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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

In Remembrance: Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber, known to us mere mortals as Stan Lee died yesterday at the age of 95.
I have often said that my own "Appendix N" would consist of 70s rock, Hammer Horror films, and comics.  Marvel Comics was a huge part of how my D&D world was shaping up.

I grew up being a DC fan, and I still consider myself to this very day a true DC fan.  But in the 70s and the 80s in what was coexistent with my formative D&D years. I dropped DC in favor of Marvel's Spider-Man, X-Men and of course their Horror and Mystic-themed comics like "Tomb of Dracula", Dr. Strange, Blade, and Ghost Rider.  Much of what went on in my D&D worlds was very Marvel influenced.

I had a character named "Rogue" after my favorite bad-girl (at the time she was not in the X-Men yet), and nearly all my character had an illustration that I cut or copied from the pages of Marvel.  While over in DC my first magical-love was still for Zatanna, I also loved reading about the exploits of Dr. Strange and Clea.   I read with a voracious appetite every Tomb of Dracula I could my hands on to.  I read Red Sonja, X-Men, hell...every X-everything in the Mutant 80s.  This leads me to read other comics. 

Stan gave us great characters and stories.  I LOVED Black Panther. Here was a guy who was brilliant, a physicist, a king, he all sorts of superpowers, and yet he still fretted over his people, his lands and doing the right thing.  Peter Parker was so neurotic he could have been a Woody Allen character. Stephen Strange was an arrogant prick, Stark was an alcoholic arrogant prick.  The X-Men had so much pathos it was almost Shakespearian.  These were relatable characters or at least approachable ones.  Jim Croce once sang "You don't tug on Superman's cape" and it is true. Superman, for everything he stands for, is still a god, unapproachable. Even Batman for that matter.  But Stan's characters and the ones he influenced were still more like us.

My introduction to Stan Lee, the man or rather his persona, was via the "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" cartoons where Stan would narrate the intros. I first heard his "True Believers" here as I suspect most of us did. (Though the FIRST time I heard "True Believers" was on the Electric Company's "Spidey" on PBS in the 70s.) A generation later he would be known to a new audience via his Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos.  But I always felt it was us, the old fans, the ones that remember them smell of comics back in the 70s and 80s (and for others the 60s), that he was there for.

Stan Lee was a flawed, imperfect man.  Just like his characters.  He didn't always say the right thing or maybe he took credit for some ideas that were not his.  At some future date, we can go back and debate the issues of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby split.  But not today.

Today I want to remember the man that gave us all so much. A man that took his own words "with great power comes great responsibility" to heart.  Stan knew the power he wielded and he used it to create worlds for us to enjoy.

Several years ago, when Stan Lee was in his late 80s I asked a question on Facebook, "Who has had a larger impact on our culture, (Playboy founder) Hugh Hefner or Stan Lee?"  The results were fairly predictable, with Stan beating Hugh by nearly a 2 to 1 margin.

We will miss Stanley Lieber, the man.  But Stan Lee, the icon and the personality will live on forever.  Excelsior!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Don't Go to Sleep (1982)

Rhoda and McCloud have a murderous daughter in this 1982 made for TV Aaron Spelling movie that surprisingly holds up well.

The late 70s and early 80s were a great time for some really spooky made for TV movies. At least that is my memory of things.  Well if you grew up in the 80s and had brothers or sisters then this movie most certainly freaked you out.

Phillip and Laura just lost their daughter Jennifer and have moved to LA (because that is where Spelling is) with their remaining children Mary and Kevin.  Mary keeps hearing her dead sister but no one believes her.  That is till the killings start.

Now I watched this back in the day and at the time I loved the fact that the mystery could go one of two ways.  Either really a ghost or everything was a product of Mary's psychosis.  As a teen just discovering psychology I thought that was great.

Of course, now, the punch is a little less. Not just due to seeing it before but also time.  Though I was surprised by how well the movie holds up to now.  Re-film this in modern LA and not change a bit of dialog...ok there are some changes that would have to be done...but otherwise it would still work.


Watched: 10
New: 5


Sunday, October 14, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Burned at the Stake (1982)

If there were as many witches in "real" Salem as the Salem in movies and TV, the trials would STILL be going on.

Salem really was an important moment in American History Not the trial itself but as a test of this new country.  Personally, I think we would have ended up exactly where we are today, but we would lack some great stories.

Burned at the Stake, also known as "The Comming", covers the Salem trials in the same way a lot of movies do; as background with a lot of mistakes.  First off, no one was burned at the stake in Salem. They were either hung or in one case pressed to death and another died in prison.

Ok. That all aside. People died and we can get ghosts that way. Ghosts are what gives us this flick.

The plot is simple. Witch dies in the Salem trials then comes back in the 1980s to take revenge of the descendants of the ones that accused her.

I gotta admit despite the subject matter, I found the movie a bit dull.

Watched: 9
New: 5


Thursday, October 11, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Incubus (1982)

Rapey demon goes on a rampage in TorontoGalen, MA.  This movie has ties to both Deadly Blessing (incubus as our monster) and Watcher in the Woods (directed by John Hough).  This movie was on my list a couple of years ago when I did "Movies I thought I had watched, but never did" for the challenge.

The acting is not bad. Not great mind you, but better than expected in many cases.

There is a twist in the end, and one that should have been expected to be honest, but still fun.  Though that is about all that is fun about the movie.  Though the movie is true the nature of the Incubus, so I can't fault them there.

Keep your eyes open, near the end Bruce Dickinson shows up (on film) with his then band Samson.  So that is fun.

Interestingly enough, both Incubi are depicted here as mostly incorporeal begins that can possess people. Typically succubi have a more physical manifestation.  I wonder why? (of course, we all know).


Watched: 8
New: 4


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Forbidden World (1982)

Ah...not Forbidden Planet...but well you get the idea.
I was not going to do an 80's themed October Challenge without getting in a Roger Corman film.
Corman is up to his usual tricks here too, cheap sets, recycled footage, and beautiful women in various stages of undress.

The plot is one so old that even in 82 it felt old. Alien monster created by science gets loose in a lab and kills everyone.  But to Corman's credit, he still manages to make this old chestnut entertaining.
Our hero, Mike Colby, is a Federation Marshall sent to deal with the problem.  He manages to have sex with every woman on the base and still finds a way to allow everyone to get killed on the base.
Priorities I guess.

Still, if I ever get my Star Trek/White Star/Black Star game going again there will be a shape-shifting alien in the Jefferies Tubes killing people.

Forbidden World also features a Pre-V June Chadwick as Dr. Barbara Glaser, but she might be remembered best as David St. Hubbins' girlfriend Jeanine in "This is Spın̈al Tap".  Of course given that this a Corman flick the only way the two women on board can figure out how to communicate with the creature is during a scene where they shower together.

This movie has also been known as "Mutant".  The actual creature, as to be expected, looks nothing like the cover art.

Watched: 7
New: 3


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Deadly Blessing (1981)

Ah,  Deadly Blessing. As kids my brothers and sisters LOVED this movie.  No kidding. The ads were so damn creepy.



A young Sharon Stone forced to eat a spider by an Incubus? Hell yeah! That's nightmare fuel for decades.   And a real spider was dropped into her mouth for this scene.  How's that for dedication?

Ok, where to start on this movie?  Well, it features a young Sharon Stone in one of her very first roles.  It also features Battlestar Galactica's Mara Jensen in her very last role before disappearing from public life.  Also appearing is 80s horror mainstay Michael Berryman, TV star Lisa Hartman, and the last film for Susan Buckner before she left public life as well.

The movie features a group of people called the "Hittites" (no relation to the ancient Mesopotamians) who are supposed to be some sort of ultra-Amish.
Our demon-de-hour is an Incubus, but one that decides to possess women.  I guess "incubus" sounds cooler than "succubus" in this case.

Anyway. Lots of creepy stuff. Murders happen. Mara Jensen takes a famous bath with a snake. And it a fashion that predicts A Nightmare on Elm Street, we think we have the murderer and everyone goes back home.  Except for Martha (Mara Jensen), who pulled into hell by the Incubus in his full demon form.

Ok. Let's be honest. The movie doesn't hold up.  In truth, it wasn't that good to start with, but my memories of it are tied up in watching it with my family.

Sharon Stone is great really.  You get a feeling for the sort of actress she will become later.  Maren Jensen is fine, but I think had she not be diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Syndrome she would have naturally left acting.  She was good, but didn't have a lot of range.


Maybe one of the most iconic horror movie posters of all time.  Well, at least in the top 10.

Watched: 6
New: 2



Monday, October 8, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Sons of Satan (1981)

A bit under the weather here today and all weekend, but I watched to old favorites.
Working my way to 1981.

Fear No Evil (1981).  Loved this stupid little movie as a kid and even more on VHS when I got a copy.  Let's be honest, high school IS Hell.


I had that poster on my wall for years.

The Final Conflict (1981). Damien is back and this time he has his devilish eyes on nothing less than the office of the President!  Imagine that, a soulless son-of-a-bitch as the President.
Sam Neil was really fun in this movie.  The Omen trilogy itself is pretty bad, but this one was fun.


God might only have one son, but Satan's sons are all real underperformers.

Watched: 5
New: 2



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Nightmare Never Ends / Cataclysm (1980)

Its Atheist vs Satanist is this 1980 Troma...er...classic.

The movie details the struggle between an atheist (Martin Richard Moll in a very early role), his wife a psychic and surgeon, a police detective and the immortal satanic Nazi they are all hunting.

Personally, I think they tried to cram too much into one movie and none of it fared well.  Plus it is Troma and while they are still a couple years from their Golden Age of Toxic Avenger, they have not yet found their sweet spot.  Though I do recall there were a couple of Troma movies from the early 80s that were fine.

Plus the woman playing Moll's wife, Faith Clift, is not very good.  Though my favorite part in this is she goes to see a psychiatrist friend and he suggests she go to the Disco to get rid of these nightmares she is having.  It comes off as so pandering that he made me laugh. (Psychologists will often suggest a vigorous physical activity to aid with night terrors.)

Maybe if they had split this into two movies, with the detective following the case from both and then had you know a good script.  I like the idea of evil, immortal satanic Nazis as bad guys.

Did I mention though our Nazi sucked too?  No? Wel,l he did.  IF he is the best that the Nazi's and Satan can collectively come up with then the army of evil is nothing.

The movie was released as "The Nightmare Never Ends" but at some point was renamed "Cataclysm". No idea why.  Also, the movie has two release dates; 1980 for the US and 1983 for West Germany.

Watched: 2
New: 2


Monday, October 1, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: Beyond Evil (1980)

It's Halloween everyone!  Or October. Same thing.
This year I want to focus on movies made in the 1980s.  I have done a lot 70s and 60s movies, but never a dedicated tour of the horror movies on the 1980s.  I also want to focus on the Occult and things that made people really nervous in the age of the Satanic Panic.

So let's get started.

Up first is John Saxon in Beyond Evil (1980).  It's slightly less Blaxploitation than say Live and Let Die,  but the vide it there.  in fact this movie feels very 70s to be honest. No surprise of course, but it will be interesting to see when the shift happens.

The movie is a "Scooby-Doo" plot where John Saxon and wife Lynda Day George get a house in the Caribean.  Of course, it is haunted by a woman who was murdered by husband.  So we get a lot of Lynda Day George acting all possessed and weird.  A lot of John Saxon not believing in black magic and then of course wackieness ensues.

The movie is not bad it an attempt to update the old haunted house trope by sticking it into someplace really nice. But in the end, the cast is better than their script.

Watched: 1
New: 1


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plays Wells With Others: Dark Places & Demogorgons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Reading over Dark Places & Demogorgons I could not help but make comparisons to another game of strange things going on with high school kids fighting monsters.   Of course, I am talking about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.


Both games deal with fighting the unknown, both games deal high school students and both games are steeped in 80s clichés and pop-culture.  Where Buffy attempted to subvert those clichés, Dark Places & Demogorgons embraces them.

I am just throwing this out here, I have a lot of issues with Joss Whedon.  I think he is an asshole.
But I am damn proud of the work I did on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.

Reading through the core of DP&D and all the supplements it became very, very obvious what game I need to run.

Welcome to Sunny Valley, OH
"I am certain that whoever named this place Sunny Valley was having a joke on us. The winters are long, cold and dark. It rains in the spring and fall. I think they named the place in the three days of the summer we do get sun.  Not to mention the werewolves, the vampires and oh yeah the Hellmouth just outside of town.  Welcome to Sunny Valley Ohio California girl. Bet you can't wait to leave."
- Alexander "Alex" Harris to Elizabeth "Buffy" Summers.

I decided to take the entire "Buffy Package" and drop it wholesale to the Midwest and set it all in 1984.  There are some changes that need to be made.

In this new setting Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers moved from sunny California to the ironically named Sunny Valley, Ohio.  As a nod to my friend and co-author on many of the Buffy books, Thom Marrion, who was going to do a series of Buffy books set in Cleveland, I wanted to do this in Ohio.  Cleveland is the "big city", but I never detail how far it is.

There is a Hellmouth, but is more indistinct.  No one is sure where it is, but they all know it's there.  There are two high schools, Sunny Valley Prep (the "good" school, where we start) and Sunny Valley Community High (the "bad" school).

Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, French
Age: 15

Attributes
STR: 18 +3
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 12 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 16 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 35    Attack Bonus +4 / +7 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 6 (additional +3 vs. vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 6
Mental: 4
Poison: 5

Background
Mother is rarely at home.
Annoying little sister.

Class Abilities
+3 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +5, Knowledge (Historical) +2, Brawling, Persuasion +2, Basic Athletics +3, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $30

This version of Buffy is actually named Elizabeth. She is a former California girl and now lives here with her mom and weird little sister. She is a Slayer, but she has no idea how or why.  There are no Watchers here in Sunny Valley, no Giles.  Elizabeth just knows she is strong, fast and she can sense vampires.
At the end of Series 1 she dies, but only for a little bit.  This gives us Faith Lehanne, a wild girl from Sunny Valley Community High.

Faith Lehanne
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Neutral
Languages: English
Age: 14

Attributes
STR: 17 +2
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 10 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 17 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 32    Attack Bonus +3 / +6 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 5 (additional +2 vs. Vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 4
Mental: 3
Poison: 4

Background
Parents are dead, lives with Aunt
Dirt poor

Class Abilities
+2 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +4, Knowledge (local ) +1, Brawling, Intimidation +4, Street Smarts +4, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $0

Faith shows up in Series 2 from SVCHS where she makes an impression by killing two vamps right away.  She introduces us to her friend Tara, and she and Willow start to spend a lot of time together.



Both Buffy and Faith are built using the Monster Hunter class from DP&D: Player Options & GM Guide.  In truth I could build a "Slayer" class, but I didn't really want to do that.  I wanted to try them out Rules As Written.

In general the cast would be much younger than the TV show.  Anywhere from 2 to 3 years younger. This fits perfectly with DP&D but changes the dynamic a little.   For starters, I would downplay the sexual tension to almost nothing, or at least a slow burn.  A 200+-year-old vampire prey on a 17-year-old sounds bad.  Preying on a 14-15-year-old sounds worse for some reason.  I am also going to give Faith the benefit of the doubt here.   During my Buffy game Season of the Witch, I pointed out that what the show writers had done to her essentially was so contradictory that the character was broken beyond repair.  So what if I took a potential "Bad Girl" and instead gave her a friend.  Maybe someone she saved from some bullies.  Enter Tara.  In this world Faith saved Tara from being picked on because of her poor family and the open secret that she is gay; something that was still very hard to deal with in the 80s.  Both girls help each other out till they meet the cast.

Dawn Summers
Class: Telekinetic  Level: 1
Alignment: Good
Languages: English
Age: 11

Attributes
STR: 10 +0
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 16 +2
DEX: 12 +0
CON: 14 +1
CHA: 12 +0
SUR: 16 +2

AC: 10     HP: 4    Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 3
Critical: 2
Death: 3
Mental: 4
Poison: 2

Background
Mother is rarely at home.

Class Abilities
Telekinesis, Psionic Attack, Psionic Push

Skills
Paranormal +1, Investigation +1, Knowledge (local) +1, Stealth +1, Video Games +1
Psionic Attack +1

Possessions
Bike, Backpack, Journal describing how she used her powers in secret.

Money: $10

In my games, Dawn developed psychic powers.  Maybe not Jean Grey levels, but certainly Carrie ones.  I thought it would be fun if the "Annoying Kid Sister" trope was subverted by making her Powered.  She was built with the optional Psionic classes in the Core Rule book.

I also did Cordelia Chase (basically an archetype "Princess"), Alexander "Alex" Harris (a "Geek" due to his Star Trek obsession), Oz (Metalhead turned Werewolf) and Angel (Teen Heartthrob turned Vampire).

What can DP&D Players get from Buffy?
The Buffy RPG is a great game that focuses a lot on the high school experience and how fighting monsters can be a metaphor for life in High School. Personally, I think EVERY player and GM of DP&D needs to read Chapter 7: Episodes, Seasons and Drama. It is hands down the best chapter written about running anytime of modern supernatural game or a game set around High School age kids.  The mechanics on Drama Points and their use would also be useful.
And of course all the monsters, vampires and demons the book has would be helpful to any DP&D GM.

What can Buffy Players get from DP&D?
The Buffy RPG is a mature game.  Not just in content, but shelf-life.  I know people that are still playing the game 15+ years later.   For me, DP&D has given me a breath of fresh air and has re-energized my Buffy-related experiences.  Hell, this is the first honest to goodness Buffy campaign idea since Season of the Witch and that was more than 12 years ago.
The "Back to Basics" feel of DP&D cannot be ignored or understated.  It really helped me think of this game in a different way.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons Companions

Today I spend even more quality time with Dark Places & Demogorgons.  There are a number of great supplements now out for PD&D and more on the horizon.  Right now I am going to focus on these four since they will focus on my new campaign idea I'll talk more about tomorrow.
In all cases, I am reviewing the physical copies and PDFs.



Dark Places & Demogorgons: Jeffersontown Setting Guide
140 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
This book covers the Jeffersontown setting introduced in the core rulebook.  I have to admit, I was not going to buy this book.  I was not really that interested in the J'town setting; I had my own setting, settings really, to try out and this one did not grab me.
That would have been a mistake. This book is really freaking awesome.
Reading through this book you begin to realize that all small towns are the same.  I read through this and was mentally replacing J'Town details with my own old hometown Jacksonville (J'Ville, no really that is what we called it).  There are a ton of great ideas here for any type of campaign.
So who should buy this?
Well if grew up in the 80s then you know this already. You lived it.  But this book is a wonderful trip down memory lane.  It's someone else's memory lane, but it looks like yours; it looks a lot like mine too.
If you didn't grow up in the 80s then this book is a must-have.  Really sets the tone and tenor of the game perfectly.
This makes this book a must buy, I am glad I picked it up.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Player Options & GM Guide
124 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
Now this book.  I knew I needed this one the moment I read the table of contents.  This book expands the game in a number of really awesome ways. Now all classes can go to 7th level and all the core classes get a boost.  That is great, and we get 13 new classes. They are Equestrian Show Rider, Equestrian Rider, Monster Hunter, Party Animal, The Performer, Phantasmagon, ROTC Cadet, Soviet Spy, Spy in Training, Street Tough, Survivalist, Teen Ninja, and the Telepath.   We also get five new Magic classes! Black Witch, Mechano-Mage, Nature Witch, Voodoo Practitioner, and White Witch.  All with a bunch of new spells! So yes, I am quite excited about these.  Worth the price on the cover alone for me.
Additionally, we get a bunch of new skills.

The last half of the book is everything 80s.  I have seen a lot of 80s guides in games before, but this one is very comprehensive.  These sections include 80's Crushes/ Idols, Your Songs of the 80's, Your Movies of the 80's, Random 80's Movie Quote Table, and Your TV of the 80's.  And just listing these does not do this lists justice at all.  I consider myself an 80s aficionado and there are things here I had forgotten or even never knew.  I am little surprised there isn't a Dark Places & Demogorgons 80s mix list on Spotify.
Really glad I got this book and I consider it a must-have for fans of this games.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Vampire Sourcebook
36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
With the Vampire Sourcebook, we move DP&D a little further away from "Stranger Things" and "X-Files" territory and more into the realms of "Fright Night", "Lost Boys", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".  The cover in fact is very reminicent of all the above.
We start off with an introduction to basic vampire pop-culture lore and quickly move to a list of vampire movies of the 1980s.  It's a solid list, I knew all the titles so it feels complete, but I am sure there a couple Euro flicks missing.  Not a big deal since that is not the focus of this book.
We get stats for a variety of vampires and plot hooks/backgrounds for all of them.
The book is designed for DP&D, but it really can be used with any OSR game.
For more 80s fun combine it with some New Wave Requiem from the World of Darkness game.
If you want to play a vampire then I suggest The Blood is the Life - Basic Vampires as a mostly compatible solution.
It is a thin book and I would have liked to see more varieties, in truth this probably the perfect size. Vampires are series-ending "Big Bads" not just your monster of the week.  So characters are only likely to see one or maybe two their entire game life.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Werewolf Sourcebook
36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
Same size, but a step up from the Vampire book to be honest.  There feels like there is more material here and I will admit I was surprised to see the page count was really the same. 
We get a little background on werewolves as a horror trope. Different means of causing lycanthropy are also covered.  There is also a section of infecting humans and how it alters their stats, including Player Characters.  Now I would say that being a werewolf runs counter to what a GM might normally want to do with a DP&D game, I can see it coming up.  Good for drama really.
Now anyone that knows me well knows I am "the Witch guy" and before that I was "the Vampire guy".  So I was totally expecting this to be my least favorite book, but no chance of that!  This is a great book and even better than the Vampire book.
There plot hooks, NPCs, monsters AND a complete adventure.  The book is packed. Well worth the money spent.
IF you can only afford one of these books, Vampire or Werewolf, then I would put my money on the werewolf one. Plus it has some fantastic Jacob Blackmon cover art, so what could be better?


Monday, June 25, 2018

Monstrous Mondays: Scarecrow for Dark Places & Demogorgons

"Rain on the Scarecrow.  Blood on the plow.
Blood on the scarecrow. Blood on the plow" 

- John Mellencamp, Scarecrow



Is there anything more ubiquitous to the midwest than the cornfield?  How about that lone scarecrow in that field.  Standing silent vigil throughout the summer and into the fall.  Are you sure he is not watching you?

Scarecrow
Scarecrows are basic guardians similar to golems, but not nearly as powerful. Like typical scarecrows, their bodies are made of straw and cloth. The stumble about their assigned area poorly and attack most anything that wanders through it. Some Scarecrows are bound to a post. A Scarecrow can use their paralyzing gaze to imprison any trespassers (save vs. Courage, fail means victim remains rooted to the spot).
Scarecrows are assigned to protect a particular area. They never leave the area, even when chasing an intruder. They will attack anything, humanoid or animal-like in appearance that walks into its territory unless otherwise instructed by their creator.
A scarecrow is immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, disease, and similar effects. They are not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain or death from massive damage.
Fire Vulnerability: Because of their straw bodies, Scarecrows are extremely vulnerable to attacks from fire. They take triple damage from all fire attacks.

Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 3 + 1
Move: 12
Attacks: 1
Attack Damage: Slam 1d4+4 or Slap 1d4+1
Special:  Paralyzing Gaze.  Courage roll required if victim meets the gaze of a Scarecrow. They can't move for one moment.
Bonuses: +1 to hit, +4 to hide in corn or soy fields.
Terror: 8
HDE: 4

Review: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons

I'll start off my week-long look at Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons with the core rulebook.   A little bit of background thought first.  I love the 80s in the way a true child of the 80s only can.  Everything about the decade still fascinates me, fills me nostalgia and is a creative well I keep going back to.  In truth, I had better decades.  The 90s were particularly good to me and the 2010s are also really nice, but the 80s hold my interest more, especially when it comes to gaming.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) taps into all of this in such a deep and profound way that it pisses me off me to no end.  Pisses me off, because I wish I had come up it myself!

A few things upfront.  DP&D owes a great deal to Stranger Things (which in turns owes a lot to D&D), but as fantastic as that is, that is not enough to sustain a game.  DP&D draws on deep 80s culture as well.  And deep I do mean shallow!  Nothing here about the Cold War, or USA for Africa, or the 84 Olympics, or the home computer revolution.  This is about what was going on in YOUR small town USA and how it felt like it was the strangest place on the planet.  All that "important stuff" is just background noise to what is really important; what are we doing Friday night and who's going to drive around cruising?  That of course until your friends start to disappear.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) is a 200 page 5"x9" book with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is a mix of new art, some art purchased from collections and (my personal favorite) some photos of the authors and friends from some 80's high school yearbooks.  I am reviewing both the physical book and PDF.  Both of which were purchased by me so no books were contributed for review.

The book is divided into an 80 page Player's Section which includes the Classes and Basic rules, and a 120 Page Game Master Section.

The Players section introduces the concept of a Role-playing game and what you can do.  We also get a little background on the town this all takes place in, Jeffersontown KY.
We go right into building a character. Now while the book tells us that this is a version of the same game played in 1974, there are more 21st Century rules here.  The rules feel like a Swords & Wizardry variant with some Basic (Holmes in particular) thrown in.  There are multiple types of saving throws (ala OD&D, Basic, an on up) and ascending AC (S&W, 3e).   In short though if you have played any sort of OSR game in the last few years you will pick this up fast.  If you have never played before, well you will still pick this up fast.

Unlike its progenitors, this game has Seven Abilities.  The new one is Survival.  At first, I was not a fan of it, but now I see how it works in the game it makes more sense to me.  Much like how another seventh ability, "Luck", works in The Heroes' Journey.
I mentioned there are new saving throws too, Courage, Critical, Death, Mental, and Poison.  Courage works a lot like a Fear/San test and there is even a terror table.

Where DP&D takes off though are ways you use to describe your characters.  We start off with Backgrounds.  You can roll randomly here in true 80s style, or choose.  Rolling seems better.  These include things like "Parents are never home" or "Bratty Kid Sister" and they have in-game effects.  Not having your parents home makes for your house to become the natural HQ of your monster surviving endeavors, but having to watch your "Strawberry Shortcake" obsessed little sister is going to slow you down.

After that, you can decide on what your Class is going to be. Classes work here like everywhere else really.  They decide your skills, they let you know where you fit in the world and they provide a role-playing guide.  The classes in this book are largely based on 80s High School stereotypes.  There are five main classes with three subclasses each (similar to how 5e does it) You have The Brain (Kid Scientist, The Nerd, The Geek), The Athlete (The Jock, Extreme Athlete, The Karate Kid), The Outsider (Break Dancer, Goth, Metal Head), The Popular Kid (Preppy, The Princess, Teen Heart Throb), and The Rebel (Bully, The Hood, the Punk Rocker). That pretty much covers everyone in a small high school.
Each class gets 5 levels and new abilities and/or skills each level.  So the Karate kid gets new moves and martial arts, the Princess can affect others and so on.

Skills cover the things you can do.  You can get some via your class or be improved by your class.  Others you can pick.  Combat is a skill and if you want to be better at it then you need to take the skill otherwise you are just a kid with a +0 to hit.

Character creation then is largely rolling up Abilities, picking a Background, a Class, some skills, determining your saving throws and finding out how much cash you have in your pocket.  Then you are set!

I recommend a Session 0 for character creation and concept.  Sure it is not in the rules and certainly not old school, but it better than everyone showing up for the game playing all playing "The Bully" or "The Nerd".

Lastly, you come up with your age, Alignment and various combat-related stats (AC, attack bonus).  DP&D is not a combat focused game.  You are kids and the monsters are, well, monsters.  You might score a hit or two, but that is it.  Otherwise, run!
XP and Leveling are a little "easier" then and there are other ways to gain levels.

We end this section with some sample characters, examples of play and a quick breakdown of the 1980s vs. Today.

The Game Master Section is next and this is where the fun is!
Here the advice of not making this a combat heavy game is repeated.  This is a game of mystery, investigation, and deduction.   From the book:

This game draws inspiration from movies like The Goonies, ET and The Lost Boys and T.V. shows like Stranger Things, Eerie Indiana and Scooby Doo.
Talk about hitting me where I live!

The rules might say 1974 on the tin, but they are much easier than that.  Nearly every rule is simplified and straightforward in a way we never would have tried in the 80s.  Among the "new" rules are Difficulty Classes (circa 3e) and Advantage/Disadvantage rules (circa 5e).  It makes for a very fast-paced game and the rules will fall into the background.

We get some weapons and explosives, but not a lot.

There is a nice section on magic and the occult which include some really nice Psychic classes.  In case you want to dial your game up to 11 (see what I did there!).

The fun part of the book are the Adventure Seeds.  Some are familiar to anyone that watched movies or TV in the 80s.  But others...well I can only conclude that these must be local legends and myths from the author's own home.  Which reminds me how much all these little towns are really the same, just the details differ.


Replace the Pope Lick Monster with the Mobil Monster and they could have been talking about my old hometown of Jacksonville, IL.  We even had giant cats, giant birds and bigfoot.  But if you know what is good for you stay away from Magical Mystery Lane (if you could find it) or the glowing "things" out by Lake Jacksonville.

The book also has a bunch of monsters in Swords & Wizardry format (more or less).  You could add more, but be careful.   Just because I have the stats for a Manticore in a S&W book that would work with this there had better be a good reason to include it.

There are stats for animals and various types of NPCs.  There is even a table of random monster generation.  Delving into more game specific tables there is a table (1d100) of basic adventure hooks.

We also get a small guide to the setting, Jeffersontown, or J'Town (I grew up in J'ville. AND we used to call it a "Sinkhole of Evil" YEARS before anyone ever said the words "hell mouth").
The guide is great, not just for use in the game but for the sheer nostalgia.  It read like someone had taken a fictionalized version of my old hometown.  I think that it is also flexible enough that an lot of people reading it will feel the same way.

We end with a nice solid appendix (the PDF is not hyper-linked here) and their own "Appendix N" of movies, television, and music.  Music was too important in the 80s for there not to be a list like this.

We end with a copy of the character sheet.

Wow.  Where to begin.

Ok first of this game is very nearly perfect and I hate it so much.  That's not true. I hate that I didn't come up with it and publish it sooner.  But in truth, I am not sure if I would have done the same quality job as Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer.  Plus the inclusion of their yearbook pictures and own background made this book for me.  I LOVED reading J'Town because I could see and feel my own J'Ville in it.  I would not have been able to do that if I had written it myself, so much kudos to them.
This is a work of art and I love it.

Everything feels right about this game, to be honest.  I even have a potential "Series" in mind for it.

Can't wait to do more with it!  I would love to get some of my old gamer friends from the 80s and have them play versions of themeselves in a "Stranger Jacksonville" or more to the point the Jacksonville we all WISHED it was.

Next time I look at the supplements.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #71

Grabbing an early one from my stack today and I see this is another one from Eric Harshbarger. How can I tell?  The cover is intact and it doesn't smell like mildew. Which is great because this is also one of my favorite covers.  Certainly in my top ten. 
So let's see, March 1983.  Heavy into B/X D&D at this point, though I do know about AD&D.  We used to regularly mix and match so this was never an issue.  So let's crack these pages and get going with issue #71 of This Old Dragon!

I mentioned this was one of my favorite covers and I think it might also be the first Clyde Caldwell cover I had ever seen.  It's also a fairly atypical Caldwell cover. But I still like it.

Nice back of the cover ad for the AD&D books.

Letters starts off with a general WTF on the Mazes and Monsters movie. I have to agree.  It's been ages since I have seen it, maybe I should look it up. (It is free on AmazonPrime).

First up is the man himself, Gary Gygax From the Sorcerror's Scroll on new druid spells.  Of we know a lot of these make their way to Unearthed Arcana, that is still a bit away.  He also mentions that the Cavalier is coming next month and that we should not believe everything we read about TSR in other magazines.   We also get some sneak peaks into upcoming modules.  Temple of Elemental Evil is now designated WG 2, part 1 and 2. The Maze of Xaene by Rob Kuntz is also "on the way".

The Blink of a Wizard's Eye is the fiction section.

Mind of the Monster by Bruce Humphrey is one of the articles that you know you should do, but wonder why sometimes you don't.  That is give the monsters the benefit of their intelligence.  Yes, their overall purpose is to be defeated by the PCs, but at least they can be intelligent about it.

Gary is back with Greyhawk's World featuring some demi- and quasi- gods of Greyhawk.  Also known as some of Gary's and gang former characters.  We get Heward (a Wizard), Keoghtom (of the ointment fame), Murlynd (refugee from the "Wild West"). and Kelanen. 

Ronald Hall has a huge article on attack priority in Who Gets the First Swing?  A new rule system to help add some detail and "realism" to combat.  There are tables after tables detailing what the monsters can do.  Me? I am happy with initiative as it is/was.

The Taming of Brimstone is a Boot Hill adventure that I might transfer over to Ghosts of Albion and give it a go.  Looks fun. Anyone play it?

Roger Moore has some Astral Plane answers in Sage Advice.

More Gary and More Gods in The Deities and Demigods of Greyhawk.   We get Erythnull, Incabulos, Nerull, Ralishaz, and Wastri. Fun stuff really. 

Few pages of ads.  There have not really been that many ads in this issue.

Ken Rolston reviews Swordbearer. John Warren reviews Dunzhin. I have to admit I am not at all familiar with either game.

More ads.
What's New.
Dragonmirth.
and Wormy.

All in all a good issue, but a product of it's time really.  Not a lot I can reuse today, but sure was fun to reread.

Want to know what was going on the same time in White Dwarf? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday #39 post which was my first White Dwarf ever.

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?
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