Thursday, March 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #86

Let's start of This Old Dragon with one of the first Dragons I ever owned, Dragon #86. I am also picking this issue because I have three copies of it and maybe between the three I have enough left to have one full issue.

This issue is dated June 1984.  I would have just finished my freshman year in High school and was going to be a sophomore.  So slightly older than my youngest son and younger than my oldest son is now.

This issue features one (I think it is the second) Chess cover by Denis Beauvais.   This is also one of my favorites of the series. I just kinda like the skull face in the background.  Plus I always thought that this is what a battle between a Paladin and an Anti-Paladin should be like.

Starting in the middle is the "Great Stoney Castle".  I am fortunate enough to have two complete "kits" here between the three issues that if I ever get the desire to build it again I can.  I remember building this back in the summer of 84.  I liked the safety pins to make little flags on top of the towers. Thought it was pretty clever.   The castle became "Castle Glantri" in my game world and I even created dungeons underneath.  In my world's history Castle Glantri was destroyed in the "Shadow Wars" aka me going to college and thinking I would not get a chance to play anymore. I kept that through out the years and even into my current game.  I think with the discovery of these magazines I will say the castle has finally been rebuilt.

Great Stoney was so popular in fact that the Wizards of the Coast digital incarnation of Dragon, known as Dragon+ recently reprinted Great Stoney for everyone. For free!  and!/article/113120/102960505  and

Ecology of the Slithering Tracker was also a literal game changer for me.  I always thought of the Slithering Tracker as kind of a useless monster.  But this article made me see it completely different.  From here on out I started thinking about all my monsters as from the point of view of a normal human or a 1st level character.  The Slithering Tracker is a deadly to these folks and a real monster.  It helped me focus on building more interesting monsters and making the ones I had more interesting.  Yeah, that's all "no shit" stuff today, but to a 14-year-old, that was something ground breaking.

I really, really wanted to like the article on new Familiars. There was a lot to like about it in theory, but in execution...maybe not so much.  It is no small claim to say this article did change how I did familiars, if nothing else so I didn't do it like this article.  No slight on the article. It just did not resonate with me like I wanted it too.
I re-re-read it this morning before posting and it was better than I recalled.  I think I might give some of them a try.

The New Magic items were interesting, but I am not sure I ever used one of them or not.  I recall other magic items from the pages of Dragon, but not these.  Again, this is the problem looking at these magazines 33 years later. I don't measure the value of the article on its own merits, but on how it related to me then and how I remember it now.

Another great article, for me anyway, was the start of the Gods of the Suel Pantheon.  I was always fascinated with the Suel Empire in Greyhawk and wanted to learn more. Still do in fact. I also enjoyed reading about these gods.  If I was ambitious I'd collect these all (see if I have all first) and then put them together to discuss.   Sure, I have the Dragon Magazine Archive that has them all, but that's not quite the same thing is it.
Following up on that article is one on the Dragon and their Deities.  I will have to share this one with my oldest son.  Basically it is about dragon clerics. Something we would take for granted today but a very new idea then.

This might have been the first issue where I saw an ad for Bard Games and HAD to have the Complete Spellcaster.  Yes, even then I was all about the witches.

The comics had the usual fare of Wormy, Snarf Quest and Dragon's Mirth. There was also a comic here called "Talanalan" which I had assumed meant "Tal an' Alan".  It struck me as a comic I would have read in "Boy's Life" that is fairly tame and only sometimes funny.  In the nostalgia fueled OSR and Middle Age I never hear of this one mentioned.

What are your memories of this issue?  I am curious to learn if anyone else used the Great Stoney Castle?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same month?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #54.


trollsmyth said...

Never had this one, but I love the cover, and I'm pretty sure I had the other two Chess-covered issues.

My big memories from that time are the ads. Like that one for MERP of the (very Norman) cavalry charging into the mob of orcs. Things like that really spurred my imagination, and I got nearly as much from the advertisements as the articles.

Greyhawk Grognard said...

As I recall, that Talanian comic only lasted a couple of issues. Might explain why it never gets mentioned. ;-)

I agree; the triptych of chess-themed covers was an excellent thing. Some of the best work of that era.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I presented all four of the original covers, the new fifth one, a while back.

Patric Rogers said...

A wonderful walk down memory lane for this old grognard. Thanks!

Tim Emrick said...

I had this issue at one point, and had great fun building Great Stoney. I had done several Dover Books cut-and-assemble buildings by that point (mostly HO-scale city buildings, plus Caernarvon) and this fed into that same crafty fix.

I also made a cut-paper poster of part of this cover in H.S. art class, combining the two knights with a photo of Gygax from another issue of Dragon. I still have that poster on the wall above my game bookshelves (though in one of our moves, I cut it down to just the knights).

One of the few issues of Dragon that I've kept is another chess cover, I think by the same artist. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that issue! (#83, with the Dancing Hut module)

Timothy S. Brannan said...

According to my notes, I do have issue #83! Looking forward to revisiting it too!

Dr. Theda said...

We have this one... hope that you and yours are well...
We bought a Lot of issues back in the late 80's...

faoladh said...

Great Stoney and its Order tend to get imported into most of my fantasy settings, along with the Inn of the Four Winds (referring to the Four Winds Bar of the Blue Öyster Cult song "Astronomy"), the Dragonlords of the Mayfair supplement Dragons, and the Irklan (from an old Traveller article, adapted to fantasy).

JB said...

This was the second Dragon mag I ever acquired (from a friend, and it was missing "Old Stoney" when I got it). Loved the cover, and created a paladin NPC based on the white knight.

Also found the slithering tracker article enlightening.

I always liked the Tal an Alan comics.
: )

Mike Monaco said...

I put that castle together within a few days of getting the magazine. Hours with an xacto knife to cut it out and glue it together. It sat on my shelf gathering dust for decades, surviving two big moves (NJ to KS, KS to OH). Not sure what happened to it.