Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dragon Magazine: The Wandering Damage Table

James Maliszewski doesn't seem to have gotten to this excellent article, so it's up to me to cover it.

From Dragon #96: The Meanest Of Monsters by Craig Kraus.

Mr. Kraus introduced us to two nasty monsters for the April Fools section of Dragon - the Killer Dungeon Master (who kills you dead, unfairly) and the Sleep-Inducing Dungeon Master (who bores you to sleep and then steals your dice).

The Killer Dungeon Master got to use the "Wandering Damage Table," a joke that really had legs for my gaming group and those of my local fellow players in other groups.

"How To Use The Wandering Damage System
First there was the wandering monster. They serve well when
applied in hordes, but why not cut out the middleman and just deal
out damage to the characters directly? It makes for a smoother,
faster-paced game, and if you want to kill off characters quickly, it
can only be beaten by divine intervention by Cthulhoid godlings.

You rolled on up to three tables - one to see what happened, one on the damage table (maybe), and one on the limb loss subtable.

Entries read like these:

"4 Your character cuts himself while shaving; consult Limb Loss


"11 Something invisible chews on your character, doing 6-36
points damage."


"13-20 Consult the Random Damage Subtable for no reason

Or the Limb Loss Subtable, which included "Head gone" and "Torso cut in half." Yeah, from shaving perhaps - I had a razor like that once.

Or the damage subtable:

"01-05 Take 10 hit points damage.
06-10 Take 15 hit points damage."


"56-60 Take 24 hit points damage and then take 31 more.
61-65 Take 1,000 hit points damage and roll again.
66-70 Roll every die within 30 feet for damage."

I love "and then take 31 more."

"74-75 Take 3 hit points damage and consider yourself very lucky - for the time being."

Part of the humor for me was that I always saw wandering monsters as, pretty much, wandering damage. "You're taking too long, so here's some damage without treasure. Still lollygagging? Here's more!" We still refer to things as a "Wandering Damage Table." I roll for wandering monsters and say "Let's see if any wandering damage, er monsters, show up."

The other was the sheer quotability of "Consult the limb loss table" or "And consider yourself very lucky" in play. We must have busted these out once a session for years, and the elder gamers in my area still use these. A few of the younger guys picked it up without ever having seen Dragon #96. It's the "This one goes to 11" of gaming for us.


  1. That certainly sounded familiar when you started quoting it...

    The other Dragon piece that lodged itself in my head long-term was the half-level spells in "Still More Outrages From the Mages" (John M. Maxstadt, Dr144). Audible Curse, Bigby's Interposing Eye, Detect Normal Fires, Explosive Familiar... and of course Drawmij's Instant Death. ("When this spell is cast, Drawmij dies. It's not known where or who Drawmij is, but it seems a safe bet that he's getting quite fed up with this by now.")

  2. That's some really fun material -- gave me a good chuckle!

  3. @rogerbw - I'll find that one. I stopped reading somewhere before 144 . . . but I have the PDF collection (snapped that sucker up when it came out, good thing too . . . )

    What's funny is that Drawmij is Jim Ward backwards. :) Poor Jim!

    @Bard: It's worth finding the whole article. It's stupid but awesome. And really, how many old-school tables really just work out to be damage with a middleman anyway? Lots in my experience.

  4. Thanks for the reminder of those! "Wandering damage" was always one of our favorites, too.

  5. I still think the best April Fools article in Dragon was the one with the Cosmic Dragon and the What's New Dragon.

    1. I don't remember that one. What issue was that?

    2. Searching an index gets me "There Can Never Be Too Many Dragons, Right?" Matt Legare 96(45), which would be in the right range for my Dad's old issues. Sadly, I left my CD's of the Dragon archive in Ontario with him, so I can't look it up.

    3. Ah, sorry, it was the Quazar Dragon, not the Cosmic Dragon.

  6. The limb loss subtable:

    1: Left Arm gone
    2: Right Arm gone
    3: Left Leg gone
    4: Right Let gone
    5: Head gone
    6: Torso cut in half


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