Showing posts with label 1st ed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1st ed. Show all posts

Monday, February 5, 2018

Weekend Gaming: Descent!

Sumer of 1982 I was in Jr. High.  My good friend Jon Cook was our regular DM only by dint he had been playing longer than my 2 and half years and he owned most of the hardcover books.  He also owned a copy of D1-2 Descent into the Depth of the Earth.  I remember flipping through it thinking how much fun it would be to run this adventure.  In my mind, it really was what made Advanced D&D "advanced".  That hex map was above and beyond anything I had seen up to that point.  I told myself that once I knew more about the game I would run that adventure.

Well, this weekend some 36 years later I finally made good on that promise.

The Order of the Platinum Dragon rode a mine cart down, down, down to the underdark (before it was even named such) and began their quest to find the drow responsible for getting the giants to raid the human lands.

The first session went great with the Order making it to the first checkpoint.  They tried to bluff their way through, but that only got them so far.  They had to fight their way out of the checkpoint.  They are now holed up in a side cave looking to heal.

(The Order, surrounded on all sides by Drow)




I have a bunch of material from a variety of sources. Enough to keep us busy for a while.

My wife even had to comment on how much fun we all seemed to have!  It really was worth all the weeks of prep and years decades of thought.  This is going to be great.

The boys are already plotting on how they can get the houses into a civil war to gain the advantage.




Thursday, January 25, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #149

Grabbing the next issue of the top I see we are moving to the end of the 80s.  September 1989 I was in my Junior year at University.  I was not playing a lot, though I did have an occasional game going. AD&D 2nd Ed was the game on the shelves and tables, but it was still mixed with 1st Ed for the most part.  The music scene at the time was a vapid collection of soft AOR and look-a-like, sound-a-like hair metal bands.  To give you an idea Milli Vanilli was the number #1 act on the radio.  Tough times.  But we won't let that stop us. It's September 1989 and this is issue #149 of This Old Dragon!

The cover of this issue is one I remember fondly.  It is another really awesome piece by Robin Wood called "The Trinket".  Personally, it is the look of joy our protagonist has when she sees this little bauble that attracts me.

You can tell this is Roger Moore-era Dragon and not Kim Mohan-era.  The Moore era was a bit more stylized and had better layout and internal art. Also, most, if not all the magazine is in color.  I am not passing judgment. A lot of this can be attributed to evolution and better layout software.  In fact, there is very much a "Macintosh" feel to this.  I could be wrong though.

Also at this time, we begin to see names of people that are still active in the industry today.

Well, maybe not active in the strictest sense, but certainly infamous.  Case in point the big ad on the next page is for Mutazoids from "Whit Productions, Inc.", yes the first company from Ken Whitman.

This is followed by ads for various TSR book lines.  The novels got a HUGE pushback then and hundreds were written.

The Letters are a bit of fun.  I guess Issue #137 had a letter from a player discussing his 358-level Magic-user who had destroyed Greyhawk with a nuclear bomb he had invented. I guess he demanded that everyone mail in their character sheets so he could calculate Waldorf's XP.
I say he should have sent in Waldork's sheet for characters from other worlds to try to take him out. ;)

Sage Advice is up from Skip Williams.  This issue covers the new Player's Handbook for 2nd Edition AD&D.

Gregory W. Detwiler is up with our first real article, Magic for Beginners.  Basically some interesting ideas for magic items for 1st level characters.   While I try to avoid giving 1st level characters any magic, there are some great ideas here and ones that work with an edition of the game.  Except for maybe 4th.  4th Ed had some pretty detailed magic-item rules and budgets.

Few more pages in we get the 1988 Origins Awards winners.

The Dragon’s Bestiary: Not quite horses but perhaps better from Kurt Martin gives us a lot of different kinds of horses.  Interestingly enough the stats are still in 1st Edition. Or I suspect not so surprising.

Another Sage Advice of sorts again from Skip Williams.  This time on Gamma World 3rd Edition.

Ken Rolston is up with Orcs in Space!  Role-playing campaigns in Games Workshop’s  WARHAMMER 40,000 universe.  Or how to do more role-playing in WH4k.  My knowledge of any WH is limited to watching guys at my FLGS paint armies after armies and then playing on these huge tables in the game room.  This article addresses that perception and also talks about how to get more a role-play element in.

Articles are notably longer than previous issues.

Cheryl Peterson has a true oddity and one that really could only appear in a handful of issues around this time. Certainly not before and not really after either.  Kesmai and Beyond Updating the Island of Kesmai on-line fantasy game.  Now. By online they mean online via CompuServe.  So no graphical interface, but you can LOOK AT things or FIGHT them. If you are lucky you might even kill a monster and TAKE COINS.  I am being flip, but remember what it was like back then?  Suddenly you could interact with others, and time and distance did not matter!  Computers and computer gaming grew up with D&D and both influenced the other in a multitude of untold ways.

We get some boats and ships for Star Frontiers. No really.  From Freighters to Flying Boats Traveling the high seas in the STAR FRONTIERS game by Matthew M. Seabaugh details a lot of boats.  It's actually a neat idea.  In a couple more years Scotty will let the rest of his Enterprise crewmates know he is ready for retirement and he "just bought a boat".  So it's really not all that out there.

We get to the middle section and there are the small ads normally seen at the end of the magazine.  Makes me wonder if I am missing something, like a poster.

Richard W. Emerich has some advice on running games at Cons in Getting It Right the First Time.  It's a good article with solid advice.  Though the advice "Be prepared and run your adventure before you get to the con" won't give you the same pay-per-word count.

So there are some interesting ads in this issue.  Not the normal game-related ones but ads that I consider more mainstream.


American Heart Association, American Cancer Socity and the Give Five campaign.
Interesting really.  I wonder if the TSR management wanted to reach out to other sources of ad revenue.  Makes sense to me really.

Following these, we get the TSR Previews.  Heavy on the 2nd Edition books and Campaign books. 
In fact we get a nice big ad for the New Spelljammer system.

John C. Bunnell has some book reviews in the Role of Books.

The Role of Computers talks about the new Azure Bounds computer game.  I have to admit, I have a desire to try this game out as part of my Forgoten Realms education.  I seem to recall that their were for sale somewhere.  Anyone remember that?

In Role-Playing Reviews, Jim Bambra covers GURPS Autoduel, Cyberpunk and Top Secret SI Lancers.  Of these, R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk has had the longest lasting effect on the industry.  Not just for the system, or even the genre but for the introduction of "Maximum" Mike Pondsmith.  Mike had already given us Mekton and in a few more years he would give us the groundbreaking Castle Falkenstein.

Oddly enough the only article I can remember from this issue is this next one.  Time Marches On
An RPG campaign creates its own history as you play by Thomas M. Kane discusses that as the game moves on and ages it builds up it's own mythology.  I can remember sitting in my dorm and reading this, but nothing else in the issue.  Strange.

Con Calendar and Dragonmirth wraps up this issue.

So a good issue, but not a memorable one (well for me, but it was college).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #95

Ok, this really is less of a cheat than it might appear.  This issue was actually third on my list for this week, it gets promoted due to one article that I'll mention in a bit.  For now, it is March 1985, Madonna rules the radio and MTV.  Eddie Murphy dominates the silver screens with Beverly Hills Cop.  On the way to our shelves is Unearthed Arcana (more on that) but there now is issue #95 of This Old Dragon!

Our cover is something of a classic from Dean Morrissey.  I will admit I did not like it when this was new.  I liked the idea, but the cover left cold.  Over the years my mind has changed and I consider this one of my top 20 covers.  Not quite top 10, but certainly up there.

The table of contents promises a lot of things, but at the bottom we get a note from Kim Mohan.  Titled In defense of advertising Kim advises us to read the letters on the next page and then come back.  I'll talk about that in a bit.  This article is a defense of the number of ads in Dragon magazine.  He points out that while the magazine has grown the price, $3.00, has been consistent for nearly five years.  Having grown up in that time with a limited income from a paper route I appreciated the price stability.  Plus I *loved* the ads.  That's how I knew what was new and what was going on with other companies.  Some games I bought solely based on their ad in Dragon.

Ok Letters. Dan Fejes sends in one titled "Hard of hearing?" where he complains about the number of ads in the magazine AND the fact that the editors are "not listening to the readers".  Dan can't defend himself here, so me ripping into him is counter-productive.  But seriously?   I understand that no one is really made of money, but this sounds like typical entitled-gamer bullshit to me.  Unless he has a degree in economics where he can show his price per useful content ratio is somehow less...but I digress.  Forget Dan. I love the ads.  My only beef is when the ads went exclusively to TSR. But that is some time away yet.

Speaking of ads...We get our first look at the nearly-mythical D&D Set 3: Companion Rules!


Suck it Dan.

Gary is up first with Demi-humans Get a Lift in his From the Sorcerer's Scroll feature. This covers the new level and class limits for Demi-humans in the AD&D game.  A preview of sorts for the new Unearthed Arcana he announces at the end of the article.  We also get an update on the D&D movie.  That is to say that there is still a D&D movie being shopped around.
Gary mentions that Gen Con was attended by 8,000 people, the most ever of this kind of convention.  I bet it will grow!  This is cover some sort of argument over which one con was better/larger Gen Con vs. Origins.

Here is the article that bumped this issue to the head of the queue today.
The influence of J. R. R. Tolkien on the D&D® and AD&D® games. Why Middle Earth is not part of the game world by Gary Gygax.
Let's take a moment and remember when this article was written.  1985.  I.C.E. has the MERP game now and TSR has already had a litigious past with the Tolkien estate.  I am going to forward this quote first,
The popularity of Professor Tolkien’s fantasy works did encourage me to develop my own. But while there are bits and pieces of his works reflected hazily in mine, I believe that his influence, as a whole, is quite minimal.
- Gary Gygax, p. 12. Dragon 95, March 1985.
Now there are plenty of reasons for him to state this, and he follows up in the article going over now well known ground on how the pulps, Howard in particular, were the source of most of his fantasy thoughts.  None of this is really in dispute.  What follows is a breakdown of creatures D&D and Tolkien share in common and where Tolkien might have derieved them.  All of which has the benefit of being true, we know this from Tolkien's own letters, and completely not really the point.
Gygax might be trying to make the point that D&D would have come about with or without Tolkien. He might be right, but it would certainly not have come out like it was in 85.  The fertile ground that D&D grew in was tilled by Tolkien.  Others have also tilled and sown those fields, but our good professor did a little more than his fair share of work.  Plus I can't help but feel there is a bit of revisionism going on here.  Lest we forget that the original D&D rules featured Hobbits, Ents and Balorgs by those names.  Halflings in D&D are defacto Hobbits right down to their hairy feet and subrace names. Harfoots, Fallowhides, and Stoors for Tolkien and Hairfoots, Tallfellows and Stouts for AD&D.  I am not going to belabor this point really other than to point out that Gary is both correct and wrong in his article.  How much of this was oversight or even on advice from his lawyers we will really never know.  There have been a number of follow-up articles, interviews and the like since then and right on up to his death.
For me. I am content that Tolkien is a model of a good D&D world. Maybe not a by-the-book one (any or either book) but for me, Tolkien and D&D have been together since the very, very beginning.

Whew!  We are only on page 15!

The Convention Calendar is up.  I see my FLGS is having a Game Day on March 30.

Yes. They are still open and they still have the same phone number!  Well, the area code has changed twice since this ad.  It is now 847-577-9656.  Not too bad really.  Want to buy a copy of the Dragons I review?  I usually buy them here!

Ok I do want to talk about this ad.


So DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was apart of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even that did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   You can still buy the game directly from the publisher.
Anyone ever play this game?

Next up is How taxes take their toll: The king’s collectors don’t have it easy, either by Arthur Collins is done as a faux interview.  The basic premise is how to do taxes in your fantasy medieval world.

Ecology of the Cockatrice is next from Ed Greenwood.  He has another entry later on. This is another good piece and reminds me why I liked these "Ecology of" articles so much.  They can take an uninteresting monster and really do a lot with it.

In the days before the internet, this next article by Glenn Rahman was pure gold.  Prices for the Roaring 20’s: A way to measure PCs’ purchasing power gives us price lists. I remember sitting in my then local library for hours looking up prices for one of the first Victorian-era games I ever ran.  Now it is a click away.

Katharine Kerr is back with more advice on experience rules in Credit where credit is due. This article looks to examples from other games to award some non-combat experience and in particular the use of skills.

Next is an article I actually used quite a bit. The many shapes of apes: Giving primates the attention they deserve by Stephen Inniss gives us some stats for various primates including the Gigantopithecus, which I used quite a lot.

We get to the main feature of this issue. A new mid-level adventure from Ed Greenwood called Into the Forgotten Realms.   This might not be the first official Forgotten Realms entry in the pages of Dragon, but it is the biggest so far.  Run as a tournament module at Gen Con 1984, this adventure has you begin in the Realms. There are characters provided.  It has been my plan to use this adventure in my Realms based game someday. I am still planning this.  It looks really fun to be honest.

Battles above the dungeon by Tim W. Brown has advice for combat in open spaces.

The fiction section is next, Desperate Acts, I know nothing of the story save that it has one of my favorite pieces of art to appear in a Dragon magazine. No surprise it is by Denis Beauvais.


I thought she was an awesome looking character.

The Ares section is next.

We get some new starships for the Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks game NOW back in print.

Penny Petticord has some answers to various GammaWorld questions.

Jeff Grubb talks Iron Man in the Marvel-Phile.  Though at this point it is Rhodey wearing the armor of Iron Man and not Tony.

We get Dolphins as a space-farring race for RingWorld by Sherman Kahn.  Now we know how they left Earth in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.  Interestingly enough a Star Trek TNG novel had dolphin crew member and I always pictured this art for it.

Small ads.
Big ad for Gen Con 18.

Wormy, Dragonmirth and Snarf.

Wow.  What another packed issue.  So much here that I remembered and so much more I had forgotten.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time period?  Have a look at White Dwarf Wednesday #63.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #52

It's August 1981.  I am hitting what is about to become the "Golden Years" of my D&D Basic playing.  Up to this point, I had been relying on a poorly Xeroxed copy of Holmes Basic (I never even knew what the cover was till almost now) and some monsters from the AD&D Monster Manual.  I had started playing a year and half before because of my interest in Greek myths.  So that had lead me to the MM and then to D&D proper. Though I was still not exactly playing proper D&D. Just a DIY version that I think many gamers of a certain age went through.  From here though I discovered The Hobbit, Tolkien and the wonderful world of Fantasy Art.  Seriously, no issue of Dragon has better captured what was going on in my life than this Issue #52 of This Old Dragon!

Ok. Let's stop here and look at this cover.  The Art is pure fantasy, but not really D&D is it.  Doesn't matter.  Dragon has had some great artists grace their covers over the decades. Many started here and got famous. Some were famous before but still growing in their fame.  Not this artist.  This is Boris Vallejo.  He was famous and popular before this.  Dragon made a lot of A-listers in the world of fantasy art, but Boris was an A-lister already.  Let's look at this cover again.  A Faerie Dragon hatching from an egg. A woman looks on (likely a faerie herself) while mountains float in the background.  It's not D&D as it was then, but it could should have been.  I want to rank this among my favorite covers, but that feels unfair.  Kinda like watching Michael Jordan join the 92 Dream Team in the Olympics.  Yes we love Mike, yes we know that he is going to kick everyone's ass. But he is the best professional there is and everyone else he meets is also great, but only at the start of their career. Still, we have more Boris in this issue and I have not even opened it up yet!

Next page is a big ad for new D&D Basic Set.  I loved these ads and wanted to find them all to see how the story progressed.


The Dragon Rumbles deals with the various different looking dragons that have appeared on their covers the last few issues.   Gamers like things to be well defined I guess. I know I was no different then.  Also don't give money to Michael Stoner and his Beholder Zine.  I guess a bunch of readers did and he ran off with the cash.  Some things never change.

The Letters cover various praise and criticism of the last few magazines.   It's issue 52 and some readers want Dragon to "go back to the way it was".  What was I saying about change?

Robert Plamondon is up first with a feature on Clerics in The Role of the Cleric.    This is immediately followed by This Land is My Land... by Douglas Loss which also covers clerics, churches and land and The Sense of Sacrifices also by Douglas Loss.
All articles strive to give the players of clerics more insight on how to play these classes with an eye towards medieval realism AND good fantasy play.  In a way this pre-sages the "feature" issues we will see more of in the next 5 to 6 years.

Sage Advice covers various questions about spells and a lot about clerics.  If you are into clerics then this is a good issue to look back too.  Interesting how there is so much in this issue that appeals to me now AND would have appealed to me then as well.  In 81 I was all about clerics, Basic D&D and already thinking a little about my future witch classes.

The next article is a two for one deal, and a must read for any student of D&D's history.
Basic D&D Points of View...From the Editors Old and New by J. Eric Holmes and Tom Moldvay is a fascinating look back at the "1st Edition Basic Game" and the "2nd Edition Basic Game".  There is an interesting disclaimer on the first page of the article that says "the opinions expressed are those of the authors and not Dragon or TSR."  Interesting. I wonder what they say to merit such a notice.


Holmes is first discussing his version of the Basic rules.  His rules, he says, were designed to teach people how to play the game that had not seen the game played before.  By contrast, the "three little brown books" (what we refer to as "White Box" today) were for people already playing and are "incomprehensible" to new players (his words, not mine, but I tend to agree).
Here we learn that Holmes had the express permission from Gary to create a "beginners guide" to D&D.  He used wording from the White Box where he could and he wanted a Spell Point system (!) that Gary quickly rejected.   The classes chosen were the ones they felt starting players would want to try.  Given this logic, there is a clearer path to AD&D from Holmes Basic D&D. 
Holmes then compares his edition to Moldvay's "2nd Edition".  We are given reasons for the simplified alignment system and for the use of a Caller.  In general, I get the feeling that he approves of it and lauds many of the new ideas it brings.
Moldvay says his piece on why a new edition of the Basic set was even needed.  I think anyone that has read and played both editions can see the reasoning now but was the reasoning then?  Well, they wanted to correct some of the flaws found in the earlier edition (corrections that Holmes applauds) and they wanted the rules to follow the same outline as the upcoming Expert edition. So now Basic flows to Expert and not to Advanced. This shift seems to come from the idea that that Basic rules need to be flexible to allow the DM to do what they want while AD&D needs to be more rigid and codified.  I wonder though, what was the business decision to move to a new separate path of D&D? Not just what gave us the Moldvay D&D, but what prompted the desire for an Expert Set so that a new Moldvay-edited Basic was needed?

I can go on forever about Basic D&D. But we are only to page 17 as is!

Moving on we get a new one from Len Lakofka in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This is so new in fact that I think this might be the first ever Tiny Hut article ever!  There is an introduction by Gary himself.  This installment covers giving more depth to the humans of the Flanaess.  Cool article and one that every Greyhawk DM should have handy.  Actually, it is good for most DMs. The article is pretty long, longer than most Tiny Hut articles in my memory.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh gives us The Undercover Job Guide for Top Secret, though I think it could work with any spy game.  I have to admit looking at the starting salaries for some of these jobs in 1981 is interesting.

Bryce Knorr has the big feature of this issue. Boris details the life and art of Boris Vallejo.
We get eight pages of information about the man and his art.  I would have liked to have seen more art, to be honest, but I understand that it could not have been cheap to get us what we see.  Also there four photos of the artist that are all essentially the same. Not sure why that was included.  The article itself is very interesting

Giants of the Earth is next. This time Katharine Kerr covers sorcerers that like to hang out on islands.  We have Shakespeare's Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban. Though sadly no Sycorax.
She does give me a wonderful version of Circe though.  Circe, of course, is a Magic-User here, but I built my own version as a witch and shared that with you all yesterday.



Our centerpiece is an introductory Gamma World adventure Cavern of the Sub-Train by Gary Jaquet. A fun adventure on a subway line.  A fun little adventure that captures what I liked best about Gamma World; taking something as mundane as a subway line and turning it into something exciting and dangerous.

Ooo. Just when I thought the issue could not get better we get a Dragon's Bestiary!  Victor Selby and Ed Greenwood give us a lizard thing in the form of the Rhaumbusun and the vaguely Lovecraftian Pelins by Lewis Pulsipher. 

Ok. If you are keeping score at home this issue has content from Ed Greenwood, Lew Pulsipher, a bit from Gary Gygax, Tom Moldvay, Eric Holmes, Katherine Kerr and Len Lakofka. Oh. And art by Boris.  To quote a popular song on the radio of the time "They Don't Write Like that Anymore"!

Michael Kluever has a good bit on the history of siege warfare in Knock! Knock!
Great if you can't tell your catapult from a trebuchet.

Next, we get a new class. No! Three versions of the same new class!
In Wanted: the editors tell us about getting three new Bounty Hunter classes all at once and they can't tell which one is the best.
The contributors are Scott Bennie, Tom Armstrong, Robert L. Tussey,  and Kenneth Strunk. With the last two giving us our last Bounty Hunter class.
Back in the day, I would have totally worked out one class from these three.  I wonder if I should try it for a Class Struggles someday.  That could be fun really.

Lew Pulsipher is back again with some DM advice in To err is human, to repair divine.  It's interesting since a lot of it runs very counter to the adversarial DM philosophy that was popular then and often misattributed to all old school DMs and creators.
This is followed up with The best DMs will look further than the book by Tom Armstrong.
Both articles could be reprinted today and still hold 100% true and valuable.

The Minarian Chronicles continue with The evolution of the Shucassamites by Glenn Rahman.  I really don't have enough of a background to speak to this, to be honest, but I am fascinated about learning some more.

And the hits keep on coming!  John Prados is next with his Simulation Corner (a feature that completely predates my first time encounters with Dragon).  His continuing series is on game design, or maybe I should say his first one since this is 1: Choosing a Topic.  I love all the Game Design posts, blogs and videos I can get to today, but some of what they are saying was already said here if we decide to go looking for it.   In this overview, though he mentions some of the new up and comers in game design that sadly are not around at all today.  If there is a meta-lesson here it is while game design is not rocket science, managing a game company still takes a fair amount of knowledge, skill and no short amount of luck. 

Reviews are next and we look to another "Basic" this time Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying, reviewed by John T. Sapienza, Jr. in Basic Role-Playing Made Easy.  He gives these basic rules a "highly recommended".  Given that the same rules still exist more or less in the same format and guise some 36+ years later it is a good indication that he was correct in his assessment.

Off the Shelf reviews books by Larry Niven, Robert Adams, and C.J. Cherryh.  A paperback book will set you back $3.00. 

We get some comics namely What's New and Wormy. But none of the small ads that dominated the pages before the comics.

Wow. Seriously. How packed was this issue?
When Ed Greenwood is providing the "lesser" content you know it is good. 

This is Dragon at it's best.  Great articles, helpful tips and plenty of things you can use on your table for $3.00. 

Want to know what White Dwarf was doing at this time?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #20.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This Old Dragon #148

Jumping ahead this week to go solidly into the 2nd AD&D era.  Or is it?  A brief look at the table of contents tells me that 1st Ed is not going away so quietly.  It's August 1989.  I am a Junior in University now.  D&D has had to take a back seat since I am now in a lot of "honors" level courses, I am even eyeing grad schools now.  I do still have my notes about my witch class still from this time. I spent the summer working but also playing in some D&D games.  I began to convert her from a stand-alone 1st ed class to a sub-class of the Priest.  So let's see what else was going on in This Old Dragon #148.

This is not a cover I remember well. At first, it looked like a Clyde Caldwell painting, only not enough.  It is by Ned Dameron and I guess it was enough that there is an editorial about it.

The theme of this issue appears to be loosely collected around fighters and fighting.

Big ads for Ghostbuster International and AD&D 2nd Ed.  While Dragon is becoming more and more D&D focused we are getting more and more other types of games. 

Letters cover a wide variety of issues.  Most importantly we learn that Jeff Grubb has moved on to other projects with TSR and the Marvel-Phile will not appear as regularly as it used to. 

The Editorial covers issues of art looking like other art.  In particular some dragons on the cover of 146 looking like some form the cover a Larry Niven book. Also, this month's cover looks similar to last months Clyde Caldwell cover.  They talk about how they see the same ideas over and over and how hard it is to have a truly original idea.  Case in point, they talk about Wood Golems. At about this time I had also come up with my own Wood Golem, the Druther, and thought I was being very clever about it.  Later I discovered, no wood golems are actually pretty common.

Skip Williams is up with Sage Advice. This month he covers the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook.  Some stem from translation from 1st Ed ("Can Halflings become clerics?") to typos ("page 44 is right, page 45 is wrong"). 

Fighting the Good Fight is our featured theme section this month.  Maybe why I did not buy this issue since I tended to focus on magic using classes.

Gordon R. Menzies discusses armor in Always Wear Your Best Suit. Armor enameling, engraving and decorations are discussed. Some increase the value of the armor other might have a small AC bonus.

Tracking Down the Barbarian by David Howery shows that 1st Edition is not going to go quietly off to the Old Games Home.  This is a revised barbarian class for 1st ed.  Making this what, the 3rd or 4th barbarian we have seen?  Now if the barbarian was a class I was interested in I'd roll up some, each using a different take on the class.  Maybe something Celtic.  Could be fun.

Scott Bennie takes on a topic closer to my heart with "Good" Does Not Mean "Boring". He talks about the 1st Ed Paladin. This immediately brought the Gary Gygax article Good isn't stupid, Paladins & Rangers, from Dragon #38 just over 9 years before (the same article where Gygax says that female dwarves DO have beards). This article goes into much more detail about Paladins than the Gygax one did.  Indeed, reading this over now I see a lot of good advice for D&D 5e Paladins as well.  There is also a Paladin-Cavalier class.

Speaking of which, the next article is all about the Cavalier.  The Corrected Cavalier by David Howery is another attempt to give us a working Cavalier class for 1st ed.
Now I like the cavalier class, always did.  I think I would have rather seen a 2nd Ed Cavalier.  I know now that one was coming in the Fighters book, but I didn't know that then.

Bruce Kvam breaks out the theme with Arcane Lore: Can a wizard cure your light wounds? No, but... . Or healing like spells a wizard can use.   Again this is a 1st Ed focused article.  Lots of interesting spells here, but really designed for a party that wants a wizard, but no cleric.

TSR Previews is up next.  The big ones are The Monstrous Compendium vol. 1 for July and the new Dungeon Masters Guide for August.  I have to admit that the 2nd Ed DMG was a bit of a disappointment compared to the vast tome that the 1st ed DMG was.

Robin Jenkins has a short story about the Deck of Many Things, in Luck of the Draw.  It also includes some rules and some notes, so it really feels more like an "Ecology of..." article.

The Game Wizards covers SPI's Sniper game on the Mac.

Jim Bambra has some Reviews, mostly featured on monsters.  Ents for MERP, Trolls for Rune Quest, the Orcs of Thar by +Bruce Heard and the Bestiary of Dragons and Giants both for D&D.  The D&D products are also ones I still use to this day.

The Role of Computers covers the then state of the art software.  I am hesitant to say too much about these articles.  The biggest issue is I was not really playing these games all that much back then.  When this article came out I owned my second computer, a Tandy Color Computer 3.  It was as expanded as much as I could make it at the time and it got me through my undergrad days well enough.  But aside from Rogue there were no games I could play on it.  It would not be till my fifth computer in 92, a Gateway 2000 486 that I had anything like a "real" powerful computer.

We have some small ads next.

Jim Bambra is back with a fantastic article covering the D&D (B/X and BECMI) Gazeteers in Around The World In 36 Levels.   This one of those articles that really needs to be reprinted or revisited with new eyes.  The article is long and really gives you a good idea of what to expect in the books.  2nd Ed may be king of the 90s, but I like to think there was a time and maybe places where BECMI and the Known World rulled.   This article begins with a good overview of the splt between AD&D and D&D that really should be a must read.

Robert Bigelow covers minis in Through the Looking Glass.

Watch Your Step! by Thomas M. Kane details landmines in the Top Secret SI games.

The Con Calendar is a whopping 3 pages for just the next few months. When was the Golden Age of Cons?  Was there a time where there was a good one every week?

Dragonmirth has some comics. 
Yamara is here.  I never knew exactly when this one started. 
None of the comics though I remember are here anymore.  End of another era I guess.

Big ads for Sniper, the 1990 TSR calendar, and the new Dungeon! board game.



I don't really have any memories of this issue. I am sure it was not one I bought. 

If I ever play 1st ed again I am certainly going to have to comeback to this issue.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #55

Let's go WAY back today to issue that is falling apart as I read it.  Hall and Oates have the number 1 spot on the radio. Time Bandits, the first of the great "Trilogy of Imagination" from former Python Terry Gilliam.  Tell me you didn't try to use those "time holes" at least once in your games. It's November 1981. I am in 8th grade and playing Basic/Expert D&D all the time with bits of AD&D. This is issue #55 of This Old Dragon!

Oh my, but is this an issue of treasures!  Let's start with the cover.  Erol Otus in his weird best.  Looks like the same cave system our intrepid adventures are battling a dragon in on the cover the Basic Set.
Otus is one of those artist people either love or hate. I always loved his style and subjects, but sometimes it was like viewing D&D while on mushrooms.   I mean seriously, what the hell is that thing? Why does it have such perfect teeth? Who is that little gnome dude and what the hell is his staff for?  I have no answers but I think D&D is better off in general because of EO.  I am not sure what that thing is but as DM I'd love to stick him into a dungeon.  As someone that appreciates art though I don't want to define it. Stay weird giant toothy slug monster. Stay weird.

The next page is one of the true odd and rare finds in the D&D merchandising landscape.  The official Dungeons & Dragons portfolios.  I had one of these way back when, but it got destroyed. Now they go for outrageous sums on eBay.  I used to keep characters in it and I had it till about the late 80s.


A feature missing from newer incarnations of Dragon is here; Cover to Cover. Which...hmm...covers what is going on in this issue.  No need to detail it here since that is what I am doing anyway.

The Letters section cover various topics from previous issues including some discussion on the Monk class.   I never fely that *D&D got a good grip on the what the monk was supposed to be in D&D until about 3rd Edition.

Up next is the first big controversy in AD&D that I can remember.  The Fiend Folio and whether or not it is any good.
Up first is Ed Greenwood with Flat Taste Didn't Go Away.  Ouch. That is a bit harsh Ed and the article doesn't get much lighter. I am sure there were plenty of old-school AD&D fans who were at the time saying "Who the hell is this Ed Greenwood guy and why do I care about his opinion?"  Sy though, Ed is no fan of this book and calls many of the monsters incomplete, inadequate and many are redundant.  AND to be 100% fair he is making some very good points here. The editing is all over the place, many of the monsters are useless or way overpowered in some respects.
Alan Zumwalt follows this with Observations of a Semi-Satisfied Customer.  An endorsement, but not the ringing endorsement one might want.
Not to be forgotten Don Turnbull,  Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd. and Editor of the FIEND FOLIO Tome ends with his Apologies - and Arguments; his defense of the Fiend Folio.
All three articles make good points and overreach in others. In the end, I still love the Fiend Folio, not despite its weirdness, but because of it.  I have decided though that when I run a pure Forgotten Realms game that I will not include any of the monsters that Ed found objectionable.  I was going to say not include any from this book, but that includes Drow and we know that isn't going to happen!

What were your thoughts on the Fiend Folio?

We follow this with a big ad for White Dwarf. You know those guys that gave us the Fiend Folio in the first place? (more or less).

Ah. Now here is something fun.
Lawrence Schick has a nice big article on Dinosaurs, New Theories for Old Monsters.  Plenty of stats of various prehistoric beasts are given. I am not sure if these would later appear in the Monser Manual II or not but they feel familiar.

The man himself is back with a new From the Sorcerer's Scroll. Gary lets us know he is still working on the Temple of Elemental Evil (it doesn't quite come out the way he wants) and more on Greyhawk.  A lot of this in one form or another would later reappear in the Greyhawk Boxed set.

Ever want to include Robin Hood and his merry men in your game?


Well thanks to Katharine Kerr you can! Robin, Wil Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham himself (looking exactly like Roger Delgado as The Master from Doctor Who).


The fiction section is next and holy shit! It's Gardner Fox! Fox might not be the biggest name in D&D but in comics? I put him in the pantheon of the Great Old Gods like Kirby and Lee.   I have not read The Coming of the Sword, but I think I should.  It is an installment in the saga of Niall the Far-Traveler.  This is exactly the sort of thing I love finding in these old dragons. Gardner Fox..."slumming" at Dragon! The story looks cool and it's actually pretty long.

Our centerpiece is another rarity.  A D&D Basic-Set adventure.  Seriously. Is this like the most 1981 issue ever?? The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth is a Basic D&D adventure for 2 to 12(!) characters under 3rd level. It is a nice combination of exploration, plot-driven mystery,  and dungeon crawl with a freaking dragon at the end! It makes for a great introduction adventure really and one that can be easily adapted to any version of the game.

The Electric Eye has answers to last month's computer terminology quiz.  At this point in time, I am learning to program in BASIC on the very high tech TRS-80 Model III in my school.

The many ways of getting away: Methods and magic to keep your character out of the crypt by Pat Reinken covers the many ways your character can avoid death.  Or as I like to call it, Advanced Running Away.

Jon Mattson is next with some Traveller advice on skills in Filling in Skills, Experience, service-switching make TRAVELLER more ability-oriented.  I have mentioned in my reveiws of White Dwarf I was already taking a pass on Traveler at this point.  I was gravitating more towards Chill and other horror games and I could not find anyone to play Traveller with.

The Monuments of Minaria is the next installment of the Minarian Legends series for the Divine Right game.  Though I get the feeling that one is not only expected to convert to other games (coughD&Dcough) but encouraged too.

Dragon's Bestiary is next. What a nightmarish mix! The Devil Spider, with text and art by Erol Otus.  The Surchur by Jeff Brandt and the Dyll by Ed Greenwood.  We also get a new, non-evil but very chaotic, version of the Poltergeist by Craig Stenseth.

Practicing Game Design IV: State of the Art is the fourth of a five-part miniseries
in Jack Parados' Simulation Corner that gives a detailed but non-technical answer to the question of how to make a game.  This month covers the experiences the author has had with successful game designers.

Jeff Swycaffer reviews the Universe RPG in Universe is an Artistic Triumph. I have always been curious about this game.  He deems it superior to Traveller in almost every respect.

Kim Mohan reviews some gaming accessories.
Various minis, back when they were still made of lead.

Next, we have a real oddity.  A Larry Elmore penned and drawn comic "Da Letter" that can only be described as Proto-Snarf.  I am a bit surprised this never comes up in discussions of Snarf Quest.




Phil and Dixie are still in Black & White at this point.
Wormy is in color.

So. Wow.  What an issue.  Not just for crazy nostalgia fun, but for being so packed full of great stuff.  AND stuff I can still use today really.  The Basic set adventure, Robin Hood, all sorts of great stuff here.  I am glad I took extra time on this one (I started reading it two weeks ago!)

Now compare this issue to what was happing in White Dwarf #27 from the same time in my White Dwarf Wednesday #27.  Similar themes but White Dwarf was moving more towards Traveller at this point.  Mimics the gaming scene I was in during the last days of 1981.  I was digging D&D Basic but a good sized chunk was headed to Traveller.

What are your memories of this time?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Friends of the Library Score

Just a drive by.

Went to our local "Friends of the Library" used book sale at my local Library.

Found these laying in the "Computer Games" area.


Te Basic book is in poor shape, but the PHB is in fantastic shape!

Best $3.50 I have spent in a while.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #81

Today I set the Wayback Machine to my Freshman year in High School.  I was just getting over an 18-week long bout with a brutal combination of chicken-pox and pneumonia, both for the second time. No joke, I dropped to something like 80 pounds and was in the hospital on IVs. Don't even remember how I got there.  But by January I was getting better enough to go back to school.  1984 was a big year for me in terms of geeking and gaming. I had just finished reading all the Lords of the Rings books and was watching a lot of Doctor Who.   For me, everything was either Doctor Who or George Orwell jokes as we go to January of 1984 for Issue #81 of This Old Dragon!

This issue is in not too bad of shape really.  The cover is missing, which is a shame because it is one of my favorites interestingly enough.  A furry ice dragon (I am going with a dragon) and an adventurer on a wooly mammoth? What's not to love really.  I also hold this issue up as a typical issue of the time "Before" my time buying Dragons.  It is not one I ever saw in the stores (that I can recall 35+ years later) but it one that I saw other people carry around.

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers how they will no longer be printing the adventures that won the adventure design contest some time back. This is too bad, but I easily see why. I think this might also have lead to a later decision to create "Dungeon" magazine, but I have nothing to back that up.  It is just taking too many resources to get the adventures to a publishable state. The last adventure is printed and will be talked about later.  Thinking back to some of the adventures I wrote back then I cringe to think about what they would have gotten.  I hope I can find the adventure contest rules in an earlier issue.  I wonder what the submission requirements were and whether they took printed manuscripts or if they accepted floppy disks in the mail yet.

Letters cover more requests for back issues, reprints, and even the runner-up adventures. Others complaining about how the magazine has changed for the worse over the last year.  I swear some people are never happy.

Our first article is a good one. One of my old DMs had kept a copy of it to use all the time.  Much to my chagrin.  Taking the sting out of poison by Chris Landsea was another attempt to classify poison.  Personally, I never had an issue with what was in the DMG and thought it was good enough.   But I also only ever played one assassin ever my entire gaming career, so it also did not come up a lot for me.  But it also covered Holy and Unholy Waters, something I used a lot, so that was kinda cool.

Another ad for my FLGS.  They still have the same number! Well, the area codes have changed on them twice since this add. It went from 312 to 708 to now 847.  Plus another ad for the Witch Hunt game.  Seeing these again makes wish I had not sold the game back in a Games Plus auction now.



The fiction piece comes early. In the Cleft of Queens by Esther M. Leiper.  Looks like it is about some dragons.

On page 24 we get The Forum: a new feature.  The introduction of the Forum.

Ok. Up next we have The Ecology of the Basilisk by Ed Greenwood which is a fine article in it's own right, but reading has gotten me thinking.  In fact, my thoughts might be considered heresy in some parts and even I would not have considered them two years ago.  But I am beginning to think that Ed Greenwood has contributed more to Dragon than Gary Gygax did.  I am not talking about *D&D in general, just Dragon Magazine.

A big two-page ad on the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures line, followed by an article on minis.

Pete Mohney is next with Chariots for characters: Adapting ancient vehicles for AD&D play.  I always had this plan to play a Classical Greek/Roman/Egyptian game completely based on the classic myths.  I wanted a copy of this article because how can you not have chariots in a classic game.  I still might do that one day.  I mini-series of just mythology themed games where the Gods meddle directly in the affairs of humans.

Now here is an oddity.  Presented in the middle of the magazine is an AD&D character build for Cú Chulainn by Roger Moore.  This is prior to the introduction of the UA Barbarian, which he would have been perfect for, so he is 22nd level Ranger/12th level Illusionist with some Bard ability.
It's not a bad build really, but someone like Cú Chulainn is hard to build since he was essentially a superhero of the Red Branch myths of Northern Ireland.  It's interesting though that the only reason he has an Illusionist class at 12th level was so he could the powers of his berserker rage, called a "Warp spasm" or Ríastrad in the myths.  But if you read over these stats he is very much the prototype of the barbarian class we will later see.  I also did some stats for Cú Chulainn for the Ghosts of Albion game.

Up next is The Ruins of Andril designed by Ian Melluish. This is a high-level adventure, levels 8-11, for 4-8 characters.  It is an investigation of an old "Egyptian" ruin.  I have flipped through it and looks fun.  Part of me wants to run it if for no other reason than for its historic place in Dragon history.  It's a long one, for Dragon, at 16 pages.

Michael Dobson's Living in a Material World covers almost everything you need to know about material components for your AD&D or any other FRPG.  Now I love material components. If you are playing in an Old School D&D game I am running then your spellcaster better have their proper material components or they can't cast the spell.  Thought I do make most components easy to find or buy AND I allow substitutions.  Don't have that pinch of sulfur for your fire based spell? Try a pinch of dirt see what happens! This article is a long one, 10 pages, and covers a variety of materials and their uses.   Well worth visiting again.

Off the Shelf, a few pages later, covers the latest books of the start of 1984.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with Get out of the Medieval Rut in The Role of Books.  Again this might be the issue that got me interested in the idea of running a classical game. Lew covers books detailing ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Greece (well Athens in particular).   I have some similar books on my too be read pile.  Now to figure out which system to use.

Ken Rolston reviews some new gaming titles in Gaming without Heroes. Or Horror Role-playing titles.  Featured in this review are the infamous Shadows of Yog-Sothoth for the Call of Cthulhu game and the Ravenloft module.   Of the two Rolston has high praise for Ravenloft, but feels that SoY-S does a better job of conveying fear, terror, and dread.

Lots of ads. Convention Calendar. Dragonmirth.
What's New with Phil and Dixie has Dixie's Dragon Notebook. Wormy and SnarfQuest introduces a revolver to an AD&D world. Wackiness ensues.

Really a fun issue with so much I want to use in a game still.
If nothing else it has renewed my desire to run a sandbox like adventure int he Classic world.

Want to see what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #49.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #74

It's June 1983.  I had just turned 14 so I took about two dozen friends to the movie to see "Octopussy" in the theatres on my birthday (remember when I said I was a huge Bond fan?) and it was great.  In the stores the new covers for the AD&D core books are out and yes I had to buy them.  Bond is in the theatres, new covers on the shelves, Naked Eyes on the radio and There's Always Something There to Remind Me in This Old Dragon Issue #74!

First up this issue is in REALLY good shape given the issues near it (CORRECTION, I have two of these. One is in good shape, the other with the Combat Computer is in terrible shape).  Yes, the combat computer (more on that later) is still there and still intact.  But let's talk about this cover first.   Nothing is more iconic D&D than a group of adventurers fighting a dragon. This cover is one of the more memorable ones.  I did not buy this issue when it was new, but people I gamed with had it and it was well used and well passed around.

The editorial also covers birthdays.  This is the seventh anniversary of Dragon.  Last week I covered the 9th anniversary and like that issue, this one has some dragons in it.  They mark the date in a very subdued fashion. That will change.

Gary is up first with an entry of From the Sorcerer's Scroll in Warhorses and Barding.  Exactly what it says. One might be tempted to pass up this article and flip on past the big James Bond ad, and ignore the second half.  That would be a mistake.  Gary lets us know that a line of official D&D 25mm miniatures are on the way.   We also learn of a script for the Dungeons and Dragons movie that "... is a remarkable piece of work, one which could well lead to a film as successful as STAR WARS or E.T. It will do a world of good for our hobby . . ."  Thankfully Jeremy Irons is really busy during this time and Thora Birch is only 1 year old.   Also on tap is something Gary and Marvel Productions are calling "THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CHILDRENS SHOW".  So reading in 1983 which one of these sounds like the better bet?  Yeah, I was wrong too.

In another long standing feature, Lenard Lakofka with Brad Nystul are both up in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This issue features the Bureaucrat class with the Politician sub-class.  I am not kidding.   It does read like a misplaced April Fools article, but there is too much seriousness in it.  Ok, now I am 100% certain that someone out there reading this now used these classes back in the AD&D1 days.  But come on, really??  Next time someone tells me how much better everything in the old Dragons used to be I will agree, but I will also show them this article.   Not every old is good and not every new is bad.

Ah, now this is the stuff I remember and wanted.  Ronald Hall is up with the Land Dragons.  I loved this article. It was original and it felt like a great addition to the game.  I can remember laying in bed reading this article. It was a great stuff.  With these and the new dragons in the Fiend Folio and the MMII I wanted to over run my world with all sorts of different dragons.

Not to be outdone, The Electrum Dragon by Ed Greenwood is next.  This one I didn't like as much.  Oh sure I liked having more dragons, but this seemed forced since electrum was (in theory for me at the time) electroplated silver with gold.  Later I opted to keep Electrum Dragons in the Realms and Steel Dragons in Greyhawk.

Ah, now here is a memory! Ed comes back with Elminster in tow for Seven Swords: Blades of the Realms.  Now this is a proper article for magical swords.  They have names and they have histories.  And Elminster is looking into them, tracking them down.  This is also great stuff.  Back then I was totally into just what were enough details to convince my DM to put them into our games.  Today I am much more interested in their tales.  Well done Ed. It took me long enough to get your point, but I finally got it.

The Ecology of the Bulette by Chris Elliott and Richard Edwards also does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It makes the "land shark" interesting.

Arlen P. Walker is up with an article I ignored then but am giddy over now.  I was also a fan of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was a great mix of James Bond (and even had Ian Flemming's fingerprints on it) and Sherlock Holmes.  Tracing THRUSH's nest. The place: London The time: 1894 is a GREAT article that I will steal for a Victorian game.  I love the idea of THRUSH being tied to Moriarty and Moran of the Holmes stories. This article expands on that.  The companion article, In trouble? Say UNCLE The date: New York City The time: now, is also fun.

Arlen P. Walker is up with a 3rd article with Spying on the spies, which details the research that went into the previous two articles and their sources.

Lewis Pulsipher is next with The Vicarious Participator which is some role-playing advice on how to mange the two predominant styles of role-playing at the time, the full immersion actor sort and the man-behind-the-curtain sort.  One IS their character, the other only tells what the character does in a 3rd person sort of way.

Here we go with the centerfold.  The (infamous) Combat Computer!
Over the years I have heard tales of love and tales of hate for this thing.  One thing you never hear though is that it was designed by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
I personally liked it, but by the time we started using it we had already started homebrewing stuff.  The first version of my Healer class was in play (and soon out of play, it didn't work) and my witch class was on the way.
Plus we had bigger plans back then...



(there is also a big Gen Con XVI program here. Yes you could fit it all inside Dragon)

D&D Beyond,
1985 Color Computer version
(transferred to 3.5 from 5.25 disks)
Which brings us to
Q: What do you get when you cross a Dungeon Master with a computer?
A: Programmed character creation without human hesitation!

This article and program by Joseph C. Spann was not a revolution for my group.  It was a factor, but by 1983 everyone I knew who played D&D was also in the Jr. High Computer club and computer classes together.  We all wrote bits of software to emulate various parts of D&D.  We had pages and pages of BASIC code for the good old TRS-80.  I had other friends that were just as active on their Apple II's and Commodores. My DM and I finally created a really perfect bit of software for the TRS-80 Color Computer.  It could store 10 characters (more on disk once we upgraded to that) and we put in every monster in the books.    This article captures that time really well.  The software itself though takes away the visceral joy of rolling characters, but we did not care.  In the 80s D&D and Computers were going to come together and soon.  Maybe even before the D&D movie.

So when I hear arguments or complaints of "we never used characters builders back in my day" I say BULLSHIT.  Not only did we use them, we wrote them.  We spent hours learning how to code to do exactly that.  Like the article says:
"It cannot be simply coincidental that there are so many roleplaying game enthusiasts among our nation's rapidly growing number of computer hackers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say so many computer hackers among the ranks of RPG players, as evidenced by the presence of computer-oriented columns and information in gaming magazines like this one."
So maybe YOU didn't try out a character builder of your own but everyone I have ever gamed with from 1979 on has.

The trouble with code is it takes up a lot space. And let me tell you, typing all that in and getting an error. I am so glad I don't have to do that anymore.

Not many articles from this time get quoted or talked about much these days, A Player Character
and his Money by Lew Pulsipher is a notable exception.  I always found his discussion on moving to the silver standard very interesting.  I have often wanted to adopt it, but felt the hassle to correct the books and math constantly to make it not worth it.

Let's see, some listings of Sci-Fi conventions.

Tony Watson is up with The SF "universe" An in-depth examination of the STAR FRONTIERS game.  Something of an ad, something of an overview/preview and editorial.  It's long too. I really, really enjoyed Star Frontiers back in the day.  Two percentile dice, crazy races, giant-ass battery packs on your back to power your lasers. Though give me a gyrojet gun any day.

Off the Shelf has some books. No kidding right. Well, it has one book in particular. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have a long and complicated relationship with this book. More than I care to unpack now.  Sometimes nostalgia is about looking back and remembering something fondly. Sometimes it isn't.  I really loved this book back then and read it a few times.  I have some issues with it and the author now.

Ads..lots of them.

What's New does spies. Wormy does...what ever it is Wormy was doing.

Near the end an ad for the previously mentioned AD&D minis.

Landmark issue to be sure.  Full of nostalgia for the actual articles and less for the ads.

What are your memories? Did you use the Combat Computer? Write your D&D software?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Come back to the City of Irilian and check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #42.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #103

1985 was an interesting year for D&D.  It saw the publication of Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.  "Deities and Demigods" had been renamed to "Legends and Lore".  60 Minutes did their hatchet job on D&D.  We were deep in what many have called the "Hickman Revolution" and indeed the third Dragonlance novel, last of the first trilogy was published.   1985 gave us a little peek at what 2nd Edition AD&D would have been like and it would see the departure of Gary from TSR.  A lot of this can be seen in November 1985 and in issue #103 of This Old Dragon!

While there is a loose theme here, the real theme of this issue is a glimpse into the future.
But first, let's start with the cover.  My copy is missing the cover so I had to pop in the old CD-ROM to see it.  It's a cool blue dragon that reminds me of earlier covers. I don't remember it at all really.

The Letters section covers the old "Photocopying service" Dragon used to offer.  Anyone take advantage of that?
Also starting next year (1986) Dragon will be $3.50 an issue.

Gary is up in one of the biggest "What If" scenarios we have all talked about.  That is "What if Gary Gygax had designed AD&D 2nd Edition?"  We will never really know, but there are some tantalizing bits in this month's From the Sorceror's Scroll. The Future of the Game talks about how now that UA and Oriental Adventures are now out the game should evolve to a 2nd Edition.  He planned out the publication order to include the new Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, DM's Guide and a new Legends and Lore (a name he very much opposed).  It should be noted that here Gary also says that a 3rd and 4th editions (or more) are not only inevitable but also desirable as the AD&D game is "vital. It grows and it changes". He said there is no likelihood that the AD&D rules will ever be set in stone.    BTW, if you want to get an idea of what AD&D 2nd Edition as-written-by Gary Gygax *could* have looked like check out +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep. He spent a lot of time researching and this article was the genesis of that.

Kim Mohan is up with updates for Unearthed Arcana.
We had a rule in our games, that if it was in the books it was law, even if the rule was obviously "off".  We did it this way to avoid rule-lawyering arguments over intent.  Plus the book was an impartial party. It didn't change based on the situation at hand. So I can't recall if we used any of this errata or not.

There are many reasons why people don't play gnomes.  I think this is one of the biggest ones.  All About Krynn's Gnomes from Roger Moore details the "Tinker" gnomes of Krynn.  Of course, this is also why my brother, who is now an engineer, only played gnomes.   I have to admit I REALLY disliked the Tinker Gnome idea and I hated the execution of the idea. An entire race prone to failure and explosions? You know what we call that right? Extinct.  Honestly, it was not till 3e that I could even look at gnomes again and really not till 4e that they became something I'd consider having a character for.

Like Dogs? Stephen Inniss seems to with a collection of 12 domestic breeds in A Dozen Domestic Dogs.  My favorite bits are on the armor for fighting dogs.

The Role of Books covers a few books I am not at all familiar with. Though there is one, "Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning" that everyone knows. One, "The Song of Mavin Manyshaped" by Sheri S. Tepper sounds interesting.

An ad for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is next.  Long before there was a cartoon there was this game. Talk about striking when the iron is hot!

Stephen Inniss is back.  He had submitted an article on centaurs at the same time another author, Kelly Adams has submitted an article on centaurs.  The resulting article, The Centaur Papers, is a combination of these two works.   They fit together nicely (deft editing) and produce a long article, but what must be considered to be the Master's Thesis on Centaurs in D&D.  At 11 pages it is no small article.   Every so often I run into someone that is really, really into some concept in the game.  I remember back in the 90s stumbling upon a website dedicated to the Bariaur race, others for different things. This article reminds me of that.  Just detail on detail.  If you are into centaurs at all then this is your "must read" article.

Our centerfold is a collection of errata and corrections for Unearthed Arcana.

TSR Previews lets us know that Oriental Adventures and Saga of Old City are on the way.  This is followed by TSR Profiles of Gary Gygax himself.



The Wages of Stress is the fiction bit for this issue. It takes place in the fantastic future world of 2007 when everyone is connected by computer.   Ok, not to be too glib about it there is a bit about how everyone's health can be monitored remotely.

The Ares section is next.

A Traveller article on the planet Tarus is up first.  Of Nobbles and Men by Paul Vernon.  He had some great White Dwarf articles around this time as well.

The Saurians is the article I used the most from this issue.  A race (with subraces) for Star Frontiers I mixed them in with the Sea Devils and the Silurians from Doctor Who to make a race of "Saurials" that I used in many sci-fi games and then later used again in D&D.   Plus it was easy to add in bits of UFOlogy to this with their Reptoids.

Roger E. Moore has a review of the Gen Con 18 designer's forum on Supers RPG in A Super-Powered Seminar.   A brief history of supers games is discussed here and what the future mught hold.

The Marvel-Phile covers three heroes I know nothing about; Armadillo, Count Nefaria and Hyperion.

Ads...Convention Calendar...Wormy and Snarf Quest.
Dragonmirth gets in a dig at 60 Minutes.



Issue #103 was not a bad issue, just not a memorable one for me. Some memorable articles and a tantalizing article on AD&D 2nd Ed.  

Curious about what White Dwarf was doing at the same time? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #71.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #96

The issue I pulled for today was #123, but a quick look lets me know I had already done that one back in May. I mentioned then I had extras, but I guess I forgot to sort this one out.  No worries. Grabbing the next one.

I have made no secret of my general dislike of the various "funny" April Fools editions of Dragon magazine.  Not that I have anything against humor in D&D/RPGs; quite the contrary. I just like good humor. 9 times out of 10 the jokes fall amazingly flat.  Issue #96 is that 10th one that actually works.  In fact, this is one of my most fondly remembered issues of Dragon during what I think of as my heyday of AD&D.  So with that in mind lest have a look at April 1985. Ladyhawke and Cat's Eye are in the theaters, I am in my sophomore year in High School and this is This Old Dragon issue #96!

Again, the cover here is missing. Popping in my Dragon CD-ROM. The cover comes from Jack Crane and really fits the issue not at all! Well, fits it in terms of humor. But do not expect a mechanical dragon any time soon.  I like the cover though, it's fun. 

The Editorial made me laugh I admit. Printing the whole thing backward was a neat idea. I tried to do something similar with my high school newspaper and found it really difficult. This was a time before we had computers and nice layout software.  The Letters section is a mix of real and supposedly humorous ones. 

Up next is an ad for Pendragon that always caught my eye.  I wanted to run a King Arthur/Camelot game once upon a time, but never quite got there.  Too bad really, I think it would have been fun.  
Another "important" ad.  This one is for "Dragons of Autumn Twilight" the first Dragonlance, and first AD&D, novel from TSR.  1985  was that year of transition. The Golden Age was over, though I  didn't know that at the time, and the Silver Age was upon us.  This time has been described by some as the "Hickman Revolution".  There was certainly a shift that even I could feel in my little Mid-West town to me it felt like things were getting more "modern" in terms of production value.  We are still a little bit away from the release of the Unearthed Arcana and the end of Gygax's involvement with all things D&D.


Speaking of the Old Master, Gary is up with From the Sorcerer's Scroll on New Jobs for Demi-Humans.   There is a lot here really, though most will see the light of day in UA.  I am not sure if I had played an Elven Ranger before this or not, but I know I rolled one up around this time.  To me, it seemed natural. In fact, it is something you can see with my own Huntsman class
There is a little bit on Paladin dual-classing I took to heart. I loved to play Paladins back then (still do in fact).  I often would play clerics to a certain level (usually somewhere between 3 and 10) and then pick up the Paladin class if it was possible for my stats.  It was easy to rationalize; the character had to spend time in the normal service of his god (which was almost always Pellor for me) and then move up to Paladin status.  Worked remarkably well.  I did the exact same thing with my current D&D 5 Cleric/Paladin.  
For me THAT is the real Hickman Revolution; allowing me to play the character I want and the rules supporting it, not looking at the rules and deciding what character to play.  It's less about "what Hickman did to D&D" and more about the direction D&D was going to go anyway. 

Following up on this is Katherine Kerr's What Good PC's Are Made Of.  Kerr has written a number of articles for Dragon and this is just before her first novel is published.  She gives us some basic background information for characters including how/where the characters grew up and what their social class is.  It's actually interesting enough to keep for a lot of FRPGs. 

Ed Greenwood is up with Ecology of the Gulgurtha which is a surprisingly interesting article on the Otyugh and the Neo-Otyugh.  I recall coming up with a few ideas for these.  I seem to recall reading somewhere about using an Otyugh in the bottom of a cistern to eliminate waste. I also created a giant otyugh.

The Handy Art of Forgery by Keith Routley was another great article.  It's still rather timely. I showed it to my son, who is my local D&D 5 expert, he he thought it would work well enough to expand the Forgery skill of the Assassin specialization for Rogue class.  I am sure it would also work well for the AGE Rogue/Expert class with the Assassin specialization.  

Arn Ashleigh Parker discusses how to incorporate ideas from books in Books to Games? Perhaps!
The advice is sound, if simple.  Some examples are given such as Gor, Barsoom, and Middle-Earth.

Despite there being a nice big ad for the D&D Companion Rules, you would think that D&D was a dead line at this point.  I also can't recall if I was excited at seeing this or not. I have spent a lot of time talking about those rules here, I would have thought I would have remembered this a little better.

An article on Play By Mail updates. 

The special section of the issue is the April Fools section.  Up first is the "adventure" Nogard.
I'll make two confessions here. 1. I liked this, a lot. We wanted to use this and play it seriously. 2. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that Nogard is "Dragon" spelled backward. 

The "What's New Dragon" is also featured in There Can Never be Too Many Dragons. Fun little critter. Odd it was published after the What's New comic was no longer in the magazine.  The next dragon is the "Quazzar Dragon". We joked about actually using this monster too. We took it seriously when the Frequency said: "Only Once". Though at 120,600 KM across (75,000 miles) we never had a dungeon to put it in. 

And....it goes downhill. The Meanest of Monsters details the Killer Dungeon Master monster.  Not a fan BUT there is something here I have loved and used before, the Wandering Damage Table.  I have pulled this out when dealing with younger players that are getting rowdy. I play it lightly, but it always gets their attention.   Since I have that more or less memorized I ripped this one out and gave it to my son.  Sorry +Greg Littlejohn

Huh...comical races, hopeless characters...can't bother really. 

I skipped over the map of Ginny's Delight.  I'll talk about that in a bit. 

Craig Barrett is back with some DragonQuest rules for swimming in Getting in Over Your Head. One day I'll have to get a copy of DragonQuest and play.  Maybe at a con sometime. 

The Ares Section is up.
First up is Dale L. Kemper with These Are The Voyages of the Ginny's Delight. While the adventure itself didn't really appeal to me I loved the little ship Ginny's Delight. The map of the ship is in the middle of the magazine. It's about the size of a large DS9-era Runabout. It's not an attractive ship but there something about it I really like.  I converted it over to Star Frontiers and Doctor Who (FASA version).



Why is This Mutant Smiling? from John M. Maxstadt covers new mutations in the form of exta limbs and body parts for Gamma World.  This would also work well for Mutant Future or Mutant Crawl Classics.

Marvel Phile is mostly here.  Whoever owned this before me had cut out the section on Iron Man but left Howard the Duck.

Convention Calendar, ads, a big spread of Wormy and three pages of Snarf Quest.

In truth, this was a fun issue and one that seems have had a much larger, lasting impact than I originally remembered.  I mean I remember where I got Ginny's Delight, but the Otyugh and the Random Damage table origins had been lost to my memory.

Curious to see what White Dwarf was up too at the same time?  Well, check out my review of White Dwarf #64 from April 1985.
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