Crown of Souls (67,
RAVENLOFT set) artifact ignores a realm’s
power, but Silver Springs will still raze one
realm. The Crime Lord (55) hero and
Kapak Draconians (49, DRAGONLANCE)
ally can destroy a holding. Mogadisho’s
Horde (251) ally forces your opponent to
discard his holdings. Many of these cards
are quite rare. Your best bet is to use a
Cataclysm!, Siege!, or Crime Lord, all of
which are easier to find.
I’m sure there are many other nasty
card combinations in the SPELLFIRE
cards—these are just the ones I have
found. I would love to hear from anyone
who has discovered other combinations.
Keep in mind that nasty tricks can be used
by nice players. Remember, it’s only a
game. If you get nailed by a clever combination of cards, laugh and congratulate
your opponent. If you stick it to the other
guy, don’t be mean spirited. Play the game
for fun, not to humiliate the person on the
other side of the table.
by Johnathan M. Richards
Artwork by Scott Rosema
The two men traipsed through the forest, a study in contrasts. The older man,
Griff, had the weather-worn skin of a man
who had spent his life exposed to the
elements. Gray was starting to show at his
temples, yet he strode forward with a
confident air, barely feeling the weight of
the heavy crossbow he carried over his
shoulder or the sword belted at his hip.
Colin, on the other hand, was a young lad,
cursed with a baby face and insatiable
curiosity. He struggled to keep up the pace
set by Griff, weighted down by the large
pack on his back, nearly tripping over the
walking stick he carried with every step.
They were nearing their prey, an
owlbear that had taken up residence in
the Spinewood Forest and had taken to
attacking travelers on the King’s Road.
“We’re getting near,” Griff said. “Take a
look at that.”
Colin looked at what the older man was
indicating, a tree whose bark had literally
been shredded in parallel grooves, vertically.1 He stood staring at it for a while,
marveling at the strength of a creature
able to dig an inch into a tree with one
swipe of its paw, then hurried to catch up
to Griff, who had started off again.
After a few minutes’ travel, Griff
stopped, pointing ahead. “There,” he said
in a whisper. A cave was visible in the
clearing ahead,, its dark interior cloaked in
shadows and mystery. “Quietly now, unpack the gear.”
Colin set down his walking stick, lowering his pack to the ground. Opening it, he
pulled out a large earthenware jar of
honey. Prying off the sealed lid with his
knife, he left it in the middle of the clearing, not 20’ from the mouth of the cave.
Then he backed his way to where Griff
stood, at the base of a huge oak, his eyes
never leaving the cave for fear that if he
did, he would be taken unawares by the
beast that dwelled inside.
“Hold this,” commanded Griff, passing
Colin his crossbow. Dutifully, Colin held
the weapon, impressed by its weight.
Someday, he thought, I’ll wield a weapon
like this, and be a fighter like Griff. He
often entertained such thoughts, but deep
down, doubted that they would ever be
more than dreams. His gawky, spindly
frame seemed more suited to the life of a
sage or wizard, and his insatiable hunger
for reading had given him the nickname
Suddenly realizing he had been daydreaming again, Colin snapped out of it to
see Griff on a branch above him, reaching
down for his weapon. Colin passed it up.
“Leave the stick, and climb on up here,”
the older man whispered. Colin leaned his
walking stick on the far side of the oak,
and clambered up next to his mentor.
“How much time do we have?“
“Better part of an hour, I’d say. Owlbears
like to sleep ‘til noon or thereabouts. Part
of their mixed-up heritage.”
“Why don’t we just go in there, then?
Kill it while it sleeps?”
Griff just chuckled. “Kid, you want to
live as long as me, you gotta learn not to
take chances. Up here, we’re safe.
Owlbear can’t reach us, but this,” hefting
the crossbow, “this lets us reach him.“²
“And we’re using honey as bait? I
thought owlbears were strictly carnivorous. Their heads are all owl, according to
the illustrations I’ve seen.”
“Yeah, and their bottoms are all bear, but
they still lay eggs. Just trust me on this,
there’s enough bear in an owlbear that it
can’t pass up honey.“³
The two were silent for a while, as Griff
readied his crossbow for firing. He had a
perfect vantage of the honey jar from his
perch in the oak, and yet was reasonably
sure that he wouldn’t be noticed by the
owlbear, even taking its superior senses
into account.4
The minutes passed, and neither resumed their whispered conversation, not
wanting to take the chance of being overheard by a creature that could hear a
mouse rustle in the grass across a field.
And finally, their patience was rewarded.
The creature shuffled out of the cave,
reared up on its hind legs, and stretched.
Colin was overcome with awe at the massive beast. Seeing it in person was so much
greater than studying the inked sketches
that were available in the Scribe’s Library.
The creature stood a full 8’ tall, the brown
feathers of its owlish head merging seamlessly into the fur of its body, somewhere
past its shoulders and back. The owlbear
looked around, and Colin noticed that it
did so by turning its head instead of moving its eyes.5
Colin held his breath, afraid of being
heard up in the tree, but he apparently
avoided the owlbear’s notice, for it
dropped back down on all fours and approached the honey. Soon, it was lapping
intently at the jar, seemingly oblivious to
all else. Griff took aim, drew a short
breath, and let out with a quiet “hoot.”
Immediately, the owlbear reared up, and
Griff tightened his finger on the trigger.
There was the quick twang of the crossbow, and the bolt went lightning-quick
into the owlbear’s right eye.
The screech was incredible. Colin covered his ears with both hands, amazed at
the sheer intensity of the creature’s deaththroes. After what seemed an eternity, but
was probably closer to a few scarce minutes, the owlbear dropped to its side,
Griff jumped down out of the tree, landing like a cat. Colin, less sure of himself,
climbed down. “And that’s that,” said the
grizzled veteran.
“How’d you know one shot would kill
him?” asked Colin. I would have expected
it to have taken more to bring down something that big.”
“And it would have, too, if I hadn’t coated the bolt in poison,” replied Griff. “As it
was, did you see how long it took to die?
He was dead as soon as the bolt hit, it just
took him a while to realize it.“6
Colin was shocked. He had always
dreamed of being a hero, and idolized
Griff as the epitome of everything he
hoped to be himself, someday. But somehow, shooting at a creature with a poisoned crossbow bolt just didn’t seem, well,
heroic. Sadly, he realized his respect for
his mentor had just dropped several
While Colin was overcoming his shock,
Griff had pulled out his long knife, and
was beginning to skin the carcass. “Meat’s
not worth much, not the best eating, but a
bearskin’s a bearskin, even if there’s only
half a bear,”
“What’s this?” asked Colin, picking up a
tight oval bundle the size of his fist. It
seemed organic, and had little bits of bone
sticking out.
Griff glanced up from his skinning.
“Owlbear pellet. The beasts spit them up
like a cat with furballs.” Colin dropped the
pellet and wiped his hands on his pants.7
The enraged screech of an owlbear split
the air. Colin jumped and turned to Griff,
half expecting to see the beast he was
skinning sit up and continue its attack. But
88 FEBRUARY 1995
no, the beast was dead, no doubt about it.
The ear-splitting call was coming from
behind them, from the cave mouth. As the
two looked on with growing horror, another owlbear shambled forth on its hind
legs, then dropped on all fours and
“Run!” cried Griff, as he grabbed up his
crossbow and hurried to load it. Colin was
back at the oak and about to scurry up it
into safety, when concern for his mentor
made him look back. There was a twang
from the weapon, and Colin grimaced
when he saw the bolt fly past the head of
the enraged beast. Then the owlbear was
upon Griff, sending the man and the crossbow flying off in different directions with
one swipe of its paw.8
Colin stood transfixed by the scene
before him. Griff lay on the ground, obviously stunned, and the owlbear loomed
above him, rearing up, blood dripping
from one set of claws. Colin could run,
either to the safety of the tree or back the
way he came, but either way, his mentor
and personal hero was dead.
Or, he could face the owlbear himself
and buy Griff some time.
Grabbing up his walking stick, Colin
yelled at the great beast, catching its attention. The giant head snapped in his direction, and it came toward the new threat.
Gotta even the odds, Colin thought. If I
can blind him . . .
The boy dropped to one knee and scooped up a handful of loose dirt. He flung it
straight into the creature’s face, and leapt
to the side. To his surprise, the owlbear
matched his move, not bothered in the
least by the cloud of grit and sand.9
“Griff!” Colin shouted, as he narrowly
dodged a swipe of wicked claws. Sparing a
quick glance in his mentor’s direction, he
saw that Griff was starting to come
around. He also saw the crossbow lying in
the dirt, its string severed by the owlbear’s
attack. Swinging his walking stick like a
staff, Colin managed to land a blow to the
side of the owlbear’s head, but the attack
didn’t seem to bother it in the least. Colin
did his best to keep out of the creature’s
reach, backing up in a circle.
“Griff! You okay?” Sweat was starting to
pour into Colin’s eyes, but he didn’t have
the time to wipe it away. Keeping the
owlbear at bay was taking every ounce of
his concentration.
“Fine,” Griff replied, as he staggered to
his feet. Out of the corner of his eye, Colin
got a look at his mentor. Three long gashes
scarred the side of his face, and one eye
was covered in blood. Whether the eye
itself was damaged or not, Colin couldn’t
tell, but he couldn’t possibly see out of it in
his present state. “Keep him busy,” he said,
pulling out his sword.
Colin tried, but as Griff approached
from the side, the owlbear suddenly spun
and attacked. Griff did some furious backpedalling to avoid its grasp, and tripped
over the carcass of the first beast.10 Colin
jabbed his stick against the creature’s head
like a spear, managing to do little damage,
but at least drawing the beast’s attention
away from Griff as he scrambled back up
to his feet.
Colin was tiring rapidly. He sensed there
was little hope that the two of them could
overcome the owlbear; it seemed to sense
their every move, and knew that the greatest weapon it faced was the sword, for it
turned its attention to Griff every time he
approached. The older fighter was weary
as well, and it was only a matter of time
before one or both of them went down. If
I could only keep its attention, Colin
And then an idea sprang to his head.
Before he had time to think too much
about it, he held his walking stick horizontally out in front of him, and charged the
The beast reared up, but Colin dodged
between the raised forelimbs and pressed
himself against the owlbear’s chest, forcing his stick into its open beak. Immediately, he felt himself in the crushing grip
of the owlbear’s hug, and even though he
started to see blackness in the periphery
of his vision, he held onto the stick, keeping the monster’s beak from snapping at
Colin could feel his ribs starting to
crack. “Hurry,” he tried to say, but couldn’t
get the word out for lack of breath. Fortunately, the advice was unnecessary, for
Griff had leapt onto the owlbear’s back
and stabbed down with his sword at the
base of the creature’s neck. The sword
went in deep, and Colin felt the monster’s
grip slacken a little, even as he felt consciousness slipping away from him. The
owlbear bit down in pain, finally snapping
Colin’s stick in half, and it spun its head
around, almost 180 degrees, until it was
staring at Griff with its huge, yellow eyes.
Griff snarled back at it, and sawed with
his sword at the creature’s wound. The
owlbear dropped Colin’s limp form and
spun in circles, trying to reach the man on
its back, but finally, the beast fell to the
ground itself, done in by loss of blood
from its neck wound. Griff collapsed next
to the dead beast.
Sometime later, Griff managed to crawl
back to his feet, and stumble to the backpack. There, he unwrapped the single
potion of healing he always carried. Staggering back to the boy, he poured it down
Colin’s throat, and he awoke, choking and
“You okay, kid?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. How about you? Your
“I’ll be fine.”
“But the potion! You should have—”
“Forget it, kid. You deserved it. That was
just about the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.
Bravest, or stupidest, I’m not quite sure
just yet. But I’ll be okay once we get back
to town, and to a healer.”
“Should we go, then?”
“Yeah, we should. But first we’d better
check out the cave. Just to make sure.”
“But if there’s another one, we’re in no
shape . . .” Colin protested.
“No argument there, kid, but it should
be okay. Owlbears might settle down with
a mate, but you’ll never find more than
one mated pair in the same den. Now,
cubs, that’s another matter, and we’d best
have a look to be sure, but owlbear cubs
are a curious bunch, and I’m sure they’d
have come out to see what all the noise
was about.”
Cautiously, the two entered the cave.
Colin stopped to light a torch from the
pack, and by the light it provided, they
could see the cave interior was for the
most part empty. Over in one corner,
though, was a small pile of twigs and
leaves, and mixed in with the pile were
several white spherical objects two feet in
diameter. “Bingo,” said Griff. “Eggs. We’re
in luck, kid. These things go for 2,000
pieces of silver each.“12
“We’ll never carry them all off in our
“Yeah, true, but do you think you could
manage one? We can always come back
for the others.”
On the long way home, Colin hefting the
owlbear egg, and Griff shouldering the
broken crossbow and backpack, Colin
asked his mentor a question that had been
puzzling him.
“You know, I read that the owlbear was
created by a wizard, a long time ago, as a
guardian. And that he combined the
strengths of both owls and bears to make
his creation as formidable as possible!”
“Yeah, so?”
“Well, I’ve always wondered about that.
You’d think that he’d have created the
owlbear with wings. I mean, owls are
practically silent when they fly. It just
seems odd that he’d have missed so obvious an advantage.”
“Let’s just be glad he did, kid. Can you
imagine if we had flying owlbears around
here? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“I guess you’re right.“13
1. This is a common sight in owlbearinfested areas. The creatures claw at
selected trees with their front paws. This
not only keeps their claws sharp, but
marks off an owlbear’s territory.
2. Because of their great size and weight,
owlbears are not good tree climbers. Anyone treed by an owlbear is not completely
safe, though, because the beasts are just
nasty enough to wait it out, and are often
strong enough to knock over the tree,
depending on the size of both the owlbear
and the tree.
3. This appears to be the only exception
to the owlbear’s otherwise carnivorous
diet. It remains well-adapted to honeygathering, as its thick coat of fur and
feathers protects it from bee stings, and it
retains the long tongue of a bear, perfect
for lapping up the sticky substance.
4. Like the owl, an owlbear has double
90 FEBRUARY 1995
normal infravision, and quadruple normal
hearing. In fact, the owlbear’s hearing is
so finely developed that it can attack normally in total darkness, and similarly can
attack invisible creatures without penalty.
Of course, this can be nullified with a
silence spell.
5. Indeed, the owlbear’s eyes are fixed in
its head, looking straight ahead. It compensates for this by being able to turn its
head a full 270 degrees, as compared to a
human’s 180. The owlbear has twice as
many neck bones as does a human (fourteen to our seven) which allows for this
flexibility. In addition, an owlbear can
snap its neck from one position to another
almost instantaneously.
6. The rugged constitution of an owlbear
allows it to fight on for 1-4 rounds after it
reaches 0 to -8 hit points. Once brought
to -9 or fewer hit points, however, it is
immediately slain.
7. Like owls, owlbears tear their food
into chunks and swallow the chunks
whole. Inside the stomach, much of the
prey is digested, but bones, fur, feathers,
and insect shells are churned into pellets,
and regurgitated by the beast. These pellets are usually found near an owlbear’s
lair, and are thus a good indicator of an
owlbear’s presence nearby.
8. Owlbears, like humans, can rotate
their forearms, and this gives them great
strength and agility in seizing their prey. It
is perhaps this feature alone which gives
the owlbear its deadly ability to “hug” its
opponents—and, as Griff just found out,
allows them to make powerful side-swipes
with their wicked claws.
9. Owlbears have a transparent third
eyelid (also called a nictitating membrane)
that they can flip across their eyes at will.
This protects their sensitive eyes from
dust, grit, and the like, but it also can
protect them from strong light. Light
spells are therefore ineffectual as blinding
attacks against an owlbear.
10. So acute is the owlbear’s sense of
hearing that even in melee, it’s almost
impossible to sneak up on one. Owlbear
ears are somewhat unique in that they are
asymmetrical; one ear is higher than the
other, and this makes it extremely efficient
in pinpointing exactly where a particular
sound is coming from. This fact has no
doubt proven to be very unnerving to
many a thief who tried using his ability to
move silently to move past an owlbear.
11. Fortunately for Colin, once an
owlbear gets a victim into a hug, it cannot
use its claws to attack, relying on its
crushing strength and sharp beak to kill
its prey. Colin’s surprise attack managed to
neutralize the owlbear’s claw and beak
attacks, at the cost of automatic hugging
damage each round.
12. Owlbear eggs are nearly perfect
spheres. There will be from one to six
eggs in an clutch; the eggs are laid several
days apart. Once the young start to hatch,
the parents provide them with freshlykilled meat. Owlbear “cubs” are carnivores
from the start, and even though the mother owlbear is half bear, she does not produce milk for her young. The young will
be raised by the mother for the first two
years, during which time she will teach
the cubs how to hunt for themselves.
After the end of the second year, the cubs
will go off on their own and stake out
their own territory.
13. The suggested revised experiencepoint value for owlbears with the extra
abilities listed in this article is 650 XP.
In addition to the normal owlbear, there
is also the arctic variety (hinted at in the
MONSTROUS MANUAL™ book), and, if
your campaign world permits it, the
winged variety.
Arctic owlbear
DIET Carnivore
TREASURE: Incidental
NO. APPEARING: 1 (2-8)
HIT DICE: 8 +2
THAC0: 13
DAMAGE/ATTACK: l-10/1-10/2-12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Hug, surprise
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immunity to coldbased attacks
SIZE: L (12’ tall)
MORALE: Steady (11-12) + Special
XP VALUE: 2,000
Arctic owlbears are the polar cousins of
the normal owlbear; they resemble a cross
between a snowy owl and a polar bear.
Both fur and feathers are a snowy white,
while the claws and beak are both black.
Yellow, glowing eyes look forward from a
rounded head. Arctic owlbears speak the
owlbear language, made up of loud
Combat: Arctic owlbears are as foultempered as their forest-dwelling cousins,
immediately attacking prey with their
front claws and wicked beak. They hug
for 2-16 points of damage per round after
scoring a claw hit with a roll of 18 or
better. Once engaged in a hugging attack,
the arctic owlbear cannot use its claws,
but uses its beak to full advantage. A single attempt to break free from a hug is
allowed; use the chance to bend bars/lift
gates to determine success.
The arctic owlbear’s fur and feathers are
all multi-layered, protecting it from the
coldest temperatures, even when wet. For
this reason, the beasts are immune to all
cold-based attacks. Additionally, due to
their ability to blend into the arctic environment, they are 75% likely to surprise
their prey.
Habitat/Society: Arctic owlbears live
in the coldest areas of the arctic, often
making their lairs in pre-existing caves or
carving their own dens in banks of snow.
However, they tend to be wanderers,
constantly on the move in search of prey,
and so do not settle in one place for very
long. If encountered in their lair, a mated
pair of arctic owlbears may have 1-6 eggs
(20%) or young (80%) with them; there is
only a 25% chance of one or the other.
The young will be from 40% to 70%
grown, fighting as creatures with 5 or 6
Hit Dice. Damage from an immature arctic
owlbear is l-6/1-6/2-8, and characters get a
bonus of +20% to their bend bars/lift
gates roll when trying to escape from a
Ecology: Arctic owlbears live for about
20 years. They will prey on anything, but
prefer seal meat above all else. Unlike
normal owlbears, the arctic variety hunt
primarily in the day, and, being good
swimmers, will pursue their prey into the
frigid waters without hesitation. They are
well-equipped for their environment—
rough, leathery pads on the bottom of
their paws help them maintain stability
over icy surfaces. The local inhabitants of
arctic regions say that there’s nothing
worse than having an arctic owlbear on
your trail, because of their stubborn de-
termination, nasty disposition, and constant hunger.
Winged owlbear
CLIMATE/TERRAIN: Any nonarctic
FREQUENCY: Very rare
ACTIVITY CYCLE: Late afternoon/early
DIET. Carnivore
TREASURE: Incidental
NO. APPEARING: 1 (2-5)
MOVEMENT! 12, Fl 18 (E)
HIT DICE: 5 + 2
THAC0: 15
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-6/1-6/2-12
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Hug, surprise
SIZE: L (8’ tall, 20’ wingspan)
MORALE: Steady (11-12) + Special
The winged owlbear is the ultimate
synthesis of owl and bear. It looks like a
standard owlbear, but in addition it has a
pair of large wings growing from its shoulders. They are just as nasty-tempered as
their ground-dwelling cousins, and speak
the same language of screeches.
Combat: Winged owlbears fight as the
wingless variety, utilizing their front
claws, sharp beaks, and mighty hug. In
addition, they are almost totally silent in
flight due to the construction of their wing
feathers, and this imposes a -6 penalty on
opponents’ surprise rolls.
Habitat/Society: Winged owlbears can
be found in almost any nonarctic environment (when they can be found at all—they
are very scarce), but seem to prefer wooded forests and mountainous terrains. Due
to their flight capabilities, winged owlbears tend to claim larger territories as
“theirs”—usually ten to twenty square
Winged owlbears live in mated pairs. If
encountered in their lairs, there is a 25%
chance there will be 1-3 eggs (20%) or
young (80%) in addition to the adults. The
young are identical to normal owlbear
young, as their wings will not support
them in flight until they are at full size.
Ecology: Winged owlbears tend to live
slightly longer than the normal variety,
often reaching 25 years or so. They are
sought after by wizards, even though to
date no one has managed to domesticate
one; nonetheless, eggs can go as high as
4,000 silver pieces, while the price for live
young can reach 10,000 silver pieces.
he Queen’s Investigator came to the
village of Neveton an hour after sunset. The cool spring day had turned to
rain at nightfall, and now a steaming
coastal drizzle made the shimmering
man and his dark mare glisten as they
approached the night-guard on the
muddy road.
Majanar Heska was a gaunt old man with a hood
thrown over his head, rich robes glimmering with gems
and raindrops, and green eyes that shone in the darkness.
He was a fragment of the queen’s court, the kind of rich
man who fills highwaymen’s bloody dreams on moonless
nights. But if they saw him, the queen’s pattern woven
purple on his cloak and the gleaming gold-hilted sword at
his belt, they might think twice before asking him for his
horse. He had been mistaken for a sorcerer once or twice,
because of his clothing and his penetrating eyes. A maid
with the true-vision could tell you that he wielded no magic, and yet he knew its workings well.
The guard was of night-men, their pale faces and huge
black eyes sharp on the approaching stranger.
“Halt!” The first of three guards signed the unspoken
order with the fingers of his left hand. In his right hand he
brandished a blade-tipped glaive that the black mare
sniffed distrustfully as the investigator reined her in.
There had been gentle times in Neveton but this was not
one of them, or the investigator would not be here.
“Do you sign? What is your business here?” The lead
guard’s fingers moved rapidly.
“I was sent for by the day-sheriff, about your murders,” the old man answered in slower sign, his eyes
glimmering in the darkness. “I am Majanar Heska,
Queen’s Investigator.”
“Demon killer,” the guard signed superstitiously, for the
investigator’s deeds were legend even among the nightpeople, and then he made a sign with three fingers that
Majanar didn’t recognize. “I’ll take you to the sheriffs
home. He’s waiting for you.”
“Thank you,” signed the investigator, dismounting
from his horse with a flourish of robes and leading the
tired animal after the guard in the darkness.
The fishing village had a rotten smell. Few lamps lit the
night, and Majanar led the mare carefully. Night-people
mingled along the narrow roads, and they stared openly as
the rich day-man passed by behind the guard. Though
half the village was day-folk, night-people alone filled the
streets beyond the tavern doors, while most day-folk slept.
Despite the bustle, there was no sound of language.
Night-people spoke in tones that day-folk couldn’t hear,
even as the night-people could not hear the speech of dayfolk. In Neveton and elsewhere along the coast, they had
developed a sign-language that allowed them to communicate with day-folk. Still, among themselves the nightpeople spoke with their tongues, and the silent bartering
looked like pantomime to the old man. When he passed a
particularly aggressive fishmonger shouting—silently, it
appeared—to passersby about her wares, his mare’s keen
ears flicked and she shied. The investigator held her head
and patted her damp neck, saying, “Easy, girl. She meant
no harm.” They walked on.
Under the
by Brent J. Giles
Illustrations by Joel Biske
There were lights burning in the lower story of the sheriff’s house, a rarity in the dark fishing village. The nightguard went to knock on the door, and Majanar lifted his
saddle from the mare’s back.
The man who came to the door was younger than
Heska, broader in shoulders and girth but lower in stature. He had a face that matched his build, heavy and flat
with small clear eyes. The green pattern of a sheriff was
woven into his simple tunic. “Investigator!” he said in a
solid voice. “You’ve come at last. We were afraid the message hadn’t arrived.”
“Snow in the mountains,” the investigator explained.
“I came as fast as I could. Are you Sheriff Cappella?”
“I am,” said the sheriff, staring despite himself at the
rich man in the rainy street. “Put your horse away in the
stable behind the house, Investigator. Then come in.
There is important work to do, and we’ll be glad to have
your help. My wife’s gone to bed, but she left food for
The plain room that filled the lower story of the sheriffs
house was lit by a pool of light from a single suspended
lamp. The investigator took a chair at the table and
reached hungrily for the simple fare the sheriffs wife had
left for him. As his eyes adjusted, he saw two night-people
staring at him from the shadows beyond the lamplight.
One was an elderly night-woman who sat patching sails in
the darkness outside the pool of light cast by the lamp. She
frowned at the investigator as he noticed her.
“Reyne,” the sheriff explained. “We share the house
with her. She’s a fisherman’s widow. She doesn’t like us
up at all hours of the night.”
“I share her sentiment,” said Majanar Heska.
“This is the night-sheriff, Dlong,” Cappella added,
pointing out the other night-person in the dark.
All night-people were pale, with colorless gray hair that
hung limply to their shoulders. Their eyes were enormous
and black, and their narrow faces were expressive, but
they had an unhealthy appearance that had nothing to do
with their actual health. The night-sheriff was no exception, though he was a strong, tall man. He rose from his
chair in the dark and bowed gravely to the investigator.
Majanar signed a welcome.
“Oh!” said the day-sheriff in surprise. “You sign! I
didn’t know there were night-people among the queen’s
“I speak the languages of the realm,” said the investigator, signing as he said it so the night-sheriff would understand, “or at least those I am capable of. But the guard
outside made a gesture I didn’t understand.” He imitated
the three-fingered gesture.
The night-sheriff looked suddenly embarrassed. “A
religious ward,” he signed, his fingers swift as albino spiders in the dark. “There is distrust in the city these days.
The murders fuel it.”
The investigator nodded. “Then we’ll have to bring
them to an end,” he signed slowly. “What can you tell
“Seven murders since last autumn,” Cappella signed.
“Night-women, old and young alike, who lived alone or
with children.” The stout man shuddered. “Died in their
sleep, in daytime.”
“The murders take place in daylight,” the night-sheriff
signed, “so they are Cappella’s responsibility. But the
deaths are always among my people.”
“He thinks a day-man has gone mad,” Cappella said
and signed. His sign, like his speech, was firm and
clipped. “Since the murders began, we’ve doubled our
watch and seen nothing. It’s unnatural.”
“Night-people never murder,” signed the night-sheriff.
“Untrue,” signed Cappella. “You let your orphans die.
You can’t take the moral high ground with me, Dlong.”
“I tire of this,” the night-man signed angrily. “If children have no mother or father, they die. It is the way of
the world. Among day-folk, orphans may be taken in by
thieves or scoundrels, but among our people there are no
“Untrue again, I say,” signed Cappella.
“Enough,” signed Majanar Heska tiredly. “The queen
allowed me to come for three days only, and we are wasting time. There are strange happenings in the mines in
the southern hills, and I must hurry there next. You sent
for me because you suspected a demon, the message said.
Unless you have good evidence, Sheriff Cappella, I suggest you stop accusing the supernatural of murder and
look to your own.”
“The victims are poisoned, cunningly,” the night-sheriff
signed. “It is the poison of the sand-fish. The symptoms
are distinctive.”
“It cannot be,” Cappella signed. “The sand-fish’s secretions cease to be poisonous after only a day. And they
cannot be found this time of year. The fishermen throw
the fish back when they are caught—carefully because
their spines are deadly—but they are found only in the
autumn. At first we thought the victims died of natural
poison, but now I say it cannot be. We’re out of season.”
“Someone has found the fish out of season, or kept
them alive magically,” the night-sheriffs spider-hands
“Or mimicked the fish’s poison,” signed Majanar
Heska. “A sorcerer could manage such a thing easily. Is
there one in town?”
“Who’s to say?” signed Cappella. “If we found one, we’d
hang him, murders or no. We have a brewer who we suspect
dabbles in such things, but he is a night-man. A woman
could hide such a skill, or a man if he were cunning.
“There is a killing every few weeks,” signed Cappella.
“We’re a small town, Investigator, and we have had seven
deaths. A few more and even Dlong’s peaceful nightpeople may take up torches and arms.”
“Already there is friction between the fishermen,” the
night-sheriff signed, finally agreeing with his colleague.
“Many of the day-folk share a boat with our people. It is
less expensive to buy half a boat, and there are twice as
many hands at dawn and dusk to unload the catch. I have
personally broken up two scuffles already, and I have seen
close friends separated by suspicion and distrust. I know
you specialize in supernatural killings, Investigator, but I
pray that you can enlighten us in this affair as well.”
“The investigator’s specialty is why I requested him,”
signed the exasperated day-sheriff.
“Most of the cases I investigate are from natural
causes, no matter what the suspicions of the local offi-
cials,” signed Majanar. “One way or another, we will
discover this killer. But if he kills only in the day, then I
will need some sleep tonight, sheriffs. The journey has
been long.”
“Yes, of course,” signed Cappella. “I’ll show you to
your bed upstairs.”
“I will greet you with the dawn,” signed the nightsheriff, “and then it will be my turn to be tired. Good
sleep, Investigator.”
The night-sheriff left the house, and as Cappella led
Majanar upstairs, the investigator signed an apology to
the woman Reyne. She smiled at him and signed with
wrinkled fingers, “Day-men are silent, but their lights are
blinding. Investigator, I hope you can solve these murders. There have been orphans crying under the sun all
“Why don’t you help those children?” the investigator
The old night-woman closed her eyes and shook her
head slowly. Her limp gray hair shimmered in the lamplight. “It is not our way,” she signed. “Good luck, Investigator.” Saying that, she rose and extinguished the lamp,
and the room went black. The sound of water coming off
the roof seemed suddenly loud in the investigator’s ears.
As he went upstairs, he heard the night-woman spread
the sail she was mending across the chair where Dlong had
been sitting, and return to her sewing in the dark.
With morning came the sounds of normal men in the
streets, and now even Majanar Heska could hear the cries
of fishmongers shouting, “Halibut! Blackfish!” in the
squares. It was a little after dawn when he came downstairs and found cloud-filtered sunlight streaming through
the small windows of the room.
“Up early, Investigator?” said Cappella from the table.
The sheriff was eating his breakfast. “This is my wife,
Martha.” His thin wife waved at the investigator. “Join
us,” said Cappella, and Majanar sat down.
“The investigator is a rich man, Jion,” said the sheriffs
wife. “Perhaps he would prefer another place to have
But Majanar was already buttering black bread. “Is
there a pattern to the killings?” he asked Cappella.
“Such discussions at breakfast!” said the sheriffs wife.
“The queen discusses war at breakfast,” Majanar said.
“This is merely a discussion of murder.”
“No pattern,” Cappella said. “The town is small.”
“What about similarities in the buildings where the
victims lived? The architecture seems varied.”
“That’s a strange question,” said Cappella. “Why do
you ask?”
“It’s a strange world,” said Majanar, and ate his bread
in silence.
There was no similarity in architecture, Majanar decided
after he’d seen the third house. Neveton was influenced
by building styles from foreign lands, but the influence
seldom changed the structure of the buildings, merely the
facades. All of these were different.
Nor was there much similarity in the victims, beyond
the obvious fact that they were all night-women. Dlong
had arrived at the day-sheriffs house after breakfast,
wearing a black hat with an enormous brim to shield him
from the daylight. He and Cappella led Majanar around
to empty houses, describing the lives of the dead. At the
seventh house, Majanar sat on the damp front step and
fastened his outer cloak-clasp against the breeze.
“The last victim was an auctioneer?” he asked. Dlong
nodded. “Before that a bread-baker, and a fisherman’s
wife. The first victim’s husband died in the plague, and
then she took up fishing herself to keep her child fed. I
don’t see a pattern there. Do you, Dlong?” he signed.
“It’s the work of a madman,” answered the night-man.
His eyes were watering despite the clouds and the hat.
“Madmen do things randomly. And only day-folk are
“Not a madman,” signed Cappella. “A demon. Demons don’t need reasons.”
“You’re both wrong,” signed the investigator, narrowing his green eyes. “Madmen and what you call demons,
they both have their reasons. Are you sure the first
victim—Yana?—wasn’t poisoned while she was fishing?”
“That was our first thought,” the night-man signed. “It
was said she looked unwell when she came back with her
catch, and the day-men finished the unloading for her. But
she was the first of a pattern, a murder every few weeks.
She’s dead, and her orphan buried, either way.”
“If it is a demon,” Cappella asked Majanar aloud,
“could you destroy it? I’ve heard you fought the demon in
the queen’s own tower twenty years ago, and barely defeated it. Have you faced a demon recently? I hate to say
it, Investigator, but in my eyes you’re an old man. I hear
that demons are ungodly strong.”
“No one ever battles a demon, Sheriff,” signed Majanar, his green eyes flashing for a moment. “You’ve
heard too many stories.” The old investigator scowled
across the cold, wet street as though tasting something
foul. He found himself looking into the unfocused eyes of
a boy.
It was a night-boy, sitting in that cloudy half-light and
trying to die. Dried tears streaked down his thin face,
though whether from grief or the light was hard to say.
The boy had small wrinkles around his eyes. When he
noticed the rich day-man wearing gems, his eyes widened,
and then his interest waned.
Majanar had seen night-orphans before, just as he had
seen murders and wars before, but they did not please
“Tell me, Dlong,” he signed, as the night-man kneeled
down beside him in order to see the sign-language better
in the cloudlit glare, “what will happen to that child?”
The night-sheriff glanced across the street. “He will
die,” he signed.
“Your people always ask the same question,” signed
Dlong tiredly. “The bonds between parents and children
are strong among our people. They cannot be imitated by
well-meaning strangers. This is our way.”
“And the boy knows that?”
“He is not so young. He knows. He was the child of a
family dead of the plague. His father died a week ago, his
mother four days ago.”
“He has been sitting in the streets for four days?”
“Probably.” The night-sheriff sat flat on the ground and
spoke with his mouth in an angry, silent way as he signed
with spider-strong fingers. “You day-folk have no cause to
question our morals, Investigator. Of the last seven thieves
I have jailed, only one was of the night-people. And remember, my responsibility begins after dark. Day-men
cause murders. There has never been a night-person who
murdered, not in this town or any other. We’re on the
trail of one of your murderers now. And you ask me about
orphans.” He shook his head in disgust.
“Do you perform rites for them?” Majanar asked.
“Every autumn when the stars are right,” Dlong replied. “The Orphans’ Fast lasts two nights, and the
priests beat drums that drive the day-folk crazy.”
“Does it work?” the investigator signed.
“Ask a priest. How should I know? Certainly there are
no orphan ghosts wandering about. I’d have them arrested.” He laughed, silently, at his own jest.
“Did the first victim die after the Orphans’ Fast in the
autumn?” Majanar asked.
Dlong thought for a moment before he answered. “No,
a day before the ritual started,” signed the night-sheriff
with spider hands.
“And her orphan a few days after the ritual was completed?” Majanar asked.
Majanar stood up.
“Where to now?” asked Cappella. “A night-priest?”
“No,” said Majanar. “You said there was a brewer who
dabbled in magic. I’ll go to him.”
“A night-man!” signed Dlong excitedly. “And only a
neophyte sorcerer. While you waste time, another of my
people may die!”
“Maybe,” signed the investigator. “But I need the
brewer’s help.”
“His help?”
“Yes,” signed Majanar. “The sun is rising toward
noon, Night-sheriff. Perhaps you should get some sleep
until I have something more definite.”
Dlong nodded, wiping his watering eyes. “Wake me if
something happens, Day-sheriff,” he signed, and walked
away, past the dying orphan boy, back toward his home.
“What was that about?” asked Cappella conspiratorially. “Trying to get rid of him?”
“I’ll get rid of you, too, Sheriff,” Majanar said, “as
soon as you tell me where that brewer is.”
“I resent that, Majanar Heska,” the day-sheriff said
angrily. “He’s a simple brewer. He does tricks during the
annual fair, and that’s the limit of his power.”
“What is his name?” asked Majanar.
“Nobet, I think,” said the sheriff, signing the name.
“He lives on the far hill, there, above the village. I would
prefer to go with you, if you think there’s something to be
learned from him.”
“Yes, Sheriff, I know you would. But if you saw him do
something useful, you would hang him. That might not
help our cause.”
“He’s a mere trickster!”
“If he were more, would he advertise it?” the old man
said. “To you? Go deal with your day-watch, Sheriff. I’ll
tell you what I find.”
The sheriff shook his head and walked away.
“I don’t want trouble for this man, if he helps me,”
Majanar called after him.
“If he helps you, we’ll buy him a cauldron,” said the
sheriff, not looking back.
Majanar began the walk to the brewer’s cottage. “He
doesn’t need one,” he murmured to himself with a smile,
and his green eyes shone.
Majanar knocked on the door of the windowless one-room
hut for two minutes before a small, tired-looking nightwoman in a woolen robe opened it. Her vast eyes widened
when she saw him. When she retreated from the day’s
glare back into the house, he followed her, signing the
brewer’s name.
The brewer himself stood behind his wife. He was holding a weapon of some sort, but in the darkness Majanar
could see only a rusty blade.
“Nobet the brewer?” Majanar signed.
“Yes?” Nobet fumbled with one hand.
“I am one of the queen’s men. I need your help.”
In the dark cottage, the brewer put his weapon down on
the stone floor. His wife climbed the ladder to a loft, leaving the front door open for the day-man’s benefit. The
smell of young children filtered from the loft. This blended with the scent of fermenting liquor that rose from a
stone staircase that descended into the ground below.
Even this far from town, both smells mingled with the
odor of fish.
“How can I help you, sir?” the night-man signed.
“I want to open the spout of your glyph cask.”
The little night-man looked stunned for a moment. “I
don’t know what you mean, sir,” he signed.
“Don’t play stupid,” signed the investigator angrily.
“People are dying—your people—and I need to find out
“I dabble in magic, sir,” the night-man signed, “but
merely for fun. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me,” Majanar signed, his eyes flashing in
the dark, “or I’ll lead you to a noose myself. Simple cask
magic may be illegal around here, but it isn’t in the
queen’s eyes. Being uncooperative is.”
The night-man winced at the mention of a noose. Without a sign, the small man lit a dusty candle from an ember
in the fireplace and gestured for the day-man to follow
him downstairs.
At the end of a shadowy row of casks, in a cellar many
times the size of the cottage above it, the brewer signed,
“Here,” with ghostlike fingers. He pointed to a small cask
set on its side, and already tapped for drinking.
“Powerful magic in the area fouls new brews,” the
night-man explained. “I keep the glyph cask, as you call
it, sir, to make sure no one has been casting lately when I
seal new casks.”
“How does it work?” asked Majanar, squinting at the
brewer’s ghostly hands. Brewers’ magic was a superstitious art. It varied from region to region, even town to
The night-man handed him a small pewter mug that
had been sitting inverted on a shelf. His pale hands
signed, “Close your eyes and fill it, sir, then drink it
down. If a man, day- or night-, has been casting spells
near here, the ale will turn to water as it touches your
“And if a woman?” the investigator signed worriedly.
“It will turn to blood.”
Majanar sighed and closed his eyes. He found the spout
with his hands, filled the mug, and quickly drank the
contents down. He opened his eyes.
“Well?” the brewer signed.
“Not bad ale,” signed Majanar.
“You have learned what you came for?”
“Yes, thank you, Nobet. My name is Majanar Heska,
and I am in your debt.” He walked toward the stairs
where the lighting was better, the amazed night-man trailing behind and looking at him through new eyes. “By the
way,” Majanar signed, “if something other than a man or
a woman were wielding magic, would the glyph cask show
“Now you accuse me of necromancy,” the brewer
signed with his pale hands. “The cask detects life magic. I
have no wish to attract demons.”
“Wise,” Majanar signed. “Very wise.”
Cappella was waiting at the bottom of the hill. “I thought
you were attending to business,” said Majanar to the sheriff as he drew near.
“I am, Investigator,” the sheriff said. “We’ve had another murder.”
“An old widow, thank the gods. No new orphans. Did
you find out anything useful?”
“Yes,” said Majanar. “The night-woman who lives in
your home . . . Is she a mother?”
“You ask strange questions, Majanar Heska. Reyne has
a grown son, and another child died as a babe.”
“Do me a favor, Cappella, and go wake her for me. Tell
her I need her help.”
“What’s all this about, Investigator?” asked the sheriff.
“You were right all along,” said Majanar, smiling grimly.
“A demon? How would the brewer know such a
“Something you would call a demon, and he didn’t
know. If you cause trouble for the man, I’ll have your
“I won’t, then. But you never answered me. Can you
still fight a demon?”
Majanar walked past the sheriff. “Go ask Reyne to
come, Cappella. Then we’ll see. And show me the house
where the woman was murdered today.”
Before Cappella returned, the night-sheriff met Majanar
at the open door of a run-down one-story house. “Another dead, Investigator,” he signed accusingly. “Are you
closer to an answer?”
“Yes,” signed Majanar. “But you won’t like it.” He
pursed his old lips and signed, “If I were to ask the name
of a dead orphan, Dlong, could you give it to me?”
“Are we back to orphans? I am disappointed in you,
“Answer the question.”
The night-man glared, then relented. “Who is the
“The child of the first victim, Yana. No older than two
or three, if I remember correctly.”
The night-sheriff closed his huge eyes, then slowly
opened them again. “My people will accuse me of becoming a day-man if I start asking after dead orphans,” he
“I would risk it,” signed Majanar, “unless you want
them to accuse you of allowing the murders to continue. I
need the name quickly, Dlong. Please hurry.”
Cappella and old Reyne, stooped and holding a scarf over
her face, arrived before the night-sheriff returned.
“Reyne, I need your help,” Majanar signed to her. He
could see nothing but a slice of her vast dark eyes behind
the scarf.
“Why me, sir?” she asked.
He smiled. “You’re the only night-woman I know, and
a man won’t do. This may be frightening, but it needs to
be done. I’ll be beside you. Will you help me?”
“I can try, sir.”
“Good.” Cappella and Reyne sat on the front step of
the cottage, and the investigator paced. He needed to
hurry. Still, something was wrong.
The night-sheriff arrived at a run, squinting and holding his hat-brim with both hands. “I know the orphan’s
name,” he signed as he arrived.
“Thanks. Tell Reyne, here,” signed Majanar. Dlong
mouthed the word to the woman. She nodded.
“This is the name of a child of yours,” signed Majanar
to Reyne.
“I have no such child,” she signed. Her scarf fell from
her face, and her expression was worried and tense.
“You must pretend that you do.”
“How can I pretend that another woman’s child is my
“The other woman is dead.”
“It makes no difference!”
He kneeled down beside her. “If it is against your morals, Reyne, I’m sorry. I can only ask you to try. And this
is the least of the things I will ask you to do. If I need to
find another woman, I will.”
“No. This is the name of a child of mine. Signed, the
name would be ‘Feyna.’ This is the name of a child of
mine.” The old woman closed her eyes and pulled herself
up as though tensing herself for a spring. If she’d ever be
ready, it was now. And not a moment to waste.
The single room of the cottage still contained the old
night-woman’s body, not quite covered by her own bed
sheets, from which a crooked pale hand thrust. The shutters were closed and the room was dim.
“Sit on the floor, please, Reyne,” Majanar signed.
The woman glanced once at the dead woman. Her dark
eyes widened, and she looked back at the night-sheriff. To
Majanar’s relief, the night-man nodded reassuringly to
her. She lowered herself stiffly onto the floor.
“Leave,” the investigator signed to the others. “Come
back after dark. If you hear noises, ignore them. Do nothing unless there is fire.”
“I can’t believe you’d take that fisherman’s widow into
a demon-fight,” said Cappella aloud. “If she dies, I’ll
arrest you, Queen’s Investigator.”
“It’s not a fight,” said Majanar. “It may look like one,
at times, but this one will be quiet.” He hoped. “Leave,
and let us do our work in peace.”
“She doesn’t even know what’s going on!”
“She will. Go.”
At last, grumbling, the sheriffs left and closed the door
behind them. In the darkness Majanar sat down beside
the woman. “Reyne, call for your child,” he signed.
“Yes. Call as though you’ve lost a young child, age two
or three. Can you do that?”
“Yes.” She pursed her old lips and her face went wild
with fear as though she’d lost such a child in the busy
streets of Neveton. To the day-man’s ears her calls were
silent. When she glanced at him he nodded. It was merely
an act on her part, but it was a start.
If they were too late, if it had moved on like a cold wind
in the streets, Majanar knew the killer would not be found
in time to prevent another murder. Every moment the
ignorant sheriffs delayed might have cost another life.
Still, the old man felt uneasy. If the brewer had tricked
him . . . But that wasn’t it. He was sure of the cause of
the murders. And who better to call the demon home than
this brave old widow? If he could guide her . . .
Something under the bed moved.
Reyne stopped calling. Her huge eyes opened wide and
she backed against the wall.
“Call for your child! Call! Call!” the investigator
signed. The motion under the bed subsided.
Reyne glanced at him and took a deep breath. She
Movement again, after a moment, rising dust and large
black eyes in the darkness.
From under the bed came a child, a night-boy no older
than two years. It was skinny and wrinkled unlike a child,
naked and pitiful yet terrible to behold. It stood uncertainly, looking at Reyne. After a moment it reached out to the
bed and grasped the dead hand of the corpse there.
“An orphan,” she signed, no longer calling. Her vast dark
eyes were filled with terror, and her bird-hands shivered.
“Call to your child,” signed Majanar. “Call to it!” Now
he realized his mistake. This child had killed without realizing it. It could do so again, if it grew angry or frustrated, and for the first time in a long life of dealing with
spirits, nothing Majanar could say would prevent that.
Only the fisherman’s widow could speak to it, console it,
care about it.
But a night-woman cared nothing for another woman’s
“Call to the child!” he signed exaggeratedly. “Call your
She saw his growing terror. Eyes wide, she called, tentatively at first, then more desperately, fearing perhaps for
her own life. The tiny form beside the bed shifted uncertainly and let go of the dead woman’s hand.
The child came, slowly, something malevolent in its
huge, faded eyes. As it came it grew less gaunt, developed
baby fat. Every few inches it stopped and looked at the
woman and the investigator uncertainly, and the fisherman’s widow called to it, desperately and silently, and the
child came forward again.
Too slow, thought Majanar. A day-child would run to a
kind woman’s arms, after losing its mother. Her appearance made no difference, not to a spirit. It was the feeling
that mattered. The love was important. The mother’s
But night-women had no feelings for other women’s
orphans. This ghost-child could never be stopped, not
until the autumn ritual. When it reached this uncaring,
incessantly calling woman, it would kill her the way it had
seen its mother die. She would show the symptoms of the
venom of the sand-fish that had poisoned its mother. The
child had died just after the Orphans’ Fast, so its spirit
had not yet been put to rest. It was too young to understand why it had been abandoned. Such pain and confusion in life could spawn a demon in death. And yet, in
spite of its awesome powers, this was simply a child crying
for its mother.
The child would kill Reyne, then Majanar. Then it
would stalk the town until the autumn ritual, orphans
multiplying, or until night-people fled and day-folk alone
lived here.
And then, perhaps, it would hunt the day-folk, whose
voices it could not hear, until the town faded away and the
child wandered through the empty husks of buildings and
killed unsuspecting travelers, from now until the end of
The child reached the woman. The young boy stood
awkwardly as a toddler will, and reached out his small
hand toward her face. For an instant, Majanar considered
grabbing the fisherman’s widow and running from the
room. But though the child had been slow, it was now too
For a moment they remained there, the kneeling woman and the standing child, so near touching and as far
apart as life is from death. For a moment the old investigator watched his miscalculation unfold before him.
The child smiled at the woman who called his name. It
was an uncertain smile, in the darkness of the room. And
the woman smiled uncertainly back. The child climbed,
heavy as a living boy, into her arms.
She called the child’s name in his ear, and he laughed
silently and played with her limp gray hair, eyes closed,
fist clenched in the fabric of her gown.
It seemed to Majanar that they lived in the time of the
dead, in that time before nightfall. For every hour beyond
the cottage walls, barely a minute passed within, while the
child laughed and the widow cried, and the investigator
watched transfixed.
Darkness grew in the shuttered room as the sun set, and
fishermen’s work songs rose in the darkening air. When
the glow from the sun faded in the east, the child also
faded until the woman held only empty air.
“You’ve done it,” signed Majanar, but Reyne’s eyes
were closed, her hands clasped against her breast.
After dark, the sheriffs came back into the room and saw
the pair sitting where they had been four hours before.
“I heard crying,” signed Dlong worriedly.
“Your ‘demon’ is gone,” signed Majanar. “I’ll leave in
the morning. Take care of Reyne, please, Night-sheriff.”
Dlong nodded.
“I’ll take you home,” said Cappella.
“Thank you, Sheriff,” the investigator said, “but I
think I’ll stay at an inn tonight. No fault to your wife, but
I’m in the mood for ale.”
The working-songs of the fishermen came in on the morning breeze as Majanar tightened his mare’s saddle cinch.
There had been no farewell from the sheriffs. In a few
weeks, with no more murders, they’d be grateful, but by
then he’d be at the mines to the south. Then, perhaps,
Someone tapped his shoulder. He turned.
“Reyne!” he signed.
“Investigator. That was an evil trick,” she signed, her
old black eyes gleaming under a hat like the nightsheriffs.
“I’m sorry”’ he signed. Another advantage of leaving
town in a hurry, he thought. Not fast enough, this time.
“Would the child have continued . . . killing?” she
“Until the autumn ritual, at least.”
“I’ve talked with the night-sheriff. We’re going to try
“Try what?”
“I can care for a few children. The day-sheriffs wife
will help me. It will be hard to convince another nightperson to help.”
“Dlong told me not to lecture him about morality.”
“We’re taught to ignore the orphans, but we’ll try your
way and see. I could never stand it, hearing them cry.”
“I’m glad,” he signed. He led his horse into the stable
yard and mounted, the thread of the queen’s pattern on
his cloak catching the morning sun. He smiled at Reyne
and she at him, her huge eyes watering in the daylight.
Then he rode out of town, inland toward the hills far away
to the south.
1994 by Ken Carpenter
Photography by Don Witmer, painting by Ken Carpenter
Storm Angle (Global Games)
Despite all those times that your parents
told you not to fight at the table, for every
rule there is an exception—table-top miniatures games in this case. In this column, I’ll
take a special look at terrain for table-top
games, from hills and rivers to structures
and barricades.
While most miniatures games point out
that you don’t need miniatures terrain to
play, giving examples of representing hills
with books, woods with cotton balls, etc.,
many gamers eventually tire of a game
table that looks more like a magazine rack
or bathroom counter. Sooner or later they
start looking for some terrain to add that
extra touch of realism to their gaming
Miniatures games span a number of
scales, from the l/l200+ scales of space
battle games to the 28-mm scales of some
fantasy games. Consequently, in order to
112 FEBRUARY 1995
fill the needs of gamers, miniatures terrain
comes in all shapes and sizes.
In addition to differing scales, your choice
of terrain will be affected by the various
genres you play. Futuristic games, such as
the WARHAMMER 40K*, Star Wars* Miniatures Battles, and FLASHPOINT* games, can
make use of all manner of strange, alien
terrain. Historical games, such as the WRG* ,
FIRE &. FURY*, and DBM* games, are likely
to use more traditional, realistic terrain.
Fantasy game systems, such as the
Explanation of Ratings
1 Slag, a good doorstop
2 Poor, for die-hards only
3 Well below average, needs work
4 Below average, but salvageable
5 Standard, average quality
FANTASY BATTLES* rules, can make use of
both traditional and fantastic terrain.
The choice is yours, based on your interests and those with whom you play. The
surface of the table is yours to create. If
you use fantastic terrain, you may even
enjoy creating special rules for it, making
it more than just a piece of terrain—it
becomes an active element of the game.
I favor a traditional table top with one or
two pieces of fantastic terrain, such as a
small crystal forest, or some strange plantlife. Not strange enough to interfere with
play, but enough to liven up the table's
appeal. I have, however, seen some pretty
cluttered tables that worked out okay. The
first time I saw the local convention's
WARHAMMER 40K tournament terrain
set-up I was stupefied. (I suppose I should
be used to that feeling by now.) nearly
every square inch had some sort of terrain
on it. Much to my amazement, the players
enjoyed themselves, terrain and all.
The following is a very small cross section of what's available in the way of tabletop terrain. The actual range of miniatures
terrain is nearly limitless, and the price
ranges are almost as vast, from very reasonable to exorbitant.
So much for indulging my own curiosity
and fascination these last couple of
columns. As an avid role-player and rabid
miniatures gamer, I have always had an
attraction for accessories and terrain in
miniature scales. I just wanted to share a
little of that with you. Next time we scour
the market for some of the best miniatures products in the science-fiction genre.
As always, I welcome your comments
and suggestions. You can write me at:
From the Forge, PO. Box 9, Murrieta CA
92564. Until next time . . .
6 Good, definitely worth your perusal
7 Great, have you seen this yet?
8 Excellent, you have to see this!
9 Incredible, where can I get one?
10 No mortal hands produced this!
Global Games Company
136 Geary Ave. Unit 215A
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M6H 4H1
Voice: (416) 516-9118 Fax: (416) 516-4690
Mail Order: No
#3020 Storm Angel
Sculptor: Dave Summers
Scale: 28 mm
Technical: 4 Artistic: 9
Cost: $8.95
Value: 7
Editor’s Note: The following review was
slated to appear in Ken’s last column—
DRAGON® issue #212. Due to space considerations, the review was cut. However,
Ken’s reference to the below figure under
the “Best of Show” headline was not deleted. Ken selected the Storm Angel as one
of his “Gamer’s Best of Show” winners. We
apologize to all involved for the confusion
that resulted from the oversight.
—Dale “D’oh” Donovan
One of the most formidable figures in
the Black Empire’s forces, the Storm Angel
is a must for any LEGIONS OF STEEL
player. This figure is an incredible example of detail work.
Unfortunately, the casting doesn’t do the
figure justice. There are visible parting
lines and a few areas of flash where the
mold has broken down. A little work is
required to reclaim this figure, but it’s
worth it.
The model comes in four pieces: the
base piece, the shield, the heavy lance
(energy weapon), and the three-flared
shoulder piece. All of the pieces attach
easily, requiring little or no putty.
I was truly amazed at the detail of this
piece. The Black Empire is typified by
ornate armor and gear, but this goes beyond even that. Only a few sculptors are
capable of work like this, and Dave Summers is one of them. Fine lines and etchings cover nearly every surface of this
The Storm Angel is a specially trained
leader equipped with Steel Raptor armor,
which is ridden into battle. If you look
closely, you will see that the rider’s legs lay
along side the tail of the mobile suit. While
recognizing that the filing will take a little
time, I couldn’t recommend this figure
more highly.
Reaper Miniatures
1660 S. Stemmons, Ste. 220
Lewisville TX 75067
Voice: (214) 434-3088 Fax: (214) 436-3002
Mail Order: Yes
Catalog: $2.00
#TD 005 through 007 Armored
DAIMYO* line
Sculptor: Staff
Cost: $ .90 each
Scale: 25 mm
Technical: 6 Artistic: 7
Value: 8
Armored Samurai (Reaper Miniatures)
Fireplace, Cave Entrance, & Control Panels (Stone Mountain)
Reaper’s DAIMYO line is a great series of
oriental figures. These three figures, while
sold separately, show a diversity of poses
for their armored samurai.
There are a few minor mold lines on
each figure, but clean up is simple and no
detail is threatened. A small amount of
flash can be found in tight areas, like the
small opening in the curve of a right samurai’s arm or between the legs.
The detail is very good, which is an
accomplishment considering the composite
nature of samurai armor. Each samurai is
wearing a mask and is poised for action.
The two swordsmen have some motion in
their stances while the bowman draws a
steady bead on his target.
The masks are sharply detailed and
rough looking, as was the nature of such
masks. The clothing and armor is well
positioned and detailed appropriately.
Painting will be a challenge—you might
want to check out a book on samurai
dress and armor, to be sure you get the
color schemes.
At $.90 per figure, these figures are a
great value.
Stone Mountain Miniatures,
P.O. Box 594
Broomfield CO 80038
Voice: (303) 654-7989 Fax: (303) 659-9024
Mail Order: Yes
Catalog: $4.00
#FAN140 Troll Head & Stone
#FAN115 Cyclopean Cave Entrance
#FAN516 Control Panels
Sculptor: David Babb
Scale: 25 mm
Cost: $5.95, $5.95, & $6.95
Technical: 7 Artistic: 7
Value: 6
Well-designed accessories, perfect for
gaming and modeling uses, these sets are a
small sampling of the huge FANTASTIC
WORLDS line of figures and accessories.
These are seamless resin castings—there
are, however, a few small bubbles. Small
bubbles don’t cause too many problems,
and they can be corrected by filling with
The two fireplaces, great for any fantasy
setting, will lend warmth to your gaming.
(Sorry.) A good paint job will really show
off the detail. The cyclopean cave enDRAGON
For use with futuristic games, the resin
dome and weapon array sets will add a
level of detail to your table that you’ve
been missing out on until now!
There are few areas of excess material,
(making this a very clean set. The only
notable clean-up are the bottoms of the
bases, which need to be sanded level—a
quick and simple job. Please pay attention
to the instructions on washing the resin
pieces before priming, or a great paint job
may be lost when the paint peels away.
The dome is highly detailed and comes
with a separate, metal door. The weapon
set comes with three interchangeable
turrets for use with the dome, each with
its own weapons; a huge mortar-like cannon, an energy cannon of some sort, and a
missile battery. These pieces have a rough
concrete texture and the detail is great.
The dome is a bit pricey, but the weapons array set is very reasonable, averaging
out to the rating above. These are great
terrain pieces that will add that hi-tech
touch you’re looking for.
Alien Rock Outcropping (Stone Mountain)
Grendel Productions Ltd.
80 Jane Street
Edinburgh EH6 5HG
United Kingdom
Distributed in the U.S. by
Heartbreaker Hobbies & Games
1260 E. Woodland Ave.
Springfield PA 19064
Voice: (215) 544-9052 Fax: (215) 544-9052
Mail Order: Yes
Catalog: Free
Large Dome &* Weapon Array (Stone Mountain)
trance, also useful for fantasy settings, is a
single, relatively flat piece that may need
support when in use. The detail of these
sets, including both sculpting and texture,
is very good and crisp enough that it will
help with painting during washing and
drybrushing. The price is about average
for resin castings of this size and quality.
I am particularly fond of the control
panels—the style is perfect for Space Opera scenes. The price on this set is great,
considering you get three different control
stations. Again, the detail is good. Accessories like this can really spice up play, or
add necessary detail to that vignette you’re
working on.
#FAN532 Alien Rock Outcropping
#FAN 100 Log Barricades
Sculptor: David Babb
Cost: $6.95 & $5.95
Scale: 15-25 mm
Value: 6
Technical: 8 Artistic: 7
The alien rock pack contains three crystalline rock outcroppings of varying sizes
while the log barricades includes two
corner sections and two straight sections.
All make great additions to a table-top
114 FEBRUARY 1995
There are no visible lines, rough spots,
and no pitting. The bottoms will need a
little sanding and a hobby knife will prove
useful for trimming a small amount of
excess material from the barricades.
The alien rocks are great! There are
three sizes of rock, with a common shape.
Some sort of mold, fungus, or grass grows
along the bottom of the smaller bases and
along the top of the larger. Painting the
crystal will be a challenge, if you try to
stay true to natural crystal coloring. An
amber or smokey topaz coloring would be
The log barricades are well done, supported with dirt and heavy rails driven
into the ground. Cut log ends show the
heart of the tree, and the bark is heavy
with a rough texture. Assembled into one
structure, it’s about 8” long, plenty of
room for that small unit of archers.
#FAN536 Large Dome/Bunker
#FAN537 Weapons Array for Dome
(3 types)
Sculptor: David Babb
Cost: $11.95 each
Scale: 15-25 mm
Value: 6
Technical: 8 Artistic: 8
#F0015 Orc Outpost
GRENDEL* imported
Sculptor: Peter Flannery
Scale: 25 mm
Technical: 5 Artistic: 7
cost: $19.95
Value: 5
The Orc Outpost comes with a three-orc
tent, a stone hut, and a banner. A great
addition for any fantasy table-top scene,
this set will finally give the orcs something
to defend!
Otherwise very clean, this set did have a
few problems where the mold filled in too
thin, like with weapon blades and the
support beams for the hut’s roof. The hut
didn’t quite fill all the way, leaving the
bottom slightly uneven, but sandpaper will
cure that.
The tent and roof of the hut are wonderfully detailed as sagging cloth and the
stonework of the hut is great. The hut’s
doorway is an animal hide blanket while
the outside is adorned with shields and
skins. Leaning against the tent are a couple of spears and a shield. Even a simple
thing like the banner is a marvelous piece
of work. The only thing that I didn’t like
were the strange looking skulls, but that’s
a matter of taste.
2126 North Lewis
Portland, OR 97227
Voice: (503) 288-4805 Fax: (503) 288-8992
Mail Order: Yes
#GSCB-01 Streets and Highways
#GSCB-02 Downtown Blocks
Gamescape City-Blox* line
Scale: 6 mm to 15 mmCost: $11.95 & 19.95
Technical: 7 Artistic: 7
Value: 5
City-Blox are designed for use with GeoHex’s Gamescape products. Streets and
Highways gives you 13’ of roads plus a
number of intersections. Downtown
Blocks gives you 18 city blocks on which
to move your miniatures, from mechs to
vehicles to character models.
Screen printed in gray and black on
white fabric, the effect is quite nice. The
Streets and Highways set is a good value
and serves a much needed role in modern
and futuristic miniatures gaming, While it
was possible to get decent looking dirt
roads, there just weren’t any good paved
roads until now.
The blocks are graphed in quarter-inch
squares and the roads have white line
medians. The quad-rule fades in some of
the blocks, and the sidewalk breaks up in
a couple of places, but the overall quality
is very good.
The downtown blocks mat is 36” X 22”
and broken up into 18 blocks—6 large and
12 small. It can be cut into smaller, modular chunks for rearrangement. A very
useful tool for miniatures gaming or even
role-playing in 15 mm scale, it may be a
little expensive for some folks.
Orc Outpost (Grendel)
Terrain Specialties
258 E. 100 S.
Salt Lake City UT 84111
Voice: (801) 328-3387 Fax: (801) 328-3389
Mail Order: Yes
#HP31 1” Small Regular Hills (5)
#HP42 1” Medium Rough Edge
Hills (3)
Scale: Any
Cost: $6.00, $10.00
Value: 8
Technical: 9 Artistic: 7
These are good looking and pretty durable hills for your table-top gaming. Also
available are 24” terrain squares used as a
terrain base. They include plain grass,
rivers, ponds, or roads.
The hills are made of expanded, heavy
polystyrene, coated with some sort of a
felt-like surface. The surface doesn’t come
off with rubbing or light scraping, so it
ought to hold up for quite a while with
normal use. The hills hold up to a decent
amount of abuse, but don’t be too brutal—
it is, after all, polystyrene.
There are two styles of hills: regular
(slopped), and rough edged (self explanatory). You can see the difference in the picture. Both are a great deal. Having made
quite a bit of my own terrain, requiring a
major investment of time, I appreciate a
reasonably priced, off-the-shelf alternative.
Streets & Downtown Blocks (Geo-Hex)
Hills (Terrain Specialties)
#604 Wide River System
#604 Basic Set River System
#725 Short Log Bridge
Game Table Accessories line
Sculptor: Leo Walsh (& Mark Allspach on
the basic river)
Scale: 10 mm-25 mmCost: $8.00, $8.00, $5.00
Technical: 6 Artistic: 7
Value: 8
Each river system comes as an eightpiece, resin set that assembles to give you
32 + ” of great river terrain! The log
bridge is meant for the wide river system,
but TCS has smaller bridges for the basic
river system.
The pieces have occasional pitting problems, but they are minor and should disappear during painting. The connecting edges
match pretty well, though a couple need
trimming in order for the edges to be flush.
After sanding the bottoms, very little trimming of excess material is needed.
Along the edges of both river sizes is a
slight mound that can be painted as either
dirt or grass. The sets contain a mixture of
straight sections, gentle turns, tighter
turns, and the wide system even contains
two specialty pieces. The specialty pieces
consist of a very tight turn, and an adapter
piece which allows you to connect the
wide river set to the basic river system.
The bridge has a great wood grain and a
dirt road that leads up to it on either side. It
fits very well between most of the wide
river pieces. If you’ve priced resin terrain
pieces lately, you know that these are great
prices for sets of this size and quality.
Cottage (Tactical Conflict Systems)
Alternative Armies
Unit 6, Parkway Court
Glaisdale Parkway
Nottingham, England NG8 4GN
Voice: (0602) 287809 Fax: (0602) 287480
Distributed in the U.S. by
River Systems (Tactical Conflict Systems)
The Armory
Tactical Conflict Systems
545 Newport Ave. Ste 155
Pawtucket RI 02861
Voice: (401) 437-9820 Fax: (401) 437-9630
Mail Order: Yes
Catalog: $1.00
#ER-32 Thatch and Stucco
Cottage (II)
Euro Buildings line
Sculptor: Leo Walsh
Scale: 20-25 mm
cost: $7.00
Technical: 6 Artistic: 7
Value: 8
Cast in resin as a solid piece, this cottage
isn’t going to move any time the table is
bumped, and it will make a great addition
to your collection of gaming accessories.
The casting is very good but there is
some pitting, a regular occurrence in resin
products. There isn’t a lot of pitting, however, and most of it will disappear as you
paint. There are a couple of areas that I
would fill with putty and allow to dry
before painting, those being detailed areas
116 FEBRUARY 1995
such as window sills or doors. You also
will want to use a knife to trim away the
traces of excess resin at the base of the
The detailing of the walls, windows,
doors, and chimney is very good. The
thatch roof is well above the average for
similar products I’ve seen. The overall
impression of this cottage is great, and it
gives just the right feel for table-top miniatures games and could even find use as a
prop in role-playing games.
Anyone who’s looked at the prices of
scale buildings lately will know that this is
a great price. I’ve seen 1/300 scale, with
the same level of detail, priced at $12-$15,
so I’m excited to see some reasonable,
even inexpensive, prices.
TCS also sells finished (painted)
products, but only through mail order and
at a reasonably higher price. The catalog
details which products are available finished and the cost.
1101 Greenwood Road
Baltimore MD 21208
Voice: (410) 602-8000 Fax: (410) 602-8140
Mail Order: Yes
Catalog: $5.00
#HOT21 Defenses
#HOT22 Fortifications
Sculptor: Staff
Scale: 15 mm-25 mm
Technical: 7 Artistic: 7
cost: £2.50
Value: 6
Great for 15-mm or 25-mm scales, these
defenses will give your army some well
detailed positions to hold against overwhelming odds. Then again, who wants to
hold anything against overwhelming
odds—run, you fools!
Each set has a few minor mold lines that
clean away easily with hobby knife or file.
Other than that, these are clean models.
The defenses include two wooden archery walls and two wooden barricades. The
walls are simple, though they have a nice
Continued from page 4
Defenses and Fortifications (Alternative Armies)
Scavengers (Grenadier)
wood grain. The barricades are great!
They are made of a wooden door, a few
heavy staves, some barrels, boxes, and
even some sacks. A couple of spears lean
against the barricades in readiness.
The fortifications include two short
wooden fences and two stone walls. The
wooden fences are sharpened at the tips
to discourage climbing while one of the
stone walls is topped with split rocks for
the same purpose.
All of the pieces are well sculpted,
though the barricades and shale topped
rock wall are by far the most impressively
detailed. The price in the US, assuming
you can find it, would be about $5 or $6.
Any miniatures game would profit by the
appearance of these pieces.
As we have come to expect from this
line, the attention to detail takes these
figures far beyond the norm. For example,
take the nasty guy with the raised pistol.
Aside from the canteen, carrying case, and
ammo pouches at his belt, he carries a
rifle tucked into the bedroll on his back
and there is a small, iron cross medal on
his left breast. The rends and tears in his
clothes tell his life’s story.
The second figure, with his gas maskcovered face and all manner of gear
strapped on his back, is also very cleverly
done. I can’t wait to see what’s next in this
line. Getting two figures like this for $4.00
is a great deal in my estimation.
Grenadier Models, Inc.
Best of Show
P.O. Box 305
Springfield PA 19064
Voice: (800) 843-2015 Fax: (215) 583-9425
Catalog: $3.00
Mail Order: Yes
This issue’s choice for Gamer’s BoS is
Grenadier’s Scavengers. Ya, I know it was
one of the few gaming blisters in this
column, but it would have taken incredible competition to keep it out of the winners’ circle anyway. The Scavengers are a
striking pair of futuristic survivors that
will do what it takes to make it through,
one day at a time.
For modeler’s BoS (or should we call it
terrainer’s BoS for this issue?), we have
Stone Mountain Miniatures’ Weapons
Array for Dome and TCS’s Wide River
System. The weapons arrays are so well
designed and detailed that they just have
to be on any SF miniatures table. The wide
river is a great value for 15-mm to 25-mm
games and will doubtlessly grace many of
my future table-top games.
Terrain Specialties’ hills come in as a
close runner-up, and a great value as well.
#1501 Scavengers
Sculptor: Mark Copplestone
Scale: 25 mm
cost: $4.00
Technical: 7 Artistic: 8
Value: 8
Another blister from Grenadier’s FUTURE WARRIORS line (one of my absolute
favorites), these scavengers from a Mad
Max-like world appear to have had a
rough life.
There are minimal parting lines and
little flash. The only rough area is under
the right arm of the guy with the raised
pistol. The other figure is picture perfect.
Clean up should be fast and easy. The
figures come with round, plastic bases.
118 FEBRUARY 1995
Second, my military base abruptly closed, and
I was swept off to another before I ever received my first subscription copy. As any exserviceman knows, the military postal service is
seldom cited for its speed or attention to
change-of-address forms. That’s how September
and October flew by and I was still without my
My wonderful wife, witnessing my woe and
sensing my sorrow, took it upon herself to write
to TSR and explain the situation.
Two weeks later I simultaneously received issues
#209 and 210, which had been delayed at my old
APO box, and I received issues #209 and 210 from
the diligent men and women at TSR who just
wanted to make sure I got what I paid for.
All I can say is thanks so much for thinking of
me, the customer. In a world where some companies would have asked for a change of address and left me out to dry, it is good to know
that there are still people out there who care.
Thanks for being there. Thanks for producing
such great products. Thanks for opening my
mind to new and wonderful worlds. Thanks for
introducing me to the greatest artist in our
time, Larry Elmore. Thanks for helping to
pioneer and engineer the finest and most powerful teaching tool on earth, role-playing.
I am returning the extra copies of DRAGON
Magazine to you. Maybe someone who has
never experienced the thrill of rushing an orc
scouting party on a cold night beneath a
hunter’s moon will find one of these copies on a
shelf in a bookstore in some quiet town. And
just maybe that someone’s eyes will open and
their imagination will soar to new heights
like mine did.
Role-players are a tight group, and an exotic
breed; we have to stick up for each other. A
very close friend of mine would often tell me,
“If we split up the party here, who will watch
your back?” I don’t know why, but I feel that
phrase is somehow pertinent here.
Thank you for your time, and for helping me.
Dino Sorrelle
We usually don’t publish pat-on-the-back
letters, but this one obviously comes from
Dino’s heart fin other words, he didn’t write it
in the hope that it would be printed). And
publishing it gives us a chance to say thanks in
return to Dino and the countless other people
around the world who appreciate and respect
what we’re trying to do. Sometimes it’s easy to
get so immersed in a job that you lose sight of
the real reason you’re doing that job, and it’s
letters like this one that help to remind all of us
at TSR why we’re here. —Kim, Dale, Larry and
DRAGON Magazine
Only a game? You bet!
Want only the best for your gaming dollars? See “Role-playing Reviews” in
this issue for expert advice on the best
role-playing games you can find!
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