Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Dragon Warriors - My Game of Choice.

Dragon Warriors was my first ever rpg system for DM'ing.  It was basic, straight forward - a critical hit meant instant death - and easy to get into.  But the best part?  It was all contained within 6 paperback book volumes ... sheer bliss!

It's now twenty-plus years on from the first time I thumbed through the Dragon Warriors book set, and the books are decidedly delicate looking, and in need of some hard earned TLC.  The spines on two have been reinforced with sellotape; each volume has relevant sections tagged for quick and easy access - not that I really needed them, but in the heat of battle when a player would ask a question regarding a certain ruling, there it was at the tip of my fingers.

What also delighted me, regarding these publications, were the dark and edgy drawings throughout each book.  Even the intro sketch did its job extremely well, as you can see:

The books came in six flavours:

Book One - Dragon Warriors & Book Two - The Way of Wizardry

Book Three - The Elven Crystals & Book Four - Out of the Shadows

Book Five - The Power of Darkness & Book Six - The Lands of Legend

- Book Contents In Brief -
(taken directly from the reverse of each book)
Book One - 'This gives you the essentials for combat, a complete armoury and a bestiary of bloodthirsty opponents.  You choose the type of warrior you want to be: an armour-clad Knight, a muscle-bound Barbarian, a tough Dwarf or a crafty Elf.'

Book Two - 'The Way of Wizardry expands on the Dragon Warriors role-playing game to include the magical arts.  Take on the mantle of a Mystic or spell-casting Sorcerer: more than a hundred spells, potions and arcane magical devices await you and your friends.'

Book Three - 'This third book of the Dragon Warriors role-playing game presents three adventure scenarios along with new monsters, magic and treasure which extend the basic rules of the series.'

Book Four - 'Out of the Shadows presents the full rules for Assassins - techniques of stealth and the martial arts as well as arcane alchemy, mysterious trance-like magic and the unstoppable power of the Death Vow.  Also included in this book are more than fifty new terrifying monsters, special combat expertise and magic for high-ranking characters, and three enthralling adventure scenarios.'

Book Five - 'This fifth book in the Dragon Warrior series explains how you may become an Elementalist, drawing on the powers of nature.  There are fifty new spells and a full-length epic adventure in search of the lost city of Fengil, Prince of Darkness.'

Book Six - 'This sixth book in the best selling Dragon Warriors series presents a complete fantasy world for your adventures.  Also included are full rules for Warlocks, the masters of swords and sorcery, and a series of challenging adventure scenarios that will plunge you and your friends into the realms of utmost danger.'

Text Copyright © Dave Morris 1985 - 1986.

The 'stats' for your character are:

Strength - a measure of fitness and toughness.
Reflexes - dexterity, agility and speed of reactions.
Intelligence - how clever a character is.
Psychic Talent - basic ability to resist (and in some cases use) magic.
Looks - appearance and personal charm, and taken into account when deciding how NPCs react to that character.
Everything is rolled on 3D6.  Personally, I allow players to use 4D6 and discard the lowest number with 1s re-rolled - but this is purely my own preference.

Then comes Attack, Defence, Evasion, Magical Attack (if a magic using class) and Magical Defence. These are given a fixed number to begin with, adjusted by your class and plus or minus points according to certain stats rolled previously when creating your character.

Health - Rolled on 1D6 and the resulting number is added to the basic character class health bonus, +7 for Knights, +9 for Barbarians, +4 for Sorcerers and Elementalists, +5 for Mystics, Assassins and Warlocks.

Armour is given an Armour Factor (AF), as an example, no armour = AF0, whilst Plate = AF5

Combat is a fairly straightforward affair.
  1. The attacker rolls a D20 to determine whether they have hit (the Hit Roll).  If they fail then their go is over for the round and the opponent gets to strike back.
  2. When a character scores a hit they roll to see whether the blow gets past the opponent's armour (if any).  This is the Armour Bypass Roll.  If it fails the the opponent's armour does its job and they are not hurt by the blow.
  3. A blow whichgets through armour inflicts a wound.  The opponent's current Health Points are reduced by the damage rating of the weapon used (4 Health Points in the case of a sword, 5 HP for a battleaxe, etc).
If the Combat Round ends with both combatants still able to fight (i.e. their current Health Points have not yet been reduced to 0), the next Round begins and the procedure is followed through again.

The Hit Roll
A character must subtract the opponent's DEFENCE score from their own ATTACK score.  This gives the number that they must roll equal to or less than on D20 in order to score a hit.

A roll of '20' is always a miss, regardless of the combatants' relative Combat Factors.  Conversely, a roll of '1' is always a hit - and, in fact, always gets past armour. (Such a roll is called a critical hit.)

The Armour Bypass Roll
Having scored a hit, a character rolls to see if their blow can penetrate the opponent's armour.  Each type  of protection has a given Armour Factor (often abbreviated to AF).

armour type                                             AF
None                                                        0
Padded Leather                                       1
Hardened Leather                                    2
Ring Mail                                                  3
Chainmail                                                 4
Plate                                                         5

The attacker must roll higher than their opponent's Armour Factor in order to penetrate the armour.  The type of die used for this Armour Bypass Roll depends on the weapon with which the blow was struck, i.e. Sword D8, 4pts.

That's Dragon Warriors in a nutshell.  A fun and very flexible game system indeed.  These paperback rule books are very difficult to come by, but is still very much loved by folks who, like me, discovered this gem of an rpg system when it was first released upon the role playing community back in 1985.

Recently there has been a rehash of the game and it has now been re-released in a hard-backed A4 format, with rules changes, new (and some original) illustrations - of which there are some I feel just do not fit in with the whole Dragon Warriors atmosphere of old, but this is my own personal opinion, so do not be put off - and updated monsters and scenarios.

I have the book, as my originals (the covers of which you can see above), are now in retirement and this version is more robust and durable to the rigors of the role playing table, and the grubby paws of its players.

And here is the cover art for said book:

Copyright - Serpent King Games.

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