Showing posts with label Kelek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kelek. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Thoughts on "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
The newest D&D 5e book is now out and so far it is a lot of fun.  I have not had the chance to read through it enough for a full review, but I do have some thoughts on it. 

It's An Adventure, Not A Source Book

Unlike Van Richten's Guide, or any of the other "name" books, this book is designed to be an adventure first and a source guide second.  The guide part comes into play for the setting, the Feywild D&D's version of the lands of Faerie, but that is the situation the adventure finds itself in.  The key piece here is the Carnival.

There are some "crunchy" bits here. But most of them deal with the adventure and its surroundings themselves.

There is a Non-Combat Solution to the Adventure

I have seen some complaints about this online and the question I have is "why are you complaining?"  I applaud the designers for trying something new.  I have often longed for a good adventure that you can get through without combat and get through on skill and cleverness alone.  Yes, D&D is a combat game and yes the monsters in this book still have stats, hitpoints, and alignments.  So you could very well murder hobo your way through it.   OR you can be more intelligent about it and try to get through it without combat.  I understand though that some gamers are not up to that challenge and might never get there.

The NPCs

I wanted this most of all for the NPCs.  I now have 5e stats for my beloved Skylla along with Kelek, Warduke, and more. I actually want to get into the NPCs in a future post. But I want to start with I am remarkably pleased with how the 5e versions of some classic villains (and let's be honest, the bad guys were always more interesting) turned out.

Bad guys

And then there are the new NPCs and among them is one of my favorites.  Thaco the kid-hating clown.  I began my D&D playing LONG before "THAC0" was a term used except informally.  And I have to say this about Thaco.

Thaco
I think he is fucking hilarious!

Are they poking fun at a certain set of Grognards, many of which are actually younger than I am? Very likely.  But look, if you can't stand a little poke like this then maybe you stay off of the Internet for a while.  I have seen some insane and stupid shit like "oh WotC is making fun of us" and "I won't buy their books."  Well, they might be, get over it, and their marketing data shows that only 5% or so of their sales are to people age 45 or over.  WotC is approaching $1B in sales now.  Not Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast.   

I am going to tell you this now.  WotC does not NEED the old-school gamers anymore. They need to cater to the Grogs and the sooner they drop that bowing in fealty to a group that doesn't even buy their product the sooner they can move on to serving the people that buy their product. 

Our season in the sun is over and that is ok.  

Plays Well With Others

There are some obvious callbacks to older D&D here and that is always fun.  It also makes adding more material a little easier with that hook.

Want to know more about the League of Malevolence or Valor's Call? Simple grab a copy of Quest for the Heartstone and use it as an introduction.  Need an inn to stay at?  Why not The Shady Dragon Inn? I reviewed it a while back and it works fine with 5e, you just need to redo the characters. Well, guess what TWBTW has? Yup.  Again, some more about that in a bit.

Given that this place in the Feywild you could easily add, and I say get a great benefit from, the Tome of Beasts series from Kobold Press. Tome of Beasts and Tome of Beasts II both have a large number of Faerie Lords that would work very well here as well as a fair number of fey creatures.

Tomes of Beasts

If you are like me you also will look at this product and think, yeah it is great and all, but it needs more horror. Say along the lines of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or "Carnival of Souls" or even "Freaks"

As it turns out the answers are not that far away over in the Demi-plane of Dread.  The AD&D 2nd Ed Ravenloft product Carnival has what you need.  There are many parallels between both traveling carnivals and their relationship to their respective planes.  Sadly, Carnival is not set up as a Print on Demand yet and print copies are super rare.  But the PDF is on sale and the "new" scan is 1000x better than the scan WotC used to give out for free on their website back in the  2000s.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight has a lot going for it and is something I would love to use. I might even convert it over to an old-school ruleset, say like OSE.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Post Gen Con Updates

Temple of Elemental Evil
Nothing gets my creative juices flowing better than being at Gen Con!  So I thought I might post some random updates on various projects, both public and personal.

Other Side Publishing

Fiend Folio II

This one has generated a LOT of discussions.  But here are my goals for it.

  1. This is just a project for me.  Not publishing it.
  2. I am doing it to get a good feel of monster evolution from OD&D to AD&D and from the late-70s to the mid-80s.  The "Sweet spot" of old-school gaming.  This will inform me on how to build better monsters for the Basic Bestiaries.
  3. I need to get in some Adobe Indesign practice.  This will give me that.

Basic Bestiaries

These are moving along nicely BB1 has 250 monsters in it now, which is by all measures a good number.  But I want to do some more for all the volumes I have planned so I can ensure a common look and feel across them all.  I am happy with what I have here and I am really looking forward to getting these out.

The High Witchcraft Book

What I have been calling my "last" witch book has been left on its own for so long it has mated with some other files on my hard drive and given birth to ANOTHER witch book! Yeah, I have enough material now for two books.  Those are a little later in coming.  I want to make sure I am not just putting out material because I have it, I want it to be good. The second book will come out first more than likely with the High Witchcraft book retaining the notoriety of being the Last Witch book.

Gen Con Brilliant Idea #1

My family and I got to play a LOT of games together over Gen Con.  Something came up during play that I think will be great.  Thankfully a lot of the work has already been done by my for other projects.  This project will complement the Basic Bestiaries, but one is not required for the other at all.  I am keeping this one close to my chest for now.

Personal

September Sales

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE????  My sales are like 4x to 5x what they normally are! I looked at the sales and thought it had to be wrong.  I rechecked the math and yeah.  My only guess is that it is because Halloween is so close people are looking for horror-themed materials for their games. 

So. I spent some money.  Well...I spent a lot of money.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Classic D&D characters? the Feywild? Creepy ass carnival? Creepier clown named Thaco?  HELL YES! Honestly, there is so much fun stuff here. It portrays the feywild as it should be, equal parts light and dark, beautiful and terrifying, whimsical and deadly. And often all at once. 

There is just so much here. Stats and backgrounds for Kelek, "Charmay", Skylla, and more!  Personally I LOVE want they did with the Charmay/Skylla confusion. A slightly different twist than my own, but one that works well enough.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Temple of Elemental Evil

Going from 5e doing Old-School to Old-School going 5e.  I also grabbed the Temple of Elemental Evil today.

Temple of Elemental Evil

This one is so massive it will need its own post.

Since I was in an old school mood I also grabbed the Codex series for Castles & Crusades.

Codex myths series

The Temple will be the end cap to my 5e campaigns.  So this is going to be great really.

And on top of everything else, I actually lost some weight over Gen Con!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: BX RPG

BX RPG
I am posting this at the end of the month instead of the first (new month, new character) since April will be full of monsters.  But in a way, today's character is a monster in his own right.

Last month I posted the stats for Twill Topknot and before that Sarana, the first main NPCs of my War of the Witch Queens campaign.   While I have plenty more NPCs to figure out and stat up, there is one that I do need to do and figure out how he did it.  That NPC is Kelek the Cruel.

I have talked about good (evil) old Kelek in the past and I think stating him out is a good idea. He has his origins in Basic/Expert D&D, Quest for the Heartstone and The Shady Dragon Inn, so Basic-era is the obvious choice.  More so since he is my Big Bad for War of the Witch Queens.

One of the things I want to do with this is pick and choose from various RPG/OSR systems.  I did Old School Essentials with Twill.  While that doesn't mean I can't reuse it, but I would like to see what is out there. I also need to figure out what sort of "magic-user" old Kelek is since I also have that choice.

Much like what I have done with Skylla (with whom he has a history with) I took her Magic-user and tried her out as a witch in various OSR style games. If she is a witch, then what is Kelek?  

Kelek the Cruel from Quest of the Heartstone

He is a type of wizard to be sure.  He learned his magic, so a warlock or a sorcerer (as defined by D&D 3 to 5) is fun, but not really who he is. I need some class that also has the ability to cast gates, maybe even a way to summon a minor demon or two. But not someone interested in controlling undead. Most importantly I need someone that would be able to kill a Witch Queen.  

We know from Kelek's history that he wants some form of immortality or mastery over life and death.  To me that says Necromancer.  But I am kinda bored with necromancers.  I mean I have done necromancers so many times.  BUT this group has never gone up against one of my necromancers before.  Eric over at Swords & Stitchery also talks about Kelek and even has him becoming a lich. Eric usually has very good ideas, so I am inclined to take this as a vote towards Necromancer. 

So if it is a necromancer, then which one?

The Basic Fantasy one is nice, but not really powerful enough for what I need.  The necromancer from Adventures Dark & Deep is good. Has a lot of potential but still not exactly what I want. Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea also has a great necromancer, but the spell list is not 100% where I want it. Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts are getting much closer, as is Gavin's Theorems and Thaumaturgy. The one that feels the closest is the one from the BX RPG.

I reviewed the BX RPG a while back and have been wanting to do something more with it. 

If he is my big bad for War of the Witch Queens then I am going to take advantage of BX RPGs 1-20 level spread and make him 15th level.

Kelek the Cruel from HeroForge
Get your own Kelek the Crue from HeroForge

Kelek the Cruel
Male Human (mostly) Necromancer, 15th level, Chaotic Evil

Kelek

Strength: 15
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 13
Dexterity: 11
Constitution: 14
Charisma: 7

HD: 9d4 +6 (+9)
hp: 40

AC: 0 (Bracers AC 1, Ring of Protection +!)
Base THAC0: 14

Saving Throws (+1 for magic, +1 ring)
Paralyzation: 8
Petrification: 8
Wands: 9
Breath Weapon: 11
Spells: 8

Weapons
Dagger +1
Staff of Striking
Wand of Cold

Spells
First level: Read Magic, Sleep, Necrotic Shield, Fear, Hold Portal, Read Languages
Second level: Hold Person, Knock, Mirror Image, Wizard Lock, Necrotic Touch, Blight
Third level: Fly, Haste, Death Purge, Clairvoyance, Necrotic Blast, Dispel Magic
Fourth level: Dimension Door, Polymorph Other, Necrotic Strike, Wizard Eye, Confusion
Fifth level: Plane of Death, Magic Jar, Teleport, Life Drain
Sixth level: Abyssal Flame, Anti-Magic Shell, Death Spell
Seventh level: Astral Spell, Instant Summons
Eighth level: Clone, Gate

Scrolls*
First level: Chill Touch
Second level: Choke, Speak with the Dead
Third level: Skull Sight, Unhallow
Fourth level: Charm Monster
Fifth level: Death Spell
Sixth level: Knowledge of Life
Seventh level: Summon Demon
Eighth level: Symbol (Pain)

Height: 5'11"
Weight: 156 lbs
Age: 55

*The spells from scrolls are Necromancer spells from Theorems and Thaumaturgy. I am likely to give him other necromancer scrolls from the other necromancers out there. 

I also say mostly human since I consider Kelek to have a bit of orc in his line somewhere.  This explains his high strength and constitution, his low charisma, his pointed ears, oddly shaped head in some depictions of him.  He can also speak orc and hangs out with Zarak all the time. 

Kelek also has a large warg he rides like a horse.  In typical D&D cartoon fashion, his name is just Warg.

Kelek on Warg from HeroForge
Kelek on Warg from HeroForge


The many faces of Kelek the Cruel

Yeah, I have a lot of plans for this guy. 

Now I need to figure out how he killed the Queen of Witches to get us all in the current problems we are in.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Wizards Three

Getting back into the "This Old Dragon" frame of mind. I thought I might try something new here and instead of looking at one issue, I would look at one feature across many issues. A few easily come to mind but I want to start with the one that gave me the idea in the first place. The feature in question is "The Wizards Three."

The concept is a bit silly. The great sage and mage Elminster has guests over to his place for dinner and light chat. The guests are typically other wizards. Most often Mordenkainen of Oerth (World of Greyhawk) and Dalamar of Krynn (Dragonlance). Later Dalamar was replaced by Mordenkainen's, young apprentice Rautheene. Hiding in a suit of armor and trying to remember it wall was out helpless scribe Ed Greenwood.

Like so many, Dragon was my first introduction to the Realms and to Elminster. Throughout my AD&D 1 and 2 years, I was focused largely on Greyhawk and then Ravenloft. I didn't even pay much attention to the Realms at all until later in the 3.x days and it was not even an option I took seriously until 4e.


Even so, I always enjoyed this series because I love the idea of the multiverse and that travel between the world can sometimes be done. Sometimes it is easy, as this series shows, and sometimes impossible; as this series also shows.

So without further ado. Let's grab a drinking jack, see if we can squeeze into Ed's old armor and spend a nice evening, or a dozen, with some old friends.

"The Game Wizards" by Jeff Grubb, Dragon #153
This one is not really part of the series, but it fits the mold well enough to be a proto-version of the tale. In this case, Elminster has come to our world and is imparting wisdom on Jeff Grubb.

"Magic In the Evening", Dragon #185 (56), September 1992
This is the first piece of the series before it was the Wizards Three. Here Elminster and Mordenkainen meet on Earth (with Ed hiding away). A lot of the conceits of the series are established here. Elminster with his typically archaic speaking. Mordenkainen always feeling like he is about an hour or two away from some cosmic victory or equally cosmic defeat. Some good-natured fun poked at each character, plenty, but never enough to make them actual caricatures. I did sometimes wonder how Gary, who had been long gone from TSR at this time, felt about Ed's portrayal of Mordenkainen.
I did enjoy how the characters did seem rather fond of each other. Maybe not friends exactly, but certainly more than co-professionals.
Also, the rules of their meetings are established. So this is the first meeting of this sort between the master mages.
One thing I get now, that I didn't then, was how Realms and Oerth lore was weaved into the conversations. Nice little treat that must have been for people reading all the novels at the time. The spells that were later presented we also worked into the discussions.

In the game mechanics bit at the end Ed let's know what discussions were connected with which novels and which adventures. I usually more up on the adventures than the novels.

This episode included the spells "Curse of the Grinning Skull", "Thundaerl's Universal Taster", "Lesser Spelldream", "Greater Spelldream", and "Moonweb". Anytime I could get more spells the better. I figure these spells have been out for a bit so no need to detail them all here.

This one also included Samader's Ring and the Alhoon creature, or the Illithid Lich.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #188 (26), December 1992
This one is a proper Wizards Three since it now includes Dalamar the Dark. The Master of the Black Robes Tower of High Sorcery in Krynn. Elminster's power was unknown to me, and Mordenkainen was always a guess I safely put them both in the "above level 20" area. I knew Dalamar was below level 20 thanks to the hardcover Dragonlance book.


Moving on to the tale, tragedy has struck Mordenkainen, of which I had been vaguely aware of thanks to the Greyhawk books that had been coming out in the end of 1st ed and the start of 2nd ed. Most of the Circle of Eight had fallen to the hand of Vecna leaving only Mordenkainen himself. I know it was a tale, with characters that were not real, but I was always happy with the exchange between Elminster and Mordenkainen here. It seemed, well, heartfelt. This is contrasted well with the near come to magical blows that Dalamar gets into with the other mages when he is introduced. If Elminster and Mordenkainen are beginning to act like something akin to friends, the Dalamar has a long way to go before even trust is part of the relationship. But at least he agrees to stay for dinner.

The inclusion of Dalamar changes the tenor of the meetings and the nature of some of the spells.

Our spells include "Blastbones", "Double Spell", "Whip of Pain", and "Manshoon’s Xorn Talons."
Magic items include a "Ring of ESP", "Cloak of Healing", and a "Fleeting Fail." And some undead monsters.

"3 Wizards Too Many", Dragon #196 (82), August 1993
Dalamar relaxes enough to have some fun with Mordenkainen and he gives as good as he gets now. It is easy to forget that on Krynn, Dalamar is the big badass evil mage. I just never read him as really being evil I guess. Not in the Dragonlance stories and not here either. Selfish, sure, but not really evil. I am sure I just missed some of his darker exploits.

The spells include "Bloodglass", "Fistandantilus's Firequench", "Thultaun's Thrust", "Barrier Reaver" and "Dragon Breath". Magic items include "Helping Hands" and "Spell Mirror".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #200 (20), December 1993
I recall this one quite well. The Dragon magazine had the then way cool hologram cover, and this Wizards Three features the Simbul. This entire exchange with the Three Wizards and A Witch Lady was reproduced in the Forgotten Realms book "Pages from the Mages". I liked this one, even if Dalamar did go back to acting like a petulant child. But I can overlook all that. This was not the first time I had ever heard of The Simbul, but it was the first time I had read about the character and really grew to like her. Here are the three greatest mages of three worlds and they all pay deference to HER.


I mean look. Mordenkainen is bowing to her. That's impressive.

This one has the most spells, which includes "Shadow Bolt", "Slowspell", "Acid Bolt", "Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry", "Bonebind", "Bloodstars", "Lightning Storm", "Alamanther's Return", and "Tempestcone".

I didn't spend a lot of pixels on it, but this might be my favorite of the lot.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #211 (82), November 1994
Now we are getting into ones a little less familiar to me. Some I read when they came out, but only briefly, others I did not encounter at all until I bought the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM Archive.

This installment finds Elminster with a burning tongue from chili and a Mordenkainen in a jovial mood. So much so he even pranks Dalamar. See I find this totally in-character for Mordenkainen, knowing what I know of Gary. Though I don't pretend to be an expert on either Mordenkainen or Gary. The three share reminiscences of "Nights of Shadows" past, or essentially Halloween. The text seems to suggest that Dalamar is a Drow, but he isn't, he is a "Dark elf" which is something very different on Krynn.
Their spell trades have moved now into subtle contests of who can impress the others more. It seems less about power and more about the story behind the spell; a bit I really liked. Who cares how powerful a spell is, how interesting is it? Though there is less sharing of the stories behind each spell.
This is the shortest one to date, but it has a lot of spells.
For those interested, Elminster contributed "Falling Wall", "Jonstal's Double Wizardry", and "Jonstal's Improved Double Wizardry"; Mordenkainen presented "Argaster's Cloak of Shadows", "Belsham's Mace", and "Othnal's Spectral Dagger"; and Dalamar set forth "Battlecurse", "Sphere of Eyes", and "Valiancy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #219 (90), July 1995
The subtitle of this one is "Warmer than Expected" which is appropriate. In July 1995 I got married and came home to the largest (and deadliest) heat wave Chicago had seen in decades (though we would surpass it many times later) and our AC was dead.
There is more "plot" in this story with the introduction of Shaan the Serpent-Queen. This whole set-up to trap the Serpent-Queen.
In the end we are introduced, sort of, to Mordenkainen's thee new young apprentices.
Spells featured here were "Handfangs" (turns your hand into a venomous viper), "Farscry", "Dauntra's Cloak", "Translocation Shift", "Temporal Freedom", and "Brainblaze".

"The Return of the Wizards Three", Dragon #238 (42), August 1997
The biggest gap of time between installments so far just occurred. Elminster even comments about the last installment noting reading about it on "the Net". Something about "gamers with dirty minds." I checked a little on the Usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd and there does seem to be some complaining. Was this the reason? Most likely it had more to do with the fact that this was a very dark time at TSR and Wizards of the Coast had either bought them at this time or was close. I just checked, this was one of the first Dragons to be published by the newly acquired TSR.
This installment tries to walk back some of the implied ribaldries of the last episode. We get nearly a page and a half of this before any other wizard shows up.
In something of a manifestation of this, we are introduced to Rautheene, one of the new apprentices of Mordenkainen. She was introduced to keep the number at three. Dalamar will not be joining the group this night, nor any other night, nor any other night for the next 10 years. I have to admit I was always curious about why exactly Dalamar was excluded. I know it had something to do with the relationship WotC now had with the Dragonlance properties. But for me, this was the big issue that overshadowed whether or not Mord and Elm went frolicking with young apprentices.
The addition of Rautheene also adds something akin to a Doctor Who companion; a younger, less learned character whose job is to ask "What is that Doctor?" or in Rautheene's case "What is that Lord?"
The spells shared were, "Spell Echo", "Scourage of Stars", "Firedart", "Turnblade", "Backshift" and the evocatively named "Mystra's Unraveling".

"Jest the Wizards Three", Dragon #242 (48), December 1997
This one comes a mere four months after the last. I know I said that I didn't care about the implied ribaldry between the old mages and young apprentices, but now I can't read about Elminster and Rautheene as nothing but really creepy flirting. Ah well. Thought maybe because of this Rautheene is also becoming a more developed character, though she is still something of a walking stereotype at the moment. But she is getting there.
The mages trade spells and strange flavor combinations (smoked salmon and ice-cream, which is something I think my youngest son has also done).
The spells include "Coinsharp", "False Ioun Stone", "Hither", "Wizard Gong", "Echo", "Fingerblade", "Nextremity", "Sortil's Aqueous Transfer", and "Spy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #246 (86), April 1998
This installment has the first full-color interior art. The artist, David Day has been with us since the start.



More discussion on how they can't reach Krynn. This installment is also fairly short, but there are some interesting spells. "Beneath the Surface" (looks beneath the surface of something), "Blade of Memory", "Brester's Beam of Light", "Onsible's Key", "Runefinger" (allows the mage to draw in mid-air), "Smahing Stike", "Standfast", "Tanatha's Melt", and "Tentacled Visage".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #344 (56), June 2006
Previously we got three installments in eight months. Then eight years till this one! What changes happened to our trio of wizards? For me I went from being married and living in my brand new home to being married, having two kids, living in my second home, and having published a few of my own RPG materials. Soon I'll pick up the tattered remains of my old website and recreate it as this blog. This was also the time I had a subscription to Dragon.
Ed is still the author, but we get a new illustrator in Tom Fowler. Dragon is now published by Paizo, the system is now 3.0 D&D and TSR is almost 10 years gone.
Some other changes. Mordenkainen is now in his new "Anton Le Vey" look (ok that is not really a fair comparison, but he is bald with a goatee). Rautheene no longer seems to be his apprentice (though she is still called such), but a full mage in her own right, and she is sporting some new tattoos. Seems she was a college student in the 90s! Again, more lip service given to looking for Dalamar, this time it is Rautheene doing the looking. It occurs to me that an epic quest to find a completely lost world might be fun.
Interesting change in tone here. I attribute it to all the novels Ed had written since, but Rautheene is less the "giggling coed" and now more capable young mage. She is aware of the power difference between her and the two older mages, more so than Dalamar was, but for her, it is less "I am not as good as them" and more "that's going to be me if I learn from these two." I'd like to see if there is more about her out there.
The spells are now in 3e format, so they are for wizards and sorcerers. They include "Battle Tentacles", "Mailed Might", and "Wymcone". I would have liked some more discussion on the arrival of Sorcerers to these two worlds, but that has been discussed elsewhere.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #359 (78), September 2007
This is the end of our journey. This is the last published, print copy of Dragon Magazine. I have not checked to see if any were published in the 4e online Dragon or Dragon+ for 5e. So let's see what this rather special installment has for us.
Dalamar has returned for this final meeting which I admit is a really nice surprise for the other wizards and myself. Rautheene now holds her own against Elminster.
This time Ed is outed, in a manner of speaking, as to why he hosts this gathering of wizards and the Wizards Four decide to let him live if he continues to show off their brilliance. Dinner is shared, but no spells this time.



The Wizards Three was a sometimes delightful, sometimes amusing little romp of the important worlds of classic D&D; Toril, Oerth, and Krynn and not to mention Earth.



I will admit I was disappointed in the end that Mystara was never represented, especially since the feature would share issues with such Mystara-centric features as "Voyages of the Princess Ark" and even an article about Mystara's wizards from Bruce Heard himself.

The spells were always welcome and I could never get enough new spells to be honest.

The series is also one of the few that is covered in both the Greyhawk online wiki and the Forgotten Realms one. The closest thing the online Dragonlance wiki has is an Ed Greenwood category.

Through these outside sources and from the articles I gathered that The Year of the Turret, 1360 DR marked the first meeting between Elminster and Mordenkainen on Earth (1992). On Oerth, this was shortly before the year 581 CY. I am unsure of what the date would have been on Krynn.

I am curious to know what the fans of the various worlds think of this series. Did it do your favorite mage justice? What else would you have liked to have seen? Who else? Ringlerun? Kelek?

I also wonder if this was re-done today what other wizards and worlds would be included. Would Dark Sun? Birthright? Eberron?

Edited to Add: Ed has weighed in on this!



Friday, August 28, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 28 Close

This is about the time of year that I close out Summer projects and inventory my Fall ones to see where I am at.  

But this summer was a strange one really.  The whole Covid-19 thing changed a LOT of plans, one in particular was available free time to get other projects done. The day job was just too involved.

So I am still closing out my Summer though and looking ahead to Fall and beyond plans.  Here is what is going on for me and The Other Side.

Right now I am archiving old projects, both personal and work, I like to have a nice cleaned out work space on my computers.  This also gives me the opportunity to see what I have been working on and what still needs to be done. 

I still have a little bit more I want to do for BECMI month Summer, including a deep dive into the Shadow Elves like I mentioned on Day 9.  That though is in a couple more weeks. 

The really GREAT thing about this #RPGaDAY2020 posting is it has me thinking about all my stacks of research material and upcoming projects.

War of the Witch Queens Campaign

The War of the Witch Queens has been on my mind a lot since I want to run it under the B/X or BECMI rules.  I just have not figured out all the points yet.  I pointed out on Day 20 that Kelek is likely to be my bad guy.  And I think that still works.  In fact if the campaign only goes to level 14 (B/X, OSE) then that will be my guy.  BUT What if Kelek sets thing into motion he didn't predict and it quickly got out of hand?  The Witches, held in check by the Witch Queens are now doing some real damage?  What then? Well. In that case we continue on to level 36!  Who knows, I might even start it with the classic "You meet in an Inn".

Super Dungeon Explorer Adventure Team Go, Go, GO!

This is a bit of a goof, but it has gotten a lot of attention.  I secured an artist this week for the first release of this.  It will be for 5e and likely 180° away from anything Old-School.

Basic Bestiary and High Witchcraft

The first draft of Basic Bestiary is done, working on the beta draft now. I also put together my spreadsheet to track art development. Sadly I have not actually secured any new artists for this one.  So that might be a delay. 

The High Witchcraft book is no where near ready.  I was going over my notes and I am not even sure I have anything that can be considered a draft at this point. Just about a dozen or so files of notes that need to be collated, edited and then made into something. Additionally I have files of materials that did not make the cut for some of the other books; usually due to space or because the idea was not as complete as I would have liked.  If this is really going to be my "last witch book" then it behooves me to either find a home for those orphans here or on my blog.  One such orphan was the Goblin Forest of Haven.

I really want the High Witchcraft book to be really special. I want it to feature some of the ideas I have been playing with for years and to be my Coda for this series. 

I have a couple of other projects on the burners, but nothing I can share just yet.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 20 Investigate

I have made some off-handed comments here, and on Facebook and other social media platforms, but nothin solid or concrete yet.  So now is that time. I am pulling together several loose ideas and a couple more developed ones into a single narrative.  

All summer long I have been fairly focused on some "Basic-era" games.  In particular OSE, BXRPG, and BECMI.  I knew I was going to get a game together using one or more of these rules.  I also have a big campaign I want to do, War of the Witch Queens, which I have been going back and forth on; should it be Basic-Era (BECMI in particular) or Castles & Crusades.

The premise is simple really, deceptively so.
While our intrepid adventurers are doing their normal adventuring thing they notice that there are an awful lot of powerful, but low level, witches causing troubles.  Making power grabs and largely being a problem.  The adventurers discover, but some means not fully developed yet, that the problem is the witch hierarchy is in shambles.  Someone has murdered the High Queen of Witches.

I said this bit before, but every 13 years the witches gather to choose a new High Queen of Witches. While all the Witch Queens, leaders of their respective traditions, have a say in truth it is the current High Queen that chooses the new High Queen.  This year the witches have gathered and the High Queen has been killed.  Every Witch Queen suspects the others and the entire power structure is in shambles. 

That is the goal.  The characters have to investigate the murder and find out who did it.

Simple, right?  Well...the trouble is that for the most part I don't know who did it. At least not yet.

Here are the details.

Who was murdered? The High Queen of Witches.
How was she killed? It looks like a mundane dagger. But that can't be it right??
Why was she killed? Unknow, it is suspected that one of the out-of-favor Queens did it.
Are we sure? No. Witches are not allowed to harm each other.  This taboo gets more powerful as the witch increases in level.  The powerful the witch, the less able she is to harm another witch.  I call this the Pact of Baba Yaga. She demanded that no witch harms another or SHE will come in and do the harming. 
Ok, why was she really killed? To destabilize the power base of the witches.  The Witch Queens keep the lower level witches in line.  They can't harm them directly...but you can be surprised what they can do.

So, this puts me on an investigation of my own.  Essentially I have to go through the mystery myself and see where it leads me. But this isn't just a murder mystery.  This is a power grab.  Someone wanted the High Witch Queen dead to destabilize the witch power structure on purpose. Who would want to do that?  The other Witch Queens?  No. Can't be one of them. They can't actually harm each other due to the Pact of Baba Yaga.  Plus, why would they want too? Without that High Queen the witches will start warring, start causing trouble and basically doing all the things that got them all sent to the gallows and the stake the first time around.  Plus any new High Queen is going to spend most of her 13 years ruling just cleaning up the mess of the last 13 months.  No.  This is someone outside the hierarchy looking to weaken the witches.

But who?

Enter Kelek the Cruel.

Kelek has the notable distinction of being the first AD&D Toy Line product I ever bought. I thought he would be great as an antagonist, but in the end, I never used him.  In my investigations of Skylla, I also ran into more details about Kelek.  I learned that like Skylla, Kelek was changed to evil by the Heartstone. He also was a friend to Ringlerun, the good wizard. Skylla had been Ringlerun's apprentice, but now she works with Kelek.  Kelek seems more than happy to use her to his own ends.

Then I discovered two details that really sold it for me.  

First. Kelek was in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Episode "Valley of the Unicorns", where he unwillingly served Venger.  That is not the important bit.  The important bit is who wrote the episode.

Yes. Paul Dini. The same Paul Dini that invented Harley Quinn, wrote SO MUCH material about Zatanna and gave us the definitive Evil-Lyn episode of the Masters of the Universe, "The Witch and the Warrior."


I don't know about you, but for me, that is a pedigree.

Second, and this happened while doing my investigations of both Kelek and Skylla and BECMI related merchandise, I found that Kelek was featured a lot in the AD&D coloring books and in the D&D story books for kids.

In one, The Treasure of Time, Kelek is creeping on Charmay (the good magic-user, and subject of a crazy idea of mine) where he discovers a map to the "Treasure of Time".  Long story (ok it is not that long) short, he finds the treasure and becomes young again, but loses all his knowledge of magic. 

He is humiliated by Charmay who laughs at him while he cries.

The thought occurred to me. Here is a guy that obviously already has issues. Bullied by Venger, humiliated by Charmay, and wants nothing more than to be the Master of all Evil Magic according to his bio in the Shady Dragon Inn and has no problem destroying Skylla once he gets what he wants.

I have been watching a lot of the new Harley Quinn animated series lately where they have Doctor Psycho as a full-on misogynistic asshole.  Further strengthens that Paul Dini connection (I know. He has nothing to do with that show, but there would have never been that show had it not been for Dini) and make Kelek the same.  It's not a stretch really.  Plus it also allows me to play with current politics in my game.  Taking an old misogynistic white dude (and likely aging incel. he had to lure those unicorns in some way) and make him the bad guy in a situation were witches/women hold more power than he does and he wants. 

I have not decided though if Skylla is working with him on this.  Either he has promised her the High Witch Queen crown OR if he is manipulating her as well.


After his defeat at the hands of Charmay, a bitter Kelek had no choice but to go back to magic school and relearn everything.  Only this time instead of a bright young man who had a friend (Ringlerun) with him, he is a bitter old-man in a young man's body.  That also makes him extremely focused. He doesn't go for the types of fun that a young magic-school student might get into. Instead he is bitter, focuses 100% of time on his studies and plots of revenge.  In the process, he sees "enemies" everywhere.  Everyone is trying to stop him or mock him and he is SOOOO much smarter than these fools around him.  It is easy to think of someone like this in real life. He hates his fellow students because they are so stupid in his mind. He hates his teachers because in his mind he has already done far more than they have. Every day that they have to teach him something he already knew long ago, but can't quite remember, is a stinging reminder of his defeat.

Why is Kelek going after the witches? Well he hates women and his old friend and enemy Ringlerun died of natural causes, robbing Kelek of the chance to kill him. 

Sometimes I like to make villains that you can relate too. It's my Lex Luthor philosophy.  Lex never thinks he is the villain, he is the Hero, and that flying abomination is the villain. 

Kelek is just an asshole whose thoughts are so twisted in on themselves that he doesn't care if he is the villain or the hero, he is just going make everyone that laughed at him pay.  No one will stop him because he is so much smarter than everyone around him.

And those types of villains are really fun to defeat.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

BECMI: Expert Level Accessories and the AD&D Toy Line

Last week I talked about the tie-ins with the 1983 D&D Basic Set.  Today I want to delve into a very specifics sort of tie-in relationship and one that gave us very mixed results.
I am talking of course about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon toy line and it's, let's just say awkward, tie-in with the BECMI version of D&D.


Today gamers of a certain age look back rather fondly at the AD&D toy line.  Back then though, at least in my circles of 1983, we kinda looked down on them.  Sure we thought they were fine for a younger sibling, but we were Real RoleplayersTM and we didn't need that!  In fact, it was much the same way the same group of people now look down on D&D5 players.  Well, it was dumb then and dumb now.  But I digress.

If you follow me on social media I do a feature called "The Other Side Rewind" where I usually post a link to an older blog post early in the morning. Today's was a look back at my review of the Shady Dragon Inn, AC1.

The Shady Dragon Inn features the Inn and tons of writeups that can be used as ready-made PCs or as NPCs.  It is, as I described it, the "Rogues Gallery" of D&D.  It also has stats for a number of the LJN Toys AD&D line Heroes and Villians.  Of course in BECMI D&D stats format. Everyone from Strongheart to Kelek to Warduke even my beloved Skylla is here.  You can read my full review of it here.

But that is not the only place they appear.


Another product designed to work with the AD&D toy line and feature what are arguably the first set of D&D iconic characters is the Expert level adventure, XL-1 Quest for the Heartstone.
XL in this case is not "extra-large" but rather "Expert Licensed."

It features a kingdom, Ghyr, not found on any of the maps in the Expert set, and dozens of characters from the toy line.  It also introduces monsters from the toy line to the BECMI rules for the first time.  We get Hook Horrors, Dragonne, and the raging Roper!



Let's not delude ourselves here.  XL-1 Quest of the Heartstone is not a good adventure.

There is one reason to get this and that is because of the tie-in with the D&D toy line.  Even the author of the adventure Michael L. Gray has said this.

Correction, there is another reason.  The maps for this adventure are rather nice featuring the same isomorphic maps we see in Ravenloft.

The Heartstone itself is something of an iconic on it's own.  We know from the Shady Dragon Inn supplement that Strongheart and Warduke used to be friends. But when exposed to the Heartstone Strongheart became a paragon of good and Warduke one of evil.   Both are featured fighting side by side on the cover of the module.  It also features in Skylla's backstory. She was a student of Ringlerun until she was exposed to the Heartstone and sought out the dark sides of magic. 
Given what the Heartstone does would it be heretical to suggest that Strongheart and Warduke are actually the same person! Just split into "Good" and "Evil" halve by the Heartstone?  Their stats don't match though.
What about Skylla and Charmay? The same picture is often used for them both.  Both were students of Ringlerun.  Here is an awful thought.  Skylla touched the Heartstone was split into good and evil.  Evil Skylla went on her way but good Skylla was taken by Ringlerun and had her memories changed and she became "Charmay."
This is why they often look alike and why I have never seen them together in any one product.  Hmm. Something to consider for another time.

One of the biggest issues I see with this is the seeming hamfisted way the toy line was added.
The toy line was marketed as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" the stats and tie-ins are all for D&D BECMI lines and the Expert in particular.  I hate to speculate but was this part of the same split of D&D/AD&D going back to the Arneson/Gygax split?  My understanding was that if it was "D&D" then Dave Arneson got a bit of cash, but not so for AD&D.  Again. I hate to speculate.


The book art is still Charmay!

But. It does create an interesting problem.  There are many more classes in AD&D and some of the characters belong to those classes. Strongheart is a Paladin, Peralay (formerly Melf) is multiclassed (ok this one is easy to fix), Hawkler is a Ranger, Zarak is an assassin.

For the Shady Dragon and Quest of the Heartstone they had to be converted to the nearest D&D class.

Looking at modern iterations of the game, specifically D&D 3.0 and Pathfinder, but also other media tie-ins with the characters of the Forgotten Realms, it seems like there was a need, or at least a want,  for some iconic characters.  Hell, I have spilled a lot of digital ink on Skylla alone.   I wonder why more wasn't done.  I guess the easy answer is that TSR just didn't think about it at the time, but I find that is an unsatisfactory answer.  Reading any anecdotes from the time Gary was eager to get the D&D band into every home. Maybe not always the D&D game, but certainly the brand.

Hard to blame him really.  D&D was popular then and only now are the ideas he had being fully realized.  It's easy to see why.  The people in charge of D&D (and pretty much every other successful game company) now were the players back then.  They wanted to know more about the exploits of Strongheart, the evils of Kelek and whatever dastardly deed Warduke was up too.

The characters would appear again and this time in a better adventure.

Module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield also features these iconic characters and it is also the closest thing we got to a meta-plot in 80s D&D.  It is a follow-up to the Desert Nomad series of X4/X5 and it also uses the War Machine massive battle rules from the Companion Set (more on that next week) AND it also uses the AD&D BattleSystem.  There is so much going on that this adventure really deserves it's own post.  I had hoped that the Print on Demand version would be here by now, but everything is slow.

Do the LJN/AD&D toys exist in the canon D&D world of Mystara?  I suppose you can say yes. The likes of Warduke, Skylla, Ringelrun, Strongheart, Kelek, and Charmay easily join the ranks of the iconic D&D characters.

Links

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn

Going through some of my favorite Basic-era books and games and I should really spend some time with another favorite, but one that became a later favorite.

AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn was one of the first accessories for the BECMI flavor of the D&D game.

This book also has the distinction of being one of the first Print on Demand books that Wizards of the Coast would release for the old TSR catalog.

The book also has special interest to me since it features the stats for one of my favorite characters Skylla.

I will be reviewing both the PDF and the Print on Demand versions.

The book is 32 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The print version is perfect bound; so no staples.   The scan is sharp and clean and PoD version is easy to read.

The book features the titular inn, but really the main feature of this book is the collection of NPCs.  Designed to be a bit like the original AD&D Rogues Gallery.  This product though is a little more robust.  The Shady Dragon Inn write-ups include some background on who these characters are, more than just a collection of stats.  Maybe indicative of shift between the AD&D and D&D lines.

The characters are split by class.   In each case, we get a dozen or so individual characters of Fighters, Thieves, Clerics, Magic-users, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings. with art by Jim Holloway and Larry Day.  While the art helps, each write-up includes a brief description.  This all covers roughly two-dozen pages.

There is another section of "Special" characters.  These are the ones with TM next to their names. Such notables as Strongheart, Warduke, Kelek and of course Skylla.

There is a bit at the end about the Shady Dragon Inn itself along with some pre-gen adventuring parties based on level.  A great aid for DMs that need some NPCs.

The Print on Demand version includes the maps to the Inn as part of the print.  The main PDF does not have them, but they can be downloaded as a separate file.   There are PDFs and image files to print out to use with minis.  So with some minor tweaks, you can use this with any version of D&D you like.  The characters inside can be converted to 5e easily enough.
Ignore the saving throws, and recalculate the base to hit as 20 - THAC0.  I find that 22 or 23 -THAC0 actually works out a little bit better for 5e.

The maps are set to 1" = 5', so D&D 3, 4 & 5 standard.
The Print on Demand versions do not come out to 1" exactly, but when you buy the pdf you get the maps as files to print on your own.

While this book lacks the numbers of NPCs the Rogues Gallery does, it is superior in every other aspect.  Starting in an Inn might be a D&D cliché, but a product like this makes you want to embrace the cliché anyway.

The Print on Demand version is fantastic really.







The maps are part of the book, not detachable, but that is fine really.





Here is the spine.  It is Perfect bound. No staples.



Various shots of the text.  It appears the same as the early editions.  Maybe a touch fuzzier, but nothing that I consider a deal-breaker.  Barely noticeable in fact.


How can you tell this is a new print versus a really, really well kept original?  This page. This is the same sort of page found in all DriveThru/OneBookShelf/LightningSource books.
Note how the bar code is not an ISBN one.