Showing posts with label This Old Dragon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label This Old Dragon. Show all posts

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #83

Have a look at that cover.  1984 was a good year for Chess themed things.  In October we would get the #1 hit, "One Night In Bangkok" from the Album Chess and sung by Murry Head.  In March we got this famous cover of Dragon #83 by  Denis Beauvais.  It is part of the oft mentioned Chess series that stretch to the modern day.  On the radio "Jump" by Van Halen dominates the airwaves. In the theatres we get "Against All Odds", "Police Academy" and "Romancing the Stone" as the big box office hits.  On the shelves "Dragonlance" is starting to appear and we get Issue #83 of This Old Dragon!

Letters cover the usual questions about psionics and where someone can get an article reprint.  Hang tight, you will be able to buy everything on CD-ROM in about 15 years.   There is also a letter on the longest continuous game of D&D at 100 hours.  I think the longest game I ever played was a combo Ravenloft I6/I10 game at 48 hours.

Ads for James Bond and Cities of Hârn.

Michael Lowrey is up first with The many facets of gems. Since a lot of my D&D game play is 70s and 80s fueled I always wanted to use gems as a means of storing magical energy in my games.  I never quite got it the way I wanted it to be honest (still working on it) but this article was a huge help back in the day.  It is also a pretty long article.

Ed Greenwood is back with the Ecology of the Stirge. Is it a bug? Is it a bird?  Going back and rereading these now I admire how well Ed could take even the most banal monster and turn it into something interesting.  While I used to find his "in universe" writing a little twee now I am genuinely amused by it.  I can imagine some Academy in the Forgotten Realms where monster experts debate the finer points of monster biology and killing methods, all safe in their academic halls and ivory towers.

Sign of the times.  The fiction section is not only by Margaret Weis, it is the first Dragonlance story in the pages of Dragon magazine.  Test of the Twins features the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the effect on D&D by Dragonlance.  Whatever your point of view on this the Dragonlance era starts here and now with this issue.   The story is a pivotable one in the Dragonlance saga. So much so that I have read it, or versions of it, in other books before I saw it here.

The centerfold is the massive adventure from Roger Moore, the Dancing Hut. This was such a great adventure then that I had to rerun for my kids.  Though I combined it with bits of the 2nd Edition version that came out much later.  This one is a keeper.
Baba Yaga is such a historic figure in D&D it is no surprise there are so many adventures built around her.

Roger Moore follows this up with a simplified unarmed fighting system in How to Finish Fights Faster.  Frankly, I never used it.

There is an ad for my FLGS here, +Games Plus.  This might have been the first time I discovered them to be honest.  I used to order the hard to find stuff from Games Plus because they were the only Illinois game store that knew of that did mail orders. They were about 210 miles away from me at the time, but now they are only 8 miles. So I am very, very pleased to still be going there.

There is a Top Secret article here, but mine was cut out.

There is another ad and a long review of the James Bond 007 game.
I am a HUGE Bond fan.  My first Bond movie was Live and Let Die. It gave me a life long obsession with Bond, Voodoo and Jane Seymour.
Despite this, I have never played a James Bond game.  My loss to be sure.  I'll need to fix that someday.
My first Bond may have been the late great Roger Moore (no relation of course to the above-mentioned RM), the BEST Bond is Daniel Craig. order form for the Mail Order Hobby Shop to get back issues of Dragons.

In the comics section we get a rare celestial conjunction; Wormy, What's New with Phili and Dixie AND Snarf Quest all in one issue.  There is even an entry of Talanalan here.

A great issue really, if for nothing else than for the Baba Yaga adventure.

March 1984 was also a good issue of White Dwarf. Check that out on my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #51.

Using Baba Yaga in your games
This adventure features Baba Yaga and gives her stats ala Deities and Demigods.  She is a tough one to beat too.   She has 3 attacks, 135 hp, a -1 Charisma which gives her horror like effects.  She fights like a 16HD and has the spell casting ability of a 25th level Magic-User, a 15th level Illusionist and a 14th level Druid.  Crazy.  Oh, and she has some abilities of an assassin too.

There is no doubt that she is one of, if not THE, most powerful witch in the D&D multiverse.  When she is not working with her daughter Iggwilv on Oerth she is off on Golarion dealing with the Winter Witches of Irrisen.  I would not be surprised to discover she has also been to Aglarond and Rashemen. And if she hasn't been there then her Hut has.

No one is better suited for a Basic Witch write-up to be honest.
I will use Roger Moore's stats as a guideline and use the witch rule from my The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games.

Baba Yaga, Witch Queen
36th level Queen of Witches, Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition (She is the Tradition founder.)
Female, Chaotic (Nuetral Evil)

Strength 20 (+3 / +8)
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 23
Dexterity 18 (+3)
Constitution 21 (+6_
Charisma -1* (Baba Yaga uses her negative CHA the way other witches use positive. So +5)

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 3
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 3
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3
+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+ for Wisdom

Hit Points:
AC: -10
(Grandmother's Shawl +5, Bracers of Defense +3, Ring of Protection +5, Dex 18 -3)

THAC0: 4
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (crow)
Minor: Kitchen Witchery
Medial: Detect Bloodline
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Longevity

Spell Immunities
Baba Yaga is immune to the following spells:
Cause fear, charm person, command, friends, hypnotism, forget, hold person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, beguiling, bewitch, domination, fear, charm monster, confusion, emotion, fumble, suggestion, telempathic projection, chaos, feeblemind, hold monster, magic jar, mass domination, quest, geas, mass suggestion, rulership, antipathy/sympathy, finger of death, mass charm, Otto's irresistable dance and any spell created by one of her "Daughters" (for example Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter).

Other Powers
Arcane Diversity: Baba Yaga may learn other arcane spells (Wizard, Necromancer, Illusionist). She can replace 1 Ritual spell per spell level with an arcane spell she has learned.  These spells must be learned like other magic-users and recorded in her Book of Shadows.

Cantrips (8): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading, Summon Vermin
1st (9+4): Bad Luck, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Darkness, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Minor Fighting Prowess, Protection from Spirits, Silver Tongue
2nd (9+3): Agony, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (9+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Ghost Ward, Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Magic Circle Against Undead, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Witch Writing
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Speak with Dead, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Withering Touch
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Death Blade, Eye Bite, Ethereal Banishment, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Call the Restless Soul, Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Foresight, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Gate (Ritual)
8th (9): Antipathy/Sympathy, Astral Projection, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Ensnarement (Ritual), Imprisonment (Ritual)

Magic Items
Grandmother's Shawl (Greatest), Broom of Animated Attack, Baba Yaga's Hut, Baba Yaga's mortar and pestle.

To make her closer to the version presented here in Dragon #83 I could give her the Mind Bar from +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #103

1985 was an interesting year for D&D.  It saw the publication of Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.  "Deities and Demigods" had been renamed to "Legends and Lore".  60 Minutes did their hatchet job on D&D.  We were deep in what many have called the "Hickman Revolution" and indeed the third Dragonlance novel, last of the first trilogy was published.   1985 gave us a little peek at what 2nd Edition AD&D would have been like and it would see the departure of Gary from TSR.  A lot of this can be seen in November 1985 and in issue #103 of This Old Dragon!

While there is a loose theme here, the real theme of this issue is a glimpse into the future.
But first, let's start with the cover.  My copy is missing the cover so I had to pop in the old CD-ROM to see it.  It's a cool blue dragon that reminds me of earlier covers. I don't remember it at all really.

The Letters section covers the old "Photocopying service" Dragon used to offer.  Anyone take advantage of that?
Also starting next year (1986) Dragon will be $3.50 an issue.

Gary is up in one of the biggest "What If" scenarios we have all talked about.  That is "What if Gary Gygax had designed AD&D 2nd Edition?"  We will never really know, but there are some tantalizing bits in this month's From the Sorceror's Scroll. The Future of the Game talks about how now that UA and Oriental Adventures are now out the game should evolve to a 2nd Edition.  He planned out the publication order to include the new Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, DM's Guide and a new Legends and Lore (a name he very much opposed).  It should be noted that here Gary also says that a 3rd and 4th editions (or more) are not only inevitable but also desirable as the AD&D game is "vital. It grows and it changes". He said there is no likelihood that the AD&D rules will ever be set in stone.    BTW, if you want to get an idea of what AD&D 2nd Edition as-written-by Gary Gygax *could* have looked like check out +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep. He spent a lot of time researching and this article was the genesis of that.

Kim Mohan is up with updates for Unearthed Arcana.
We had a rule in our games, that if it was in the books it was law, even if the rule was obviously "off".  We did it this way to avoid rule-lawyering arguments over intent.  Plus the book was an impartial party. It didn't change based on the situation at hand. So I can't recall if we used any of this errata or not.

There are many reasons why people don't play gnomes.  I think this is one of the biggest ones.  All About Krynn's Gnomes from Roger Moore details the "Tinker" gnomes of Krynn.  Of course, this is also why my brother, who is now an engineer, only played gnomes.   I have to admit I REALLY disliked the Tinker Gnome idea and I hated the execution of the idea. An entire race prone to failure and explosions? You know what we call that right? Extinct.  Honestly, it was not till 3e that I could even look at gnomes again and really not till 4e that they became something I'd consider having a character for.

Like Dogs? Stephen Inniss seems to with a collection of 12 domestic breeds in A Dozen Domestic Dogs.  My favorite bits are on the armor for fighting dogs.

The Role of Books covers a few books I am not at all familiar with. Though there is one, "Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning" that everyone knows. One, "The Song of Mavin Manyshaped" by Sheri S. Tepper sounds interesting.

An ad for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is next.  Long before there was a cartoon there was this game. Talk about striking when the iron is hot!

Stephen Inniss is back.  He had submitted an article on centaurs at the same time another author, Kelly Adams has submitted an article on centaurs.  The resulting article, The Centaur Papers, is a combination of these two works.   They fit together nicely (deft editing) and produce a long article, but what must be considered to be the Master's Thesis on Centaurs in D&D.  At 11 pages it is no small article.   Every so often I run into someone that is really, really into some concept in the game.  I remember back in the 90s stumbling upon a website dedicated to the Bariaur race, others for different things. This article reminds me of that.  Just detail on detail.  If you are into centaurs at all then this is your "must read" article.

Our centerfold is a collection of errata and corrections for Unearthed Arcana.

TSR Previews lets us know that Oriental Adventures and Saga of Old City are on the way.  This is followed by TSR Profiles of Gary Gygax himself.

The Wages of Stress is the fiction bit for this issue. It takes place in the fantastic future world of 2007 when everyone is connected by computer.   Ok, not to be too glib about it there is a bit about how everyone's health can be monitored remotely.

The Ares section is next.

A Traveller article on the planet Tarus is up first.  Of Nobbles and Men by Paul Vernon.  He had some great White Dwarf articles around this time as well.

The Saurians is the article I used the most from this issue.  A race (with subraces) for Star Frontiers I mixed them in with the Sea Devils and the Silurians from Doctor Who to make a race of "Saurials" that I used in many sci-fi games and then later used again in D&D.   Plus it was easy to add in bits of UFOlogy to this with their Reptoids.

Roger E. Moore has a review of the Gen Con 18 designer's forum on Supers RPG in A Super-Powered Seminar.   A brief history of supers games is discussed here and what the future mught hold.

The Marvel-Phile covers three heroes I know nothing about; Armadillo, Count Nefaria and Hyperion.

Ads...Convention Calendar...Wormy and Snarf Quest.
Dragonmirth gets in a dig at 60 Minutes.

Issue #103 was not a bad issue, just not a memorable one for me. Some memorable articles and a tantalizing article on AD&D 2nd Ed.  

Curious about what White Dwarf was doing at the same time? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #71.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #88

August 1984.  I was headed to my Sophomore year in High School.  We joked about "1984" all year.  Yeah, no so damn funny now is it.
"Ghostbusters" and Prince dominate both the Box Office and the Billboard charts. I was getting ready to start a two-year long campaign that would change my game world forever.  Ok, maybe that last one doesn't quite have the World-changing power of Ghostbusters or Purple Rain, but hey it was my world.  So let's sit back, put on "When Doves Cry" and join me for Issue #88 of This Old Dragon.

Dragon issue #88 is the first Dragon I didn't buy.  What's that mean?  Well, I had been buying Dragons now since issue #83 and was pretty set on getting each one. Issue #88 was the first one I didn't get after my first run. It was the first chose not to buy.  Much to my later chagrin when my DM opted to buy it!

I am mixed about this cover.  I think the orcs look cool, but it just doesn't grab me to be honest.
At this point I should state that this copy I have is in near mint condition.  I know it was not part of the boxes I picked up off of Craiglist or even one of my own originals.  This one is a bit of mystery to me as to why it is in such great and complete shape.

Letters section covers a number of "What is Official" type of questions.  I used to worry about such things myself. I used to imagine that D&D Conventions were a bit like the big Boy Scout meetings I had gone too before I left (or was kicked out of) the Boy Scouts (we had serious fundamental philosophical differences).  But no one has ever in any official capacity looked over my shoulder to tell me I was "doing it wrong".  Lots of amateurs sure, but I cheerfully dismissed them.

Len Lakofka is up first with the next part of Gods of the Suel pantheon.  Here we get Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas the unrequited love of my life (circa age 14).  Wee Jas, of course, grabbed my attention like nothing else in this issue. She was a gorgeous goddess of magic known as the Witch Queen?  How in the hell was I supposed to ignore that?  For years I thought this art was a Larry Elmore piece, but it is actually Jeff Butler.  I think the wide eyes are what really sets this piece off. Bella Donna indeed.
She first appeared (I learned almost right after) in the World of Greyhawk boxed set.  All we knew about her then was she was a greater Suel goddess of magic and death.
Lenard Lakofka's article though gave us the most detail really.  That is where the picture on the right is from.
What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her.
She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.
If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.
In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathe to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.
Also, have a look at her name "Wee Jas" or "Wee" and "Ja" or "Oui Ja".  She is the goddess of the Ouija board as well. Magic. Death and Spirits. Clever Gary.
I really enjoyed the Suel mythos and history. I always wanted to run a game set during the last days of the Suel Empire going right up to the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire.  In my game of the time my world (Mystara) merged with my DM's world (Oerth).  I figured that there were so many different cultures in such a small space because they were all refugees of the fall of the Suel Empire.

Well that's it! Thanks for stopping by.  Oh, wait there is more to this issue. Flips Look at that! There is more. Huh, never noticed. ;)

There is a lot really. Arn Ashleigh Parker is back with Physics and Falling Damage. Wow this article and the next one, Kinetic Energy is the Key by Steven Winter, lit up the letters and Forum pages for many issues to come.   We even talked about this in school. In the end we all decided that it was not worth the effort. We never read a fantasy story where the hero died in a fall. They died from sword wounds, spells or a dragons' bite.  A d6 every 10 ft. works.  Though if I were to get slightly more scientific then I would say a die type for each size category.  So something Small or smaller uses a d4,  Medium and Large a d6, larger categories go up to d8, d10 and d12. sure they all fall at the same speed (acceleration due to gravity) but their different masses produce different force when hitting the ground.

Ed Greenwood is up with the Ecology of the Rust Monster. Little bastards.

Off the Shelf needs to be recognized this time if for no other reason than their inclusion of a review for William Gibbson's Neuromancer.  We had no idea, even in ominous 1984, that we were getting a glimpse, however fuzzy, of the future. Not just a future in terms of Cyberpunk, but in terms of the future we live in now. At some point Neuromancer is going to read like the Golden Age of Sci-fi looks to us now.

Katharine Kerr is back with more Beyond the Dungeon.  She discusses moving the game the great outdoors.  For me this was covered rather nicely in the D&D Expert set. There is a part of this article that does provide a lot of use and that is the introduction of a simple skill system to the *D&D game.  Actually, it is more of a skill philosophy than full on system. This makes it a good choice for any modern D&D too, since the ideas can be used even when there are skills.  4e did a little of this too.

Some ads including this one for Witch Hunt and the 10th Anniversary box set

Yes, I had Witch Hunt but I never had that 10th Anniversary boxed set.  At the time I figured I didn't need it since I had most of those books.  Now I am kind of kicking myself.  Did anyone have it?
I never see them on eBay or anywhere else for that matter.   You can sure as hell believe that come 2024 I'll whatever WotC slaps a 50th Anniversary label on.

The "centerfold" is the crazy "Elefant Hunt" game by Tom Wham. I played it once I think. I have vague memory of it anyway.

ICE Can Stand the Heat covers books from Iron Crown Enterprise's Rolemaster series, or as we use to call it "Chartmaster".  I kinda liked "Spell Law" but it didn't fit with what I was doing at the time so I never used it.  My loss in some cases I think.

The Ares Section starts of with Gamma World and a timeline of the future in Before the Dark Years. Spoiler. That's us.  According to the timeline 2003 to 2021 is a time of ecological and economic disaster in America and Europe.  It still has the Soviet Union around, but you can't fault them on that.  We used this timeline a lot for our own D&D-mixed-with-Gamma World game.  Re-reading it now I see a lot of ideas I still use.

The Marvel Phile is intact and features Thor, Loki and Ulik leader of the Lost Trolls.  Odd, I don't remember him in the movie.

The Battle of Ebony Eyes is a ready-to-run Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks adventure. Followed by two more Star Frontiers articles.

Ads, comics, another fairly forgettable Talanalan, Worrmy,  and Snarf Quest with the introduction of VR-X9-4-M2 also know as Aveeare.

So. A really fun issue and in surprisingly great shape.

Wanna see what I said about White Dwarf from the same time?  Click here for White Dwarf #56.

Like what I do here? Pick up a copy of my newest book, The Green Witch!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #160

August of 1990 was my Senior year in college. I moved into an apartment in a very notorious neighborhood of my college town.  I was helping my roommate (one of four guys living in this place) put together this huge entertainment center. He sent me out to get a case of beer for the job. We lived next door to a liquor store.  I was back with the case (likely Keystone) in hand.  He didn't even know I had left.  We got so drunk that we named the entertainment center "The Ferderko" (after Bernie Ferderko). That was how the 90s began for me.  They ended with me three degrees later, married, living 300 miles away from that liquor store and the Ferderko, with a new baby son.  So yeah, I saw some changes.
Dragon, D&D and especially TSR saw a lot of changes in the 90s too.  But that was not obvious to us in August of 1990 when issue #160 came out.  So let's turn on some Star Trek TNG Season 4, fire up the 386SX and let's get going on Issue #160 of This Old Dragon.

The cover looks like it should be part of a Halloween issue, but it is actually for the special topic section of Urban adventures.  I was quite excited to see this, to be honest.  During the last couple of years of my High School AD&D game we focused largely on urban adventures.  My then DM and I even wrote up our own "Urban Survival Guide".  Kinda wish I still had that, would be cool to polish it up and use it.  At this point I should note that this particular Dragon, while not my original from then, is in surprisingly great shape.  The covers are still on it and it doesn't reek of mildew.

Inside we get an ad that would shape my entire 2nd Ed AD&D experience.  The first ad for the Ravenloft campaign world.  I bought everything for Ravenloft back then, when I could afford it, from the newly opened Castle Perilous Games in Carbondale, IL.  Ravenloft was my world.

First up is The Enemy at the Gates by James R. Collier.  This details some of the magical defenses a city must have to survive in the *D&D game worlds.  It's a good read, to be honest, and anyone with solid knowledge of the D&D spells or monster could likely come up with even more ways to attack a city.  Examples of +1 swords to Ents/Treants are given.  I also once destroyed a keep full of vampires with a charmed blue dragon in a game.  Likely right around this same time to be honest.  The article is good in describing all sorts of attacks, but not much in the way of defending against those attacks save for "fight dragons with dragons!".  The material though is still good after all these years and it can be used with just about any FRPG.  The article is also quite a long one.

The Last Call Inn by Willie Walsh is a sample inn and tavern with maps that can be used in any AD&D game.  Again, while it says AD&D on the tin, it could be used with any FRPG.  The article is more than just a map and room descriptions. It covers running the inn, prices, costs and setting up shop.   The economy is very AD&D 1st ed, though I think it was trying for AD&D 2nd ed.  Stats for NPCs are 2nd Ed.

Matthew J. Iden is next with a thieves' guild in The Touch of the Black Hand.  By this time we have seen a lot of Dragon articles on thieves' guilds and assassin guilds.    This one is good but doesn't expand much on the articles from the earliest days of the Dragon.  Maybe I should collect them all and have a look at them in that perspective.  I bet then I could find something unique and useful in each one.

Sage Advice covers some questions on Krynn and Greyhawk.

A big, garish, advertisement for Chill 2nd Edition.  The 90s were going to be about horror. I didn't know that then, but the writing is there on the walls as if it had been written there in blood by Anne Rice or Poppy Z. Brite.  I started the 90s with Ravenloft, ended it with WitchCraft. Had Chill and Vampire in-between.

The Forum handles the various "Is D&D Satanic" questions.  I guess the 80s are not quite over just yet...

+Bruce Heard is up with Up, Away, And Beyond: Space Travel in D&D a topic he is well versed in.  I'll even go as far to say as one of the two or three experts in it.  There are a couple of things in this article right away.  This is for D&D. Not AD&D.  So we are talking BECMI here.  There is even a bit on how the D&D and AD&D worlds are not linked. So you can't use space travel to get to one from the other.  Well, I tend to disagree, but that is the beauty of these games right.
There is a lot here really. Heard talks about different shaped worlds, odd gravity and how to work Spelljammer into all of this.  Fascinating read really.  A lot of this can also all still be used today, whether or not you use Spelljamer or Bruce's own Calidar setting.
Naturally, this is followed up by an episode of Voyage of the Princess Ark.

The Role of Computers is up next.  I could not help but notice it was Copyright 1990 by the authors.  Not too uncommon really, but will cause some problems for WotC when they try to re-publish these in ten years.

Nigel D. Findley is up with The Ecology of the Gibbering Mouther.  Did you know that creatures killed and eaten by the Mouther can not be raised, resurrected or reincarnated?  I don't think I did. Yes, this thing actually eats your soul too.

In the middle of the magazine, and still intact are some of the then new AD&D Trading Cards.
I really don't know much about these, to be honest.  I was never a collectible card guy. Are they worth anything?

Inside is also a poster for Dungeon magazine.

The fiction piece, Thief On  A String, features a scene that Mission: Impossible will steal in 6 years.

More ads...The Convention Calendar reminds us to get our tickets for Gen Con early. They had 10,000 people now two years running!

Another article that could see new life today is one from Mark E. Smith on There Are No Generic Black Belts: Defend yourself with a variety in TOP SECRETS/S.I.™ games.  I am not sure if the rules will match up with the new Top Secret coming out, but the advice is solid.   Several styles are covered here.  Interestingly enough, the one that I was studying at this time and into grad school, Isshinryu, is listed here.  I don't see it mentioned much.

Novel Ideas is more of an ad than it is an article. J. Eric Severson covers the Buck Rogers novels from TSR.

Also, more of an advertisement than an article is the Game Wizards detailing the new Ravenloft campaign setting.  I was very, very excited to see this.

We get a lot of ads and the comics.
And since I actually have one this time, the back cover features the Hollow World.

This is a nostalgic issue for me if only for the time it represents and not really for the content inside. Soon I would stop buying Dragon and eventually even D&D stuff completely.  Grad School makes for some difficult times for gaming.

I suppose it is good then that I don't have many issues past this one. I have no real insights to them having not read them when they were new and not even playing for much of the late 90s.  Still, it is fun to look back on these.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #96

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An article on Play By Mail updates. 

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

The "What's New Dragon" is also featured in There Can Never be Too Many Dragons. Fun little critter. Odd it was published after the What's New comic was no longer in the magazine.  The next dragon is the "Quazzar Dragon". We joked about actually using this monster too. We took it seriously when the Frequency said: "Only Once". Though at 120,600 KM across (75,000 miles) we never had a dungeon to put it in. goes downhill. The Meanest of Monsters details the Killer Dungeon Master monster.  Not a fan BUT there is something here I have loved and used before, the Wandering Damage Table.  I have pulled this out when dealing with younger players that are getting rowdy. I play it lightly, but it always gets their attention.   Since I have that more or less memorized I ripped this one out and gave it to my son.  Sorry +Greg Littlejohn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your memories of this issue?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #141

I have had some really great issues lately for This Old Dragon. Issues I remember fondly or issues that had a huge impact on my games and/or game writing.

This is not one of those issues.

Oh, don't get me wrong, Issue #141 is fine, but there isn't anything in it I remember using. So it is next in my box of mildewy memories, so let's head back to the beginning of the end of the 80s, January 1989 to be exact, for This Old Dragon!

Ok, so I remember the cover even if my magazine doesn't have one. I think that might be all I remember of this one.  A few pages in, or the first page of my copy, we get an ad for Curse of the Azure Bonds. It seemed like to me that this book was advertised ALL the time.    We get the great Clyde Caldwell art, but the add is different than the book cover.

I have to admit that, for reasons I can wholly articulate, it bugged me.  Yes...yes I know that covers are mocked up all the time and this is no different. I even know now some of the issues going on behind the scenes of TSR at this time. So my feelings here are more of a memory of feeling and not the feeling itself.  Plus in either version, that sword the Lizardman has is stupid looking.

Plus I still have never read this book.  Maybe I should. Might exorcise the ghost of this feeling.

Another ad. This time TSR trying to get into the party-game market. One of the hotter games at this time was Scruples.  It was pretty popular and due to a combination of this game and drinking it was banned from our circle of friends back when we all lived in the dorms.  This is not that game and I can see why it failed.  Scruples was simple, much like how Cards Against Humanity is, and there is a lot of social interaction. This game "I Think You Think I Think" looks so over designed.  It might work well in today's board game market, but I somehow doubt it.  The name is also too cumbersome.

Forum covers some debate on Illusionists and their spells.

About a dozen pages in we get to the main feature of the magazine, near-human like creatures.  The cover features a Jeff Easley ogre or giant squaring off against a little blonde magic-user.

The Dragon's Bestiary features all sort of humanoid creatures. Most with names we have since seen elsewhere.

Randal Doering provides us with something new in Orcs Throw Spells, Too! or humanoid spellcasters.  This is for the AD&D 1st Edition game.  The article is good and has a lot of meat, but it also is a good example of the schizophrenia that was rampant in the late 80s and early 90s TSR design.  Yes this is great stuff, but the BECMI rules covered this material. Granted, we would not get the Rules Cyclopedia for another couple of years.   Spell casters among these races are considered to be more "primitive" (why? just because) so they get Shamans and Witch-Doctors or Clerics and Magic-Users respectively.  Personally, I like to think of Shamans as a different sort of magical tradition altogether.  I like to see my friend +Rich Howard get his Shaman book live, I think there is a lot of potential for such a class.  Me, I just cheat and make humanoids into a type of witch or warlock.

Arthur Collins is next with an article on giants and combat techniques in Boulder-Throwers and Humanoid Hordes.  This would have been good to read when I started running the Giants series.

Now we have something useful for today.  In Hey, Wanna Be a Kobold from Joseph Clay we get rules for humanoid PCs such as Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds and Xvarts.  This also includes Shaman and Witch Doctor class write-ups.  Re-re-reading this again I am struck with the question of why didn't we do this sort of thing more back then?  I know we were still a decade away from Meepo, but this could have worked well in many games.

Jumping over the fiction we get another timely feeling article.  Reviews of MegaTraveller and GURPS Space.  With Starfinder on the horizon, this is a good time to go back and look at what had come before.

Big four-page, full-color Warhammer 4k ad from Games Workshop.

The TSR Previews is dominated with Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.

The Role of Books covers a bunch of new fantasy books.  At this time I had moved deep into horror and was just discovering Clark Ashton Smith. So I don't really recognize these books.
Following up on that The Game Wizards details a bunch of novels coming out of TSR.  Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Buck Rodgers take the center stage.

The Role of Computers features a bunch of games. That's obvious, but my take-away here is not what games they are reviewing but the systems the games are on. There are still a wide variety of computers the games are available on, but that number is going down.  Eventually, there will be only two, IBM/PC-Compatible and Mac.

Marvel-Phile is missing.

Lots of ads in the back. The only comics my copy has is Snarf Quest.

I checked my CD-Rom and I am missing the big announcement on the back cover of AD&D 2nd ed coming next month.

Ok. So not a great issue. Not a horrible one, but not a lot I can use today.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #119

While today's choice is sort of a cheat, it is a very timely one.  I grabbed it because it features one of my favorite covers of all Dragons.  The recent Doctor Who episode "The Eaters of Light" featured a story about the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army in Scotland.  My first thought was "well, we know it was Kostchtchie!" from Daniel Horne's fantastic cover.
But once I grabbed it I also noticed how it was a really nice companion to my own Green Witch that was published yesterday.  So nice in fact I put the magazine down until today!  I didn't want anything in it unduly influencing me.  Though in re-re-reading it now I can see there were some things there in 1987 that did stick with me over the years, including some more Doctor Who references.
So set your TARDIS back to March 1987, put on U2's With Or Without You, and get ready for This Old Dragon Issue #119.

Letters cover a guy just discovering the Chainmail rules. Interesting to read, to be honest. We forget that in this day and age nearly every shred of information is literally at our fingertips.  I just got another copy of Chainmail for my birthday from my old Jr. High DM.  It is different than the one I had by a couple of pages. I am going to need to investigate that.

The big feature of this issue is the section on Druids.  I can't help but see the "Spinal Tap" Stonehenge every time I see the standing stones and lintel that works as the header for these articles.

That aside this was one of my favorite series. I had by this time already written my first copy of the witch class. It was though lacking in some historical oomph. This series gave me a lot of inspiration on what can be done with the class AND what not to do.  Not in terms of things being bad in these articles (far from it) but in terms of making my witches different from the druids.  In fact I put these articles as "Must Reads" for anyone wanting to play a druid.

Carl Sargent is up first with Underestimating Druids (is a bad practice). It's a look into the strengths of the class and giving them their due. Several tips and bits of advice are given for using the Druid in and out of the dungeon setting, but most telling (and also the most interesting to me) was a break-down of the XP per level and the amount of spell-power all the AD&D1 spell-casting classes had.  The Druid comes out looking the best. Plus let's be honest, Flame Strike is a MUCH cooler spell than Fireball.

Up next is an article covering the Druid in his role as a healer. We are warned that  John Warren's "Is There a Doctor In the Forest?" is unofficial material.  It is also closer to what we think we know about druids in real life; that they were the healers of their society. There is a ton of great ideas here for herbal and natural healing in AD&D. Unofficial or not there is a lot great rules here.  The crunch is the same level as AD&D, so more than I want for an OSR or even a 5e game, but worth looking into the next time I play AD&D1 proper.

On cue another ad for the Time-Life Enchanted World books!

Next up is an article I had re-read a lot back in the Summer of 1987. From by William Volkart and Robin Jenkins we get On Becoming The Great Druid.  It dealt with that little remembered now artifact of the Druid class that at higher levels you needed to defeat the druid whose level you wanted to take.   I have to admit that at the time I was not fond of the idea, though now I see as a great plot and role-playing device.  I was trying to come up with a way to add this all to my then current game.  I never really did to be honest since I figured I needed to come up with my world-wide Druid religion.  Of course, nothing in the history of the Druids supports the idea that would or even could do this (I was also reading some Margaret Murry, so I am excusing myself) but I got fixated on the idea I needed to figure out their complete religious structure first.  I made some head-way and a lot of that was actually added to my Witch class with the "Court of Witches".  I just replaced Great Druid with Witch Queen.  The Grand Coven of the Earth Mother in The Green Witch also comes from those notes way back then.

Rick Reid is up and has Cantrips for Druids - Naturally. Makes me REALLY glad I kept this to the side while working on the Green Witch and that I didn't put cantrips in that book. They will appear in the "The White Witch" later this summer.

Ah. Now here is an old friend. Ed Greenwood (who's early Dragon writing I am really enjoying again) has the Beastmaster NPC class.  It is such an overkill class.  Hell, I would not be surprised to discover that Drizzt didn't start out as a beastmaster. Though to be 100% fair it is described as an NPC only class...yup. Just like the witch was. ;)
I talked about a lot of Beastmaster classes in an early version of Class Struggles. At that time I had forgotten all about this one though in re-reading it now I see that my DM's homebrew Beastmaster was based on this one.

While not a part of the official Druid feature, Calle Lindstrand has the write up for The Uldra a new character race.  The article is the type of "anything worth doing is worth doing to excess" type that I really love. We get a new race, a monster entry and some gods. The Uldra themselves seem to be a cross between a gnome and a dwarf.  I really hope that wherever Calle Lindstrand is that Uldras as written here are still part of their game. There is too much, well, love here to ignore.  Uldrass would later go on to be upgraded to a full offical D&D race.

It is also one of the reasons while I like to include a new race in a book overtly about a class. The Green Witch, for example, has another take on Gnomes for Swords & Wizardry.

Ed is back with Ecology of the Korred.  Given that it follows right behind the article on the Uldra I often conflated the two into one race. Not really fair to either to be honest.  My then DM really enjoyed this article and it was the inspiration to the only "Dance off in D&D" I have ever done.  I later stole his idea and had another Dance Off in Ghosts of Albion: Blight. Only this time it was against the Sidhe.  This article also gives us a new god.

Dragon's Bestiary features some sylvan monsters for your game. Again, not exactly part of the Druid feature, but close enough that it fits really well.

We get some fairly interesting creatures too. The Wild Halflings are great and I think I detect a bit of what would later develop in Dark Sun.  The Luposphinx is a winged wolf/lion hybrid that doesn't seem out of place at all. The Leshy is based on some older fairy tales. There is another take on the Wendigo (none have every truly been "right" as far as I am concerned). The Wood Giant, which has since been promoted to the ranks of "official D&D monster". There is a Wood Golem here too. A bit about that. This wood golem never really stuck a cord with me. It was neat and all, but wood? Through flaming oil at it.  It was not till I read the Doctor Who story Lungbarrow and their "Drudges" that gave me the idea for something new.  I remember reading a story about an old witch that used to always say "If I'd had my druthers, I have my wooden druthers too."  The Wooden Druther became my new Wood Golem.  Wood Golems have also been promoted, but they will always take a back seat to my Druthers.

Not bad. Half the magazine and all of it quality or really, really fun materials.

In fact, if I had stopped here, 50 some odd pages in (minus ads) I would have considered it money well spent.  I suppose it is also no surprise then that I like to include a lot of these same things in my own books; a class, races, alternate classes, monsters, and spells.  1987 was a turning point year for me really.

Charles Olsen is back with an article about NPCs; Henchmen and Hirelings. Five pages of material that looks liek it should work with any version of the game.

Jeff Grub has Dinner With Elminster.  The article is a bit silly to be honest but I tend to forget that 1987 was the year of the Forgotten Realms. While everyone else was falling in love with that my  years-long game was about to hit its final Act.   How long does it take to roleplay a massive war? Two years, give or take.

Let's see what's left here... Some fiction...

Some Sage Advice...

The Gamma World article has some cryptic alliances in Politics Amid the Rubble. Just another reminder to me that I REALLY need to a Gamma World game going again some day.

The Marvel-Phile (actually in this issue!) has Psylocke in her pink outfit.  Just as an FYI Oliva Munn, the future movie Psylocke is only 6-years old at the publication of this issue.

TSR Previews covers the new and hot items of April and May 1987.  Make sure you get your copy of the Lazer TagTM rules. I did!

In May we get the first of GAZ series for Mystara and the Known World, GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

Lots of Cons advertised, some small ads. Finally, we get Snarf Quest and Wormy.
Little did I know that Trampier and I would be heading to the same town to live more or less around the same time.

Really a great issue.

I see the seeds of ideas here that later germinated in games I played then and later in college and now in the stuff I put up here.

What are your memories of this issue?

The Green Witch is now out!

Pick up a copy today for Swords & Wizardry.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #161

Jumping ahead a bit more. I thought I had grabbed the newest (relatively speaking) Dragon in my box, but this one came up.  Granted, I cheated a bit and this was actually the third one I had grabbed for this week.  It had some things I want to go over and fit in with some my Blue Rose posts.   This one dates to September 1990. I was living in my own apartment at this time and working my butt off to get into grad school.   I was not playing all that much because of this, but I was still enjoying reading the 2nd Ed books and playing or running the occasional game.  The issue is #161 and this is This Old Dragon!

No cover here.  I looked it up and it is what I consider to be the typical Jim Holloway fare.  Now don't get me wrong, I like Holloway. His art in Chill 1st edition was one of the things that made that edition iconic to me. But there is a "silliness" about his style that bugs me.  Maybe it was because of the Paranoia art or Castle Greyhawk.  I don't know. It's just not art I seek out anymore.

Missing a few pages. First up is the table of contents then the letters.  A letter from Jessie Lin wants a reprint of all the NPC classes. Yeah, me too. But Dragon can't do that, so instead, they list all the classes and the issue they were in. Some going all the way back to issue #3.  These sorts of things are easy to find now, but back then it was much, much harder.

Roger Moore has an editorial bit about a romance between two characters; Ursula and Black Bart. The story is a fun one about these two characters and their interactions.  The point though is that there is so much story-telling and adventures NOT being used because D&D gamers shy away from romance.  Something I think we see more of today in games for sure. It is something I have always used in games myself.  More on that in a bit.

The Feature of this issue is Why is the DM Smiling and it is really only a loose collection of DM advice rather than a proper theme.  It's a good advice for the most part.

The first article from David Flin is Inside Information, dealing with how characters get information and knowledge in their games.  Again, good, but anyone playing Chill or Call of Cthulhu was already doing this. Heck, sometimes going to the library WAS the adventure.  This is why I always advocate playing other games. It's great to have a favorite and a go-to game, but you can gain a lot of insight from playing other games too.

Tom Schlosser is next with Romance and Adventure. He describes romance as "the most overlooked aspect of any fantasy role-playing game."  I tend to agree. Though there were elements of it in Pendragon. Of course we are coming into the 90s and "Story games" are about to become a thing.  The article is good, and has plenty of good advice. Though for my money you can't beat the Bard when it comes to seeing how to use Romance as an adventure point.  Think of "Mid-Summer's Night Dream" or "Love's Labour Lost", they center around the ideas of love and romance and the hazards (albeit comical ones) of such undertakings.  I'll mention "Romeo and Juliet" but anyone that has actually read it knows it is not a romance, but a tragedy.
Again, you see this more in modern games. I think we wrote pages and pages on it for Buffy and it is more or less the entire focus of Monsterhearts and many Anime RPGs.

It's sort of like a wand... by Gary Coppa covers mystery in your games and keeping players in the dark. By the mid and late 80s there was no mystery left in D&D.  I say this in general terms, but I know at the time I knew the HD and weakness of every monster in the MM, FF and MM2. Knew every spell and 90% of the prices of all the items in the PHB, UA and both Survival Guides.  But also many of the magic items were known and the ones that weren't well we knew how to take of that as well.  Second Ed helped some of this, but still, the advice in this article is sound.  Plus nearly all of it stands true today.  Now I think nearly all DMs/GMs are fine playing a little more loose with the rules as written these days than back in the "If you change this you are no longer playing AD&D®!" The article is written from a first ed point of view I noticed.

We get a full two page spread ad for the Franklin Mint's Fantasy Collector doll of Queen Galadriel.  She doesn't look much like an elf to be honest. Or even like Cate Blanchett.
Though for the price of $295.00 in five easy payments she can be yours.  Or you can wait about 30 years and pick her up on eBay.

Marc Newman beats me to the punch by two decades with his The Classics Campaign.  This short article discusses how to use the classic AD&D adventures with newer rules.  It seems weird to read an article published in 1990 go on about "nostalgic AD&D", though I guess that the *D&D game was 15 years old at this point.

Jim Bambra in Role-Playing Reviews covers the Dragonlance Time of the Dragon and The Glorantha book for RuneQuest. He likes both and says they are great choices regardless of the world or system you use.

Ads for the Hunt for Red October game and Dungeon Magazine follow.

+Bruce Heard has Part 8 of Voyage of the Princess Ark.  Going to collect these all so I can read them in order.

The Role of Computers is getting more interesting.  This was the heart of the Windows PC boom and just before the world discovered the Internet.  DragonStrike is a "Dragon flight simulator" similar in many ways to the very popular stealth fighter simulators that were out then.  There is a martial arts game, Budokan, but sadly no Cheap Trick references.  There is also a section on tips and tricks for players of other games; mostly D&D related PC games.

Marvel Phile is actually in this issue!  But I see why it was not cut out.  There was a huge 1990 character update book out recently and these are the characters that did not make that cut. WE have Daktoa North and Stick. Stick at least has gotten some screen time thanks to the Elektra movie and the Daredevil Netflix series.

Next pages are water damaged. Looks like the Role of Books .and some ads.

An oddly placed Scout NPC class shows up after the Marvel material.  It is a thief variant and it is also for 1st Edition.  It is an interesting take. Something I think can be done with the current "Rogue" versions of the thief a bit easier these days.

The Con Calendar covers games for the last quarter of 1990.

Sage Advice covers various Forgotten Realms topics.

Another long "keeper" article is the Ecology of the Griffon. I always liked these are articles and the griffon seems like an excellent choice for a big long article.  This article is a good companion piece to the entry in the Monstrous Compendium.  I actually had hoped back then that the Ecology articles would have greater playability in 2nd ed.  It seemed obvious to me that a logical choice would be to cut out the articles and put them in your binder. I did that for a few, but nowhere near enough, to be honest.

We end with the normal slate of ads and comics. This time joined by articles continued from other pages.

Not a bad issue and certainly one with some ideas that can be used today.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #79

I like to post This Old Dragon on Thursdays.  Feels like a good day to do it really.  Today is June 1st which also means we have five Thursdays in June.   I should have been looking ahead since that sounds like a great time for a month of theme postings.  But since I rarely know which Dragon I am going to pull out of the box, and often know even less what's going to be in when I open it, planning ahead doesn't always work out.  Today's Dragon has no theme.  So let's head back to November 1983. I was a freshman in High school and this is Issue #79 for This Old Dragon!

I remember this issue. We used bits of it a lot in our games back in High School. My HS DM had it, but I don't think I read it till almost a year after it was published.

Well.  I am not sure about this cover. I doubt it is anyone's favorite but it is a fun one.  Feels more like an April fools issue or if it is a harvest scene then September would have been better. It also has nothing to do with anything else in the issue going by my first read.

Kim Mohan discusses some upcoming changes to Dragon, namely the change of typeface. This is the evolution of the magazine that I think many gamers my age remember the best.  There are more changes coming including the inclusion of The Forum feature (not in this issue) and the eventual demise of the Phil and Dixie comic.  In retrospect, it feels like another marker of the end of the Golden Age of D&D. That's not too bad though, some cool things are coming up.

Susan Lawson is up first with The Ecology of the Treant.  Interestingly I don't remember this one at all.  Rereading it now I see why. There is precious little information in the article.

Sage Advice covers some smaller letters sent in covering various topics from previous Dragon articles.

Coming up on the first meaty article, Magic resistance What it is, how it works. No author is given.  The article discusses the hows and some of the whys of magic resistance.  Namely, how does it nullify spell-effects and what control the creature with magic resistance has over this power.   The article tries to highlight some of the issues with the depiction of MR as presented in the AD&D rulebooks and I think creates more confusion than clarity.  The article is not bad, but it also doesn't help.  It is easy to see why MR, as presented in AD&D, was removed from later versions of the game.

We get some pictures from the Gen Con Miniatures Open '83. Some nice looking minis here too. Modern molding techniques and 3D Printing make some of these look, well, dated, you have to admire the artistry all the same.  This is an aspect of the hobby that will never go out of style I think.

Gregg Chamberlain must have enjoyed "The Twilight Zone: The Movie" from the summer of '83.  In his Blame it on the gremlins: Militaristic mischief-makers we get a bunch of the little monsters. In truth his version is closer to the old military superstitions of Gremlins than the Twilight Zone movie (or even the Gremlins movie due out in another 7 months; June 1984).
I always liked the idea of gremlins, but never the execution. Plus to me they seemed a little too 20th century to me.  If I want a mischievous creature I had loads of fae to choose from including the Brownie, Boggart, and Buchwan that also all did this sort of thing.   Though this article is very clever and has a lot of great ideas.  I could have my cake and eat it too by adopting these to "Trooping Faeries" of the more mischievous sorts. I think even Charmed did something like this. A little surprised the Supernatural hasn't yet.

Up next is an article we used a lot in our games.  Setting saintly standards by Scott Bennie details a divine class of ascending mortals, aka Saints.  Not being Catholic (or religious at all for that matter) this article had no connotations for me outside of D&D.  I really liked the character of St. Kargoth, king of the Death Knights and immediately figure that he had to be the "13th" Death Knight.  I used him a lot in my games.  At this point, my first generation (Basic D&D) of characters had retired and the next generation (AD&D) were going strong.  I worked with my DM (whose issue this was) to make my first character into a Saint according to these rules.  I figured if there is a "Saint" of the Death Knights then my character, Father Johan Werper, would be the patron saint of those that battle undead.  I have detailed his history here and his Sainthood is covered in the Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall Special Edition. So yes, not only did I make him a Saint, I made him an officially published OSR Saint!  It all started with this article.  It was also not the last time I used an "Ascended Human" in my games.  The whole plot of my Buffy Game "The Dragon and the Phoenix" revolves around an ascended witch.

The centerpiece of this issue is an adventure for Top Secret.  Wacko World by Al Taylor.  I never played Top Secret. Spy games were never my thing.  I have no means to judge this one to be honest.
If you played this adventure then let me know you think of it!

Page Advice II: Getting started covers writing for your favorite RPG.
The genesis of this article is stated in the first few lines, "However, it is apparent from those responses that the vast majority of readers who sent for the TSR submissions packet have had no experience with freelance design"
Well. Off course they don't! Your readers are fans. If they were like me at the time the most they ever wrote was a term paper.  The article though does go into some helpful tips.
Their advice, "Pick up a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White - an invaluable book." is spot on and I think I picked up a copy soon after.  I still have it.  A bunch of other books are also mentioned and selection of *D&D modules, but the best advice they give is practice. You can't get better at anything without practice.  The article looks like it is setting up for a Part III, delievering what the publisher wants.  I'll have to look into that (or if I have an issue 80).

The fights of fantasy: Good generalship from a non-medieval viewpoint by industry leader Lew Pulsipher discusses the differences between a historical medieval battle and a fantasy one. Certainly this draws on the uniwque history of our hobby having grown out of historical miniature battles to fantasy battles.  Putting content of this article aside for a moment I want to address an meta-issue around this article.  As the first Generations of Grognards move on to the sandbox in the hereafter (not being a dick, it's sadly just true) the remaining generations, myself included, are moving further and further from these roots.  This is neither good nor bad, like old age, it simplly is.  Sometime though I feel the need to honor the grogs that came before me and do a real huge fantasy battle.  I have done some in the past, but I mean something truly epic.  World War II meets Crisis of Infinite Earths meets the Battle of the Pelennor Fields meets the battle of Endor/Death Star II.
Lew's article is getting saved for that day.

Lew is back in a double header this issue with Be aware and take care: Basic principles of successful adventuring.  Lew's article read a lot like his lecture series on YouTube.  You get the feeling of hearing a learned sage, but all along the answer you sought were with you all the time.  More or less. Reminds me of some lectures on Socrates I had some years later in college.
Both articles are good but also really long.  I wonder if they were light on page count for this issue and needed these.  The lack of a lot of art in this issue and the editorial about change leads me to think this.

We come to some ads next.

The On the Shelf feature deals with new books from Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Peter Straub, and Alan Dean Foster. A "whos who" of sci-fi/fantasy literature.
At this time I was huge into my Tolkien and then Moorcock kick.

We end with Wormy and What's New.

80 pages.

Certainly some memorable articles and some I didn't remember at all.
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