Dragon Mag Monday: #106

My copy of Dragon #106 (February 1986) is not only missing its cover (shown on right), but it is stained by coffee or Dr. Pepper (or maybe both).

And now we’ve come to a classic issue. Yes, like many of the issues from this era in my collection, Dragon Magazine #106 (February 1986) is missing its cover, and furthermore, I had to use some clear tape to keep the first page adhered to the spine after removing the issue from its mylar bag. To make matters worse (but also indicating how well-loved with use it is), my copy of Dragon #106 is stained with what I can only guess is either Dr. Pepper or coffee given my predilections at the time. Despite being long gone, the cover is one I remember well because I’d stare at its beautiful, scantily armor-clad elven warrior woman endlessly. Keith Parkinson is an amazing fantasy illustrator. I love his work and this cover is gorgeous, having an almost dreamy quality. But nevertheless, I can’t help but scoff at her get-up. Lady Valshea (the painting is named for her) is an elven fighter/magic-user and as such, she has the proper ethereal look, alabaster skin, big eyes, the blue and gold of her armor (such as it is) suggests something royal about her lineage, while her expression remains inscrutable and almost otherworldly. Her horse is perfectly rendered and the little faerie dragon on Valshea’s finger is a nice touch, as is the curve to the blade of her shining, likely magical, sword. But why is she wearing a halter top chain shirt? Why doesn’t she have any pants on? I like the bracers and the pauldron (or is it a spaulder?) that protects her right arm, but when the top half of your armor is off the shoulder with a plunging neckline, you have to wonder why bother?

I understand that there are some fantasy art traditions that are worth continuing to explore, but when imagining what kind of practical armor an elven fighter/magic-user might wear, there should be more creativity involved.

Still, whether it is just misplaced nostalgia or having my desires warped by too much titillating fantasy art in my formative years, I can’t help but admire it.

The table of contents for Dragon Magazine #106. [click to enlarge]

But while the cover is memorable, the most important thing to me about this issue is its inclusion of the now classic “A Plethora of Paladins” article by Christopher Wood, more recently re-popularized by Matt Colville and MCDM’s Illrigger class.

However, let’s talk about the various other things of interest in this issue before digging into seven more types of AD&D paladins to join the classic lawful good flavor and his bitter mirror rival, the chaotic evil anti-paladin (detailed originally in Dragon #39 [July 1980]).

Among the letters is a complaint about the MARVEL SUPERHEROES ROLE-PLAYING GAME adventure included in issue #104, “Sudden Dawn.” It seems that several maps it refers to are missing and the response explains that the maps were left out for space and suggests where to find maps that work in other Marvel Superhero RPG products or to simply “make your own.” While DIY is certainly in the spirit of how I play D&D and other role-playing games, I also know that if you are printing and selling an adventure (even one included in a periodical), “just make it yourself” seems like an unacceptable answer. Then again, what choice does anyone who wants to run “Sudden Dawn” have?

In his editorial comments, Kim Mohan explains how he was able to squeeze out an extra eight pages for forthcoming issues of Dragon, which may not totally make up for the 17% cover price increase, but at least it’s something. That is how he spins it, anyway. And I have to say, I don’t doubt that he was sincerely trying to make the increase up to the readers despite it being largely outside of his control.

The first full article in the issue is “The Laws of Magic” by Charles Olsen. It presents a framework for understanding the various kinds of magic in AD&D and how they work. I have to admit that I barely skimmed it, though I remember reading it closely back in the day. But I came to the same conclusion then as I do now, which is that I find this kind of article boring and without much point. As long as the magic system is consistent (or consistently inconsistent, if designed to be that way), I don’t care how it works and find pseudo-scientific explanations anathema to the mysteries of magic. Ultimately, it matters more that magic thematically fits with the setting and functions systematically in the game, than it fits some reverse-engineered framework. I don’t really know how a sword is forged either and the degree to which I do know is because of how such a process is linked to an encounter or scenario and not because I need to know how it works more generally to run a gamified abstraction of swordplay.

If this kind of thing helped to adjudicate spells cast in new or unexpected ways, I might like it more.

“Casting Spells for Cash” by Fraser Sherman is useful for considering what the market for casting spells for others (whether the PCs want to make side cash by casting spells for coin or need to pay for a spell for them) might look like. Now, I am not a fan of a “magic economy” in my D&D games and prefer to run settings where magic remains magical by means of its occult knowledge and a cultural bias against selling the results of those works like a common trader. The problem with the “economics” approach to magic, where it is just another form of technology, is that the worlds D&D inhabit do not reflect a reality where magic of this kind has existed for centuries—a fact that would change everything from who is in charge to how castles are designed to the labor market to how wars are fought (to practically everything else). Instead, I handle magic exchange in terms of barter and influence, which makes it an amazing adventure-hook generator. Nevertheless, back in the day, Sherman’s article was very helpful in determining the cost of spells when player characters went looking for them. Sure, his article is focused only on arcane magic (what was just called “magic-user spells” back then) and not divine magic, but it was not hard to extrapolate from what he provides. How much of a donation will a temple ask for a Heal or a Regeneration spell? What would a wizard who needed an influx of cash ask for in return for a polymorph spell that’d transform a chicken into a griffin that could then be used as a mount? Is it cheaper than going out to find one? These are good questions for a DM to consider when setting prices or whatever goods or services are offered in return.

“The Ecology of the Maedar” (which brings our Greenwood Count up to 12) is another classic article and as far as I know, the first time the “male medusa” (who’d later be included in the 2E Monstrous Compendium and Monstrous Manual) saw print. I find it fascinating that Greenwood decided to treat medusas as a distinct species and not as the victims of a mythical curse (a direction I went in recreating the 5E harpy). But as much as I like the maedar, some part of me wishes that making medusae into a species did not require a male version to exist for the sake of procreation. I would want something weirder and/or subversive. “Weird” would be something like budding asexual reproduction and “subversive” being a progenitive lesbian­ species—though I guess the latter would be problematic in its own way especially in the anti-LGBTQ climate of the 1980s given the medusa’s role as a monstrous villain.

A maedar emerges to aid his petrified consort. (art by Roger Raupp)

The article itself is a narrative retelling by Elminster at The Leaning Post Tavern, giving a two-page “um, actually” to correct a guy claiming medusas are the worst of all the foes he’s faced (because I guess Elminster is just the kind of guy who likes to argue against your experience). The sagely mansplaining wizard of the Realms tells a tale about the obscure and mysterious maedar who he declares to be more deadly than the female of the species. The maedar is of course immune to the petrifying glare of their female counterparts, can move through stone as a xorn (what is codified as “earthglide” these days), and their touch turns stone to flesh. Thus, not only are maedar necessary to make more medusas, but they are crucial in feeding their paramours, breaking off pieces of their mate’s petrified victims and then turning those pieces back to flesh so they both can feast! Gruesome. But I kind of like the image.

Greenwood provides no stat block for the maedar, saying their statistics are identical to a medusa’s except for a short list of ways in which they differ (no snake hair, does two mighty fist attacks, etc.) but does describe how “a female produces 1-3 live young every 10 years or so” and while young medusas and maedar have their respective flesh to stone and stone to flesh abilities from birth, the women only grow their snake hair at puberty. I find this lifecycle potentially fascinating and want to know more about their role in a broader dungeon ecology. Furthermore, one of the most memorable adventures I ever experienced as a player included a medusa/maedar pair and their grimlock servants (whose blindness made them perfect companions for the petrifying medusa), so I guess I have a soft spot for them.

All in all, probably the article in this issue and perhaps in all the issues I have covered so far (save Best of Dragon vol. IV) that has had the longest legacy in Dungeons & Dragons.

Carl Sargent’s “Money Isn’t Everything” is an examination of the starting funds for different classes and how those classes handle money. For example, back in the day, rangers and paladins had strict rules about how much money and magic they could own or carry. According to Sargent, rangers and paladins will never share funds with other party members because of these restrictions, but I never enforced these rules too stridently as DM, nor do I ever remember them quoted at me from another DM. In general, I think these were used as rules of thumb that only came up if lax enforcement was being too obviously exploited. Money was a much bigger part of the game in pre-5E D&D editions (with the usual caveat that I could be wrong about 4E since I only ever tried it once, though my editor says it wasn’t and I believe him), and I do my best to make it an important part of my 5E games as well, so this kind of examination of what those starting funds can mean for play is appreciated.

Jim Roslof’s representation of one of the trapped doors in “Open Them if You Dare.”

“Open Them If You Dare” brings our Greenwood count to 13. In it, the Forgotten Realms creator via his mouthpiece, Elminster, presents 12 types of magical/trapped doors, including the legendary “Dread Portal” which is infamous for having a wraith trapped in it, meaning it drained the levels of those who touched it as that is how “energy drain” worked back in the day.

There are two different articles modifying the 1E Ranger class in this issue. One of them (“The Ranger Redefined” by Deborah Christian) explores in great detail a ranger’s environmental abilities, like tracking, hunting, spying, animal and plant lore, and so forth. The explanation of these abilities is very useful but the dozen subsystems and charts for each is more than a little overwhelming and a far cry from the unified and straightforward d20 skill checks introduced in 2E (as non-weapon proficiency checks), developed in 3E, and are now the norm in 5E. “More Range for Rangers” (by James A. Yates) expands the follower table for 1E rangers. More than their contents, however, these two articles along with Gary Gygax publishing his own house rules as a kind of between edition stop-gap in Dragon #94, makes me realize that the ranger may have always been a class with which D&Ders were not satisfied. When I first started playing 5E (about five years after it first came out), I noticed a lot of negative talk about the 5E ranger (and I too didn’t like it, but I think for reasons other than most people’s complaints) so I kind of associate the current edition with “weak rangers.” But maybe they were always troublesome. There is certainly evidence in the pages of Dragon for that being the case in 1E. I remember complaints about the ranger’s front-loaded abilities being the beginning of the dread one-level dip that came in the 3E era, and even the 2E version suffered from power creep given the commonly used optional material in both the Complete Fighter’s and Complete Ranger’s Handbooks. It makes me wonder if the main problem of the ranger is not so much its powers (though that can be an issue) but the lack of an agreed upon fiction that provides a framework for what a ranger even is. Pointing at Aragorn is not enough to build on and pointing at Drizzt feels like self-reflexive definition, if he is even thought of as a “ranger” anymore and not just his own thing.

Dragon #106’s Convention Calendar includes an ad for WizardCon at Columbia University. I went that year. It was my first con.

“The Way We Really Play” by Tom Armstrong reads like a blog post trying to characterize the general evolution of DM style and game play in a way that I found brilliant when I first read it in 1986 but that these days seems ill-considered and reductive. He breaks down D&D game play into three stages but doesn’t give them names. Basically, they are the “Monty Haul” stage, the strict adherence to the rules stage (to rein in the excesses of the first stage through over-compensation), and what he calls the “normal” stage (a grounding in rules combined with homebrewing and rulings for “smoother” play). When this came out, I was already trying to move from the “Monty Haul” phase to the “strict” phase, and this article helped me to think about developing a style of game that Armstrong calls “normal” (though obviously that terminology is problematic in a multitude of ways, not the least of which being that each group needs to determine what is normal for themselves). On the other hand, this article not only condones, but encourages using game play results to address social conflict at the table. Armstrong writes that he fudged a roll to kill off a character whose player “had shown total disregard for the rules, altered his character’s ability scores, and cheated on his die rolls.” Furthermore, the player in question was “rude to the other players, disregarded his character’s alignment when it suited him, and was generally a pain in the neck.” Armstrong does not explain what the player’s reaction was to this character death, but my guess is that someone who is that troublesome at the table probably would not take it well and a conversation or simply booting the person from the game is a much better solution than “teaching them a lesson” in game.

Ultimately, the article’s conclusions don’t match up with what Armstrong describes, but they point in a sensible direction: 1) don’t be railroaded into making your game into something you don’t want it to be, 2) work with your players, 3) keep within the rules, and 4) have fun!

Jim Holloway’s art isn’t always a great fit for D&D, but it is perfect for Paranoia.

“Bad Idea, Good Game?” is a collection of reviews by Michael Dobson, looking at what seem like dubious RPGs. He examines Toon (which in my experience is fun for a one-off but doesn’t have much replay or serial value) and the tasteless Subway Vigilante based on the infamous case of Bernhard Goetz. Lastly, he looks at one of my favorite games, Paranoia.

Speaking of Paranoia, the Arēs section of this issue includes “Notes from the Underground,” tips for players of that game. It also includes “Stellar Feedback” in which editor Roger E. Moore examines letters sent in about various sci-fi gaming articles in past issues of Dragon, “The Marvel-Phile” presents some of the current members (and enemies) of Alpha Flight, which had recently begun its classic eponymous run by John Byrne, and “The New Humans,” which continues with RPGs seeming obsession with blood-lines and eugenics, this time with Gamma World’s “pure strain humans.”

Dave Trampier has Wormy’s trolls meditating on beer.

Wormy has got a bar scene with drunken old trolls drinking “Troll’s Choice” beer (with a little joke about illegible fonts – it looks like it reads “Trolls Choke”) and in SnarfQuest, Snarf, Avaree, and Telerie (along with their lizard and death leech companions) explore the “Evil Keep of Gathor.” Snarf continues to go along with the dangerous business of adventuring in an attempt to impress the hot and uber-competent warrior woman Telerie. Of course, Larry Elmore makes sure to include a panel with Snarf leering up Telerie’s skirt as he walks behind her up some steps, responding to her query if he can “see good enough” with a lascivious glance that breaks the fourth wall, making the assumed straight male reader complicit in objectifying her. His “sure” is creepy. Her underwear is visible both in this panel and later when she fights some monstrous guard. I am not trying to be a prude, but there is a difference between a sex positive fantasy farce like Oglaf, and playing to the fantasies of horny 15-year old boys in a way that could make the game table hostile to anyone who does not share their orientation.

Snarf being a creep and through breaking the 4th wall with that glance, he assumes the reader is also a creep.

And finally, in the center of the issue we get to the real juice of Dragon Magazine #106, Christopher Wood’s “A Plethora of Paladins.” What surprised me when re-reading this article was how little introduction there is aside from some very brief fiction that does not tell us much. The article presents seven NPC paladin types to fill in the gaps of the seven alignments between the lawful good standard paladin and the chaotic evil anti-paladin. There is absolutely no accompanying art. These new paladins have very little lore that goes along with their descriptions and in game rules terms, have no clear mechanical niche. At best, there are some very sketchy descriptions of their roles and churches. Of course, this is in line with class descriptions of the time, as is the lack of unique abilities, with most of these different paladins varying based on when they get access to spells, what those spells are, and some wacky hit dice. Some of them also have combat bonuses that (as far as I can remember) are way out of balance with existing classes. I guess when a class is meant to be an NPC that doesn’t matter much. Though, if other people’s experiences are like mine and Matt Colville’s, people played these classes as PCs. I ran a game around this time that included a Myrikhan PC (the neutral good paladin), and a game I ran for high school friends featured an Illrigger NPC (the lawful evil variant) that I let someone play temporarily until there was a reasonable opportunity to introduce a character of his own. However, he fell in love with playing it so much that he begged for me to let him continue to play the devil-worshiping unholy knight. Ultimately, since that campaign collapsed (as so many did back then), I never had to make a decision.

I think my fond memories of this article and the recent renewed hype about it greatly contributed to the disappointment I felt when rereading it. All these paladins seem so under-developed and ill-conceived now, but at the time they set my imagination on fire. I got a very strong “you can’t go home again” feeling but just last year Matt Colville and the MCDM crew did manage to avoid that feeling at least in terms of one of these paladin types: the Illrigger.

One of the reasons that this old, largely forgotten article has found new life in D&D circles in recent years is because Colville mentioned it in one of his videos, raising interest in these variants and leading to MCDM putting out a kind of Hell Knight class they dubbed the Illrigger.

The MCDM version of the Illrigger opens with some fiction that is meant to provide an example of how a knight who serves Hell might have a reason to cooperate in a group of adventurers which seems interminable. It calls them “charismatic counter-paladins” and gives them the ability to easily deceive or persuade and to act as a conduit of lifeforce, healing allies at the cost of their own reserve of it and by sucking that same energy from their enemies to replenish their own.

The Illrigger of Dragon #106, which inspired it, on the other hand, has almost none of this. They emanate the perpetual protection from good which mirrors the traditional paladin’s protection from evil. They can detect good in a radius of five feet per level. They are immune to diseases (because, I guess, typical paladins also have this immunity). They have bonuses to save versus “chaotic magic” in an era before the spell tags that became standard 15 years later in 3E, so basically the bonus is against any spell cast by a chaotically-aligned character or from intrinsically chaotically-aligned magical items. Furthermore, they have some thief and assassin abilities. They gain access to both magic-user and cleric spells starting at 5th and 6th level respectively.

Aside from saying that “nearly all known Illrigger are devil-worshipers,” the only other lore included is that they tend to like armor and weapons of “darkened metal,” preferring plate mail and morningstars.  They wear helmets bearing their personal seal, which is where I assume MCDM got the idea of the runic seals their version of the Illrigger places on enemies which cause them to take more damage from the Illrigger and their allies.

The various paladins’ weapon proficiencies (non-weapon proficiencies weren’t a common thing yet) and attacks per round progression. In an example of this article’s many errors and inconsistencies, the footnote about Myrikhan’s initial weapons is not mentioned in the text as indicated.

That last detail about the seals makes clear to me that converting any of these seven paladins to 5E (or other games) requires creativity to develop some of these very bare bones ideas into something more interesting and fitting into a game setting and contemporary design. This spare approach is the appeal of material like this from back in the 1E days—adaptation to your own table was expected. It is a feature, not a bug. On the other hand, this article and its example paladins reads like it needed more input from an editor and further development overall. If I were Kim Mohan in 1986, I would have had the author add another couple of pages to this issue’s “Special Attraction” and cut something like “The Laws of Magic” article. The space could have been used to fill some gaps, develop ideas, and correct contradictions. For example, the Myrikhan (the neutral good paladin) has a “95% chance of being encountered alone” and yet has a follower table to determine those drawn to serve him when reaching 9th level and establishing a base. Does this mean that 95% of Myrikhans don’t build a base? Does it mean that all their followers tend to stay behind despite there being a mission to accomplish? Furthermore, the unique spells included in the manuscript for some of these paladins are vague, weird, and overpowered even by 1E standards, and I can’t imagine how they might be useful in a player-facing way (assuming the paladins remain NPCs).

The text to Question Ball, an odd spell. [click to enlarge]

Take for example the Paramander spells Question Ball and Slow Mutation. Question Ball allows the paladin caster to “answer any question” (up to one question per level) by sacrificing a crystal ball and a gem of seeing in the process of trapping an extraplanar being in the former. There is no guideline to what kind of questions may be asked, but there is a base 50% (minus caster level) chance the answer will be a lie! The spell seems worthless as written. It is definitely not worth giving up two powerful magical items. There is also a chance that the entity summoned into the ensorcelled orb is released. It is a 10 HD monster with a claw/claw/bite attack routine that poisons the victim and has a chance of causing a “terminal blood disease.” In addition, it has “the spell-like abilities of a Type I demon.” It has 2-12 possessions, “each of which has a 20% chance of being magical.” I guess I can imagine PCs seeking out a Paramander with the necessary components to get a question answered to circumvent some extreme difficulty, but the chance the response is a lie seems to wipe out any utility. Furthermore, can the caster repeat a question multiple times and see if it changes to better determine the veracity of previous answers? Is the being bound to tell the same lie each time? I guess it is up to the DM to decide.

Slow Mutation is a form of Polymorph Other that happens over 3 to 18 rounds rather than instantaneously, assuming the target meets some condition set at the time of casting. Like the other spell, the description here is extremely vague and doesn’t provide any framework for the set condition. The examples it gives—“coming into contact with a certain substance, performance of a certain action”—lead me to think it could be anything, but I am not sure of the point, except as an attempt to ban the target from taking the triggering action.

Anyway, these are clearly not spells I will be taking any time to convert to 5E for a Dweomer Day post. They remind me of the poorly thought-out homebrew stuff I sometimes see online, except it is in the D&D magazine of record.

In fact, while I originally planned to create a couple of quick 5E paladin subclasses based on the paladins detailed in this article, I soon realized that the MCDM approach was likely the only way to convert them successfully. It is not really possible to just “convert” them as they need to be completely reimagined and created from the ground up using the nuggets of info included, even if just as an aesthetic homage that in reality is nothing like the source material. As such, I have not only included a PDF version of the original article for folks to check out (at least until I get a C&D letter) but also a brief description of each of the paladin types below for those who are interested to take a crack making 5E (or some other edition) versions of the ones that interest them. Be sure to let me know in the comments with a link to your own version if you do so.

Myrikahn (NG). Field agents of a neutral good church, who are forbidden to retain wealth or speak their deity’s name anywhere but when standing on consecrated ground. They are good at fighting large and giant humanoids (like rangers of old), can identify plants and animals, and can detect evil in a 100-foot radius!

Garath (CG). These church guardians, who despite being chaotic good and being allowed to complete their mission “no matter what the method or cost,” are defrocked if they break so much as one church rule (hardly seems chaotic to me). They guard church caravans and tend to use “finely crafted and exquisitely detailed armor and weapons.” I think they’d make good pilgrimage companions. The powers they are given here include, Protection from Devils, cleric spell use starting at 8th level, and they gain two bodyguards at 7th level. Like Myrikhans, they cannot retain wealth and additionally are forbidden from using force against good-aligned individuals, except in self- or church defense. As the anti-Illrigger, I think they should have powers to break charms and compulsions. This idea reminds me of a specialty priest from my old homebrew, Aquerra.

Lyan (LN). The Lyan leans more on the cleric side of the paladin class than the fighter side (at least according to their description, if not their actual powers). In one of the few references to a specific church in this article, we are told that their church consists only of other lyans (no clerics or acolytes) and that their god is called “The Arbiter.” Devotees of the law, lyans are not allowed to wear armor or bear weapons while on consecrated ground. They do not have much in the way of powers but can detect chaos at a range of 20 feet per level and gain access to both magic-user and cleric spells starting at 3rd level, but do not get many (for example not being able to cast 2nd level spells until they reach 8th level). But most out of whack with other classes is their combat ability against “chaotic creatures,” getting +1 to hit and damage per level.

Paramander (N). These neutrally aligned paladins seek to maintain the balance created by their god when he created the universe by “manipulating (and, when necessary, destroying) high-powered beings of deep alignment convictions…or by aiding weak opponents of those beings.” If they take any good, evil, lawful, or chaotic action without also taking a requisite balanced action, they lose their paladin designation. They are not permitted to use missile weapons. Among their powers is the detection of good or evil, immunity to disease, access to some thief abilities like find/remove traps, move silently, and hide in shadows, and finally, access to spellcasting from their own spell list starting at 8th level. As I mentioned above, the article provides a number of spells unique to the class in addition to the spell list which looks like a mix of cleric and wizard spells. As users of “Paramandic Magic,” they learn and prepare spells as a magic-user does. It strikes me that this class, given its mandate to foil or destroy powerfully aligned beings would benefit from some assassination abilities as well.

Paramandyr (N). This class is counted as a variant of the Paramander, and thus is not considered an eighth paladin in this article. Referred to as “a rare and horrible creature” that is “an insane cousin to the Paramander,” these paladins only seek to destroy powerfully aligned convictions, “believing that in oblivion there is perfect balance.” These paladins leave a sigil on their victims that identifies the source and reason for their death. I think these might actually serve as a good villainous cult in a D&D game. They have the same powers and abilities as their Paramander counterparts.

Fantra (CN). I can’t not think “Fanta” in my head when I see the name of these paladins who are part of a nomadic culture that only cares for their god and themselves, eschewing contact with outsiders and non-believers. It is an even funnier name to me than “Garath,” (which just sounds like some nerdy Brit). Fantra are only allowed to aid outsiders if it is in the direct benefit of their people. I think this makes the Fantra an interesting candidate for a 5E update as an NPC or perhaps as a PC in the right kind of campaign. And yet, I can’t make the chaotic neutral part of this paladin line up with that philosophy in my head. Perhaps an updated version doesn’t need to be chaotic neutral, as the alignment restrictions on paladins have been loosened more generally. Nevertheless, the Fantra have abilities that allow them to identify plants and animals, and scavenge for food in the wilderness. They get access to spells from first level using a spell list that is clearly influenced by that of druids. I like the idea of a druidic paladin who is a champion for nature and a nomadic people. My guess is that there probably already exists an Oath of Nature or Oath of the Road, if not in an official WotC product (perhaps Oath of the Ancients?), then in some 3rd party 5E book. Some other part of me wonders if just having them be a type of ranger makes more sense.

Russ Nicholason’s penanggalan (a vampiric woman’s head trailing her guts and viscera) in the 1E Fiend Folio is horrific AF.

Illrigger (LE). I’ve already talked at length about the this class, but I will say that among their possible followers is a penanggalan, which is creepy as fuck.

Arrikhan (NE). The neutral evil equivalent of the Myrikhan are very similar to their good counterparts, acting as “field agents” for their church and losing their standing as a paladin if they ever do a good deed. They can control undead as a cleric two levels lower than their level (so starting at 3rd level) and gain +1 to hit and damage per level when fighting good opponents (which is very powerful). In another example of the poor editing of this article, all these paladins like the core 1E version they are based on, can only be humans, and yet the Arrikhan entry tells us how halfling Arrikhans cannot surpass 6th level since they can’t cast cleric spells and how dwarves who are Arrikhans cannot cast any druid spells and thus cannot surpass 10th level (since the class gets access to them at 11th). Most notable, however, is the Arrikhan’s ability to “torture helpless victims…” Talk about something that needs to be discussed in session zero! The rules explain how victims of torture take 1d4 hps of damage per round and have to make a Constitution check (less than their score on 3d6—so not a saving throw) or give up information. The article does make sure to explain that “Player characters cannot be tortured for information in this manner, but may be harmed.” Hmmm.

Of all of these, the Myrikhan, Garath, Arrikhan, and (obviously) Illrigger are the most interesting to consider as the source of a PC version. Despite the severe limitations, the lack of mechanical differentiation, and sketchy lore, this classic article was nevertheless a useful one for me back when it came out because I found it inspirational for developing the alignment conflicts of a D&D world and provided a spectrum of classes to compare to each other in considering how one might build a homebrew class.

Now that paladins in the core rules can be of any alignment and alignment is downplayed in 5E to the point of having nearly no mechanical function, these paladin types based on alignment seem simultaneously outdated and inspirational. I have only had two paladin player characters in my current 5E games (one of which is neutral good and is very Myrikhan-like in background and the other a neutral paladin of vengeance who perished in our second session), but some part of me would like to limit the various oaths to one or two alignments each and use the versions (if not the names) suggested here as the basis for those various oaths and motives. Not sure if I will ever actually do that, but I may. But in the meantime, don’t hold your breath looking for an adaptation on HOW-I-RUN-IT.com because despite my ambitions when I picked up this issue for the first time in decades, the reality is, doing so is not as easy as I imagined.

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