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

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #72

Another one I have multiple copies of. Sadly none of them have the cover or the File 13 game.

Dragon Magazine Issue #72 takes us back to April 1983. Let's see...I would have been in 8th grade then.  So for me that was the start of my AD&D 1st ed years and the waning of my B/X years.

Now I have a confession. I HATE the annual April Fools issues of magazines. Maybe hate is too strong of a word. But I admit that even the small (very small) amount of humor I find in some of the issues is off-set by the loss of what could have been good material.  Last week though reminded me that even when they had a full magazine to devote that not all the material was good.

This issue is an exception. There is one other coming up (if I even have it), but the humor here is mild and the other material makes up for it.

Let's start with this wonderful Clyde Caldwell cover.  We have two excellent cavaliers fighting a cool looking dragon.  Ties in nicely with the Cavalier class.  I am also surprised that there is no bare thigh in sight!

Kim Mohan's editorial really typifies why I hate the April Fool's issues. You are actually better off not reading it. You can save time and get to the exact same issue by reading the Letters.
The Letters section is full of bemoaning of how the magazine is getting too big (80-88 pages) or too expensive ($3.00).  Here I am in 2017, nearly 35 years later thinking that we don't have enough Dragon these days.

There is an ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined a couple of different time over the course of my years.  I wonder if they are still around? ( they are!) I am pleased to see I had read a good number of the books advertised, but there are few more I'd love to get my hands on again.

The big article of this issue is the Cavalier.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Cavalier. I liked the idea of a knight in shining armor, but who wasn't a Paladin.  There is a lot to like here and a great example of the long-form article that I really enjoyed from Dragon.  This is of course from Gary himself.  I also love that art from Keith Parkinson.  Too bad that playing a female elf cavalier riding a unicorn is WAY beyond the scope of the rules they are with!

Following this is, believe it or not, one of my favorite Ecology articles.  The Ecology of the Piercer. Seriously. Though the article has less content that I recalled (or I could be missing more pages) we decided that Piercers are a delicacy in my world, much like escargots are  in this world.  People collect young piercers for food and are worth a lot of money.  The older the piercer the less fresh they taste, so only the young are prized.  Piercers fed a steady diet of deer, elk or other game they would not normally get are even more prized.  Piercer farming has not worked out well, but adventurers are set on the task of collecting the little ones, all while avoiding the big ones!

The article on Gems is interesting, but I would rather have gone to a science book.

The Katherine Kerr article on The Real Barbarians is not one I read a lot of back then, but find very interesting now.  Easily one that should be paired with the Barbarian class that either will show up soon or just did.  Worth reading again to be sure.

Something that is an artifact of it's time is The PBM scene.  Playing by mail is a concept that I think most gamers would never think about these days. Oh I am sure if you look around you might find one or two still going.  Likely a Diplomacy, Tunnels & Trolls or a Traveler one.  It is a long ass article too.  I am not sure if I know anyone that ever did a Play By Mail game.  I considered it, back in the day, but never got around to it. Plus I could not bring myself to pay a buck every turn.

I get to the "behind the scenes" of File 13. Which made me realize I don't have a copy of the actual game.

Ugh... we get to the April Fools section.  I'll make this one fast. Valley Elf song? pass. I have the Frank Zappa album that Valley Girl came on and I got more D&D ideas from that then I do this song.
The Jock. Pass. More Sex in D&D humor.

I am jumping ahead to the book reviews.  Ok. Lots of really cool things here. In particular, I am drawn to Philip K Dick's "We Can Build You".   I remember the book since I was then and now something an armchair Lincoln scholar (what? I can layers.) but what strikes me the most these days is how much the fiction of Philip K. Dick shaped the world we live in now.  I think that is something worthy of a post on it's own someday.

The comics feature Phil n' Dixie doing their normal shtick.  Wormy is interesting though.  The wizard creating the portal is some of the best "portal" art I had seen up to that point.

The ads were good, lots of cool memories. Nothing really in the way of computer games yet.
Nice nostalifgic issue.  Not a lot I can use today except maybe the barbarian article, but still fun.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #97

Grabbing the next issue on the pile is a very mildewy Dragon #97 from May 1985.  When this was published I would have been slightly older than my youngest son is now.  This issue either pre-dates or was published around the same time as Unearthed Arcana.  There are some letters and Forum comments on his article on demi-humans limits from issue #95.   Personally I never got the logic behind level limits for demihumans and never used them myself.

Gary is still publishing articles in Dragon at this point, though we know now that it is not going to last.  His article in this issue is about clerics and their gods.  We had a run of articles on playing clerics closer to their gods; it seemed to be a big deal in the pages, but something we, or at least I, always did.  I see now that it was not as universal as I thought.

There is an ad for the Pendragon game.  I so wanted to play this back then but never saw it stores and never knew anyone that was playing it.

Another ad for the "Dragonfire" software for DMs.  I should see if I can find a copy of this somewhere. I was always curious about it. There is a Wikipedia page for it and the manual is here. There are some interviews and other links, but I can't find the software itself.

An interesting article on improvised weapons.  Personally I wouldn't use this. The article is good and details a lot weapons like chairs, frames and other things.  But there are more improvised weapons that can be covered.  I read it then for ideas and I am sure I never used it.  These days I am more likely to use a 1d4+Strength or 1d6+Strength for any weapon.

Ecology of the Gorgon is interesting to me only because it was written by Ed Greenwood and I focusing on these things now.  I noticed that the article never mentions a Medusa at all.  As a fan of classical mythology I always though it was very odd that a Gorgon was a bull like creature. I am not sure if there was a mythological or literature-based reason for this. That is other than you can get "gored" by a bull.

Speaking of Ed, one of my favorite features is next.  Pages from the Mages is back for round four.  I collected a lot these over the years.  Some of the spells were cool, others were odd.  I loved the idea of spellbooks as treasure, and loved making my own unique spellbooks.  Wish I knew where that document got off to.   I know the Pages form the Mages book collected and edited these all, so I will ahve to add that to my list of Realms books to read over.

Game design icon Lew Pulsipher is back with an article on how to deal with captives in The Only Good Captive.

The Ares section covers some Traveller material and some Canadian supers for the Marvel Superhero game.

The trouble with nostalgia is there is the desire to look at everything old as being good. This is a case in point of how this is not the case at all.  Not that this is a bad issue. It's not. It's also not full of any insights or secrets into playing the game we all enjoy.
While I am sure that there are people that will read the improvised weapons articles and shout for joy that it is the exact thing they have been looking for, others (like me) will find it overkill.
I found more interest in the ads.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #86

Let's start of This Old Dragon with one of the first Dragons I ever owned, Dragon #86. I am also picking this issue because I have three copies of it and maybe between the three I have enough left to have one full issue.

This issue is dated June 1984.  I would have just finished my freshman year in High school and was going to be a sophomore.  So slightly older than my youngest son and younger than my oldest son is now.

This issue features one (I think it is the second) Chess cover by Denis Beauvais.   This is also one of my favorites of the series. I just kinda like the skull face in the background.  Plus I always thought that this is what a battle between a Paladin and an Anti-Paladin should be like.

Starting in the middle is the "Great Stoney Castle".  I am fortunate enough to have two complete "kits" here between the three issues that if I ever get the desire to build it again I can.  I remember building this back in the summer of 84.  I liked the safety pins to make little flags on top of the towers. Thought it was pretty clever.   The castle became "Castle Glantri" in my game world and I even created dungeons underneath.  In my world's history Castle Glantri was destroyed in the "Shadow Wars" aka me going to college and thinking I would not get a chance to play anymore. I kept that through out the years and even into my current game.  I think with the discovery of these magazines I will say the castle has finally been rebuilt.

Great Stoney was so popular in fact that the Wizards of the Coast digital incarnation of Dragon, known as Dragon+ recently reprinted Great Stoney for everyone. For free!  and!/article/113120/102960505  and

Ecology of the Slithering Tracker was also a literal game changer for me.  I always thought of the Slithering Tracker as kind of a useless monster.  But this article made me see it completely different.  From here on out I started thinking about all my monsters as from the point of view of a normal human or a 1st level character.  The Slithering Tracker is a deadly to these folks and a real monster.  It helped me focus on building more interesting monsters and making the ones I had more interesting.  Yeah, that's all "no shit" stuff today, but to a 14-year-old, that was something ground breaking.

I really, really wanted to like the article on new Familiars. There was a lot to like about it in theory, but in execution...maybe not so much.  It is no small claim to say this article did change how I did familiars, if nothing else so I didn't do it like this article.  No slight on the article. It just did not resonate with me like I wanted it too.
I re-re-read it this morning before posting and it was better than I recalled.  I think I might give some of them a try.

The New Magic items were interesting, but I am not sure I ever used one of them or not.  I recall other magic items from the pages of Dragon, but not these.  Again, this is the problem looking at these magazines 33 years later. I don't measure the value of the article on its own merits, but on how it related to me then and how I remember it now.

Another great article, for me anyway, was the start of the Gods of the Suel Pantheon.  I was always fascinated with the Suel Empire in Greyhawk and wanted to learn more. Still do in fact. I also enjoyed reading about these gods.  If I was ambitious I'd collect these all (see if I have all first) and then put them together to discuss.   Sure, I have the Dragon Magazine Archive that has them all, but that's not quite the same thing is it.
Following up on that article is one on the Dragon and their Deities.  I will have to share this one with my oldest son.  Basically it is about dragon clerics. Something we would take for granted today but a very new idea then.

This might have been the first issue where I saw an ad for Bard Games and HAD to have the Complete Spellcaster.  Yes, even then I was all about the witches.

The comics had the usual fare of Wormy, Snarf Quest and Dragon's Mirth. There was also a comic here called "Talanalan" which I had assumed meant "Tal an' Alan".  It struck me as a comic I would have read in "Boy's Life" that is fairly tame and only sometimes funny.  In the nostalgia fueled OSR and Middle Age I never hear of this one mentioned.

What are your memories of this issue?  I am curious to learn if anyone else used the Great Stoney Castle?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Old Dragon

I have a bad habit of buying whole collections from people when I find them on Craigslist, Facebook or even at local flea markets.   Typically I find one or two items I really want, a dozen or so I can sell in the local game auction twice a year and then there are the leftovers.

Sometimes the leftovers are items that are so damaged they won't sell or are not even gaming related.  Recently though my "leftovers" have been old Dragon magazines.

I picked up a box of Dragons recently that are mildewy, dusty, and the vast majority are missing their covers.  Others are just water damaged. I stick them all into a box under my desk. Well, now they all have to go.

While I could just dump into the recycling (they are in really piss poor shape) I thought maybe I should go through them all first.

So that is what I am I going to do.

Introducing "This Old Dragon"!

This feature should be  (have not decided on the day yet) and I will grab a mildewy issue and read through it.  This will be a review feature like my White Dwarf Wednesdays, but there will be some notable differences.

1. I am not going to go in order.  I am grabbing a magazine out as I see fit and then I'll review it.   If there is an issue you want me to cover, we will both have to be surprised.  I am not even sure what issues I have.  I think the lowest is #54 and the highest is #160, but I can't be sure.  I am going to grab an issue in the morning, pop it open on my treadmill and go for a run.

2. I am not going to cover everything in the magazine.  This is part out of choice and part out of necessity.  Some of the magazines are missing pages, others have pages too damaged to read.  Plus I only want to devote my attention to articles I like or would like to revisit.  In this case it means I am likely to ignore the comics, but maybe focus more on the fiction I never read.

3. I have no idea what I have. Like I said I have a vague idea. I know I have duplicates and in one case triplicates of some issues.  There are many I don't have.

I am also not going to try to step on any toes of people reviewing Dragons now. If I see someone reviewing or have reviewed the same issue, I'll post a link.  Likewise, if you have something you want to say about an issue posted then post away!

I'll do this for a while and see how it goes over.  What do you think?
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