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

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Mail Call: Chris Perkins' "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition"

Been a busy time at work, so just a fast one today.

Some time ago I grabbed something called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition" from the web.  It has been sitting in my "to be sorted" folder for ages.  I was in the process of digging up some other material for a project when I happened upon them.   The layout was nice and clean and the covers were nearly print-ready.  So I spent some time a few nights ago tweaking it and slapped the whole thing on Lulu.

Here is what I got.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. Covers

Frankly, I am pretty happy with it. 

I went a re-looked up what this game was/is and it turns out it was done by Chris Perkins.  The game is a very nice blend of AD&D 1st and 2nd Editions with mechanics from D&D 3rd Edition and inspiration from Castles & Crusades.  The overall effect is not unlike D&D 5th Edition, but more of a 1st Edition feel.

The art is all copied from published classic D&D sources, so there is no way this thing is legal to sell. I am sure if cleaned up it could be released under the OGL, but it is so close to Castles & Crusades and D&D 5th edition there is no need to do so save as an entertaining experiment.

Perkins used to have a website for it, http://www.adnd3egame.com/cnc.htm but it is long since gone. There are details about it at RPG Geek and Boardgame GeekI have no idea where it is hosted anymore.  I found a new site for it here: https://scruffygrognard.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/add-3rd-edition/Note: Perkins is now working on a BX3e.

It is a completely playable game and has a lot of nice features.  It reads like a D&D "Greatest hits" album.  It is just missing some "kits" or "subclasses" to make it more like 5e.  

The question of course is why play this when I have all the other versions of *D&D?  Well, the simple answer is that it looks like fun.  IT might be neat to play this "what if" version.  It is also interesting to see which design choices Perkins went with. Like why 20th century D&D style saving throws and not say 3rd/4th Edition ones or 5th Edition/Castles & Crusades ones?  How does the skill system work (feels like a mix of AD&D 1st ed and D&D 3rd ed)?  There are Bard and Monk classes, how do they compare to their 1st and 3rd ed counterparts?  Plus there is a section on Psionics. So there is a lot to explore here.

Besides the books are damn attractive.  The layout like I said is clean and simple, but it appeals to me.

Now that I found his site again I am curious to see if there will be more updates on it. His BX3e project also looks very interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore
Last week I reviewed that new monster book from BRW Games, Book of Lost Beasts.  Today I want to review the companion book from the same Kickstarter, Book of Lost Lore.  I went into this one less excited than I did with the Book of Lost Beasts, but not due to anything on the part of this book.  I am always more enthusiastic about monster books. I just have to make sure that I am not making unfair comparisons.  I will be making a lot of comparisons with this book and others, however.

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover I received as a Kickstarter backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  BRW does their print fulfillment via DriveThru, so I conveniently have my PDFs where I expect them and I know what sort of product I am getting in terms of Print on Demand.

The book itself is 134 pages, full-color cover, and has black and white interior art.  The layout and art are a tribute to the "2nd covers" of the AD&D 1st Edition line. So it looks nice with your original books and other OSR books designed the same way. 

Like the Book of Lost Beasts, this book carries the Adventures Dark & Deep banner, but it is not made for that game.  It is material from that game ported "Backwards" to the AD&D 1st Edition rules. So again like Book of Beasts, some of this material has been seen before, though not all in 1st Edition format/rules.  

Lost Beasts and Lost Lore

Much of the material does come from Bloch's "What If" game, Adventures Dark & Deep, and in particular, the Players Manual which itself was derived from BRW Games' very first product A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (now discontinued).  This is all acknowledged in the Preface of the book.  The selling point of this book is that it is all revised and edited for the "First Edition of the world's most popular RPG."  Not to mention the layout now favors the 1st ed feel rather than the Adventures Dark & Deep feel.

Though as we move on you will see that the biggest comparison that needs to be made is this book to the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

On to the book proper now.

This book is split between a Players' Section (close to 98 pages) and GMs' section (36 or so pages).

Players' Section

Dwarf blacksmith
This section covers new races, classes, and spells among other topics that I will discuss. 

Up first, the new races.  Here we are given three "new" races for player characters. These are the Centaur, the Forrest Gnome, and the Half-Drow, of which we get Human-Drow and Elf-Drow.  Those unfamiliar with AD&D 1st ed might be surprised to see level limits and ability limits for the races.  Some are pretty obvious, centaurs tend to be stronger but can't climb walls as a thief. Others are culture-based, drow women can advance more in most classes than their male counterparts due to their matriarchal society, but not as much as wizards since that class is not valued.  While back in the day we really ignored all these rules in AD&D (and they do not exist in 21st Century D&D) they are consistent with the rules and anyone who plays AD&D 1st ed exclusively will take to these easy.

The races seem balanced enough.  The centaur is a nice addition and one that really could go into AD&D well enough.  I personally have never had a desire to play one, but they do seem to work.  The forest gnome is also a good choice and a good option for people more familiar with 21st century D&D gnomes.  The coverage of the half-drow is very interesting and the stand-out of the three.  Given some other things I have crossed my awareness this past week or so I am wanting to try out a half-drow now.  I will need to come back to this one later on. 

Classes are likely the top feature of this book.  They are also the ones that we have seen before.  There are Bards, Jesters, Skalds, Blackguards, Mystics, Savants, and Mountebanks.  Let me repeat. While we have seen these before in other BRW products they are presented here as 1st Edition characters classes and as subclasses of existing 1st Ed classes. Except the Bard, the Bard is it's own class with the Jester and Skald as sub-classes of the Bard.  The Blackguard (or Anti-Paladin) is a subclass of the Cavalier to give you an idea where this book would "fit" into the AD&D 1st Ed lineup. 

It should be noted is a usable single Bard class.  No more advancing as a thief, fighter, and then druid to get to the bard, this is a straight out bard class.  The bard also has some nice powers too. The mystic class seems closer to the BECMI/RC version than it does to the monk.  It was also the focus of one of my very first "Class Struggles" features.   I am a little surprised we didn't see versions of BRW Games'  Necromancer, Witch, or Demonolater classes. Likey to keep these with the Adventures Dark & Deep game. 

From Classes, we move on to Secondary Skills. AD&D 1st Ed has never really been about skills outside of what your character class can do.  While back then I saw this as a problem, I am less inclined to think so now.  Still, a good selection of secondary skills are listed here and how they can be used. 

The next 35 or so pages are dedicated to new spells. Mostly these support the new magic-using classes, though some spells are cross-listed for other classes. 

The last part of the player's section is given over to combat and new weapons and armor.  The arms and armor described here do show an appreciated level of research.  One that would have made Gary and his 6 pages of pole-arms very happy.

Game Masters' Section

This section is not as large but still has gems; figurative and literal. 

making magic items
Up first are some guidelines for social encounters including reactions.  There are some alternate treasure rules that uses the same Treasure Type classification but breaks it down into different categories.  Both the original system and this system can be used interchangeably, even within the same game, with the Game Master deciding what works better at the time. 

There are some new magic items, with updated tables to include them. 

Finally some discussion on the game environment including ability checks. 

Honestly, the only thing it is missing to be "Unearthed Arcana II" is an appendix on the gods of the Centaurs.

Unearthed Arcana and Lost Lore

Some art has appeared before in other BRW books but all of it captures the Old-School gaming feel.

So. Who is this book for?

The obvious answer is for anyone that plays First Edition AD&D.  It should work fine with OSRIC, since that cleaves so close to AD&D, but not sure if players of Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials Advanced will get the same benefits. For example, both of those other games have a Bard class that works about the same.  That is not to say they would not get benefits from this book, it's just the base design principles are not 100% the same.

If you are a player of Adventures Dark & Deep then there is likely nothing new here for you.  But if you have those books and still play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first ed. then there is enough here for you even if you can convert easily between the two games. 

If you play AD&D 1st ed then this is a great book and it will sit nicely on your shelf or on your table next to your other AD&D books. 

One minor point, the book was not released under the OGL.  Doesn't matter for play or use only if you wanted to reuse a class or spell elsewhere.  Though given the use I have seen of the OGL over the last 20+ years this is also likely not an issue. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Monstrous Monday Review: Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts
Joseph Bloch at BRW games is really the model of how you should run a Kickstarter.  When I look at a Kickstarter I want to know that the person running it has experience.  The Kickstarter for Book of Lost Lore & Book of Lost Beasts was back in July. We were promised the books in March of 2022.  I believe I got mine in late September or early October. Was there padding? Maybe, but I don't care. Getting books just a couple of months after pledging is still pretty good.  Not to mention this has been true for the other five I have backed from Joseph/BRW.

Plus I also like to see that the person running the knows what to expect. So I look to see how many they have backed.  If it is a low number, or worse, zero, then I stay away. That is not the case with BRW Games.  

That is all great and everything, but does the book hold up to all this excitement?  Let's find out.

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts

This is one of two books that were part of BRW's Summer 2021 Kickstarter and the one I was looking forward to the most.  The reasons should be obvious to anyone who has read my reviews over the years; I love monster books and consider the 1st Edition Monster Manual to be one of the greatest RPG books ever written.  Sure there are better-written ones, but few that have had the impact of this one. 

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover I received as a Kickstarter backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  BRW does their print fulfillment via DriveThru, so I conveniently have my PDFs where I expect them and I know what sort of product I am getting in terms of Print on Demand.

The book itself is 132 page (about 128 of pure content), full-color cover and black and white interior art.  The layout and art is a tribute to the "2nd covers" of the AD&D 1st Edition line. So it looks nice with your original books and other OSR books designed the same way. 

Old-school cool

Old-school cool

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Beasts is a collection of 205 monsters for the AD&D 1st Edition RPG.  The book feels familiar (in more than one way) and can easily be added to your AD&D game.  The monsters are alphabetically listed. At the start of the book, there are some details about playing Monster spell casters (Witch-doctors or Shamans) as well as some other minor rule changes/alterations.  These chiefly involve whether a monster has psionics or not, and how an undead creature is turned.

Additionally, there is more detail on the monster's treasure. While a Treasure Type is given it is asl broken down between Treasure Value and Magical Treasure.  Monsters all get a Morale bonus listed to indicate if they will flee combat.

In the Preface, Bloch gives us a bit of history on his Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.  While this book carries that heading, it does not use the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG rules except as noted above. IT uses the tried and true AD&D 1st Ed system.  Also it is noted that many of these monsters presented here already appeared in his Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary, which I reviewed here.   The Bestiary is 450+ pages and has monsters from the SRD plus more in the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG format.  So you could convert them back to AD&D 1st Ed if you wanted.  But this current book, the Book of Lost Beasts, has the new monsters from the Bestiary plus a few more already converted.

The brings up a good question.  Should I buy this book? 
I am going to say yes, but here are some caveats. If you have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary AND you are comfortable enough converting then maybe you don't need this.  If you play AD&D and want more monsters then you should get this.  If you don't have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary and like monsters then you should get this.  If you are like me and just love monsters and already have the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary then you should get this.  I hope to make these points a little better below, but do keep in mind that some people have seen these monsters before.

That is just one of the ways this book feels familiar.  The other way really lives up to its name of the Book of Lost Beasts.   This book feels like Bloch took the Monster Manuals I and II (and to a lesser degree the Fiend Folio) and set out with the goal of "What monsters are missing?" and got to it.  For example, the Quasi-Elementals are more filled out.

Another great example of providing us with "what was missing" AND giving us something new are the ranks of nobility of the Dao, Djinn, Effrti, Madrid, and Rakasha. While these creatures are found in the Monster Manuals and expanded on in the ADD Bestiary, they get a longer and more detailed treatment here. 

After the 205 or so monsters there are appendices on Treasure Types and a random Creature for the Lower Planes generator. These were very popular in the pages of Dragon Magazine if you recall

The PDF is currently $9.95 which is a good price for a PDF of a monster book, and $24.95 for the hardcover.

One minor point, the book was not released under the OGL.  Doesn't matter for play or use only if you wanted to reuse a monster in an adventure.  Though given the use I have seen of the OGL over the last 20+ years this is also likely not an issue. 

If you are looking for a new monster book for use in your AD&D 1st Edition games then I can highly recommend this one.  Plus it will look great sitting next to all your other AD&D 1st books.

BRW Games Lost Books

 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #43

Dragon Magazine #43
It's October and that means horror here at the Other Side. It also used to mean horror in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  While the horror-themed issues would not start in earnest until the mid- and late-80s, this little gem of an issue was released in November of 1980.  

Let's put this all into context.  Holmes Basic was the D&D people were going to now to get started. AD&D was about to hit its highest levels of popularity.  The famous Moldvay Basic set was still a year away from publication.  Personally, I had just learned of the Monster Manual a year before and had gotten my hands on a shared copy of Holmes Basic that had been making the rounds.  I can vividly recall riding my bike to the burned-down Burger King in my neighborhood thinking it would make a great dungeon.  Ok. I was 11.  I wonder how things might have been different if I had gotten ahold of this issue before Dragon #114 (for reasons that will be obvious)?

But let's start at the beginning and that is November 1980. Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" is the #1 song on the radio.  The Awakening is the number one movie and on the stands is issue #43 of This Old Dragon.

One of the real joys of reading any old magazine, and reading Dragon in particular, is seeing all the old ads.  

Ral Partha
Ral Partha, a huge favorite, is up with some of their boxed board games. Here we see one that would vex me for years, Witch's Cauldron.  I mention it more below, but here is the start of what would become my "Traveller Envy."

A couple of things I noticed right away.  One, I tried reading "The Dragon Rumbles" a couple of times and I still am not sure what it was trying to tell me.  Maybe it's because I am tired.  The second one of the featured artists in this issue is Ed Greenwood.  He really was doing it all.

The grinning hag cover art was done by Ray Cioni, a Chicago artist and we are told there are more color pages in this issue of Dragon than any other.  This includes the witch art from Alan Burton and pages of Wormy and Jasmie from Tramp and Darlene respectively.

Out on a Limb covers the questions of the time. Where can I get a copy of Issue 39? Do Angels have psionics? It is continued later in the magazine. Breaking up longer articles was more common then.

Our main feature is Brewing Up A New NPC: The Witch.  This is an update to the witch found in issue #20. Though the presentation is better here.  There is a lot here to unpack.  This article is written by Bill Muhlhausen, revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay.  The witch here is very similar to the one found in Dragon #114.  Again, we get Low Order Witches limited to 16th level and High Order Witches limited to 22nd level.  I wondered if this was related to the 22 level cap found in the Greyhawk supplement.  The class reads through much like that of #114 and I am hard-pressed to find the exact differences. The article covers several pages.  I have had a fairly poor photocopy for years in my research binder. It was a thrill to finally read it again, this time with color, on the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM.  Now I have a print copy.

The Witch

 The true gem for me is The Real Witch: A Mixture of Fact and Fantasy by Tom Moldvay.  This article covers what a witch could be in D&D.  It is only half a page but is punching way above its weight class and I reconsult it often.  With Holmes' "promise" of a witch class and Tom Moldavy Basic about to rock my world in just one year's time, I have often (and I mean all the time) wondered what a Basic witch might be like as penned by Holmes or Moldvay.   I have mine, but they are my witches, not theirs. Especially a couple of scholars like them.

Jake Jaquet is next with the Convetions 1980 report.  It was a pretty good year for cons.   Speaking of which Dave Cook reports from Gen Con XIII with Survival tips for the Slave Pits.  And a report on the winning Dungeon Master of the tournament play, in  He's the top Dungeon Mentzer with none other than a very young-looking Frank Mentzer.

Sage Advice covers some AD&D questions that really are new.  A brief article on D&D in Germany from a West German player.  West German, I have not had to write that in a while. 

There is a six-page questionnaire/survey to determine how good of a DM you have.  It is more of a self-guide to help the players figure out what their DM is or can do for them.  It is a tool for discussion, not actually dissimilar to the RPG Consent list.  The difference lies in who should have the supposed power in this structure.  

Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut discussing Action in the Meele Round. It is always nice to go back to these and read not just what the official interpretation of the rules are/were but what were the areas where they were ambiguous.  41 years and 4 other editions later we lose track of these things.

We get some more color with the Dragon's Bestiary.  Not only color but Erol Otus art at that.  One of the "monsters" is an Amazon.  This is not the first time we get a witch and amazon connection. There is art in the OD&D books of a "Beautiful Witch" and an Amazon together.   It is one of the reasons I like to include Amazons in my witch books.  Both for the Cult of Diana and the duality of magical and martial qualities.   

Dragon's Bestiary

I didn't find the other two monsters, the Tolwar and the Lythlyx to be as interesting. Though I did find the Ed Greenwood art credit. He created the text and art for the Lythlyx.

Philip Meyers discusses illusions in Now you see it . . .but is it really there?.  I wonder that if Dragon #43 had been my first Dragon about witches and not #114, would my witches today have more illusion spells?

Ad for the 1981 Days of the Dragon calendar. If you can find one it will work for 2026 as well. 

For our big center-piece is a Traveller adventure called Canard from Roberto Camino. I have read through it a couple of times and it looks fun. I might need to use this Summer of 2022 when I plan my big outing for Traveller.   

Speaking of Traveller.  The reviews section is next and Roberto Camino is back reviewing the latest Traveller product Azhanti High Lightning in Azhanti: Almost too Creative.   This is likely the start of my Traveller Envy.  This was popular among the "older kids" that played Traveller a lot and it just looked so cool to me. It's a game all by itself AND it is a supplement to the main Traveller RPG.    

Douglas P. Bachmann reviews SPI's DragonQuest.  While he is not a fan of the ad copy hyperbole, he does make me want to try out this game even more.  Though we are warned that with the supplements then planned that DragonQuest could end up costing you $94 to #98 to play. A very expensive game!

A reminder of our forebears is next from Bryan Beecher in the next in his series of Squad Leader articles, #5: The Fall of Sevastopol. This one deals with a battle between the Russians and Germans in the late Spring of 1942. The DM I would meet the very next year was WAY into Squad Leader and tried to get me to play a few times.  He drifted away from RPGs eventually and even deeper into Wargames and Reenacting.  Not my bag, but I could see how he enjoyed them.  This was the DM that ran me through the Slave Lords series years ago. 

An opinion piece is up from Larry DiTillio.  The same that worked on He-Man and She-Ra as well as the Masks of Nyarlathotep.  The article, Apples, Oranges, Role-playing, and Morality, replies an article (in Dragon #39) by Douglas P. Bachmann on morality in fantasy. This article works on the premise that Mr. Bachmann did not truly understand the game worlds and the responsibility of DMing.  It's hard to evaluate this response without reading the first, but there are some interesting takeaways. There is room in AD&D (and other RPGs) for both DiTillio's world and Bachmann's.  As AD&D  game progresses with a good DM there will be other solutions to deal with problems other than with "the sword" (Witchlight is a good modern example).

Hate Orcs? You'll Love this Campaign by Roger Moore details his ideas for an all dwarven game in AD&D.  Now this might strike newer players as odd' not because of the all dwarf nature, but because back then in AD&D dwarves had class limits making it a different sort of challenge.  For example there were no Dwarven wizards.  While I like the newer versions of the game and can choose any class, I personally still find Dwarven wizards a little odd.  BUT that is not the point of Moore's article. His point is how to make it work in spite of the rule of rule limitations. 

Out on a Limb continues. We get a letter from an "E. Gary Gygax" from Lake Geneva, WI. He addresses an article from Dragon #40 about buffing up undead. This Gary guy seems to know a thing or two.

The Electric Eye covers Four From Space on Tape by Mark Herro. What we have are four different space-themed computer games on one cassette tape. I am not going to be all "well..back in my day computer programs were on cassette tape and you had the CLOAD them before you could play..."  No instead I want to reflect on two things.  First. Wow, have we come a long way!  These game were designed for the TRS-80 Level II Basic on a 16k computer.  16k! As of right now this post is 8.5k and takes up 12K of disc space.  One of my new hardware projects here at home is rebuilding a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (with a HUGE 64k).  Let's pause a moment and be impressed by how far technology has come since the 80s.   The second point is, wow, companies really were fairly open about their copyright infringement back then.  This cassette has four games, Ultra Trek (Star Trek), Romulan (also Star Trek), Star Wars (what it says), and Star Lanes which was an outer space stock market.

Dragonmirth is next with the comics. In our color section, we get Finieous Fingers, a Wormy, and Jasmine.  The art in Jasmine is so different from anything else here. This is of course thanks to artist, cartographer, and under-sung hero of the World of Greyhawk, Darlene. I think Jasmine was too "adult" for the target audiences of Dragon at the time. Not "Adult" as in nudity (we have a bare ass on page 70, six pages before this) but in content. The art is fantastic, but the story doesn't pull you in, at least not unless you were there in the start.  Sadly Jasmine was cut for space, but I would like to do a retrospective on it someday.

Jasmine by Darlene

Really one of the great issues for me and it captures a time, for me at least, where there truly was no end of the possibilities in sight. 

Minus Issue #5 (but represented my Best Of Vol 1) I have all the published Dragon Magazine Witches.

Dragon Witches


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mail Call, Part 2: Another Return to Ravenloft

Ravenloft Print on Demand
Well, I had forgotten I ordered this, but I am glad I did.  Waiting for me on my front porch after getting groceries today was a Print on Demand copy of I6 Ravenloft

It was not very expensive really, just under $9 for the book. I had bought the PDFs when it first came out so I just grabbed the Print on Demand version this time.  Getting both is $2 more than just the print but still cheaper than getting them separate like I did. 

It was about $4 for shipping and a buck something for taxes.  All in all, it came in just $15.   Sure more expensive than my original, but relatively speaking still cheap.

The scan is really nice. Not exactly what I would call crisp, but perfectly clear.

The maps are in the back of the book, as the pictures below will show. So not really useful. But when you buy it with the PDF you can print them out.  

Ravenloft Print on Demand

Ravenloft Print on Demand

Ravenloft Print on Demand

It's not like I needed another copy of Ravenloft.  I have ran it so many times now already I don't think I'll run it again as is.  But it is nice to have this.  It does compare well to my original edition and my 25th-anniversary edition.

Ravenloft three different printings

Not to mention the AD&D 2nd Edition House of Strahd, the D&D 3rd Edition Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, and the 5th Edition Curse of Strahd.  All of which are essentially the same adventure with tweaks to their respective systems.

All versions of Castle Ravenloft

I am likely to give my new copy to my oldest son who LOVES Ravenloft now.  This kid hated anything horror growing up and now can't get enough.

Maybe one day I'll run it with a distaff Strahd.  OR maybe Darlessa?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #110

Dragon Magazine #110
While this one was on my list to do, I moved it to this week for a very obvious reason, which I'll get to, but in the meantime let us looking what Issue #110, the Tenth Anniversary issue of Dragon has to offer.

It is June 1986 and what came to be known as the Dragon Wars had begun in my campaign world.  My regular DM had graduated and was preparing to go off to the Air Force.  I was concentrating on getting in as many math and science classes as I could prior to going off to college.  It was an interesting time.

I remember sitting down in the Pavilion at Nichols Park in my hometown reading over this issue. It seemed to be filled with great things.  I am happy to report that my memory lives up to reality. 

Before we get into the magazine proper let's take a moment to marvel at this cover by Kevin Davies, The Vanquished Cavalier.  Likely one of the top 10 covers in my opinion.  And it is art you can buy for your own projects. 

Kim Mohan discusses the 10th Anniversary of Dragon Magazine here, noting that there will be less hoopla now than in Issue #100.  Future anniversaries will have a bit more "pomp."

Letters cover the topics of the day, namely more revisions of the Ranger.  Seriously has anyone EVER been happy with the Ranger??  One letter asks if the Electronic Eye is ever coming back and we told that yes, a computer-based column is back in this issue.  I was quite pleased with this. I had just bought a new computer, a Color Computer 3 but they never covered games for it.  Backed the wrong horse that time, but I can't complain.  Like the Old-School Revival for D&D there is an Old-School Revival (of sorts) for old computers.  

The Forum covers the lament of the time, this too much Greyhawk in the pages of Dragon and the Unearthed Arcana.  I remember all of this. Oh to have those problems now.  

Our first article is from Ed Greenwood and it is a classic in my mind.  The Cult of the Dragon not only introduces the titular cult, it also introduces us to the Dracolich.  Re-reading it now I find it interesting that the genesis of this article comes from Dragonlance.  Well, the Realms Boxed set won't be released for a little yet. The article was an early favorite of mine and I spent a lot of time comparing this article to the classic Blueprint for a Lich from Best of Dragon Vol. II.  I really respected what Ed was doing here.  Rereading it now I am still marveling at how good it still is.  I might need to incorporate this into my games somehow.  The cult migrated from Krynn to Toril and then to the rest of the multiverse.   This is of course the best thing to use in a Dragon article; finding something and making it work for your game. 

Up next are two articles that would make up a One Man's God: Norse Mythos, Part II.  The two articles came to the Dragon offices at the same time so they decided to run them both.

The first is For Better or Norse: I Equal time for the members of the Vanir by Joel McGraw.  This one covers the Vanir gods.  Of personal interest, we get Angur-boda, Grid, and Gullveig are all described variously as witches.  There are also stats for Njord, Mimir, Nidhogg, and Utgard-Loki the "star" of the first Norse myth I ever read.  Honestly, these should be glued into my D&DG. Again none of these would really be considered AD&D demons.

Next is For Better or Norse: II New Descriptions of Some Old Favorites by Carl Sargent.  This one gives us some updates to the Norse gods found in the D&DG.  Featured are Niord (spelled differently this time), Frey, Freya, and Loki.  Loki gets the biggest change, going from Chaotic Evil to Chaotic Neutral.  I felt at the time this was a good change.  I still do, but now I have a greater appreciation of the myths and the character.  Again, I wish I could paste this one into my D&DG.

An ad for one of my favorite Near-D&D products of all time, the Arcanum.

The Arcanum

Another Ed Greenwood article is next and it is one only Ed can do; All about Elminster.  I went from being mildly annoyed by Elminster (here) to outright dislike, to rabid dislike (2nd Ed), to acceptance (3rd ed) and even a begrudging like (now).  The article is actually rather fun.  Elminster is a 26th level magic-user.  The article also includes some new spells which is expected.  I am not sure how these compare to his 3rd Edition stats.  Since my issue is falling apart anyway this will go into my Forgotten Realms boxed set.

The Role of Computers is up for it's debut.   Examples are given for the Macintosh computer, arguably the most advanced machine at the time.  

Leonard Carpenter is up with Dragon Damage Revisited.  This revises the damage done by dragons from the Fiend Folio, Monster Manual II, and the gemstone dragons.  This very conversation came up the other day online in talking about 1st Ed dragons.  You  can see how across the editions they made dragons more and more powerful.  These numbers look pretty good, I'll have to dig up the first in the series and see what their logic is. 

Our centerpiece adventure is The House in the Frozen Lands by James Adams.  I always thought this was more tied directly to the Norse myths, but I think that was only my memory.  The adventure is for 6-10 characters of 4th to 8th level.   If nothing else there are some good ideas of the types of encounters one can find in an arctic environment.  The adventure always looked interesting to me since it didn't feel like a dungeon crawl.

TSR Previews lets us know what is coming out in July and August of 1986.  I remember buying REF2 Character Sheets and then taking them to college where I ran off 100s of copies at Kinkos on different colored sheets.  In fact, I still have some.  Those sheets outlived both TSR and Kinkos.  I had never heard of some of the board games here, but I did find listings for The BROADWAY Game and The HONEYMOONERS Game.  Nothing though in my quick search for The PARAMOUNT Game.

TSR Previews July/Aug 1986

The fiction section is The Wizard's Boy by Nancy Varian Berberick. I didn't read it, but Berberick went on to write more novels and short stories including a few Dragonlance ones for Wizards. 

Moving on to the Arēs section. 

Knowledge is Power by John M. Maxstadt gives us a skill system for Gamma World. This looks like it is for 2nd Edition GW, but I will admit I am not knowledgeable on the differences between 2nd and 3rd.  

There is a bit on underwater action in Star Frontiers from William Tracy in Going for a Swim.  I am pretty sure that I never had characters go underwater ever in SF. Space yes, sea no.  BUT that all being said there are some good ideas here that are useful to most games. This includes getting "the bends" and movement and other hazards. The article really does read like a 20th-century point of view rather than a futuristic one.  I would assume that a culture capable of FTL flight had worked some of these other issues out as well. 

Piece of the Action details organized crime in Paranoia. This is another one of those articles that would later get Wizards of the Coast into trouble with the Dragon CD-ROM.  It is copyrighted 1986 by the author Ken Tovar. 

Gamers' Guide gives us our small ads. I love looking at this even if I know most, if not all, these places have long since closed up shop. 

Gamers' Guide 1986

One thing though. Lou Zocchi's ad mentions he is selling the original Deities & Demigods with Cthulhu and Elric. No shock there, but there is also a mention of the BROWN cover Monster Manuals that are the same of the current Blue cover.  What is he talking about here?  Does he mean the original 1977 cover versus the orange spine?  That is the only thing I can think of to be honest.

Lou Zocchi's ad

Convention Calendar gives us the happenings of Summer 1986.  None were close to me.

Dragonsmirth, Snarf Quest, and Wormy follow.

Gamers of a certain will go on and on about how great Dragon was in the early 80s. And to a large part I agree, it was great.  But the late 80s and even into the 90s Dragon was great as well, for different reasons.  The first 10 years of Dragon captured the hobby in its early days and its DIY attitude, which one of the big reasons people loved it AND the same attitude that drove the early days of the OSR.  Dragon entering its second decade was a more polished magazine and the article quality had improved.  DIY was still there, but not the gritty DIY of the 1970s and early 80s.  Still, I find a lot in these pages, 1986 to 1996, that I find very useful and more to the point, things I would still use today.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

One Man's God: Japanese Mythos

D&DG Japanese Mythos
It's been a while I figure today is a good day for another One Man's God. A brief review of the purpose and "rules" here.

The purpose of One Man's God is to see how I can take the creatures of the various mythos as they appear in the Deities and Demigods and see how they could have been represented as AD&D demons. NOT Abrahamic religion demons, or even esoteric or occult demons, but AD&D demons as they appeared in and defined by the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II.  

That is my first rule.  So no need to come at me saying "X culture did not have demons."  Not only are demons in D&D not real, no demons are real, so by that logic no culture has demons, but all cultures have stories of demons and stories can be retold.

Also, this is NOT a criticism of the research methods of the original authors and researchers of the Deities and Demigods.  It is easy for me to criticize sitting here in my office chair in 2021 with access to pretty every written book, scholarly article, and more in any language at my fingertips.   They had the local library.  So another rule is I can't criticize the material based on what I can research now.  I can use research from now to help inform my opinions, but that is all.

I can look a little beyond my sources here (D&DG, MM, FF, and MM2) to see what could fit into these based on the rules above.  But I am not going to add to much more beyond that. That's what Monstrous Monday is for.

Ok? Cool?  Great! 

Today I want to hit one that was HUGE back in the 80s. Japanese Mythos

Growing up in the 80s you could not help be nearly overwhelmed with references to or from Japanese culture.  Well...not real Japanese culture, a weird American version of it for mass consumption.  Ninjas, karate, Richard Chamberlain running around in a kimono on TV in Shōgun, and more than I can remember.  I even got caught up in it all and found some Japanese myths to read, in particular the tales of Momotarō (the Peach Boy). 

It was odd that almost none* of what I read connected back to the myths in the D&DG.  Now I see that their myths are too widely varied, complex, and even some had not been translated to an easily consumable English version.  Some concepts in Japanese do not have good English equivalents. My first year in grad school I took Japanese as an extra elective, I found it extremely fascinating and remarkably difficult.  The Deities & Demigods even touches on this with the concept of Kami.  We would use the word like "god" or "spirit,"  even in the Goddess Amaterasu we get the word "Omikami" or more appropriately, Ōmikami.  

*I will talk about what did connect.

The Gods and Goddesses

Despite how interesting these myths are and how much they were likely used, there are only five pages of them in D&DG and only 13 entries.  There are heroes, which is really important for the tales, most of the stories of Japan are about the exploits of the heroes. Of these, I only recall reading about Yamamoto Date.  But that has far more to do with Me not reading everything on Japanese myths.

Of the Gods the best known are the trinity of Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess, "the great august deity"), Tsukiyomi (the Moon God), and Susanoo (the God of Storms and Seas).  Now, these are the stories I know well.  I am remarkably pleased that the depictions and stats match up well with my personal ideas of what these gods are.  Amaterasu is easily the most powerful god in this book, thankfully for the mortals, she is Lawful Good.  In my games, there was no greater foe of the undead than her. And let me just say I am so pleased the authors did not take the easy way out and make Susanowo Chaotic Evil and went with the more appropriate Chaotic Neutral.

A couple of Goddesses that I remember reading about didn't make it in.  I mean I easily see why, but still, it would have been nice to see them.

Ame-no-Uzume

Ame-no-Uzume is the Goddess of the Dawn and for her role in the story of Amaterasu and the Cave she is the Goddess of Revelry.  In many ways the "darker" versions of Amaterasu and Ame-no-Uzume can be found in my "Nox" and "Syla" the goddess of the Dusk and Near Dark.

But back to Uzume.  I am not the first to point this one out and many others more read than me have done a better job.  But if you want to bring Ame-no-Uzume all you need to do is turn a few pages back to the Indian myths and bring over the similarity named Ushas, the Goddess of the Dawn. Her stats are pretty much perfect as is.  

Isshin-ryū Mizo-Game
Mizo-Game

Oh, Mizu Game. How you have vexed me over the years.

So WAY back in the day I decided to take karate lessons, their was a local place that was offering Isshin-ryū Karate and I decided to join.  I spent a couple years doing it. I was good, not great, but I felt like it achieved my then goal of getting some extra exercise.  The important part for today is the Isshin-ryū patch.  I was told that the half-woman/half-dragon goddess on the patch was Mizo-Game a Sea Goddess.  So naturally, I wanted a character that worshipped her.  But outside of Isshin-ryū I could not find out anything about her.  And you know what?  I STILL can't.  Every so often I get the idea to search for her again and I have only limited success.

Now with this post, it's going to mess with my search algorithms even more! 

I had hoped to find a goddess I could borrow from other myths, like I do for Uaume, but nothing came up.  She would be a Lawful Neutral demigoddess of the sea.  She related to dragons and to the other gods.

Mizo Game in Isshin-ryū

Demons

While this is all fantastic. There are no monsters here, let alone any demons. 

A while back I talked about the Yaoguai or Chinese demons.   The name means something like "strange ghost" or "strange devil."  In Japan, similar creatures are called Yōkai. Which also means "strange apparition."

In my games, Yaoguai and Yōkai are both different lineages of demons that are related.   There are no creatures listed in the D&DG that would count.  The closest we get is the Ogre Mage, also called the "Japanese Ogre" in the Monster Manual.  BUT that creature is obviously based on the Oni. 

Are Oni demons or yōkai?  I am going to say no. The tales of Momotarō, also known as the Peach Boy, feature many Oni, and while they are powerful and even a little supernatural, but they are not really demons.  Sadly even branching out into the Oriental Adventures does not help here.  Though there are also Ushi-oni that are very much yōkai and Oni are said to have come from the "demon gate/"

For demons and yōkai it would seem I am on my own and I have a lot more research and reading to do.

No Yōkai here.

Expect to see some Yōkai in future Monstrous Mondays. Will I reclassify Oni as demons?  No idea yet.

It's too bad that with all the material out there on Yōkai that so little to almost none made it into AD&D.

There is only one more set of myths left in this series and I am hoping it will be a big one!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Oriental Adventures, One Year Later

Oriental Adventures
Hopefully, I can put the latest tempest-in-a-teapot away for the one that was consuming us all last year.  

It was one year ago that the whole Oriental Adventures deal went down.  I am not going to go into all of it; there were petitions, camels, and a lot of chicken-little hysterics.  But here are some of the salient details.

A year ago game designer Daniel Kwan posted his concerns to Twitter about how culturally insensitive WotC's (formerly TSR's) Oriental Adventures is. 

This quickly devolved into the lowest sniping that is typical of these cultural debates. 

The end result was Wizards of the Coast putting a disclaimer on all older products about how they are an artifact of their times that honestly did not appease anyone.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

So where are we now?

People made a HUGE outcry that they were going to be censored and that the older PDFs were going to get pulled or worse, they were going to be edited. People kept screaming slippery slope and other weak arguments.

None of that happened.

What did happen is that OA went from just a small handful of reviews and "just" a Platinum bestseller to a couple of score ratings (not actually reviews) and a Mithral best seller.

Screenshot 2020-01-03
Screenshot 2020-01-03

Screenshot 2021-04-12
Screenshot 2021-04-12. Only difference? Disclaimer and greater sales rank.

Comparing the files I downloaded when it was first offered in 2014, the one I downloaded in July of 2020, and the one I downloaded just now, they are all the exact same.  There is a difference of 11 bytes between the 2020 and 2021 versions that I can't account for yet, but every page is the same.

OA files
Your file sizes may vary due to name and customer ID#

Nothing in the file itself has changed.

I said at the time that WotC was not going to take it down and they were not going to change it.  I was right not because I had faith in WotC (far from it) I had faith in the money involved.

  • To take down a best-selling, low-cost, high ROI product is foolish.
  • To edit the same product incurs a cost, a high cost in many cases, that greatly reduces that ROI.

The intelligent thing to do is always make a new, better product to support the new current rules system, not anything at all for a nearly 50-year-old system with a diminishing customer base.

Also, the assertion that this would cause WotC to stop selling classic D&D pdfs altogether was easily dismissed. They kept adding more and more pdfs and PoD ready books. Focus has shifted a little from adding new pdfs (though the most recent ones are from June 18th or so) to get current pdfs PoD ready.

At the end of the day, Daniel Kwan was still making some very good claims.  These have been carefully spelled out in this series of videos. Warning this is over 26 hours long. If you want to dispute his point of view you need to watch this first.

Back then I said:

If I were in charge of the D&D line I would get in front of this now saying "Yeah, you have some great points. Let's assemble a dream team of experts both in history and in RPGs to make a new BETTER book."

I stand by that.  I have no idea if WotC is doing this or not, but I am a bit disappointed that no 3rd party publisher came forward to do it.  Now to be fair, Paizo very well could have done this and I just missed it. Brian Young has been doing exactly this for Castles & Crusades at Troll Lord Games.  Maybe the closest we have is Joesph Bloch's / BRWGames' The Golden Scroll of Justice. I don't have it, but I have read that it is good.  (edited to add. I just bought it to see how it is. First reaction, it looks good and has the level of quality I have come to expect from BRWGames, but I have no idea how representative it is, I am not qualified to measure that.)

People need to stop looking at these as "threats" and see them as opportunities to do better or at very, very least sell more books. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition

AD&D Players Manual
Up until 2000 if you said "D&D" most people thought of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.   Indeed it was AD&D that dominated the later part of the 1970s, 1980s, and with 2nd Edition the 90s. Though that is for tomorrow's post.

Today I take on the game that I played the most and the one that dominates the imagination of so many still today.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

A lot of ink, both real and virtual, has been spilled on the whats, whys, and hows of the differences between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D, so I see no need to spill more here.  Suffice to say that they are different games, though we freely mixed them back in the day. 

The evolution of D&D from Original to 5th edition sees it's first divergence here. 

In the AD&D 1st Ed years there was no official witch class.  There were however many unofficial and semi-official witch classes.  I talked about the Dragon Magazine #43 witch yesterday but I used it for Basic D&D.  The class was famously, or maybe infamously, updated in 1986 for AD&D in the pages of Dragon #114.  It was, and maybe still is, one of the most popular versions of the witch ever made for D&D.

AD&D Players Manual, 4 versions

The Character: Rhiannon

Ah. If I had a dime for every Rhiannon I have run into over the years. 

Not that I can blame anyone. The Golden Age of AD&D was the early 80s and the Queen of the music charts was Stevie Nicks. "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac was released in 1975 on the album Fleetwood Mac. The second Fleetwood Mac album to feature this title, and their tenth overall, but the first with new couple Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  But in the 1980s it wasn't this album or even the insanely good and popular Rumours or Tusk that grabbed me and my imagination. No it was Stevie's solo efforts Belladonna and (especially) The Wild Heart that began my deep, deep love affair with witches.

Rhiannon would be an old witch in my games today. Likely a relative or even a spiritual Goddess-mother to Larina.  But today she is the young Maiden who "rings like a bell through the night" and looks for a lover.  I can't help think of her as anything but the famous art Elmore drew in the Dragon #114 piece.  If she looks a little like Stevie, well, maybe Stevie looks like her.

Rhiannon
1st level Witch, Sisters of the Moon coven, High Secret Order
Chaotic Good

STR: 11
INT: 16
WIS: 13
DEX: 13
CON: 11
CHA: 15

AC: 9
HP: 3

Saving Throws
Witches use the best of Cleric & Magic-user Saves.

Poison or Death: 10
Petrification or Polymorph: 13
Rod, Staff, or Wands: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spell: 12

Saves +2 against other witch magic

Spells
1st (1+3):  Darkness, Mending, Seduction, Sleep

Equipment
Dagger, backpack, iron rations, water, 50' rope, staff.

AD&D Players Manuals and Dragon #114
Everything you need for a witch character in 1986

I think an updated, and more mature, Rhiannon will need to grace my War of the Witch Queens games sometime.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.