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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 3

I want to wrap up this edition of OMG with some of the missing gods and demons from the Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian myths in the Deities & Demigods.

Let's mention an OBVIOUS miss here.
Where is Ereshkigal?  The world's first goth-girl and she isn't here?  That's a freaking crime in my book.  Well, let's fix that.  If you want to classify her she belongs to the Sumerian Myths, her cult has been taken over by her husband Nergal by the time of the Babylonian myths.

Burney Relief
Ereshkigal
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE: 12"
HIT POINTS: 250
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: See below
SPECIAL ATTACKS:  See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to poisons, disease, and death causing magic
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 75%
SIZE: M (6')
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All alignments
SYMBOL: Female with four wings and clawed feet
PLANE: Kur (section of Hades)
CLERIC/DRUID: 15th level cleric
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST/WITCH: 25th level witch
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 15th level assassin
MONK/BARD: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
S:25 ( + 7, + 14) 1: 20 W: 15 D: 20 C: 23 CH: 25

Animal: Owl
Color: Black
Day of Worship: Friday

Ereshkigal is Queen of the Underworld. Here she keeps the dead and not even the gods can sway her.  She has made exceptions, in particular to her sister Innana/Ishtar, but to none other.

Ereshkigal knows all the spells granted by the Sumerian gods, since all secrets come to her.  She also knows all the spells of witchcraft, which are of her design.  She can cast two spells per round at separate targets if she chooses.

Her rivalry with her sister Innana/Ishtar is legendary.
Ereshkigal would later be syncretized with the Greek Hecate and some of her aspects would also form the story of Lilith.  Indeed in my own research time, the Burney Relief has gone from a representation of Lilith (which was tenuous at best) to a representation of Ereshkigal.

She is mentioned in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands and I swear there were other mentions of her in other D&D books, but so far I found nothing.


Pazuzu
Also not present in the D&DG, but certainly a demon of note (and notoriety) is Pazuzu.   Good old Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind and the bringer of storms, famine, and drought. He was the demon of the southwestern wind.  He was not a god, though he was the son of the god Hanbi/Hanbu.
Pazuzu, of course, rose to fame and popularity thanks in large part to the Exorcist movies.  I consider the Exorcist to be one of the scariest movies ever made and having Pazuzu as the "big bad" only helps that.  A demon as old as civilization itself?  Yeah, that's some scary shit.  He makes his AD&D debut in the Monster Manual II.

He seems to have a long history even in myth.  He is likely an Assyrian import, maybe even from the Levant.  So that is quite a demonic pedigree to be the demon of so many different cultures. In my games, Pazuzu is an Eodemon, a demonic race that appeared before all the others.

One thing not considered in Monster Manual II version of him is his battles to stop another demon Lamashtu.  Pazuzu effectively guards human from her evils.

Lamashtu
Now in truth, I see why she was not included.  I mean if no Pazuzu then no need to have her too.  According to some texts, she was a demoness or a goddess.  She is also associated with witchcraft and the murder or newborns and infants. She has many features that would later be syncretized by or with Lilith and other female night demons.  She is currently a god in the Pathfinder setting.

I posted a demon Lamashtu a while back.  Here are some stats.

FREQUENCY:  Uncommon
NO.  APPEARING:  1  or  1-3
ARMOR  CLASS:  -1
MOVE:  9"/12"
HIT  DICE:  10
%  IN  LAIR:  25%
TREASURE  TYPE:  F
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-6/1-6/2-8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  bonus  of  +2  to  hit;  also  see  below  (Con drain)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +  1  or  better  weapons  to  hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Very
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  evil
SIZE:  L  (9'+  tall)
PSlONlC  ABILITY:  150
  Attack/Defense  Modes:  A,  C,  D/F,  G,  H

Lamashtu are powerful demons, close only to the Lilitu themselves.  Believed to be the offspring of Lilth and the various Eodemons. These demons are old even by demonic terms.  Their natural form is a horrid hybrid of a linoness’ head, donkey ears, and teeth, a hairy human female body, with the hindquarters of a pig.  They are commonly holding a large snake.  In their “human” form they prefer to disguise themselves as old women or nursemaids.  This gives them access to their preferred prey, newborn babies.  Once she has gained access to a new-born babe she will carry it off till she can find a safe place to eat it.  Lamashtu are not tempters, they hunger and only flesh will satisfy them.  They can be held at bay if a witch prepares a special talisman.    Her song drains Constitution to all who hear it, 2 points per night.  Anyone so drained must make a Constitution based save or fall asleep.
Lamashtu may cast spells as a 7th level witch.



Dagon
Dagon is an improt to this mythology.
Here is another problem.  Dagon is a god. Dagon is a demon. Dagon is some sort of Lovecraftian Old One. Or he is all of those things.

I think my favorite take on him was in the 3.5 edition Hordes of the Abyss and the 4th edition Monster Manual 2. Where he is just this really ancient thing. For me that makes him an Eodemon.
Somehow I'd like to capture all aspects of this creature in one whole.

I think it is time to leave the Fertile Crescent. Should I move forward alphabetically or chronologically? 

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 2 here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 1

Then were they known to men by various Names,
And various Idols through the Heathen World.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1

For this posting of One Man's God, I thought it best to go back where it all began for me.

The Babylonian myths in the Deities and Demigods are one of the most interesting collections of characters in the book really.  I was fascinated by them and when I got to college I jumped at the chance to take a mythology class and learn more.  There Professor Joan O'Brien (yes I remember her 30 years later, she was that good) told the story of Gilgamesh and Marduk and many others in the Enûma Eliš, or When On High.   So I am likely to spend a couple of posts on this topic just because it is so rich.

Now I want to clear about one thing.  I am not here to dismiss or deride the research done by James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz.  They did what they did without the benefit of computers, the internet and the collected archeological knowledge I have access too since 1980.  For example, there were some pretty significant finds in 1984 and published in 1992 that would have changed some things.  Plus they were not writing for historical, archeological, or mythological scholarship.  They were writing first and foremost for the AD&D game.  So let's keep that all in mind when digging through the rubble of ages.

Alas, Babylon
The myths of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians represent some of the oldest myths and stories mankind has intact.  Dating back to 3500 BCE these are quite old. Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (the Empire, not just the city) roughly share the same area between the  Tigris–Euphrates rivers, they also shared related languages; Sumerian, but mostly Akkadian.  They used the same cuneiform writing and they recorded them on clay tablets. They shared gods and they shared a culture.  While there is more time (more than twice the time really) between the rise of the Sumerian city-states and the fall of the last Babylonian empire than there is between Babylon and now, we tend to view them as related.
Because of this I am more likely to treat the Babylonian Mythos and the Sumerian Mythos of the D&DG as being one and not two.

Druaga
Let's start with what can only be called the Poster Boy for this series.  Druaga, Ruler of the Devil World.   We really don't know much about this guy other than he is a real monster.  We know he never appears to anyone the same way twice, yet he has a true form that frightens others.  He is Lawful evil and can summon devils (except Archdevils) and can turn victims of his mace attacks into devils.

Is it me or does his mace remind you of Asmodeus' Ruby Rod?



I have a lot of issues with Druaga here.

If you thought he doesn't really seem to fit the Babylonian gods then you are right.  He doesn't appear to be one of their gods at all.  There is a connection to "Druj" which is an Avestan (proto-Iranian) spirit of corruption.  But that concept comes from later and further away than Babylon.  He appears to be made up whole cloth for this book.  The only other reference to him in anything like this form is from a 1984 video game and later anime; Doruāga no Tō or The Tower of Druaga.  The game features Gilgamesh and Ki, who seems to be based on the Sumerian Goddess Ki (yeah I have some issues with her too...).  Druaga even looks similar to the D&DG version.


There is also the issue that despite his obvious power there is no place for him in the devils' hierarchy.  He is more powerful than Asmodeus and can create new devils besides.  So what gives?

In my own games, I took Druaga and I put him on the first layer of Hell in place of Tiamat (more on her in a bit).  First, I figured he was a better fit since I wanted Tiamat to be Chaotic Evil and he had the look.  I had already started dividing my devils into the ruling and serving classes.  The rulers were the fallen angels or everyone from a pitfiend up.  The servers were the less human looking devils (Eventually called "Shedim" or Demons of Rage in my games)  Druaga was their leader.
To steal from the greats I had made my Hell already filled with some creatures.  Some the Fallen took over and others they kicked out.  I also made my first level of Hell the place where the pagans go, ala Dante's Inferno.

Over the years we have gotten a number of Rulers of Avernus; Tiamat, Bel and now Zariel.  Maybe Druaga was there first.

Looking at his stats he is pretty powerful.  Strength at 24, Intelligence at 18, Dexterity at 23, Constitution at 25, and a Charisma of -4.  Only his 13 Wisdom fails to be godly.
He is listed as a 15th level fighter, 15th level magic-user, and 15 level assassin.  If we give him 15 HD and maximum hp (d8+7 for Con) then that gives us 225 hp.  Not far off from his 230.
He has 75% magic resistance as well as being immune to breath-weapons.

So why is he not ruling hell?

If we go with the Politics of Hell article as a guide, Druaga was the ruler but was deposed when the Angels fell and became Devils.

For starters, I am happy with 15 HD, though higher is also nicer.  The 1e AD&D Monster Manual sets the Pit Fiend at 13 HD, so 15 HD for a former ruler, reduced in power works for me.

Druaga, Former Ruler of Hell
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  15 (230 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  J,  R
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  6-15/6-15 (1d10+5)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  See  below
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Exceptional
ALIGNMENT:  Lawful  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

When the Angels fell after the War in Heaven, Druaga was already there.  When faced with the legions of the Fallen, Druaga surrendered his ruby mace to the leader of the Fallen.  Eventually, it came into the possession of the Arch Duke Asmodeus.

Druaga still holds considerable power.  He lives in a giant ziggurat temple on Avernus where the souls of the damned still perform service to him.   He can summon any devil of Pit Fiend status or lower to his aid once a day in numbers from 2-20.
Druaga has all the same immunities as do other Devils, he is also 100% immune to the effects of all breath weapons.

Next time we will talk dragons.

You can read Part 2 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

OMG: Level Setting and American Indian Mythos

To start this first post on One Man's God I wanted to set some levels on what I want to look for, in particular, what constitutes the top end of what is a demon vs. what is an evil god.

Now a couple "rules" regardless of what edition I plan to post the stats in I am starting in the lingua franca of 1st Edition AD&D.  That's what the Deities and Demigods is written for and the Monster Manual I am using today.

Level Setting
How powerful are these demons?  Well, let's have a look at our high-end examples.
The first edition Monster Manual gives us four of the biggest big bads we STILL talk about today. Orcus, Demogorgon, Asmodeus, and Tiamat.  Each one of these can be viewed as a god in their own way; two of which Orcus and Tiamat were gods in their respective mythologies. What the MM does not give us are the HD for these creatures.  Orcus has 120 hp, Demogorgon has 200 hp, and Asmodeus has 199. Tiamat has 128 but is also listed as a 16 HD monster.  This is nice since this gives us a nice example of a monster with maximum (8 per HD) hp.  So dividing the others by 8 we get:
Orcus 15 HD, 120 hp
Demogorgon 25 HD, 200 hp
Asmodeus 25 HD, 199 hp
Looking at other editions you can see them climb over the years.  Till we get to today.


Still very powerful in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

What this means to me is I am looking for monsters in that 15 to 25 HD range if I want to call them Demon Princes or Archdukes of Hell.  Likely none will come up to that level, most will fall short of Prince or Archduke power.

American Indian Mythos
If there is one thing I know it's I am in no way qualified to talk about American Indian mythic traditions.  I mean I did grow up in the mid-west and I spent time going to both the Dickson Mounds and the Illinois State Museums.  So I feel my background is better than most, but still very much lacking.   The American Indian section in the Deities & Demigods in no way represents all the myths and stories of these extremely diverse peoples.  Sure there are some commonalities, but there are just as many differences. Maybe more.   Since I am limiting myself to the entries in the D&DG this one will be really fast.

There really are not many "demons" in the classical sense in American Indian myths.  I mean there are some, but not many and none of them appear in this book.   Even the monsters that do appear here are more monsters than demons and the evil gods (both of them) are more destructive forves of nature than anything else.   So not really my idea of demons to be honest.
Hastsezini is the fire "god"* of the Navajo.  I put god in quotes based on the work of Professor Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.  He claims that Amerindian did not worship gods per se but larger spirits that they honored.   This god/spirit doesn't really give me a demonic vibe.

Next time I will cover the rich and fertile ground of the Babylonian myths.  Might need to spend more than one post there.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #118

It's February of 1987.  I am preparing to graduate high school and get out of my then hated hometown (I have softened up a little since then).   Everyone is listening to "Livin' on a Prayer", I am listening to a lot of Pink Floyd.  Gives you a good idea of why I wanted out of there so bad.  In any case, I did have a world to go to. To bad at this point it was overrun with demons, demonic-ogres, and dragons in an all-out war!  Ah, the good times.  Let's go back and check out Issue #118 of This Old Dragon.

Issue #118 marks the last of the "Chess" series for Dragon by Denis Beauvais.  Maybe one of the more evocative ones too.

Letters ask for coverage of more non-TSR games. The editors maintain that they don't get a lot sent to them.

The main feature of this issue is games within games.  So tournaments, duels and the like. Or as I like to think of it, a walk through the Ren Faire.

First up from Dan Salas is The fighting Circle: Gladiatorial Combat in the AD&D game.  I can't help but think that this is somewhat due to the recent Dragonlance books where Caramon is sent back in time and becomes a gladiator.  The article is actually pretty long and light on the crunch.  In fact there is none till you get almost to the very end. What is provided is fairly edition agnostic.

Hardcore into writing the next draft of my witch class now.  So you know I wanted my own set of Time-Life books.

Leonard Carpenter is up with Surely, You Joust (no and quit calling me Shirley).  This one is more specific to AD&D 1st Ed, but has some good material that can be ported over.  A joust should really be something that is featured in your games at least once. This too is a long one ( are already on page 30).

A Day at the Faire by Eileen Lucas gives all the other characters something to do while the knights, cavaliers, and paladins are off at the joust.  NPC stats are in 1st Ed, but everything else is easy to add to any game.  I do wish this one was longer though.

Not sit idle, Leonard Carpenter is back with On Target: Archery Competitions.  These are more linked to the rules and the Jousting article.

Ok. Up next is one of odder articles I have seen.  Christopher Wood must like a sense of realism in his games since he gives us "ARRRGH!!!" an article on the various races pain thresholds.  As expected Dwarves come out on top here with elves and half-elves the worse of the lot.   While I appreciate the thought here this is not something I'd ever use.  Plus it has "Advanced Rules" and "Optional Rules".  As an old-school gamer I know I supposed to like this stuff, but if I wanted to do this then just give a Constitution roll or something.

C.C. Stoll gives us the centerfold of the issue with Nibar's Keep, The Game of Magical Arena Dueling.  Some interesting ideas sure, but it is a stand-alone mini-game.

There is the fiction section from Lois Tilton.

Some Sage Advice covering the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

Ah here is something interesting.  Leonard Carpenter is back again (again) with A Hero's Reward. Or a basic Hero point system for AD&D.  You can almost hear the Grognards flipping over their sand tables in disgust!  ;)  This, of course, has been done before and will be done again.  Personally, I like them.  I wrote a lot about the Drama Point system in Cinematic Unisystem over the years so you know where my preferences lie.  The system suggested here is simple enough but used mostly for dice rolls. No "rewriting a scene" like you can in Cine Unisystem.

Next, we get an article about playing Neanderthals in the D&D (Basic/BECMI) game.  So it is a race as a class and yeah, it works.  The article, Out of the Stone Age by Jack R. Patterson, is not a long one but it's for BECMI so it has to be brief and get its point across quickly.

If you don't like spiders then skip over this one, but The Dragon's Bestiary has a bunch of different types of spiders.

TSR Previews covers the up and coming releases from TSR for March and April of1987.  Let's see we get two new Windwalker novels and the Lazer Tag Official Tournament book and the Chase family board game.  No, I don't really remember these either except for the Lazer Tag book.


Thomas Kane has a bit about war, revolution, and secret agents in Unfriendly Fire for Top Secret.  Or military operations for Top Secret agents.  It's not detailed enough to make TS into a warfare game, but at least enough to get a flavor of what you could do.

Jon D. Martin has the Marvel-phile article in all but name with his profiles of Adam Warlock, Pip some green woman named Gamora and Paragon/Her. 

Role of Computers features a number of games for the Macintosh, the then state of the art in computer hardware.

Games Guide covers the small ads.  All the usual suspects are here.
Convention Calendar is a healthy three pages.

Nice full-color ad for SnarfQuest the Book.  Only $9.95!
Snarf himself is three pages but still black/white.

Wormy weighs in at 4 full-color pages.

Ok, not an issue I have many memories of and there is not a lot here I would use today either.  Seems to be the time I think because I was saying more or less the same thing about White Dwarf #86 from the same month.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Maximum Mayhem #5: Palace of the Dragon's Princess

Maximum Mayhem #5: Palace of the Dragon's Princess

Mark Taormino is at it again and this time he has turned his offerings up.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-5-palace-of-the-dragons-princess-bo

His fifth module, Palace of the Dragon's Princess, on the way and it has already seen all it's funding met.

I have talked a lot about Mark's adventures and books.

I expect this one to be just as good. It's an obvious nod to Palace of the Silver Princess.



But the best thing about this?  We are getting a BOX!


I am in for a box, module and dice.

I am so stoked for this.

While overtly for OSRIC/AD&D 1st Ed, I want to play an epic B/X game with all of these.  The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen goes to level 14 and that is perfect.  Sure they are all deadly as hell, but that is part of the fun, right?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tim Kask on Witches

Tim Kask, who goes back in TSR as long as there was such a thing has been online ruminating about the history of TSR, D&D, and related topics.

He has a YouTube channel, called appropriately enough, Curmudgeon in the Cellar.  Though I think he missed an opportunity to call it Curmudgeon in the Dungeon.

In this video, he talks about a lot of things going on in social media this week.  First is the issue of gatekeeping at GaryCon.  I didn't see or feel any myself so I am not sure where this is coming from.

The big one for me, of course, starts at 6:13, where Tim talks about why there was not a witch class in 1st Ed AD&D.  A lot of this we have heard before and tracks with the history of the game.  Here he is in his own words.


Frankly, I am glad they didn't include witches.  If they had I might not have ever made my own which led to my own publications and my current career/hobby.  I likely would have refocused back on writing vampire stuff.

Tim also goes into how he runs his games.

I like Tim, even when he is cantankerous (he is a self-professed curmudgeon after all) or maybe even more so.  He is also a fellow Saluki, so he always gets a pass in my book for that alone.

I am looking forward to watching some his other videos.  Should be fun.

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?
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