- Publication date
- CC0 1.0 Universal
- Rainbow Magazine
By Bill Nolan
Rainbow FRP Columnist
(Mr. Nolan, an experienced Dungeonmaster in a popular fantasy-role
playing game on a weekly basis, is the President of Prickly-Pear
Hello again, and welcome to August. Please take note of the brand new
name at the head of this column. This was the Grand Prize winner in
our "Name the Column" contest. Like I mentioned when the contest was
announced, there were no other prizes in this contest. Just like when
you fight a Dragon, you either win or you don't -- there is no such
thing as second place.
The winner of this Grand Prize (a $50 gift certificate from
Prickly-Pear Software) was Todd Pittman of Chittenango, New York.
Thanks, Todd. And, thanks, too, to the others who entered our
This month I'm going to talk about Dragons. Those big guys are sure
hard to fight (especially if you're first level), but they can be even
harder for the Dungeon Master to deal with. Why?
Well, first of all, there are lots of different kinds. The evil
Dragons come in red, blue, green, white, and black, while the good
Dragons come in gold, silver, brass, bronze, and copper. The colors
are for evil Dragons, and the metallics are for good. And that's not
even counting the one-of-a-kind Dragons.
Naturally each type of Dragon has its own special powers, number of
hit dice, and other characteristics. Then there is the question of
age. Some Dragons are babies, some are ancient, and the rest fall
somewhere between. The age will certainly have an effect on the other
characteristics of the Dragon, and all this must be calculated after
you randomly determine the age by random dice roll.
But, we're not done yet. Not even close. How big is this Dragon?
Well, each kind (remember all those colors and metals?) comes in three
sizes -- small, average, and huge -- and this must be randomly
decided. Don't forget to make the necessary adjustments to the other
qualities after you check the size.
Where does all this leave us? Well, that's ten species, eight ages,
and three sizes of Dragons. My trusty 80C says that we're up to 240
possible different Dragons. I guess that should cover it!
Not quite. Some dragons can talk and some can't -- so we need another
random dice roll to find out if this particular dragon is one of the
gabby ones. The percentage of talking dragons is different for each
species, so you better look it up. Now, if this dragon does talk, he
may also have the ability to use spells. (Did I say *he*? Maybe we
better check the sex on this dragon.) I hope you weren't expecting
that the percentage of speaking dragons that can use spells would be
the same for all kinds of dragons. Better look it up before you roll
those percentile dice.
So, we had 240 kinds, but with two sexes that makes 480.
Add speaking and non-speaking and you're up to 960. Consider magic
use and you add another 480. (Why not add another 960? Remember,
those 480 non-talking dragons have no chance to use magic.)
Unless I've forgotten something, it would take 1,440 dragons before
you would have to create a duplicate. Sometimes I think that
Role-Playing games can be complicated. If only we were through.
Actually, though, we have what may be the hardest part to go.
When a character or party defeats the above-1,000 or so dragons, (Not
hard -- see below) an award of experience points is earned. How many
points? It depends on the characteristics of the particular dragon in
question. I suppose you could figure out each one individually, or
you could write a table with 1440 entries and just look it up. I
didn't want to do that either, and, thus, the program below. Behold,
You decide which species of dragon you want, or let the computer do it
-- your choice. It will then correctly figure out age, size, sex,
speaking ability and magic ability. It will also compute the
experience point value of said dragon, which should save you some
time. Maybe lots of time.
Once you have entered the program into your 80C, the on- screen
prompts will lead you through the process of creating dragon after
You may have noticed I said that it wasn't too tough to defeat a
dragon. Certainly, if you are a starting first level character, a
Kobold will give you trouble. But no party thinks about killing
dragons until they have a few levels behind them. If you take a party
of six or so 4th or 5th level characters into a dragon's lair, you
should whip all over the poor fellow. Sure, you may not all survive,
but the treasure for those left would be incredible!
Everyone knows that dragons sleep on huge piles of thousands and
thousands of gold coins, not to mention the jewels and magic items.
Why, one good dragon lair can leave a character filthy rich. And the
poor dragon, woebegone creature, really isn't able to guard all that
treasure very well. When I play dragons in my dungeons, I make a few
adjustments to even things out.
First, my dragons usually live in family groups. After all, these are
very intelligent creatures, in most cases smarter than the players,
and they enjoy the company of others like themselves.
Second, my dragons are never sleeping when the players come to kill
them. I personally feel that the dragon's lack of alertness and
tendency to be sleeping is only a rumor, and that they actually sleep
Third, these are very intelligent beings, some near genius in I.Q. I
play them by asking myself how I would react in a given situation.
For example, if I think it would be in the best interest of the dragon
to breathe on the party (and it usually is!) then the dragon will
breathe. I do not roll dice to decide this, because the dragon is
plenty smart enough to figure this out, so that's the way to play it.
In general, whenever a monster is intelligent, I find the most
effective way to play them is to just put myself in their place, and
have them do what I would do if I were them. This is what
role-playing is all about, and I think the DM should role-play the
monsters. It's really the only way to give them the even break which
they so richly deserve.
Monsters, including my friends the dragons, get a lot of bad press.
The standard party of players will head out at the drop of a hat to
slay the terrible, horrible, evil monsters in their lair.
Meanwhile, back at the lair, what are the terrible, horrible, evil
monsters doing? Minding their own business, that's what. You know,
eating, raising their little families, counting their hard-earned
treasure. Stuff like that.
The scenario I see goes like this: A papa Red Dragon, just home after
a long hard day at work, is sitting down to dinner with Mama and the
kids when his loving home is invaded! Suddenly fireballs are flying,
arrows are slaying, the kids are screaming. Mama dies beside him.
Then a Vorpal Sword named Dragonslayer cuts off his head. What a way
to end a day. I mean, this is really an Excedrin headache.
Then, to top it off, all these vandals loot the place, carry off the
inheritance, smash the furniture and, once back in town, brag about it
all to their friends. The only people happy about this are the
player-vandals themselves. Oh, and of course the maiden who would
have been dinner for the dragons. Don't you guys ever feel sorry for
There is one thing I have noticed. If I mention to a group of players
that there is a dragon around, they are on their way to kill it. But,
if the talk turns to demons in the vicinity, the players head out of
town in another direction.
Next month I will discuss the much-maligned demon, give you a program,
and some ideas on how to use demons in your next campaign. The
Succubi are my personal favorites. Delightful ladies!
Until then, if you have any questions, write me at Prickly-Pear
Software, 3510 S. Randi Place, Tucson, AZ 85730 or call (602)
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