Monday, September 30, 2019

Recollections of DM Raj, Dragon magazine issue 183, & The Taking of 'Rathgarus The Skull Taker'

Getting together with friends or family is often something that gets down to time. DM Raj just left my house about five minutes ago. We only see each other when time & schdules allow. Now I've know Raj since middle school. He actually played in my uncle's AD&D/Basic hybrid campaign starting in '86. But Raj's real speciality has been & continues to be his passion for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition Spelljammer campaign setting!
We began talking about two things today while his kids played in the yard and in no short order Spelljammer & Dragon magazine issue 183.

Dragon magazine issue 183 shudder. This is an infamous issue of Dragon magazine from July of '92 for us because our party of PC's died rather badly on the claws of a rather nasty Norse dragon from second edition. Dragon issue 183 was under the editorship of Roger E.Moore. Mr. Moore gets absolutely no recognition in my opinion for his many  contributations  to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition not to mention the helming of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition. But I digress.
My uncle had gotten Spelljammer & dropped our party of adventurers into an asteriod field where a group of pirates was operating. We tracked them for days in our vessel across the skies
We were asked by the local royals to clear the pirates out but they were not alone?! The whole field was the domain of a particularly nasty Norse dragon called  the Corpse Tearer! The pirates were its minions & muscle under the dragon's purview.
So basically my uncle had taken the asteroid field sequence from Empire Strikes Back, mixed in the 'Avast, Ye Swabs, & Heave Too' article by Richard Baker, & then added in one of the The linnorm  worms from the second part of that series of articles from Dragon issue 181 & 182 respectively.

"The linnorm called Corpse Tearer is the most hideous of the Norse drag ons and one of the most feared. The only offspring of the godlike linnorm of the same name, this mottled-brown dragon has long front legs that end in broken but deadly claws. It has no rear legs. The creature’s slime-covered scales are small and weathered, and when the linnorm is at rest it looks more like a fallen, dead tree than a serpent. The linnorm's snakelike head is ringed with matted brown and gray hair. Tufts of the hair appear at random intervals over his body, in places so matted it resembles loose, rotting flesh. Despite its ragged appearance, the linnorm is very much alive, moving and striking quickly. Corpse Tearer is ancient, and because it has traveled greatly it has become fluent in nearly all human and demihuman tongues. Further, it is able to converse will all linnorms and many evil, intelligent monsters."
We were not just killed outright, no our party of eight adventurers were tortured for days, then to add insult to injury our corpses were impaled on pikes outside of the dragon's lair. We mounted another raid using our next characters & then we died again! My uncle cackled like a loon!
To say that we as players were pissed was an understatement! We made phone calls & got together other players from the Litchfield county area! Then we had a dragon slaying party to say the least! Twelve players got together one weekend to end the scourage of 'Rathgarus The Skull Taker'.

The Viking shieldmaiden Lagertha (Lathgertha, Ladgerda),
wife of Ragnar Lodbrok (d. c. 840-65).

There are no ballads sung in kingdom halls of Razeal'll the Field of Stones nor are we remembered in the halls of Vallhala. 'Rathgarus The Skull Taker' was a Corpse Tearer in its pride & this was a major undertaking.  Its weapons were many as my uncle used the worst of em on us;

"Corpse Tearer’s breath weapon is a cone of paralyzation force 10’ wide at his mouth, 300’ long, and 50’ wide at its apex. Creatures of less than 4 HD caught in the cone are automatically paralyzed for 4d4 turns. Creatures of greater than 4 HD are allowed a saving throw vs. breath weapons to avoid the effects. This breath weapon causes no physical damage. Corpse Tearer’s second breath weapon is another matter, however. The disease breath is a cloud 100’ long, 80’ wide, and 80’ thick. All creatures trapped within the cloud suffer 8d12 + 12 hp damage (save vs. breath weapon for half). Further, the creatures are subjected to a magical disease that slowly weakens them. The disease manifests itself within 1d6 rounds by cutting a creature’s strength score in half. Every three turns, the strength score is halved again until the creature’s strength drops to 1. A cure disease will stop the strength loss. However, a wish or limited wish is needed to restore all lost strength points. Corpse Tearer can breathe twice before needing to rest two rounds before it can breathe again. It can breathe as many times as it wishes within this restriction. This linnorm has the following permanent abilities, useable at will: fly water breathing, continual darkness 100' radius, feign death, polymorph self, and speak with dead. In addition, he is able to use the following once a day at will: protection from good, spectral hand, delude, vampiric touch, wraithform, enervation, dimension door, animate dead, and control undead. Corpse Rarer uses all magical abilities at 15th level."

There were many PC's character sheets that were rolled up that day & it was glorious! Raj was the one that came up with the cunning plan to defeat the worm finally after six attempts on my various PC's parts. He lured it into a tunnel & the magic users dropped a giant stone on its head! But we only got a third of the treasure as the royals claimed it in taxes on us! We got the experience but the king quickly came in to claim the credit! Our PC's got the experience points but it was the king whose reputation got the boost he needed. We found a Draupnir Ring of 60,000 gold piece value : "Although not a weapon this artifact produces a similar ring (golden) of 10,000- 60,000 gold piece value every night. Odin often gives these away to his faithful servants, the Einheriar, or those others that please him." We were not to keep that ring however which leads to another blog entry for another time.  The adventure took up a whole weekend from Friday afternoon into late Sunday morning. Pizzas, soda, & an entire AD&D sleep over was the norm for a weekend back then. Parents were thankful that we weren't boozing & causing probelms ( we were but only at the table top). 

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