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

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.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #153

Going into a bit of a mystery era for me.  It is January 1990, the 90s are officially here.  Born on the Fourth of July is still in theatres, but the music charts still have a late 80s feel to them, grunge was still a few months away, but my roommate's younger brother was CONVINCED that this new band he discovered via some bootlegs, Soundgarden, was going to be the next big thing.  (Kid, I forgot your name, but seriously solid call).  At this time my games were winding down.  I was a Junior at University and working to get into grad school.  So this is really one of the first times for and this Issue #153 of This Old Dragon!

So, like I said I have no memories of this issue, but a couple of articles I remember reading later on CD-ROM.  But that is jumping ahead.  The cover, titled "Chariot races are a dime a dozen" is by multiple Hugo award winner Kelly Freas and is really fun.  As I have mentioned in the past my road to D&D began with my love of the Greek and later Norse myths.  Seeing this cover, with Odin and Hermes betting on the races and Ares and Set controlling it via godly video-game controllers just really makes me smile.

The cover sets up nicely our feature of this issue. The Gods.

The first thing I notice about this issue is the number of full-page ads is greater.
For those wanting to put this into their own chronology, the Publisher is James M. Ward and our Editor is Roger E. Moore.  There is a sidebar on the Letters page listing some of the changes in personnel.  We only know now from hidsight that TSR was going to have a lot of troubles in the 90s even if creatively they were having some of their best output.

Letters hits us up with a CRAZY idea; Dragon magazine on disk! Not gonna happen says the management.  Others want to read four-five page transcripts of other people playing D&D. Sorry guys, but you both will get what you want in a few years.

Skip Williams is up with Sage Advice.  Like most of the SA from this time period, it deals with the new AD&D 2nd Ed rules and a bit of 1st Ed. Fitting with the theme this one covers Cleric and Druid spells.

Forum has the usual collection of gripes and insights.  One thing I had forgotten was slowing down how demi-humans gain experience points.  In 2nd Ed this has the effect of making the demi-human races feel a bit more like their Basic D&D counterparts.  I don't think I would try this in D&D 5, but it is something I see working well in other games like Castles & Crusades or even Swords & Wizardry.

Here we get our special feature.
Up first is Craig Barrett, Jr. and The Goals of the Gods. Here he talks about what motivations the gods have in your world and what they do. This article is long, well researched and only kinda-, sorta- related to Fantasy Roleplaying.  Don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating read and a good one if I wanted an intro article to comparative mythology.  Still, it is a good "Food for thought" article and a good one to start off our series with.

Craig Barrett, Jr. is back (so soon? yes) with another essay/article.  As Above, So Below talks about the power of the gods and even postulates on powers above the gods.  Again there is an academic feel to this one, but I also found it more interesting.

Following In Their Footsteps by Fraser Sherman is more along the lines of what we expect from Dragon articles; background information and advice on how to use it in your games.  Sherman treads over some well-traveled ground here going all the way back to issue 83 (and likely before) of changing the cleric class to more closely fit their god.  AD&D 2nd ed mad good strides in this direction as would 3rd edition.  But unlike past articles that focused mostly on weapons and spells, this one looks at hobbies and past times or other interests. So mostly non-weapon skills.
The article focuses exclusively on the Olympians, but there are enough archetypes here to cover the other pantheons as well.

Nice big ad for the Science Fiction/Fantasy Book club.

Your Place in the Grand Scheme by Tom Little addresses the importance of clerics in the AD&D game.  The article runs the gambit of religion, morality, philosophy, and alignment.  This really was a golden time for clerics.  The 2nd Ed rules introduced the Priests of the Specific Mythoi and later Planescape would make philosophy and the gods a very central element to the game.  Clerics were really moving beyond the "walking first aid kits" and becoming more of an archetype in their own right.  But it seems like every so often we still get articles or posts of "Cleric, who needs them!" which I find very odd, to be honest.

Fiction is next.

Jeff Grubb is next with The Game Wizards with another "conversation" with Elminster.  Jeff is a good author and game designer, yet his Elminster "voice" feels off to me.  I am 100% certain this is bias on my part.  Over the years I have gone from being amused by these articles, to avoiding them, to outright hating them and now back to being pleasantly charmed by them.  One of my goals is to collect all of these and give them a read sometime, especially all the Wizard's Three articles.

John C. Bunnell is back with another copyrighted edition of The Role of Books.  A.C. Crispin is featured here with an original book.  I was always a fan of her tie-books for Star Trek, V and Star Wars. I remember seeing her obit on StarTrek.com a few years back.

The Ecology of the Manticore is next. I liked the manticore back when I read about in mythology and it was a favorite monster in D&D Basic, but somewhere along the line I stopped using them.  This article by "Spike & Jones" does little to interest me in them again.

Through the Looking Glass has a do-it-yourself wire-frame and epoxy dragon.

Con Calendar covers the best of what 1990 has to offer this winter and spring.  It always seems like there were more Cons back then.

Wow.  I think this might the very first article on The Voyage of the Princess Ark by Bruce Heard.  I consider these "must reads" if you have any interest in the Known World as it was presented in the BECMI era of D&D.

Your Best Chances is obsessive compulsiveness after my own heart. Ed Friedlander takes all six of the ability generation methods from the AD&D 2nd Ed game and looks at your chances to get the roles you need per class.  I love how he mentions he was using Quatro on an IMB-PC.  That shit could only fly in the late 80s and early 90s.  But major kudos to Ed here for working all this out.  I am tempted to try it all out in R just to say I did it.

Speaking of computers, Role of Computers covers the then state of the art for the dawn of the 90s.

Small ads for Gamer's Guide.

The table of contents says there is a Top Secret article here, but mine has been cut out.  Same with the Spelljammer one.

Dragonmirth has the normal shor comics, but nothing along the lines of SnarfQuest or Wormy anymore.

So if you are into Clerics and gods then this is a great issue for you. It's a good issue overall and I loved Ed Friedlander's stats and a chance to see the start of the Voyage of the Princess Ark too.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #109

You know how some issues don't grab you at first, but something about them keeps at you and makes you keep coming back to them?  They was me and this issue back in May 1986.  I did not buy this issue when it came out, my then regular DM did (more on that later) but I kept borrowing it. I kept coming back to it.  Today rereading it again after getting my own copy I am struck by how much of it stuck with me.  So let's set the way-back machine to May 1986, put on some Whitney Houston and see what we have in this Issue #109 of This Old Dragon!

The cover for this one is mixed for me.  I love the artist's (Daniel Horne) other works and this is objectively a good piece of work.  But there is something....I don't know.  I have never been able to come out say I like it or I hate it.  Strange.  No fault of the artist, but something with me I am sure.
Note: looking past the cover I see this is his first cover for Dragon.

Moving on!

While we are near the time of the special features and theme issues, we are not quite there yet in this one.  For example our center piece is a fold out poster and the Gen Con 19 Booklet.  Whomever owned this issue before had removed the book, but kept in a folder with all their Gen Con 19 registration materials and receipts for game tickets.  Very interesting stuff.  Heavy on AD&D.

That is not to say there are not some great features here.  Far, FAR from it.

Letters covers people noting that AD&D game seems to be growing rules-wise all the time and there is so much to keep track of.  Others discuss how Dragon is becoming the "house organ" of TSR.  Oh just wait buddy...and another asking if we will see more Gary classes he promised three years ago.  Sadly we did not know it then, but Gary was nearly out the door by this time and completely gone in less than 5 months.

Up first is an article that pretty much dominated my life for the next few years.  Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's famous Customized Classes article was for the D&D game, but could be adapted to AD&D.  I think most of us today know this article and many of the similar class customization tools you can find online or in books like the ACKS Player's Companion.   I used this to "check my numbers" for my first witch and healer classes, which were using modified XP tables based on the cleric.  I found my witch needed to be increased and the healer decreased.  The numbers I used today are based now more on playtest and some numbers I worked out in Excel.
My then DM, who owned this issue, went even further than me.  He created a whole new grouping of psychic based classes (we playing a pretty heavy Deryni-like game then were psychic were the outcasts in our world.  His classes, call Riddlemasters (based very, very loosely on the Riddle-masters of Hed) were psychic warriors that survived by making their psychic powers look like magic.   I remember coming over to play and he handed me a 25-page typed manuscript that explained them and how they worked.  They also needed something like 7,500 XP just to hit 2nd level.  Each level had different color robes with white for first level and black for 10th.  My character, Retsam, spent so long at 9th level (like a year) that in the game world and real world he gained the nickname "Retsam the Red".  He was a Bedouin-like human with dark skin and white hair and became one of my most favorite characters of all time.  But Riddlemasters were not for everyone.  He also created Shadowmasters and Beastermasters, which did basically what you think they might do.  I tried to adapt the Riddlemasters to 2nd ed AD&D and then again to 3rd Ed, but not with any success.
On a sad note this was Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's last article.  He had died in November of 1985 and never got to see it print or it's legacy online.

The Barbarian Cleric by Thomas Kane provides us with a different view of the cleric.  It is an interesting idea and one I think got great traction under the name "Shaman" for other publications/editions of the game.  I like the idea of defeating a spirit nemesis in theory, but not sure how it works in practice.  I do like it.  I like the idea that clerics all need to be different than each other.

James A. Yates has a nice long bit on mercenaries in Fighters for a price.  It's really long and has a lot of great advice and tables.  It should still work in the newest editions too.

Ahh, here is another one of those articles that stuck with me for years.
Question. Do dwarf women have beards?  Today it is not so much of a discussion, but back then? Wow.  Worth its weight in gold helps clear up some this mysteries and more by John Olson.  This article taught me to never trust a male dwarf that shaves.  It also answered for me, definitively, that dwarven women do have beards years before I met Violet of the Rat Queens.  Later when designing the Xothia tradition of dwarven witches I decided that what made these women different from others was they could not grow a beard at all.  If a dwarf woman can't grow a beard it is because she is a witch.

Bill Mickelson is next with one of my favorite Ecology articles, The Ecology of the Displacer Beast.

Role of books features the best of May 1986.  At this time I was moving away from fantasy into horror.  But I still read the second Dragonlance Trilogy (featured here) and thought it was better than the first.

Garry Spiegle covers some additions and clarifications to the War Machine rules found in the D&D companion set. I never used these rules really, or the BattleSystem for AD&D.  I wonder if there would have been more of this sort of rules if the two lines had adopted a signal use of the same rules.  I have talked to people over the years and I keep hear that War Machine is better than BattleSystem.

The Uncommon Tongue by Gregory Andersen helps provide some differences to your languages by using some old English to spice things up.

Have a couple of smaller articles next.

Locals aren't all yokels: In town, adventurers may not hold all the aces by Ralph Sizer covers unexpected NPCs in small towns.  I think back to Fred Gwynne's judge character in "My Cousin Vinnie" who got his degree from Harvard and lives in a little town.

Blades with personality by Sam Chupp discusses how to make mundane and slightly magical swords more interesting.  A name, a little history is what makes for your Excaliburs, Stormbringers and Mournblades.

Giant-sized weapons by Stephen Martin discusses weapon adjustments for large and larger creatures, something you can see in D&D now.

Ah, now this one was fun.  Hooves and green hair by Bennet Marks covers two new breeds for the AD&D game universe; the half-satyr and the half-dryad.  I remember that 4e had similar races too, but that is the only official ones I can think of.  Rereading it now I think they would make for some great race choices in a 1st ed or 5e game.

TSR Profiles covers Jeff Easley and Ruth M. Hoyer.
TSR Previews has the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (wow, how much did this one change your game?) and the Marvel Superheroes Advanced game.

John J. Terra has some advice for Top Secret administrators.

Up next is Ares.  I loved the Ares section.

Stephan Jones is first with Combat Variations in Space Opera.  I still need to try this game out, it seemed so epic to me to be honest.

For Star Frontiers we get new material for cults in Patriots, Terrorists and Spies.  Great stuff.  I used to run with a cult of "Earth First" groups.

The Double-Helix Connection gives us some rules for running mutants in Traveller from Michael Brown.

The Second Annual Hero roster is up for Marvel Phile.

Sherri Gilbert has a great article on getting started with Sci-Fi games.  At three pages it is not everything, but it is a good start in the Keys to Good SF.

Small ads and classifieds.
Dragonmirth, SnarfQuest and what is likely one of the last Wormy's before Tramp and I move to the same town (unknow to me at the time).

So a fun issue, a useful issue and one I like coming back too.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Or do you just want to pop over and see one of my favorite White Dwarf covers of all time?  Either way, check out White Dwarf Wednesday #77.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #167

Moving ahead to one of the "newer" issues in my collection.  This comes to us from the distant past of March 1991.  I was a senior in college, but would take another year to finish up my honors courses, my minor and to take a few grad school classes before getting into grad school.  I was not really playing much at this point, but still buying and reading a bunch of Ravenloft games and books.
I believe by this time I had printed out the first solid draft of my witch class for 2nd Ed and was revising it more.  So without further ado here is March 1991 and this is issue #167 of This Old Dragon.

To the cover.  Ok. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate faces on inanimate objects? Cars, trains, especially airplanes. But more than anything TREES!  I think it some deep-seated childhood trauma related to both "Wizard of Oz" and "From Hell it Came".   My family will taunt me with it by giving trees with faces on them for Halloween.  Anyway.  The girl on here looks she wandered off from a Clyde Caldwell cover and is slumming here.  The artist is Fred Fields.

You can tell this is the 90s Dragon because of all the ads.  Mind you I am not complaining; I like the ads.  But there are more. More pages in general too.

Given this is the era near 2nd Edition the Dragons all have themes.  This one is the Wilderness.  I liked the themed issues, gave me something to look forward too.

The Editorial is an interesting one with addresses for you to send something to anyone serving in the US or British military.  I guess this is the time of Operation Desert Storm. 

Up first is ...holy shit! it's the OSR's very own +Joseph Bloch! (hmm auto-tagging is not working on this). He is up with an article right in his wheel-house, See the Pomarj - and Die!  The three page article (four with cover image) is a bit of history on the Pomarj. It even has some details about the Slave Lords and plenty of old-school tables.   This is some good stuff that I wish I had known about when running the A-series recently. Ah well.

David Howery is next with Back to the Age of Mammals, taking us back to when the dinosaurs did their disappearing act and the mammals took over. There are a ton of great, untapped and underused creatures.  One of my favorites is even here, the Amphicyon.  I used my own version for a primitive were-wolf/were-bear hybrid back when I ran Palace of the Silver Princess.  This really makes this issue a stand out in my mind.

The Ecology of the Su-Monster would have been something I would have eaten up back in the day. Matthew Schutt gives us an updated version of these monsters and they work.  I always liked these little monsters. I ran an adventure where the locals worshiped as a god.

Gregg Chamberlain is next with the Dragon's Bestiary with various plant-based monsters.

Curses are Divine* But their effects on your fantasy hero are horrible! by Mark Keavney which details major and minor divine curses.  This is not the curses of the 3rd level spell, these are special and really powerful.  Also detailed are the situation where someone can find themselves so cursed.

TSR Previews tells us what is hot for March 1991 and beyond. On the list is RA2 Ravenloft Ship of Horror, a favorite of mine. Though I would always call it "Ship of Fools" after the Robert Plant song.

Arcane Lore by Jeffrey Pettengill has some expansions to the 2nd Ed Necromancer specialty wizard and necromancy spells.

Bruce Heard is back with more Princess Ark.  I am planning on collecting these and using some of it for my BECMI Magic School game.

Role of Computers covers the best of 1990.  Again, it's hard to review a review of the "State of the Art" of 27 years ago.

Sage Advice covers some Monstrous Compendium Vol II questions and the perennial question of how do I find a gaming group.

Peter Trueman as what he calls "a more realistic approach to fantasy" in Just Give me Money!  It's a long article that details maybe than you would want to know about coins.  Or maybe it is sort of the detail you like.  For me, it is more log-work than I like in my games.  Once I ate this stuff up.

Marvel-Phile deals with some of Spider-man's foes from across the pond in England in The Lads from Liverpool.  Spiders and Beatles. cute. 

Nice big and water-damaged ad for Chill (2nd Edition).

(gotta be honest here. This issue is testing the mettle of my allergy drugs!)

Thomas Kane gives us some NPCs from historical references for an Oriental Adventures game in Lords of the Warring States. We are still in that odd overlap time of 1st and 2nd Editions.

Con Calendar is huge this month.

Ed is back. Am I at a point yet where I can say "Ed" and you all know I mean Ed Greenwood?  Instead of his normal conversation with Elminster, he ends up talking to Laeral of Waterdeep.  I do not begrudge Ed this, it is always entertaining and even when I didn't like the Realms I liked these articles.  This time he is covering the Undermoutain - the King of All Dungeons.  Ok. So. It's an ad for the new Undermountain boxed set.  Yeah, I can't even be irritated by that. 

Role of Books from John C. Bunnell has the best of late winter/early spring 1991 including one that is STILL on my TBR pile, Deryni Magic by Katherine Kurtz.  Yeah, Grad School was not conducive to pleasure reading.

And just like that, we are at Dragonmirth.   The big feature is The Twilight Realm, which is on part 11.  I really know nothing about that strip, I should look into it more.

Ah, here are the small ads and classifieds.

Ok. Not a packed issue, but a lot of great bright spots like Joe's and Bruce's contributions.
I wonder what else I have from this time? Will be fun to see!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #94

February 1985.  I was a sophomore in High School and at the very beginning of a campaign that would become known as the Dragon Wars and take me to my high school graduation and beyond.  In the theaters "Beverly Hills Cop" still reigns.  So tune your radio to 1985 "I Wanna Know What Love Is" and I wanna know what is in this issue #94 of This Old Dragon!

Jumping ahead a bit to one of my favorite covers.  Again we have Clyde Caldwell with one of his more popular covers in my mind.  This cover was also one of the ones I can remember thinking, "wow, who was the model for that?"  It is such a great cover really, that Ranger looks like she takes absolutely no shit from anyone that comes into HER forest. The little badger with the dagger? I love it!  I wish the rules for animal companions would have allowed such a thing back then.

This particular issue is in great shape, so I am able to see the ads on the back covers too.  Nice big one for Games Workshop.

Letters cover people complaining about the placement of modules in Dragon. Some letters on one-headed Ettins and the Dwarves of Gladsheim.

Big ad for the Dragonlance Dragons of Autumn Twilight novel.  This was a huge deal back then I remember lots of people reading it. I was dead center in the target audience back then.  Right age, right temperament. I had just finished Lord of the Rings but had not started on Elric yet.

The Forum covers various topics like are evil PCs "psychotic" and vital statistics.

Another big ad for the Indiana JonesTM game. You too can play as Indiana JonesTM or as any other character from the movies (because there is now character creation section!). 

Gary is up first with his From the Sorceror's Scroll.  Here we get Official Changes for Rangers.  I had a ranger of course at this point, but I rolled up a new one to test these new rules out.  I found it to be a fun experience to be honest and served me well for future playtesting.

Katharine Kerr is back with an article I used hundreds of times, An Army Travels on its Stomach.  While not groundbreaking, it is an excellent article and it should be read by every DM planning any sort of war.  This 7-page article details just about everything you need to know to get an army from point A to point B and everything they need in between.  PLUS it gave me great ideas on how to spy on an army.  They need so much in support personnel that a crafty spy can get in and out a 1000 different ways.

Great ad for the Time Life Enchanted World series.  This ad is sadly in better shape than my books!



Up next is an article I read, but never gave much thought too till much later in life.  David G. Weeks gives us some varying probability for dice combinations in Same Dice, Different Odds.  I used to do something similar in my Unisystem games to get more of a curve than a flat probability of rolling one d10; something that got nicknamed "The Chicago Way" on the Unisystem boards.  It's a neat idea really and one to try if you want to skew your probabilities one way or the other.   But it is not something I would do in practice very long.

In the "It's About Damn Time" department is an ad for the Companion Rules.  Though it only goes to level 25, not 36.


Some pictures from a recent miniatures contest.

Ed Greenwood (I think I am at the point where I can just say Ed right?) is back with another Ecology article.  This was one of my favorites. The Ecology of the Chimera.
For the record, I want to take back everything bad I ever said about Elminster back in the late 90s.  Re-reading these articles has given me a new, and I hope more mature, point of view on Ed's writing and his characters.

Another ad for the 10th Anniversary pack.  That is my Holy Grail item.


Playing int he Modern Era covers the new game "Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes". Arlen P. Walker reviews the game and two supplements. He describes it as a hybrid system between level based and skills based. He makes the game sound very enjoyable and compares it favorablly to other games.

Role of Books covers some of the new releases for 1985.  Of these, I remember R.A. MacAvoy's Raphael and Meredith Ann Pierce's Dark Angel the best.  I picked up both at the SciFi/Fantasy Book Club, but only remember reading Dark Angel.

'My Honor Is My Life' All About the Knights of Solamnia comes to us from Tracy Hickman. It's a fun read today as it was in 85.  Of course, it had more gravity back then when Dragonlance was the new hotness. 

Our centerpiece (and I have it!) is the Creature Catalog II.  I collected all of these I could with the idea of making an alternate Monster Manual to use to surprise my players.  In general the monsters here are not as good as in CCI.  I recall using the Lillend, Urisk and the Great Wyrm in my games, but not really the others.

Fortunes of a Fool by Nicholas Yermakov features another tale about the witch Baba Yaga.

The Arēs section is next.  First up some Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. including the older Nick Fury.

The Marvel-Phile has Hobgoblin, Kingpin, and the Symbiote Spider-man suit, not yet named Venom.

David Cook has interstellar government ideas for Star Frontiers in From Anarchy to Empire. This one of those articles where I catch Star Frontiers suffering from Traveller-envy.

Small ads follow this.

Wormy gives us four pages, Snarf Quest has 3 with a map.
We end with ads for Paranoia and Rolemaster.

So yes, a lot of great stuff in this issue.  While I can look back on this issue and see the changes I know are coming, that is not fair for a review.  We had no idea what was coming in the next year or so.  The "Hickman Revolution" wasn't (and might still not) be a thing. All I knew was AD&D was great. D&D was still fun and I was learning about more games all the time.

Want to know what I thought about White Dwarf from this time? Spoiler, it has one of my favorite White Dwarf adventures of all time.  Check it out, White Dwarf Wednesday #62.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #69

January 1983, I was in the middle of 8th grade and transitioning my D&D B/X game over to AD&D because I was pretty sure the Companion book was never coming out.  I remember being very concerned with the idea of "playing right" back then and wanted to be sure I was not violating some rule that said I could not or should not mix D&D and AD&D.   1983 was also the time I wrote my very first draft of the Healer class.  So let's put on some Men at Work because this is issue #69 of This Old Dragon.

This Dragon is another one from the collection of Eric Harshbarger. So it is in much better shape than some of the ones I have.

We get another great Clyde Caldwell cover this issue.  I always enjoy his art and this evil wizardress summoning an army of darkness is hitting all my buttons.

Caldwell gives Elmore a run for his money in my mind as the most "classic" D&D artist of the "Silver Age".  Is this the Silver Age yet?  83 is certainly a transition year for D&D, we will be getting new covers on all the classic hardcovers and the new Basic sets are on the way.  We are in what James Maliszewski of Grognardia has called "The Hickman Revolution".  We see other changes in Dragon #69 too as it takes on the look it will have for most of the mid 80s.  The Silver Age/Hickman Age of D&D is the age I still consider more of my personal Golden Age; although it has a hard time competing with right now.

Opening up this issue we see a great ad for Star Frontiers.

Kim Mohan addresses some of Gary's recent "opinionated" (his words, not mine) editorial pieces, especially from issues #65 and #66.  Though Mohan here is defending Dragon's right to publish these and still claim not to be the "house organ" of TSR.  Personally I think they tread that line a little more than they think they do, certainly, at the time I didn't care.

Letters from readers cover some language and Illusionist spells from issue #66 (need to see if I have that one).

Big ad for Epyx computer game "Crypt of the Undead".  I remember wanting to play it and I was going to save up my cash for an Atari 600 or 800 personal computer.  I ended up buying a TRS-80 Color Computer instead.

Ok our big feature is all about Runes by Phil Taterczynski and Roger Raupp.  This is one of those articles that stuck with me for years! I can remember watching the Doctor Who episode "The Curse of Fenric" and remembering things from this article.  This and the companion piece by Ed Greenwood (featuring an early appearance of Elminster) Runestones cover 9-10 pages. All good reading.

Gary is up with From the Sorceror's Scroll. Here he presents us with our very first "split-class" (unless you count the bard), the Thief-Acrobat.  I had a thief-acrobat back int he day, but not till the class appeared in the Unearthed Arcana.

The fiction section is next, a sci-fi story this time.

Gary is back with the Deities & Demigods of Greyhawk.  Featured this issue, Istus (Lady of our Fate), Obad-Hai (The Shalm, whatever that is) and some Time Elementals.

Roger E. Moore has an article that appeals to my analytic desires. Charting the Classes compares the various AD&D classes.  He looks at average hitpoints by level and by experience points. As a former stats professor I could spend hours going over this data. I could even import it all into Excel/Google Sheets an play with the numbers.  I have done something similar in the past and ended up with tables that are pretty close to the stuff we would later get in 3e.

Gary is back again (!) with some Featured Creatures.  Here we get two more fungal creatures, The Ustilagor and Zygom. These would later appear in the Monster Manual II and became Underdark staples.  Well...they did in my games anyway.

Caped Crusaders and Masked Marvels is an essay by Roger E. Moore on the nature of Super Hero RPGs.  No RPG in particular, but I can't help but think that Marvel Super Heroes might be driving this a little. There is a list of "usuful games" at the end of the article.  I can't help but notice the prominent placement of the Villians & Vigilantes ad at the end of this.



Arrakhar's Wand is the centerpiece of this issue. Again it would be, if my issue had it.  That's fine I fully expect that most of the middle sections have been removed from nearly ever used Dragon I get. I can't really complain...but I also can't review it! So moving on.

Lenard Lakofka is up in Leomund's Tiny Hut with the Entertainer Class(es).  This includes such notables as Stagehand, Juggler, Acrobat, Troubadour, Showman, and Entertainer. At 8 pages it has some depth and there are a lot of interesting ideas here.  Naturally with the Thief-Acrobat from Gary I am curious to see what acrobat skills I could swap between them.  I am inclined to use this article whenever I next run a circus themed adventure.  In fact the one I am considering is from a group of professional acrobats that play at the local RenFaire, Barely Balanced. They have an adventure for Pathfinder called The Dead Gulch.  I think it would work better with AD&D/OSRIC myself.

Like last week, this week's issue is a Night of 1,000 stars.  Who is next? Hey look it's Lewis Pulsipher and he is up with Ready for anything! Be prepared to carry more than just a sword. AD&D and D&D has always been about resource management. Lew is here to help you figure out what you need and what you really need.

Ed Greenwood and Elminster are back again, this time with More Pages from the Mages.  This time we get four new spell books with some new spells. Back in the day I would go right for the spells, today I am more interested in the story behind the spell books.  Maybe the spells inside are some I have already seen, but that is not what makes it valuable to me now. It's the story, the history, maybe there is something really special about this book. Maybe the spellcaster is still alive. Maybe his/her enemies are and want this book.  My cup runneth over with ideas.

Merle M. Rasmussen and Allen Hammack are up with some more Top Secret material.  Here they are answering some rules questions and discussing what might be some rule inconsistencies.

Tony Watson reviews United Nations. He likes it.  Merle Rasmussen reviews the card game Jasmine. He likes the fresh approach on some old ideas and he loves the art.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with The Role of Books. He covers Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies, but not as a review per se, but more as an essay on how to use the book in your FRPG.

We get some ads.

Phil and Dixie try to beat the high cost of gaming.
Wormy is suprised by a giant fly panther.

Some ads and we end with a big ad for Middle Earth.

All in all quite a fun issue.  Lots of great material and some that I can still use today.

Want to know what I ws saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #37.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #65

Dragon Magazine #65 from September 1982 might, in fact, be the very first Dragon I had ever laid eyes on.  It is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the more pivotable issues in my gaming career.  Given that it is a perfect "first issue" of a NEW collection of Dragons sent to me by Eric Harshbarger. Eric contacted me a few weeks back to ask about some extras and gaps in my collection.  I mentioned that most of the Dragons I have are collected from larger lots of game materials I buy and most times they are in pretty sad shape. So he offered to send me some.  There are some duplicates with my collection, but these are in much better shape.  So if you can pop on over to his website.  Thanks, Eric! Now it is time for your contribution to This Old Dragon!

Ok. Where to start with this one? First, of course, is that cover.  It is great to see it here next to me instead of having to go to my CD-ROM to get the PDF (which is good since the PDF scan is not as good).  It is a wonderful, and surprisingly thigh-less, effort by Clyde Caldwell.   I always loved Caldwell's work and this cover is no exception. I love that Dragon sneaking down on the cross-eyed fighter.  Ok, he isn't cross-eyed, but it always looks like he is when I first look at it!  At least the dwarf sees it.  But my attention is focused on the witch in the background.  Is she a witch?  Well to me she is and she was one of the subconscious elements I would later use for my own witch character Larina.

Witch by Clyde Caldwell, Larina by Jacob Blackmon
So the red hair, purple dress with cloak and hood, the necklace (though different), the bangles on the wrists. Pretty archetypical image items really. But that image stuck with me.  I'd say it was Larina's mother, but I always pictured her as a blonde!  Maybe my little witch is having adventures I don't know about!  So this is what I can say when I have a cover to actually look at!

We are not quite at that "golden age" of Dragon that I think everyone is nostalgic about.  OR maybe we are.  When I say "Golden Age" maybe you all have a different picture in mind. Anyway.  This is the time before I started buying Dragon.  I have no doubt however that this is the first one I ever saw.

Out on a Limb covers some letters on Ed Greenwood's article on Firearms a few issues back. Everytime I pick up an older Dragon my mental timeline of Ed's involvement gets pushed back a little bit more.  I REALLY did not give this guy enough credit.

Gary is up next with his Guest Editorial. Ok...what to say about this.  It is basically a 3-page rant against GAMA and Origins.   I am happy to say that things are better between GenCon and Origins, and in about a decade from this original publication Gen Con and Origins will host a co-Con, but for now Gary is really irritated.  I don't know what is going on behind the scenes at this point. Back then I would have read this and been firmly on Gary's side, but today it seems like an old man yelling at clouds (and to be 100% fair here, Gary at this point is younger than I am right now!)  Ok. Moving on.

Blastoff! gives us all the information we need to know about the brand new Star Frontiers game.  We get to see that iconic Larry Elmore cover for what I think is the first time. We learn the about the new races (Vrusk, Yazirians, and Dralasites), a bit on the new character creation system and some of the in-universe background.  We also get some background on the game itself.  Design work began in 1979 by Dave Cook and  Lawerence Schick and spent the next two years in design, development and playtesting.  I guess there was a more "hard core" version of the game at one point.

Gary is back and this time with a classic.  From the Sorceror's Scroll covers Character Classes to Consider.  We learn that there will be an expansion volume to AD&D.  This book will eventually become Unearthered Arcana but until then he gives us a sneak peak.  We know now that all of these classes did not make it to that book.  Some would later go on to be rumored for the 2nd Edition of the AD&D game; or rather the 2nd Edition as penned by Gygax himself.  This is one of the main articles that +Joseph Bloch would later use to build his "what-if" version of a Gygax 2nd Edition in Adventures Dark and Deep.

Rob Kuntz is next with another installment of Greyhawk's World.  This covers Events of the Eastern and Southern Flanaess. I always enjoyed these articles. It made me feel like the World of Greyhawk was a living place, even though at this point I was still very much entrenched in the Known World of the D&D Basic and Expert sets.

Feel like I am dropping names left and right here, but after that we have Len Lakofka's Leomund's Tiny Hut.  This issue Len is focused on Keep(ing) Track of Quality.  Or how the quality of the goods affect the price, time to make and how that can play out for the player character.  This article covers mostly sheilds, armor, and some weapons.  A bit of converting for AC and you have a good article you can still use today.

Almost the counterpoint to weapon quality is character quality.  Christopher M. Townsend presents a new proficiency system for use in AD&D in Weapons Wear Out, Not Skills. This system is neither as complicated as the ones will later get nor as crunchy.  In fact, this system is light on the crunch and heavy on the role-playing aspects.  Or at least insofar as training in general in AD&D was a roleplaying aspect.  Now your training has some other purposes and can take longer.   Rereading it now I can see using this as a guideline in my D&D 3.x and D&D 5 games.

Gary is back again with some new creatures. These Featured Creatures are considered to be official AD&DTM monsters, so that takes care of that argument (but opens it up for the next batch!).  We get two good-aligned monsters, the Baku and the Phoenix.  Both of these monsters will appear in the Monster Manual II due out soon.  But that is not what grabbed me about them.  Flipping the page something burrowed deep, deep into my psyche.


To me, the Phoenix was a god-like creature.  They were the natural enemies of darkness and chaos.  The mere look of one could destroy a vampire.  They were not some giant bird to be hunted for their feathers and beaks, they were divine agents of rightous wrath.  In many ways they were the opposite of the Dragons.  Yes, we have good Dragons, but the Phoenix (capitalization is mine and for emphasis) opposed the evil Dragons more.  I remember reading this issue from friends (sometimes many, many times) and at one point I wrote down "It was a time of great chaos. It was the time of the Dragon and the Phoenix."  Yes, yes I know there is a Chinese dish of the same name, trust me, growing up in the deep mid-west in the 70s and 80s the only Chinese I ever saw was "Chop Suey".  I would only later the myths and stories behind it.  The Dragon and the Phoenix became something BIG in my games.  So big in fact that I would later take some of those ideas and adapt to my Buffy the Vampire Slayer game and run a campaign I called The Dragon and the Phoenix.  Those games would later be the basis of my Ghosts of Albion RPG.

Ok, speaking of those dragons.  Richard Alan Lloyd gives us The Missing Dragons. Based on the "color wheel theory" he decides that there must be more dragons, the Yellow, Orange, and Purple.  Now few articles were as controversial in my early days as this one!  There were people that hated the idea of more dragons. There were people that hated the idea of these colors for dragons (this group though usually let the Purples in) and there were those that liked them but would not include them since they were not "official" AD&D monsters.  And of courses there those that liked them and used them.  Myself, I liked the idea. I thought the logic was faulty. I mean are there Draconic Evolutionary theorists of the RGB sort versus the CMYK ones?  I did use the Purple dragons once or twice.  I used an orange one once and I said the yellow had all died out.  The biggest issue with this article is Tiamat.  She has five heads, not eight. If we limit it to five, then the green head needs to become yellow.  Now there are many, many (MANY) other dragons in D&D now and Tiamat is still just five-headed.  So maybe I need to bring these back to my games.

An ad for the RPGA.

Dropping more names Lew Pulsipher is next with a new NPC character class, Timelords. These are not your two-heart, regenerating Time Lords.  These are more like Time Protectors or Time Guardians.   They are fighters with some basic time manipulation magic that gets more powerful as they go up in level. When I first read it I hated it.  I also used to have a pretty hard core rule in my D&D games of "No Time Travel!"  I have loosened up a bit on that over the years.

Next is Monsters of the Midway, BUT I don't have it in my copy.  So the rules state I must move on.

Ah, here is something else that wormed it's way into my psyche.  Robin Emrys Atkinson presents the Tuatha De Danaan, A revised Celtic Mythos.  With amateur drunk day Saint Patrick's Day in a couple of days, this is another reason why this is a good choice. This is designed to replace and add to the section on Celtic myths in the Deities and Demigods book. And it is much better.  It was here that I went into a HUGE Celtic myths kick that I never really got out of.

And the hits keep comming!  Ed Greenwood (I feel like I am the MC of a Night of Thousand Stars) is next with Law of the Land. A six page article on the legal system and political systems of the AD&D world.  Or as I like to think of it, the PCs do not live in a vacuum. Also a great system-free article and something to help curb the influx of Murder-Hoboism in your games.

Lew Pulsipher is back again (!) and takes a D&D (not AD&D) perspective on War! and how it can give the characters reason to "live".  Again this is a very system free sort of article and covers the types of wars that PCs might find themselves in.  Very usuful stuff.

Some Top Secret information from James "Pong" Thompson. It covers recon and assassinations.

An editiorial of sorts from Lew Pulsipher in Up on a Soapbox. In this, he discusses the difference between the Classical Role-player and the Romantic.  Lew is coming from a solid Wargamer point of view here.  I don't get the feeling that either of these types are bad, just they have certain ways of playing.  More the point in a Wargame if you can identify their style you will know how to defeat them since you know what risks they are likely to take.

The Dragon's Augury has some reviews including one of the first Computer games I can recall being reviewed.  WIZARDRY costs a then princely sum of $49.95 and you will need an Apple II computer with 48k and DOS 3.3. 
Tom Watson reviews some books for Traveller while Gary Gygax himself reviews Empire Builder by Mayfair games (he loves it).

Comics are next.
Phil and Dixie talk about how much Fantasy and SciFi are alike.
Wormy is only one page.

An ad for Chaosium's Trollpak takes half of Dragon mirth's page.  I always wanted that. It looked cool. 

Back cover has an ad for Grenadier Models and flip over for Gang Busters.

Wow. What a packed issue.  Not just name after name of the whos who of the early RPG scenes, but great content as well.

Want to know what I thought of White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #33.  It was also a good issue.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #80

Issue 80  is one of those issues I have some very fond memories of and one that made it's way into my gaming life in odd and interesting ways.  So enough preamble, let's get going. It's December 1983 and this is Issue #80 of This Old Dragon!

This time around I have two copies of this magazine, but neither is complete.   Both are missing the cover, both are missing the city-based adventure and one has large sections cut out.

Let's talk about the cover.  This is a Clyde Caldwell work.  I always loved his work and this one is no exception. A purple-haired (I think it is blonde really with odd lighting) magic-user over a crystal ball?  What's not to love?

Kim Mohan is up with the editorial. First is plea for people sending in computer programs. Long story short, they want BASIC programs that people that have 16k and 32k systems can run (as opposed to those 'power users' at 48k and 64k).   This is a prelude to the AD&D combat program later in this issue.  The next part of the Editorial covers material in this issue.

Out on a Limb covers this months letters.  Couple issues back had another program that ran a Chi-Square (x2)analysis to determine if your dice were biased.  One reader has issues with this, but it seems like the editors came to the same conclusion I did; that the reader went through all the work to find a fault in the procedure and not his dice.  I'll be on the lookout for that article.  Now you can run even complex Chi-Squares in Excel.  Somewhere I have a sheet for checking dice.

Nice big ad for James Bond 007.  1983 was a good Bond year. Back in the summer, Octopussy with Roger Moore (no relation to Dragon's Roger Moore) hit the screens and this fall and winter we got the non-Eon Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery.  Of course only Octopussy of the two would make it into an adventure for the game (along with Goldfinger and one of my favorites Dr. No).   I have been a huge Bond fan ever since I saw Live and Let Die but I have never played this game.  IF I were to do it, I might use the Doctor Who rules just for fun.

Up next is Fraser Sherman and The Psychology of the Doppleganger.  An interesting little read about these (in my mind) under-used creatures.

Big ad for the new Intellivision AD&D cartridge game, Treasure of Tarmin.

David F. Godwin has an article that has plagued DMs and Players since time out of time (or at least since 1975). In How many coins in a coffer? He discusses the weight and the value of the coins of each type.   It's the type of gritty analysis that was really popular at the time.  It can still serve some good use today, the numbers still work and if you want to adapt it to current precious metal prices that is your choice. Personally, I prefer to handwave this and use the old Basic D&D standard of 1 coin = 1/10 a pound.   It keeps the math easy.   Yess, yes I know...someone will ask "what about resource management and encumbrance?"  That is fine, if I wanted to make D&D more like Economics or Supply Chain Management. And I don't.

Ah now here is something everyone can use.  The Five keys to DMing success by Mike Beeman is essential reading for any DM, regardless of edition they play or experience they have.  These keys are 1. Continuity, 2. Character (the Player Character), 3. Competence (rules knowledge, but not memorization), 4. Creative, and 5. Cooperation.  Most of this advice is of the common sense sort, but good to have in one place. OR maybe it is only common sense to me now on the other side of nearly 40 years of running games. It is worth checking out if you wish to expand your art as a DM.

Ah here we go.  John Warren gives us the Dungeon Master’s Familiar, a computer-based AD&D combat simulator.  Going over the BASIC code makes me wonder why we didn't move to the Ascending Armor Class of D&D 3 sooner.   At line 2070 and on list data tables to replicate the attack tables for characters.  When my old DM and I created our own software we found a mathematical way to recreate this.  It was not 100% of course, but it was close enough.  I checked my CD-ROM version to see if the code had been converted to text and sadly it was not.  Pity, since I wanted to run this but I have no desire to type it all up.

Who lives in that castle? by Katharine Kerr covers what should be one of the most basic bits of information that every person living in a quasi-Medieval society would know.  Castles, who lives in them and how they are run AND who does that running.  Do your characters have a castle? Who is your master of hunt? Who makes sure the larders are stocked? These questions are ones that this in-depth article can help you figure this out.  At seven pages it is also a longer one.

Ed Greenwood gives us one man's trash and another man's treasure. Treasures rare and wondrous is a collection of various treasure items characters are likely to find.  Some are utterly mundane, like a silver belt buckle, others are more unique like a 30,000+ gp bejeweled garter.

Up next is Barnacus: City in Peril.
That is it is what should be here.  But neither of my copies have this.


So. Moving on.

We get some revised AD&D charts (damn! and I just entered it all in BASIC!!) based on something called the "5% Principle" by authors Len Lakofka and Gary Gygax.  Again, I am seeing the future here and the DC-type of AC we see in D&D 3.0. Naturally, I have the supreme advantage of hindsight here.

Cool ads for Star Fleet Battles and Fantasy Games Unlimited.

Ken Rolston has some guides for reviewing games in A set of rules for game reviews.
He covers three types of reviews. 1. The Capsule review,  a review that comes out when the game is new and wants to let people to know the basics.  2. The Feature review, a more extended review tht covers the main details. Rolston this type of review is only good for "significant" games, but I largely disagree.  Any game can now have a feature review.  3. The Critical review is the detailed review that takes on many aspects of the games. He also spends some time on discussing who the audiences of the reviews are.

Taking his own advice on Timeship. He likes the simplicity.  We also get reviews for Illuminati and Privateers and Gentlemen.   Ken Rolston also reviews Man, Myth, & Magic which he refers to an ambitious failure.  Despite all the bad reviews I have read (and there are a lot of them) I still find myself curious about this game.   But I have to take his final words on the subject in mind.
I strongly recommend that the game be carefully examined by any prospective buyer; there is a good chance that the purchase will be a disappointing one.
I think I need to reconsider my morbid fascination for this game.

Nice big ad for some future TSR products including the World of Greyhawk boxed set.

The book reviews are next,  but some of the pages are cut in half.

More small ads.  The con calendar.

We get to the comics with What's New, Wormy, and Snarf Quest.

So this issue is smaller (well, mine is , I think it is missing more), but it also has a lot really useful material that you can still use today regardless of your system of choice.

It makes me sad that my copies are so mildewy (and missing pages).

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #48.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #61

Going WAY back for this one today.  Let's see May of 1982 I was in 7th Grade.  I know I had seen this issue back then because I remember way too much of it now.  I believe my then DM had a copy. This is another of my favorite covers.  I don't know much about it really, save it is by Susan Collins.

The biggest news in this issue is the acquisition of SPI by TSR, and Amazing Stories by Dragon magazine.  The future can decide if these are good choices, I personally liked the Amazing Stories content that Dragon brought to me in the next few years.

Out on a Limb has some luminaries as Rick Loomis and Len Lakofka sharing their opinions on small press and clerics respectively.

Gary Gygax is up first in the Sorcerer's Scroll with something I was looking forward to the most in this issue.  Illusionist Cantrips. Of course, this is all old news to us now, but looking at it again now this was some great stuff. I always liked the idea of cantrips, both as a game item and as in an in-world item.  Also if any class needs cantrips it's the illusionist.

Giants in the Earth is next and another favorite of mine.  Roger E. Moore covers three heroes that I really don't know anything about, but that is fine.  Correction.  In my second pass, I see that the last character is Tarl Cabot from the Gor novels of John Norman.   I know of this character, but I can't say I know him.  Reading the character description he seems like an asshole.
One of the features of this article is to introduce readers to new books via the lens of AD&D.  I know for a fact there are books I read because of GitE.  If that was the purpose then it worked for me.

Phil Meyers and Rory Bowman are up with a tag team articles on Weaponless Combat and Weird Weapons.  The Exotic weapons article is an interesting one with some really cool weapons.  Some we will see again in the upcoming Oriental Adventures, but that is still years off.

The Gnomish Point of View is up from Roger E. Moore.  Again, we will see this later in UA. I like gnomes. They are underrated really and a lot of fun.  Too bad absolutely NONE of my previous DMs ever liked gnomes.   The article is great, too bad the art is not up to it.  The Gods of the Gnomes follows this and continues the thread.

Our Centerpiece is Quest of the Midas Orb by Jennie Good. This adventure was the Third place winner of the Dungeon Design Contest II they had back then.  It's a fun little adventure revolving around the return of the said orb.

One of my favorite features is up next, Dragon's Bestiary. Here we get four new monsters.  The only one I remember is the Firetail from Ed Greenwood.  Still, they would be fun to use in a game sometime, just to shake things up some.

New AD&D aid: Monster Cards features the newest product from TSR.  I have to admit I LOVED these cards. Really. I spent so much time picking them up at Waldenbooks and Belobrajdic's bookstore. I never got them.  My income was a paper route so I had to make the dollars count.  By the time I could get them, they were gone.  Oh, don't worry, I bought them. Bought them at an auction from a collection of a TSR employee.  I spent...well a lot, but it was totally worth it.
The magazine has pictures of all the monsters, but none of that stats.  But that is fine.  Maybe if I had read this issue then I would have bought the cards sooner and saved a ... well a lot.

An ad for something I did buy is next, the Best of Dragon II. Now that was a great buy back then. I read and re-read that I don't know how many times.


Next up is something we really just don't see anymore that is a huge shame.
Conrad Froehlich gives Jo-Ga-Oh, the Little People of the Iroquois.  I love stuff like this.  It is often way too easy to keep going back to the well travelled well of Dark Age Europe, or to shake it up a bit "head out East".  Here we get something that is new, exciting and much, much closer to home.  Great background and three new "monsters" to use.

Gary is back with a rare outing for Top Secret. Special Knowledge and a bureau for Infiltrators. It's a pretty long article, to be honest, it adds a lot of new material to Top Secret.   I wish I knew more about the game!

Ah now here is a game I know a lot about!  David Cook reviews Call of Cthulhu.  The review is largely positive but I don't think he "gets" the game.  Now granted, I have the benefit of years, no decades, of playing and reading Lovecraft and his imitators.  So his perceived shortcomings in the game I see as features. Like how light the rules are on combat.  CoC is not a combat game. It's more than that.

Off the Shelf has some book reviews.  One of them is the NEW "Resturant at the End of Universe" by Douglas Adams. Oh my, the number of times I read that book.

What's New with Phil and Dixie covers "new" games, with a special guest appearance by Wormy.
Wormy has his own spread right after and that is all for the comics in this issue; no Dragonsmirth.

The last page is an ad for the Basic and Exper line.  Not sure what it was about the Basic/Expert ads but I always liked them more than some of the ads for the AD&D line. 


I am pretty sure the girl in the red shirt is Jami Gertz, who would go on to bigger fame as "Star" in The Lost Boys among other roles.  This ad was part of the same marketing that featured this television spot.


It also features a pre-Ferris Bueller Allan Ruck.

I think the most interesting thing about this issue is how much of it would later find it's way into official books.  If not this material exactly then something very close.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf from this time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #30.
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