Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #104

Wow! A this Old Dragon? Really.  Time to get back into this.  Grabbing the Dragon that has been sitting on my desk it is ... hmmm, no cover. Well, inside it says December 1985 so that should make Dragon #104.  Rocky IV dominates the theaters, Mr. Mister and Lionel Richie rule the radio waves with "Broken Wings" and "Say You, Say Me" respectively.  It's December 1985 and this is episode #104 of The Old Dragon!

Well, my cover is gone, but my Google-fu tells me it is another Denis Beauvais piece.  This time a happy looking wizard.

Letters covers some the issues with the adventure "City Beyond the Gate" in Issue #100.  I have to agree, now in retrospect, with the errors being pointed out with Robert Schroeck's version of London.  If I do issue 100 I'll have to come back to this.

Kim Mohan's editorial covers William Dear's book "The Dungeon Master". In particular, Mohan focuses on the game that Dear played and didn't enjoy.  Me, I have a host of other issues with the book but that is not really the point of his editorial.

Nice ad for the Dragonfire software.  I often spoke about how my earliest memories of D&D and D&D experiences are contemporaneous with my earliest experiences with computers.  To me, they go hand in hand.  Back in the day, we had written our own software for the various TRS-80 computers we had.  It was fun.  You can still get the Dragonfire II software online. I am not sure of the legality of those sites though.



We come up to one of the early "theme" section of Dragon.  These became more and more popular from Issue 80 or so on hitting their height in the in late 1980s (issues 100 on).
The theme for this issue deals with Thieves, which even at this point (end of 1985) they were being referred to as "Rogues".

John C. Bunnell starts with The Well-Rounded Thief which deals with various reasons why a character would want to be a thief.   There are a lot of good ideas here (greed, professional motivation, artistic, recreational, revenge) and 99% of this article can be used with any version of D&D really.   Thieves may not have been in the Little Brown Books, but they are a staple of D&D now.

Bunnell is up next as well with Race is Ahead of Class.  This article really gave us some insight on how different races view thieves and was a preview of the Race/Class/Kit books of 2nd Edition.  Again this article can be used today regardless of your edition of choice.

What does your thief get when they pickpockets? Well, Bruce Barr has the answer in Was It Worth the Risk?  Tables of picking pockets depending on who is the mark.  The tables will feel a bit old-school for newer players, but they are pretty useful.

David "Zeb" Cook gives us a two-page preview on the new Oriental Adventures in Oriental Opens New Vistas.  It is more than just a commercial for OA, there are notes on design choices made to make this feel different than AD&D RAW.

Michael Dobson is next with Three Challenges in One where he talks about his new module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield.   The big feature of this adventure is the inclusion of the BATTLESYSTEM combat system.  Which is odd really.  The Companion set for Basic D&D (BECMI) already had their own mass combat system called War Machine.  This adventure ended up using a hybrid of the two systems.

Meeting of The Minds updates the psionic encounter tables with monsters from Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II.

Len Lakofka is next with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature on Specialization and Game Balance.  This covers the new features fighter got in the Unearthed Arcana.  I was not all that concerned about Weapon Specialization back then and frankly thought it was fine but I have also read that some people thought it was a game-breaker or a game-changer depending on who was talking.

Nice big ad for Gary's first book.  Sadly in one year's time he would be gone from TSR.
Ads for BATTLESYSTEM and Oriental Adventures too.



Ed Greenwood is back with another ecology article, this time The Ecology of the Ochre Jelly.  Ed had a good way of making even the lamest monsters sound interesting.

Somewhat related to the thief articles is this one from Lionel D. Smith on Assessing, Not Guessing.  Or allowing PCs to make their own value judgments on treasure.  It is a very old-school feeling formula where you determine a character's CAP (correct assessment percentage).  I might try it for my next 5e adventure just to see how it works out.

Our special section and the main feature of the issue is SUDDEN DAWN a Marvel Super Heroes module set during WW2.   I have read through it a few times over the years and it looks like fun and at 16 pages it is a good size.

Merle Rasmussen is back with more Spy's Advice for Top Secret.

An ad for some cool AD&D, Dragon and Dragonlance shirts.  I'd love to have one of those now.



Profiles covers Harold Johnson (Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan) and David "Zeb" Cook (lots).
Previews covers Oriental Adventures and connected modules.   Teased are a new Dragonlance Trilogy , Legends (which I liked better than the first trilogy), a new "unnamed" AD&D core rule book (spoilers Dungeoneers Survival Guide), the D&D Immortals set and more Gary penned Greyhawk novels.

Ares covers the best in SciFi gaming this month.

Star Law Returns by Matt Bandy covers law enforcement for Star Frontiers.

Hexes and High Guard comes to us from Jefferson P. Swycaffer and deals with space wars for Traveller.  It's a fairly short article but feels like it would work well.

Gamma World is not to be ignored they have stats for a Terminator style...er wait, an Exterminator style robot in The Exterminator by John Mau and Brian Shuler.

Ah.. here is something I really like.  The Kzinti Have Landed by Jon Slobins for the FASA Star Trek game.  Obviously about playing Kzinti in the Star Trek universe for all those Larry Niven fans out there.  I liked the Kzinti and was always disappointed they were not in the rules, but I knew why they weren't.   There is enough here to get Kzinti fans going.  Back when this issue was new I thought about a Kzinti police force (my ode to The Slaver Weapon) using the Star Law article.  The ship in the article has a solid Romulan look to it.



Marvel-Phile covers more WW2 characters including a very non-Sebastian Stan Bucky.

Gamer's Guide has small ads including two for artists to illustrate your character.

Convention Calendar covers the cons of late 1985, early 1986.

Wormy gets four pages, Dragonmirth gets one and we end with SnarfQuest.

So. If you are into thieves then this is a must-read issue.  If you like Kzinti then if you can find this issue cheap give it a go.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #72.

4 comments:

Venger Satanis said...

Was It Worth The Risk sounds like a fantastic article. I'd love to read that!

JB said...

A Dragon mag that I owned back in the day and used for the thief stuff. Definitely dug on the Marvel stuff.

Merle "The Administrator" Rasmussen said...

Seems to me every old DRAGON magazine you feature contains a TOP SECRET(R) article!

Merle "The Administrator" Rasmussen

Timothy Brannan said...

They do! It is one of my regrets as a gamer that I didn't play more Top Secret.

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