Saturday, February 27, 2010

Barbarians, Bandits, and Ballyhoo (Part Three)

This is the last blog in the series dedicated to Dragon #63 (July 1982), the magazine that served as the single most influential piece of reading for my neophyte understanding of what a role-playing game could be, right after the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The Humanoids
This article offered an in-depth review of the societies, cultures, and gods of the kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, and gnolls. The Monster Manual obviously gave us a decent overview, but this piece really went the distance. Again I found material that helped us to differentiate between these nasty foes with something more their physical appearance and typical panoplies. I'm quite certain the monsters' evil deities found their way into Unearthed Arcana and 2nd Edition's Monstrous Mythology handbook. Nomog-Geaya (the patron hobgoblin deity of war) is still my favorite mythical figure from the D&D game.

Plan Before You Play
Ed Greenwood wrote this one, and he even mentions his homebrew setting Forgotten Realms within its pages. Who knew that before the decade ended we would see its release as a long-lived popular commercial franchise? That aside, this article really helped me to put some thought into the loosely-defined world where our campaigns unfolded. In those days, I didn't go much beyond the range of a few kingdoms and regions - which was all right - we didn't have globe-trotting journeys usually - but it was nice to have something more than just completely generic medieval towns separated by generic dangerous wilderness. Greenwood's nuts-and-bolts approach was perfect.

For the Sake of Change
The magazine also had an article based on coinage, citing historical examples and encouraging game masters to try out something more exciting than the old copper and gold pieces. They should have regional origins, names, and values. 

Chagmat and Devas
Dragon #63 also included the adventure 'Chagmat', which kind of confused me with the spiderfolk's weird gem-operated chambers but was fun to play nonetheless. I think the cavern encounters on Little Boy Mountain were as fun as the actual chagmat lair. I still laugh about the ogre named Muddah Rateater. I also liked the dangerous chasm where the PCs and the hobgoblin sentries could knock each over the edge of the bridge (there was a great illustration of a hobgoblin getting shoved over with a spear thrust).

Finally, we get the first sight of the devas, angelic (sort of) creatures who served the good deities of the game's pantheon. I believe they made it into the Monster Manual II hardback a few years later. In some ways, they seem more frightening than the D&D fiends. 

That's all for the D&D epiphanies for this week. I'll do another series later on.

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