Dragon Issue #42 The Mansion of Mad Professor Ludlow

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
Dragon Issue #42 The Mansion of Mad Professor Ludlow (October 1980)

Issue #42 is a Halloween issue. Wheeee! I used to seek those out back when Tom Moldvay (may he rest in peace) did his articles on the various types of undead. He actually has an article in this one, about demons, devils, and spirits. Intriguing! Anyway, since it's a Halloween issue they decided to print a haunted house module. This is mentioned in the preview at the beginning of the magazine: "Gay, upon hearing of our plans for a Halloween observance, said, “Say, Jim’s got a haunted house that’s a lot of fun. Why don’t you see if you can use it?” Obviously, we did just that. We hope you find it a lot of fun, too."

This 'dungeon' might be an early harbinger of the d20 system craze, in that Jim Ward uses AD&D rules for a modern day adventure. "You are all young campers...n the middle of a nighttime hike, you become separated from the rest of your group." Um. Who the hell goes hiking at night?!? That sounds dangerous! Anyway, this is used to flesh out your character. You get to choose ten achievement badges that you've earned, and depending on what you pick you might end up with some bonus equipment. It's an interesting way to start a one-shot adventure, I suppose. He also gives everyone 50 hit points, AC 10, and the THAC0 of a 1st level fighter.

That's about all I really need to say about this dungeon. It's a curio only, with no real reason to be searched out. The mansion has three floors, and each floor has 36 or so rooms in your typical 'mad-house' style dungeon. Some highlights include finding a glowing tube with U-235 in it (a pellet falls out and kills everyone in the room, unless they have radiation protection(!)), a barbed devil (!), a pit fiend (!!!), a forty foot wide room just big enough for two computers (hahahahah), and a wand of magic missiles (that no one in the party can use*).

What was most interesting about this adventure was the epiphany it gave me. A number of these rooms have a "if characters do x, then a monster jumps out and attacks!" mechanic to it. I remember writing a number of adventures in my younger days with dungeons filled with that same mechanic. Did I get this bad idea from Jim Ward? Or was he just using it here because this is a haunted mansion?

Elsewhere in the issue: There's an article on Patron Demons. It begins thus: "Any Chaotic Evil player character may make a pact with a demon prince. The demon offers to aid the character on occasion in return for his soul, and the souls of others through sacrifice." *blink* This is quite a departure from the last issue, with it's article by a priest about D&D and a letter from Gary Gygax saying that angels will never be found in the game. There's also an article about computer gaming in here. Fascinating! I had never heard of the Adventure series. Sounds like a Zork clone of sorts. The final bit of amusement in this issue is the letter to the editor complaining about the game (Ringside) included in the last issue of the magazine. How dare you put a game about boxing in my fantasy/scifi nerd magazine! Rawr.

* Then why the hell include it in the adventure?


8, 8, I forget what is for
This 'dungeon' might be an early harbinger of the d20 system craze,
Having totally missed that era (like Captain America, I was frozen in ice during 1e, and awoke in the present age), can you elaborate on what you meant by this?

I think the if-then structure is an automatic naive "go-to" form of writing arrived at when attempting an Adventure write-up---a lowest-energy-state we all automatically find ourselves at without due vilgence.

Also, enjoying the whimsical reviews. Thanks.

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
Doh! It was a combination of old age and ADD which made me forget to finish my thought. When 3.0/OGL first came on to the scene, there was an explosion of third party content. It was applied to everything. GURPSified, if you wish. D&D in Space (Dragonstar d20, Star Wars d20), Modern d20, etc. When Dungeon and the RPGA magazine were combined together, the RPGA magazine would do a mini-d20 game each issue. The Josie and the Pussycats d20 (of all things) might be the most useful of these. They attempt to apply the combat system to a non-combat situation (ie your band in concert). You'd use spot to figure out which audience members you need to win over then get into a 'combat' with them to turn them into fans. I intend to go back and look at this system again (one of these days(TM)) and see if I can salvage elements of it for my game.

(Pathfinder released a non-combat combat system in Ultimate Intrigue, but it was poorly written and described so I haven't been able to figure it out just yet)