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

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.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #123

Welcome back to This Old Dragon!  Today's issue, #123, is in such terrible shape with missing pages and mildew I am going to need to resort to the PDF more than once.  Let's go back to July 1987. I am working two jobs to make money for college and saving some time for my first "World Ending" campaign. A campaign that will see plot points and characters many, many years later in "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "The Dragon Slayer's" games.  Let's get to it!

I grabbed this cover from the web, my copy does not have a cover anymore.  It is cool, but it doesn't rank in my favorite covers by any means. 
The first page I have is an ad for Gen Con 20 which is next month (August 20-23, 1987).  At this time Gen Con (they are using a space there) is in Milwaukee.

The special feature of this issue is "The Arcane Arts", so a lot on magic.  I do remember this section quite well.  I am sure I incorporated some of this into my 2nd Edition game, but I'll remember once I get back into it. 

On to the Letters. More calls for reprints of covers. A letter asking for more coverage of the D&D game, as opposed to the AD&D game.  The Rule Cyclopedia is still a couple of years away.  Another letter voices the first concerns about the Forgotten Realms taking over from Oerth and Krynn.  Sorry kid, but you haven't seen the worse of it yet! Thankfully things even out a few years later.

Ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined it by this point and I see many books I owned or would later own. A few I still own in fact!  Funny looking at them now through the haze of time and nostalgia I can't recall if they were all good books and I forgot OR were they great books and I can't remember OR were they bad books and my wistfulness for 1987 colors my memories. 

Ed Greenwood is up for the first article of the issue. Music of the Forgotten Realms. I am not sure how far off we are from the publication of the "Grey Box" campaign rules, but it can't be that far off.  I have been following the tone of these articles with interest since I have started to re-review this Dragons.  The tone of this one is the Realms are a thing now. Earlier articles the Realms seemed to be a long lost, dare I say it, forgotten place and time and the articles are Ed/Elminster's rememberings.  I know the actual verbs used in the articles do not support this claim but it is a feel. This one reads like something going on right now in this country you could visit right now. IF that is you choose to.

Ah, the main attraction. The Arcane Arts.

David Yates is up first with The Mystic College. Or in the modern parlance, Hogwarts for AD&D.  Drawing a lot on Dragonlance and not enough on Glantri this article covers how an AD&D Magic-user can create a school of wizardry.  There are some good ideas here too. Magic-users can start a school at 9th level.  Some rules are given on experience bonuses and some improved chances on learning new spells. The article itself is a long one, 10 pages of text, a covers a lot of ground. I read this article just when I was heading to college. Now I have spent nearly all my adult life in academics, reading this now has more excited that before. Though now I am interested in different details.  I have often felt that the "adventuring" wizard was one that not just sought out new or lost forms of magic, but needed to adventure to pay the high costs of wizard school!

Fire for Effect! is from Richard W. Emerich and details magical fires.  The Fred Saberhagen "Swords" books were very popular at this time, so I think I detect a note from those. At least in terms of what magical fire might be.  The various melting points of metals are also given. The article is kinda worth it just for these alone. 

Arcane Lore is a new column to feature new spells sent in by the readers.  First up is a bunch of spells from Avissar Fire-Eye, or known in this world as Harold Dolan.  I always like articles like these and spell names like this.  "Magic Missle" is fine as far as spell names go, but really it should be named after the mage that created or made it famous/infamous.  So "Bargle's Missle of Magic" is a better name.  We get some of that here.  Truthfully it is something I have gotten away from but really should go back to it.  There are some decent spells here too.  All are fire based.

Another new column is Lords & Legends which covers some NPCs for use in the any of the TSR worlds. Up first is Matt Iden with Yoshitsune, 13th level kensai/6th level monk, Benkei an 8th level shohei, and Hsu Hsun, an 23rd-level wu jen, 9th-level shukenja.  The "star" though is Miyamoto Musashi who is depicted as a 15th-level kensai.  I have no problem admitting that this is where I first heard of Musashi and A Book of Five Rings.  I picked up a copy from the SF/F Book Club and I still have it. 

Heather Gemmen is up next with Gamers Around the World: Putting the World Gamers Guide to use. Yes this is how we connected back then.  Well. One of the ways. In five years the usenet group will form. 

The Ecology of the Giant Leech is next.  Sadly pages 51 and 52 are stuck to pages 53 and 54 so bad the reading them is difficult.  

Page 54 does have a an article about keeping time from Lisa Cabala called Time Flies. Helpful when you forget how long an AD&D turn, round and segment are.   Lots of nice time keeping charts.

Roger E.  Moore throws these careful charts out the window with his Just Making Time. In this he talks about making calendars for your own worlds.  Forgotten Realms took this to heart, and it is mentioned here. 

Moving past the part where the short story was, we come up to a Star Frontiers article. The Whole-Earth Ecology by Danny Kretzer discusses how to create the flora and fauna of a world.

The Marvel-Phile had other heralds of Galactus, but they are gone from this magazine. 

The Role of Books covers the then new books. Of note is a review for Mercedes Lackey's Arrow of the Queen. A book that will inspire a generation of gamers and some of those will go one to make Blue Rose.

Operation:Zondraker for Top Secret continues the "Moon for various RPGs" feature of Dragon/Ares.

Another ad. I know I spend a lot of time on these but they are much more of a time-capsule of what was happening in hobby even more so than reviews.  Case in point this one.

Obviously not the boxed set we all remember. It isn't even the ad I remember. The ad I recall was a semi-shadowed man (a game designer presumably) that looked nothing at all like Ed Greenwood, relaxing with his hands behind his head.  In truth, I can't even find that ad now.  Mandela Effect anyone?  I remember the ads being very pretentious.  This one does not seem that way. I do remember this picture and my thoughts were of Glorfindel riding to Rivendell with the Ringwraiths on his heels. I might have even asked people in my gaming group that the time if this was related to Tolkien.  Interesting really.

The Forgotten Realms feature prominently in the Previews section as well.  There are other reminders that for reasons best left undiscussed TSR was producing items for the Lazer Tag license.

We end with the comics.

The arcane stuff in this issue was great and worthy of a third look from me again.  The Realms material has got me thinking more and more about a Realms campaign.  We are after all hitting the 30 year publication anniversary. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This Old...Journal? Judges Guild Journal

Due to being sick earlier this week I did not get around to reviewing a Dragon Magazine for "This Old Dragon".
But I did score some copies of the old Judge's Guild Journal from 1977 to 1978 (Prime 'Space Trucker' years).

I grabbed issues #3(N), #6(O) to #10(S).

Truthfully I was not planning on a big review of each issue; there is not a lot of reviewable content.  But I will talk about them in a future post.

Of course, I grabbed this set for a couple of reasons.  I am always curious about the early days of our hobby and these issues (just) pre-date my involvement.  So that is a plus in my book.

Then there is also this.

I had NO idea this even existed until last week. So I hunted these down.
I will go into detail about this class and how it works in the D&D of the time.  Plus it has such a great 70s vibe to it.   I really can't but help to want to jump in a try it out.

The art is pretty cool too.

I might keep the issue with the witch, but when I am done I will entertain offers if someone must have these for your collection.  I am not looking to recoup my losses here but if someone wants to soften the blow then I will not say no.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #89

Going all the way back to September 1984 for this one.  Highlights include that wonderful Denis Beauvais "Chess" cover, a follow-up to his Issue 86 cover.  Like that issue, I have some pretty fond memories of this one.  Put on some "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince and jump on into "This Old Dragon!"

We start with a very interesting letter.  The reader asks if print version of some Dragon covers could be sold.  Editor Kim Mohan responds saying they can't because they do not own the reproduction rights to many of the covers.  Now in later magazines, we know this changes a little due to the "Art of the Dragon" book that comes out, but others are still owned by their respective artists.   Something they later seem to miss when publishing the CD-ROM.

Stephen Inniss is back (or this could be his first) with Survival is a group effort. He talks about the survival chances of some of the frequently used humanoid races.  I was surprised to see that he gave kobolds a really long life span.  At five pages it is an interesting read. The aging tables are worthy of cutting out and sticking into your Monster Manual.

Six very special shields is next and comes from the pen of Ed Greenwood via the word of mouth of Elminster.  I remember having some high hopes for this article; that it would as interesting as the swords ones they (hypothetically) compare it too, but somehow it doesn't live up.  I do recall putting Reptar's Wall into one of my games though.

Cool ad for The Wizard's Nook.  I had no idea what they sold really, never sent my two bucks in for a catalog.

Len Lakofka returns for more Gods of the Suel pantheon. This time featuring Pyremius, Beltar, and Llerg. I was SO into the Suel back then. I collected all of these articles, I wrote a bunch of histories detailing the migration of the Suel survivors all over the world.  Their histories and magic. It is interesting to see which of these gods survived to today. These gods made it to the 3.x Living Greyhawk Gaz and Complete Divine.

The article Many Types of Magic by Charles Olson covers a particular 1e problem of well....somethings just not making much sense.  So anyone familiar with the history of D&D knows how it grew somewhat organically and that means things sometime feel off. The magical classification system (Alteration, Illusion, Conjuration...) doesn't always follow the rules.  This is something addressed here, and to a much larger degree in 2nd and 3rd Edition.  I can't tell if this article informed those changes; they were really must needed changes to start with.  Now before the angry posts and emails start, I am not saying 1e is broken or anything like that.  It does have its own set of peculiarities.  Anyone who played it knows this.

Another great ad for the Time-Life book series The Enchanted World!

Show of hands. Who had these?  Of COURSE I had the Witches and Wizards one. I also have the one on Ghosts.  I see them at Half-Price Books a lot.  I'd get more of them (just for the geek street-cred) but they are too tall for my bookshelves!

In the annals of "useless NPC Classes" I think the Sentinel from Halt! Who goes there? would make the top of my list.  Maybe only the accountant from the dawn of the Dragon is worse. It's not a bad class, it just doesn't really do anything a fighter with some thief skills couldn't do better. I am actually pretty sure a multi-classed fighter/thief would be better.

Ah. Here we go.  I am not sure if it was this issue or an earlier one, but it was this ad that got me interested in White Dwarf.  Issue 44 was my first White Dwarf.

Learn magic by the month by Craig Barrett covers learning new magic in the Dragonquest game.  I have to admit I always liked the look of Dragonquest and wanted to learn how to play it.  No one around me did at the time.  I think I missed out on some cool experiences, to be honest with you. Rereading this article only convinces me of that.  Trouble is I doubt I have the patience anymore to learn a relic from the 80s.

Creature Catalog.
Oh now, this was fun.  My appetite for new monsters was strong 1984 and I always wanted something new to throw at players that had the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio memorized.  This was a great addition.  In particular, I enjoyed the Fachan (it was so weird), the Ghuuna (which I still use),  the Glasspane Horror (one of my favorites), and the Utukku (I made a revised one years ago based on the same myths).  I lost my original copy along with all my 2nd Ed material (I had put it in my Montrous Compendium binder), so it is great to have this one again.

Roger Moore follows up with an article on calculating monster XP values.  The Monster Manual II will also make this easier in the future.

The Ares Sci-Fi section is next.
Some articles on the Mega-Corporations of Star Frontiers.

Continuing the articles on the Moon we have Luna, The Empire and the Stars for the Other Suns game.

Of Grizzly Bears and Chimpanzees covers mutant animal characters in Gamma World.  I used this article to beef up the Gorilla Bear that appeared in the Fiend Folio.

Missing some pages. Checking the CD-ROM it appears that the Marvel Phile was cut out as was the crossword puzzle.

We end with Wormy and Snarf and the answers to the crossword.

A fun issue to be sure! Loved the cover and monsters.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #114

It is not an exaggeration to say that Dragon #114 was a watershed issue for me.  But before I get into all of that I want to quickly restate what I am doing here since I have gotten a few new readers.  So the background here is I had purchased a couple of large gaming collections over the last couple of years. My brother also gave me a box of Dragons in really bad shape.  After combining, keeping some, selling off others and tossing (yeah, had too) ones that were in terrible shape I was left with about 100 or so Dragons that were in pretty bad shape.  Most were missing covers, many are missing pages and maybe one or two are fully intact.  In This Old Dragon I am grabbing issue out at random and reviewing them.  I can only review what I have, so if it is missing I won't talk about it.  The only exception I make are the covers.  If I feel too much is missing or something important is missing I'll check my Dragon-Magazine CD-ROM.  Cool?

So,  Let's get into this issue!
Speaking of covers let's have a look at this rather infamous cover from David Martin. In future letters sections, there were plenty of complaints of the "Playboy" like cover. It is also one of the few covers I would love to have an art-print of in my game room.  I loved it then and I still do. I have never seen an art print of it though. A little more than a year later the cover was reused (with permission as I understand) for the cover of Angel Dust's "To Dust You Will Decay" album.

The Letters section covers questions about spending more than $100 on the next version of AD&D (2nd Edition).  Some things never change I guess. Some letters on Psionic in combat too.

Editor Roger Moore talks about someone impersonating him at Gen Con 19.  Don't know if the guy was ever caught.

Ok.  Let's jump in.
The Witch is the main feature of this issue.  And by main I mean I don't think I ever read anything else in the issue for many years.  I think it was 1990 before I ever looked at the Ecology article.  This article dominated the issue and the minds of many.  I know many of you reading this either knew of this article, read it or had a witch from it.   Chances are if you ran into someone playing a witch anytime after 1986 then they were using this class.  Interesting that it was designed as an NPC class.
It was another update to the venerable witch from Dragon Mags #5, #20 and #43.  While issue #43 had a great deal of information, Dragon #114 is known for the art. There was the controversial cover and also the use of Larry Elmore art as one of the witches.   It was this issue that set the desire in my mind to have Elmore art in one of my books one day.  I had made a witch class prior to this, back in July of 86.  But I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first made a character using this witch.  It was in study hall, October 25, 1986.  I was a senior in High school. I was in the larger study hall because the teach I normally had study hall with had just died. I was set to play Dr. Seward in my High School's production of Dracula.  I pulled out a sheet and rolled up my first witch.

Yes. That is my iconic witch Larina.  That binder is full of different versions of her for different games, but this is the first.

Moving into the article and class.  This witch is WAY overpowered.  It is easy to see that now, but back then I didn't care. Bonus spells, powers at nearly every level, High Secret Order Spells? Yikes. But yet I do love this witch so.  10 pages, lots of new spells.  That Elmore art.  Totally fell in love.  Limiting the witch to 8th level spells seems like a natural thing to me now.  Back then I never gave much thought.  These days I give WAY too much thought.  I have a huge Excel file filled with spells and levels to some up with the optimal levels of every spell and placement. It has informed all my writing for years.  8th level feels right.

I see the seeds of nearly every witch I have played in these pages.  Certainly, my own Witch class has been inspired by it.

After that everything else in the magazine is a little weak.  It's isn't, but it sure feels like it.

Grave Encounters is full of great random tables for monsters.  I made a copy of it and stuck into my Ravenloft boxed set.

Not to be outdone by Bill Muhlhausen, Chris Booth is up with The Elven Cavalier. In my mind, I always thought that there is someone out there that read this article and got the same joy out of it that I got from the Witch article.  It is a good article and when I finally sat down to read it in earnest I became convinced that this was someone's favorite article and class.  So much so that it later affected things I did with Larina.  At one point she became romantically involved with an elven cavalier and thus my other iconic witch Taryn, the half-elf was born.
I created a group of Elven Cavaliers called the "Moon Knights" (it was the 80s. I am allowed).

Were you that person out there that loved the Elven Cavalier?  I'd love to hear about it.

The Ecology of the Remorhaz took me till 1990 or so before I read it.  Not that it is a bad article, far from it, it always got eclipsed by the witch.

Robert Kelk is up with Combined Generation or another attempt to put all the tables needed for character generation in one place.  It's a good article in theory. In practice I can't say.  At the time I never needed it, by 86 I had been playing for 7 years and pretty much knew where everything was without thinking about it. Today, rereading it, I can't say since I am too far removed from those days.  I can say that if I ever play 1st ed again I will have these handy.

Class Struggles (yup, but let's be honest an obvious name) from Mark Kraatz details things characters can do between leveling up times.   Some good ideas here that can be easily ported over to any version of *D&D or OSR.

The next article was part of a rash of articles and products to "better define" D&D.  It's a hit-but where? by Alex Curylo is another hit-location article. There are lots of example creatures, including the Flumph, on random hit locations.  It's a level of detail I never cared for and when it came up in game we usually either hand waved it or decided where the hit must be depending on the damage caused.

Moving on to more modern games and sci-fi we have an article from Russell Droullard on creating adventures for Top Secret; A Recipe for Espionage.  I am sure it would for other spy games as well like James Bond.  Thomas Kane follows up with the legal process in Top Secret in Guilty as Charged.

The Marvel-Phile deals with some details that didn't quite make it into the Advanced version of the game and a DS al Coda of the Moon articles from Ares. The only hero I recognize here is Medusa.

Neat, full color ad for the Immortals set.

Role of Computers covers the game Wizard's Crown for the Apple II, Commodore 64 and Atari XL.  The screen shots look like the Atari version. It looks fun, in a retro sort of way.  I know by this time I Was feeling a left out on my little 16k Color Computer 2.  But no fear the 128k Color Computer 3 was coming out and I was going to be rocking!

Ad for the Palladium Fantasy RPG.  Really wanted to play that back in the day.

High-Tech Hijinks by Randal S, Doering covers adding technology to your FRPG and AD&D in particular.  I will be honest. I never read it. I don't mix tech and magic in my games. It's a thing.  Though rereading it now, I am sure I at least glanced at it. A lot of it feels familiar.

We end with Wormy (which was getting stranger all the time to me), Dragonmirth and SnarfQuest (which was totally about tech in D&D).

It is very difficult to classify this issue for me.  The Witch article drowns out everything else in my mind to the point that I think only of it.  Yet there is a lot of othr good things in this issue.
It is easily one of my top 5 issues. Maybe even my most favorite.

I know for a fact tht while I would have done the witch class, I would not have been able to do it as well had it not been for this.  If nothing else it gave me ideas to use, ideas to avoid and something to playtest against to see how it all works.  The roots of my own game design are right here.

The fruits of 30 years:

The Witch: For Basic-era games The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry

Which one is next?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #56

WHAAAT?  A This Old Dragon on a Tuesday? What sort of shenanigans are these? It's true, it's Tuesday and this is Dragon #56 from December 1981!  According to my notes, I have two copies of this one.  Well, I only found one and it is missing the cover and the next pages. Also, there are lot "holes" in the magazine, things cut out for nefarious purposes (I assume), so I am hoping that my other copy is in better shape (but I doubt it).  I popped in the Dragon CD-ROM to see what I was missing.  First thing I notice is this great Phil & Dixie cover. Damn. That would have been cool to have really.   Well lets get  into what I DO have (remember what the rules are, if it is not in the magazine I have, I don't talk about it).  It's December 1981, I am in Jr. High and this is This Old Dragon!

First glance, this is a different feeling magazine than what I would later get used too.  Last week I talked about issue 84 as sort of the Dargon I was most used to.  This one is similar, but there are differences too.  Granted there is 2 years worth of development between these, but some of it might just be MY perceptions.   I didn't own this Dragon back in 1981 and that was before I started buying them. They say the past is a foreign country and this is foreign land indeed.

Out on a Limb confirms we are in a foreign land. One letter wants TWO magazines at only $1.50 each, or if TSR must be greedy, then $2.00 for one of them.  Quick peek at the CD-ROM tells me this magazine costs $3.00 back then.  We never knew how good we had it.

Ok, now the meat of this issue.  Singing a New Tune is all about a new Bard class.  Jeff Goelz gives us a new, single classed bard based on the Welsh bard.  There are a lot of good reasons to do this and this class looks good.  The level progression feels like a mix of fighter and wizard. The bard gets Druid and Illusionist spells (not Magic User) though some spells are off the lists.  I sorta remember this one but I know I never played it. I really want to now. Bards are fun.

Sage Advice follows with some advice on the PHB Bard.  The interesting point for me here is that all these issues brought up are solved by the previous article. Granted the readers submitting these questions don't/didn't have this article.

Bill Howell is way ahead of the curve here with Songs instead of Spells for the bard. This article also works out well with the first one.  Now the bard is much more of a performance caster than what the PHB bard is or even the Goelz bard is.  This presages the bards of 2nd edition and beyond.  Frankly, I want to use all three to play a 1st Ed Bard again just to see how well this works.  I know there are other versions out there. Maybe I'll run into them.

William Hamblin is next with Map Hazard, not Haphazard. This long article (6 pages) is all about creating fantasy maps. It's cool and all, but I am not looking for that level of detail in my games most times.

One of the ads has something cut out of it that mars the next article.

A quick look through the CD-ROM and it looks like all the pictures of skulls were cut out of this issue.  Over protective parent? Or did someone need to decorate their Trapper Keeper?  I say it's 50/50.

The next article over is Gary's From the Sorcerer's Scroll.  The hole goes through some of the magic circles (which will be reprinted in module S4) and the introduction to the North Central Flanaess.  Also a longer article and certainly interesting enough to Greyhawk historians.   I am sure that all of these have been collected online somewhere.

There is the 5th annual AD&D Tournament Invitationaltional entry form.  You can enter for Best Original Monster, Best Original Spell, Best Original Treasure or Magic Item and Best Original Trick or Trap.
Any idea of what entry won or who won them?

BTW, the pages of this magazine seem a lot thicker than later magazines.  No surprise really, but I did notice it.

Mad Merc by Merle M. Rasmussen and James Thompson is the centerfold adventure. This time for Top Secret. It's a big adventure really. 20 pages. I am little surprised it is intact here.

Figuratively Speaking has a nice article on metal miniatures. Or I assume. The pictures were all cut out!

Ah. Here is something fun.  Some new monsters. I love new monsters.  We have the Shroom from Lew Pulsipher which I think was in White Dwarf too. (quick check, nope it did not). None of these jump out at me, but maybe I'll use them some day.

Off the Shelf features a sci-fi novel about the rise of Donald Trump.

Finally Wormy and What's New? are in full color!
I think Wormy had always been in color, but this is new for What's New.

Nice little trip to a foreign land. I am going to have to visit more often.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #84

Let's go all the way back to April of 1984 to issue 84 (the only time that the year and the issue were the same) for an April issue I don't hate.  So put on a copy of Van Halen's "1984" cause it's April 1984 and this is "This Old Dragon"!

Dragon 84 is an interesting one for me.  It was almost my first Dragon.  I was going to go buy it at my local bookstore, but the agreement was I had to buy D&D books with my own money.  So instead of this I got something else. Can't remember what.  I wanted to go back and get it, but by then Dragon #85 was out so I got that one instead.  Yes, folks the very first Dragon I owned was issue 85. But more on that later.

Kim Mohan's editorial discusses the lack of "foolish" content in this issue.  He also discusses how this is the LAST issue with Phil & Dixie!  But it is also the first issue featuring the Ares Sci-Fi section, that is cool.

The first full article up is A cast of strange familiars by Stephen Inniss. Back then I tended to stick to more traditional familiars; owls, cats, bats and the like.  This was a great article since it expanded on the lists of potential animals and benefits for the Magic-User.   My own witch class was still a bit off from happening at this point.

An interesting ad appears on page 13. Riddle of the Ring claims to use names from an "uncopyrighted" work of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I wonder how that worked out for them in the long run?  Contrast that with a panel later in "What's New!"

Ed Greenwood and Elminster are back in Ecology of the Trapper.  Interesting article, but I always wanted them to do more interesting monsters.   We get that later in the issue.

Never the same thing twice: Filling out facts and figures on the rakshasa family by Scott Bennie is the sort of thing I was hoping for!  Rakshasas are really interesting and this article expands on that considerably.  I do remember making a Xerox copy of this article because I wanted to do something more with these guys.  I never did really, but I did end up adding them to the ranks of the devils for my own games.

Interesting ad for the Little Wars convention. I guess in 84 it used to be really close to where I live now. The Willow Brook Inn is no longer there, but Little Wars is still going strong.
There used to be so many cons. In April to June there are 25 listed here.

Ah.  Now a bit of history.
And then there were three is a "preview" by +Frank Mentzer of the new D&D Companion rules.  The article starts off with a bit of history on how the "Companion" rules were hinted at in 1980 (yeah we know!) and it was not till 1982 the go ahead was given to create it.  Reading the article you certainly get the feeling that Gary (oddly misspelled as "Garry" at one point) anoints Frank and hands him the UR-Tablets of D&D and tells him to spread the Gospel to his people. Or something like that.
Frank details the design and gameplay assumptions behind the Companion rules.   This includes more epic quests and even outer planar play.  The Masters and Immortal Sets are also teased here as well as the War Machine large-scale battle system.  What the four classes can do after 15th level is discussed with options such as the Druid, Paladin, and Magist.

The centerfold is Part 1 of a two-part RPGA adventure "The Twofold Talisman".  I ran this back in the mid 80s and had a good time with it, but the Star Wars puns in it felt old to me even then.   I thinkI'd like to run this again someday.

In the Reviews section by Ken Rolston, they cover some FRPG classics. A new edition of Chivalry and Sorcery, a game I always wanted to try, is first up.  The big one is a review of the Basic and Expert sets of D&D, the B and the E in BECMI.  I was not a fan of these editions, having firmly come off of the B/X versions before moving (at this time) to AD&D.  Of course, now I appreciate what was done here, but I should have read this review back then. I might have been a little less quick to judge these set unfairly.

Next is the Ares Science Fiction section, a new feature for Dragon and one I always enjoyed reading.  This section only gives us a taste really of what is to come.

First up is one of the articles I most associate with Ares; their series on detailing the Moon for all the major Sci-Fi systems out there.  It had everything I love. Science, RPGs, sci-fi and an obsessive compulsive need to do something to the Nth degree.  This first one covers the Moon for the Spae Opera RPG.  I always wanted to collect all of these and put them in a binder or something.

Ed Greenwood has another article this time it is The Zethra An NPC race for the STAR FRONTIERS game.  I get the feeling, reading this, that Elminster is out there somewhere in the Star Frontiers universe and Ed was just waiting for an excuse to use him in it.

No Marvel-Phile yet.  But there is a full page ad for the upcoming Marvel Superheroes Game!

Lots of really cool old ads.

So for the comics we have Snarf Quest #9, What's New? with Phil and Dixie, Talanlan, and Wormy all in the same issue.
We touched on this, but this is the last What's New until some special one-shots later on.  Phil & Dixie decide to finally find out WHY they can't do "Sex and D&D" and they get fired in the process. Still though, one of the funnier issue of this with plenty of cameos of Dragon and TSR employees.
This panel makes the Fellowship Games ad above look all the more odd.

We end with natually an ad for I.C.E.s Middle-Earth Roleplaying and a product that to many signified the end of old-school D&D.

I supposed I belong more the Silver Age than the Golden Age even though I had been playing for more than 4 years at this point.

1984 was a turning year for D&D.  We can see it here in the ads and the articles. We can see the turning in Dragon and in TSR in general with the publication of the BECMI sets, Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes.
At the time though it felt exciting, like we were entering a new age of gaming. It STILL feels like that's what it was. Sure we can read about how Gary was getting pushed out by this time and how in 85 the finacial toll was beginning to really harm TSR.   But as fans we never knew that. We never saw that side of things.  Dragon was our insight to the hobby and the sights were good.

What do you recall from this time?  How did you see all these changes?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #175

This might be the "newest" Dragon I have in my big box of old mildewy dragons.  It's also in the worst shape, to be honest.  Well, let's see what we can get from this. The date is November 1991, I am in my first year of grad school and this is Dragon issue 175.

I don't recall actually reading this issue before this. The cover is Spelljammer-ish and I wasn't into that world.  I was always much more of a Ravenloft guy.

Right out of the gate we get a nice big ad for Waldenbooks. Wow, that brings back memories. There is an 800 number here that I am dying to call. Stupid I know.
The first three ads, including the Waldenbooks one, all feature TSR products, no surprise really.

For those that like to keep track, James M. Ward is the Publisher and Editor is Roger E. Moore.

The letters section has an interesting one this time.  A letter describes a new channel coming to cable, the SciFi channel. And it's going to be 24 hours a day!

The feature of this issue deals with Campaigns.
Of particular interest to me are two articles, The Perils of Prehistory and Creative Campaigns: A New Recipe. These two together would help me figure out my Doggerland game someday.

The Marvel-Phile has a couple of heroes I honestly have never heard of. Not that this a big deal really, I had moved back to DC by this point.

TSR Previews covers some new items coming out soon, first up is the new D&D Rules Cyclopedia.  There are more of course, but this one sticks out.

Part 22 of +Bruce Heard's Voyage of the Princess Ark. One day I am going to need to collect all of these and read them in the proper order.  I missed so many back in the day so I really don't have a full idea of what it's all about.  I appreciate the Arsenic and Old Lace reference in this one.  One of the first plays I was ever involved in back in High School.

The Role of Computers is much larger than I recall it being in other issues. Lots of games covered too. Let me think. About this time I had worked on a grant and was able to buy a 286 PC-Clone with an EGA card and 2 megs of RAM, I was so cool. Granted the 386 was already out, but hey, I was still buying it for "work".  Though I have to admit I don't remember any of these games.

The is is listing of the 1990 Origins awards winners, as expected TSR and AD&D grab most of the awards.  Creatively TSR is doing great even if we now know that financially they are in a dire situation.

Like the cover, Sage Advice is Spelljammer focused.  Typically when this is the case the special "feature" of the issue is also likewise focused, but not this case.  Maybe they didn't have enough Spelljammer material?

Ah. Here we go.
Reviewer Allen Varney gives us a brief glimpse into what the 90s is going to look like. Role-playing Reviews covers two new games.  First up is +Lester Smith's Dark Conspiracy RPG.  Kudos to Smith for predicting the economic crashes of the early 21st Century. Sadly it didn't lead to cyborgs and monsters in the streets, just idiots. Dark Conspiracy is not the first modern monster hunting game, but it does help pave a road built by Call of Cthulhu and Chill.  I remember picking this game up in the late 90s when I was on a hard core horror RPG kick, looking for something new.  While I never played this game there is a lot here I really enjoyed.
Next up is the game that defined the 90s. Vampire the Masquerade.
I remember having a conversation with a Vampire player back in the early 90s. Right around this time in fact. He told me then that Vampire was going to destroy D&D.  I told him that other games have said that before, but I was thinking he was out of his mind.  Well...Vampire did do a lot of damage to D&D in the 90s and it did change the face of gaming forever.  Old-school gamers like myself try to dismiss V:TM.  But really people that deny the impact on V:TM do so out of ignorance, jealousy or spite. The review here sets that stage; something big is coming here.
The way the Allen Varney reviews this it is as if Mark Rein-Hagen had taken all of then sacred cows of RPGs and slaughtered them. No equipment lists, weapons only take up a 1/4 of a page, only four pages dedicated to combat! Even skills got a brief overview, but the things that describe who your vampire is? Pages and pages.
My take away from reading this review nearly 26 years later is that Varney doesn't know exactly what to make of the game save that he know he has something very new and very good in his hands. He even takes a moment to discuss the cover which was so different than any game out at the time.
We did not know it then. But this article was a glimpse into the future.  In 10 years time TSR will be gone, White Wolf will be one of the biggest names in gaming and we waiting in eager anticipation as White Wolf's own Sword and Sorcery Studios puts out a Ravenloft book.
Note: A star rating system guide is given, but the games are not actually rated.  Varney has high praise for both games, but not a quantitative rating.

Rhyme & Reason is almost a jarring jolt after reading the reviews. It is something more out the Dragons of the 80s than the 90s. Using riddles in your game.  No offense to author Scot Roach, but I was tired of riddles by that point.  Though it did give me an idea. Instead of having to face the Riddle of the Sphinx I am going to have my players face "The Ridicule of the Sphinx"!
Author Mark Anthony follows this up with another article about riddles.

Ads for Dungeon and for Rifts.

Dragonsmirth has some comic artists I have not seen before. None of the "classics" are here.  Thre is Yamara and the Twilight Empire.  I never read all of the Twilight Empire. I might need to do some research and find where it started and ended.   Anyone have any light to shed on it?

Another ad for Rifts.

In the ads section, I notice that TSR was still running a play by mail game, Conquest of the 25th Century.  I am pretty sure I had an email account at my university at that time (quick check, yes I did) so I suspect that PBM was very soon going to be a thing of the past.
Interestingly, on the next page is an ad for Play by Modem! There is a phone number and you can connect at 300 or 1200 baud! I had a 300 baud modem on my first two computers and I believe by this time the machine I was using had a 2400 baud one. If those words have no meaning for you ask a greybeard. ;)

Again, no cover on this one means no back cover either. I pulled out the old Dragon Magazine CD-ROM archive as saw there is an awesome ad for the Rules Cyclopedia.

At 124 pages this issue feels smaller for some reason.  Maybe it was because the articles didn't grab me or maybe because I was winding down nearly 12 years of gaming at this point and was focused on grad school that the magazine did not resonate with me as much.

Do you have memories of this one?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #150

Moving more forward in time to October 1989 and to one of my most favorite issues of all time, Dragon #150.  This issue was during the prime of the "themed issues" of Dragon magazine, where each month/issue had a theme.  October was always horror and always my favorite.  Plus this issue also features one of my all-time favorite bits of Larry Elmore cover art.
This issue had one of the articles that honestly had such far-reaching effects that I am STILL using ideas from it.   Issue #150 came out in 1989, and I am sure I picked it up right away. I would have been a Junior in university at that time.  I wasn't playing much since I was busy studying all the time, but I do know that I had at least a draft copy of the witch in text format on a floppy disk.

The Dragon's Bestiary is up first with a bunch of new mind-flayer related monsters from Stephen Inniss.   I remember reading this one over and over.  I really wanted to use these guys in my games and I still do.  I noticed while re-reading this recently that the monster stats are for 1st Edition, but the other parts of the magazine are fully 2nd edition.  This was the dawn of 2e and the magazine has a strong post-Gygax vibe about it.  This article though feels older, though there is also a pre-Dark Sun feel to it as well.  The article introduces the Illithidae, or natives of the same world of the Mind Flayers.  If we stick with the mythology they could have easily come in the starship from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  The monsters include the pack hunting Cessirids, the lone hunter and slow moving Embrac, the large Kigrids and the near-Illithid Saltors.  These monsters would later be updated to the Illithidae monsters for 3.5 in the Lords of Madness book.

Stephen Inniss follows this up with an article that is heavy on fluff, light on crunch and one that has stuck with me for years. The Sunset World deals with the world of the Mind Flayers.  The article is a long one and presented in the style of an academic symposium, which is likely what attracted me to it.
This article was the start of the idea of block out the sun as a plot device in my games.  I used it in the Dragon and the Phoenix for Buffy and currently in the Come Endless Darkness campaign for D&D 5.

Speaking of vampires and vampire slayers.  Fangs Alot! has the updated/corrected version of the Vampire listing for the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium.  If you recall the vampire had the same material printed on both sides of the page, the difference only being the "western" and "eastern" vampire pictures.  This version has the proper second page in place.

The Well-Rounded Monster Hunter details some skills every investigator should have in Call of Cthulhu.  I always read these articles with great interest, looking for things I could port over to my then-current (but sadly dying) Ravenloft game.

The Role of Computers covers some video games. The late 80s were an interesting time for computers, I felt he had hit something of a golden age; computers were getting more powerful and cheap and yet there was still enough of a hacker mentality that kept these machines (mostly) in the hands of nerds adn geeks like me.  In many ways if you were a teen playing D&D in the 80s you grew up to be one of the people playing around with computers in the 90s and part of the Dot.Com boom in the late 90s.  It is interesting now, rereading this, to see all the variety of computers software was made for then.  I know in my own case back then I desperately wanted to see more games fro my own Tandy Color Computer 3.  Mock it if you like, but that little computer got me through my undergrad degree in psychology.  I would need the help of an "IBM PC-clone" to finish up my grad school degrees.  Still, it is neat seeing some of these games.  I bet many would run well  on my phone with an emulator.

I still love looking at all these ads.  I actual had sent off a SASE once upon a time to get my own character art. Never sent it back with my payment; never had the money to spare. I always wanted one though. Maybe that is one of the reasons I love getting art now.

John J. Terra has a great article for the FASA Trek RPG, A Final Frontier of Your Own.  Rereading now I am impressed how much of it still applies for LUG Trek and new Trek playtests.  Sitting at my kitchen table re-reading this I sketched out an idea for a game.  I want to run a Star Trek game called the "Daughters of Kahless".  It would be a group of dishonored Klingon Women in a broken down D6 cruiser trying to regain their honor and for the greater glory of the Klingon Empire.  I remember at the time I wanted to do the adventures of a ship propelled to the far ends of the Universe.  I guess that why I have such a love/hate relationship with Voyager. Love the idea, hated the exicution.

In another article by Dean Shomshak we have another CoC article, Unspeakable Secrets Made Easy. This details a number of magical texts.   No spells are listed, but plenty of background information.

More ads follow including the ads for the then new Monstrous Compendiums.  Vol. 1 was out (I picked mine up at a game store in Harrisburg, PA while on vacation) and Vol. 2 was on the way.  The ad though looks different than the binder I picked up and I always wondered if it was because I picked mine up from a different part of the country than I typically bought my Dragons.  Turns out nothing so interesting, just a mock-up for the ad.

It's hard to see, but there is a red border behind the images of the monsters.

Again, this was a great issue that brought back a lot of great memories.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #68

Going back just a touch further in time to an issue I do remember fondly and one I still have the cover for!  I always liked this cover and to me it represents a "border" issue. That is I know all of the issues after it very, very well, but many of the ones before it I only read much later.  This one is not my original. I got this one in a different set of Dragons than most of the ones I am reviewing.

Having the cover also means having the full-color ads.  In particular is the one on the back inside cover for the MPC Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Action Scenes.  Swords & Dorkery has a write-up on them and the ad that featured in this issue and in issue #67.  Worth checking out!  I built a lot of MPC models back then. Lots of corvettes, space-ships and at least two R2-D2s. I was never very good but I loved doing it.

This issue takes us to December 1982.  I would have been in 8th grade at this point and Basic/Expert D&D ruled my world.

This issue also has more "punch per page count" than many of the other issue I have looked over recently.  Lots of material I used or will use later. Even, material I can still use today.

What do we have in this one...
Well if you like weird monsters (who doesn't really!) we have a collection of fungus monster in this month's Featured Creatures by Gary Gygax.  These monsters later would appear in the Monster Manual II.

There is a set of improved rules on two-weapon fighting by Roger Moore.  Great artifact of it's time, but have even better rules now.

Arthur Collins gives a really interesting article on playing during the Ice Age. I like the idea and there are some great bits of advice here too.  I think there should have been much more restrictions on the classes to be honest.  Humans are still unlimited in every class. I don't have a huge issue with that, but there should be far less choice.  I don't think there should be magic-users, illusionists, or really bards and assassins.  The article does suggest using shamans, witch-doctors and witches but no indication on which ones.   Great ideas for a start.

Sorceror's Scroll gives us a second Gygax article. This one covers a bunch of new spells that will later show up in both S4 and Unearthed Arcana.  Wording is a little different that what appears in the UA, but all are here.

Len Lakofa also makes an appearance with a Leomund's Tiny Hut article on the Cloistered Cleric. This is a non-adventuring cleric class. It has some interesting ideas of what to do with other clerics. In addition to this there are a lot of new Cleric spells.  I had a couple Cloistered Clerics as part of the religious order I was building in my world back then. Nice to see this again.

I always loved this ad.

We get to the "center fold" of this magazine, the huge article on Weather in the World of Greyhawk. It is very interesting and helpful, but maybe a little overkill.  There is a lot helpful tables; wind chill, temperature variations, wind speed. But 9 times out of 10 the weather that is happening is the weather I want to happen.  If it is raining, it is becuase I want it to rain for plot reasons.  Sure if I were doing a pure hex crawl then there is a lot of use to this.  In any case the cardboard "DM's Screen" is still intact so that is nice.

In the THIRD Gygax article we get more Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk.
Included are Celestian, Fharlanghn, Ehlonna, Pholtus, and Trithereon.

Katherine Kerr also has an article on using ability scores as percentage system.  Reminds me of what we all used to do after playing CoC and then coming back to D&D.  Times your ability score by 5% to get a percentage chance of success on something.

Article on a module design contest.  The entry form has been removed. Guess I can't send my idea in.

All in all, this is a good issue. Lots of great material and lots of useful material. I know it was a big hit for me back in 82.

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