The Magic Tree


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Communication is such an integral part of our lives that we often forget its importance. The impact of telephone, radio and television upon society cannot be overestimated, yet we ignore and accept them without thinking.

Since most fantasy worlds are set in 'medieval' milieu, they might appear rather limited in the field of communication. Technology in the Middle Ages was responsible mostly for war engines and weaponry, since Man has always preferred to resolve arguments with violence rather than words. Very few people could read or write, so information was conveyed by word of mouth for the most part. Interaction between towns and cities consisted of news and tales told by passing merchants and travellers. This news was often inaccurate (the teller would have heard it from someone who heard it from someone else who.. .) and sometimes completely untrue. Villages were built on the roads between towns, and took advantage of them by having inns, stables and blacksmiths; a weary traveller could rest at the inn while his horse was reshod. The villagers, eager for news of the outside world, would press the traveller for information - the offer of a drink could loosen the most exhausted tongue. I expect that a good storyteller would be greatly welcomed by the inn's regulars, whether the tales were true or not; he might, in return, learn something of his destination (the origin of the infamous Rumour Table). Travellers were not great in number, however. The average man was likely to grow up, marry, and die within ten miles of his birthplace. It is not hard to understand why any news was appreciated.

Written communication was common among the educated classes. Since the educated were rich, they could afford servants to carry messages. Envoys and emissaries were often used by the rulers to make sure that the laws were upheld in every part of the land. Proof of their authority consisted of a signed charter bearing the ruler's seal. The messages that they brought were handwritten; the first form of printing appeared in the middle of the fifteenth century, however, so you might like to include printing devices in your game. If you do so, however, beware: the printed word carries an aura of authority and power that has caused revolution and reform.

So much for history - what about fantasy? When you consider the factors which actually make it fantasy - the abundance of adventurers, the reality of magic, the existence of monsters - it becomes obvious that a rational fantasy world could be far removed from its historical foundations. This depends, of course, on the extent of the fantastic elements in your roleplaying game: the existence of unicorns wouldn't drastically alter a medieval society, since they were believed to exist anyway; religious magic, on the other hand, would reinforce the people's faith and consequently priests would become the most important people in the land.

Let us re-examine communication in the light of this. Our fantasy world contains many wealthy people, rich from their days of adventure, who would undoubtedly benefit from being able to communicate with distant towns and castles. One way to fill this gap would be to have a Guild of Messengers and Carriers. The Guild would consist of trained riders, who would carry letters and small items to their destination for a fee. If set routes and strict delivery times were used the fee could be reduced to a reasonable price, since one rider may carry many letters. Awkward or dangerous destinations could be handled by armed riders, although the Guild would not undertake a mission whose risk was too great.

The riders themselves would probably use horses for mundane deliveries; since this is fantasy, however, there is no reason why stranger, unnatural beasts should not be used. Flying creatures such as the gryphon makes excellent steeds if tamed.

Bonfires have long been used as a means of signalling. In the sixteenth century, a chain' of pyres was built along the southern coastline of England to warn of the Spanish Armada. Each pyre was within sight of the next, and a watch was maintained at each. If the Spanish ships were sighted, the beacon was to be lit. The flames would be seen by the next watchman, who would light his beacon, and so the signal would pass along the chain to Plymouth, alerting the Navy and preparing the coast for invasion.

The system could be improved: more than one beacon at each point would mean more than one possible message, for example. The fires are still prone to bad weather, however, and a false alarm would disable the system for hours. A better idea would be to use heliographs - signalling mirrors - to convey messages in a sort of morse code of flashes. Using the sun during the day, and lamps or magical illuminations during the night, an effective relay network could be devised which would only be stopped by overclouding or fog. The information would travel much faster than a messenger, but could be more expensive remembering the number of trained codesmen involved. Such a system is best suited to a dry, sunny environment, where weather conditions are unlikely to cause problems. A two-mirrored heliograph, using one large concave mirror focusing the sunlight onto a smaller transmitter mirror, would allow signalling even when the sun was behind the signalman.

Alternative technology can provide many strange and diverse methods of communication, some based on existing devices. A large kite, for example, could be flown as a sign; it might even lift a lamp, allowing night signals. A gas or hot-air balloon would also work, without the difficulties of launch and support. Such aerial objects could easily fly strings of flags or pennants in the same manner as ships. Historically, flag messages were the only ship-to-ship communications before the introduction of radio (unless you include shouting!), and were so widely used that an International Flag Code was agreed upon. 'England expects... ' was flown on Nelson's flagship Victory using the IFC, and is still flying today.

In his novel Pavane, Keith Roberts created a world in which communication is controlled by the Guild of Signallers. The actual method of communication involves large wooden towers like windmills; instead of sails, the towers have two large semaphore arms. The towers are spread across the country in a network, each within telescope range of the next, and messages were relayed from tower to tower until they reach their destination. Torches or lamps are attached to the arms at night or in light fog, and the system is only defeated by heavy fog or driving snow. The semaphore code is meaningless to everyone but the Signallers, who are respected by the common people. An apprentice signalman has to undergo intensive training and pass rigorous tests before he becomes a Guildsman.

It is easy to see that a power that controls all communication will quickly become aware of everything that is going on in the country. Such a power will come to be relied upon for information; imagine what might happen if the power found it beneficial to 'alter' certain messages before they arrived... Consider also what might happen if the power threatened to strike unless demands were met (imagine the effect on our own country if telephone, television, radio and even the Post Office suddenly ceased to function!). The power of communication should not be underestimated.

Magic in roleplaylng games is almost entirely offensive, or at least geared to combat, proving again the preference of killing to communication. Using such magi: for signalling is possible although it is seldom advantageous when compared with normal means. A fireball could' be fired into the air as a signal, but a normal arrow dipped in pitch and set alight would be just as noticeable if fired into the air, and could be used by anybody. Indeed, the Japanese invented an arrow fitted with reeds that whistled as it flew - try finding a spell to improve upon that!

Admittedly, there are some spells that involve seeing into far-away places, or linking minds in a son of telepathy: these tend to be restricted and hard to obtain, however, in relation to battle-spells. Truly useful spells, such as Animate Broom and Shield from Rain, are not even mentioned. We can consider two types of society in which magic exists: the first accepts magic as true power, and looks upon magic-users as wise men and women; the second treats magic as a subversive influence undermining the law and questioning the rule of normal people, and therefore magic is banned. In both cases, those who use magic would benefit from being able to communicate with others. In the first society, law and order could be upheld through magical means. The ruler of the land, whether advised by wizards or wizard himself, would know all that went on and would have a fairly easy time governing and controlling. The people would be able to consult local wizards for news and advice, as well as matters such as healing. These local wizards would be informed by their colleagues of approaching danger - a renegade wizard, or pillaging mercenaries, for example - and would be able to prepare for the event; 'forewarned is forearmed'.

It is unlikely that a law will deter magicians from pursing arcane knowledge; the second type of society will probably contain a secret association of wizards, performing their rituals discreetly. Efficient, independent communication would be essential for the survival of such an organisation, not only for the furtherance of research and development but also to warn local branches and individuals of 'Wytchfinder' types. If magical methods of spying and subterfuge were available, the organisation could actually become quite powerful and influential, perhaps even convincing the common people that magic doesn't really exist! High-ranking officials would never press charges against suspected sorcerers - the organisation might have 'information' on the officials, and could threaten to reveal it publicly (blackmail is such a nasty word - let us call it 'coercion'. . .).

It is interesting to note that anyone able to communicate magically with distant places could become renowned for 'predicting' major events, simply because they could see what was happening before the messenger arrived with the news!

The method of magical communication would vary greatly. The most common would probably be some type of telepathic conversation, with the possibility of 'broadcasts' to all wizards within a certain radius. The problem would always be one of range, but good organisation ought to overcome this by appointing Relayers. Crystal balls would be excellent for telecommunication, allowing sight as well as sound, and most are able to probe areas normally unreachable. Tolkien created the Palantiri, magic stones that showed far-away lands: each Palantir allowed its user to converse in thought with other stone-keepers, but required great willpower to control. When one of them came into the possession of Sauron, the Dark Lord, he was able to see all of Middle-earth, and the other stones corrupted their users or forced them to do Sauron's bidding.

Druids and other Nature-minded spell casters would probably have the most comprehensive communication system; being able to understand the rustling whispers of the trees, to converse with the beasts of the land, and to know the meaning of the song of the birds, must surely make them almost omniscient. What could go on in such times that isn't seen by at least a sparrow? The lowly creatures will at least be aware of what is happening, even if they don't understand it. The sorcerer could even persuade birds to fetch and carry messages. Blackbirds, for example, are often portrayed as spies in myth and fable - perhaps because they are common in many countries. Pigeons have always been good at carrying actual written messages to a known location, and could be used for communication with non-Druids. Again, this is fantasy, and fantastic beasts could easily be used as messengers or spies. The greatest advantage of a natural network is that animals have no reason to lie.

The nature of religious magic, by its own definition, is not easy to extrapolate from a rational foundation. The fact that priests in roleplaying games are gifted with the power to perform nothing less than miracles introduces some interesting problems: religion is based upon faith, and yet the miracles can be considered proof of the god's existence. Proof destroys such things as faith and belief in the unknown; the acquisition of magical powers makes priesthood seem a material, rather than spiritual, gain. It is probable that the god requires the priest to carry out some task of faith which would not be possible without hypernatural ability.

If the priest is able to obtain magical knowledge from that which is worshipped, it might also be possible to obtain knowledge of more recent matters. The god itself might become a pool of the knowledge of its followers; a priest could acquire knowledge as widespread as the religion itself.

In a more earthly vein, religious magic could draw together all the worshippers for a common goal. This would require communication between different places, with the god joining the minds of various individuals. On a less dramatic scale, communicative devices might occur as part of a temple - a vision in the flames or the waters of a font would work in much the same way as a crystal ball, although the exact nature of the vision might be ambiguous. Some religions might actually value telecommunication between worshippers, so that each temple would be a place of meeting and conversing with followers in all places.

Many SF writers have considered 'practical psi: using psionic powers for tasks other than combat. Telepathy, for example, could be used as an alternative to radio. Since it has never been proved to exist, it is easy to say that telepathic messages can travel instantaneously, or faster than light at least. The problem with radio is that the transmissions travel at the speed of light, approximately 3 x 10" metres/second, which is actually rather slow. A spaceship on the other side of our galaxy would have to wait a very long time for help if it broke down, .as the distress signal would take 100,000 years to reach Earth...
The extent of pisonic ability and its profusion will greatly affect the society in which psionic powers exist. A small percentage with such powers will probably find themselves rejected by society, branded 'espers’ because the people will not really understand them. Such espers will quickly become aware of others like themselves, and may form an organisation of some sort. Greater numbers of psionically-gifted people will probably result in a social recognition of their powers, and they will hold a definite position in society (such as the Psi-Judges in the Mega-Cities of Judge Dreed.

Things start to get awkward when almost everybody is gifted - how would a race of psionics function? In a world where everyone is sensitive to the thoughts of others, a world where there could be no misunderstanding, only peace and compassion could possibly reign. Unless there is a small percentage who aren't psionic...

Using psionics for communication would probably require a Psi Guild of some sort, with branches all over the land. It would certainly be the easiest to use - walk into a local Guild branch, hand over the message to be sent and indicate the destination, and pay the correct money for such a message. The 'psi-gram' is then telepathically sent to the Guild branch nearest the destination, where another Guildsman receives and writes down the message. The message is then delivered by the equivalent of a postman. If there is a limiting range to the telepathy, the message can be relayed from branch to branch. The plausibility of such a Guild will depend upon the rarity of psionic ability: there should be enough telepaths for the talent to be recognised and appreciated, but not so many that the Guild service would be superficial.

It might be possible to psionically teleport letters and parcels to far-away places, but this would be a specialist Guild service for emergency situations as a great deal of risk and concentration is involved. It might be worth the risk, however, if the destination was normally unreachable by messenger (a lighthouse, for example, or a mountain-top observatory) and the client was prepared to pay. Such precarious deliveries are usually welcomed by adventurer-types in any case, especially if you tell them that their task is 'vitally important'. . .

Before you round up all the psionics you can find and put them to work, consider the pressures on a psionic with total telepathic and telempathic ability constantly active. Every day, he or she will read the hates, fears and worries of those around them; experience the problems and anxieties of anyone who walks past; know the emotions and feelings towards them felt by friend and stranger alike, even those secret feelings in the depths of their psyche. Think of the stresses and tensions that would build up in the psionic's mind.

Now think of that energy being released psionically...

The advantages of communication are obvious - information becomes available at all levels, knowledge becomes common fact, warnings and advice are efficient and in time, problems are put in perspective - but there are also some disadvantages that aren't clear at first. By opening up the rest of the world, you show people how insignificant they actually are; certain individuals will react to this dangerously, while others won't be able to take it at all. Telecommunications also breeds a species of culture-shock, thrusting together different races and forcing them to co-exist. They may be able to communicate with each other, but will they truly understand the other's radically different beliefs? Think about it - it will affect your game. The slightest misunderstanding can lead to violent war, as the history books confirm, so be careful - this is supposed to be a game!

Diorama From the Past 1 'Eavy Metal


Dragonslayers by Stephen G. Walsh
By John D. Rateliff

“They all began discussing dragon-slayings historical, dubious, and mythical, and the various sorts of stabs and jabs and undercuts, and the different arts devices and stratagems by which they had been accomplished. The general opinion was that catching a dragon napping was not as easy as it sounded, and the attempt to stick one or prod one asleep was more likely to end in disaster than a bold frontal attack.” — J. R. R. Tolkien The Hobbit

For those of a practical turn of mind who expect that their next encounter with a dragon is likely to be in a roleplaying game, with said dragon charging down upon their characters bent on death and destruction, a final word about dragon-slaying. Fantasy fiction is full of epic battles between hero or heroine and dragon, but there’s considerable disagreement over how best to go about it. The classic “St. George” approach is to get the beast so mad that it rushes blindly at you, obligingly exposing its only vulnerable part, the inside of the throat, and letting you stick your lance down it. Tolkien maintained that it wasn’t as easy as all that, and that killing a dragon required learning its most vulnerable spot (usually underneath): Glorund, like Fafnir, was slain by a hero lying in ambush who stabbed the dragon from below as it passed over his hiding place. Kenneth Morris, in the wonderful Welsh fantasy The Book of Three Dragons (1930), includes a scene where the hero and a dragon go at it with such gusto that they rip up boulders and whale on each other with them, tossing them back and forth. Le Guin’s Ged simply cast a spell that caused the dragons to drop helpless into the sea and drown — an effective method, but one lacking drama and a certain sense of fair-play. We’ve already discussed Dunsany’s ingenious approach (starve the creature, if only you can stay alive long enough). The less scrupulous will find a foolproof scheme in Will Shetterly’s Cats Have No Lord (1985), but one that requires an expendable fool to implement (can you say “NPC”?) Perhaps the best approach of all is that followed by Tolkien’s common- sense Farmer Giles: don’t fight if you can possibly avoid it, and break off to negotiate at the first reasonable opportunity.

After all, with a lifespan of several centuries, why shouldn’t a dragon be willing to give up its treasure now and hunt down the thief a half-century or so later?

Tolkien’s dragons

Smaug by Angus McBride
By John D. Rateliff

There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light. —J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien’s contributions to fantasy in general and dragon-lore in particular are so great as to place him in a league of his own. The whole concept of the PC party (specialists of different backgrounds working together toward a common goal) derives from Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Rings,” while his own particular “take” on all the major fantasy races — elves, dwarves, goblins, etc. — have become the common currency for a whole generation of successors. He is the most imitated fantasist of all time, and his masterly portrayal of Smaug, “the chiefest and greatest of all calamities,” is the standard by which all other fantasy dragons should be judged.

Whereas after Grahame the tendency had been to treat dragons as witty and cute, Tolkien restored the sense of them as deadly predators. All of Tolkien’s dragons — Smaug from The Hobbit, Glorund from The Silmarillion, the wily but not over-bold Chrystophlax Dives from Farmer Giles of Ham — are clever, unscrupulous, greedy, and exceedingly dangerous. They can be bargained with, but each is capable of wiping out a small army or good-sized town all by himself. Anyone who dares to talk with one of Tolkien’s dragons had better have an escape route planned if he does not want to become the creature’s next meal.

Furthermore, Tolkien’s dragons delight in mischief: rather than kill Turin, a brave but rash and not overly clever hero, Glorund convinces him to abandon the people who rely upon him and sends him on a fool’s errand, while Smaug sows the seeds of doubt in Bilbo’s mind that shortly afterward help wreck his friendship with the dwarves. People who listen to dragons are apt to fall under their enchantment (“Smaug had rather an overwhelming personality”), and any spark of greed inside them usually fares into full life. Sometimes this dragongreed is even contagious, transmitted by contact with treasure “over whom a dragon has long brooded” — as shown in the fate of Thorin Oakenshield and to a lesser extent that of Bilbo himself (whose secret theft of the Arkenstone was a thoroughly uncharacteristic act). Similarly, Fafnir’s treasure, the hoard of the Niebelungs, seems to bring disaster to all who possess or even lay claim to it, while Beowulf’s grieving countrymen wisely decline to take any of the dragon’s hoard after his death, instead placing it all on his pyre and burying what remains in his barrow.

Finally, Tolkien’s dragons are hard to kill. Smaug destroys Dale and the Kingdom Under the Mountain, sweeping aside all resistance, and that was when he was, in his own words, “young and tender.” Later in the book we’re given a vivid description of his attack on the mountainside and burning of Lake-Town. Had he not been slain by Bard’s expert shot with a special arrow to his one secret vulnerable spot, Tolkien speculated that Sauron might have later manipulated him into destroying Rivendell. [1] Likewise, Glorund destroys the elven city of Nargothrond, effortlessly scattering and destroying its battle-tried elven warriors, while other dragons help plunder the great hidden city of Gondolin. For his part, Chrystophlax shows great reluctance to melee with anyone armed with a sword of dragon-slaying like Giles’ Claudimorax (and no wonder), but when faced with the possibility of losing his whole hoard handily massacres the Little Kingdom’s assembled knighthood, then later effortlessly puts a second army to flight. It’s possible to slay one of the Great Worms, but only by careful planning and good luck.

[1] Unfinished Tales (1980), “The Quest of Gandalf’s point of view, telling us how the contrast to Bilbo’s narrative, this bit of “alter- Erebor,” contains a behind-the-scenes look at events appeared to the wizard and the alternate Hobbit” lets us learn more about the opening chapter of The Hobbit from dwarves. In addition to offering an amusing Gandalf’s motives and plans.

The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game.

20 January 2010 - Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games announce that they are developing The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game.

Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games are proud to announce that they are jointly developing The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game.

“We’re tremendously excited about The One Ring,” said Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Cubicle 7 Director. “Our aim is to give our audience an authentic Middle-earth gaming experience, one that really captures the feel of Tolkien’s world.” 

The designer and lead writer of this project, Francesco Nepitello, is a games industry veteran, best known for the hugely successful and critically acclaimed War of the Ring strategy board game, which he designed with The One Ring co-designer Marco Maggi and Roberto di Meglio. A recipient of the International Gamers Award, War of the Ring is recognised by many ‘Lord of the Rings’ enthusiasts and hobby gamers alike as one of the most engaging recreations of the world-renowned fantasy saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. Francesco and Marco are the designers of other immersive board game titles like Marvel Super Heroes and Age of Conan, but started their game-designing careers creating Lex Arcana, the most successful and popular fantasy role-playing game published in Italy.

Francesco has designed the new LOTR RPG game system to make sure that players are completely immersed in Middle-earth from the moment they begin creating their characters. As an experienced designer of games based on JRR Tolkien, as well as being a lifelong devotee of the Tolkien works, Francesco brings a dimension -and a depth- to this RPG which has probably never been seen before in a LOTR game. 

Robert Hyde, head of Cambridge (UK) based Sophisticated Games said, “When we first acquired the rights from Tolkien Enterprises to publish this RPG - as part of our wider LOTR book based board game license- we had no hesitation in approaching Francesco to conceive a completely fresh LOTR and The Hobbit RPG, and for him to be the writer. We knew that he possessed both these skills and that the game would be in very safe hands. His presentation of Middle-earth, along with stunning artwork from John Howe and others, brings this incredibly evocative and exciting world to life.”

“We also approached Cubicle 7 to be our publishing partners on the new The One Ring RPG because we loved the quality of their previous publications and felt that Dominic and Angus (Abranson) had both the experience, and with the creation of Cubicle 7, the role playing game resources, to bring LOTR and The Hobbit to a very wide audience.”

For more information on The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game please contact Cubicle 7 on  
The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game will be published in the second half of 2010.

The One Ring, Middle-earth, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the characters, items, events and places therein are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Saul Zaentz Company d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises f/k/a Tolkien Enterprises and are used under license by Sophisticated Games Ltd and their licensees.

Common Roleplaying Mistakes That Players Make – Part 1 of 2 | RoleplayingPro

We’re going to cover some of the common roleplaying mistakes that players make. This is not intended to be an all encompassing list. The goal is to make you aware of some of the universal mistakes that we all make when roleplaying. Sometimes just being aware of what mistakes there are too be made can help you avoid them.

The first part is the relationship between the game master and players. Remember that the game master is just another person in your roleplaying game. Although his part in the game is different than everyone else’s, he is there to have fun just like you are. Here is a list of mistakes that can be made between the player and game master.

via Common Roleplaying Mistakes That Players Make – Part 1 of 2 | RoleplayingPro.

Common Roleplaying Mistakes That Players Make – Part 2 of 2 | RoleplayingPro

In Common Roleplaying Mistakes That Players Make – Part 1 of 2, we talked about issues with player versus game master, and player versus player. Now we move on to the next issue, metagaming. Essentially, metagaming is using out-of-character knowledge for an in-character situation. Common examples of metagaming are:
- One player hears another player say or do something and then acts upon it, when there is no way their character would be aware of that knowledge. One example is when the characters are miles apart with no communications, yet are acting in sync as if they knew exactly what the other was thinking. This is a common mistake that pretty much every player falls prey to at some point.
via Common Roleplaying Mistakes That Players Make – Part 2 of 2 | RoleplayingPro.


By Lewis Bryson

Four of us went down, but only one hundred and four of us came back. How did that happen, you ask? A good question, and I feel like telling a story . . .
We were an optimistic party. The four of us were young, maybe a little lacking in experience, but well armed, intelligent, and overflowing with enthusiasm. There were two Magi, the sorcerer Soregit and the wizard Emanon, and two warriors, Tork and myself, Nissleyn the One-handed.
We had been charged with penetrating the Pyromancer’s Guild to bring back artifacts for our benefactor, the great magician and charlatan, Edgh. Intent upon our mission, we found a member of the Guild at a local tavern, in a rather pitiful state. There was a little overeagerness on my part and I hit him on the head and, well, I, uh . . . knocked him out.
Gosh, I was really sorry that it had happened, but since it had, everyone figured that we should take advantage of it. So we grabbed his copper ring, had copies made of it, and, armed with the rings and a Polymorph Others spell, we entered the Guildhall.
It was easy enough, smooth sailing for quite a while, as we twisted, turned, and slew a few fairly harmless monsters, the usual stuff. The first really tough thing we ran into was a Clay Golem. Thinking quickly, I told Soregit to throw a Darkness, 15ft. radius spell, and with a natural ability of infravision, I waded in with a giant’s club I had picked up somewhere, and belted him in the back of the head, wiping him out. We felt that this was an augur of things to come, and we were very optimistic. Ha!
The next door we opened presented us with a pair of eleven- foot-tall, fair-haired giants in mithril mail. A fast Legend Lore spell told us that they were Sidhe, lawful gargantuans, extremely strong, intelligent, and dexterous. We quickly convinced them we wanted, very badly, to be their friends. Luckily, they trusted our then-honest intentions.

They joined us, and we went through a few more rooms and corridors, and were going down a flight of stairs, when I suddenly realized that they had usurped my position as leader of the expedition, had been very deprecatory about all of our abilities, and had not yet done a bit of fighting! I contacted Tork with an artifact-related telepathic message, and we jumped them from behind.
My first shot with the club split my Sidhe’s head open like a ripe melon, and there was one left. Tork went for him as I hurried to aid him, while Emanon threw Magic Missiles. Tork was doing a pretty good job on the remaining Sidhe, and I had just joined the fray, when the giant speared Tork through the left eye with an immense enchanted sword. I was a bit taken aback, and Tork, well, he was dead. He had, though, damaged the Sidhe to a point where he was almost tottering, and I quickly sent him to discuss life with his ancestors face to face.
I mourned the death of Tork, while the Magi looked on rather coolly, not understanding the sorrow of a Warrior. I resolved to have him restored to my side as soon as possible, because he was a brother Warrior, and also because I didn’t relish facing the remaining depths with just myself to battle with the terrors that lay there.
Packing his dead body on my back with a quick-release knot on him, we pushed on. The door at the bottom of the stairs opened onto a corridor, and at the end was an unfamiliar shape. A noise from the wizard roused the thing, and suddenly it was flying at us. A winged ape with huge claws, hurtling down the narrow corridor.
‘A Clakar!’ screamed the wizard, and cowered beneath his cloak. I nailed the beast with a lightning javelin in midair, but it didn’t quite do the job, only searing a hole in his abdomen. Then he was upon me, doing horrendous damage with one swipe of his claws. Luckily for all of us, I dispatched him with a blow to his already damaged abdomen. The wizard healed my wounds and we moved on.
The next room held only an orc and a bowl of liquid. The orc turned and ran out a door in the back of the room. Soregit walked up to the table and inspected the bowl. He saw a ring in the bowl, and grabbed it. He put it on, and began dancing around without realizing that he was shrinking at a tremendous rate. He fell into the bowl, and would have drowned and I not knocked over the bowl and moved him away from the liquid with the point of my dagger.
Our spirits were at a new low. Tork was dead, and getting to be a pain in the back. Soregit was two inches tall, and practically useless. We would probably have given up, but the next room presented a puzzle. It was some kind of a device, and I could not discern its operation. The door was open, and maybe we should have closed it to keep out wandering monsters, but we were in a sad state. Anyway, what should wander in but a 12th-circle Cleric of neutrality. With a little monetary temptation, we convinced him to resurrect Tork, but nothing could be done for poor Soregit.
Tork and I began to celebrate and, in the illuminated state of mind that the wine brought about, we divined the function of the machine. It moved the entire room to small, independent planes of existence! We finally realized this by observing that after we pressed different buttons, different things were behind those doors! In our condition, we found this highly amusing, much to Emanon’s consternation. We finally decided that we would tackle the Clakar that we had seen, and, pushing the right button, we rushed in and romped on the poor animal.
There was a shrouded object in the back of the room and we were suspicious. So with the genius of Dionysius, Tork and I forced Soregit to take a look under the shroud. A good thing we did so, for under there was a Mirror of Opposition! We heard a small shriek, and lifted a small section of the shroud to see two Soregits throwing daggers at each other. Luckily, the duplicate was as lousy a shot as the original, and neither was hurt.
Inspired again, we emptied another wine sack, and began creating more and more miniature Magi, or gits, as we soon began calling them. Eventually we had fifty of the opposing gits, and fifty of the old-type gits, and of course, the original Soregit. We separated the plus and minus gits into two wine sacks of squirming sorcerers.

* * *

Now, of course, Tork and I are rich men, the owners of Miniature Mage, Inc. We decided to market the gits, and made our fortunes. We found an alchemist, went into large-scale production of growth potion and the super shrink stuff. Then we got a cleric, threw us a lot of Geas spells, and marketed the result as ‘Gits! pint-size power for the fighting man!! The next time you have a problem that you just can’t handle, you won’t worry, because you have a miniature Mage at your belt!!’
Soregit is happy as a little clam lolling around in his miniature apartment with his miniature wine cellar, miniature elf-maidens, etc. The mirror is in full, assembly line-type use down in the factory.
And Emanon? He’s still adventuring, poor soul, thinks he’s going to make his fortune that way, I guess. Ha! And yet, sometimes I look across the board room at my old weapons hanging on the wall, and the Sidhe’s dried blood still on the club, and I feel a twinge of the old wanderlust. . .

What Is D&D?

This is the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game, the game that defines the genre and has set the standard for fantasy roleplaying for more than 30 years.

D&D is an imaginative, social experience that engages players in a rich fantasy world filled with larger-than-life heroes, deadly monsters, and diverse settings. As a hobby game, D&D is an ongoing activity to which players might devote hours of their time—much like a weekly poker game—getting together with friends on a regular basis for weeks, months, or even years.

Players create heroic fantasy characters -- mighty warriors, stealthy rogues, or powerful wizards -- which they guide through an ongoing series of adventures, working together to defeat monsters and other challenges and growing in power, glory, and achievement. The game offers endless possibilities and a multitude of choices . . . more choices than even the most sophisticated computer game, because you can do whatever you can imagine

via What Is D&D?.

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Get a Life, Henchman!

By Peter Adkison
I like rolling up henchmen for player characters. Often I can’t resist giving them some interesting quirk that turns them into something more than a set of attributes or mere cannon fodder. What I’ve developed is a simple chart, against which I roll 1d100 for each NPC.

Roll 1d100
01-83. Nothing special.

84. The henchman is a spy or a plant from an enemy of the PCs.

85. A henchman with a shady past. This henchman has committed some crime (or has been wrongly accused of committing a crime) and is wanted by the law, probably in a different country. The henchman becomes nervous if the PC ever decides to go adventuring in that land.

86. The henchman is secretly in love with the PC and has signed on to put himself or herself in a position to develop a relationship.

87. The henchman falls in love with another henchman. There’s a chance the relationship blooms into marriage (perhaps leading to baby henchmen!), the relationship results in a brief romance followed by a nasty breakup, or the relationship never gets off the ground. In any case, it could create some interesting tension in the ranks.

88. A rivalry develops between this henchman and another henchman. There’s a 50% chance this is a healthy competition that eventually brings them closer together, but there’s also a 50% chance it turns very disruptive, possibly leading to foul play.

89. The henchman is extraordinarily ambitious. He or she works very hard to advance and prove his or her worth. Other henchmen could become jealous, particularly if the PC shows favoritism.

90. The henchman lies about his or her capabilities. The henchman is only half as proficient as he or she claims to be. The PC doesn’t know this, and the DM must play the henchman carefully not to let on. The henchman could be doing this to command higher pay or might simply be nervous about being accepted for employment.

91. The henchman isn’t the “original” but is actually a high-quality clone or simulacrum, unknown to the PC. The henchman might or might not know this, and the original character might or might not be alive or know of the henchman’s existence.

92. The henchman has a secret character class that the PC doesn’t know about. Perhaps the character is not simply a fighter but is really a fighter/thief.

93. The henchman is of a very different class than the PC. Whereas the standard is for fighters to attract fighters as henchmen, who’s to say there can’t be an exception?

94. Henchman is fanatically loyal. This henchman has a morale of 20, never consciously betrays the PC, and never fails to execute an order to the best of his or her ability.

95. The henchman has a curse. This is most interesting if the nature and source of the curse aren’t immediately obvious, and the PC must figure out why certain things happen. Ideas for a curse could be something as simple as causing water to turn stale, or the henchman could have something severe like lycanthropy.

96. The henchman has a disturbing personality quirk, like extreme arrogance, bigotry, abrasiveness, or overconfidence.

97. The henchman is very career oriented and tries to become “second in command” and hold other positions of key responsibility. He or she becomes unmotivated if not given a chance to lead key activities.

98. The henchman is a true adventurer and occasionally leads adventures independently!

99. The henchman is of a different race than the PC. There’s a 10% chance of a strange or unique race. There could be a great story behind this one.

00. DM’s choice. Come up with something really over the top, like bastard son of a deity. Or re-roll.

Peters’ Quick Checklist for DMing Dragons

BY Peter Adkison
“HEY, LET’S GO AFTER A DRAGON!” Aw, those words are music to my ears. There are few things more enjoyable to a DM than a party of intelligent, appropriately outfitted characters going after the AD&D® game’s most highlighted villain. It is, after all, the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® game. Because of the awe factor associated with dragons, though, it’s crucial that they be played well so that players will respect this most grand of adversaries. So, here’s a quick checklist of things to make sure prepared for when your PCs step up to the plate.

No mercy. I tell my players that they should expect no mercy when they go against dragons. Dragons are the most cunning foes likely to ever face, and I play them with a no-holds-barred attitude. For instance, dragons might purposely finish off characters who are wounded (dropping them to -10 hp), and would recognize the ransoming value of capturing a PC, even a dead one, to use against the PCs should they prove victorious.

Thorough defenses. Because dragons are smart, and because they expect to be attacked, they prepare deadly defenses. consisting of both physical and magical traps designed to fool thieves, redirect forces, and confound the intellect. Consider a teleporting dragon that has no entrance to its lair; it sleeps in a hollowed- out sphere deep within the earth.

Prepared for standard tactics. There are a number of .standard tactics. that PCs use, like thieves who hide in shadows, invisibility spells, hold monster, and so on. But if it’s in the PHB, a 500-year-old dragon has probably thought of a defense against it. Think of every spell and ability, and what a dragon could do to foil it. Examples of such defenses include a magical aura that outlines intruders with faerie fire, or a spell that causes a rock to appear in any location where someone tries to teleport or dimension door, so that the person is in effect trying to transport into solid rock.

Polymorphed dragon. The polymorph self spell allows a wizard to change into another form and retain his or her original hp and spells. A dragon with some nice magical items might be more effective fighting in human form, using those items and retaining its original hit points.

Advance warning. Dragons will do everything they can to set up early warning systems so they know of any attack that’s coming. Loud traps near the lair and spies in the outlying countryside are two possibilities.

Test the enemy. If a dragon gets wind of an attack, it could gain the initiative by attacking the PCs first. The attack might not include the dragon itself, but the dragon might be watching through a scrying device to see what abilities the PCs have. Or the attack might be an ambush designed to wipe out the PCs if possible, or at least to hit them hard enough that they choose not to pursue.

Allies. Powerful creatures in my campaign never fight alone. Work hard to avoid the situation where several PCs can attack a dragon at once; instead, use other troops to tie down PC actions, allowing the dragon to pick and choose who it fights, if anyone.

False lair. I once played a wise old wyrm who, after realizing he was outnumbered, left a simulacrum for the PCs to fight and teleported away. This false lair had enough loot to look good, but the truly cool stuff was elsewhere. The PCs to this day believe they killed the dragon and took his hoard. Of course, now that I’m placing this in print . .
Unique spells. Dragons are old and smart, and they’re spellcasters, so it stands to reason they’d have some cool spells that made up. [Some of them appear in this issue’s .Arcane Lore..] Having trouble figuring out a good way to implement any of the ideas above? Perhaps the target dragon had the same question and designed a spell to solve a ‘certain problem’ relating to defending its lair or testing the enemy.

Unique magic. It’s quite satisfying to see the look on the players face when, after playing for most of a weekend just getting to the dragon’s lair, they find the creature has exchanged all those useless human-sized items for weapons only a dragon could use. One interesting sword I used was a ‘Dragon-slayer slayer’, baneful to anyone who’d ever caused damage to a dragon.