Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts

Thursday, May 3, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #67

Let's talk about 1982 for a bit.  Over the summer D&D had been thrust into the spotlight again, though this time in a positive way, in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Though the version played on screen didn't look a lot like what we all played, it was still much better than what we would later get in Mazes and Monsters (Dec. 1982) or on 60 Minutes (1985).  82 was an interesting time for me too.  I was deep, deep into my Basic/Expert game and having a blast. I was not reading Dragon yet, so going through these issues is always part nostalgia (for the time) and part new discovery.  So why not go back to a simpler time.  John Cougar (Mellencamp) is singing a little diddy about Jack & Diane growing up in the mid-west and on the shelves for November 1982 is issue #67 of This Old Dragon!

This is another issue sent to me by Eric C. Harshbarger from his collection.  It's in great shape too.

The cover is of the silly variety, but that is fine with me.  It is something I associate fondly with this time.  I guess never ask the barbarian to cut the turkey on Thanksgiving!

Flipping over (since I have the cover this time!) we get that great B/X D&D ad from the early 80s with Jami Gertz and Alan Ruck.

Mike Cook takes on the role of Publisher for the first time.

Letters covers some errors as seen by readers. This includes the infamous example of the lucern hammer being a pole-arm and not a hammer.  Also Len Lakofka has some criticisms on the "missing dragons" article that gave us the yellow, orange and purple dragons.

Gary is up first with From the Sorceror's Scroll.  He introduces a bunch of new Magic-User spells of the 1st through 4th level.  All of these (and more) will end up in Unearthed Arcana, here just referred too as ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ® Expansion volume.
Seeing these here like this is a bit odd, I am used to these spells being official content by way of UA.  But I am sure there were groups that argued that.
Later on Gygax covers some rumors, like TSR buy Grenadier and new sets of Dragon Dice coming out.  Neither of these came to pass.



Another Gygax hit is next this time in Featured Creatures.  We get the Grugach elf (based on a Celtic creature if I recall right), the Valley Elf (she's a valley elf, a valley elf. ok fine fer sure fer sure...) and the Cooshee (based on the Cù Sìth).  I joke, but I actually liked the Valley Elf.
Again, all this content will be later added to the Unearthed Arcana and the Monster Manual II.

Spy's Advice is up from Merle M. Rasmussen. With answers to your Top Secret questions.
Not related to this article per se, but if you ever get the chance to talk to Merle about Top Secret, please do so.  No one is as enthusiastic about this game as he is and it is quite infectious.  You leave not only wanting to play, but wondering why you play any other game!

Gregg Chamberlain has some advice on Souping up the Spider.  A good one for me to hold onto for when I run Q1 this summer.

Gary is back again (!) with the next installment of The Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk.  In this issue we get the stats and backgrounds on Heironeous and his arch nemesis Hextor. Iuz and his rival St. Cuthbert.  In an interesting bit, Iuz is described as possibly being some by-blow of Orcus and not of Graz'zt as later revealed.

The big feature of this issue is Roger Moore's treatsie on The Astral Plane. It's a good read and lot of what is here later found it's way into other books over the years.  Though there is still a lot of good stuff to read here.  The article is quite long to be honest and filled with great information.

It leads right into an adventure set in the Astral Plane.  Fedifensor is an adventure for 6-8 AD&D characters of level 7 and up and written by Allen Rogers.  The characters need to head out to a Githyanki outpost to recover a Lawful Good sword, the titular Fedifensor.

The fiction section is an odd one for me, odd in the sense that I actually read it.  I had expected King of Cats to be about the Gygax Rexfelis (to give you an idea of when I finally got a copy of this) and found it was a much more entertaining story in the style of Celtic myth.  I am not sure if this was the first time I had heard of the Hill of Tara or not, but it is something that has been a central feature to many of my games since. The picture of Black Tam Chattan still is a good stand-in for the AD&D Catlord.



The spells continue here.

Gygax has another contribution! This time in the form of the Beauty, or as he prefers, Comeliness stat.  To be honest, we never used this when it appeared in the Unearthed Arcana either.

Another article by Gary, this time one of his more famous ones.  Poker, Chess, and the AD&DTM System. Or how I have read it in the past, "The rules are guidelines unless they are rules I wrote and those are RULES!"  It covers what is and certainly what is NOT official rules.  You certainly get the gist that D&D has rules, and you can experiment with them. AD&D has rules and any deviations mean you are no longer playing AD&D at all.  Retrospect tells us a little about why this was going on. The overt reason is tournaments, but the hidden reason was the lawsuit between TSR/Gygax and Dave Arneson.  Gary, of course, is making some good points here along with some grandstanding, but in truth we all house-ruled everything.  While he makes some good points about the reach of Dragon to all gamers, the same logic could be applied to tournament-level AD&D and all AD&D/D&D players out there.  The average player didn't care about that.  They wanted to have some fun. He has some more on the barbarian and the Deva, both to be featured in books later.

The Role of Books is up. Lewis Pulsipher covers some of the big names in the realm of mythology publishing and how to use them in your games.  Lew really is the academic of this early group of game designers.

Ken Rolston covers the TrollPak books from Chaosium.  I was always very curious and little fascinated by these books.  I had spoken to other gamers that had moved over to Runequest and used these trolls in their AD&D games (shhh! don't tell anyone!) I still want to find a copy of this. I would drop the trolls I normally use in favor of these. I think it would be fun.

Lots of ads. Wormy and What's New?

The back cover has an ad for the AD&D Action Scenes from the MPC model kit company.  Back in this time I had built so many models from these guys. A couple R2-D2s, a C-3P0, Darth Vader's TIE fighter (my favorite one!).  I would have totally bought these.   I kind of want them now.
eBay has one for $130.  Not sure if that is worth it.



What a fun issue. Lots of material here, though not much I can use today in my games except for the great Astral Plane stuff.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #35.

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.

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, 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?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #49

Bit of a cheat today.  I went out to my FLGS and picked this one up just so I could review it today!  I wanted to have a look at the Alchemist class.  I was having a conversation online with a former co-worker and former White Wolf designer about the Alchemist.  I thought it might be fun to go back to the source.  So set back, enjoy because They Don't Write 'Em like this anymore. It's May 1981 and this is Issue #49 of This Old Dragon!

Let's talk about the cover first.  Wow. Nothing gets my early 80s gaming nostalgia going more than Tim Hilderbrandt.  A freaking HUGE dragon attacking a castle? Wow. That's some next level D&D action there.  The adventurers have retired and suddenly the big brother of all those dragons they killed comes a knockin.

Lovely old-school ad for ICE's Arms Law. 

So we learn right away that Dragon has a new publisher, Jake Jaquent and a new EiC, a young man by the name of Kim Mohan.  I bet we will hear more about him in the future.

You can really tell this is much older issue.  The first couple of articles deal largely with Tournament Play and Judging.

In the interest of fairness... by Dr. Allen Barwick fresh off the heels of Origins discusses the ins and out of judging a tournament game.

Philip Meyers has some more advice on The Slave Pits revisited.  It would have been interesting to have read this back when I ran the Slaver's series.  Granted, I was not doing it as a tournament play, but still, it would have been interesting.
Frank Mentzer has a rebuttal to this in Mentzer’s reply: It isn’t that easy.
I have run one (maybe two??) tournament games before.  It was fun, but not something I want to seek out to do all the time.

Related to all of this is a nice bit on Gen Con keeps on growing. No word on attendance predictions, but there will be over 170 events at Gen Con 14.

Anthony Salva is up first (! it's page 18 already) with the Samurai NPC class to fill that 80s need for everything Japanese.  Yes, I did own a copy of a Book of Five Rings too.   We are still few off from the official Oriental Adventures. But this is not a bad class really.  I never played Samurai at all, but I do see the appeal.

Merle M. Rasmussen has an article for Top Secret. This one covers various types of ammunition.
I really admire Merle's continued dedication to this game. That dedication is on display here in the long article. 

Karl Horak is next with a world-building article for D&D and AD&D; Getting a World into Shape.  Into shape is a bit literal, using various flat solids to represent a globe for mapping purposes.  This is something of a lost art in my mind.  I LOVE mapping software, especially ones that can give me a globe and a flat map.  But these skills are still very useful.

A series that I really miss is up next. Giants in the Earth covers some characters from Poul Anderson.  We get Holger Carlsen (14th level Paladin), Hugi (5th level fighter) and T. J. Morgan’s Ellide (6th level fighter).  Not familiar with these, but it is still fun. 

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on Historical Names.

Jon Mattson has an article that appeals to my obsessive desires to convert everything to everything else. Monster Mixing: Converting AD&D Monsters to Chivilary & Sorcery is exactly the sort of article I loved.  It gave me insight to a new game from the lense of a game I already knew.

The center section deals with the art and insight of Tim Hilderbrandt.  It is interesting and a real departure from the normal Dragon fare.

has a new creature. New even to me.  The Norga is a cat-like beast that causes darkness.  It is kinda cool really. Wonder if it ever got updated.
Ah, now we are at the feature I bought this for,.  Len Lakofka is back with his Tiny Hut feature giving us yet another NPC class that we all played anyway.  A Recipe for the Alchemist gives us a sub-class of the Magic-User. It's a long article giving us the level information for the Alchemist as well as the types of things an alchemist can create.  As with many of the classes from Lakofka it is elegant and very playable.  There are many great ideas here and I'd love to explore this class in depth a bit more.

Gary Snyder and Roger E. Moore have two independent guides on Wishes.  I took a novel approach to wishes in my games, I stopped having them.  No ring of Three Wishes and the Wish spell is severely Nerfed.

Travel & threads for DragonQuest by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh covers travel in the DragonQuest game.  DQ was always one of those games I knew about, read about and never got to play.   It looked like fun and I remember flipping through it a lot at my local bookstores.  Maybe I should pick up a copy, I bet they are pretty cheap on eBay (checking...eep! not as cheap as I hoped!).

The Eaters of Wisdom by Glenn Rahman looks like fluff for a game, but I can't tell what game.  Could be for any, certainly could work for any. 

The Eletric Eye covers a couple of new programs.  A BASIC program for keeping time for wandering monsters and a TI-58 Calculator program also for keeping time.  I think I still have a TI-58 here somewhere.  Maybe I could try it out.

Interesting Dungeon Hobby Shop ad.


Ed Greenwood is up with an opinion on Players Don't Need to Know all the Rules.  Pretty sure I disagree with this.

Dragon Mirth,  What's New (still in B&W), Wormy, and some Finieous Fingers.

Honestly a fun issue and worth the price.

I will admit it has a real White Dwarf feel to it for me.  Not sure why.
IF you are curious you can see what I was saying about White Dwarf at the time in White Dwarf Wednesday #24.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #70

Let's go all the way back to the winter of 1983.  I was in 8th grade and getting excited about the new Return of the Jedi movie coming up.  Toto had knocked out Men At Work for a week with "Africa". In the theatres we cult classics like "The House on Sorority Hill", "The Entity" and "Videodrome". Though I would not see any of them myself till they came to videotape. At this point my gaming life was dedicated to the B/X rules but I was also moving over to AD&D.  It was a great time for gaming. It's February 1983 and this is issue #70 of This Old Dragon!

To begin I want to spend some time on this cover.  I really like this cover. I am not sure why really. It's not really D&D-ish or action filled or has magic in it.  But I have always liked it. It is by Dean Morrissey and has a Viking vibe to it.

Out on a Limb has readers asking for more coverage of other games. The "problem" we now face is there are so many games out now!

There is a little note here looking for native language Japanese speakers to translate D&D and AD&D games.

Ed Greenwood gives us another entry into the "OMG how much stuff was Ed writing back then?" file. This time another NPC class, The Smith. No word on whether or not you should name one Morrissey.  It is a good example of something that either a.) doesn't need to be a class or b.) justification of a "tradesman" or "expert" class like we later got in AD&D 2nd Ed (Masque of the Red Death) and D&D 3rd Ed respectively.  That all being said there is a lot of material here to help you decide what the local smith can do.

Bruce Evry is up with The Hull Truth About Speed. Or how size effects speed in ships. Interesting, but I never did much with ocean voyages till much, much later in my gaming career.

From the Sorcerer's Scroll is up and Gary Gygax has his rules for Social Class.  These would later appear in Unearthed Arcana more or less exactly as they appear here.
This is followed up by Frank Mentzer with how to use social classes in your games in A ‘Caste’ of Realistic Characters.  These are rules we used a lot in my games.  Social Class, in particular, Lords vs. Everyone Else was a big deal.

Frank is back with another go at Falling Damage. Back when this issue was new there were multiple independent D&D/AD&D groups in my Jr. High.  Consequently, there were also multiple independent methods of calculating "more realistic" falling damage.  So these articles were always a source of lively debate.  "Lively Debate" I think I meant 13-year olds arguing on who was right and who was stupid.

Come to think of it. Social Class and Falling Damage.  Sounds like a perfect metaphor for the 80s.

Giants Can be Awful or Awe-ful by Roger Moore is one of the enduring articles of this issue. It is one I come back too every so often when wanting to add a special guest NPC to a game. The "Giants" of the article refers to the "Giants In The Earth" column with NPC stats for some of literature's famous characters. What is also great about this article is the Appendix to all the Giants articles of the past with a list of characters and very brief class stats. Circe, for example, appeared in issue 52 and is an 18th level magic-user.

Gary is up again with the Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk.   This time we get three that I have always thought of as his favorites; Boccob (the Uncaring),  Zagyg (the mad arch-mage), and Olidammara (the Laughing Rogue).

Dwarves in Space by Roger Moore was an article that always appealed to me.  Essentially it is get D&D style dwarves into Traveller.  It works and Moore gives us plenty of great reasons why it would work.

Not to be outdone, Ed Greenwood is back (again!) and going in the other direction. A Second Volley is another look at firearms in AD&D.  Like Moore, he makes some good arguments.  Enough that I might give it a try in my next game.  Won't that freak out my kids!

The centerpiece is Mechica is an AD&D adventure for 5-8 characters, each of 4th-7th level by Gali Sanchez.  It is set in a Pre-Columbian Meso America like setting.  Among other things, it introduces a werejaguar monster.  It is a short adventure but looks like a lot of fun.  The setting appeals to me as well.

Ken Rolston has some advice for game masters in How to Make the Most out of FRP Tournaments.  We don't see much in the way of Tournament play anymore, having given way to organized play as the means of "official rules" play.  But there is still some good advice here.  It is quite a long article that can be summed up by "Anticipate what your player wants and what their characters can do."  It goes into far more detail than this.  I think I am going to put this on my TBR pile to re-read before heading to Gen Con again.  It would be great to run some more games this year and this might help.

Tim Grice has some mechanics of playing chess within an AD&D game in The Game Within a Game.  As per the 80s the rules are nearly as complicated as chess itself! Just kidding.  I used a similar idea when I had characters in Ghosts of Albion play the old Celtic Fidchell game as part of a challenge by a faerie lord.

Ken Rolston is back again with some reviews of Citybook I and Daredevils. He liked both products.

Nice big ad for some RPGA modules.

Phil and Dixie have advice on a lucrative career in game design.

Wormy battles a giant black leopard with wings.

No small ads or Dragonmirth.   Maybe my copy is missing them.
Nope, checked the CD-ROM and they are not there.

Ok.  So a great "pre-history"* issue of Dragon.
*by pre-history I mean before my personal history with Dragon.

What was White Dwarf doing at the same time?  Oddly enough I posted my White Dwarf Wednesday #38 almost exactly five years ago today (give or take a couple of days).

Monday, October 16, 2017

I *need* Some D&D t-shirts

If you have been on Facebook or other social media it is likely you have seen ads for some D&D themed/branded t-shirts.    They look really cool.



I am not here to link them or rat them out for selling unauthorized D&D products.  That is not my point today.


My point today is this ad.


If you are unfamiliar with the "Gateway to Adventure: 1981TRS Hobbies, Inc." brochure that came with the Basic and Expert Sets there is a copy on Archive.org.

I had always wanted those shirts.  In particular the D&D Basic set, the Players Handbook, and the Deities & Demigods shirts.

At age 11 though even the $6.00 + shipping seemed like a lot of cash when I was saving and buying things on my own. That six bucks was two paperbacks or half way to my next hardcover.

I am now at an age, and the means, to buy what I want.  I want some of these shirts, but sadly these are not something that comes up at game auctions or eBay. Plus if they did would I really want one?

I have made some shirts for other games, namely Ghosts of Albion, for when I am running games. But I really would just rather buy one.   I'd like WotC/Hasbro or their authorized reseller to have a storefront where I can buy retro-style D&D T-shirts.  I bought a "Red Box" D&D shirt from Wizards one Gen Gen con a number of years ago.  I would like some more.

HELL.  I want a Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord,  or White Star tee shirt too!
+Erik Tenkar,  +Matt Finch+James Spahn who needs to be bribed to get these done?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #132

Dragon magazine for April 1988 is quite a memorable issue.  First, it's an April Fools issue, and it's one I actually kinda liked. Secondly, I LOVE that cover. I mean, Elmore, Snarf. What's not to love?  I am still a Freshman in University still and living the life.  I think I bought this issue when it came out, which is something because most of my money was going to drugs, beer, books. Yeah, books.  It's April 1988 and this is issue #132 of This Old Dragon!

Let's admire this cover for a bit.  I don't care, I love Elmore's art.  Though I have to admit I thought Aveeare was silver and not gold.

So this is an April Fools issue, but the content is limited really.  The first entry has the infamous "Chainsword" in Bazaar of the Bizarre by Stewart Wieck.

Role-playing Reviews which is ©1988 by Jim Bambra.  We cover some now-classic games; Paranoia, Ghostbusters, and Teenagers from Outer Space.

Up next is the first big article of the issue is Beyond the Gate of Dreams by John Nephew.  This deals with the "semiclass" of the Dreamer.  Now there is a lot of REALLY cool things for this class. I don't think the class actually works as written, to be honest.  I like the idea really and there are a lot interesting spell ideas.   There is the option to play this as a single class or as part of a dual class.

Resourceful Sorcery which is also ©1988 by Michael DeWolfe and it covers some helpful hints for RuneQuest game sorcerers.  It's a cool article really, makes me want to get a RuneQuest game going sometime.

With All the Trappings by Gregg Sharp deals with trap construction and using some psychology to draw victims in.  I'll be honest, I never had the trap fetish that so many gamers seem to have.  Sure they can be fun occasionally, but all the time? I got my fill in the early 80s to last me a lifetime.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice cover a variety of topics.

Page 37 gives us an ad for New Infinities' Cyborg Commando!  The fate of the world is in metal handsTM. I should not give Gygax shit for this.  We now know his world was crumbling down and the new heads of TSR were being colossal dicks to him.    Anyone play Cyborg Commando at all?


Scott David Gray is up with Let the Good Dice Roll. This is a collection of individual and cumulative frequency tables for the various methods of rolling a given ability score in AD&D.
A nice brief article that is informative, but also a relic of its age.  While the numbers are still good and even still apply to any version of *D&D,  these can be generated on the fly with the tools we all have at our disposal now.  Not just with Excel, but with Google Sheets which is free and nearly as powerful.

Out of Hand by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is the fiction piece of this issue.

Mark Feil gives us a rare non-Ed Greenwood (at least for the last few issues) Ecology Of article. The Ecology of the Aurumvorax covers the MMII monster also known as the "Golden Gorger".  Not a lot of information, but I did learn do not eat one of these things if you kill it. It gives you metal poisoning!

The big feature of this issue is +Bruce Heard's Orcwars game. Set in the Known World you get to play in the Great Orc Wars. It looks like it would be fun for a rainy afternoon. Set it in your own world.   Each player (2-4) gets to play one of the tribal coalitions of orcs.  I like it to be honest.  It is not exactly taking D&D back to it's wargame roots, but it is honoring those roots. Given the campaign I am currently running I could see using this as part of a flashback to an ancient battle.  Something to add more depth and color to the history of my game world.  Much like Traveller always did with their RPG and tie-in board games set in the Imperium.

Arcane Lore is up after all of that with some spells based on traits of animals. Like Oxen Strength and Lion's Courage.  Naturally (ugh) for druids. There are some goods here too.

Keith Polster has a bit on Gen Con and what to expect in 88 with The King of Conventions.  I certainly get the feeling here that Gen Con was growing more at this point.  This article covers the combined Gen Con/Origins Game Fair.  Robert M. Bigelow follows up on the next page with how miniatures events will be run at the combine con.  Now an aside.  I consider myself knowledgeable about the history of our hobby, but I also fully admit I am far from knowing everything.  I had no idea this happened! And I have some vivid memories of reading this issue.  How long did Origins and Gen Con stay together? When did they split up again?  Checking the internet I see this was done in 1988 and 1992. And yes Gen Con was seeing a lot of growth during this time.

Cash & Carry, Gamma Style covers the economic structure of Gamma World or least a small part of it.

Some small ads.
TSR Previews gives us a look ahead at some new releases.  This includes two of the biggest disappointments, for me at least, in adventures.  First is WG7 Castle Greyhawk.  While I do appreciate the humor in some of the levels and I respect how deadly this module actually is, it does not make up for the fact that it is also not very good. It was also not the Castle Greyhawk we have heard about for years and years.  I ran Castle Greyhawk once.  Not likely to run it again. Next is OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes.  If Castle Greyhawk was bad, this one was just lackluster.   The Outer Planes would get a huge boost in a few years with the advent of Planescape.

Jon Slobins is next with variable hero creation for the DC Heroes game. This produces heroes a little less super. Ah yes, we are moving to the 90s and the age of the gritty "street-level" hero.

Mike Lane has new ships for Star Frontiers.

And in a move that would surprise new readers of today, Jeff Grub gives us a Marvel-Phile of "joke" (or no joke depending on your read) hero; Rocket Raccoon.



The Role of Computers has expanded to 6 pages now including a huge review of Beyond Zork.

We have a couple of pages of Dragonmirth. Some ads. 5 pages of the Con Calendar.

We end with SnarfQuest on his prospecting mission.  About this time I began to loose interest in Snarf. I think a lot of people did. If had completed its big arc and now seemed to be a little lost.   OR what is more likely I could not keep up with it like I used to because I was not buying Dragons regularly anymore.

Wormy is also here.  About this time Tramp would disappear.  Little did I know at the time he moved to the same town I was living in.  I could have passed him in the grocery store and never knew.

Really a pretty solid issue.  AD&D 1 was showing its age at this point and the world outside was changing.  Soon word would come down that AD&D 2 was on the way and the 90s would start.  But until that time there was plenty to do.  The Dragon was more and more focused on TSR-only games, but still, a few others snuck in every so often. They were more inclusive than say White Dwarf was at this time.  In fact, April 1988's White Dwarf #100 would be the last White Dwarf I ever owned.

We are certainly on the verge of something in this issue. That might be my retrospective on it, but some big changes had already happened here and more are coming.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #81

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #96

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

An article on Play By Mail updates. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #58

Today is the birthday of one my first AD&D DMs.  Jon and I started playing way back in Junior High. So for him, I thought a nice deep cut into my D&D archive would be appropriate.  In February of 1982 I was in 7th grade and 12 years old.  I had been playing D&D, Moldvay flavored for a while, and prior to that a mishmash of Holmes with an AD&D Monster Manual.  The early 80s were considered by many to be the Golden Age of RPGs and D&D in particular. That was certainly my own opinion, but we are doing pretty nice today too.
So put on some J. Geils Band as we head back to February of 1982 for issue #58 of This Old Dragon!

The first thing I notice is that paper of this magazine feels thicker than some of the newer ones. The makes the magazine feel thicker with fewer pages, this one weighs in at 80 pages, sans covers.  Could it be this is one of the reasons these older magazines "feel" more important to us? Well, one of many I know.

My copy, of course, is missing the cover, which is a shame because we get another great Clyde "I'll Have the Thigh" Caldwell cover.   On the back side is an ad for the TSR min-games. I had a copy of Vampyre for the longest time. I never got to play it more than once or twice, but I loved the idea.   I am quite sure I bought it because of this ad or one just like it.

First up is an offering of Leomund's Tiny Hut from Len Lakofka.  Titled Beefing up the Cleric it includes an intro from Gary Gygax himself.  Pause a moment to appreciate these names being tossed around casually.  I am not talking cult of personality here, but the fact the some of the luminaries of the game are writing a page 5 article.   The past truly is a foreign country.
Anyway enough of that, let's talk about the article at hand.   This article includes a number of new cleric spells. Many of these will later appear in the Unearthed Arcana.

The Dragon's Bestiary is next with some weird-ass monsters from Ed Greenwood.  Of these, the one that jumps out me is the Sull.  These things are like a giant floating mushroom caps with teeth on their underside.   They remind me of this bizarre bit of cryptozoology and ufology that I remember reading about years and years ago about "Giant Sky Critters". The name stuck with me.  I am sure that Ed got these from a similar source. Roger Moore contributes with "Magenta's Cat" named for the wizardess that tried to breed psionic familiars.   This one could be fun to use as well.



Michael Parkinson gives us The Blood of The Medusa, an article on all the monsters in Greek Myth produced by the Medusa.  I had just gotten out of a HUGE Greek Myth stage at this point so I really loved this article.  It's a fun read and has some great stats to boot. One day I'd love to run a game set in the Classical Period. Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Phoenicians, Persians, Egyptians and the whole lot.



This is followed up by Four Myths for Greece, featuring four unique NPCs from Greek Myth.  This includes Atalanta, Daedalus, The Sybil of Cumae, and Chiron.

We come next to the big feature of this issue, A Special Section: Dwarves.  We know now that a lot of this will be re-edited and put into the Unearthed Arcana, but then this was great stuff. Well, great if you are into dwarves.  The last Dwarf I played as a character was Fjalar Snowcrest a dwarf thief back during the end of AD&D1.
Up first is The Dwarven Point of View by Roger Moore. Which talks about how dwarves see the world around them.
Bazaar of the Bizarre has two dwarven magic items; the High Anvil of the Dwarves (helps dwarves make items better and faster) and the Helm of Subterranean Sagacity (helps with a dwarf's natual abilities to detect stoneworks).

Sage Advice covers a lot of Dwarf related questions.
Roger Moore is back with The Gods of the Dwarves. Most of these gods are now common enough names in D&D, but here is where they got started.  It includes a monster called a "Rapper" which is an undead Dwarf.  Personally, I would rather use the term "Knocker" since it has some supernatural connotations already.

John Eric Holmes gives us some fiction with In the Bag.

The Centerfold (see what I did there) are the Spell Minders, a playing aid for cleric and magic-user spells.  I'd love to talk about them, they sound cool, but my copy does not have them.  Nor do I remember them well enough.  This leads me to think that my original copy of this issue, the one I remember reading in 82 actually belonged to someone else.

Up next are a couple of articles on archery in D&D and looking for more realistic ranges.  Personally, I prefer game ranges that are more easy to use and "realistic enough".

Not to be forgotton or left out we get an article from David Nalle on Swords, Slicing into a Sharp Topic.  It's a nice overview and history of swords, sword making and how to apply this to your game.

Glenn Rahman has a review/article on the Knights of Camelot game. It covers the game to a small degree but it is more about playing a "Bad" or less virtuous, Knight.

Traveller gets some love from Jon Mattson is Anything but Human. Which is basically a randomized alien physique system.

The Dragon's Augury cover a new aid for Runequest, Griffin Mountain (Bill Fawcett likes it), Star Patrol (also reviewed and enjoyed by Bill Fawcett). Tony Watson covers Traveller Adventures 5 from GDW and Scouts and Assassins from Paranoia Press for Traveller.

Off the Shelf hits the books. Chris Henderson reviews C.J. Cherryh's The Pride of the Chanur which is declared as a great book.  The last John Norman Gor book gets an "At least it is over".

We end with a two-page Valentine's day special What's New with Phil and Dixie and a one-page Wormy.

Maybe the older the issues are better? It is really hard to judge. This one has a bunch of nostalgia for me and some useful material but does that make it better than say one that was made in 90s or 2000s?  All I know for sure is I'll have fun trying to find out!

What are your memories of this issue?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #26.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #72

Another one I have multiple copies of. Sadly none of them have the cover or the File 13 game.

Dragon Magazine Issue #72 takes us back to April 1983. Let's see...I would have been in 8th grade then.  So for me that was the start of my AD&D 1st ed years and the waning of my B/X years.

Now I have a confession. I HATE the annual April Fools issues of magazines. Maybe hate is too strong of a word. But I admit that even the small (very small) amount of humor I find in some of the issues is off-set by the loss of what could have been good material.  Last week though reminded me that even when they had a full magazine to devote that not all the material was good.

This issue is an exception. There is one other coming up (if I even have it), but the humor here is mild and the other material makes up for it.

Let's start with this wonderful Clyde Caldwell cover.  We have two excellent cavaliers fighting a cool looking dragon.  Ties in nicely with the Cavalier class.  I am also surprised that there is no bare thigh in sight!

Kim Mohan's editorial really typifies why I hate the April Fool's issues. You are actually better off not reading it. You can save time and get to the exact same issue by reading the Letters.
The Letters section is full of bemoaning of how the magazine is getting too big (80-88 pages) or too expensive ($3.00).  Here I am in 2017, nearly 35 years later thinking that we don't have enough Dragon these days.

There is an ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined a couple of different time over the course of my years.  I wonder if they are still around? (https://sfbc.com/Yes they are!) I am pleased to see I had read a good number of the books advertised, but there are few more I'd love to get my hands on again.

The big article of this issue is the Cavalier.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Cavalier. I liked the idea of a knight in shining armor, but who wasn't a Paladin.  There is a lot to like here and a great example of the long-form article that I really enjoyed from Dragon.  This is of course from Gary himself.  I also love that art from Keith Parkinson.  Too bad that playing a female elf cavalier riding a unicorn is WAY beyond the scope of the rules they are with!



Following this is, believe it or not, one of my favorite Ecology articles.  The Ecology of the Piercer. Seriously. Though the article has less content that I recalled (or I could be missing more pages) we decided that Piercers are a delicacy in my world, much like escargots are  in this world.  People collect young piercers for food and are worth a lot of money.  The older the piercer the less fresh they taste, so only the young are prized.  Piercers fed a steady diet of deer, elk or other game they would not normally get are even more prized.  Piercer farming has not worked out well, but adventurers are set on the task of collecting the little ones, all while avoiding the big ones!



The article on Gems is interesting, but I would rather have gone to a science book.

The Katherine Kerr article on The Real Barbarians is not one I read a lot of back then, but find very interesting now.  Easily one that should be paired with the Barbarian class that either will show up soon or just did.  Worth reading again to be sure.

Something that is an artifact of it's time is The PBM scene.  Playing by mail is a concept that I think most gamers would never think about these days. Oh I am sure if you look around you might find one or two still going.  Likely a Diplomacy, Tunnels & Trolls or a Traveler one.  It is a long ass article too.  I am not sure if I know anyone that ever did a Play By Mail game.  I considered it, back in the day, but never got around to it. Plus I could not bring myself to pay a buck every turn.

I get to the "behind the scenes" of File 13. Which made me realize I don't have a copy of the actual game.

Ugh... we get to the April Fools section.  I'll make this one fast. Valley Elf song? pass. I have the Frank Zappa album that Valley Girl came on and I got more D&D ideas from that then I do this song.
The Jock. Pass. More Sex in D&D humor.

I am jumping ahead to the book reviews.  Ok. Lots of really cool things here. In particular, I am drawn to Philip K Dick's "We Can Build You".   I remember the book since I was then and now something an armchair Lincoln scholar (what? I can layers.) but what strikes me the most these days is how much the fiction of Philip K. Dick shaped the world we live in now.  I think that is something worthy of a post on it's own someday.

The comics feature Phil n' Dixie doing their normal shtick.  Wormy is interesting though.  The wizard creating the portal is some of the best "portal" art I had seen up to that point.



The ads were good, lots of cool memories. Nothing really in the way of computer games yet.
Nice nostalgic issue.  Not a lot I can use today except maybe the barbarian article, but still fun.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same month? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #40.
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