Thursday, October 26, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #126

October 1987.  I am a Freshman in University and about to hit my first big Halloween bash at a school notorious for it's 50,000+ people Halloween party.  But that is at night. Durning the day I pick up a copy of Dragon magazine that is destined to be one of my top three Dragons of all time.
So "Here I Go Again" with October 1987 and issue #126 of This Old Dragon!

Let's first talk about that cover.  It is easily one of my all-time favorite covers. Daniel R. Horne's "Saving the Best for Last" is an epic in a picture.  An old enemy back from the dead to exact his revenge and a ranger down to her last magic arrow.  Only one is going to walk away here.  To this day if I ever use a frost giant against a group of characters you can best believe that at least one of them is coming back as an undead to try to avenge.  That's some powerful shit there to still affect my gaming 30 years later.

Letters come from people looking for PBM games. I didn't have a mainframe account yet, but I knew even then that LISTSERVs were going to be the future of gaming, at least anyway for the next few years.  We also learn that Star Frontiers will no longer be published. More on that in a bit.

The Forum covers two letters concerning setting up a BBS (Bulletin Board System) for accessing older Dragon articles via modem.  Oh the can of worms that must have raised in the offices then.  This is the dawn of the age that TSR clamped down on ANYTHING on the Internet that was D&D related.  Heck in the 90s I seriously doubt I could have even done an article like this without hear from their lawyers.  Look, I am all about nostalgia here of the "Golden Age" of our hobby, but let's not forget what a bunch of assholes TSR had back in the late 80s and early 90s.  You could barely talk about anything online.  When it comes to doing anything online with D&D give me WotC over TSR any day of the week.  Sorry if that makes me loose my old-school street cred, but it is also the truth.

Ken Rolston is up first with his Copyright 1987 Role-Playing Reviews (No snark, I only point that out because it is one of the reasons why the BBS would not have worked and the CD-ROM didn't).  Covered this month is Role-Aids Undead.  I enjoyed the Role-Aids products even if they never had much, or any, traction in my groups back then.  Everyone was all "only TSR!". But Undead is a fun book an a fun adventure.  It had some great alternate lich ideas and some cool undead.  It even had a clan of disgraced dwarves.

Sage Advice runs the gambit.  One player asks if his LG Paladin could marry a CE Magic-User. It must have made a sub-conscious impact on me cause I'd spend the next few years having my Paladins fall in love with Witches.  Or maybe they are both my favorite classes.
We learn also there will be no more Star Frontiers (less details than promised) and no more D&D Cartoon.

We come up to our October feature! The Dead of Night.

To start off with a home run we have THE Tom Moldvay talking about a bunch of different vampires in Hearts of Darkness.  He gives us stats not only for the vrykolakas, Baobhan sith, and the ch'ing shih but also for Dracula himself. I had been working on the stats for Dracula for every game I knew at that point.  I even had Star Frontiers stats for him.  Seeing this was like a bolt from the blue.  I knew I was doing something right.  I still continue to this day.

Dead on Target by David Howery is a great article on using the right weapon against the right undead.  If you go with the idea that clerics can't use swords, then this article makes a lot of sense in explaining that.  Swords are not that effective against skeletons, zombies or ghouls. Sorry Michonne.  A lot of these ideas have been used in other games before or since, but here they were new and fresh and really, really bugged the crap out of my players. Especially since I Was about to go All Ravenloft, All the Time.

Vince Garcia is no stranger to the Other Side.  His article on A Touch of Evil:  Breathing life into the world of the dead was another one of those articles that were common sense in retrospect but seemed revolutionary at the time.  The article covers how to make undead scarier and more unique.  It flows well from Dead on Target to really, really make for a bad day.

And now the scariest article of all....Steve Winter is up with The Game Wizards Second Edition: An Editors Viewpoint.  Yes, 2nd edition is going to be here in about a year.  It is an overview of what the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide will contain.  I remember a few years back comparing this list to my PHB and DMG and found minor differences, but nothing that stood out.  I can't recall if I was excited then or not. I DO know what I did think eventually.  It is the same cycle I go through with ever edition change.  1. "I am not going to upgrade, I am happy with what I have." 2. "Ok, I'll have a look and see, but I am not really going to play." 3. "Wow this is awesome! I love what they did!" 4. "Abandon everything, this is now the only edition I will ever play!" 5. Repeat.  The notable exception was 3.0 and I was ready for that one the moment I knew it was coming.

Dan Salas is next with a world changing article for me. Well, game world changing.  The Ecology of the Shade gives us a look into the Shade (from MM2).  AS an alternate to the Lich this was a viable option for characters looking for immortality and not exactly Good.  Some of this would come back from the dead in 4e as the Revenant.

Bazaar of the Bizarre covers Treasures of the Orient. Neat, but I would have rather seen more spooky stuff.

Dean Shomshak is back with some spells for Call of Cthulhu in A Ghastly Grimoire.  I adapted some to AD&D.

Letters and Forum have their overflow pages.

The Dragon's Bestiary covers mutants for Gamma World.  Yes, I converted some of these as well. Especially the Giggle Bugs.

New contact system for Top Secret.

The Marvel Phile is next and it is another home run.
One of my FAVORITE Marvel Comics was The Tomb of Dracula.  Loved it. Was introduced to such great characters as Drake, Blade and of course Doctor Strange.
The Marvel Phile has stats for Dracula and bringing his "history" up to date.
I spent HOURS pouring over various books and movies and comics to come up with the most detailed history of Dracula.  I had him doing something every year from the time he was born till 1987.  Obsessive much? Yes. But you should expect that by now.
I added his Marvel stats to my collection as well.

HUGE ad for something I never thought I would see in 1987.  A Star Wars RPG.






Role of Computers covers the state of the art for PC games at the time.  One game it covered was Rogue by Epyx, Inc.  It reviewed the PC and Mac versions, but not the one I was playing at the time, the Tandy Color Computer 3.  I was most disappointed.

Small ads.
Convention Calendar
Snarf Quest and Dragon Mirth.
A double shot of Wormy in the form of a Hex-Word puzzle and the normal comic.
Fun stuff.




All in all a crazy great issue and one I still use.

Want to know what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month? Spoiler, it doesn't measure up. But check out White Dwarf Wednesday #94.

2 comments:

trollsmyth said...

Funny thing: I'm certain I had this one, but all I remember from it are the cover and the ad for the Star Wars RPG and the review of the Rogue computer game (which I got for the Apple ][e and loved).

Michael Gross said...

Excellent review! We weren't buying Dragon much anymore by this point but this cover and "The Real Reason the Romans Left Britain" (#119) by Daniel Horne are my two favorite Dragon covers. 119 & 122 were our last two Dragons purchased. I didn't see the above 126 cover until the Dragon Archive CD collection.

You have it right in that WotC TSR > 1987 TSR. Of course, WotC > Hasbro WotC, but there is not nearly the gulf between them as in the former inequality.

I would say RIP Star Frontiers if it were truly dead but it has quite the support from the online gaming community.

Well done, Timothy! I love this series of articles. (I need to go read the White Dwarf ones.)

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