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.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #91.

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