Thursday, February 8, 2024

This Old Dragon: Issue #134

Dragon Magazine #134
 This weekend, Saturday, February 10, is the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon. Very nice how it lines up with the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. So I cheated a little and went digging for a Dragon Magazine that featured Dragons. Not too difficult really. So lets head to the Summer of 1988. I just finished my Freshman year of college. I spent my summer working and calling this girl I had met in the fall, piling up a HUGE bill on my Sprint card. No worries, in just seven more years I'd marry her. George Michael dominates the airwaves. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" hit the screens, and on the shelves and game tables everywhere was Issue #134 of This Old Dragon!

Our cover, "Sword of Dawn," is from Charles Vess. I have seen a lot of his work since this issue and I have always liked it. 

Letters let us know that this is the 12th Anniversary issue of Dragon Magazine, so it's a nice milestone to be sure. 

Forum gives us some ideas on modifying the Magic-user to make it less prone to dying early on. Others debate the merits of the Experience system.

We get to our main feature right away. Dragons!

The Dragon's Bestiary gives us seven new dragons from various authors including Dragon VIP and the father of the Realms, Ed Greenwood. They are all interesting to be honest, and I'd like to see new versions of them. Had there been a Monster Manual III, they would have been it. 

Ed Friedlander is up with Give Dragons A Fighting Chance, which aims to make dragons much scarier. Something that started with Dragonlance and continues to today. He discusses physical attacks, making better use of dragon spellcasters, and better tactics. He uses the example of Razisiz the Blue Dragon from the DMG p. 81. Both in his "regular" stats and his beefed-up version here. A few recommendations for previous articles that cover similar ground are also mentioned.

An advertisement for an AD&D computer game, Pool of Radiance, is next. Get it for the IBM-PC and Commodore 64/128.

Friend of the Other Side, Vince Garcia, is next with Serpents and Sorcery. This article is all about getting more out of the spell-casting powers dragons have and making good use of their spells in their local environs. Really good article that you can still use today. 

Lords & Legend was a sometimes feature with various personalities. This time it is Dragotha the Undead Dragon from module S2 White Plume Mountain. He would make an appearance again in the 3e days, but his 1st Edition AD&D stats and background are given to us here by William Simpson. 

Greg Sharp gives us a good one, The Ecology of the Red Dragon. I am surprised that there were not more Ecology Of articles about Dragons. They are some of the biggest creatures in the game, and yet they don't feature very often. 

This issue is already falling apart, so I can go ahead and do this without worry.

Ecology of the Red Dragon

Skip Williams is dispensing wisdom again in Sage Advice. This time, covering a lot of character questions. 

Bazaar of the Bizarre is usually a favorite feature of mine. But this one not so much. It has a bunch of "less than serious" items, and honestly, it feels like an April feature that they could not fit in. I would have rather seen more dragon-related treasures. 

Another friend of the Other Side, Bruce Heard, is up with some errata, clarifications, and more for the Orc Wars game they had back in issue #132.

Jame Brunet has our short fiction piece, "Eyes of Redemption."

TSR Previews covers Summer 1988. Lots of Marvel Super Heroes, some Dragonlance, and Top Secret.  The Bullwinkle and Rocky Role-Playing Party Game is up for June. I didn't understand the fascination with Bullwinkle and Rocky then, and I still don't. Keep in mind that when this game was released, there had not been any new B&R content made for 20 years. I mean, I am not completely immune to the effects it had on pop culture, but it seems like an odd choice. Yes, I would later learn why this game was made, but back then, it made no sense to me. 

Arcane Lore from D.F. Fjellhaugen gives us some cleric spells for healing.

The official Origins Awards ballot for 1987 is next. What were your choices?

Best of 1987

This year was an odd one where Gen Con and Origins were held together in 1988. 

Dennis McLaughlin has some sniper rifles for Top Secret in Sighting In. Likely this could all be converted to other games if needed.

Part of my The Game Wizards is cut out.  Looking at my Dragon CD-ROM, I can only guess the previous owner wanted the picture of the Godzillia-like monster.

Ah. How can you tell it is the 80s? The fascination with all things Japanese. Hell, I even read Shōgun that summer. The Role-Playing Reviews from Jim Bambra covers Bushido, the AD&D Oriental Adventures, and the RuneQuest Land of the Ninja.  "Oriental" is now considered to be an archaic term at best and pejorative at worst. I will not debate that here. In fact, what I am most interested in here now is how 1988 Dragon was talking about Gary Gygax. So how are they? Well, while the plainly visible cover says "Gary Gygax" right on it, his name is never mentioned in the review. Design is credited to David "Zeb" Cook, who, in all likelihood, did do the lion's share of the work on it. Again, not going to debate here and now, but maybe if I ever do review it myself.  The article largely focuses on how closely the various products are linked to real feudal Japan. Bambra mentions that by making Kara-Tur a fictional land using influences from Japan, China, and Korea you can side-step some of these issues.

Catching Some Rays by Daniel Salas deals with radiation damage in Gamma World. 

The Lessers (Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk) are back in The Role of Computers with Dream Zone, Strike-Fleet (Naval Simulator), and The Pawn (adventure) get the most coverage. 

David Edward Martin, another friend, is up with more powers for the Marvel Super Heroes game in The Ultimate Addenda's Addenda.

This means that outside of some reviews, every article here was about a TSR game. This is a trend that will continue and grow. 

Gamers' Guide covers some small ads. Always fun to look at these. A half-page section alone on Play By Mail games. One in particular is out of Ottawa, IL, a tiny little farm town a few miles south and west of Aurora. It was even smaller back then. My wife is from that area, I am sure I have driven by it.

Convention Calendar gives us the best conventions for the Summer and into the Fall of 1988. One was within easy driving distance to me back then, Capitol-Con IV at the Prairie Capital Convention Center on July 9. Wonder what I was doing then? Likely working at Pizza Hut.

Dragonmirth has the usual collection of comics. Among them was Yamara, whom I caught occasionally enough to find amusing but never often enough to know what was going on with it. There is Elmore's Snarf Quest, now up to episode #58, that's close to 5 years. 

I am sure this is not the first "All TSR, All the Time" issue, but I know that trend is coming. Eventually, all game magazines went this way. White Dwarf had made this switch as early as two years prior, so I guess I am not surprised. It makes sense from a financial point of view, I suppose I miss the days when a game magazine covered multiple games from a variety of publishers.  Today we have the internet for all that. 

So overall a fine issue with some gems; the dragon stuff is great, and I'd like to use it somewhere. 

Happy Year of the Dragon!


Dick McGee said...

My bedroom as a child was heavily decorated in Charles Vess art, mostly clipped from comics, mags and used books. Sadly this issue came out long after I'd moved out or it would assuredly have been up on the wall as well.

Dick McGee said...

Not all print gaming magazines turned into house organs, although I'll concede that most of the few survivors in the post-2000 era are. Pyramid never turned into pure Steve Jackson material, nor did White Wolf/Inphobia, and Shadis and Adventures Unlimited didn't even have a metaphorical house to play the organ for. The people who took over the Space Gamer kept it as a general-interest gaming magazine for a fair while before eventually selling the name to the folks who used it to publish their Battle Born and other odd little RPGs.

PT Dilloway said...

I was only 10 in the summer of 1988 so the magazine had been around longer than me lol

You'd think a magazine called Dragon would focus more on dragons.

Russell said...

I had this issue. In regard to the issue being TSR only, I do remember seeing the editors requesting non TSR articles for the magazine.