Wednesday, March 3, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #101

Dragon Magazine 101
It has been far too long since I did This Old Dragon.  I'll grab the next one of the pile and see what we have.  Looks like we are headed back to September 1985 for This Old Dragon #101.

This one is another with no cover.  That is interesting because I will admit it is among one of my least favorite covers.  I am not sure why really, it is Dave Martin and did the (in)famous Dragon #114 cover, but I never cared for this one.

One of the good things about taking so long to this is these now seem to smell less moldy and mildewy. That's a plus.

Kim Mohan's Editorial repeats a sentiment I have shared here; Aren't We All In This Together? Essentially they refused to run an ad that disparaged another companies product. I have often felt the same.  Other gamers, games, game designers are not my competition, they are my colleagues. Like Mohan maybe I am naïve. 

Some ads for Call of Cthulhu and ElfQuest.  The ElfQuest, one covers Sea Elves.  I have been re-reading Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning that introduced the Sea Elves. Been wanting to do more with them myself.  Maybe I should check on eBay for this.

The first article, Update from the Chief, comes to us from Gary Gygax himself.  This might be the last article written by Gary as a member of TSR.  He will be out in October of 1985.  The article covers many topics.  Unearthed Arcana sold over 90k copies in its first month and his Gord book did well.  Gary announces two upcoming publications, Oriental Adventures and T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil for AD&D and more "family-type" games including All My Children. Gary also briefly discusses the critics of D&D and RPGs in general. 

In a fortuitous (turn for me) Roger E. Moore's article on Kender in All About the Kender is up. I just posted stats for what I think is the very first Kender character I have ever made. Lots of people hate Kender. I will admit I never liked them much, but hate was too strong.  My dislike comes more from my enjoyment of halflings.  Moore's article, rereading it all these years later AND while also rereading the first Dragonlance Chronicle my opinion has softened.  Now I think I find Kender in the light they were always intended. What I disliked about them then is what endears them to me now.  I have to admit that some of what I did with gnomes in the 3e days were likely based on 1st ed Kenders.  I am perfectly happy to keep them on Krynn in my own games, but here they get to be as Kendery as they can.   Since I am going to be running DL15 Mists of Krynn, this is a great article to reread.

Plan it by The Numbers is up from Frank Mentzer.  This is a system he had planned on using in the D&D Master Set. It is similar in many respects to the Monstermark system from White Dwarf or the Challenge Rating systems from D&D 3-5.  The system was not used because it was "too heavily mathematic" but it seems rather simple to be honest.  Almost too simple. In any case I think I will give it a try for my Basic-era War of the Witch Queens game. 

Paul Suttie is next with For King and Country. I have say, I find nothing more tedious and dull than discussions about alignment. For something that is only one aspect of the game I find the multitudes of discussions on it largely pointless.  For example, this article covers five pages.  Why?  Do we really need that?  In then he just wants to dump the whole thing.  

The article is at least broken up by a cool black ad for the D&D Master Set.  Makes it look like a limited edition sort of deal. There is also an ad for Unearthed Aracana.

D&D Master SetAD&D Unearthed Arcana

The Role of Books covers the then-new offerings from SF/Fantasy.   I will admit I don't know most of these, but 1985 was around my turning point of leaving science fiction and fantasy reading and moving more into dark fantasy and horror.  Of the titles, I do recognize the novelization of "Ladyhawke" by Joan D. Vinge.  I enjoyed her "Snow Queen" and "Cat" series quite a bit as well as her novelization of "Return to Oz." 

Peter Johnson is next with Charging isn't Cheap on how to recharge magic items.  The nice feature of this article are the examples of how various wondrous magic items are/were created.  This is a nice change from the very formula-driven approach seen in 3e.  Other than the level restrictions on who can create or enchant these items, this could easily be added to any version of the D&D game. The levels might need to be altered is all. 

Jeff Grub, of Marvel Super Heroes fame, sets out to review a game that could be considered a conflict of interest; but he is very clear about where he is coming from on it. So instead of a conflict or a competitor, he comes off as "Expert."  This is good because the game he is reviewing is the DC Heroes RPG.  It's a good review and Jeff obviously loves the game as it is and loves it as a competition to his own MSH game. 

We get to the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of this issue.  The Creature Catalog III.  I loved new monsters in Dragon Magazine, and the Creature Catalogs were among my favorite features.  This one has 24 new monsters for your AD&D game and includes submissions from the likes of Ed Greenwood, Roger E. Moore, and Stephen Inniss. With art from Marsha Kauth, Dave LaForce, and Roger Raupp.   There are a few very interesting monsters here too.  The avari are cool-looking bat-like humanoids. The bogeyman is another take on the bogey, bogle, boggart of myth and legend.  The creeping pit is a magical mishap gone wrong. Another hamadryad and lhiannan shee.  The mantimera is a crossbreed of a manticore and chimera (not sure I want to know how that happens). And the yale from mythological lore.   

Consequently, Owen Kermit Edwards is now doing posts on the monsters of Dragon magazine.  His first one is up today on his blog Haughty Fantasy Adventures

TSR Comming Attractions lets us know that T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil is on the way, as well as Book 3 of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Spring Dawning.  I have been rereading that and am just about done.

Fiction from Brenda Gate Speilman.

We get to the Ares section now.  

One day I need to back through all of the Ares and see what I can use for my BlackStar and Star Trek: Mercy games. 

Roger E. Moore (our MVP of this issue) has his article on Starships and Star Soldiers on the use of minis in science fiction games.  Timely for me since I just started getting into some 3D printing of some of the FASA Star Trek ships. 

Sorry, Wrong Dimension from Mike Manolakes covers dimensional or parallel universal travel in superhero games.  As a big fan of both the comic and TV event "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and someone that uses different universes in my fantasy games as well.  The 6-dimension coordinate system he has here is EXACTLY something we would have used back then.  This uses a 2d6 for determining dimensions. I like that.  But the d12 is my go-to sci-fi die, so I used that instead. 

More from Jeff Grub on The Marvel-Phile. This time back to Asgard with Beta Ray Bill and Sif.  

Out of the Sun covers man machines for Gamma World from James Ward and Roger Raupp.  And Michael Brown gives us The Stellar Diocese of cleric for Traveller.   That is something I should adopt for BlackStar, but only cultists.

Convention Calendar covers the hottest conventions for Fall 1985 and Winter 1986. Some small ads, notably for a couple play by mail games and art for your D&D characters. Something that I still enjoy getting. 

Wormy gets two pages. I think I need to reread that one from the beginning. I know how it ends, but hitting these in piece-meal, out of order fashion, I forgot what the hell was happening. 

Dragonsmirth gives us TWO different picnic scenes. SnarfQuest gets three pages, mostly about the Gaggleleech. 

I remember this one when it first came out. There is a lot of great material here and the Creature Catalog will certainly see some new use in the future.

Dragon Magazines

Still plenty more to go!


Dick McGee said...

If you remember how Wormy ends you're doing better than everyone else on the planet - it just stopped mid-story when the creator vanished. :) There's a collection of the strips at this link if you want a relatively convenient re-read option:

Martin R. Thomas said...

Glad to see this series return! My first Dragon was #76 that was a gift from a friend's mom. It was the first time I'd seen or heard of the magazine, and I quickly bought the next copy I could find, which was #72 with the Cavalier, and then sporadically collected them until my grandma subscribed to me for my birthday starting with issue #90. I kept my subscription up until the print issues ended (I think it was #359?) and I also acquired a bunch of old issues numbered in the 50's and 60's and one in the 40's. Unfortunately I didn't have room for them in my office so they're all bagged and boarded and in boxes in my garage. I would love to have them available for quicker access to browse through.

One thing I thought was interesting was how one of your least favorite articles from the issue about alignment was one that I found fascinating as a kid. I remember reading that and discovering for the first time a quandary between two political rivals of the same alignment, specifically, two Lawful Good paladins who were political enemies. That thought had never occurred to me before, but reading that article and the ideas for things like the Orcs converting to the state religion or else being hunted and killed, the dwarf who faces prejudice but joins the world of the humans to try to make his mark in the world, and the cavalier who turns his back on his faith and king in order to defend the original settlers of the land... I loved those ideas as a kid because it made me realize that the D&D world was much more complex than "good guys versus bad guys." So many of those concepts made their way into my campaign world that I started working on shortly after this article was first published, but which I didn't actually use for a game until May 2001, and which I'm still running now.

Anyway, just wanted to offer my thoughts on that particular article. Cheers!

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Dick McGee. I know what you mean. True story Tramp left TSR and moved to the same town I was living in. I used to take the Amtrack to visit my girl-friend (now wife) and walked by where he worked as a cab driver. The drivers all sat outside and smoked all day. I bet I passed by Tramp a couple of dozen of times over the years and never knew it.

@Martin, yeah glad to be doing it again.
Yeah I generally find alignment discussions to be boring and tedious.

John Matthew Stater said...

Alignment discussions are like arguing about sci-fi physics - sometimes interesting, but always pointless.

faoladh said...

I realize that it bored you so you probably didn't read it closely, but the "For King and Country" article doesn't advocate dumping alignment altogether. It proposes a replacement in which the "Law-Chaos" axis is replaced with a specific factional (usually national) loyalty, while keeping the "Good-Evil" axis as against or in favor of killing as a casual solution. This allows, say, English and French paladins to fight on opposite sides of a conflict while retaining their powers' usefulness and avoiding risk to their status, rather than both sides being "Lawful Good". Unlike most such articles, it identifies a specific (rather than a general and abstracted) issue and proposes a workable solution.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@faoladh, Yeah it really did to be honest.
I might revisit it later. But likely not.

Lance Duncan said...

What frank says about it his system not being included in the master set confuses me; on pg 9 of the dm book he has an optional system for balancing encounters that looks very similar. I think maybe the one in the book is a slimmed down version, as he doesn't mention individual adjusted HD in the article, but instead uses power factor. Or maybe the article is an expansion of what is in the book, I can't really figure out which version came first.