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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This Old...Journal? Judges Guild Journal

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

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

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

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

Then there is also this.

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

The art is pretty cool too.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #89

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #114

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neat, full color ad for the Immortals set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fruits of 30 years:

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

Which one is next?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #84

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of really cool old ads.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #175

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ads for Dungeon and for Rifts.

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

Another ad for Rifts.

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

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

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

Do you have memories of this one?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #150

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I always loved this ad.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #72

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #97

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #86

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Old Dragon

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

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

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

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

So that is what I am I going to do.

Introducing "This Old Dragon"!

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

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

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

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

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

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