Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #123

Welcome back to This Old Dragon!  Today's issue, #123, is in such terrible shape with missing pages and mildew I am going to need to resort to the PDF more than once.  Let's go back to July 1987. I am working two jobs to make money for college and saving some time for my first "World Ending" campaign. A campaign that will see plot points and characters many, many years later in "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "The Dragon Slayer's" games.  Let's get to it!

I grabbed this cover from the web, my copy does not have a cover anymore.  It is cool, but it doesn't rank in my favorite covers by any means. 
The first page I have is an ad for Gen Con 20 which is next month (August 20-23, 1987).  At this time Gen Con (they are using a space there) is in Milwaukee.

The special feature of this issue is "The Arcane Arts", so a lot on magic.  I do remember this section quite well.  I am sure I incorporated some of this into my 2nd Edition game, but I'll remember once I get back into it. 

On to the Letters. More calls for reprints of covers. A letter asking for more coverage of the D&D game, as opposed to the AD&D game.  The Rule Cyclopedia is still a couple of years away.  Another letter voices the first concerns about the Forgotten Realms taking over from Oerth and Krynn.  Sorry kid, but you haven't seen the worse of it yet! Thankfully things even out a few years later.

Ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined it by this point and I see many books I owned or would later own. A few I still own in fact!  Funny looking at them now through the haze of time and nostalgia I can't recall if they were all good books and I forgot OR were they great books and I can't remember OR were they bad books and my wistfulness for 1987 colors my memories. 


Ed Greenwood is up for the first article of the issue. Music of the Forgotten Realms. I am not sure how far off we are from the publication of the "Grey Box" campaign rules, but it can't be that far off.  I have been following the tone of these articles with interest since I have started to re-review this Dragons.  The tone of this one is the Realms are a thing now. Earlier articles the Realms seemed to be a long lost, dare I say it, forgotten place and time and the articles are Ed/Elminster's rememberings.  I know the actual verbs used in the articles do not support this claim but it is a feel. This one reads like something going on right now in this country you could visit right now. IF that is you choose to.

Ah, the main attraction. The Arcane Arts.

David Yates is up first with The Mystic College. Or in the modern parlance, Hogwarts for AD&D.  Drawing a lot on Dragonlance and not enough on Glantri this article covers how an AD&D Magic-user can create a school of wizardry.  There are some good ideas here too. Magic-users can start a school at 9th level.  Some rules are given on experience bonuses and some improved chances on learning new spells. The article itself is a long one, 10 pages of text, a covers a lot of ground. I read this article just when I was heading to college. Now I have spent nearly all my adult life in academics, reading this now has more excited that before. Though now I am interested in different details.  I have often felt that the "adventuring" wizard was one that not just sought out new or lost forms of magic, but needed to adventure to pay the high costs of wizard school!

Fire for Effect! is from Richard W. Emerich and details magical fires.  The Fred Saberhagen "Swords" books were very popular at this time, so I think I detect a note from those. At least in terms of what magical fire might be.  The various melting points of metals are also given. The article is kinda worth it just for these alone. 

Arcane Lore is a new column to feature new spells sent in by the readers.  First up is a bunch of spells from Avissar Fire-Eye, or known in this world as Harold Dolan.  I always like articles like these and spell names like this.  "Magic Missle" is fine as far as spell names go, but really it should be named after the mage that created or made it famous/infamous.  So "Bargle's Missle of Magic" is a better name.  We get some of that here.  Truthfully it is something I have gotten away from but really should go back to it.  There are some decent spells here too.  All are fire based.

Another new column is Lords & Legends which covers some NPCs for use in the any of the TSR worlds. Up first is Matt Iden with Yoshitsune, 13th level kensai/6th level monk, Benkei an 8th level shohei, and Hsu Hsun, an 23rd-level wu jen, 9th-level shukenja.  The "star" though is Miyamoto Musashi who is depicted as a 15th-level kensai.  I have no problem admitting that this is where I first heard of Musashi and A Book of Five Rings.  I picked up a copy from the SF/F Book Club and I still have it. 

Heather Gemmen is up next with Gamers Around the World: Putting the World Gamers Guide to use. Yes this is how we connected back then.  Well. One of the ways. In five years the usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd will form. 

The Ecology of the Giant Leech is next.  Sadly pages 51 and 52 are stuck to pages 53 and 54 so bad the reading them is difficult.  

Page 54 does have a an article about keeping time from Lisa Cabala called Time Flies. Helpful when you forget how long an AD&D turn, round and segment are.   Lots of nice time keeping charts.

Roger E.  Moore throws these careful charts out the window with his Just Making Time. In this he talks about making calendars for your own worlds.  Forgotten Realms took this to heart, and it is mentioned here. 

Moving past the part where the short story was, we come up to a Star Frontiers article. The Whole-Earth Ecology by Danny Kretzer discusses how to create the flora and fauna of a world.

The Marvel-Phile had other heralds of Galactus, but they are gone from this magazine. 

The Role of Books covers the then new books. Of note is a review for Mercedes Lackey's Arrow of the Queen. A book that will inspire a generation of gamers and some of those will go one to make Blue Rose.

Operation:Zondraker for Top Secret continues the "Moon for various RPGs" feature of Dragon/Ares.

Another ad. I know I spend a lot of time on these but they are much more of a time-capsule of what was happening in hobby even more so than reviews.  Case in point this one.


Obviously not the boxed set we all remember. It isn't even the ad I remember. The ad I recall was a semi-shadowed man (a game designer presumably) that looked nothing at all like Ed Greenwood, relaxing with his hands behind his head.  In truth, I can't even find that ad now.  Mandela Effect anyone?  I remember the ads being very pretentious.  This one does not seem that way. I do remember this picture and my thoughts were of Glorfindel riding to Rivendell with the Ringwraiths on his heels. I might have even asked people in my gaming group that the time if this was related to Tolkien.  Interesting really.

The Forgotten Realms feature prominently in the Previews section as well.  There are other reminders that for reasons best left undiscussed TSR was producing items for the Lazer Tag license.

We end with the comics.

The arcane stuff in this issue was great and worthy of a third look from me again.  The Realms material has got me thinking more and more about a Realms campaign.  We are after all hitting the 30 year publication anniversary. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Judges Guild Psychic Witch

A few weeks ago I was made aware of the Judges Guild Journal. A newsprint 'zine made by JG back in the 70s "dedicated to Swords and Sorcery fantasy gaming".  In particular, I was made aware of issue 7 (p) and their witch class.

Issue 7 was published in December 1977.   For some perspective, the first Dragon Magazine witch was published in March 1977, though they claim to have received the manuscript for it 15 months prior.  OD&D Supplement III, Eldritch Wizardry was published in 1976.

I mention Eldritch Wizardry because the Judges Guild witch, like my own, was very much inspired by it.

The article is on one broadsheet or about two typed pages.  Titled "Witchcraft in Dungeons and Dragons" and Phil Benz as it's byline.

I have to give this article a lot of credit.  It really went outside the box with this class.  Seventeen levels are presented with roughly the same XP values as the Magic-User and has a d4 for hit point determination.  The 17th level is something called "Emelkartha".  I can only guess this has to do with the Demon Goddess from Gardner Fox's short stories about Niall of the Far Travels.  Which curiously enough appear for the first time in Dragon #5.  Should we call Shenanigans?

What makes this witch different is that she gains psionic powers instead of spells.
Her progression is very much like that found in later 2nd edition supplements on Psioincs and similar to the Basic Psionics book released by +Richard LeBlanc.
Indeed the author claims right away that a better name for the class is "Psionic Woman".   He also makes a good point about the Magic-User being unsatisfactory for a witch class.


The class then goes off into non-psionic and more spell-like areas, with the creation of potions and drugs.   I am also pleased to see the inclusion of talismans, something I also added to my witch class.  There are a lot of witchcraft trapping with this class, but I am not sure how well they mix with the D&D Psionics.

It certainly looks like a fun playable class.
There is a bit here about how males can only become witches under a special contract from Satan!

This article is much smaller than the one found in The Dragon issue #5, but is some ways is a lot more interesting.  I think that the Judges Guild article has the benefit of reading the Dragon magazine one first.  While I have no proof that the Dragon magazine article influenced this one I do find it difficult to believe that someone writing for a 'zine at this time had not read Dragon. Plus the inclusion of Emelkartha, which had only shown up in this one spot prior to this, is kind of a give-away.

Class Struggles: The Problem of the Psychic-Witch
While this might be the first Psychic Witch class published it is not the first one I have seen.  The first one I remember reading was the one from the Mayfair Role-Aids book Witches.  That witch was a "Deyrini" witch and while I was familiar with the stories I thought it was an odd inclusion.  First, the powers were less psychic and still more spell-like.  Also, I never got a witch or a psychic feel from that particular class.
I later made my own "Natural Witch" that was also a Psychic Witch, but again, something about it never quite jelled with me. This is one of the reasons you don't see a psychic witch in my books now. I could never get it to work right for me.

The closest thing I have been able to get to a psychic witch I really like are my Sisters of the Aquarian Order.

I think the issue is that like D&D, I grew up in the 70s and 80s.  The 70s saw the Occult Revival and the 80s saw the Satanic Panic.  This has forever locked witches, occultism, and psychic abilities together in my mind. If you read anything published in the 70s about witches they often talk about enhancing their psychic powers.  I could see a witch, instead of mixing potions or collecting herbs, empowering crystals or infusing talismans' with her own psychic power.

Maybe her familiar is not a spirit but a psychic construct of her own "Shadow Self" from Jung.  Her Patron then is a manifestation of her Mana or Higher Self as part of the Collective Unconsciousness (again, Jung).  So the Jungian archetypes of Self-Anima-Mana could map on to Maiden-Mother-Crone representations.
Jung is, and always has been, a huge influence on how I detail the witch archetype for myself. I spent a lot of time in the 80s reading Jung and it is one of the reasons I worked on a Ph.D. in psychology.

Maybe there is something here after all. Maybe it just takes 40 years to get it right!

I'll have to think about this much more.



I am also presenting this as another addition to the RPG Blog Carnival on Occult Mysteries and Magic.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Releases Tuesday: Covencraft

It's Tuesday and that means new releases!

Out today the next book in the Strange Brew series for Pathfinder, Covencraft!


Strange Brew: Covencraft for the Pathfinder RPG

Witches can be--and often are--portrayed and represented as solitary individuals, practicing their craft alone in a cabin (gingerbread or otherwise) in the wilderness or in the scary house on the hill that children avoid. But what if they gathered in groups, forming a coven? What then, would be different about them, and how would those groups look and act? What tools would they craft and use in their rituals?

Strange Brew: Covencraft answers those questions for you, taking you inside covens and detailing how they work and how to integrate them into your character’s story and your campaign. Sample covens are provided, along with discussions of the benefits of a coven, types of covens and roles for characters within them, example ritual tools, ceremonies, and more.

Magic items to follow!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The History of Witchcraft

For this Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge I "read" (listened to) two shorter books that covered roughly the same topic.  The first was "The History of Witchcraft", written by Lois Martin and narrated by Brogan West.  The second was "Witch Mania: The History of Witchcraft", written by Charles Mackay and narrated by Greg Wagland. Witch Mania is actually part of the Charles Mackay's 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which I covered another version of back in January as "Witch: A Tale of Terror".
So for these reasons I am going to classify this as one reading, not two.

The differences in the books are largely one of the historical perspectives.  The older 1841 "Witch Mania" book takes an interestingly pro-science approach that is congruent to the time's own growing industrialism and embrace of science.  "The History of Witchcraft" includes the findings of, subsequent dismissal of those findings of, Margret Murray's Witch Cult thesis.  History also covers the then new "The Triumph of the Moon" by Ronald Hutton.  But nothing is given in detail.

Mackay's 1841 book reads and feels like something written today to be honest.  There are only tidbits of information that would let on that it is not.  Though the perspective is still one of "those poor superstitious peasants".  Martin's 2007 book is a bit newer in it's topics, but the perspective has not shifted very much.

Both books come down on the side of this all being delusion by the participants with some mention of how to properly view historical events through the lens of the times they were in.
Both books cover many of the same horror stories that are familiar to anyone that spends time reading these tales.  A couple of interesting bits for me was the idea of how localized many of these accounts are.  These were common fears that involved local people on a global stage.  The newer "History" (2007) spent some time talking about how this was part and parcel the change over from superstition to rationalism.  Also, it seems there is a new push to see the witch trials as largely a secular issue rather than a purely ecclesiastical one. More on this when I cover the next history book on my list.



Both of these books came from Audible.
http://www.audible.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 13
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: Again, millions or none.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: All were innocent in my mind. At least innocent enough to not warrant a capital offense.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Again, not the best question, but I would love to play a "Burning Times" RPG using WitchCraft.
Use in WotWQ: I will bring some of these ideas to the campaign, certainly the witch hunters and the paranoia.


RPG Carnival Post
Using witches, magic and occult practices in your games.
Both of these books got me thinking about how witches and the occult could be viewed in a game that is already full of magic.

The main feature of both of these books is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of the very real and very known Devil.  Witches, no matter the stripe, are something to be hated and feared.
This also begs another question. Are Witches really Witches without the persecution?

In most fantasy role-playing games there are wizards, clerics and a host of spellcasters. Even "grimdark" games like Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess have their spellcasters and they are, despite their "otherness" still part of a social unit of adventurers.  The witch, when she is included, often becomes another type of spellcaster. In the cases of AD&D 2, D&D 3 and D&D 4 she was merely a type of wizard.  Third party books have made strides to cleave the witch class to the historical witch, or at lease the fairy tale witch.  The RPG Quest of the Ancients, despite it's "Heartbreaker" status has done some rather interesting things with witches.

One thing I have done in my own games is to set up a dichotomy of magic. There is the "state" sanctioned magic used by wizards and the "church" sanctioned magic used by clerics.  Casters will fall, mostly, into one of these two realms. It is assumed that the powers in charge of these realms will police their own.  "Witches" are those that fall outside of these realms and their magic is somehow "outlaw" or "other".

Both history books mentioned above make a point of detailing both the religious and secular nature of the witch trials. This can be emulated in many RPGs with the method I also mention, with a secular or state wizard working with the church or spiritual clerics working to stop the "Evil" witches.  I say evil in quotes since an evil cleric, in this case, would still see they have more in common with a good cleric (both worship gods) than a witch.

I have done this to great effect with witches and psychic characters in my games over the years. In fact, witches had become so numerous in my games that I had to redo how psionic characters were dealt with my games just to set up this "other".

For all of it's outward appearances, D&D and games like it are not medieval Europe. The polytheism of most worlds is really at odds with the notion of Feudalism.  This lack of a monotheist faith, and interrelated government, really makes for a lack of a designated "evil enemy" for this church/state to fight against.   If there is no enemy there is no enemy secrets, cults or conspiracies.   In my mind the best enemies of society are the ones that seek to destroy it.
Maybe there is a cabal of evil (unsanctioned) wizards or a cult of warlocks.

For me, witches are the most interesting when they are slightly outside of the norm.  In modern parlance, they can be the terrorists OR (maybe AND) the Social Justice Warriors.

But I have always been fans of the outsiders, the strange and the different.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Monsters of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons

Evil genius +Mark Taormino is back with his fifth Kickstarter.  You might remember mark from The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen and Maximum Mayhem Dungeon #2: Secret Machines of the Star Spawn.  Well, now he is back and bringing us all a new Monster book for Old-School style games.

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons: Monsters of Mayhem #1


I have come to expect some pretty great things from Mark in the past and I have not been disappointed.

This looks every bit as fun and at higher pledge levels you can get your own monsters made.

Mark always has a good spread of rewards and levels, so if yo are looking to finish up your collection of his adventures then this is a good Kickstarter to back.


This looks like a lot of fun.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-dungeons-monsters-of-mayhem-1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This Old...Journal? Judges Guild Journal

Due to being sick earlier this week I did not get around to reviewing a Dragon Magazine for "This Old Dragon".
But I did score some copies of the old Judge's Guild Journal from 1977 to 1978 (Prime 'Space Trucker' years).



I grabbed issues #3(N), #6(O) to #10(S).

Truthfully I was not planning on a big review of each issue; there is not a lot of reviewable content.  But I will talk about them in a future post.

Of course, I grabbed this set for a couple of reasons.  I am always curious about the early days of our hobby and these issues (just) pre-date my involvement.  So that is a plus in my book.

Then there is also this.



I had NO idea this even existed until last week. So I hunted these down.
I will go into detail about this class and how it works in the D&D of the time.  Plus it has such a great 70s vibe to it.   I really can't but help to want to jump in a try it out.

The art is pretty cool too.



I might keep the issue with the witch, but when I am done I will entertain offers if someone must have these for your collection.  I am not looking to recoup my losses here but if someone wants to soften the blow then I will not say no.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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