Thursday, April 26, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #153

Going into a bit of a mystery era for me.  It is January 1990, the 90s are officially here.  Born on the Fourth of July is still in theatres, but the music charts still have a late 80s feel to them, grunge was still a few months away, but my roommate's younger brother was CONVINCED that this new band he discovered via some bootlegs, Soundgarden, was going to be the next big thing.  (Kid, I forgot your name, but seriously solid call).  At this time my games were winding down.  I was a Junior at University and working to get into grad school.  So this is really one of the first times for and this Issue #153 of This Old Dragon!

So, like I said I have no memories of this issue, but a couple of articles I remember reading later on CD-ROM.  But that is jumping ahead.  The cover, titled "Chariot races are a dime a dozen" is by multiple Hugo award winner Kelly Freas and is really fun.  As I have mentioned in the past my road to D&D began with my love of the Greek and later Norse myths.  Seeing this cover, with Odin and Hermes betting on the races and Ares and Set controlling it via godly video-game controllers just really makes me smile.

The cover sets up nicely our feature of this issue. The Gods.

The first thing I notice about this issue is the number of full-page ads is greater.
For those wanting to put this into their own chronology, the Publisher is James M. Ward and our Editor is Roger E. Moore.  There is a sidebar on the Letters page listing some of the changes in personnel.  We only know now from hidsight that TSR was going to have a lot of troubles in the 90s even if creatively they were having some of their best output.

Letters hits us up with a CRAZY idea; Dragon magazine on disk! Not gonna happen says the management.  Others want to read four-five page transcripts of other people playing D&D. Sorry guys, but you both will get what you want in a few years.

Skip Williams is up with Sage Advice.  Like most of the SA from this time period, it deals with the new AD&D 2nd Ed rules and a bit of 1st Ed. Fitting with the theme this one covers Cleric and Druid spells.

Forum has the usual collection of gripes and insights.  One thing I had forgotten was slowing down how demi-humans gain experience points.  In 2nd Ed this has the effect of making the demi-human races feel a bit more like their Basic D&D counterparts.  I don't think I would try this in D&D 5, but it is something I see working well in other games like Castles & Crusades or even Swords & Wizardry.

Here we get our special feature.
Up first is Craig Barrett, Jr. and The Goals of the Gods. Here he talks about what motivations the gods have in your world and what they do. This article is long, well researched and only kinda-, sorta- related to Fantasy Roleplaying.  Don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating read and a good one if I wanted an intro article to comparative mythology.  Still, it is a good "Food for thought" article and a good one to start off our series with.

Craig Barrett, Jr. is back (so soon? yes) with another essay/article.  As Above, So Below talks about the power of the gods and even postulates on powers above the gods.  Again there is an academic feel to this one, but I also found it more interesting.

Following In Their Footsteps by Fraser Sherman is more along the lines of what we expect from Dragon articles; background information and advice on how to use it in your games.  Sherman treads over some well-traveled ground here going all the way back to issue 83 (and likely before) of changing the cleric class to more closely fit their god.  AD&D 2nd ed mad good strides in this direction as would 3rd edition.  But unlike past articles that focused mostly on weapons and spells, this one looks at hobbies and past times or other interests. So mostly non-weapon skills.
The article focuses exclusively on the Olympians, but there are enough archetypes here to cover the other pantheons as well.

Nice big ad for the Science Fiction/Fantasy Book club.

Your Place in the Grand Scheme by Tom Little addresses the importance of clerics in the AD&D game.  The article runs the gambit of religion, morality, philosophy, and alignment.  This really was a golden time for clerics.  The 2nd Ed rules introduced the Priests of the Specific Mythoi and later Planescape would make philosophy and the gods a very central element to the game.  Clerics were really moving beyond the "walking first aid kits" and becoming more of an archetype in their own right.  But it seems like every so often we still get articles or posts of "Cleric, who needs them!" which I find very odd, to be honest.

Fiction is next.

Jeff Grubb is next with The Game Wizards with another "conversation" with Elminster.  Jeff is a good author and game designer, yet his Elminster "voice" feels off to me.  I am 100% certain this is bias on my part.  Over the years I have gone from being amused by these articles, to avoiding them, to outright hating them and now back to being pleasantly charmed by them.  One of my goals is to collect all of these and give them a read sometime, especially all the Wizard's Three articles.

John C. Bunnell is back with another copyrighted edition of The Role of Books.  A.C. Crispin is featured here with an original book.  I was always a fan of her tie-books for Star Trek, V and Star Wars. I remember seeing her obit on StarTrek.com a few years back.

The Ecology of the Manticore is next. I liked the manticore back when I read about in mythology and it was a favorite monster in D&D Basic, but somewhere along the line I stopped using them.  This article by "Spike & Jones" does little to interest me in them again.

Through the Looking Glass has a do-it-yourself wire-frame and epoxy dragon.

Con Calendar covers the best of what 1990 has to offer this winter and spring.  It always seems like there were more Cons back then.

Wow.  I think this might the very first article on The Voyage of the Princess Ark by Bruce Heard.  I consider these "must reads" if you have any interest in the Known World as it was presented in the BECMI era of D&D.

Your Best Chances is obsessive compulsiveness after my own heart. Ed Friedlander takes all six of the ability generation methods from the AD&D 2nd Ed game and looks at your chances to get the roles you need per class.  I love how he mentions he was using Quatro on an IMB-PC.  That shit could only fly in the late 80s and early 90s.  But major kudos to Ed here for working all this out.  I am tempted to try it all out in R just to say I did it.

Speaking of computers, Role of Computers covers the then state of the art for the dawn of the 90s.

Small ads for Gamer's Guide.

The table of contents says there is a Top Secret article here, but mine has been cut out.  Same with the Spelljammer one.

Dragonmirth has the normal shor comics, but nothing along the lines of SnarfQuest or Wormy anymore.

So if you are into Clerics and gods then this is a great issue for you. It's a good issue overall and I loved Ed Friedlander's stats and a chance to see the start of the Voyage of the Princess Ark too.

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