I’d like to see the interwebs celebrate the life of Tom Moldvay for his birthday upcoming on Monday, 5 November 2018.
Let’s raise up a host of heroic Giants in the Earth!
Tom Moldvay’s (and Lawrence Schick’s) Giants in the Earth is one of my favourite article series from the early days of Dragon magazine.
Their first hero – Cugel the Clever, no less – appeared in Dragon 26, dated June 1979. Moldvay’s last – Tiana Highrider – was published in Dragon 48 in April 1981.
Dragon 30 printed this (excerpt from a) letter in “Out on a Limb” (top) and this comment by Gary Gygax in “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” (bottom):
Below is the reply Schick and Moldvay wrote – in Dragon 37 – about their process for writing up heroes for Giants in the Earth:
Here is their hero level guide from that article. I cleaned it up, filled it in and added DCC. Experience point- and level-wise most of the OSR simulacra fall somewhere between the O- and AD&D values. I built my hero (see below) using Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which hews pretty close to the AD&D numbers. Lion & Dragon is more like DCC. You get the idea:
And here’s the list of characters they knocked together as possible future contenders. I’ve struck through the characters that were covered in later articles. Still leaves a bunch. And it looks like only six of the remainder are denizens of Appendix N:
As a matter of fact, only a few of the Giants hailed from Appendix N sources. The majority are from other stories and myths, books I like to call Appendix Non. I’d like to see more Ns appear so I’m going to stat up Niall of the Far Travels to fill the “Fox, Gardner. … et al” slot. I’ll be posting him on Mr. Moldvay’s birthday. In case you want to add another N to the list:
After Dragon 42 Roger Moore wrote more and more of the Giants. And the series stopped running altogether after Dragon 64. Then in Dragon 70 (pg 14) Moore wrote the article “Giants can be Awful or Awe-ful.” It presents some thoughts on what to do with these heroes in your campaign. It also includes a list of all the Giants that were published plus some other Giants-like articles that followed. Moore’s piece is the last word on Giants in the Earth.
Other than – and after they wrapped – Giants in the Earth, Dragon made two more attempts at something similar. Larger Than Life was a column that appeared only twice and Lords & Legends took all of three kicks at the can.
Posted below is a pdf list of all the characters published by Moldvay and others in Giants in the Earth as well as all the heroes done in Giants-like articles. I didn’t include any heroes statted after 1st edition AD&D (round about Dragon 143). Likewise, I didn’t include any characters that were game-derived; so no Elminster, for example.
Oh, and if I haven’t already mentioned it, The Dragondex is an absolutely amazing resource. Go, seek, find, enjoy.
[Edit: There have been comments (both recently and over the years) about the high levels of Giants in the Earth characters. Schick and Moldvay do address that in their article in Dragon 37; indeed, comments like those are why they included the level breakdown chart above.
To help illustrate that things did in fact temper over the course of issues, below is the list of heroes and their levels Roger Moore included in his piece from Dragon 70. There is a general trend of levels dropping out of the 20s into the teens (and even single-digits) as time goes on.
I think 10 to 15 levels is a reasonable range for heroes with a number of trials and ordeals under their belts. After all, they are supposed to be outstanding.]
The second part. You can find the first part here.
Magic Vaj, Eldritch Cock
I decided to take the original idea (at the end of the Author’s Notes in Vaginas Are Magic) at its word, mostly.
This is a coed school that only accepts female/male fraternal twins. The sisters and brothers are taught by Witches and Wizards, also twins themselves.
Have the player roll up two characters, the sister and the brother. They can then be played alternately, sister today, brother tomorrow, or brother day, sister night. Or they can be played together as a character-and-henchman duo, making one of them the dominant sibling. I’m sure there are other ways to play twins I’ve not thought of.
Some good magic-like examples of fraternal sibling characters from comics are Fenris and the Beau_bier and Maxi_moff twins. Hell, the spells in these two books will even get you pretty close to some of their power sets.
Bat’s been knockin’ it outta the dungeon for a decade.
I think I found all his Wizard spells; there are a lot of them. I haven’t included any from this year ’cause it ain’t over; I might come January. I might not.
Here then are all the Eldritch Secrets from the Ancient Vaults, listed by Cycle (or, you know, year). It should be noted that a disturbance which began in the School’s 13th Cycle developed into the Calamity of Lost Knowledge of the 14th. Because of this, those two Cycles are presented as a single list.
Once you’ve determined your Wizard’s Cycle and three starting spells just goto Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets and use the search field (down a bit on the right) to find them.
A while ago I had the idea that there are now enough book-, blog-, pdf- and zine-published lists of spells for The Game that it’s easy to think of each as its own School of Magic separate and distinct.
And now that Lamentations has published both Vaginas Are Magic and Eldritch Cock — with their stated and contemplated rule changes for Magic-Users — it seems like the right time to put ink to paper.
Each Wizard is a student of a particular magic school. When a player creates a Wizard character he rolls (currently a d10) on the following — ever expanding — table to determine which School of Magic was his alma mater:
Schools of Magic
Magic Vaj, Eldritch Cock
Better Than Any Man
Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets*
Frostbitten & Mutilated
Wonder & Wickedness (12/XIV)
*: Roll a d8:
13th and 14th Cycles
By way of giving the player some control over his character’s life, the Wizard may choose either the School above or below the one he rolled if he doesn’t like the original result. For these purposes the last entry is above the first, and the first entry is below the last. You get the idea.
Once you know the School, determine the Wizard’s three beginning spells from the tables below and off you go.
Here are the first few I’ve done:
The table includes every spell from the Magic-User list in Rules & Magic.
Though spell levels don’t exist anymore, they’ve been included in the tables to make them rollable sections (using a d9 in this case) should a DM want that option for any reason. And within each level the spells are numbered by die-type, again for rollability.
I’ve also included page numbers for each spell.
A friend gave me a pdf of this mighty tome a few years ago; it’s how I learned about it in the first place.
And if you’ve never feasted on the majesty that is The Necromican, stop reading this now and gorge yourself on the glory. Go read Lizard’s multi-part survey of it here, here, here, here, here, here and here (no, I’m not kidding).
The Necromican is why I started listing page numbers for spells in these tables. It was published in ’79 and that decade had a pretty general “Fuck alphabetical order!” attitude which I appreciate in spirit but which makes finding the text you need right now during play a bit, hmm, I’ll say, shitty.
Since Eldritch Weirdness is directly connected to Lamentations through the spells Force of Forbidment and Strange Waters I & II it’s an obvious addition here as it’s own School. It only contains 30 spells, but at one-spell-per-level (per Vaginas are Magic) and campaigns tending to be low-to-mid level anyway (see Playtest Notes in Eldritch Cock), all is well.
If you thought page numbers were helpful with The Necromican wait til you get a load of the list of spells for the Illusionist from the Original PHB! In some cases the spell descriptions are Illusionist specifics referring to Magic-User particulars referring to Cleric generalities. For reals.
[A note about bizarre dice: I’m a big believer in Purpler Sorcerer Games‘ Crawler’s Companion ! Select dice on the bottom then batch at the top; in the script roll field enter whatever value you want (e.g., 156 for the Libro Lamentati); hit the Roll button; Boccob’s your uncle!]
I was recently at the National Gallery in London and saw these two paintings of Saint George and the Dragon. Unfortunately I didn’t record when or by whom they were done. But check it out, they can be arranged in sequence.
ACT I, The Charge:
ACT II, Lance In, Sword Out:
In addition to depicting two distinct phases of the battle they also show George gaining divine favour during the engagement. In ACT I he has no halo; in ACT II there it is.
This got me thinking about being — or rather, becoming — a Paladin.
Here’s a thought: instead of a player starting a campaign as already a Paladin, have him start as a Fighter and make his achieving Paladin-hood be an in-game/through-play goal or event.
It could be done purely mechanically with, say, an XP threshold (though that strikes me as boring) or PHB Bard-style, by making the man-who-would-be-Paladin spend x Levels as a (Lawful Good?) Fighter before being able to switch up.
Or it could be done through role-play over something as short as an in-game quest or as long as a campaign-spanning arc. This would allow for road-to-Damascus changes of heart (read: alignment), conversion and blessing.
I like these ideas because whether or not one is a Paladin is not entirely up to oneself. No amount of hard work or good deeds will get you the badge. The higher powers are the only ones who get to make that call. And they don’t make it very often.
[On a not entirely unrelated note, have a classic White Dwarf (ish 20) article:]