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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #78

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yeah. I ate that up.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a great, great issue really.

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

We get the convention schedule for Fall 1981.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This Old Dragon: Issue #104

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

Ares covers the best in SciFi gaming this month.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

This (Not so) Old Dragon...

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

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

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

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



Thursday, June 7, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #71

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Moore has some Astral Plane answers in Sage Advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #99

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Another ad from our good friend Ramal LaMarr.



After the fiction bit we come to the Ares section.

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

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

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

Lots of Cons in the Convention Calendar.

Gamer's Guide has the small ads.

Wormy weighs in at 2 pages. Snarf at 3.

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

Take us home Ramal!



Thursday, May 17, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #118

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is the fiction section from Lois Tilton.

Some Sage Advice covering the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wormy weighs in at 4 full-color pages.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #155

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

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

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

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

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

Next is our feature "Realms of the Faerie".

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through the Looking Glass is completely soaked.  Eww.

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #67

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The spells continue here.

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

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

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

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

Lots of ads. Wormy and What's New?

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



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

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

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.
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