Dragon Issue #283

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Clerics and cults! Gods and glory! Dragon Magazine 283 explodes with priestly power! Learn the most powerful ways to play your cleric characters, and get tons of roleplaying tips that will put you on the path to becoming a prize-winning priest. Find out how to create your own pantheons and give them real-world flavor. Pick up five new prestige classes for clerics, and check out our definitive list of D&D-style movies! Inside you’ll also find new Forgotten Realms fiction from Richard Lee Byers, “Countdown to the Forgotten Realms,” and instant dungeon tiles for city Dungeons & Dragons adventures! And as always, you’ll find new advice, tools, and tactics to improve your game. So say your prayers, gather your flock, and check out this issue to get the most from your game!

by Michael G. Ryan

Pennsylvania native Mark Zug has painted some of the most memorable works of science-fiction and fantasy art in the field today -- from book covers by author Tanith Lee to trading cards to the cover of this very magazine. But it all began with Batman.
“From earliest memory I was drawing,” Mark remembers, “and I positively sucked at it -- until my first day of summer camp at age five. We were commanded to draw a drawing, and so I ’drawed a drawing’: Batman flying over a caldera of boiling lava. Then I saw what the other kids were drawing. From that day forward, I was a lot easier on myself.”

by Stephan Kenson

Nothing is more important to a cleric than his deity. The object of a cleric’s worship affects his alignment, spell choices, abilities, and outlook on life in general. The Player’s Handbook provides a list of deities for clerics to serve, and settings like the Forgotten Realms have information about many gods and their worshipers. DMs creating their own campaigns, however, must consider what type of pantheon (or pantheons) exist and how they affect clerics in the campaign. This choice affects the overall tone and style of the campaign.

The Grand Design

Creating a pantheon begins with “the grand design,” the overall goals the DM has for the pantheon and the niches it must fill in the campaign world. The grand design lays the foundations for the pantheon and should answer the following questions:

  1. How many deities are there?
  2. Are there deities of every alignment?
  3. Are there deities for different races?
  4. Do the deities’ areas of influence overlap?
  5. Is there a chief or ruling deity? Is there a divine hierarchy?
  6. How much influence do deities have in the physical world?
  7. How powerful are the gods? What are their limits?
  8. How are the gods worshiped?

Answer all these questions and more with the help of this article.

by James Wyatt

Heironeous, Pelor, Ehlonna, and Kord might be among the most popular deities worshipped by clerics in the D&D game, as they are the four deities of good alignment not tied to a specific race. At the same time, these deities vividly demonstrate that there is nothing boring or homogeneous about good, as four deities more different from each other would be hard to find. Accordingly, the clerics of these four deities -- while they all share access to the Good domain -- follow widely divergent paths and often arrive at very different destinations.
The churches of these four deities all have prestige classes associated with their greatest champions -- often clerics, but sometimes paladins or other characters. The shining blade of Heironeous, the radiant servant of Pelor, the fleet runner of Ehlonna, and the mighty contender of Kord illustrate better than anything the differences among the churches of these deities, not to mention the deities themselves.

by James Wyatt

Clerics are a central and vitally important part of their communities. They are likely the most well-educated yet accessible people in a town or village, and their position brings them into contact with both the word on the street and the news from the upper echelons of society. Most are wise and insightful, even those who are not scholarly. Among other reasons, these qualities make clerics a valuable resource to player characters in a D&D campaign, and their utility goes far beyond their magical capabilities. Learn more about how to play a priest as an NPC or your next player character with this article!

by Mike Selinker & Stan!

You’ve gathered at Bob’s house for the weekly dusk-till-dawn D&D game. Kathy brought the Mountain Dew, and Vinnie brought the requisite ten bags of Chee-Tos. Trouble is, you forgot the dice. And the books, the minis, the character sheets . . . Faced with being Chee-Toed to death, you stammer out, “Um, how ’bout a movie?” Good save. But now you must figure out which movie your group might like in place of their D&D game. Sure, you can rent Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie, which has elves, dragons, wizards, and everything this side of attacks of opportunity. But you’ll need more than one movie, since your group planned to play till dawn. Stan! and I have compiled a debatably definitive list of the movies your D&D group should rent. Of course, we’re friends, so we disagree all the time. We’ll each introduce a few genres, offer our own lists of best and worst fantasy films, and have at least one controversial argument that could result in the removal of someone’s head.

by Robin D. Laws

Our gaming lives would be simple if we could all organize our gaming groups by taste. If the people who like clear plot hooks could all get together on Fridays, and the ones who like to pick and choose their adventures on Saturdays, the question wouldn’t require much thought. In the real world, most groups reflect a range of tastes. We tend to get together with our friends, depending on who’s available. Almost every group splits between the cut-to-the-chasers and the what’s-my-motivation crowd.
If you’re in the latter group, you might find yourself in a box when the DM presents a plot hook that doesn’t fit your character. Your immediate reaction when faced with a hook that makes no sense to you is probably to proclaim, “My character wouldn’t do that!” While it’s an honest response, keep in mind that these are the four words that DMs and fellow players most fear. You’ll face pressure from your fellow players to go along with the flow. It’s not fair to you for them to expect you to ignore the reason you game in the first place, but it’s equally unfair of you to delay or sidetrack everyone else’s fun.

by Richard Lee Byers

Sometimes the agony blotted out everything else, even her comprehension of the source of her suffering. At other moments, as now, Shamur Uskevren was sufficiently lucid to perceive the intricate mesh of brambles for what it was, a living shroud pressing so close around her that every time her cramped muscles gave an involuntary twitch, black thorns pierced the faintly shining stuff that, in this place, served as her flesh.
The need to shift position wailed inside her, and she clenched her jaw against it. Then the weave of brambles stirred, jabbing thorns into her as it shifted and fell apart. Dazed with pain, Shamur lay helpless as a bizarre creature, half human and half tree, bent down and picked her up. Its skin was rough, gray bark, the integument on its palms abrading her flesh. Its body was asymmetrical, with one arm longer than the other, and one hand possessed of a greater quantity of long, gnarled fingers. Its misshapen head was noseless, mouthless, earless, featureless except for two slanted, green-black eyes. So horrible was it that after a moment she found the strength to struggle, but to no avail. The creature was stronger than she was, and the bark armored it against her kicks and jabs.
A multitude of hair-thin tendrils sprouted from the plant man’s face, chest, and arms. Still lengthening, they writhed toward Shamur and pierced her skin like pins. She felt them squirming inside her flesh, and then they began to suck some vital essence from her. The sensation was excruciating and indescribably foul, so much so that she lost consciousness for a time. When she came to her senses, the tendrils were gone, and the creature was lowering her enervated form to the ground. Her torturer manipulated the brambles somehow, and they wove themselves around her once more. She wept tears like diamonds, lambent as her flesh, and cursed her grand-niece.

by Monte Cook

The Sacred Flame is a mystical, interdimensional source of energy considered important by all the nonevil gods, although it is associated with no one god specifically. The flame stewards are those mortals who devote themselves to learning its mysteries and harnessing its power -- while respecting its might. They can call upon it for healing and purification, as well as personal puissance and even fiery attack powers.

Due to licensing restrictions, the PDF Download edition of this issue does not include Phil Foglio's What's New with Phil & Dixie, Gary Gygax's Up on a Soapbox, Garden of Souls by Richard Lee Byers or PC Portraits by Dennis Cramer.

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