Thursday, March 22, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #69

January 1983, I was in the middle of 8th grade and transitioning my D&D B/X game over to AD&D because I was pretty sure the Companion book was never coming out.  I remember being very concerned with the idea of "playing right" back then and wanted to be sure I was not violating some rule that said I could not or should not mix D&D and AD&D.   1983 was also the time I wrote my very first draft of the Healer class.  So let's put on some Men at Work because this is issue #69 of This Old Dragon.

This Dragon is another one from the collection of Eric Harshbarger. So it is in much better shape than some of the ones I have.

We get another great Clyde Caldwell cover this issue.  I always enjoy his art and this evil wizardress summoning an army of darkness is hitting all my buttons.

Caldwell gives Elmore a run for his money in my mind as the most "classic" D&D artist of the "Silver Age".  Is this the Silver Age yet?  83 is certainly a transition year for D&D, we will be getting new covers on all the classic hardcovers and the new Basic sets are on the way.  We are in what James Maliszewski of Grognardia has called "The Hickman Revolution".  We see other changes in Dragon #69 too as it takes on the look it will have for most of the mid 80s.  The Silver Age/Hickman Age of D&D is the age I still consider more of my personal Golden Age; although it has a hard time competing with right now.

Opening up this issue we see a great ad for Star Frontiers.

Kim Mohan addresses some of Gary's recent "opinionated" (his words, not mine) editorial pieces, especially from issues #65 and #66.  Though Mohan here is defending Dragon's right to publish these and still claim not to be the "house organ" of TSR.  Personally I think they tread that line a little more than they think they do, certainly, at the time I didn't care.

Letters from readers cover some language and Illusionist spells from issue #66 (need to see if I have that one).

Big ad for Epyx computer game "Crypt of the Undead".  I remember wanting to play it and I was going to save up my cash for an Atari 600 or 800 personal computer.  I ended up buying a TRS-80 Color Computer instead.

Ok our big feature is all about Runes by Phil Taterczynski and Roger Raupp.  This is one of those articles that stuck with me for years! I can remember watching the Doctor Who episode "The Curse of Fenric" and remembering things from this article.  This and the companion piece by Ed Greenwood (featuring an early appearance of Elminster) Runestones cover 9-10 pages. All good reading.

Gary is up with From the Sorceror's Scroll. Here he presents us with our very first "split-class" (unless you count the bard), the Thief-Acrobat.  I had a thief-acrobat back int he day, but not till the class appeared in the Unearthed Arcana.

The fiction section is next, a sci-fi story this time.

Gary is back with the Deities & Demigods of Greyhawk.  Featured this issue, Istus (Lady of our Fate), Obad-Hai (The Shalm, whatever that is) and some Time Elementals.

Roger E. Moore has an article that appeals to my analytic desires. Charting the Classes compares the various AD&D classes.  He looks at average hitpoints by level and by experience points. As a former stats professor I could spend hours going over this data. I could even import it all into Excel/Google Sheets an play with the numbers.  I have done something similar in the past and ended up with tables that are pretty close to the stuff we would later get in 3e.

Gary is back again (!) with some Featured Creatures.  Here we get two more fungal creatures, The Ustilagor and Zygom. These would later appear in the Monster Manual II and became Underdark staples.  Well...they did in my games anyway.

Caped Crusaders and Masked Marvels is an essay by Roger E. Moore on the nature of Super Hero RPGs.  No RPG in particular, but I can't help but think that Marvel Super Heroes might be driving this a little. There is a list of "usuful games" at the end of the article.  I can't help but notice the prominent placement of the Villians & Vigilantes ad at the end of this.

Arrakhar's Wand is the centerpiece of this issue. Again it would be, if my issue had it.  That's fine I fully expect that most of the middle sections have been removed from nearly ever used Dragon I get. I can't really complain...but I also can't review it! So moving on.

Lenard Lakofka is up in Leomund's Tiny Hut with the Entertainer Class(es).  This includes such notables as Stagehand, Juggler, Acrobat, Troubadour, Showman, and Entertainer. At 8 pages it has some depth and there are a lot of interesting ideas here.  Naturally with the Thief-Acrobat from Gary I am curious to see what acrobat skills I could swap between them.  I am inclined to use this article whenever I next run a circus themed adventure.  In fact the one I am considering is from a group of professional acrobats that play at the local RenFaire, Barely Balanced. They have an adventure for Pathfinder called The Dead Gulch.  I think it would work better with AD&D/OSRIC myself.

Like last week, this week's issue is a Night of 1,000 stars.  Who is next? Hey look it's Lewis Pulsipher and he is up with Ready for anything! Be prepared to carry more than just a sword. AD&D and D&D has always been about resource management. Lew is here to help you figure out what you need and what you really need.

Ed Greenwood and Elminster are back again, this time with More Pages from the Mages.  This time we get four new spell books with some new spells. Back in the day I would go right for the spells, today I am more interested in the story behind the spell books.  Maybe the spells inside are some I have already seen, but that is not what makes it valuable to me now. It's the story, the history, maybe there is something really special about this book. Maybe the spellcaster is still alive. Maybe his/her enemies are and want this book.  My cup runneth over with ideas.

Merle M. Rasmussen and Allen Hammack are up with some more Top Secret material.  Here they are answering some rules questions and discussing what might be some rule inconsistencies.

Tony Watson reviews United Nations. He likes it.  Merle Rasmussen reviews the card game Jasmine. He likes the fresh approach on some old ideas and he loves the art.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with The Role of Books. He covers Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies, but not as a review per se, but more as an essay on how to use the book in your FRPG.

We get some ads.

Phil and Dixie try to beat the high cost of gaming.
Wormy is suprised by a giant fly panther.

Some ads and we end with a big ad for Middle Earth.

All in all quite a fun issue.  Lots of great material and some that I can still use today.

Want to know what I ws saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #37.

1 comment:

trollsmyth said...

I was always most interested in the construction of the books, then the histories, and last the spells (which sometimes I would just remove to include my own or more standard ones). Seven Swords utterly transformed how I played D&D, and articles like this were grist for my mill.