Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #161

Jumping ahead a bit more. I thought I had grabbed the newest (relatively speaking) Dragon in my box, but this one came up.  Granted, I cheated a bit and this was actually the third one I had grabbed for this week.  It had some things I want to go over and fit in with some my Blue Rose posts.   This one dates to September 1990. I was living in my own apartment at this time and working my butt off to get into grad school.   I was not playing all that much because of this, but I was still enjoying reading the 2nd Ed books and playing or running the occasional game.  The issue is #161 and this is This Old Dragon!

No cover here.  I looked it up and it is what I consider to be the typical Jim Holloway fare.  Now don't get me wrong, I like Holloway. His art in Chill 1st edition was one of the things that made that edition iconic to me. But there is a "silliness" about his style that bugs me.  Maybe it was because of the Paranoia art or Castle Greyhawk.  I don't know. It's just not art I seek out anymore.

Missing a few pages. First up is the table of contents then the letters.  A letter from Jessie Lin wants a reprint of all the NPC classes. Yeah, me too. But Dragon can't do that, so instead, they list all the classes and the issue they were in. Some going all the way back to issue #3.  These sorts of things are easy to find now, but back then it was much, much harder.

Roger Moore has an editorial bit about a romance between two characters; Ursula and Black Bart. The story is a fun one about these two characters and their interactions.  The point though is that there is so much story-telling and adventures NOT being used because D&D gamers shy away from romance.  Something I think we see more of today in games for sure. It is something I have always used in games myself.  More on that in a bit.

The Feature of this issue is Why is the DM Smiling and it is really only a loose collection of DM advice rather than a proper theme.  It's a good advice for the most part.

The first article from David Flin is Inside Information, dealing with how characters get information and knowledge in their games.  Again, good, but anyone playing Chill or Call of Cthulhu was already doing this. Heck, sometimes going to the library WAS the adventure.  This is why I always advocate playing other games. It's great to have a favorite and a go-to game, but you can gain a lot of insight from playing other games too.

Tom Schlosser is next with Romance and Adventure. He describes romance as "the most overlooked aspect of any fantasy role-playing game."  I tend to agree. Though there were elements of it in Pendragon. Of course we are coming into the 90s and "Story games" are about to become a thing.  The article is good, and has plenty of good advice. Though for my money you can't beat the Bard when it comes to seeing how to use Romance as an adventure point.  Think of "Mid-Summer's Night Dream" or "Love's Labour Lost", they center around the ideas of love and romance and the hazards (albeit comical ones) of such undertakings.  I'll mention "Romeo and Juliet" but anyone that has actually read it knows it is not a romance, but a tragedy.
Again, you see this more in modern games. I think we wrote pages and pages on it for Buffy and it is more or less the entire focus of Monsterhearts and many Anime RPGs.

It's sort of like a wand... by Gary Coppa covers mystery in your games and keeping players in the dark. By the mid and late 80s there was no mystery left in D&D.  I say this in general terms, but I know at the time I knew the HD and weakness of every monster in the MM, FF and MM2. Knew every spell and 90% of the prices of all the items in the PHB, UA and both Survival Guides.  But also many of the magic items were known and the ones that weren't well we knew how to take of that as well.  Second Ed helped some of this, but still, the advice in this article is sound.  Plus nearly all of it stands true today.  Now I think nearly all DMs/GMs are fine playing a little more loose with the rules as written these days than back in the "If you change this you are no longer playing AD&D®!" The article is written from a first ed point of view I noticed.

We get a full two page spread ad for the Franklin Mint's Fantasy Collector doll of Queen Galadriel.  She doesn't look much like an elf to be honest. Or even like Cate Blanchett.
Though for the price of $295.00 in five easy payments she can be yours.  Or you can wait about 30 years and pick her up on eBay.

Marc Newman beats me to the punch by two decades with his The Classics Campaign.  This short article discusses how to use the classic AD&D adventures with newer rules.  It seems weird to read an article published in 1990 go on about "nostalgic AD&D", though I guess that the *D&D game was 15 years old at this point.

Jim Bambra in Role-Playing Reviews covers the Dragonlance Time of the Dragon and The Glorantha book for RuneQuest. He likes both and says they are great choices regardless of the world or system you use.

Ads for the Hunt for Red October game and Dungeon Magazine follow.

+Bruce Heard has Part 8 of Voyage of the Princess Ark.  Going to collect these all so I can read them in order.

The Role of Computers is getting more interesting.  This was the heart of the Windows PC boom and just before the world discovered the Internet.  DragonStrike is a "Dragon flight simulator" similar in many ways to the very popular stealth fighter simulators that were out then.  There is a martial arts game, Budokan, but sadly no Cheap Trick references.  There is also a section on tips and tricks for players of other games; mostly D&D related PC games.

Marvel Phile is actually in this issue!  But I see why it was not cut out.  There was a huge 1990 character update book out recently and these are the characters that did not make that cut. WE have Daktoa North and Stick. Stick at least has gotten some screen time thanks to the Elektra movie and the Daredevil Netflix series.

Next pages are water damaged. Looks like the Role of Books .and some ads.

An oddly placed Scout NPC class shows up after the Marvel material.  It is a thief variant and it is also for 1st Edition.  It is an interesting take. Something I think can be done with the current "Rogue" versions of the thief a bit easier these days.

The Con Calendar covers games for the last quarter of 1990.

Sage Advice covers various Forgotten Realms topics.

Another long "keeper" article is the Ecology of the Griffon. I always liked these are articles and the griffon seems like an excellent choice for a big long article.  This article is a good companion piece to the entry in the Monstrous Compendium.  I actually had hoped back then that the Ecology articles would have greater playability in 2nd ed.  It seemed obvious to me that a logical choice would be to cut out the articles and put them in your binder. I did that for a few, but nowhere near enough, to be honest.

We end with the normal slate of ads and comics. This time joined by articles continued from other pages.

Not a bad issue and certainly one with some ideas that can be used today.


Zudrak (Michael G.) said...

This would be the first issue of my hiatus era. Dragon magazines had not been purchased for a few years by this point but acquiring the CD-ROM set about 10 years ago more than made up for what I missed.

In retrospect, I should have pushed harder to find other D&D players at college.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

At that point I had enough going on that playing was only happening once every couple of months. I also just didn't have the cash to spend on new books all the time.