Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #175

This might be the "newest" Dragon I have in my big box of old mildewy dragons.  It's also in the worst shape, to be honest.  Well, let's see what we can get from this. The date is November 1991, I am in my first year of grad school and this is Dragon issue 175.

I don't recall actually reading this issue before this. The cover is Spelljammer-ish and I wasn't into that world.  I was always much more of a Ravenloft guy.

Right out of the gate we get a nice big ad for Waldenbooks. Wow, that brings back memories. There is an 800 number here that I am dying to call. Stupid I know.
The first three ads, including the Waldenbooks one, all feature TSR products, no surprise really.

For those that like to keep track, James M. Ward is the Publisher and Editor is Roger E. Moore.

The letters section has an interesting one this time.  A letter describes a new channel coming to cable, the SciFi channel. And it's going to be 24 hours a day!

The feature of this issue deals with Campaigns.
Of particular interest to me are two articles, The Perils of Prehistory and Creative Campaigns: A New Recipe. These two together would help me figure out my Doggerland game someday.

The Marvel-Phile has a couple of heroes I honestly have never heard of. Not that this a big deal really, I had moved back to DC by this point.

TSR Previews covers some new items coming out soon, first up is the new D&D Rules Cyclopedia.  There are more of course, but this one sticks out.

Part 22 of +Bruce Heard's Voyage of the Princess Ark. One day I am going to need to collect all of these and read them in the proper order.  I missed so many back in the day so I really don't have a full idea of what it's all about.  I appreciate the Arsenic and Old Lace reference in this one.  One of the first plays I was ever involved in back in High School.

The Role of Computers is much larger than I recall it being in other issues. Lots of games covered too. Let me think. About this time I had worked on a grant and was able to buy a 286 PC-Clone with an EGA card and 2 megs of RAM, I was so cool. Granted the 386 was already out, but hey, I was still buying it for "work".  Though I have to admit I don't remember any of these games.

The is is listing of the 1990 Origins awards winners, as expected TSR and AD&D grab most of the awards.  Creatively TSR is doing great even if we now know that financially they are in a dire situation.

Like the cover, Sage Advice is Spelljammer focused.  Typically when this is the case the special "feature" of the issue is also likewise focused, but not this case.  Maybe they didn't have enough Spelljammer material?

Ah. Here we go.
Reviewer Allen Varney gives us a brief glimpse into what the 90s is going to look like. Role-playing Reviews covers two new games.  First up is +Lester Smith's Dark Conspiracy RPG.  Kudos to Smith for predicting the economic crashes of the early 21st Century. Sadly it didn't lead to cyborgs and monsters in the streets, just idiots. Dark Conspiracy is not the first modern monster hunting game, but it does help pave a road built by Call of Cthulhu and Chill.  I remember picking this game up in the late 90s when I was on a hard core horror RPG kick, looking for something new.  While I never played this game there is a lot here I really enjoyed.
Next up is the game that defined the 90s. Vampire the Masquerade.
I remember having a conversation with a Vampire player back in the early 90s. Right around this time in fact. He told me then that Vampire was going to destroy D&D.  I told him that other games have said that before, but I was thinking he was out of his mind.  Well...Vampire did do a lot of damage to D&D in the 90s and it did change the face of gaming forever.  Old-school gamers like myself try to dismiss V:TM.  But really people that deny the impact on V:TM do so out of ignorance, jealousy or spite. The review here sets that stage; something big is coming here.
The way the Allen Varney reviews this it is as if Mark Rein-Hagen had taken all of then sacred cows of RPGs and slaughtered them. No equipment lists, weapons only take up a 1/4 of a page, only four pages dedicated to combat! Even skills got a brief overview, but the things that describe who your vampire is? Pages and pages.
My take away from reading this review nearly 26 years later is that Varney doesn't know exactly what to make of the game save that he know he has something very new and very good in his hands. He even takes a moment to discuss the cover which was so different than any game out at the time.
We did not know it then. But this article was a glimpse into the future.  In 10 years time TSR will be gone, White Wolf will be one of the biggest names in gaming and we waiting in eager anticipation as White Wolf's own Sword and Sorcery Studios puts out a Ravenloft book.
Note: A star rating system guide is given, but the games are not actually rated.  Varney has high praise for both games, but not a quantitative rating.

Rhyme & Reason is almost a jarring jolt after reading the reviews. It is something more out the Dragons of the 80s than the 90s. Using riddles in your game.  No offense to author Scot Roach, but I was tired of riddles by that point.  Though it did give me an idea. Instead of having to face the Riddle of the Sphinx I am going to have my players face "The Ridicule of the Sphinx"!
Author Mark Anthony follows this up with another article about riddles.

Ads for Dungeon and for Rifts.

Dragonsmirth has some comic artists I have not seen before. None of the "classics" are here.  Thre is Yamara and the Twilight Empire.  I never read all of the Twilight Empire. I might need to do some research and find where it started and ended.   Anyone have any light to shed on it?

Another ad for Rifts.

In the ads section, I notice that TSR was still running a play by mail game, Conquest of the 25th Century.  I am pretty sure I had an email account at my university at that time (quick check, yes I did) so I suspect that PBM was very soon going to be a thing of the past.
Interestingly, on the next page is an ad for Play by Modem! There is a phone number and you can connect at 300 or 1200 baud! I had a 300 baud modem on my first two computers and I believe by this time the machine I was using had a 2400 baud one. If those words have no meaning for you ask a greybeard. ;)

Again, no cover on this one means no back cover either. I pulled out the old Dragon Magazine CD-ROM archive as saw there is an awesome ad for the Rules Cyclopedia.

At 124 pages this issue feels smaller for some reason.  Maybe it was because the articles didn't grab me or maybe because I was winding down nearly 12 years of gaming at this point and was focused on grad school that the magazine did not resonate with me as much.

Do you have memories of this one?


Chris said...

"The Twilight Empire" -- writer: Stephen Sullivan, illos: John Hebert, Bill Willingham, ran from #156 to #205 (source: Dragondex) Collected edition available on amazon.

It had Hungarian-speaking frogpeople IIRC.

faoladh said...

As Chris Hogan says, the collected edition is available. Unfortunately, it is in black and white, but it isn't very expensive. Because there is more than one Stephen Sullivan in gaming, it should be pointed out that his name is generally given as Stephen D. Sullivan.

ArtaMrydhyen said...

Hello all, as you posted this blog on Dragon Magazine 175, I went to my library and grabbed my copy, removed from its protective plastic bag and started reading it again. Brings back very good memories, as at that time I was DM'ing a group of 10-12 PC's playing "Against the Giants". Very good times!!!