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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #55

Let's go WAY back today to issue that is falling apart as I read it.  Hall and Oates have the number 1 spot on the radio. Time Bandits, the first of the great "Trilogy of Imagination" from former Python Terry Gilliam.  Tell me you didn't try to use those "time holes" at least once in your games. It's November 1981. I am in 8th grade and playing Basic/Expert D&D all the time with bits of AD&D. This is issue #55 of This Old Dragon!

Oh my, but is this an issue of treasures!  Let's start with the cover.  Erol Otus in his weird best.  Looks like the same cave system our intrepid adventures are battling a dragon in on the cover the Basic Set.
Otus is one of those artist people either love or hate. I always loved his style and subjects, but sometimes it was like viewing D&D while on mushrooms.   I mean seriously, what the hell is that thing? Why does it have such perfect teeth? Who is that little gnome dude and what the hell is his staff for?  I have no answers but I think D&D is better off in general because of EO.  I am not sure what that thing is but as DM I'd love to stick him into a dungeon.  As someone that appreciates art though I don't want to define it. Stay weird giant toothy slug monster. Stay weird.

The next page is one of the true odd and rare finds in the D&D merchandising landscape.  The official Dungeons & Dragons portfolios.  I had one of these way back when, but it got destroyed. Now they go for outrageous sums on eBay.  I used to keep characters in it and I had it till about the late 80s.


A feature missing from newer incarnations of Dragon is here; Cover to Cover. Which...hmm...covers what is going on in this issue.  No need to detail it here since that is what I am doing anyway.

The Letters section cover various topics from previous issues including some discussion on the Monk class.   I never fely that *D&D got a good grip on the what the monk was supposed to be in D&D until about 3rd Edition.

Up next is the first big controversy in AD&D that I can remember.  The Fiend Folio and whether or not it is any good.
Up first is Ed Greenwood with Flat Taste Didn't Go Away.  Ouch. That is a bit harsh Ed and the article doesn't get much lighter. I am sure there were plenty of old-school AD&D fans who were at the time saying "Who the hell is this Ed Greenwood guy and why do I care about his opinion?"  Sy though, Ed is no fan of this book and calls many of the monsters incomplete, inadequate and many are redundant.  AND to be 100% fair he is making some very good points here. The editing is all over the place, many of the monsters are useless or way overpowered in some respects.
Alan Zumwalt follows this with Observations of a Semi-Satisfied Customer.  An endorsement, but not the ringing endorsement one might want.
Not to be forgotten Don Turnbull,  Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd. and Editor of the FIEND FOLIO Tome ends with his Apologies - and Arguments; his defense of the Fiend Folio.
All three articles make good points and overreach in others. In the end, I still love the Fiend Folio, not despite its weirdness, but because of it.  I have decided though that when I run a pure Forgotten Realms game that I will not include any of the monsters that Ed found objectionable.  I was going to say not include any from this book, but that includes Drow and we know that isn't going to happen!

What were your thoughts on the Fiend Folio?

We follow this with a big ad for White Dwarf. You know those guys that gave us the Fiend Folio in the first place? (more or less).

Ah. Now here is something fun.
Lawrence Schick has a nice big article on Dinosaurs, New Theories for Old Monsters.  Plenty of stats of various prehistoric beasts are given. I am not sure if these would later appear in the Monser Manual II or not but they feel familiar.

The man himself is back with a new From the Sorcerer's Scroll. Gary lets us know he is still working on the Temple of Elemental Evil (it doesn't quite come out the way he wants) and more on Greyhawk.  A lot of this in one form or another would later reappear in the Greyhawk Boxed set.

Ever want to include Robin Hood and his merry men in your game?


Well thanks to Katharine Kerr you can! Robin, Wil Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham himself (looking exactly like Roger Delgado as The Master from Doctor Who).


The fiction section is next and holy shit! It's Gardner Fox! Fox might not be the biggest name in D&D but in comics? I put him in the pantheon of the Great Old Gods like Kirby and Lee.   I have not read The Coming of the Sword, but I think I should.  It is an installment in the saga of Niall the Far-Traveler.  This is exactly the sort of thing I love finding in these old dragons. Gardner Fox..."slumming" at Dragon! The story looks cool and it's actually pretty long.

Our centerpiece is another rarity.  A D&D Basic-Set adventure.  Seriously. Is this like the most 1981 issue ever?? The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth is a Basic D&D adventure for 2 to 12(!) characters under 3rd level. It is a nice combination of exploration, plot-driven mystery,  and dungeon crawl with a freaking dragon at the end! It makes for a great introduction adventure really and one that can be easily adapted to any version of the game. 

The Electric Eye has answers to last month's computer terminology quiz.  At this point in time, I am learning to program in BASIC on the very high tech TRS-80 Model III in my school. 

The many ways of getting away: Methods and magic to keep your character out of the crypt by Pat Reinken covers the many ways your character can avoid death.  Or as I like to call it, Advanced Running Away. 

Jon Mattson is next with some Traveller advice on skills in Filling in Skills, Experience, service-switching make TRAVELLER more ability-oriented.  I have mentioned in my reveiws of White Dwarf I was already taking a pass on Traveler at this point.  I was gravitating more towards Chill and other horror games and I could not find anyone to play Traveller with.

The Monuments of Minaria is the next installment of the Minarian Legends series for the Divine Right game.  Though I get the feeling that one is not only expected to convert to other games (coughD&Dcough) but encouraged too.

Dragon's Bestiary is next. What a nightmarish mix! The Devil Spider, with text and art by Erol Otus.  The Surchur by Jeff Brandt and the Dyll by Ed Greenwood.  We also get a new, non-evil but very chaotic, version of the Poltergeist by Craig Stenseth.

Practicing Game Design IV: State of the Art is the fourth of a five-part miniseries
in Jack Parados' Simulation Corner that gives a detailed but non-technical answer to the question of how to make a game.  This month covers the experiences the author has had with successful game designers.

Jeff Swycaffer reviews the Universe RPG in Universe is an Artistic Triumph. I have always been curious about this game.  He deems it superior to Traveller in almost every respect.

Kim Mohan reviews some gaming accessories.
Various minis, back when they were still made of lead.

Next, we have a real oddity.  A Larry Elmore penned and drawn comic "Da Letter" that can only be described as Proto-Snarf.  I am a bit surprised this never comes up in discussions of Snarf Quest.




Phil and Dixie are still in Black & White at this point.
Wormy is in color.

So. Wow.  What an issue.  Not just for crazy nostalgia fun, but for being so packed full of great stuff.  AND stuff I can still use today really.  The Basic set adventure, Robin Hood, all sorts of great stuff here.  I am glad I took extra time on this one (I started reading it two weeks ago!)

Now compare this issue to what was happing in White Dwarf #27 from the same time in my White Dwarf Wednesday #27.  Similar themes but White Dwarf was moving more towards Traveller at this point.  Mimics the gaming scene I was in during the last days of 1981.  I was digging D&D Basic but a good sized chunk was headed to Traveller.

What are your memories of this time?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #105

I remember the start of 1986 as being a very cold one.  Of course this is the month that the Challenger exploded on take off forever changing how we felt about our space program.
I was in the middle of my Junior year in High School. My regular DM was going to graduate and move on so we started a campaign that mimicked WW I mixed with Crisis on Infinite Earths (which was the biggest thing happening in comics at the time).  It was so big that depending on where you were in the game world it was called The Shadow Wars, the Dragon Wars or even the Demon Wars.  It had a huge impact on my game world and how I later played in college.   In fact, this issue gave me some ideas for the group of characters I was playing at the time that were central to the fight.  So without further ado, it's January 1986 and this is issue #105 of This Old Dragon!

This cover was also one of my favorites.  A flying wizard attacking giant bats? How cool is that! Seriously that is pretty hardcore.

This is issue comes just before the "themed" issues later in the 80s. It has the same look and feel but there is still some evolution happing here.

Letters, as has been a while and will continue to do so, covers clarifications of the new Unearthed Arcana rules.  In particular getting the rules to work with other classes that have appeared in Dragon.  This is exactly the sort of thing that must have gotten the think tank at TSR to work towards a newer version of the AD&D game. After 12 years things just were not holding together on the fringes as well.

Big ad for the new Dragonlance Legends series.  I thought the Legends were a much better set of books than the first trilogy, The Chronicles.  The scope was larger, but also more personable.

Speaking of Unearthed Arcana, Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature in Tone Down the Demi-Humans.  Or putting some caps on the power of the new demi-human races.  Of the four, Wild Elves, Gray Dwarves, Deep Gnomes, and Drow, I agree with him on the Drow.  So much in fact that I banned them as a PC race until only very recently.  There was one very notable exception, also see that below.  No one ever played a Deep Gnome or a Gray Dwarf in my games for me to have a strong opinion about them.

Paul Vernon is up with Travel Works Both Ways. This is a guide for people (and things) the PCs are likely to meet on the road. Great for any type of hex-crawl or sandbox game.  It also fits into the larger philosophy I use in my games that the PCs are not the only ones in the world.  They might be the center of attention, but there are others.

Seeing is Believing by Geoffrey Meissner is one of those articles that had immediate and profound effects on my game.  Essentially it covers the three types of invisibility you can do in the AD&D game: Light-based, illusion-based, or psychic.   Since we were at the time heavy into psionics we used, and abused, the shit of this.  If you used the Invisibility spell well then no one could see you, but your thoughts would still give you away to a psychic. If you used the psionic power of invisibility then people didn't "want" to see you, but a mindless creature (undead, construct) could.  We got very, very particular about it.   I have eased back on it in more recent years, but it's still something I consider.

We get a little bit more on Centaurs in The rest of the Papers. No author given, but a followup to the Centaur Papers.

Ed Greenwood is up with The well-equipped victim: A “treasure type” system for 0-level encounters.  Exactly what is sounds like, what 0-level humans/humanoids would have on them.  In retrospect, this feels like a "Realms" article. It certainly has the vibe we will later see in the realms where people are more important than monsters (even if some of those people are monsters).   Five pages of "stuff" people can carry.   Now what I get from this is a good "normal setting" on what we can expect people to have.  PCs causally throw around gold pieces, but not everyone can or should do that.

Ah. Now here is something very near and dear to my heart.  Especially back then.
Fraser Sherman gives us A world of difference: The parallel concept expands gaming horizons, an article on how to use parallel worlds in your AD&D game.  I had already mentioned that DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths was already having a huge impact on my games at the time, but I had also just read Job: A Comedy of Justice and The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein.  I would later pick up Frederik Pohl's The Coming of the Quantum Cats having read the first part in my Pre-calc class when I borrowed a friend's copy of Omni.
Parallel Earth/Universes played a huge, huge part of my gaming then and now.  This article did not tell me anything I didn't already know, but it was a springboard AND an excuse to go crazy with the idea.  I would later gleefully steal the "D-Hopper" from the Myth Adventures series to make travel between the dimensions easier than travel between the continents of the same world.

Our centerpiece is an AD&D adventure, Betrayed!, for characters 3rd to 5th level by Jim Bengtson.
I will admit I never ran this or even read it in great detail. It looks like it could be fun and got me thinking I really need to run a murder mystery style adventure again.

Merle M. Rasmussen has Spy's Advice or some advice for Top Secret.

One of the first TSR Profiles I remember is up. This time featuring EIC Kim Mohan and Managing Editor Pat Price.

The fiction section is On the Rocks at Slab's which I am sure is related to Well Bottled at Slab's.

The Ares Section is next.

We get some alliances in Rites of Passage for Gamma World.

The Marvel-Phile deals a lot of snake-themed villains.  This article had a huge impact on my AD&D game.  Not because of the content, but the idea.  I created as my central characters for the this world ending war mentioned above a street gang known as the "Spider Society".  These were my characters built from Unearthed Arcana.  There was the Thief-Acrobat Eric "Spyder" Masters, a fighter (with all the specialization) Kiev Scorpius and drow (this was the exception) assassin "Arachnia".  I liked the idea of running a group of first level characters in some adventures of this war along with my high-level characters in other adventures in the war.  It was a lot of fun.

Up next are some optional rules for Villains & Vigilantes.  Not sure they will port over to the new Mighty Protectors, but there are some good ideas here. Such as lethal attacks (must be the late 80s!) and threatening civilians (yeah, definantly the late 80s).

Big Guns covers tanks and other military equipment for Marvel Super Heroes.

Expanding the Frontier gives us ideas on how to (basically) do Star Trek with Star Frontiers.  It's actually a good read and one I wish I had made more use of.

Con Calendar, Small Ads, Wormy, Dragonmirth and Snarf.
Dragonmirth has one of the few cartoons I still remember to this day.


Not a watershed issue for me, but certainly a very memorable one and a very useful one.

Want to know what I Was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #73.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This Old Dragon Issue #111

It's the summer of 1986.  My regular DM has graduated from High School and is getting ready to go to the Air Force. We are gearing up for an epic world-changing round of adventures we call the Dragon Wars. Essentially this is our World War I. I can't recall if this cover played into that at all, but I would like to think it did.  It' July 1986 and this is issue #111 of This Old Dragon.

This is also one of my top 10 favorite colors.  The white and black dragons in a "ying yang" theme has been done before, but not quite like this. It is another winner from Denis Beauvais.  While meant to invoke the struggle of good vs. evil D&D players will look at it and proclaim "they are both evil!"  Sheesh...not appreciation for art.

Speaking of art. The Letters section covers the disparity between male and female figures on the cover of Dragon.  The all too common complaint is that females tend to be nearly naked and men wear sensible armor.   We are still having this conversation.

Our first article is by John M. Maxstadt, Good stuff, for a spell. Magic focusing: a new dimension for possessions. This deals with a common problem, what sort of magic item does a mid-level magic-user need?  The solution is a Spell Focusing item.  Now off the bt I have an issue with the term.  What is being described in this article is not spell focusing but rather spell storage.  The MU casts a spell into an item to be used later.  Essentially these are variations on the Ring of Spell storing only in wands and other items.  I don't want it to sound like I am dismissing this article. On the contrary, I rather like it and the author brings up a number of points I still see in my games.  For me a Spell Focus should make casting a spell easier or harder to avoid.  I have also allowed some spell focuses to change the die in which they use.  A wand of fireball focus would change the die from a d6 to a d8 for example.

Ah. Now here is one I remember. Welcome to Malachi: Visit a city where magic reigns supreme by Becky Helfenstein is about a city of magic. We are still a year out from the Forgotten Realms and their Waterdeep and Suzail cities.  This is also the time my DM and I had started to put together our own "Urban Survival Guide" for playing in cities.  This article is "class" focused. So what do clerics do, where do thieves go, what about fighters? and so on.  Not a bad way to set it up, but also leaves some gaps.  Ok it's only an article in Dragon, size alone will mean there are gaps.  I think a series of articles on Malachi would have been great.   Maybe I should do a series myself on The Urban Survival Guide.  I don't all the original docs (that was 30 years ago) but it might be fun to pull various resources together to discuss this.  Dragon and White Dwarf, the tables in the old DMG, the newest books on DriveThru.  Could be fun. A lot of fun really.

Roger E. Moore is up telling us everything we need to know about how to submit articles to the newest TSR Publication Dungeon Adventures.  Back in the day I had worked on a couple of adventures with the intent to submit them to Dungeon.  Never did, I could not get them to work out the way I wanted.  But it was great practice really.

No campaign ever fails: What to do if your game gets out of control by Joel E. Roosa deals with a common problem that I still see today.  It deals with a game/campaign where the characters get quickly overloaded with magic items.  I made this mistake in my first 5e campaign. Fresh off of a magic-saturated 4e game, 5e doesn't like a ton of magic items.  My son is seeing this now with his 5e game he is running.  In AD&D I always put a cap on the magic.  In my game there was something like 4 or 5 +6 weapons TOTAL in the entier universe.  The most powerful you could hope for was +5 or +3/+6 where the +3 was normal attacks and +6 was against a very specific creature type.  In D&D 5 this cap is +3.  I wish I had reread this article before I started my Come Endless Darkness game.

Big ad for GURPS.


Kent Colbath gives us a microscopic bestiary with Microscopic monsters: When they get bigger, they get a lot tougher.  So paramecium, dinoflagellates and the like made huge.  An interesting idea, but one I'd only use in special occasions; never as a random monster.  Actually, they would make for interesting encounters in the Astral Plane.

Lots of ads...

The centerpiece of this issue is an adventure, Death of an Arch-Mage, by Michael D. Selinker.  It is a tournament-style murder mystery adventure for AD&D.  No levels are given (that I was able to find) but that makes sense.  This is a thinking adventure, not a combat one. The NPCs range from 0-level humans to 18th level. The adventure itself is really kind of awesome.  I love a good murder mystery and I have often wanted to do a Sherlock Holmes/Agatha Christie-style adventure.  I bet this one would work fantastically with other versions of D&D.  This one is worth trying.  The adventure is long, becasue there are a lot of details the DM needs.
Anyone ever do a murder mystery?

Kevin Marzahl has some details on grenades for the Top Secret game in Pull the pin and throw.

We get too our Ares Section now and on tape we have a few of the most powerful Super-powered Heroines in different universes.    Ok, confession time.  I was looking over three different Dragons for this week.  I opted for this one since it had Maxima and Super-girl in it.

Roger E. Moore is up with arguably the most powerful person in the Marvel Super Heroes Game; Phoenix.  If you grew up in the 80s and read comics you knew Phoenix.  I played a little MSH and enve I know there are not many Class 1000 anythings out there.  Phoenix is a Class 1000 Psychic.  The article, which is long for a Marvel-Phile, especially one dedicated to just one character, gives Phoenix her due.  I will admit I used aspects of the Phoenix cycle in my own Buffy the Vampire Slayer games just like I use (and still use) aspects of Crisis on Infinite Earths in my D&D games.

Jack Herman is up with his (or is it Jeff Dee's, I never really knew) character Maxima. Back from the future in VILLAINS & VIGILANTES gaming.  Maxima is one of the most powerful characters in the V&V line.  She is a scientist from the far future sent back to Earth of 1986 to stop the Apocalypse that destroys mankind, sadly the trip damaged her and she has forgotten much of what she knew of her time and why she is here.  In the new Mighty Protectors game we still see Maxima, so glad to know she is still doing her thing.  I think it would be great to see a new Mighty Protectors version of Maxima.

Greg Gordon, not to be outdone, has a write up for Super Girl for the DC Heroes game.  He make the argument that she is (was, this is just post Crisis) the most powerful heroine of the DC Universe.  He makes a compelling argument really.  Supergirl has had boost in popularity with the great CW show and performances by Mellissa Benoist.  I am going to say, and have said, that future generations of fan will look on Mellissa Benoist as Kara the same way we look on Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.



Jeff Grub is next with the Marvel Phile on Longshot.  How did this guy get mixed in with all these super powerful superwomen? Luck I guess.

Not to be forgotten, George Mac Donald discusses super-super powers in Champions in Quantum.
We are introduced to the heroine of the same name.  I guess I should put up her pic too!

Small ads.
Snarf. Con Calendar and Wormy round out this issue.

So some great supers articles.  I am DYING to put all four of these superwomen into the murder mystery above.  I know! They are here to investigate the murder of Longshot!

Fun issue, with one of my favorite covers and some great articles.
You know who else had a good issue at this time? White Dwarf.  Pop on over and see what I was saying about July 1986 on White Dwarf Wednesday #79.  Great issue, ridiculous cover.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on Historical Names.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting Dungeon Hobby Shop ad.


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

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

Honestly a fun issue and worth the price.

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #70

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice big ad for some RPGA modules.

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

Wormy battles a giant black leopard with wings.

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

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

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #130

Not moving too far ahead from last week but that is cool.  We are coming up on an issue that I remember back when it was new but never owned till recently.  So without further ado lets go back to February of 1988 for issue #130 of This Old Dragon!

This cover, while it never gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the other great covers is still a favorite of mine.  Linda Medley gives us a very evocative cover (no pun intended) and she also did the cover for April 1987 #120.  I love the witch's hair flying all up in the air. It's a witch/magic-user/wizard, summoning a demon. What's not to love. Especially given the times.  In 1988 the Santanic Panic had winded down and was now just an embarrassing memory to many.  BUT there were still those out that there screaming D&D=Satanism, so much so that demons and devils were not even part of AD&D 2nd ed till much later.

I would love to have this one as an art print for my game room too.

The magazine has also gone through a couple of cosmetic changes.  The dark background banner "Magazine" now appears under "Dragon".  There are other changes inside that I associate with the "2nd Edition" era, although that was not really due to start yet.  I guess this could also be called the "Post Old Guard" era or even "The Roger Morre" era as he is the publisher.

Letters covers a wide gambit of people wanting more minis, people wanting to get their alt-rules D&D game published, and people talking about the visual change to the magazine.
Roger Moore's editorial talks about how modern times are weirder, and more dangerous than most sci-fi games.

Another ad for the Sci-fi book club.  I think I read most of these books.



The Forum has the usual rules clarifications and questions from readers.  One suggests removing the Illusionist class. Wait a year or so and you get your wish.

We get to the main feature of this issue, The Arcane Arts. A nice big section on magic. Not sure why I didn't buy this one then?

John N. Keane is up first with Get the Most From Your Magic. An article on what spells to take of various levels.  It's a bit meta-gaming and a bit informed career advice.  It is fairly specific to the oddities of 1st Edition, but I think some of it still applies to 2nd ed and of course most OSR books.
It is particularly useful for the list of spells, level, duration, and sleep and study times.  So you know how often to use it.  It is the sort of analysis that I really enjoy.

The article is interrupted for the small ads.  Weird. I assume it is to right the page count so we can have the ships in the middle with the instructions surrounding them.

Magic from East to West by Len Carpenter covers spells found in the Oriental Adventures book that can be ported over to the Players Handbook.  Again, fairly 1st specific.A couple of spells are added to round off the selections. There are some good ideas here of spells, but it's been so long since I read OA I am not sure if this is a good sampling or not.

Speaking of doomed Illusionists*, Brian Tillotson is next with Hold on to Your Illusions!
*Ok, I know illusionists did really go away, but the illusionist as a class as presented in AD&D1 did for the more flexible and more powerful AD&D2 illusionist. So this article still has a lot of value even in today's 5th Edition world.  Some of the spells have changed, the principles are still there.
Worth a read if you ever play an illusionist.

Nice huge, full-color ad for GDW's MegaTraveller. I do not dwell on past regrets when it comes to the games I have played or not, but I do wish I had played more Traveller when I was younger. I am still not 100% sure what are the differences between all the versions of Traveller.

John N. Keane is back with magical disguises in The Faces of Magic.  There are also spells listed that mimic thief abilities, as well as cleric and druid spells.

We come up to one of my favorite articles and one I remember the best from this issue.  Better Living Through Alchemy by Tom Armstrong gives us not only an alchemist class (some D&D has needed in my mind) but also a primer on Alchemy and how could work in the game.  There have been attempts both before (Bard Games "Compleat Alchemist") and after (Pathfinder), this is the one I liked the most.  Playing the class though was hard. It had higher XP per level than the wizard and there was little they could do without their lab. The article is dense. That is in the sense that there is a lot here to read and unpack. I think one day I am going to need to do a Class Struggles on the Alchemist someday.

Come up to the fiction section next. "Shark-killer" by Carol Severance.

Continuing the Magic theme, The Game Wizards by Jon Picken covers magic and the wizard class of AD&D 2nd Edition.

I think there was something in the middle here, maybe some ships?  But nothing is here.  Checking the CD Rom and my other copy.  Nope nothing. I could have sworn there was something here.

The Dragon's Bestiary has a collection of Gamma World monsters. I would have thought a collection of wizard/magic related monsters would have fit the theme better.

For Top Secret we get a collection of special watches in Keeping A Good Watch by Ryan Grandstaff.  A lot of these seem quaint now, but this was cool stuff in 1988.

Remember when Richard Branson opened up some game stores?  Me either, but Virgin Games Centre was totally a thing in 88.


Jody Lynn Nye has an article on Dungeon Etiquette or how not to be a jerk player.

Maybe this is why I thought this issue had ships.  Margaret Foy has an article on The Oriental Sea. Here though the ships are just described and given game stats.

Malcolm Bowers ends the regular section with If Looks Could Kill. An article all about gaze weapons and attacks and how to avoid them.

Speaking of Bard Games, there is a nice ad for Talislanta miniatures.

The Marvel-Phile has a bunch of heroes I have never heard of.

Role of Computers covers software.

Dragonmirth has a batch of particularily unfunny comics this month.  gah.
SnarfQuest and Wormy close out the issue.

Really a solid issue with a lot of material that can still be used today. My copy of this magazine is in pretty good shape too.  I think I will find uses for it at my table.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf around the same time?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday #98.

Don't forget my newest book The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is now out. At under a buck-fifty it can be yours!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #126

October 1987.  I am a Freshman in University and about to hit my first big Halloween bash at a school notorious for it's 50,000+ people Halloween party.  But that is at night. Durning the day I pick up a copy of Dragon magazine that is destined to be one of my top three Dragons of all time.
So "Here I Go Again" with October 1987 and issue #126 of This Old Dragon!

Let's first talk about that cover.  It is easily one of my all-time favorite covers. Daniel R. Horne's "Saving the Best for Last" is an epic in a picture.  An old enemy back from the dead to exact his revenge and a ranger down to her last magic arrow.  Only one is going to walk away here.  To this day if I ever use a frost giant against a group of characters you can best believe that at least one of them is coming back as an undead to try to avenge.  That's some powerful shit there to still affect my gaming 30 years later.

Letters come from people looking for PBM games. I didn't have a mainframe account yet, but I knew even then that LISTSERVs were going to be the future of gaming, at least anyway for the next few years.  We also learn that Star Frontiers will no longer be published. More on that in a bit.

The Forum covers two letters concerning setting up a BBS (Bulletin Board System) for accessing older Dragon articles via modem.  Oh the can of worms that must have raised in the offices then.  This is the dawn of the age that TSR clamped down on ANYTHING on the Internet that was D&D related.  Heck in the 90s I seriously doubt I could have even done an article like this without hear from their lawyers.  Look, I am all about nostalgia here of the "Golden Age" of our hobby, but let's not forget what a bunch of assholes TSR had back in the late 80s and early 90s.  You could barely talk about anything online.  When it comes to doing anything online with D&D give me WotC over TSR any day of the week.  Sorry if that makes me loose my old-school street cred, but it is also the truth.

Ken Rolston is up first with his Copyright 1987 Role-Playing Reviews (No snark, I only point that out because it is one of the reasons why the BBS would not have worked and the CD-ROM didn't).  Covered this month is Role-Aids Undead.  I enjoyed the Role-Aids products even if they never had much, or any, traction in my groups back then.  Everyone was all "only TSR!". But Undead is a fun book an a fun adventure.  It had some great alternate lich ideas and some cool undead.  It even had a clan of disgraced dwarves.

Sage Advice runs the gambit.  One player asks if his LG Paladin could marry a CE Magic-User. It must have made a sub-conscious impact on me cause I'd spend the next few years having my Paladins fall in love with Witches.  Or maybe they are both my favorite classes.
We learn also there will be no more Star Frontiers (less details than promised) and no more D&D Cartoon.

We come up to our October feature! The Dead of Night.

To start off with a home run we have THE Tom Moldvay talking about a bunch of different vampires in Hearts of Darkness.  He gives us stats not only for the vrykolakas, Baobhan sith, and the ch'ing shih but also for Dracula himself. I had been working on the stats for Dracula for every game I knew at that point.  I even had Star Frontiers stats for him.  Seeing this was like a bolt from the blue.  I knew I was doing something right.  I still continue to this day.

Dead on Target by David Howery is a great article on using the right weapon against the right undead.  If you go with the idea that clerics can't use swords, then this article makes a lot of sense in explaining that.  Swords are not that effective against skeletons, zombies or ghouls. Sorry Michonne.  A lot of these ideas have been used in other games before or since, but here they were new and fresh and really, really bugged the crap out of my players. Especially since I Was about to go All Ravenloft, All the Time.

Vince Garcia is no stranger to the Other Side.  His article on A Touch of Evil:  Breathing life into the world of the dead was another one of those articles that were common sense in retrospect but seemed revolutionary at the time.  The article covers how to make undead scarier and more unique.  It flows well from Dead on Target to really, really make for a bad day.

And now the scariest article of all....Steve Winter is up with The Game Wizards Second Edition: An Editors Viewpoint.  Yes, 2nd edition is going to be here in about a year.  It is an overview of what the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide will contain.  I remember a few years back comparing this list to my PHB and DMG and found minor differences, but nothing that stood out.  I can't recall if I was excited then or not. I DO know what I did think eventually.  It is the same cycle I go through with ever edition change.  1. "I am not going to upgrade, I am happy with what I have." 2. "Ok, I'll have a look and see, but I am not really going to play." 3. "Wow this is awesome! I love what they did!" 4. "Abandon everything, this is now the only edition I will ever play!" 5. Repeat.  The notable exception was 3.0 and I was ready for that one the moment I knew it was coming.

Dan Salas is next with a world changing article for me. Well, game world changing.  The Ecology of the Shade gives us a look into the Shade (from MM2).  AS an alternate to the Lich this was a viable option for characters looking for immortality and not exactly Good.  Some of this would come back from the dead in 4e as the Revenant.

Bazaar of the Bizarre covers Treasures of the Orient. Neat, but I would have rather seen more spooky stuff.

Dean Shomshak is back with some spells for Call of Cthulhu in A Ghastly Grimoire.  I adapted some to AD&D.

Letters and Forum have their overflow pages.

The Dragon's Bestiary covers mutants for Gamma World.  Yes, I converted some of these as well. Especially the Giggle Bugs.

New contact system for Top Secret.

The Marvel Phile is next and it is another home run.
One of my FAVORITE Marvel Comics was The Tomb of Dracula.  Loved it. Was introduced to such great characters as Drake, Blade and of course Doctor Strange.
The Marvel Phile has stats for Dracula and bringing his "history" up to date.
I spent HOURS pouring over various books and movies and comics to come up with the most detailed history of Dracula.  I had him doing something every year from the time he was born till 1987.  Obsessive much? Yes. But you should expect that by now.
I added his Marvel stats to my collection as well.

HUGE ad for something I never thought I would see in 1987.  A Star Wars RPG.






Role of Computers covers the state of the art for PC games at the time.  One game it covered was Rogue by Epyx, Inc.  It reviewed the PC and Mac versions, but not the one I was playing at the time, the Tandy Color Computer 3.  I was most disappointed.

Small ads.
Convention Calendar
Snarf Quest and Dragon Mirth.
A double shot of Wormy in the form of a Hex-Word puzzle and the normal comic.
Fun stuff.




All in all a crazy great issue and one I still use.

Want to know what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month? Spoiler, it doesn't measure up. But check out White Dwarf Wednesday #94.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #54

Again today is a bit of cheat. I had been going through all my October issues and this is the next one on the pile.  It's October 1981.  I am in the earliest days of my gaming life, having played Basic D&D pretty much exclusively but adding the bits from AD&D where we wanted. This would place me in 7th grade and my life was full of D&D and learning to program on a TRS-80 Model III.
Radio and the movies have been dominated by "Endless Love" and "Arthur" since August and on the shelves is Issue #54 of This Old Dragon!

Ok let's get to that cover.  I HATED it!  Not because it is bad or anything, but when I was little I had gotten really scared of the trees in the Wizard of Oz movie.  I also was scared of the Tree Monster from the terrible movie "From Hell it Came".  Poltergeist didn't help either. Ever since then Tree Monsters freak me out. Not today of course...that would be silly...(looks behind).
But all kidding aside it is actually a really fun cover.

We start of the issue with a letter from J.D. Webster concerning the fate of the comic Fineous Fingers.  FF was also that bit of D&D history that "predated" me. While I was playing and had been now for two years (little less) I was not reading Dragon yet and I had not even heard of White Dwarf.  I used things like FF to judge how long people had been playing.  If they talked about it I knew they had been more involved than me.  Plus one of the groups in town had a player (I forgot who) whose character was Fineous Fingers.   Oh, the letter.  Yeah, this is the last issue for FF.

There are some letters, mostly about a recent adventure competition.

Up first in real articles we have something from Ed Greenwood.  So this year (2017) I have been spending some time expanding my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms.   This article is one of the earliest articles on the Realms I know of.  Down-to-earth Divinity discusses how Ed has put together his Pantheon of Gods.   You can easily see how this evolved into the gods of the Realms.  I found it interesting that he includes the elemental gods from the Melnibonéan mythos. There are a lot of "reskinned" Deities and Demigods gods here too (which is the point of the article).  I liked that Ed specifically mentions that witches worship Selûne.  The article is long and seriously good.

A feature I loved in the past is present in this issue, The Dragon's Bestiary. We get a different version of the Boggart here, closer to it's Brownie origins. The Stroan, which looks like a giant water bug, and the Incubus.

Beware the Jabberwock is next by Mark Nuiver.  Background and stats for the creature and the poem that gave us the vorpal sword.

The centerpiece of this issue is the competition adventure for AD&D, Cavern Quest by Bill Fawcett.  It's a long one and has one of the most complex scoring systems I have seen. It might be fun to try with the right group.

Abomination is the fiction bit. Seems related to the cover.

Cash & Carry for Cowboys by Glenn Rahman is one of the very few Boot Hill articles I can recall reading in the pages of Dragon.  Odd that Boot Hill has not been remade in the wave of nostalgia hitting both WotC and the OSR.   It is a very useful price list of items for sale in the Old West.

Simulation Corner by John Prados looks like it was a semi-regular feature on Game Design.  This one, Practicing Game Design III Rules of Realism covers how to get realism into your game.  It might be interesting, in a purely academic sense, to compare this five-part series to what later would be said about GMS game theory or the work at The Forge.  My philosophy of game design is a simple one.  Do what is fun and serves the game the best.  Derive everything else from that.

Another favorite feature from the past, Bazaar of the Bizarre is next. This time we get More feather tokens by Edward J. Greenwood.   To go with a loose Halloween theme there is the Skull Mace, Mace of Pain and Jug of Undead.

Hmm...there is a continuation of an article on Ruins that I don't seem to have the first part of.

There is a silly little technology quiz on page 74.  At 11 I would have loved it. Today...it's like seeing an ad for polyester kung-fu pants.

We get a What's New. A Dragonmirth.  Both Wormy and Fineos Fingers in color.

Ads for both the D&D Basic set (A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure!)


Loved these ads. But you never got to fight a Purple Worm in Basic!

And and ad for the D&D Folders.


Always wanted one of these!

Great issue. Not very Halloween-filled, but still a lot of fun.

Here is what I said about White Dwarf #27 from the same month.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #138

October 1988.  I was a sophomore in college, but not just any college. I was at Southern Illinois University and Halloween was a HUGE deal. I debuted my first version of my "Astaroth" devil costume.  A couple of my friends got wasted, damaged part of the football field and got arrested.  I also "invented" the "Bush Whacker"; a double shot of vodka washed down with a Bush beer.  Never been able to drink vodka after that night.  My college roommate had a new girlfriend so I ended up with a dorm room all to myself.  It was pretty sweet really.  I had finished my first draft of the Witch class nearly two years prior and was now into deep playtesting and revising.   It's October 1988 and this is issue #138 of This Old Dragon!

As far as Dragons go I consider this one in my top five.  I remember walking to the bookstore down "The Strip" (Illinois Ave) to pick this up.  The cover could not be more Halloween-themed if it tried.   The material inside completely lives up to this cover.

Roger E. Moore is now the Editor, replacing the departing Kim Mohan.  I am not sure when exactly this took place, but I do know that this was the first issue I really noticed it.   This is post-Gygax TSR and if we didn't know that know we soon will.  Not that I am trying to draw parallels between Moore and the people that took over TSR.  Far from it.  But there was a new direction in art and in in content in Dragon and other TSR works that really began to show about this time.  It is easy to lump it all into 2nd Edition era, but it started before that.

Letters cover the lack of Dragon magazine indexes.

Nice big full ad for Space 1889. I picked up this game used not soon after, but sold it in one my "purging" moods.  I finally got another one at Half-Price books a while back.

The Forum covers a variety of topics, heavy on contributions from IL I notice.  At the time I really had no idea how good I had it.  I have heard of an Original D&D corridor that ran from Chicago and Lake Geneva all the way down to Carbondale, IL (where I was) and hitting nearly every major university along the way down south.  Even in my hometown, there were several independent D&D groups running at same time.   The Egyptian Campaign (in Carbondale, aka "Little Egypt") had been running since it's involvement with fellow Saluki (SIU alum) Tim Kask.   All I knew was I had access to books, games, and people and I thought everyone had this.  Later I learned this was not the case and one of the reasons these other games and supplements began popping up, to fill a gap.

We get some advice on painting undead in Through the Looking Glass.

Ad for Dragonfire computer-aided DM's software.  I know people that swore by this.


I have heard that this software had been released as share-ware, but I could be mistaken.

The unofficial start to our Halloween issue is Sage Advice. Here Skip Williams covers various questions about the undead that I found very useful.  I notice that a lot of what was written here later informed the undead monsters of 2nd Edition.

Page 15 we hit the meat of this issue, all about horror!

Up first a little something for the Call of Cthulhu game. The Black Book and the Hunters by Craig Schaefer introduces The Black Book of Shub-Niggurath and the Hunters of Shub-Niggurath (Greater Servitor Race).  While I am not sure if I ever used these in CoC, I certainly used a lot of ideas from this article in dealing with demons.  In fact, I penciled in "Lesser" and "Greater Servitor Race" on many demon entries.

Double page ad for the SF&F book club.  Some great books here!

Up next is something from none other than Tom Moldvay.  No wonder I love this article so much.
The Ungrateful Dead expands the ranks of the undead with some monsters I STILL use to this very day.  These horrors include The Bloody Bones, Skleros,  Dry Bones ("Dem Bones"), Gem Eyes, Shock Bones (something I had come with independently based on a nightmare I had as a kid), Galley Beggers, the Walking Dead, the Lesser and Greater Colossus, the hungery Dead, Le Grand Zombi, Ghula, Baka, Gelloudes, Spirit Ghouls, a Wendigo (!), Black Annis and her cat, and the vampire like Callicantzaros.  Whew. A ton of undead from myth, legend and popular culture. So many I have used over the others and others I had forgotten!

Up next is an article I have a bit of contention with.  Not this article per se, but ones like it.
Ed Friedlander gives us madness in fantasy RPGS in Methods to Your Madness.
The article itself is not bad and really focuses on the fantasy aspects of the game and the potential effects.  In general, I find many bits on madness, "insanity" and psychological impairment to be hamfisted at best and dangerously wrong at worst.  My background is in Psychology. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in it. I spent years working as a Qualified Mental Health Professional in a group home setting with schizophrenics. I don't like "sanity" rules in most games.  I like the ones in Call of Cthulhu because they work within the confines of the system and the mythos.
The rules in this article work because they do not try to cleave to close to modern psychology.  Instead of a diagnosis of a disease, we get descriptions of behaviors.

Eileen Lucas is up with an article I didn't read much then but have since come back too many, many times. The End of the World: Of plagues, player characters, and campaign worlds.  I think I am not the only one.  Remember the old Knight Rider TV show?  Every season it seemed like they had to crash and nearly destroy KITT (and sometime Micheal) to only rebuild it and make it stronger, better.  I see this sometimes in Campagin Worlds.  We saw it in Greyhawk and I am not sure how many times in Krynn and the Forgotten Realms.  The article though is very, very good and has a lot of great ideas on how to end the world and start again.  At this time in my own gaming the "Dragon Wars" had just happened and my world had been largely destroyed.  When I wanted to bring my world back for 3e I went back to this article to read up on the plague and the after effects of wars.

We break from disease and death to talk about lasers.
Martin Landauer is next with Putting Fire into Firepower or lasers for the original Top Secret game.  I always thought of this as the bridge between Top Secret and Star Frontiers.  Maybe they were in the same universe.

The fiction piece is next, Between Lightning & Thunder by Nancy Varian Berberick.

Cool full page ad for DC Heroes with my first introduction to Amanda Waller.


The Role of Computers covers the then cutting edge of computer games. Many with new CGA graphics!  Many games are listed at around the $40-$45 area.  Interesting how the price of games has not changed all that much.

A couple of pages of small ads.

Role-playing Reviews covers a few horror-themed game titles.  Cthulhu Now is a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu changing the setting to modern times.  Future versions of CoC will fold this information into the core book to some degree.  GURPS Horror was at this time considered to be the MUST HAVE horror supplement for any game.  I remember looking for it for years in my local stores; so much for easy access!  Beyond the Supernatural was also considered one of the hot horror games of the late 80s.  It is notable not just for it's content but for also starting the writing career of many horror RPG authors like C.J. Carella who would later go on to write WitchCraft.

A page of TSR Previews. This features (and there is an ad later) the LAST AD&D hardcover to be produced, Greyhawk Adventures. This book was notable for being 1st Edition, but also having 2nd Edition AD&D stat blocks for monsters.


I can't help but notice that the blue background on this is almost the same blue background that will be later used for the AD&D 2nd Edition preview book.

Convention Calendar is next.

DragonMirth has some comics including newbie Yamara.
SnarfQuest hits episode #62.
There is no Wormy.  Little did I (or anyone else) know Tramp had moved and was living about 2 miles from where I was.

Lots of full color, full page ads.

Wow. What a packed issue.  AD&D 1st Ed was in it's twilight years and we all knew it.  What we didn't know was that soon AD&D players would engage in "The Edition Wars".  Yes there had always been the AD&D vs. D&D ones, but that was minor when it came to the 1st vs. 2nd ed or the TSR vs. WotC ones over the next, well, forever.

But until then we have this brief moment of stillness and this really great issue.

What are your memories of October 1988?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #90

Ok. I will admit this. I am totally cheating.  Normally I grab an issue off the top and review it as is.  But this is October and that's a big deal here at The Other Side.  So I went through my stacks and pulled out the remaining October issues I had and put them on top.  So let's go back to the scary 80s.  Reagan is in office. We have two Germanys. And the USSR is still biggest big bad on the planet. Nukes will fly at any moment, especially if there is some "glitch" in a computer (or a kid with a modem wanting to play a game). It's October 1984 and this is issue #90 of This Old Dragon!

The cover. I always liked this cover a lot.  I always felt that harpies were an under-used monster and they needed to be scarier. When I first saw this though I thought the harpy and human were on a DESK not a deck and that for some reason they were shrunk down to a smaller size.  It was such profound first impression that I have to look hard at it NOT to see that.  Strange how memory works.

Ok for an October issue there is not much in the way of a horror theme here.  There are some horror elements to be certain, but nothing that explicitly ties them all together.

Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.   There are some letters of praise of Baba Yaga's Hut adventure but pointing out how Baba Yaga does not match earlier versions in Dragon or the Hut matching up with the one in the DMG.  In these cases that was all done on purpose; which I get.

The Forum begins (or continues) the long debate on physics and falling damage.

Our first proper article is from Ed Greenwood.  We are introduced to the Incantatrix NPC class.  This is issue 90, we are still 2 years away from the witch class so, for now, this is the current AD&D attempt at a witch.  Incantatrix means a woman that makes incantations, or a female spell caster.  This class has seen a lot of love and hate online and it was a little controversial in our groups as well.  The article is six pages and has some great ideas and some really neat spells.  I have a lot of issues with this class, but I want to focus on only a couple.  First, it is much weaker than a similar level magic-user. I guess this is why it is an NPC class afterall.  Also, the class has something of a split personality. It is a spell-thief AND a class that fights other spellcasters and outsiders.  I think splitting it up into two separate concepts would fit much better.   Let's talk about the spell-thief bit for a second.  Here is a quote from the article:
But how could a mere wizard defeat the Archmage with a spell so beyond her powers? asked the sage skeptically.
Ok. First point. How did you know that the incantatrix was a "mere wizard"?  Now granted, many worlds have classifications of wizards. Look at Krynn and I know that "Archmage" is actually a big deal.  But at the same time to a casual observer, do you know how powerful someone is?
Now that is not to say that this class doesn't have a lot of potential. It does. In fact, it came back as a 3.0 Edition Prestige Class in Magic of Faerûn. This version focused on her "meta-magic" feats.
An OSR or 5th Edition Incantatrix is needed I think.

Nice big ad for Chill.

Gary is up next with Hold that person! The definitive list of charm-able humanoids.  This is the list of anything affected by Charm or Hold Person spells. I had kept this list in with my notes on what would become the Witch.  It's a good list.  Gary shares other news like the huge GenCon 17 turnout and how they sold out of the D&D Companion set.  He is also working on T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil, or rather handing it to Frank Mentzer who is also busy with the Masters Set of D&D rules.  There is no more movement on AD&D 2nd Edition at this point, but there is speculations that the Monster book will be two books.  The D&D cartoon is renewed and the D&D movie script is moving ahead.  It does make me wonder if some of the items for AD&D 2 ended up in next year's Unearthed Arcana.

Ed is back again with Bats that do more than bite: Six species from Elminster's latest lecture. Or six types of bats unique to the Realms.

The next installment of Gods of the Suel pantheon is up. Len Lakofka gives us Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.   Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one.

Mike Beeman has some advice on Playing the political game: A change of pace for AD&D game adventuring.  This article covers how to play a game of political intrigue.  I nice companion piece I think to the rules from the Companion Set and the upcoming Master Set.  Also one I think that would be well received today with the popularity of Game of Thrones.

Plane facts on Gladsheim: What it's like in the land of the Norse gods covers the planes of Gladsheim by Roger E. Moore.  It is a nice companion piece to the adventure coming up. I liked this article because at this time I was really beginning to move away from Greek myth and into more Norse and eventually Celtic myths.  This is a good starting point. Most of the article is devoted to spell changes.

This is followed up with Aesirhamar, a high-level adventure taking place in Gladsheim also by Roger E. Moore.

Jerry Epperson contributes to the Halloween feel and gives us a review of the first edition of Chill.  The review, while only a page an half long, is very positive and covers all the basics of what you can do with Chill.

Lots of ads.

We get to the Ares section now.

Up first is Skills for the Super Agent: Agent skill packages in the CHAMPIONS game by Gregg Sharp.  This is for making proper "Super" Spies in a Supers game.
Steve Perrin has some more powers for the Superworld game.

The big one, and one I had cut out of my original copy and stuck in my Star Frontiers box, is The Mega-Corporations for Star Frontiers by Kim Eastland.   This article shifted my SF playing from a Star Wars/Star Trek kitbash to a proto-ShadowRun game.  Though we took a lot from Blade Runner too.   I swear I had created some mega-corps myself but for the life of me, I can't recall any.

Riddle of the Ring has a big full-page ad.  They have sold the rights to their "unique" game to Iron Crown Enterprises.



Another Gen Con 17 report, this time from Roger Moore and focusing on the sci-fi elements of the con.

Big for Bard games.
Convention Calendar.
Lots of small ads.

Wormy's trolls go fishing and Aveeare encounters magic in Snarf Quest.

Very memorable issue.  Lots of nostalgia.  I was a big fan of I.C.E.'s Middle Earth back in the day and seeing the ads for it and the "Riddle of the Ring" always make me smile.  If you want to learn more about I.C.E.'s Middle Earth in White Dwarf #58 from the same month and year as this Dragon.

Did anyone play an Incantatrix? I am curious to hear your experiences.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #132

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skip Williams and Sage Advice cover a variety of topics.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Lane has new ships for Star Frontiers.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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