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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: M3 Twilight Calling (BECMI)

If there is an "Alpha and Omega" to my D&D games with my kids then the title could be held by Gary Gygax, but most likely the titleholder would really be Tom Moldvay.

It has been his adventures that my family have enjoyed the most.

X1 Isle of Dread (w/ David Cook)

His Basic set rules are what really got me deep into D&D, maybe even more so than Holmes. 

So it is really not such a surprise that when I began to look for a "Big Finale" sort of adventure my attention would turn to the Master Series.  

While I initially thought that Bruce Heard's M1 Into the Maelstrom would be my choice (and it is still a fine choice, for something else I have in mind) it was quickly replaced when I discovered Tom Moldvay's M3 Twilight Calling

Twilight Calling is actually rather perfect.  It is a high-level adventure that feels like a high-level adventure. The main focus of the adventure is around a rising power among the Immortals, Alphaks the Dark.  He wants to release the ancient Carnifex race (more on them in a bit) who are sealed away in an extra-planar pocket dimension.  He can't do this himself, only Lawful creatures can enter the realms protecting it and thus break the seals.  The adventure begins all the way back in the "Broken Lands" of the D&D Expert Set (both B/X and BECMI) but soon the characters go on an extra planar romp through the "Seven Realms" to the final location, Carnifex Castle.

The Carnifex
Carnifex are an evil species akin to both lizards and dinosaurs.  We get a good insight to Moldvay's Pulp sensibilities here where evil lizard men with alien brains and cold-blooded evil are the bad guys.  For me, it works. Works much better than orcs or even drow.   They are described as lizard-like humanoids.
Not much more than that.  So given the adventures I had been taking the kids through a thought occurred to me.  What if the Carnifex are the progenitors of all the reptilian races of the D&D?  Lizardmen, troglodytes, Yuan-Ti, and others.  We learn very, very little about them in this adventure.
We know that Carnifex means "butcher" in Latin. It also translates also into executioner, hangman, tormenter, murderer, scoundrel, and villain. So yeah, these are not supposed to be nice guys. 
This all made me think about the Silurians from Doctor Who. An ancient race related to the dinosaurs.  This also made me think of the "Dinosauroid" or the "Dino Sapiens" that scientists have imagined as a humanoid descendent of the Troodon.


If you are thinking of a Sleestak you are not alone. 

This is fantastic really.  But for my Dragonslayers' game has no context for Alphaks the Dark.  And the Carnifex really could be anything.  So.  How do I take this adventure and make it work for my group?

Enter The Dragon. Well The Dragon #38 to be exact.

Dawn & Twilight: Dragon 38 (1980) and M3 Twilight Calling

Dragon 38, still called The Dragon then, was one of those issues that are just full of great ideas.  I had a copy on my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, but I knew about it beforehand for the famous Gygax From the Sorcerer's Scroll article "Good Isn't Stupid, Paladins & Rangers."  I played a lot of Paladins back then so this was a must read.  BUT that article pales in comparison to what the rest of the issue gave me.
In the same article it is mentioned that dwarf women have beards.  Great. But I said dwarf witches do not. In fact that is the surest way to be called a witch in dwarven culture, if you can't grow a beard.
There is a story from Gardner Fox, a comic by Darlene that is better looking than most of the comics in Dragon before or since. But three articles in particular grabbed my attention.

Tesseracts by Allen Wells gave me some wonderful ideas for when I ran Baba Yaga's Hut and other crazy adventures.  It gave me the frame of reference of how I wanted to run M3.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: The mighty dragon by Len Lakofka gave me the hook I was looking for, though not in the way I am sure he thought it would.  Len's article is a great one and it gives us out very first look at the Yellow, Orange, and Brown dragons.  Brown dragons, of course, would later appear in the Mater Rules as the Chaotic counterpart to the Gold Dragon.  I did a version of my own Orange dragon (really more of a Pumpkin Dragon) in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   The Yellow Dragon then was a new one. And it fit perfectly into a hole I had.  In M3 there are different color realms that all correspond to the color of a chromatic dragon; Green, Red, Black, Blue, White, and then Yellow.  But no Yellow dragon.  Until Len gave me one. He also has updated stats for Tiamat and Bahamut.
This got me thinking.  What if Aphaks was not just some rogue would-be immortal?  What if he/she were a third Dragon god?  The Master's set has four dragon rulers. The Forgotten Realms has more than two as well (IIRC). Or how about even a better idea.  What if Aphaks was Apsu, Tiamat's "dead" consort? The Carnifex could have been his creations.  The ancient evil enemy of the Dragonborn?

The Seven Magical Planets by Tom Moldvay can read a proto version of M3.  This article leans more on the alchemical aspects of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. They do not line up as well with the M3 sequence, so I might change them a bit.  If I go with Babylonian/Summerian ideas then I would rename the planets to their Summerian names. Mercury with Nabu (Nebo), Venus with the goddess Ishtar, Mars with Nergal, Jupiter with Marduk, Saturn with Ninurta (Ninib), for the classical planets (and suggested by Moldvay in the article) and Sin/Nanna for the Moon and Utu/Shamash for the Sun.
I am not sure if the alchemical correspondences still line up. In the end it might not matter all the much as long as the feel is right.  This is a D&D game, not a Hermetic study on Alchemical principles. 

So where does this leave me?

Well, long ago Tiamat reigned.  She battled with the gods over her creations, the dragons.  Her blood was spilled and from that the Dragonborn were created including their god Marduk. Gilgamesh in this world view was the first Dragonborn King.  Enkidu was "like an animal" or human.

When the Dragonborn came into this world they encountered the evil Carnifex. They had been old even when the Dragonborn where new. They harkened back to a deep time of the world when it was a hotter place and populated by reptilian beasts and eldritch horrors. Their wars were long and bloody and they could only defeat them by sealing them up in a demi-plane of imprisonment.   I posted about this in my Dragonborn in Oerth

I have an evil, or at least corrupt, god, Apsu, who is murdered by his own children.  His former consort, Tiamat then gives birth to dragons to fight the gods that killed Apsu.  But maybe he is not dead in the same sense that humans consider.  Maybe he is now in the realm of death (like Aphaks the Dark). This helps explain the undead encountered in M3 (and there is a lot) and why he would want the Carnifex loose.  Destroy the world your children made by letting their ancient enemy out.  It's a good plan really. 

I might need to find a copy of Dragon #38 just to have really.  I'll have to check my FLGS.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

This Old Dragon: Issue #45

Wow. Has it really been more than a year since I did one of these?  Well, let''s grab a REALLY old one.  Not the oldest to be sure, but one of the oldest ones I have (I do have issue #43 waiting in the wings).  Plus we are all stuck at home, so let's sit back and see what Issue #45 of This Old Dragon!

This first issue of 1981 gives us what could be a thief and his mark on a bridge. OR someone trying to get a toll from a beggar. 

There some are cool ads for Ral Partha's Witch's Caldron and ICE. This predates my purchasing of Dragon so likely not an ad that influenced me.

There is an editorial from Jake Jaquet.  Here he welcomes two new employees, Debbie Chiusano and Marilyn Mays.  He also welcomes to more familiar names to full-time positions, Roger Moore and Ed Greenwood.  He also mentions changes to Dragon such as updated typeface and more pages.

Kim Mohan follows with Cover to Cover to let us know what is happening in this issue.

Ad for Fantasy Modeling magazine featuring a Vallejo scantily clad woman with two lizard/dragon monsters.

Out on A Limb gives us some letters.  One guy complains about all the new D&D groups springing up but no one plays it like "the old days" (which in his mind was 2.5 years ago).    Another one wants Dragon to stop writing so much about D&D and focus instead on AD&D.  There is no making people happy is there?

Our first article, Gas ‘em Up and Smoke ‘em Out is by Robert Plamondon.  It is actually really useful.  The article covers how smoke, gases and magical clouds move and fill up space.  Granted, modern systems simplify this, but someone out there would it very useful.  This followed up by Dungeon ventilation clears the air by the same author.   How can you breathe in the dungeon depths?   Again, really useful.   Robert Plamondon is kinda an interesting guy. Author, farmer and has some game design credits.  He can be found at http://www.plamondon.com/

Roger E. Moore is up for his fir "full time" paid articles and they are big ones.  NPCs For Hire: One who predicts... ...And One Who Seeks the Perfect Mix. This gives us two NPC classes, the Astrologer and the Alchemist.   The Astrologer is a pure NPC class, no XP or level advancement. It is a type of sage that can be used to predict the future.  The Alchemist, written with Georgia Moore, is a bit more detailed.

Philip Meyers has an article on distributing magic-items to NPC groups in Magic Items for Everyman. Obviously great for OSR/Old-school games, it might also scale right to new games, though new games tend to have less magic items.

Up On A Soapbox gives us two articles about Role-Playing.  Be a creative game-player by Kristan Wheaton discusses ways players should think more about their games and game playing style. This includes creative uses of levitate and fly.   Ways to handle high-level headaches by Lewis Pulsipher is on the other side of the table with how DMs can deal with high-level characters.

Bazaar of the Bizzare is up. This had always been one of my favorite old Dragon features.  This one gives us some subtle reminders that the 70s were not that far behind.  Among the items are Pet Rocks from Roger Moore.  There two kinds, normal and cursed.  They look like rocks and seem very close to a Stone of Commanding Earth Elementals.  On a command word they will attack an opponent.  Damage is like throwing a rock, that is, if the rock was +3 to hit and did 2d6 points of damage.
There is one though that is pretty interesting. A Ring of Oak, which will allow a dryad to move away from her tree.  Ruby Slippers do exactly what you think they do. I wish I had thought of these.  Bell of Pavlov makes you drool.

Ah. Now here is a good one.  Robert Plamondon is back with The Right Write Way to Get Published.  It is a very solid read with timeless advice.  English at this time was not my favorite subject and if you had told me in 1981 that I would be spending not just 90% of professional life writing, but most of my "free" time doing the same, I would have laughed.  So naturally, I ignored articles like this back then.  My mistake.  In fact, this article has such solid advice I am tempted to keep it.  Well...I'll print it out from my Dragon CD-ROM, the copy I have here is so mildewy it is taking me a lot longer to get through it.   Anyway, this article really is timeless advice especially when it comes to the second draft.  Some of the advice is no longer needed. For example how to space in for margins on a typewriter or the merits of a hand-written vs. typed manuscript. Also, and sadly, the magazines he suggests submitting to are all gone.

Merle M. Rasmussen is next with his The Rasmussen Files.  He has a set of Top Secret reactions and rule additions.  The growing interest in computers is visible here with the new Technical Bureau.  These days it is hard to imagine any sort of clandestine espionage without the back of data, technology and computers. Not to mention drones and satellites.  But this is 1981 and all that stuff, while not really new, was getting more and more public notice.

The article is split by an ad that makes me both happy and a little sad.


At least 10 of those addresses are within reasonable driving distances from me now.  One is within walking distance, and none of them are open today. Don't get me wrong, I am really spoiled with the game stores I have by me now including Games Plus, which would not get on to this list till 1982.
Shameless Plug:  If there is something you need and you don't have a local game store Games Plus is taking orders and shipping all over the world.

Len Lakofka's Leomund's Tiny Hut covers Missle Fire and the Archer sub-class.  I have always liked archers and outside of the ranger I never found a good one.  This article has some good adjustments to missile fire and the size of the target; something that has been incorporated into D&D since 3rd edition.  Again, Len treats us to a full class here that can be used as an NPC class or a PC one.   Looking it over I am thoughtful of the new Pathfinder 2nd version of the Fighter and Ranger that both have an Archer option.  Not identical obviously, but likely drawn from the same sources of inspiration.  I will say it is enough to have me reading the PF2 rules a lot this past week.

Next, we get to the big feature of this issue, The Dragon Dungeon Design Kit.
Much to my chagrin, the cardboard pages that were in this issue are gone.  Checking them out on my CD-ROM pdfs I see they are essential Dungeon Tiles.  They even look like 5' squares in most cases.
Kinda wish I had these. I could use them in a game now and my kids would get all excited about using some "real old school material."   Maybe I'll print them out.

We get an installment of the Minarian Legends from Glenn Rahman for the Divine Right game.  This time covering The History of Dwarves.  Divine Right pre-dates my involvement in the hobby, though I do know about it.  I had a chance to pick up a copy cheap, but never did it.  If I find one I might grab it just to see what it was all about.  This history could be used in any game to be honest, but it feels tied to the world it is from to be of use to me.  Still, maybe I'll come back to this if I need to add on to my dwarfs a bit.

Some ads. A Squad Leader scenario. More ads.
Con Calendar.

Electronic Eye from Mark Herro has some dice rolling programs for programable calculators and the new "mini" computers, the Sinclair ZX-80 and the Radio Shack’s “Pocket” TRS-80.  If you are reading this post on your phone, then congratulations, you are in a future that Mark Herro dreamed about.

Daniel Maxfield has more tips for Bunnies & Burrows in Hop, Hop, Hooray!

In what I think is a rarity for ANY era of Dragon, Roger Moore (busy guy this edition) has an article on the advantages of playing evil in How to have a good time being evil.

Reviews for Bloodtree Rebellion, Space Marines, and Grail Quest follow.

Letters from Out on a Limb continue with someone complaining that the last adventure was too "childish."  I guess something do never change.

Ah..now here is some fun stuff.  Dragon's Bestiary covers some new monsters. The Skyzorr’n, a race of humanoid insect beings. Sand Lizard, a desert lizard (I can use these now!). The Dust Devil, a combined earth and air elemental (also could use this) and all three have art by the great Bill Willingham.

Some comics in Dragon's Mirth.   There is an installment of Finneous Fingers. Plus The Story of Jasmine from Darlene, better known as the artist that gave us the World of Greyhawk map.  I know nothing of this series and have no idea if it kept going or not, but it was very different than the fare at the time. I just checked my Issue #43 and there is an entry there as well.  A bit more research has turned up quite bit more. It ran for 12 issues starting in #37. Now I am curious, maybe I'll do a special This Old Dragon Feature on it!

A fun trip down memory lane again.  I some respects quite literal, since in the process of working on this I drove by some of the places advertised as having been game stores and are now gone.

Hopefully, I can do some more of these.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Other Side, A Look Forward

Trying to organize some thoughts here on what I want to do next on the old Other Side blog, figure you all might want to help me!  Or at least listen to my ramblings.


I am prepping for Gen Con now and trying to get another book done in time for Lughnasadh/Lammas so my posting here is going to be a little sparse.

#RPGaDAY
Dave Chapman will be doing (I think) his annual #RPGaDAY in August.  I am not sure what the questions will be, but I do like to participate.  Plus my Twitter followers have really increased this past year, so that might be nice to share.

The Other Side Rewind
Still plugging away at this! June was my Facebook experiment month, while July had been my month to try some other tools.  I am hoping to kick it off full steam in August or September.  Again, if you are reading here then you won't really notice anything at all.

One Man's God
While this one has been great fun, it was not designed to go on forever.  I am going to do the Celts (part 2) and the Chinese and Japanese, though I admit I know very, very little about these.  I am going to do the Demi-humans and do a special on the Cthulhu and Melibone mythos. But once I am done with those then the series will end save for some special editions.  Though this will lead to my next thing...

The Usual Suspects
I am going to spend some time, maybe a lot of time, going over all the various demon books I own and some I don't yet and talk about how to use them in your games.  I really love demons and demonic lore.  The title of this series "The Usual Suspects" comes not only from the notion that all evil in the worlds can be traced back to the machinations of demons (and devils) but every OGL book on the market today has the same half-dozen or so demons and a similar number of devils in every book; aka The Usual Suspects.  I think this will be fun, to be honest.


This Old Dragon
I still have some left and I want to get back to them.

Class Struggles
I have been too long away from this one. I have started writeups on the Alchemist and the Bard.  Been playing a couple Bard variants to get a good feel for the differences.  Sometimes there are more differences between two different bards than there are between most fighters and rangers!

So. Let's get to it!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #78

Ok. I will admit. Today is a total cheat. I was not due to post this issue for a few more weeks., but given yesterday's discussion on Psionics and Deyrni I went to my collection and pulled this one out.  Glad I did. This is one of my favorite issues.  So let's mentally project ourselves back in time to October 1983 for issue #78 of This Old Dragon!

As usual, let's start with that cover.  Butterfly winged dragon-like creature feeds their young. Looks like a cool alien landscape too.  I always liked this cover a lot. It had a great Sci-fi and Fantasy feel to it.  Perfect for Dragon really.

The Editorial cover the 1983 (and not the 1988 typo) Gen Con.  Some nice reminiscing.

Letters mostly covers a list of complaints. About copyright issues, about spell rulings, about Sci-Fi being shuffled off to Ares.  Nothing Earth shattering or terribly interesting to us today.

Ah. Here is the main feature and why I grabbed this for today.
Mind Games deals with all sorts of psionics.

Arthur Collins is up first with Psionics is different. . . And that's putting it rather mildly.
First he details what I think was always assumed but never explicit in the rules. Magic comes from without, but psionics are powered from within; the power of the characters' own minds.  Collins also makes some comparisons between AD&D and OD&D psionics AND the issue of whether or not elves should be psionic (I say no).  He spends nine pages discussing all sorts of situations that come in psionics.  So psionic character creation, ability use and of course combat. It is very detailed and honestly, I would not play AD&D 1st Ed psionics without this guide.

Sage Advice deals with various psionic questions. Some seem to contradict advice given in Collins article (namely about psionic elves) but all in all a good read too.  Three full pages of this advice too.

GREAT ad for what would become one of my favorite adventures, Ravenloft.


Yeah. I ate that up.

Next is Overhauling the system. A three-part remedy for problems with psionics by Robert Schroeck.  This deals largely with the fact that you get all your psionic strength points at once. So a first level character with high mental scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and good rolls can have a ton of points. I think 350 was the maximum, but that is a memory and I am likely wrong.  Schroeck solution? It's a good one really, start with 25 points at 1st level and then gain 15 points per level till they reach their max.  He also suggests a "use them or lose them" option, so psionic characters need to keep using their powers, even if that means that monsters will be attracted to them.   He also suggests some changes to psionic combat.  I like all three of his suggestions and would use this as well.  Astute readers will see that many of these ideas would later be adopted in some fashion or another in 2nd Edition.

Another treat from the past and my past in particular, an ad for Bard Games "Compleat" series.


Arthur Collins is back and this one is a big one, again both in terms of the issue and for me.
And now, the psionicist. A class that moves psionics into the mainstream gives us exactly what it sounds like.  It is based on Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books and it looks great.
The Psionicist is it's own class and it has a monk-like feel to it. The class has some ability score minimums, but nothing at all like I would expect.  It is avialable to humans and half-elves only, but I would say that half-orcs could as well.  No armor, no shields, minimal weapons and no spell use at all.  So no multi- or dual classed magic-user or cleric characters here.
The class progression reminds me of the Magic-User. The psionicst gets a d10 for first level hp and then a d8 till 4th, then a d6 till 7th and then a d4 at 7 and on.  This represents the psionicsts deepening devotion to mental pursuits and not physical ones.  It's an interesting progression.
As expected they get attack modes, defense modes, minor and major Disciplines,  as well as the new Grand Disciplines which they don't even get till 12th level.
Additionally, we get two new minor (devotions) disciplines, two new major (sciences) disciplines, and six all new grand (arts) disciplines.  In particular is the dreaded "healers" power of Severance or the ability to disconnect another's psychic powers.
Whether it looks like this is left to the individual DMs.


The article ends with a great section of psionic-related magic items from the DMG and a bunch of new "magic" items.

This article is followed, again by Collins, about the Deryni race.  It is adapted by Collins with the permission of Katherine Kurtz.  We get a Monster Manual like entry and some notes on Deryni as a race. They can be multi-classed psionists/magic-user or clerics.

We end this section with another one from Collins (seriously did anyone else write this month?) all about the Heroes & villains of the Deryni. This includes the famous Camber of Culdi.

Honestly, if I stopped here that would make this a great issue.  But we are less than halfway through.

Our big adventure is next.  Citadel by the Sea was designed by Sid Fisher.  I remember this one and had a lot of fun with it. But more importantly it was the adventure that convinced me that I could write my own adventures AND get them published.  I mean Sid Fisher, whomever that was, was just a regular guy. He wasn't named Gygax or Moldvay or Holmes and he got his adventure published.  I never got my earliest adventure published, the Knight of the Serpents, but i did get stuff done.
The adventure is a low-level sea-side mystery at a full 16 pages.  I do wish it had been more connected to the psionic stuff, especially since it is for 1st to 3rd level. Ah well, can't have everything.

A couple pages on miniatures from various manufacturers.
A page of the then hottest conventions.

Ah, now here is something.  I remember this article so, so well.
Be thy die ill-wrought? Only those that pass the chi-square test can play by D. G. Weeks asks the age-old question.  Do my dice suck?
This article gives the basics (huh huh) of the Chi-square (x2) goodness of fit test to see if your dice are biased in any way.  You get the basics of the Chi-square test and even a BASIC program to test them.  I remember typing in this program into my TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (I did not have my upgraded Color Computer 3 yet) but I never could get it to work.  I think now it is because I just didn't really understand how the Chi-square worked.  Today I would just drop my numbers into Excel.

The hits keep coming.  Roger Moore gives us a GREAT one.  The ecology of the mind flayer. Not just great information on the Mind Flayer, but also the githyanki and githzerai. This is also the first time I read the word illithid. Like the article The Sunset World that would appear six years later I read and reread this article many, many times. A huge part of my now current adventure campaign, Come Endless Darkness, comes from these articles.

Kim Mohan is getting in on the psychic action too with Spells can be psionic, too. How and why magic resembles mental powers. This lengthy article (6 pages) covers all sorts of Player's Handbook Spells that emulate psionic powers.  We took the opposite approach and looked at how powers could be like spells. I know we referenced this article many times for that.

I know I do this one a lot, but here another ad for my favorite local game store.  Of course at the time Games Plus was 200 miles away from me.  Now it is a very short dirve and I get tickled whenever I see one of these ads. Plus I don't mind giving them some free press. I ordered from them for years via mail.

They still have the same phone number, only the area code has changed around them. 312 to 708 to now 847.

Wow. 3/4ths of the way through and this issue has delivered more to me than 2 or 3 other issues combined.

Pop the clutch and roll! is a set of rules for car chases for Top Secret.  It's a good-sized article, 4 pages, but I can really say anything intelligent about it.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh is up with a Dragonquest article on hunting in The thrill of the hunt.  DQ is one of those games I always wanted to try out but never did.  I now have a copy of the 1st edition and I am looking forward to trying it out.

Oh and don't look, but the answers to the later "What's New" quiz are listed here.

A few full-page ads. The Gamer Guide has a bunch of smaller ads. Including ads for War Games West and "The Floppy Disk" a store for wargame and RPG software.

Two pages of What's New features some logic problems, maze, and other silliness.
A page of Wormy, and three pages of Snarf Quest.

We end with big ads for Hârn and Middle Earth Roleplaying games.

So. Wow. What an issue. Not only was it full of great 1st Edition material for psionics there is material here that I am STILL using.

Just a great, great issue really.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #46.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #53

Time again to set the Wayback machine, TARDIS or DeLorean back to a time when hair was feathered and big and that was just on the guys. "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie dominates the airwaves. The Summer's biggest hit, Raiders of the Lost Ark, still rules the movie theatres.   Sandra Day O'Connor becomes first woman justice on U.S. Supreme Court. In Dallas, a child is born with a huge destiny, known to us today as Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.  On the shelves are the last three parts of the A series for Advanced D&D and B3 for Basic D&D and issue #53 of This Old Dragon!

Again, no cover for this one which is a shame since I consider it one of my favorites.  It's one form Clyde Caldwell of a woman wizard and a black dragon.  It is a pretty simple cover but the colorful background really sells it to me.  The blonde wizard doesn't hurt either. Kim Mohan's editorial (below) tells that this picture is called "Dragon Spell".

Publisher Jake Jaquet has an editorial on the "Assassination" game that was popular at the time. We played it in high school a lot. Got into a lot of trouble too.  Jaquet goes on about this is "not" role-playing.  It's not, but I also don't think anyone ever claimed it.  Interesting snapshot of the time.

Editor Kim Mohan lets us know about finding the gem that is The Garden Nefaron.  We will get into that later.

Out on A Limb covers the ethics of reprint exact copies of old issues. Another reader lets us know he has been a DM for 3 years (which is at the time about half of D&D's lifespan) and he wants more PC classes not NPC classes, like the Witch, the Anti-Paladin and more.

Speaking of which, Philip Meyers is up first with Why isn't this monk smiling?  A new take on the AD&D monk class.  I am a long time removed from the AD&D 1st ed monk, so I have no idea how well this article covers it.  As a class read through though it feels pretty good to be honest.  To date I have played exactly 1 monk character, so I also have no play experience to back me up on this.

Continuing the monk discussion is Defining and Realigning the Monk by Steven D. Howard and Sage Advice which cover monk questions.  Both look to cover questions and rule interpretations regarding the monk.  Again, I wish I had some good monk anecdotes from the time to share, but I never really was interested in the class except in an academic way.

That section ends with an ad for my most desired "Holy Grail" item. A set of intact, still in the blister case, blue Dragon Dice.


I still have a full set, but I would love to have some that are still on the card.  These and the Percentile ones on the dark blue card.

Speaking of classes, here's a new one!  And one I don't believe I knew about.

The Oracle: When he talks, everybody listens by Andrew Dewar is up.  Before I delve into what looks like a really good class but I have to ask; why "he"?  The most famous oracles in history have been female. Why not "She"?  It's a minor point but one that irks me. Granted TSR/Dragon/Dewar were addressing their audience, who was primarily male, but this was a HUGE missed opportunity in my mind.  Though EVERY example given is female.


Anyway, off my soapbox now, the class is pretty cool.   The Oracle needs a good combination of Wisdom and Intelligence which makes sense since they situated between Clerics and Magic-Users.  They have a lot of shared spells with the Cleric and Magic-User classes and even some Witch spells from a previous Dragon.  The class is spread out over the issue but takes up seven pages.  I think I should check it out in more detail.  Maybe compare it to the Pathfinder Oracle class some. That would be fun.  There are a lot of different types of divination mentioned in this article as well.  Great for any class that tries to divine the future.

We have not heard from Lewis Pulsipher in a LONG time here, but he is back now with Understanding Armory which is about heraldry.  There is quite a bit of scholarship here distilled down to a game-friendly use.  But that describes most of Lew's work really.

Ah, now this is the sort of thing that was my go to back in the day.  World building.  Some universal rules. Making your own campaign — and making it work by Roger E. Moore covers a little about make your own universe but mostly it covers on how not steal from others.  He gives examples of worlds that are common to us all, Hyboria, Zothique, Middle-Earth, Oz, and Earth mythologies. He talks about how difficult it can be to disentangle elements from these worlds AND ALSO make it fit AD&D.  The part though I love is where he covers how these different universes can be explored without breaking things.  I tend to be a bit more relaxed in my world building but I am sure Moore would question, or at least look akance, at my overall internal logic.  That's OK. There is so much good stuff here.

And speaking of soapboxes, the Up on a Soapbox feature is back. This time we have Judith Sampson and Adventuring with shaky hands: Where there’s a will, there’s a way to play.   This covers how you can accommodate players with physical disabilities.  Way ahead of its time really. This could have been a blog post today or a YouTube talk and people would be praising her for her insight.  We still should there are some good insights here.  Sampson suffers from choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy, which is a motor control issue. She typically types up all her character sheets for ease of reading and use in the game.  She talks about how D&D is a perfect game for her really since it doesn't really require a lot that could be difficult for her.  It's a good piece.

David Nalle is next with the Larger than Life feature of mytho-historical NPCs. This time it is The
Bogatyrs of old Kiev.  We get a lot of old Russian characters from myth and legend.  Among others, we get Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich, Dobrynya Nikitich, Svytogor, Gorynich, and Baba Yaga.  Lots more that I don't recognize (Russian folklore was never a big interest to me).  But reading these NPCs, I think I am going to have to check out more of these tales.

Our adventure is next.  The Garen of Nefaron by Howard de Wied is a well-sized adventure at 16 full pages.  That's a full module inside your Dragon.  It looks fun with a strong Raiders of the Lost Ark feel about it.  One of the issues I have with it is that the adventure is much more difficult to complete if your party is of good alignment and easier if they are all evil.  I prefer it the other way around to be honest. 

Merle "The Administrator" Rasmussen is up with the Rasmussen Files for Top Secret.  You know I don't feel Merle gets enough credit. Since I have started doing these Dragons I have been more and more interested in Top Secret and coming to the conclusion that Merle more or less invented the Spy RPG genre. Now maybe there were other games before Top Secret and there were many after.  But I have to give the guy a LOT of credit.  The fact that he is still out evangelizing Top Secret is really damn cool.  This article covers how to control various pieces of equipment that agents can get ahold of in a game.  Based on rarity and what might be confiscated from other agencies.
I can't help think of Ilya Muromets (not related to Illya Kuryakin) above how awesome a Man from U.N.C.L.E. game would be. Set in the 60s would be best.

The Dragon Bestiary covers a magic eating lizard man, The Argas.  A weird ass eye monster, Oculon, and a cow with a human head, the Narra.  I don't think I have seen these before or since.

Lenard Lakofka covers doors, their strengths and hp in Leomund's Tiny Hut.  I think this would work great in just about any version of D&D to be honest.  Will have to clip this one for the tool-box.

Mark Nuiver covers one of my favorite monsters in The Ways of the Triffids.  I also did some Triffid stats a while back, but his are more powerful.  Triffids are sure under-used these days. It could be because the book and the later movie are both pretty old now, but not so much then.

Dennis Matheson is next with some new Traveller rules for Merchants and how to expand the "class".  Again, Traveller is one of the games that I wished I spent more time on.
I will say this, this weird-ass combination of a Klingon D7 and the Space:1999 Eagle is kinda cool.



Reviews are next. G. Arthur Rahman covers "Junta".  Tony Watson covers "Stalin’s Tanks". Bill Fawcett takes on "Warlock" and "A House Divided".

We get the convention schedule for Fall 1981.

DragonMirth is next.
We get one of the last Finieous Fingers.  There is a nice line for me and Dragon; the Before and the After.  It is the before I started reading and after. This is roughly the same time period of when Finieous Fingers appeared in Dragon.  I have no real emotional attachment to the comic save that it represents a time "before".

A similar relationship with What's New With Phil and Dixie, I just happen to like this comic more and I made an effort to read the back issues.

Then we get this comic/ad in the very back the Molvay Basic Set.

Of course, there were no beholders in D&D B/X, but hey that's just details right?

So all in all a really fun issue. Lots of great stuff that I can still use today.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from this same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #26.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #104

Wow! A this Old Dragon? Really.  Time to get back into this.  Grabbing the Dragon that has been sitting on my desk it is ... hmmm, no cover. Well, inside it says December 1985 so that should make Dragon #104.  Rocky IV dominates the theaters, Mr. Mister and Lionel Richie rule the radio waves with "Broken Wings" and "Say You, Say Me" respectively.  It's December 1985 and this is episode #104 of The Old Dragon!

Well, my cover is gone, but my Google-fu tells me it is another Denis Beauvais piece.  This time a happy looking wizard.

Letters covers some the issues with the adventure "City Beyond the Gate" in Issue #100.  I have to agree, now in retrospect, with the errors being pointed out with Robert Schroeck's version of London.  If I do issue 100 I'll have to come back to this.

Kim Mohan's editorial covers William Dear's book "The Dungeon Master". In particular, Mohan focuses on the game that Dear played and didn't enjoy.  Me, I have a host of other issues with the book but that is not really the point of his editorial.

Nice ad for the Dragonfire software.  I often spoke about how my earliest memories of D&D and D&D experiences are contemporaneous with my earliest experiences with computers.  To me, they go hand in hand.  Back in the day, we had written our own software for the various TRS-80 computers we had.  It was fun.  You can still get the Dragonfire II software online. I am not sure of the legality of those sites though.



We come up to one of the early "theme" section of Dragon.  These became more and more popular from Issue 80 or so on hitting their height in the in late 1980s (issues 100 on).
The theme for this issue deals with Thieves, which even at this point (end of 1985) they were being referred to as "Rogues".

John C. Bunnell starts with The Well-Rounded Thief which deals with various reasons why a character would want to be a thief.   There are a lot of good ideas here (greed, professional motivation, artistic, recreational, revenge) and 99% of this article can be used with any version of D&D really.   Thieves may not have been in the Little Brown Books, but they are a staple of D&D now.

Bunnell is up next as well with Race is Ahead of Class.  This article really gave us some insight on how different races view thieves and was a preview of the Race/Class/Kit books of 2nd Edition.  Again this article can be used today regardless of your edition of choice.

What does your thief get when they pickpockets? Well, Bruce Barr has the answer in Was It Worth the Risk?  Tables of picking pockets depending on who is the mark.  The tables will feel a bit old-school for newer players, but they are pretty useful.

David "Zeb" Cook gives us a two-page preview on the new Oriental Adventures in Oriental Opens New Vistas.  It is more than just a commercial for OA, there are notes on design choices made to make this feel different than AD&D RAW.

Michael Dobson is next with Three Challenges in One where he talks about his new module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield.   The big feature of this adventure is the inclusion of the BATTLESYSTEM combat system.  Which is odd really.  The Companion set for Basic D&D (BECMI) already had their own mass combat system called War Machine.  This adventure ended up using a hybrid of the two systems.

Meeting of The Minds updates the psionic encounter tables with monsters from Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II.

Len Lakofka is next with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature on Specialization and Game Balance.  This covers the new features fighter got in the Unearthed Arcana.  I was not all that concerned about Weapon Specialization back then and frankly thought it was fine but I have also read that some people thought it was a game-breaker or a game-changer depending on who was talking.

Nice big ad for Gary's first book.  Sadly in one year's time he would be gone from TSR.
Ads for BATTLESYSTEM and Oriental Adventures too.



Ed Greenwood is back with another ecology article, this time The Ecology of the Ochre Jelly.  Ed had a good way of making even the lamest monsters sound interesting.

Somewhat related to the thief articles is this one from Lionel D. Smith on Assessing, Not Guessing.  Or allowing PCs to make their own value judgments on treasure.  It is a very old-school feeling formula where you determine a character's CAP (correct assessment percentage).  I might try it for my next 5e adventure just to see how it works out.

Our special section and the main feature of the issue is SUDDEN DAWN a Marvel Super Heroes module set during WW2.   I have read through it a few times over the years and it looks like fun and at 16 pages it is a good size.

Merle Rasmussen is back with more Spy's Advice for Top Secret.

An ad for some cool AD&D, Dragon and Dragonlance shirts.  I'd love to have one of those now.



Profiles covers Harold Johnson (Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan) and David "Zeb" Cook (lots).
Previews covers Oriental Adventures and connected modules.   Teased are a new Dragonlance Trilogy , Legends (which I liked better than the first trilogy), a new "unnamed" AD&D core rule book (spoilers Dungeoneers Survival Guide), the D&D Immortals set and more Gary penned Greyhawk novels.

Ares covers the best in SciFi gaming this month.

Star Law Returns by Matt Bandy covers law enforcement for Star Frontiers.

Hexes and High Guard comes to us from Jefferson P. Swycaffer and deals with space wars for Traveller.  It's a fairly short article but feels like it would work well.

Gamma World is not to be ignored they have stats for a Terminator style...er wait, an Exterminator style robot in The Exterminator by John Mau and Brian Shuler.

Ah.. here is something I really like.  The Kzinti Have Landed by Jon Slobins for the FASA Star Trek game.  Obviously about playing Kzinti in the Star Trek universe for all those Larry Niven fans out there.  I liked the Kzinti and was always disappointed they were not in the rules, but I knew why they weren't.   There is enough here to get Kzinti fans going.  Back when this issue was new I thought about a Kzinti police force (my ode to The Slaver Weapon) using the Star Law article.  The ship in the article has a solid Romulan look to it.



Marvel-Phile covers more WW2 characters including a very non-Sebastian Stan Bucky.

Gamer's Guide has small ads including two for artists to illustrate your character.

Convention Calendar covers the cons of late 1985, early 1986.

Wormy gets four pages, Dragonmirth gets one and we end with SnarfQuest.

So. If you are into thieves then this is a must-read issue.  If you like Kzinti then if you can find this issue cheap give it a go.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #72.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

This (Not so) Old Dragon...

I plan to get back to regular posting, including This Old Dragon.

But in the meantime you can get your Dragon goodness from my friend Rachel Ghoul as she looks at some newer copies of Dragon Magazine.

https://the-avocado.org/2018/08/31/lets-read-dragon-april-2004/

She is just filling in, but let's hope we get to see more of this.



Thursday, June 7, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #71

Grabbing an early one from my stack today and I see this is another one from Eric Harshbarger. How can I tell?  The cover is intact and it doesn't smell like mildew. Which is great because this is also one of my favorite covers.  Certainly in my top ten. 
So let's see, March 1983.  Heavy into B/X D&D at this point, though I do know about AD&D.  We used to regularly mix and match so this was never an issue.  So let's crack these pages and get going with issue #71 of This Old Dragon!

I mentioned this was one of my favorite covers and I think it might also be the first Clyde Caldwell cover I had ever seen.  It's also a fairly atypical Caldwell cover. But I still like it.

Nice back of the cover ad for the AD&D books.

Letters starts off with a general WTF on the Mazes and Monsters movie. I have to agree.  It's been ages since I have seen it, maybe I should look it up. (It is free on AmazonPrime).

First up is the man himself, Gary Gygax From the Sorcerror's Scroll on new druid spells.  Of we know a lot of these make their way to Unearthed Arcana, that is still a bit away.  He also mentions that the Cavalier is coming next month and that we should not believe everything we read about TSR in other magazines.   We also get some sneak peaks into upcoming modules.  Temple of Elemental Evil is now designated WG 2, part 1 and 2. The Maze of Xaene by Rob Kuntz is also "on the way".

The Blink of a Wizard's Eye is the fiction section.

Mind of the Monster by Bruce Humphrey is one of the articles that you know you should do, but wonder why sometimes you don't.  That is give the monsters the benefit of their intelligence.  Yes, their overall purpose is to be defeated by the PCs, but at least they can be intelligent about it.

Gary is back with Greyhawk's World featuring some demi- and quasi- gods of Greyhawk.  Also known as some of Gary's and gang former characters.  We get Heward (a Wizard), Keoghtom (of the ointment fame), Murlynd (refugee from the "Wild West"). and Kelanen. 

Ronald Hall has a huge article on attack priority in Who Gets the First Swing?  A new rule system to help add some detail and "realism" to combat.  There are tables after tables detailing what the monsters can do.  Me? I am happy with initiative as it is/was.

The Taming of Brimstone is a Boot Hill adventure that I might transfer over to Ghosts of Albion and give it a go.  Looks fun. Anyone play it?

Roger Moore has some Astral Plane answers in Sage Advice.

More Gary and More Gods in The Deities and Demigods of Greyhawk.   We get Erythnull, Incabulos, Nerull, Ralishaz, and Wastri. Fun stuff really. 

Few pages of ads.  There have not really been that many ads in this issue.

Ken Rolston reviews Swordbearer. John Warren reviews Dunzhin. I have to admit I am not at all familiar with either game.

More ads.
What's New.
Dragonmirth.
and Wormy.

All in all a good issue, but a product of it's time really.  Not a lot I can reuse today, but sure was fun to reread.

Want to know what was going on the same time in White Dwarf? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday #39 post which was my first White Dwarf ever.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #99

Setting the controls on the Delorean for July 1995.  Summer of between my Sophomore and Junior years in high school.  I played AD&D every weekday that I wasn't working and on the weekends when I could.  One big screen is Back to the Future, a franchise that will one day head to the magical futuristic year of 2015.  Our cars still don't fly.  Duran Duran get's the first #1 song for Bond Film on the US charts. So let's get into our Delorean's, set the flux capacitor to July 1985 and dance into the fire of Issue #99 of This Old Dragon!

Issue #99 is an often forgotten issue in my mind.  On one side we have issue #90, the Tenth Anniversary issue and on the other #100.  Poor old 99 kinda gets forgotten.  The cover from Clyde Duensing III is fine, but nothing special.

Letters has some questions about the Gorgon from the last Ecology Of article.

Kim Mohan's editorial talks about how Unearthed Arcana will "change the way the AD&D game is played."  Not sure it did that, but it certainly began what would later become the edition wars.

The Forum covers some of these questions, in particular, the new Demi-human level limits.

Stephen Inniss is back this time with The Neutral Point of View. Or how to play those lawful, chaotic, and true neutral characters, monsters and NPCs.  It's a good read and some of the philosophy would later appear in D&D 3.

Tables and Table of Troops by James Yates is actually a little more than just tables.  It does, however, talk a lot about how armies move. I am pretty sure my then DM used these ideas for our world-wide war.  The advantage to this article is it can still be used with every version of the D&D game.

Win $10,000 for playing an RPG?  Can't be true! But that is what Pacesetter says in this ad.



Nigel D. Findley, a name I associate a lot with later 80s D&D, is up with The Ecology of the Will-o-Wisp. I covers what I always felt was ill-defined at best, the relationship between boggarts and Wisps.  I think I prefer the undead version of the Wisp found in D&D 5.

Ah now, this article I do remember.  Kevin Anderson and Kristine Thompson team up to give us That's Life in the Big City.  We came back to this article a lot when we (my then gaming group) were working on our "Urban Survival Guide".  There is not a lot here, but there is a good overview of what a fortified city is like.

Some ads.
Flipping back I see I am missing pages 30 to 39.
Looking at my CD-Rom I see it was History of a game that failed:An essay on mistakes  and how not to make them by David F. Godwin. I wonder why the original owner cut this one out?

The World Gamer's Guide.  Coming Attractions from TSR.  This includes a new RPG, PROTON FIRE by Bruce Nesmith.  Can't wait to play that one!! (more later)

The centerpiece here is the Treasure Trove II but mine is gone.  No surprise there I guess.
It's too bad really.  The article on Swords was good if I recall right.

Merle and Jackie Rasmussen are back with Authentic Agencies, Part III. This time they cover the Communist Bloc including the KGB and SSD, and the Middle East.  It's like a trip down memory lane.

Another ad from our good friend Ramal LaMarr.



After the fiction bit we come to the Ares section.

Let's see.  Alex Curylo gives us some tanks for Star Frontiers in Tanks a Lot!
It's actually kind of a great article and I remember cutting it out and putting it in my KnightHawks boxed set.

Psybots and Battle Mechs gives us a look at the new PROTON FIRE game.  Look closely, because to my knowledge this is all we will ever see of that game.   I have no idea why it never saw the light of day.

Marvel-Phile has some Russian super-heroes.
A Gamma-World article that has been cut out.

Lots of Cons in the Convention Calendar.

Gamer's Guide has the small ads.

Wormy weighs in at 2 pages. Snarf at 3.

All in all not a real memorable issue, minus the magic items and the article on the cities.
Want to know what was going on over the pond at this time?  Check out my review for White Dwarf #67.

Take us home Ramal!



Thursday, May 17, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #118

It's February of 1987.  I am preparing to graduate high school and get out of my then hated hometown (I have softened up a little since then).   Everyone is listening to "Livin' on a Prayer", I am listening to a lot of Pink Floyd.  Gives you a good idea of why I wanted out of there so bad.  In any case, I did have a world to go to. To bad at this point it was overrun with demons, demonic-ogres, and dragons in an all-out war!  Ah, the good times.  Let's go back and check out Issue #118 of This Old Dragon.

Issue #118 marks the last of the "Chess" series for Dragon by Denis Beauvais.  Maybe one of the more evocative ones too.

Letters ask for coverage of more non-TSR games. The editors maintain that they don't get a lot sent to them.

The main feature of this issue is games within games.  So tournaments, duels and the like. Or as I like to think of it, a walk through the Ren Faire.

First up from Dan Salas is The fighting Circle: Gladiatorial Combat in the AD&D game.  I can't help but think that this is somewhat due to the recent Dragonlance books where Caramon is sent back in time and becomes a gladiator.  The article is actually pretty long and light on the crunch.  In fact there is none till you get almost to the very end. What is provided is fairly edition agnostic.

Hardcore into writing the next draft of my witch class now.  So you know I wanted my own set of Time-Life books.

Leonard Carpenter is up with Surely, You Joust (no and quit calling me Shirley).  This one is more specific to AD&D 1st Ed, but has some good material that can be ported over.  A joust should really be something that is featured in your games at least once. This too is a long one ( are already on page 30).

A Day at the Faire by Eileen Lucas gives all the other characters something to do while the knights, cavaliers, and paladins are off at the joust.  NPC stats are in 1st Ed, but everything else is easy to add to any game.  I do wish this one was longer though.

Not sit idle, Leonard Carpenter is back with On Target: Archery Competitions.  These are more linked to the rules and the Jousting article.

Ok. Up next is one of odder articles I have seen.  Christopher Wood must like a sense of realism in his games since he gives us "ARRRGH!!!" an article on the various races pain thresholds.  As expected Dwarves come out on top here with elves and half-elves the worse of the lot.   While I appreciate the thought here this is not something I'd ever use.  Plus it has "Advanced Rules" and "Optional Rules".  As an old-school gamer I know I supposed to like this stuff, but if I wanted to do this then just give a Constitution roll or something.

C.C. Stoll gives us the centerfold of the issue with Nibar's Keep, The Game of Magical Arena Dueling.  Some interesting ideas sure, but it is a stand-alone mini-game.

There is the fiction section from Lois Tilton.

Some Sage Advice covering the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

Ah here is something interesting.  Leonard Carpenter is back again (again) with A Hero's Reward. Or a basic Hero point system for AD&D.  You can almost hear the Grognards flipping over their sand tables in disgust!  ;)  This, of course, has been done before and will be done again.  Personally, I like them.  I wrote a lot about the Drama Point system in Cinematic Unisystem over the years so you know where my preferences lie.  The system suggested here is simple enough but used mostly for dice rolls. No "rewriting a scene" like you can in Cine Unisystem.

Next, we get an article about playing Neanderthals in the D&D (Basic/BECMI) game.  So it is a race as a class and yeah, it works.  The article, Out of the Stone Age by Jack R. Patterson, is not a long one but it's for BECMI so it has to be brief and get its point across quickly.

If you don't like spiders then skip over this one, but The Dragon's Bestiary has a bunch of different types of spiders.

TSR Previews covers the up and coming releases from TSR for March and April of1987.  Let's see we get two new Windwalker novels and the Lazer Tag Official Tournament book and the Chase family board game.  No, I don't really remember these either except for the Lazer Tag book.


Thomas Kane has a bit about war, revolution, and secret agents in Unfriendly Fire for Top Secret.  Or military operations for Top Secret agents.  It's not detailed enough to make TS into a warfare game, but at least enough to get a flavor of what you could do.

Jon D. Martin has the Marvel-phile article in all but name with his profiles of Adam Warlock, Pip some green woman named Gamora and Paragon/Her. 

Role of Computers features a number of games for the Macintosh, the then state of the art in computer hardware.

Games Guide covers the small ads.  All the usual suspects are here.
Convention Calendar is a healthy three pages.

Nice full-color ad for SnarfQuest the Book.  Only $9.95!
Snarf himself is three pages but still black/white.

Wormy weighs in at 4 full-color pages.

Ok, not an issue I have many memories of and there is not a lot here I would use today either.  Seems to be the time I think because I was saying more or less the same thing about White Dwarf #86 from the same month.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #155

Ok this is an "emergency pick".  My basement got some water in it for the first time ever.  The only thing that was damaged was this issue.  So I am flipping through it now and tossing it when done.  I might end up tossing it before I am done, to be honest; it's in really bad shape.  So let's head back to March of 1990 for Issue #155 of This Old Dragon!

We have a cool cover from Carol Heyer. It features a little faerie in a faerie ring. It is an appropriate cover to our theme this issue.

Some ads for Spelljammer and a couple of TSR board games, The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising. I had forgotten about those last two, to be honest.

Letters are first.   We get a request for the Witch from #114.  The eds remind the reader what issue it was in and no, it should not be used as a PC.  Don't worry, mine was almost done at that time.

Skip Williams is up with Sage Advice.  Mostly covering questions from the new Monstrous Compendiums.  Ah. We get to the Demons and Devils issue in AD&D 2nd Ed. The answer they give is:
The answer, in short, is at present there are no plans to include devils, demons, and similar creatures in the AD&D 2nd Edition game. ... The demons and devils in the old Monster
Manuals were a prime weapon in the campaign of misinformation directed against gaming, so they were dropped from the new edition. It's possible that demons and devils will be revised into a format that preserves their usefulness in adventure design and does not give the game's detractors cheap ammunition, but that format hasn't been found yet.
Another letter points out the error on the Vampire sheet, front and back are the same.

Next is our feature "Realms of the Faerie".

He had the Grugach elves introduced last week (Issue #67) now 7 years and 4 months later we get Wild in the Wood: The Point of View of the Grugach-Wild Elves by Eric Oppen.  The article is actually pretty cool talking about life amongst these almost primitive elves.

Denise Lyn Voskuil is next with four new deities in The Elfin Gods. They are Araleth Letheranil, lesser god of light.  Kirith Sotheril, lesser goddess of magic. Melira Taralen, lesser goddess of fine arts and finally Naris Analor, lesser god of healing, suffering, and death.   All these gods made to the present day.

Up next is the article I remember the best, In the Frost and Snow by David S. Reimer, introduces the Snow Elves.  I had also created a snow elf race back in the day, and there are some similarities here. All of which are due to the similar material we were drawing from.  But my snow elves were smaller than regular elves, his are taller. Also, mine tended to be pale-blue.   Still. A fun race that I like to use every so often.

Other Side favorite Vince Garcia is back, this time with The Folk of the Faerie Kingdom.  I must-read article if you ever plan on doing anything with the Faerie realms.  It is a nice long article and one I wish I could keep!  A little bit of Quest of the Ancients leaks into AD&D here with the inclusion of Rhiannon the Faerie Queen goddess and his "Druids of Rhiannon".  I appreciate Vince's obsessions here.


Gordon R. Menzies has The Ecology of the Satyr.  It's also good stuff. Now I want to play a half-Satyr bard!

Thank You for Your Cooperation is a survey for Top Secret/S.I. game by Jon Pickens.  I don't know enough of Top Secret history to know if this lead to something else.

The Game Wizards tries something new with Anne Brown, TSR previews ala gossip column.  It doesn't really work for me.

Another Other Side favorite Bruce Heard is back with another episode of The Voyage of the Princess Ark.  This time Part 3: To seek out new life and new civilizations.  Love the maps, but the maps have always been kind of a key feature of these articles.

Didn't read the fiction. Plus this issue is really getting on my allergies.

Gamers Guide covers all the small ads. There are a few Play by Mail games and ads here too.

Marvel-Phile has a couple character I know pretty well.  Captain Britain and Roma.  Captain Britain is a character that I always felt would translate well into a modern Ghosts of Albion game.  Roma is a Protector in all but name too.

Ah. Here are the TSR Previews.  Lots of Forgotten Realms stuff.  But this the Age of the Settings.

Jim Bambra reviews a few of the new Star War's games.

The Convention Calendar gives us the best cons of March and April 1990.  I swear there were more back then than now.

John C. Bunnell gives us some reviews of books.
Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser cover what's new for Macs in The Role of Computers. Most Macs were still monochrome at this point. Though I thought for sure there were some color ones.

Dragonmirth has a few artists and comics I am not all that familiar with.

Through the Looking Glass is completely soaked.  Eww.

So what do I have, save a huge mildew colony?  Well in truth a pretty cool issue.  Lots of great information on the fey and stuff I can still use today.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #67

Let's talk about 1982 for a bit.  Over the summer D&D had been thrust into the spotlight again, though this time in a positive way, in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Though the version played on screen didn't look a lot like what we all played, it was still much better than what we would later get in Mazes and Monsters (Dec. 1982) or on 60 Minutes (1985).  82 was an interesting time for me too.  I was deep, deep into my Basic/Expert game and having a blast. I was not reading Dragon yet, so going through these issues is always part nostalgia (for the time) and part new discovery.  So why not go back to a simpler time.  John Cougar (Mellencamp) is singing a little diddy about Jack & Diane growing up in the mid-west and on the shelves for November 1982 is issue #67 of This Old Dragon!

This is another issue sent to me by Eric C. Harshbarger from his collection.  It's in great shape too.

The cover is of the silly variety, but that is fine with me.  It is something I associate fondly with this time.  I guess never ask the barbarian to cut the turkey on Thanksgiving!

Flipping over (since I have the cover this time!) we get that great B/X D&D ad from the early 80s with Jami Gertz and Alan Ruck.

Mike Cook takes on the role of Publisher for the first time.

Letters covers some errors as seen by readers. This includes the infamous example of the lucern hammer being a pole-arm and not a hammer.  Also Len Lakofka has some criticisms on the "missing dragons" article that gave us the yellow, orange and purple dragons.

Gary is up first with From the Sorceror's Scroll.  He introduces a bunch of new Magic-User spells of the 1st through 4th level.  All of these (and more) will end up in Unearthed Arcana, here just referred too as ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ® Expansion volume.
Seeing these here like this is a bit odd, I am used to these spells being official content by way of UA.  But I am sure there were groups that argued that.
Later on Gygax covers some rumors, like TSR buy Grenadier and new sets of Dragon Dice coming out.  Neither of these came to pass.



Another Gygax hit is next this time in Featured Creatures.  We get the Grugach elf (based on a Celtic creature if I recall right), the Valley Elf (she's a valley elf, a valley elf. ok fine fer sure fer sure...) and the Cooshee (based on the Cù Sìth).  I joke, but I actually liked the Valley Elf.
Again, all this content will be later added to the Unearthed Arcana and the Monster Manual II.

Spy's Advice is up from Merle M. Rasmussen. With answers to your Top Secret questions.
Not related to this article per se, but if you ever get the chance to talk to Merle about Top Secret, please do so.  No one is as enthusiastic about this game as he is and it is quite infectious.  You leave not only wanting to play, but wondering why you play any other game!

Gregg Chamberlain has some advice on Souping up the Spider.  A good one for me to hold onto for when I run Q1 this summer.

Gary is back again (!) with the next installment of The Deities & Demigods of the World of Greyhawk.  In this issue we get the stats and backgrounds on Heironeous and his arch nemesis Hextor. Iuz and his rival St. Cuthbert.  In an interesting bit, Iuz is described as possibly being some by-blow of Orcus and not of Graz'zt as later revealed.

The big feature of this issue is Roger Moore's treatsie on The Astral Plane. It's a good read and lot of what is here later found it's way into other books over the years.  Though there is still a lot of good stuff to read here.  The article is quite long to be honest and filled with great information.

It leads right into an adventure set in the Astral Plane.  Fedifensor is an adventure for 6-8 AD&D characters of level 7 and up and written by Allen Rogers.  The characters need to head out to a Githyanki outpost to recover a Lawful Good sword, the titular Fedifensor.

The fiction section is an odd one for me, odd in the sense that I actually read it.  I had expected King of Cats to be about the Gygax Rexfelis (to give you an idea of when I finally got a copy of this) and found it was a much more entertaining story in the style of Celtic myth.  I am not sure if this was the first time I had heard of the Hill of Tara or not, but it is something that has been a central feature to many of my games since. The picture of Black Tam Chattan still is a good stand-in for the AD&D Catlord.



The spells continue here.

Gygax has another contribution! This time in the form of the Beauty, or as he prefers, Comeliness stat.  To be honest, we never used this when it appeared in the Unearthed Arcana either.

Another article by Gary, this time one of his more famous ones.  Poker, Chess, and the AD&DTM System. Or how I have read it in the past, "The rules are guidelines unless they are rules I wrote and those are RULES!"  It covers what is and certainly what is NOT official rules.  You certainly get the gist that D&D has rules, and you can experiment with them. AD&D has rules and any deviations mean you are no longer playing AD&D at all.  Retrospect tells us a little about why this was going on. The overt reason is tournaments, but the hidden reason was the lawsuit between TSR/Gygax and Dave Arneson.  Gary, of course, is making some good points here along with some grandstanding, but in truth we all house-ruled everything.  While he makes some good points about the reach of Dragon to all gamers, the same logic could be applied to tournament-level AD&D and all AD&D/D&D players out there.  The average player didn't care about that.  They wanted to have some fun. He has some more on the barbarian and the Deva, both to be featured in books later.

The Role of Books is up. Lewis Pulsipher covers some of the big names in the realm of mythology publishing and how to use them in your games.  Lew really is the academic of this early group of game designers.

Ken Rolston covers the TrollPak books from Chaosium.  I was always very curious and little fascinated by these books.  I had spoken to other gamers that had moved over to Runequest and used these trolls in their AD&D games (shhh! don't tell anyone!) I still want to find a copy of this. I would drop the trolls I normally use in favor of these. I think it would be fun.

Lots of ads. Wormy and What's New?

The back cover has an ad for the AD&D Action Scenes from the MPC model kit company.  Back in this time I had built so many models from these guys. A couple R2-D2s, a C-3P0, Darth Vader's TIE fighter (my favorite one!).  I would have totally bought these.   I kind of want them now.
eBay has one for $130.  Not sure if that is worth it.



What a fun issue. Lots of material here, though not much I can use today in my games except for the great Astral Plane stuff.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #35.
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