Mythoard is a monthly subscription service for role-playing gamers. This month’s Mythoard included products from Game Mash, Chessex, Barrel Rider Games, Mentats of Gaming, Wombat’s Workshop, Heroic Maps, and Bad Mike. This review covers an honest-to-goodness old school fanzine, issue 18 of The Dungeoneer.
The Dungeoneer is an old school magazine that was printed at the height of Dungeons & Dragons’ popularity in the 80s. It’s a great snapshot of the creativity bursting at the seams of the gaming population at the time, many of which have since been refined into rules we take for granted. Many magazines of this type eventually suffer from navel-gazing in which they become so insular that your average reader can’t easily pick up an issue and dive in — that’s the case with issue 18.
The first sign something is wrong is fiction. I’m a fan of fiction as much as the next guy, but in role-playing game magazines it’s tantamount to a guy at a con prattling on about his character. The first article, “A Trip to the Underworld,” by Bill Paley is actually an elaborate joke. It’s kept to one page though so it’s easy to forgive.
The next article is “The Leprechaun Rosary,” (these issues are notable for not giving a flying fig about who might be offended) which is essentially a wand of wonder. It’s a really fun item that takes up several pages but is totally worth it if only to see the possibilities of a d100: talking Jack O’ Lanterns, air becomes breathable gelatin, armor moves out to float in the air looking like an “exploded diagram,” a real truck appears and chases anybody who moves, and some crazy Coriolis effect that I’m not sure I totally understand.
This issue is also rife with Kevin Siembieda’s work. This issue serves as a reminder that he was a talented artist before he was a game designer. Fortunately, most of the other art is up to snuff too — Siembieda’s art tends to make amateurish stuff look even worse, which plagued other publications in the 80s put out by Judge’s Guild. Unfortunately, the art almost never has anything to do with the content of the magazine — just big, beautiful, random pictures.
And then we’re back to fiction. It’s titled “Victory” by William Hartley about a female warrior. It’s not great. Two pages of fiction begin to test my patience.
“Reaction Graphing” by Thomas A. McCloud covers a more complex means of having creatures reaction to characters based on E.C. Zeeman’s “Catastrophe Theory”. It requires several graphs and seems way more complicated than it needs to be, but I appreciate the effort.
Mike Kelly details 408 elven names (no idea why they’re numbered) from the Silmarillion. It’s all the names you’d come to expect with a two or three word translation. It’s a neat reference.
Bill Paley returns with “Intelligent Monsters,” bragging about how he used intelligent hobgoblins to slay half the party as part of a random encounter. Yes, this is how we played D&D back then kids. The article is more stream of consciousness than advice (this is a problem with a lot of Dungeoneer articles) but the point is valid that intelligent monsters shouldn’t charge heedless into battle without some sort of plan.
Bill Seligman’s “A New Allocation System” builds on four previous articles. It goes on forever and provides some ideas on randomly generating magic items and NPCs. The tone is rather arch, and although the idea has merit (you too can randomly generate anything and make it fun!) the author seems to miss the fact that all the effort put into randomly generating items could be better focused on just making something up from whole cloth. Or to put it another way, I can roll on eight different tables, or I could just think up some cool magic item and make it work.
Germain Giner’s “Magic” involves mana, references Runequest, and halfheartedly gives some conversion rules for D&D. Didn’t make any sense to me.
James Young conflates “religious affiliation” with “alignment” — or rather, his article is about how one should be aligned to a deity, not to a moral ethos. He breaks that down into god-fearing, religious and nominal, more to chastise PCs who pay lip service to religion only so they can get healing and resurrection spells. It’s a fair point but again, a discussion with the player is probably more helpful than yet another alignment system.
“Monster Matrix” features a jinx cat (turns into a giant cat, reminds me of the guardian daemon from the original Fiend Folio), a carnivorous cockroach that also inflicts electrical damage, an invisible monstrosity known as the Glek, and…wait for it…cops. Yes, police officers. Who communicate telepathicaly. And use their “legal right” to confiscate items “for evidence.” The 80s, amIrite?
“NPC’s” (there is no need for an apostrophe after caps folks) by Richard Koelsch details four human races but doesn’t give enough detail to really use them, and then…Bill Paley is back with “The Book of Doom.” Because that’s what this magazine needs, eight more pages of Paley’s fiction.
“The Oldcastle Inn” by Mark Watson is for The Fantasy Trip but nominally for D&D too. It’s essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure (there’s a reference to Survival of the Fittest, whatever that is). The maps are all hexes and there are almost no rules for the monsters you might fight. There’s some lovely green and black art by Siembieda though.
Patricia Hockhalter writes more fiction titled “Jacob Olson.” If you’re keeping track at home, we’re now at four pieces of fiction nobody is likely to read.
Steve Marsh gives us variant nymphs, a useful article. “Nose Wet or No Sweat” features short description of traps (like a dart that injects a healthy dose of LSD, PCP, THC…man, whatever, it was the 80s!). “Booty Bag” features a variety of weird magic items involving threads and wire. And then Jim Webster gives us another useful article, a playable vampire class.
This was a turning point for The Dungeoneer, when it became so self-referential that it’s clear it was the last issue before it was merged into Judge’s Guild’s The Dungeoneers Journal. It’s an interesting piece of history but not likely to be as useful to OSR players as the The Dungeoneers Journal in the previous Mythoard.
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