Tuesday, July 1, 1975

Gygax's Letter From Alarums & Excursions #2


Gygax's Letter From Alarums & Excursions, July 1975

Dear Lee;

Hello! and our thanks for the two copies of A&E. Brian Blume takes care of SR, and he immediately made off with one copy of your zine, so you can rest assured of the trade arrangement.

It certainly is a good feeling to have so many persons enjoying something one had a hand in creating. I have been a sf and fantasy fan since age 12, a wargame enthusiast since age 10 and began designing and writing about 1965. The games and rules are fairly successful these days, but I have yet to sell a sf or fantasy story, and that will be my next real project -- in a year or so when I have time to rewrite my favorite fantasy novel in hopes of something more than the usual rejection slips.

In case you don't know the history of D&D, it all began with the fantasy rules in CHAINMAIL. Dave A. took those rules and changed them into a prototype of what is now D&D. When I played in his "Blackmoor" campaign I fell in love with the new concept and expanded and changed his 20 or so pages of hand-written "rules" into about 100 ms. pages. Dave's group and ours here in Lake Geneva then began eager and enthusiastic play-testing, and the result was the D&D game in January of 1974. It is an ongoing game, as the GREYHAWK booklet shows, and when Dave hands me the ms. for BLACKMOOR I am sure that there will be more alternatives yet. I have personally worked out enough material lately to do still another supplement, and the heaps of material sent in by fans would certainly fill another -- besides providing a good bit of material for publication in SR. So as long as players desire, TSR will continue to provide more D&D goodies (although my partners bemoan the fact that this tends to deprive the historical end of out operation.)

If you have seen WAR OF THE WIZARDS, you are aware of how imaginative and creative a man Professor M.A.R. Barker is. We have arranged, finally, to publish his masterwork, EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE. Professor Barker has been at work on his fantasy world creation for something like 40 years! It shows in his work. I hardly know where to begin in describing EPT. First, I must liken the whole of the Professor's work to JRRT's (and I understand that Professor Barker has a novel which he hopes to complete soon!). The whole of the game EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE is perfectly thought-out and logically structured. Its form was influenced by D&D (and I am greatly flattered about that) although its author had been testing various other forms prior to the publication of D&D.

I will not describe the world of 'PETAL THRONE, for Professor Barker does that himself, far better than I could hope to, in his game. Suffice it to say that we have spared no expense to do it justice when TSR publishes it. The box will be about 9" x 12" with a full-color illustration of the city of BeySy on the cover. The Professor is also one heck of an illustrator, and he did that map in a medieval style with building erections, larger-than-life figures of men, and so forth. In addition to a rules book (about the same number of words as D&D, possibly quite a few more) done in two-column, 3 1/2 x 11 size with a plastic ring binding so it will open flat to any section, there will be three full-color, plasticized mapboards (similar to the one found in STAR PROBE). Two are the map of the world, and the other is the city of Jakala. The first two are done with permission, on SPI hex maps, while the latter is done on a slightly smaller hex grid. The unfortunate part is what the whole will cost -- the $20 price range -- but we plan to make the separate parts available so that much cash won't have to be laid out all at once. We expect the work to be available by 15 July.

We also have a wonderful "parlor" version of D&D dungeon adventures coming up fairly soon -- great for when there are only non-addicts to play games with, for the family, or when there is only an hour or two for play. The game is well done, and its components are top-quality, and we expect it to be popular for many reasons -- not the least of which is it will help D&D enthusiasts demonstrate to the uninitiated why they love fantasy games.

I sang through both of the tunes in "Music to Loot Dungeons By". Good show!

There seems to be considerable confusion amongst your contributors -- particularly those who tend to be in a flap about incomplete or unpalatable solutions (to them) of D&D rules/questions/problems. The game is complex and complicated. When it was released, it was by no means in a final (or even polished) form, but were we to sit on it for another few years in order to get it that way? Can a broad fantasy game ever be finished? Of course we could not hold off publication, for it was too much fun to keep from others.

Dave and I disagree on how to handle any number of things, and both of our campaigns differ from the "rules" found in D&D. If the time ever comes when all aspects of fantasy are covered and the vast majority of its players agree on how the game should be played, D&D will have become staid and boring indeed. Sorry, but I don't believe that there is anything desirable in having various campaigns playing similarly to one another. D&D is supposed to offer a challenge to the imagination and to do so in many ways. Perhaps the most important is in regard to what the probabilities of a given situation are. If players know what all of the monster parameters are, what can be expected in a given situation, exactly what will happen to them if they perform thus and so, most of the charm of the game is gone. Frankly, the reason I enjoy playing in Dave Arneson's campaign is that I do not know his treatments of monsters and suchlike, so I must keep thinking and reasoning in order to "survive". Now, for example, if I made a proclamation from on high which suited Mr. Johnstone, it would certainly be quite unacceptable to hundreds or even thousands of other players. My answer is, and has always been, if you don't like the way I do it, change the bloody rules to suit yourself and your players. D&D enthusiasts are far too individualistic and imaginative a bunch to be in agreement, and I certainly refuse to play god for them -- except as a referee in my own campaign where they jolly well better toe the mark. Let us consider the magic-user question.

We allow magic-users to employ the number of spells shown on the table, so a 1st level m-u gets exactly one 1st level spell to use once before he must go back to his books and prepare to use the spell once again -- or a spell once again. To allow unlimited use of the spell is to make the m-u's too powerful. There is a better solution, of course; one I have been aware of since the first. That is to utilize a point system based on the m-u's basic abilities and his or her level. Spell cost is then taken as a function of the spell and the circumstances in which it is cast and possibly how much force is put into the spell. All that would have required a great deal of space and been far more complex to handle, so I opted for the simple solution.

Again, as a case in point, Ted Johnstone says I have trouble telling which rules are so completely obvious that he doesn't need to explain them. That, dear friends, is a statement which could only be made by someone who has never authored a set of rules or a game! Many of the rules which are completely obvious to me are totally obscure to others. I can say in complete truthfulness that I have had to explain each and every section of the rules to some players, either in person or by letter.

I desire variance in interpretation and, as long as I am editor of the TSR line and its magazine, I will do my utmost to see that there is as little trend towards standardization as possible. Each campaign should be a "variant", and there is no "official interpretation" from me or anyone else. If a game of "Dungeons and Beavers" suits a group, all I say is more power to them, for every fine referee runs his own variant of D&D anyway.

I recall that I told Bob Sacks that in Greyhawk we do not have existing religions included, for this is a touchy area. We have such groups as "The Church of the Latter Day Great Old Ones," Church of Crom, Scientist", "Brethren of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgle", and so on. Gods sometimes intervene. There are some artifacts and the like which aid clerics. In general, however, clerics are powerful enough without much aid, for they have quite a few advantages and work up very quickly. Fighters are really the ones whom everyone should be irate about, for they have the hardest time of it, if not backed up by other classes or by lots of other fighters or blessed with the most powerful of magic gear.

How does one use gunpowder weapons in the confined spaces of the dungeon? What happens to ears? Blackmoor has some gunpowder usage but the filthy stuff won't work in Greyhawk's world.

By the way, a score of 18 is only the usual top limit for humans in Greyhawk. We have monsters with intelligence scores well over 18, and one player is about to work out a deal which will jump his to not less than 19.

Please inform Ted that I too subscribe to the slogan "D&D is too important to leave to Gary Gygax." Gosh and golly! Whoever said anything else. However, pal, best remember that it is far too good to leave to you or any other individual or little group either! It now belongs to the thousands of players enjoying it worldwide, most of whom will probably never hear of you or your opinions unless you get them into THE STRATEGIC REVIEW. As soon as we can manage it, we intend to have expand SR, publish bimonthly and include a letter column.

Thanks again for sending A&E. It was most enjoyable. Watch out though, that it doesn't start D&D down the road of DIPLOMACY fandom with its constant feuds, bickering, invective, etc. Now tell the fellows to pick on Dave Arneson awhile -- after all he had as much to do with the whole mess as I did!

Regards, E. Gary Gygax

NOTE: To provide some context for part of Gygax's reply I am adding this comment by Ted Johnstone from Alarums&Excursions #1 (Addendum - I believe I have misattributed this comment, as Gygax perhaps did as well, and it is by Mark Swanson in reply to Ted Johnstone instead of a comment by Ted Johnstone himself).

TED JOHNSTONE - My comment on the non-existence of a "Charm Monster" spell was a symptom of my usual disease of firstdraftitis. I've read the rules but haven't memorized them. Two points. // Howver, on a larger subject, I am a supporter of the slogan "D&D is too important to leave to Gary Gygax." Gary has produced other games in the past. The problem has been that they are not interesting in their full form. They tend to be flawed by simple, bad solutions to complex problems. Thus, in Gary Gygax's game, A MAGIC USER GETS TO USE EACH SPELL ONCE A DAY.

If a first-level magic user gets to charm one person a day with no other magical acts permitted, Gary's version of the spell is entirely appropriate. As is the "No saving throw against sleep," the lack of restrictions on how often a character can be healed, etc. (The rule can be found, vaguely, in book three, and explicitly in Gary's magazine, #3.) As I said, Gary has trouble telling which rules are so completely obvious that he doesn't need to explain them. Welcome, brother heretic, or were you planning to do it that way? This problem, how to limit the magic users, is second only to the question of what are the characters doing as defining the games. Gary Gygax says that a Medium has one spell a day, a seeress gets to cast to a day, etc -- and they are all out on a treasure hunt. It's a simple solution, but I don't like it.

NOTE: Further context reference for Gygax's reply concerning player attributes above 18. Comment is from Alarums & Excursions #1

TOM DIGBY: Somebody mentioned talking about things in D&D jargon and mentioned that "Kimball Kinnison has about a 16 intelligence." These attributes are obtained for a character by rolling three six-sided dice, with a possible range of 3-18, a mean of 10.5, and a standard deviation of about 2.96... The Mensa cutoff is the 98th percentile and comes out to 16.5 intelligence. The normal curve has one person in a thousand about 19.5 though, somethingyou can never get with three dice. This may mean that there are a number of people in fandom whose intelligence is greater than can exist in a D&D world.

NOTE: Even further context. I believe Gygax's mention of Dave Arneson's role in creating D&D stems from this comment by Barry Gold in Alarums & Excursions #1.

From Alarums & Excursions #1 by Barry Gold

Lee and I, as publishers of Alarums and Excursions, recommend that you buy the rules to Dungeons and Dragons if you don't already have them. Xeroxing somebody else's copy is unethical and illegal too. If you are going to get involved enough in the game to build your dungeon, you should at least spring for $10 for the rule books. If you aren't making your own dungeons, you don't really need the books - some other player can tell you how to make and play a character. So there is no excuse for making a bootleg copy and depriving Gary Gygax, the game's inventor, of his fair share.

Sunday, June 1, 1975

The Magician's Ring


Wargamer's Digest - Volume 2, Number 8 (June 1975)

Dungeons & Dragons - The Magician's Ring
by Gary Gygax

Since doing the account of "The Giant's Bag" which was published in the Great Plains Game Players Newsletter, I have had a number of requests for similar articles from readers who found a small amount of humor in the tale. Here then is another brief story of the wonderful adventures had by the brave and fearless types who inhabit the realm of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.

Those who have explored the countyside between the bustling city of Greyhawk and the castle ruins of the same name which lie on the hill not a league to the east of the city will testify to the fact that there are a number of strange tunnels and wells about. Wise folks avoid them, for the know that these are but entrances to the fiendish maze of dungeons, pits, labyrinths, crypts, catacombs, and caverns which honeycomb the hill and the rock far beneath it. There are those, however, who eagerly seek these ways, for it is likewise well-known that incalculable treasure also rests within these twisting mazes. Dauntless adventurers sally through these entrances to a hideous underworld, determined to gain great fortunes or die. It is of such an adventurer that this take is built around-- a rare tale indeed.

Lessnard the Magician was displeased with his acquisition of wizardly skills -- or rather his lack of the same -- so he decided that he must immediately seek a remedy to this dearth. A carefully planned expedition to a not too-deep level of Greyhawk Dungeons was in order, for there he could gain the priceless magic items and magical experience necessary to become more skilled at his calling. Besides, he had recently hired a veteran fighter, a clerical acolyte, and a magical medium, and these retainers would greatly benefit from such experience (providing they survived, and under such leadership as his, how could they fail simple survival?!). So properly accoutered, the four set forth one chilly dawn to wrest some of the choice loot from the dungeons.

Lessnard chose one of the outside entrances to the lower levels of the dungeons, knowing it would save both time and the risk of unwished for encounters with wandering monsters. In a trice the party was wandering about in a maze of passages and rooms, bt it was soon discovered that this particular section had been oft visited, for doors hung akimbo, only monsters' bones littered the most secluded lairs, and treasure was nil. Not despairing, the Magician led still further into the labyrinth, and eventually a set of out-of-the-way stairs was discovered. Despite the fact that these led to a higher level, the Magician felt it wise to ascend, for surely such unfrequented stairs would bring his party to a similarly neglected section of an upper level. It was just so! Not long thereafter Lessnard forced open a door and confronted a trio of skeletal wights, loathsome undead creatures which would -- if allowed -- paralyze both him and his retainers and turn thenm all into like creatures. But that was not to be, for he quickly acted! With a hastily muttered incantation Lessnard hurled a glowing ball at the wights, a sphere which grew brighter and expanded as it sped from his fingers, to burst in a blaze and turn the undead things to mere ashes. When all cooled down, and the stench and smoke dissipated a bit, the Magician led his party into the place and it took only a bit of careful searching to find a dozen pieces of funerial jewelry which had been reposing with the now-destroyed creatures.

Instead of retracing their steps, the group trudged northwards from a four-way intersection near the former lair of the wights, and in less than a hundred paces they came upon a large chamber. Their cautious approach allowed them to completely take by surprise a giant scorpion who dwelled therein. "Good grief!" shrieked the retainers. "Crum and St. Cuthbert! At him!" ordered Lessnard. Although not expecting anything so terrible as this huge arachnid in the upper dungeons, the Magician was nonetheless determined to carry through an immediate attack. An arrow flew into the monster as the magic-user cast a spell to slow its movements. Thereafter ensued a fierce battle. The Magician leaped upon the scorpion and struck repeatedly at it with his poinard. His faithful retainers rained blows at the monster. The tail of the beast arched, and the hapless cleric was transfixed. With a groan he expired on the spot. But this was the last attack for the giant scorpion, and it too was done for by a flurry of blows. Although its pincers had dealt a few wounds to the brave Magician, he was exultant, for surely this was a glorious victory! Had the monster guarded anything? At first nothing could be found, but Lessnard turned just i time to see that his Medium apprentice had fumbled a ring from the tail of the scorpion, taking the item from the creature's sting, and slipping it onto his pinkie. He vanished before Lessnard's gaze!

"Floppspel!" he cried, "reappear again this moment, and hand over that ring which is the rightful property of your master!" No response. Fortunately there was but one exit from the place, and Lessnard was closest to the passage. He flailed the air like an overfed turkey buzzard attempting to take flight, and one of his thrashing arms contacted the Medium's crouched form, knocking the latter sprawling. "I've got him!" Lessnard shouted, and the fighter rushed to help. Strange indeed to see two grown men seemingly wrestling with empty air, but then the object of the struggle appeared, for the Magician had managed to wrest the ring from his finger causing Floppspel to immediately become visible. "Dolt!" said Lessnard, soundly trouncing the captive apprentice. "I was only trying it out," whined Floppspel. Cautioning the Medium never to try such a stupid trick again, Lessnard now led the two on the homeward journey, with the fighter bearing the body of the slain cleric.

Alas! the way out was not as simple as the Magician had thought, for despite being able to retrace his way to the steps by which they had entered the level, it was impossible to utilize them, for the passage was unbroken by any portal. They had passed through a one-way door without noticing, and now he must find another means of egress. An hour of wandering brought them back to a spot near where they had fought the wights and scorpion, and in one corridor Lessnard recognized a familiar place. Yes, he had been here once before. A narrow crack in the wall ave into a hexagonal chamber, but Lessnard shuddered at the thought, for it was a dangerous way to pass.

A deep circular well nearly filled the room, and only a narrow and slippery ledge curled around ts lip. The well was filled with dark water, and the dark water was filled with hungry crocodiles! On the far side of the chamber was a door which led to the passage out, but the only way to gain it was to risk passage along the ledge. Bravely Lessnard ordered the party forward. "Fortunately for you," he explained to his two surviving retainers, "I have these Boots of Levitation, and with them I can hover nearby and guide your steps so as to avoid a plunge into certain death." The two listeners looked less than convinced, but they set forth anyway, having small choice. But a few steps and the Veteran cried out as his foot slipped from the ledge; the corpse of the cleric tumbled from his shoulders into the hungry jaws below. Another step and the hapless fellow followed the body. "Halt," commanded the Magician to the only survivor, Floppspel the Medium. "Loose that coil of rope from your waist and toss me an end. Tie the other securely about yourself, and then if you slip I shall be able to save you from the fate of that stupid fighter." Floppspel complied with alacrity, but as he watched his mater fastening the cord about his middle a sudden thought struck the Medium.

"Master," said the apprentice tugging at the rope -- rather like a small child does with a helium balloon on the end of a strong. "May I have that wondrous Ring of Invisibility when we gain the pure air of the world above?"

"Don't be a churl!" snarled Lessnard. "Such treasures are not for the likes of mere Mediums. I'll keep it for myself!"

"Please, master, please!" Floppspel continued to beg, all the while yanking upon the rope in eagerness, and causing his master to bounce about as if he were actually the already alluded to balloon.

"Curse you!" shouted the enraged Magician, "I said no! Now stop that ad proceed along the ledge." The Medium ignored the command and continued to tug and plead. Now, thought Lessnard, I'll teach that stupid fellow a lesson in obedience. I'll suspend him over the pit and threaten to dip his posterior therein for a snack for the scaley denizens of the well unless he jumps at my merest suggestion henceforward. As Floppspel began to repeat his abjurations, Lessnard struck! With a violent jerk he pulled the surprised fellow from the ledge so that he hung suspended above the middle of the horrid pool. But, sad to relate, all was not as quite as Lessnard had expected. The weight of the Medium was causing him to sink slowly towards the hungry crocodiles. "Note this lesson," quoth Lessnard. "See how I could feed you to yon beasts would I will!" The terrified Medium began to clamber up the rope as he slowly sunk closer to the snapping jaws of the crocs', not overly impressed with his master's wrath, but well impressed with what lay below. "Stop! I shall not do it," the Magician assured the climber, for they were sinking yet nearer the surface of the water. "Now quickly, you knave, swing over to the ledge, and you'll be safe."

"Yunnngh, uff!" replied Floppspel, going upwards as fast as his shaking hands would pull him. "No! NO!" shouted Lessnard, but the apprentice was like a drowning man, intent only upon climbing atop the straw of imagined safety. "I'll cut the rope," threatened Lessnard as they sunk still lower. Floppspel hauled himself to a position where he could grasp his master's ankles, and once he had a handhold he shinnied up the Magician in a trice. "Yorph, bluchh!" cried Lessnard as the fellow's foot wedged firmly into his mouth. Floppspel stood triumphantly upon his master's crown; then, and with a frantic leap managed to regain the safety of the ledge as his former haven was descended below its level. Freed of the oppressive weight of the Medium, Lessnard's magical footwear once again asserted their influence -- just in time to save him from the ravening maws but a scant span below. Upwards he bounded like a startled grouse. But while the latter controls its flight, the Magician was too surprised to rule his levitational device, and his head smote the ceiling of the chamber resoundingly.

There remains but little more to tell. Upon reaching the surface the Magician drove his erstwhile apprentice from him with kicks, threats, and curses. The fellow has never been seen again, but the whole adventure still haunts his former master. Is it his imagination? or do his friend's warm waves of greeting somewhat resemble the motion of an arm tugging on a rope...

AFTERWARD:

The shenanigans of Floppspel were, of course, nothing more than what the game referee decided would take place. They were, however, based on several definite factors. the apprentice was a new hireling, and as such his loyalty was uncertain (as indicated by a dice roll). His master furthermore did not offer him any substantial portion of treasure gained, so he was quite naturally looking out for himself. The battles with the wights and the giant scorpion lowered Floppspel's morale, first because he was not immediately promised a portion of the jewelry, second due to the death of the Acolyte cleric, and third because he took a great fancy to the ring of invisibility (a score of 12 with two six-sided dice) and saw no chance to gain the desired object. It was not unnatural that he attempt to gain the latter when an opportunity arose.

It is the duty of a referee to make any situation like that described as difficult as possible for the participants. Beside adding a few light moments afterwards it encourages careful consideration of any action contemplated and clear instructions regarding all actions taken during an adventure. this improves the play of the game on the participants' part and makes it far easier for the referee.

[END]

Tuesday, April 1, 1975

The Giant's Bag

Originally posted by the Greyhawk Grognard, Joseph Bloch.

From the Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #7, April 1975, pp. 9-11 (with only a few corrections to spelling), I present a bit of early Greyhawkiana. To the best of my knowledge, this work is in the public domain, but I don't pretend to either be an intellectual property attorney nor play one on television. --JB

From the Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #7, April 1975, pp. 9-11 

THE GIANT'S BAG

An Account of a "Wilderness Adventure" in Fantasy Wargaming.

by Gary Gygax

The LGTSA has been involved in a fantasy campaign for over a year now, using the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules (Gygax & Arneson) just recently made generally available; for along with Dave Arneson's group in the Twin Cities, they got to be the "official play-testers" (to which they say whoopee...). During these months there have been many hundreds of "Dungeon Expeditions" and "Wilderness Adventures". These games were often harrowing, mostly exciting, and often funny. The following account is one of the latter (I hope!). The referee was Rob Kuntz, with Ernie Gygax and Gary Gygax playing.

*   *   *   *   *

Four great war horses forced their way through the brush bordering the stream. The party was making its way through the trackless wilderness southeast of the walled city of Greyhawk, seeking monsters to slay and treasure to loot. At the head of the horsemen rode the sorcerer Nestre, with his elven apprentice close at hand. Behind were two armor-clad fighters, his henchmen and bodyguards. The four followed the tiny watercourse southwards, and eventually came to the place where it fed a broad river; here they dismounted to camp for the night. Trouble came almost immediately thereafter.

A great crackling of broken branches and the heavy tread of huge feet alerted the adventurers, and when the giant appeared a moment later it was no surprise. Weapons at the ready, they confronted the tall form. It made no hostile move, so Nestre stepped forward and spoke.

"Are you come with peaceful intentions?" the made shouted.

"Duhhh..." the giant replied.

Somewhat relaxed by this friendly greeting, the men invited him into their camp. As soon as the great oaf was sprawled at ease by the fire, Nestre inquired if the giant was on any important business. The big fellow said that he was simply out for a month's stroll in the greenwood, so the mage immediately sought to enlist the services of their guest:

"We are, good Giant, here with a purpose. We have with us a map leading to a fabulous store of wealth! Things in this forsaken land, however, seldom turn out as planned, o we are willing to share the treasure with you in return for your aid in gaining it! Do you consent?"

"Duh, sure, duh," the giant replied indecisively. And so the bargain was sealed.

Nothing further disturbed the encampment -- if anything came near it probably fled after seeing what sort of creatures dozed near the dancing flames. With the first light they saddled their steeds, the lumbering giant shouldered his sack, and all five now struck out in search of the treasure. The map led them along the bank of the turgid river to a spot infested with enormous crabs. Naturally, this was the very spot which the parchment scroll indicated as the repository of the unknown spoil. The men attempted to wade into the current, but they were quickly discouraged by the aggressive attacks of the giant crustaceans. Would the giant be willing to try? Immediately the tall creature stepped into the murky water, and as the crabs came near he struck left and right with his tree-like bludgeon. A few survived to flee, but the bulk of the monsters were flailed to pieces. The sopping, fore-drenched men then saw the giant stoop and disappear entirely under the water.

In a moment he reappeared with an iron-bound chest atop his shoulder. Soon the giant was ashore, had the trunk open, and was loading the contents into his bag.

"What else was down there?" Nestre asked eagerly.

"Dere was only tree roun' things besides dis here box."

Now the four adventurers dived into the river in order to retrieve the three spherical objects. Before long they were back, staggering with a trio of moss covered objects.

"What the devil!" expostulated Nestre, "Rocks!"

"Haw! haw! haw!" the giant guffawed, stuffing the last of the contents of the chest into his now bulging sack: "I ain't never seed no guys as funny as youse are."

Eventually, the whole party was seated before a flat rock, safe in a small cave, dividing the loot. The giant was gulled into accepting a few hundred pieces of gold, while the four humans shared the cream of the treasure among themselves. Somehow, this act of greed seemed to engender still more avarice int he mage's heart. He began to eye the giant's copious bag with keen interest. Was there some choice item therein? If so, Nestre the Clever (err, Cleaver) would certianly be able to gain it also!

"Say, my bulky friend, may I look in your bag?"

"Duh, nope!" the giant said with a shake of his tangled and dirty locks.

"Not even for a -- GEM!" and with that the wily mage presented an indifferent jewel of 100 gold pieces' value.

The giant declined: "Gimme a big gem, an' I'll letcha peek."

"Two small ones?"

"A great BIG one!"

Now Nestre had several large jewels, but his greedy nature prevented him from accepting the logical. Instead he became even more determined to dupe the oaf: "Here. Look at this huge gem," said the mage, presenting his crystal ball. The giant's face lit with pleasure as Nestre made the globe alive with tiny and colorful scenes.

"Yah, yah! Oboyohboy! Gimme dat!"

"Not so fast," the mage said, swiftly jerking the crystal ball from the giant's reach: "You can have it under two conditions: One, you must be able to make pictures in it like I jut did. Two, you must allow me to look into your sack."

"Suresure," replied the giant, "Now gimme da pretty!"

Smirking with confidence, the sorcerer handed his glittering scrying device to the eager giant. The hulking brute hunched over the crystal ball, grunting and puffing as he tried to make pictures appear therein; all to absolutely no avail, of course, being a typically stupid and unmagical giant.

"You failed!" tauted the mage, "Now give it back to me, for I want to look--"

"STUPID GEM!" thundered the giant, "I'll teach it!" and with that he smote the crystal ball with his oaken club, while tears of frustration ran down his cheeks.

These giant tears went well with the smaller ones rolling from Nestre's eyes...

"All right (sob!), biggie, here's the large-type gem you asked for in the first place."

"Youse made me cranky," the giant said, "so now I ain't gonna let nobody poke their nose inta my sack unless they forks over TWO big gems."

Shoulders stooped in defeat, the mage handed over two fine jewels, each worth not less than 1,000 golden orbs.

As the sorcerer rummaged through the contents of the bag -- finding spare skivvies, old bones, a comic book, three lollipops, and other assorted trash, the giant was heard to say:

"Whyinhell did dat dumb shrimp wanna rummage 'roun' in dat dirty ol' bag anyhow?"

"YARGH!" was the only reply from the mage.

*   *   *   *   *

AFTERWARD:
Late that night the giant decided that he had important business elsewhere, so he left with most of the treasure. Upon awakening next morning the four men found his note and a pair of his soiled drawers. The note read:


Stranger still, they waited three weeks, flying the drawers like a banner from a tall sapling near the water. Needless to relate, the giant did not return.