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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #138

October 1988.  I was a sophomore in college, but not just any college. I was at Southern Illinois University and Halloween was a HUGE deal. I debuted my first version of my "Astaroth" devil costume.  A couple of my friends got wasted, damaged part of the football field and got arrested.  I also "invented" the "Bush Whacker"; a double shot of vodka washed down with a Bush beer.  Never been able to drink vodka after that night.  My college roommate had a new girlfriend so I ended up with a dorm room all to myself.  It was pretty sweet really.  I had finished my first draft of the Witch class nearly two years prior and was now into deep playtesting and revising.   It's October 1988 and this is issue #138 of This Old Dragon!

As far as Dragons go I consider this one in my top five.  I remember walking to the bookstore down "The Strip" (Illinois Ave) to pick this up.  The cover could not be more Halloween-themed if it tried.   The material inside completely lives up to this cover.

Roger E. Moore is now the Editor, replacing the departing Kim Mohan.  I am not sure when exactly this took place, but I do know that this was the first issue I really noticed it.   This is post-Gygax TSR and if we didn't know that know we soon will.  Not that I am trying to draw parallels between Moore and the people that took over TSR.  Far from it.  But there was a new direction in art and in in content in Dragon and other TSR works that really began to show about this time.  It is easy to lump it all into 2nd Edition era, but it started before that.

Letters cover the lack of Dragon magazine indexes.

Nice big full ad for Space 1889. I picked up this game used not soon after, but sold it in one my "purging" moods.  I finally got another one at Half-Price books a while back.

The Forum covers a variety of topics, heavy on contributions from IL I notice.  At the time I really had no idea how good I had it.  I have heard of an Original D&D corridor that ran from Chicago and Lake Geneva all the way down to Carbondale, IL (where I was) and hitting nearly every major university along the way down south.  Even in my hometown, there were several independent D&D groups running at same time.   The Egyptian Campaign (in Carbondale, aka "Little Egypt") had been running since it's involvement with fellow Saluki (SIU alum) Tim Kask.   All I knew was I had access to books, games, and people and I thought everyone had this.  Later I learned this was not the case and one of the reasons these other games and supplements began popping up, to fill a gap.

We get some advice on painting undead in Through the Looking Glass.

Ad for Dragonfire computer-aided DM's software.  I know people that swore by this.


I have heard that this software had been released as share-ware, but I could be mistaken.

The unofficial start to our Halloween issue is Sage Advice. Here Skip Williams covers various questions about the undead that I found very useful.  I notice that a lot of what was written here later informed the undead monsters of 2nd Edition.

Page 15 we hit the meat of this issue, all about horror!

Up first a little something for the Call of Cthulhu game. The Black Book and the Hunters by Craig Schaefer introduces The Black Book of Shub-Niggurath and the Hunters of Shub-Niggurath (Greater Servitor Race).  While I am not sure if I ever used these in CoC, I certainly used a lot of ideas from this article in dealing with demons.  In fact, I penciled in "Lesser" and "Greater Servitor Race" on many demon entries.

Double page ad for the SF&F book club.  Some great books here!

Up next is something from none other than Tom Moldvay.  No wonder I love this article so much.
The Ungrateful Dead expands the ranks of the undead with some monsters I STILL use to this very day.  These horrors include The Bloody Bones, Skleros,  Dry Bones ("Dem Bones"), Gem Eyes, Shock Bones (something I had come with independently based on a nightmare I had as a kid), Galley Beggers, the Walking Dead, the Lesser and Greater Colossus, the hungery Dead, Le Grand Zombi, Ghula, Baka, Gelloudes, Spirit Ghouls, a Wendigo (!), Black Annis and her cat, and the vampire like Callicantzaros.  Whew. A ton of undead from myth, legend and popular culture. So many I have used over the others and others I had forgotten!

Up next is an article I have a bit of contention with.  Not this article per se, but ones like it.
Ed Friedlander gives us madness in fantasy RPGS in Methods to Your Madness.
The article itself is not bad and really focuses on the fantasy aspects of the game and the potential effects.  In general, I find many bits on madness, "insanity" and psychological impairment to be hamfisted at best and dangerously wrong at worst.  My background is in Psychology. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in it. I spent years working as a Qualified Mental Health Professional in a group home setting with schizophrenics. I don't like "sanity" rules in most games.  I like the ones in Call of Cthulhu because they work within the confines of the system and the mythos.
The rules in this article work because they do not try to cleave to close to modern psychology.  Instead of a diagnosis of a disease, we get descriptions of behaviors.

Eileen Lucas is up with an article I didn't read much then but have since come back too many, many times. The End of the World: Of plagues, player characters, and campaign worlds.  I think I am not the only one.  Remember the old Knight Rider TV show?  Every season it seemed like they had to crash and nearly destroy KITT (and sometime Micheal) to only rebuild it and make it stronger, better.  I see this sometimes in Campagin Worlds.  We saw it in Greyhawk and I am not sure how many times in Krynn and the Forgotten Realms.  The article though is very, very good and has a lot of great ideas on how to end the world and start again.  At this time in my own gaming the "Dragon Wars" had just happened and my world had been largely destroyed.  When I wanted to bring my world back for 3e I went back to this article to read up on the plague and the after effects of wars.

We break from disease and death to talk about lasers.
Martin Landauer is next with Putting Fire into Firepower or lasers for the original Top Secret game.  I always thought of this as the bridge between Top Secret and Star Frontiers.  Maybe they were in the same universe.

The fiction piece is next, Between Lightning & Thunder by Nancy Varian Berberick.

Cool full page ad for DC Heroes with my first introduction to Amanda Waller.


The Role of Computers covers the then cutting edge of computer games. Many with new CGA graphics!  Many games are listed at around the $40-$45 area.  Interesting how the price of games has not changed all that much.

A couple of pages of small ads.

Role-playing Reviews covers a few horror-themed game titles.  Cthulhu Now is a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu changing the setting to modern times.  Future versions of CoC will fold this information into the core book to some degree.  GURPS Horror was at this time considered to be the MUST HAVE horror supplement for any game.  I remember looking for it for years in my local stores; so much for easy access!  Beyond the Supernatural was also considered one of the hot horror games of the late 80s.  It is notable not just for it's content but for also starting the writing career of many horror RPG authors like C.J. Carella who would later go on to write WitchCraft.

A page of TSR Previews. This features (and there is an ad later) the LAST AD&D hardcover to be produced, Greyhawk Adventures. This book was notable for being 1st Edition, but also having 2nd Edition AD&D stat blocks for monsters.


I can't help but notice that the blue background on this is almost the same blue background that will be later used for the AD&D 2nd Edition preview book.

Convention Calendar is next.

DragonMirth has some comics including newbie Yamara.
SnarfQuest hits episode #62.
There is no Wormy.  Little did I (or anyone else) know Tramp had moved and was living about 2 miles from where I was.

Lots of full color, full page ads.

Wow. What a packed issue.  AD&D 1st Ed was in it's twilight years and we all knew it.  What we didn't know was that soon AD&D players would engage in "The Edition Wars".  Yes there had always been the AD&D vs. D&D ones, but that was minor when it came to the 1st vs. 2nd ed or the TSR vs. WotC ones over the next, well, forever.

But until then we have this brief moment of stillness and this really great issue.

What are your memories of October 1988?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #90

Ok. I will admit this. I am totally cheating.  Normally I grab an issue off the top and review it as is.  But this is October and that's a big deal here at The Other Side.  So I went through my stacks and pulled out the remaining October issues I had and put them on top.  So let's go back to the scary 80s.  Reagan is in office. We have two Germanys. And the USSR is still biggest big bad on the planet. Nukes will fly at any moment, especially if there is some "glitch" in a computer (or a kid with a modem wanting to play a game). It's October 1984 and this is issue #90 of This Old Dragon!

The cover. I always liked this cover a lot.  I always felt that harpies were an under-used monster and they needed to be scarier. When I first saw this though I thought the harpy and human were on a DESK not a deck and that for some reason they were shrunk down to a smaller size.  It was such profound first impression that I have to look hard at it NOT to see that.  Strange how memory works.

Ok for an October issue there is not much in the way of a horror theme here.  There are some horror elements to be certain, but nothing that explicitly ties them all together.

Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.   There are some letters of praise of Baba Yaga's Hut adventure but pointing out how Baba Yaga does not match earlier versions in Dragon or the Hut matching up with the one in the DMG.  In these cases that was all done on purpose; which I get.

The Forum begins (or continues) the long debate on physics and falling damage.

Our first proper article is from Ed Greenwood.  We are introduced to the Incantatrix NPC class.  This is issue 90, we are still 2 years away from the witch class so, for now, this is the current AD&D attempt at a witch.  Incantatrix means a woman that makes incantations, or a female spell caster.  This class has seen a lot of love and hate online and it was a little controversial in our groups as well.  The article is six pages and has some great ideas and some really neat spells.  I have a lot of issues with this class, but I want to focus on only a couple.  First, it is much weaker than a similar level magic-user. I guess this is why it is an NPC class afterall.  Also, the class has something of a split personality. It is a spell-thief AND a class that fights other spellcasters and outsiders.  I think splitting it up into two separate concepts would fit much better.   Let's talk about the spell-thief bit for a second.  Here is a quote from the article:
But how could a mere wizard defeat the Archmage with a spell so beyond her powers? asked the sage skeptically.
Ok. First point. How did you know that the incantatrix was a "mere wizard"?  Now granted, many worlds have classifications of wizards. Look at Krynn and I know that "Archmage" is actually a big deal.  But at the same time to a casual observer, do you know how powerful someone is?
Now that is not to say that this class doesn't have a lot of potential. It does. In fact, it came back as a 3.0 Edition Prestige Class in Magic of Faerûn. This version focused on her "meta-magic" feats.
An OSR or 5th Edition Incantatrix is needed I think.

Nice big ad for Chill.

Gary is up next with Hold that person! The definitive list of charm-able humanoids.  This is the list of anything affected by Charm or Hold Person spells. I had kept this list in with my notes on what would become the Witch.  It's a good list.  Gary shares other news like the huge GenCon 17 turnout and how they sold out of the D&D Companion set.  He is also working on T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil, or rather handing it to Frank Mentzer who is also busy with the Masters Set of D&D rules.  There is no more movement on AD&D 2nd Edition at this point, but there is speculations that the Monster book will be two books.  The D&D cartoon is renewed and the D&D movie script is moving ahead.  It does make me wonder if some of the items for AD&D 2 ended up in next year's Unearthed Arcana.

Ed is back again with Bats that do more than bite: Six species from Elminster's latest lecture. Or six types of bats unique to the Realms.

The next installment of Gods of the Suel pantheon is up. Len Lakofka gives us Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.   Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one.

Mike Beeman has some advice on Playing the political game: A change of pace for AD&D game adventuring.  This article covers how to play a game of political intrigue.  I nice companion piece I think to the rules from the Companion Set and the upcoming Master Set.  Also one I think that would be well received today with the popularity of Game of Thrones.

Plane facts on Gladsheim: What it's like in the land of the Norse gods covers the planes of Gladsheim by Roger E. Moore.  It is a nice companion piece to the adventure coming up. I liked this article because at this time I was really beginning to move away from Greek myth and into more Norse and eventually Celtic myths.  This is a good starting point. Most of the article is devoted to spell changes.

This is followed up with Aesirhamar, a high-level adventure taking place in Gladsheim also by Roger E. Moore.

Jerry Epperson contributes to the Halloween feel and gives us a review of the first edition of Chill.  The review, while only a page an half long, is very positive and covers all the basics of what you can do with Chill.

Lots of ads.

We get to the Ares section now.

Up first is Skills for the Super Agent: Agent skill packages in the CHAMPIONS game by Gregg Sharp.  This is for making proper "Super" Spies in a Supers game.
Steve Perrin has some more powers for the Superworld game.

The big one, and one I had cut out of my original copy and stuck in my Star Frontiers box, is The Mega-Corporations for Star Frontiers by Kim Eastland.   This article shifted my SF playing from a Star Wars/Star Trek kitbash to a proto-ShadowRun game.  Though we took a lot from Blade Runner too.   I swear I had created some mega-corps myself but for the life of me, I can't recall any.

Riddle of the Ring has a big full-page ad.  They have sold the rights to their "unique" game to Iron Crown Enterprises.



Another Gen Con 17 report, this time from Roger Moore and focusing on the sci-fi elements of the con.

Big for Bard games.
Convention Calendar.
Lots of small ads.

Wormy's trolls go fishing and Aveeare encounters magic in Snarf Quest.

Very memorable issue.  Lots of nostalgia.  I was a big fan of I.C.E.'s Middle Earth back in the day and seeing the ads for it and the "Riddle of the Ring" always make me smile.  If you want to learn more about I.C.E.'s Middle Earth in White Dwarf #58 from the same month and year as this Dragon.

Did anyone play an Incantatrix? I am curious to hear your experiences.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #132

Dragon magazine for April 1988 is quite a memorable issue.  First, it's an April Fools issue, and it's one I actually kinda liked. Secondly, I LOVE that cover. I mean, Elmore, Snarf. What's not to love?  I am still a Freshman in University still and living the life.  I think I bought this issue when it came out, which is something because most of my money was going to drugs, beer, books. Yeah, books.  It's April 1988 and this is issue #132 of This Old Dragon!

Let's admire this cover for a bit.  I don't care, I love Elmore's art.  Though I have to admit I thought Aveeare was silver and not gold.

So this is an April Fools issue, but the content is limited really.  The first entry has the infamous "Chainsword" in Bazaar of the Bizarre by Stewart Wieck.

Role-playing Reviews which is ©1988 by Jim Bambra.  We cover some now-classic games; Paranoia, Ghostbusters, and Teenagers from Outer Space.

Up next is the first big article of the issue is Beyond the Gate of Dreams by John Nephew.  This deals with the "semiclass" of the Dreamer.  Now there is a lot of REALLY cool things for this class. I don't think the class actually works as written, to be honest.  I like the idea really and there are a lot interesting spell ideas.   There is the option to play this as a single class or as part of a dual class.

Resourceful Sorcery which is also ©1988 by Michael DeWolfe and it covers some helpful hints for RuneQuest game sorcerers.  It's a cool article really, makes me want to get a RuneQuest game going sometime.

With All the Trappings by Gregg Sharp deals with trap construction and using some psychology to draw victims in.  I'll be honest, I never had the trap fetish that so many gamers seem to have.  Sure they can be fun occasionally, but all the time? I got my fill in the early 80s to last me a lifetime.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice cover a variety of topics.

Page 37 gives us an ad for New Infinities' Cyborg Commando!  The fate of the world is in metal handsTM. I should not give Gygax shit for this.  We now know his world was crumbling down and the new heads of TSR were being colossal dicks to him.    Anyone play Cyborg Commando at all?


Scott David Gray is up with Let the Good Dice Roll. This is a collection of individual and cumulative frequency tables for the various methods of rolling a given ability score in AD&D.
A nice brief article that is informative, but also a relic of its age.  While the numbers are still good and even still apply to any version of *D&D,  these can be generated on the fly with the tools we all have at our disposal now.  Not just with Excel, but with Google Sheets which is free and nearly as powerful.

Out of Hand by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is the fiction piece of this issue.

Mark Feil gives us a rare non-Ed Greenwood (at least for the last few issues) Ecology Of article. The Ecology of the Aurumvorax covers the MMII monster also known as the "Golden Gorger".  Not a lot of information, but I did learn do not eat one of these things if you kill it. It gives you metal poisoning!

The big feature of this issue is +Bruce Heard's Orcwars game. Set in the Known World you get to play in the Great Orc Wars. It looks like it would be fun for a rainy afternoon. Set it in your own world.   Each player (2-4) gets to play one of the tribal coalitions of orcs.  I like it to be honest.  It is not exactly taking D&D back to it's wargame roots, but it is honoring those roots. Given the campaign I am currently running I could see using this as part of a flashback to an ancient battle.  Something to add more depth and color to the history of my game world.  Much like Traveller always did with their RPG and tie-in board games set in the Imperium.

Arcane Lore is up after all of that with some spells based on traits of animals. Like Oxen Strength and Lion's Courage.  Naturally (ugh) for druids. There are some goods here too.

Keith Polster has a bit on Gen Con and what to expect in 88 with The King of Conventions.  I certainly get the feeling here that Gen Con was growing more at this point.  This article covers the combined Gen Con/Origins Game Fair.  Robert M. Bigelow follows up on the next page with how miniatures events will be run at the combine con.  Now an aside.  I consider myself knowledgeable about the history of our hobby, but I also fully admit I am far from knowing everything.  I had no idea this happened! And I have some vivid memories of reading this issue.  How long did Origins and Gen Con stay together? When did they split up again?  Checking the internet I see this was done in 1988 and 1992. And yes Gen Con was seeing a lot of growth during this time.

Cash & Carry, Gamma Style covers the economic structure of Gamma World or least a small part of it.

Some small ads.
TSR Previews gives us a look ahead at some new releases.  This includes two of the biggest disappointments, for me at least, in adventures.  First is WG7 Castle Greyhawk.  While I do appreciate the humor in some of the levels and I respect how deadly this module actually is, it does not make up for the fact that it is also not very good. It was also not the Castle Greyhawk we have heard about for years and years.  I ran Castle Greyhawk once.  Not likely to run it again. Next is OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes.  If Castle Greyhawk was bad, this one was just lackluster.   The Outer Planes would get a huge boost in a few years with the advent of Planescape.

Jon Slobins is next with variable hero creation for the DC Heroes game. This produces heroes a little less super. Ah yes, we are moving to the 90s and the age of the gritty "street-level" hero.

Mike Lane has new ships for Star Frontiers.

And in a move that would surprise new readers of today, Jeff Grub gives us a Marvel-Phile of "joke" (or no joke depending on your read) hero; Rocket Raccoon.



The Role of Computers has expanded to 6 pages now including a huge review of Beyond Zork.

We have a couple of pages of Dragonmirth. Some ads. 5 pages of the Con Calendar.

We end with SnarfQuest on his prospecting mission.  About this time I began to loose interest in Snarf. I think a lot of people did. If had completed its big arc and now seemed to be a little lost.   OR what is more likely I could not keep up with it like I used to because I was not buying Dragons regularly anymore.

Wormy is also here.  About this time Tramp would disappear.  Little did I know at the time he moved to the same town I was living in.  I could have passed him in the grocery store and never knew.

Really a pretty solid issue.  AD&D 1 was showing its age at this point and the world outside was changing.  Soon word would come down that AD&D 2 was on the way and the 90s would start.  But until that time there was plenty to do.  The Dragon was more and more focused on TSR-only games, but still, a few others snuck in every so often. They were more inclusive than say White Dwarf was at this time.  In fact, April 1988's White Dwarf #100 would be the last White Dwarf I ever owned.

We are certainly on the verge of something in this issue. That might be my retrospective on it, but some big changes had already happened here and more are coming.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #81

Today I set the Wayback Machine to my Freshman year in High School.  I was just getting over an 18-week long bout with a brutal combination of chicken-pox and pneumonia, both for the second time. No joke, I dropped to something like 80 pounds and was in the hospital on IVs. Don't even remember how I got there.  But by January I was getting better enough to go back to school.  1984 was a big year for me in terms of geeking and gaming. I had just finished reading all the Lords of the Rings books and was watching a lot of Doctor Who.   For me, everything was either Doctor Who or George Orwell jokes as we go to January of 1984 for Issue #81 of This Old Dragon!

This issue is in not too bad of shape really.  The cover is missing, which is a shame because it is one of my favorites interestingly enough.  A furry ice dragon (I am going with a dragon) and an adventurer on a wooly mammoth? What's not to love really.  I also hold this issue up as a typical issue of the time "Before" my time buying Dragons.  It is not one I ever saw in the stores (that I can recall 35+ years later) but it one that I saw other people carry around.

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers how they will no longer be printing the adventures that won the adventure design contest some time back. This is too bad, but I easily see why. I think this might also have lead to a later decision to create "Dungeon" magazine, but I have nothing to back that up.  It is just taking too many resources to get the adventures to a publishable state. The last adventure is printed and will be talked about later.  Thinking back to some of the adventures I wrote back then I cringe to think about what they would have gotten.  I hope I can find the adventure contest rules in an earlier issue.  I wonder what the submission requirements were and whether they took printed manuscripts or if they accepted floppy disks in the mail yet.

Letters cover more requests for back issues, reprints, and even the runner-up adventures. Others complaining about how the magazine has changed for the worse over the last year.  I swear some people are never happy.

Our first article is a good one. One of my old DMs had kept a copy of it to use all the time.  Much to my chagrin.  Taking the sting out of poison by Chris Landsea was another attempt to classify poison.  Personally, I never had an issue with what was in the DMG and thought it was good enough.   But I also only ever played one assassin ever my entire gaming career, so it also did not come up a lot for me.  But it also covered Holy and Unholy Waters, something I used a lot, so that was kinda cool.

Another ad for my FLGS.  They still have the same number! Well, the area codes have changed on them twice since this add. It went from 312 to 708 to now 847.  Plus another ad for the Witch Hunt game.  Seeing these again makes wish I had not sold the game back in a Games Plus auction now.



The fiction piece comes early. In the Cleft of Queens by Esther M. Leiper.  Looks like it is about some dragons.

On page 24 we get The Forum: a new feature.  The introduction of the Forum.

Ok. Up next we have The Ecology of the Basilisk by Ed Greenwood which is a fine article in it's own right, but reading has gotten me thinking.  In fact, my thoughts might be considered heresy in some parts and even I would not have considered them two years ago.  But I am beginning to think that Ed Greenwood has contributed more to Dragon than Gary Gygax did.  I am not talking about *D&D in general, just Dragon Magazine.

A big two-page ad on the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures line, followed by an article on minis.

Pete Mohney is next with Chariots for characters: Adapting ancient vehicles for AD&D play.  I always had this plan to play a Classical Greek/Roman/Egyptian game completely based on the classic myths.  I wanted a copy of this article because how can you not have chariots in a classic game.  I still might do that one day.  I mini-series of just mythology themed games where the Gods meddle directly in the affairs of humans.

Now here is an oddity.  Presented in the middle of the magazine is an AD&D character build for Cú Chulainn by Roger Moore.  This is prior to the introduction of the UA Barbarian, which he would have been perfect for, so he is 22nd level Ranger/12th level Illusionist with some Bard ability.
It's not a bad build really, but someone like Cú Chulainn is hard to build since he was essentially a superhero of the Red Branch myths of Northern Ireland.  It's interesting though that the only reason he has an Illusionist class at 12th level was so he could the powers of his berserker rage, called a "Warp spasm" or Ríastrad in the myths.  But if you read over these stats he is very much the prototype of the barbarian class we will later see.  I also did some stats for Cú Chulainn for the Ghosts of Albion game.

Up next is The Ruins of Andril designed by Ian Melluish. This is a high-level adventure, levels 8-11, for 4-8 characters.  It is an investigation of an old "Egyptian" ruin.  I have flipped through it and looks fun.  Part of me wants to run it if for no other reason than for its historic place in Dragon history.  It's a long one, for Dragon, at 16 pages.

Michael Dobson's Living in a Material World covers almost everything you need to know about material components for your AD&D or any other FRPG.  Now I love material components. If you are playing in an Old School D&D game I am running then your spellcaster better have their proper material components or they can't cast the spell.  Thought I do make most components easy to find or buy AND I allow substitutions.  Don't have that pinch of sulfur for your fire based spell? Try a pinch of dirt see what happens! This article is a long one, 10 pages, and covers a variety of materials and their uses.   Well worth visiting again.

Off the Shelf, a few pages later, covers the latest books of the start of 1984.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with Get out of the Medieval Rut in The Role of Books.  Again this might be the issue that got me interested in the idea of running a classical game. Lew covers books detailing ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Greece (well Athens in particular).   I have some similar books on my too be read pile.  Now to figure out which system to use.

Ken Rolston reviews some new gaming titles in Gaming without Heroes. Or Horror Role-playing titles.  Featured in this review are the infamous Shadows of Yog-Sothoth for the Call of Cthulhu game and the Ravenloft module.   Of the two Rolston has high praise for Ravenloft, but feels that SoY-S does a better job of conveying fear, terror, and dread.

Lots of ads. Convention Calendar. Dragonmirth.
What's New with Phil and Dixie has Dixie's Dragon Notebook. Wormy and SnarfQuest introduces a revolver to an AD&D world. Wackiness ensues.

Really a fun issue with so much I want to use in a game still.
If nothing else it has renewed my desire to run a sandbox like adventure int he Classic world.

Want to see what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #49.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #156

It's April 1990.  I am a Junior in University at this point and working on my very first psychology study (I compared incidents of violent imagery vs. sexual imagery in heavy metal and rap videos.  Conclusion: they both love sex. Gave me a solid appreciation of rap and hip hop).  Twin Peaks is on the TV for the first time ever. On my play list though is the newest Sinéad O'Connor album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". I even skipped Calculus to go get a copy of it and an extra one for my then best friend (and now my wife). What I didn't have and didn't want though was This Old Dragon Issue #156!

Ok. I didn't own this issue at the time. I knew about it of course. I believe, in fact, I am sure I first saw it at +Scott Thorne's Castle Perilous.  I didn't know how good I had it then, to be honest.

Does it feel like I am avoiding the issue? Yeah. I am.  It's an April Fools issue and not at all one of my favorite ones. Let's get into because there are some seriously nice gems later on.
The cover. Daniel Horne does some great work. This is not one of my favorites, but it is one is funny.  Besides, haven't we all made this joke or some form of it before?

Letters.  Ok, these are all fake letters in an attempt to be funny.  Yeah. Not so much really.

Ad for Dungeon magazine.  Man, I loved Dungeon.  Maybe when I am done with this I could something with Dungeon.

First up in the April Fools section is Not Necessarily the Monstrous Compendium. A collection of "funny" monsters.  Ok, some are fun and I would use them in a crazy adventure like an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or something with a lot of mutants.

A cool ad for I.C.E.'s Cyber Space game.  Was anything more 90s than that?  Cyber Punk vampires maybe.

Razznarock! is an adventure.
Yet Even More [Gods Forbid] Outrages From the Mages is a Pages From the Mages spoof.

It's not that I don't like humor in my games, it's I just don't find these all that funny.

The Game Wizards covers the newest in computer games.  Mechwarrior from Activision, Champions of Krynn from SSI/TSR and Sword of the Samurai from Microprose.   This is less of a review and more of a "coming attractions".

Another ad, this one from TSR itself, from their book department.
They sponsored a Writing Workshop!  Looks kind of interesting.



I wonder if anything came of this?

Speaking of the book department. J. Eric Severson is up with Novel Ideas, featuring three new Forgotten Realms novels: Iron Helm, Horselords and the Wyvern's Spur.  Again this is half preview, half advertisement. In the 90s novels were TSR's big cash cow.  I personally never read any of the Forgotten Realms books (well, till this year) but I bought and read every single Ravenloft novel printed.  Hey some of those Ravenloft novelists went on much bigger and better things, P. N. Elrod, Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, Tanya Huff and newcomer on the scene, Laurell K. Hamilton.  More on that when I cover those issues.

Other Side favorite Vince Garcia is up with Can You Swim? Juggle? At the Same Time? a new skill system for D&D.  Now this is for the D&D game. The BECMI version, not the new AD&D 2nd Ed game that had a skill system.  Like everything with D&D it is simple and easy to learn.
It is no where near as complicated as his magnum opus Quest of the Ancients might later imply.

Dale A. Donovan is up with the Marvel-Phile with a bunch of villains I have never, ever heard of.  They seem to be based on Alice In Wonderland.

Wrestling with Style is Greek wrestling adapted to AD&D by Janne Järvinen.  It seems to mostly be based on the Illiad, which of course is fine.  At this point I had read the Illiad about two years ago, but damned if I remember any of it.

Let see, a ballot for the Origins Awards for 1989.

Sage Advice is split by a program for the Gen Con Game Fair for 1990.



The whole thing is still really small.

TSR Previews has the "must buy" items for March and April 1990.

Characterization Made Easy: A little personality goes a long way for all characters comes to us from Scott Bennie and is a guide for giving your character some more personality. At three pages it is not exhaustive, but the tips are nice especially in what is essentially a Pre-Vampire the Masquerade world.

Interesting note.  All the adds on these pages for companies in Great Britain.  Made me wonder at first if I had a British edition of this magazine, but my CD-ROM version matches it.

Through the Looking Glass has some great horror minis to show off shading techniques.

Convention Calendar has a lot of cons to hit for the Summer of 1990.

Ken Rolston is next in Role-Playing Reviews.  There is something to notice here first.



The review is copyrighted by the author.   This comes up every so often when people ask whay can't Wizards do another Dragon CD-ROM (well, Blu-Ray ROM now) collection?  OR (and this is my least favorite) since TSR is gone all those old Dragons are in the public domain (no. they are not.)
In this case this little copyright hits on both of those.  WotC, just like TSR before them, does not have the rights to this article.  Sure they printed the first Dragon CD-ROM and they got into a LOT of trouble for it.
Also. If you are reading this right now the Dragon copyright will not "expire" till long after you are dead.  Sorry. I don't make the rules.

So back to the reviews.  These focus on City and Urban adventures.  Now I LOVED playing in cities at this time so this review was heaven-sent.  I grabbed Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk and I totally ignored the Forgotten Realms: City System.  I should have gone the other way around.  Though both products have their positive and negative aspects.

The Role of Computers gives us a proper review of Champions of Krynn, saying it is the best AD&D computer game yet!

There are few pages missing from my issue so I turned to the CD-ROM to find that some barbarian had cut out +Bruce Heard's first installment of Voyage of the Princess Ark!  I think I am going to take one of my "This Old Dragon" days and do a retrospective on this.  I have been dying to see it all together in one place as a whole for some time now.  Alas for toady though I can't talk about it since it breaks my rules.  If it is not in the magazine I can't talk about it.

Missing is the first page of the Ecology of Behir. This would have been fun when my players ran into one recently.

Dragonmirth has a bunch of comics complete unfamiliar to me.  Well, I guess I know of Yamara and The Twilight Empire, but I really don't know anything about them.

So the April Fools stuff aside, this turned out to be a fun issue.
While it was published back in the Halcyon days of 2nd ed, it did not contain a lot of 2nd Ed material.  The Greater Behir was notable.

Even at 27 years old this Dragon, for some reason, still feels newer to me.  Maybe because I never owned it back when it was new or maybe because it was out in a time when I was not playing so much I don't attach a lot of nostalgia to it.

What are your memories of this issue?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #74

It's June 1983.  I had just turned 14 so I took about two dozen friends to the movie to see "Octopussy" in the theatres on my birthday (remember when I said I was a huge Bond fan?) and it was great.  In the stores the new covers for the AD&D core books are out and yes I had to buy them.  Bond is in the theatres, new covers on the shelves, Naked Eyes on the radio and There's Always Something There to Remind Me in This Old Dragon Issue #74!

First up this issue is in REALLY good shape given the issues near it (CORRECTION, I have two of these. One is in good shape, the other with the Combat Computer is in terrible shape).  Yes, the combat computer (more on that later) is still there and still intact.  But let's talk about this cover first.   Nothing is more iconic D&D than a group of adventurers fighting a dragon. This cover is one of the more memorable ones.  I did not buy this issue when it was new, but people I gamed with had it and it was well used and well passed around.

The editorial also covers birthdays.  This is the seventh anniversary of Dragon.  Last week I covered the 9th anniversary and like that issue, this one has some dragons in it.  They mark the date in a very subdued fashion. That will change.

Gary is up first with an entry of From the Sorcerer's Scroll in Warhorses and Barding.  Exactly what it says. One might be tempted to pass up this article and flip on past the big James Bond ad, and ignore the second half.  That would be a mistake.  Gary lets us know that a line of official D&D 25mm miniatures are on the way.   We also learn of a script for the Dungeons and Dragons movie that "... is a remarkable piece of work, one which could well lead to a film as successful as STAR WARS or E.T. It will do a world of good for our hobby . . ."  Thankfully Jeremy Irons is really busy during this time and Thora Birch is only 1 year old.   Also on tap is something Gary and Marvel Productions are calling "THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CHILDRENS SHOW".  So reading in 1983 which one of these sounds like the better bet?  Yeah, I was wrong too.

In another long standing feature, Lenard Lakofka with Brad Nystul are both up in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This issue features the Bureaucrat class with the Politician sub-class.  I am not kidding.   It does read like a misplaced April Fools article, but there is too much seriousness in it.  Ok, now I am 100% certain that someone out there reading this now used these classes back in the AD&D1 days.  But come on, really??  Next time someone tells me how much better everything in the old Dragons used to be I will agree, but I will also show them this article.   Not every old is good and not every new is bad.

Ah, now this is the stuff I remember and wanted.  Ronald Hall is up with the Land Dragons.  I loved this article. It was original and it felt like a great addition to the game.  I can remember laying in bed reading this article. It was a great stuff.  With these and the new dragons in the Fiend Folio and the MMII I wanted to over run my world with all sorts of different dragons.

Not to be outdone, The Electrum Dragon by Ed Greenwood is next.  This one I didn't like as much.  Oh sure I liked having more dragons, but this seemed forced since electrum was (in theory for me at the time) electroplated silver with gold.  Later I opted to keep Electrum Dragons in the Realms and Steel Dragons in Greyhawk.

Ah, now here is a memory! Ed comes back with Elminster in tow for Seven Swords: Blades of the Realms.  Now this is a proper article for magical swords.  They have names and they have histories.  And Elminster is looking into them, tracking them down.  This is also great stuff.  Back then I was totally into just what were enough details to convince my DM to put them into our games.  Today I am much more interested in their tales.  Well done Ed. It took me long enough to get your point, but I finally got it.

The Ecology of the Bulette by Chris Elliott and Richard Edwards also does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It makes the "land shark" interesting.

Arlen P. Walker is up with an article I ignored then but am giddy over now.  I was also a fan of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was a great mix of James Bond (and even had Ian Flemming's fingerprints on it) and Sherlock Holmes.  Tracing THRUSH's nest. The place: London The time: 1894 is a GREAT article that I will steal for a Victorian game.  I love the idea of THRUSH being tied to Moriarty and Moran of the Holmes stories. This article expands on that.  The companion article, In trouble? Say UNCLE The date: New York City The time: now, is also fun.

Arlen P. Walker is up with a 3rd article with Spying on the spies, which details the research that went into the previous two articles and their sources.

Lewis Pulsipher is next with The Vicarious Participator which is some role-playing advice on how to mange the two predominant styles of role-playing at the time, the full immersion actor sort and the man-behind-the-curtain sort.  One IS their character, the other only tells what the character does in a 3rd person sort of way.

Here we go with the centerfold.  The (infamous) Combat Computer!
Over the years I have heard tales of love and tales of hate for this thing.  One thing you never hear though is that it was designed by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
I personally liked it, but by the time we started using it we had already started homebrewing stuff.  The first version of my Healer class was in play (and soon out of play, it didn't work) and my witch class was on the way.
Plus we had bigger plans back then...



(there is also a big Gen Con XVI program here. Yes you could fit it all inside Dragon)

D&D Beyond,
1985 Color Computer version
(transferred to 3.5 from 5.25 disks)
Which brings us to
Q: What do you get when you cross a Dungeon Master with a computer?
A: Programmed character creation without human hesitation!

This article and program by Joseph C. Spann was not a revolution for my group.  It was a factor, but by 1983 everyone I knew who played D&D was also in the Jr. High Computer club and computer classes together.  We all wrote bits of software to emulate various parts of D&D.  We had pages and pages of BASIC code for the good old TRS-80.  I had other friends that were just as active on their Apple II's and Commodores. My DM and I finally created a really perfect bit of software for the TRS-80 Color Computer.  It could store 10 characters (more on disk once we upgraded to that) and we put in every monster in the books.    This article captures that time really well.  The software itself though takes away the visceral joy of rolling characters, but we did not care.  In the 80s D&D and Computers were going to come together and soon.  Maybe even before the D&D movie.

So when I hear arguments or complaints of "we never used characters builders back in my day" I say BULLSHIT.  Not only did we use them, we wrote them.  We spent hours learning how to code to do exactly that.  Like the article says:
"It cannot be simply coincidental that there are so many roleplaying game enthusiasts among our nation's rapidly growing number of computer hackers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say so many computer hackers among the ranks of RPG players, as evidenced by the presence of computer-oriented columns and information in gaming magazines like this one."
So maybe YOU didn't try out a character builder of your own but everyone I have ever gamed with from 1979 on has.

The trouble with code is it takes up a lot space. And let me tell you, typing all that in and getting an error. I am so glad I don't have to do that anymore.

Not many articles from this time get quoted or talked about much these days, A Player Character
and his Money by Lew Pulsipher is a notable exception.  I always found his discussion on moving to the silver standard very interesting.  I have often wanted to adopt it, but felt the hassle to correct the books and math constantly to make it not worth it.

Let's see, some listings of Sci-Fi conventions.

Tony Watson is up with The SF "universe" An in-depth examination of the STAR FRONTIERS game.  Something of an ad, something of an overview/preview and editorial.  It's long too. I really, really enjoyed Star Frontiers back in the day.  Two percentile dice, crazy races, giant-ass battery packs on your back to power your lasers. Though give me a gyrojet gun any day.

Off the Shelf has some books. No kidding right. Well, it has one book in particular. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have a long and complicated relationship with this book. More than I care to unpack now.  Sometimes nostalgia is about looking back and remembering something fondly. Sometimes it isn't.  I really loved this book back then and read it a few times.  I have some issues with it and the author now.

Ads..lots of them.

What's New does spies. Wormy does...what ever it is Wormy was doing.

Near the end an ad for the previously mentioned AD&D minis.

Landmark issue to be sure.  Full of nostalgia for the actual articles and less for the ads.

What are your memories? Did you use the Combat Computer? Write your D&D software?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Come back to the City of Irilian and check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #42.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #98

June 1985. Later this month I'll turn 16, but due to the fact I need new glasses, I won't get my license for a few more weeks.   Rambo First Blood is in the theatres and Tears for Fears is on the radio.  On the shelves, the new covers for the AD&D hardbacks and you can buy This Old Dragon issue #98.

The cover features a dragon horde filled with modern day items.  This is also the 9th Anniversary issue.  As far as I can recall all the anniversary issues featured dragons on the cover.  This cover though does not strike any memories with me. It's a cool cover.

We get to the main feature of the issue, all about Dragons.
Up first is Tailor-made Treasure from Roger E. Moore.  This is a new system for figuring out a dragon's treasure hoard.  It has some great quotes from various works of literature. Reading it over it could work well with pretty much every version of the game.

The Magic of Dragon Teeth by Gregg Chamberlain covers the various effects of burying dragon teeth. Each color of dragon will produce a different sort of warrior ala Jason and the Argonauts.
Most gamers of a certain age remember the old movie featuring the Harryhausen skeletons.


There are some neat ideas here.  To be honest I never felt the need to codify this.  Through the dragon teeth on ground and skeleton pop up.  Cause weird shit like that happens in a magical world.
Though more recently I have been using Dragon Tooth Talismans.  These provide protection from the that dragons' type of breath weapon.

Need music from the Ancient Empires for your game?  Well, you can get it in STEREO from Ramal LaMarr!  (I am sure that is 100% his real palindrome name too).


I have to admit I loved these ads.  So corny and over the top.  You can find his music online still.



You keep doing you Ramal!

Leonard Carpenter gives us a nice brief one in Dragon Damage Revised.  A great add for AD&D 1 but something you see now in most newer editions of D&D.

Roger Moore is back again with some background on The Dragons of Krynn.  In this, we learn that Takhisis and Paladine are similar to (but not the same as) Tiamat and Bahamut.    We get some Krynn history that is familiar to all of us now, but here it was all new.   A lot of Dragonlance has migrated back into D&D proper since the 3.0 days and I think that is largely a good thing.  Back in the 80s we used to talk about how the dragons of Krynn were larger and somewhat more "dragon" than the ones you found in Greyhawk.  I know that there are plenty of old-school fans that are aghast with this, but hey. They focused more on dragons in Krynn than Oerth.

Nice big ad for the Dragonlance Chronicles book 2, Dragons of Winter Night.

Ken Hughes gives us an entry with Creative Magic Items.  I want to talk less about this specific article and more about the type of article it is.  There were always a lot of articles in Dragon that I call "You are not bound by books!" articles.  I get that many people want to play RAW, but we were always doing things not in the books. Creating new monsters, new magic items, spells, classes.  Everyone I had gamed with had the books memorized back in Junior High, there was no way to surprise them unless you were willing to go out side of the books. Most of these articles elicited a "no shit, doesn't everyone do this?" but after a while I came to the conclusion that no, not everyone.

Detailing a Fantasy World is from Jim Dutton, whom I feel I should know but don't (flipping further I see his company runs the AD&D PBM game). Now this has some great advice on how to build your fantasy world from the ground up, or at least detail enough areas to keep your players busy.  At only three pages it feels too short to deal with the advice given, but it is short and succinct and should give any budding world builder a place to start and the seasoned ones some new ideas.

I am usually cautious of reviews of TSR products in Dragon. Such is the case of this reveiw of the first two Dragonlance novels by John C. Bunnell in It's a Neat Idea, but ... NOT just a Gimmick. I think we can be adults here and talk about the fact that the Dragonlance novels have some shortcomings. That being said these are fun books and they did represent a sea change in *D&D as a game and as a product.

A surprisingly long article from Dave Rosene discusses what PCs are likely to find in local shops in Knowing What's In Store.   We live in a world today where everything is available at our finger tips. In the 80s even we had malls (lots of malls) but historical medieval lands did not. Fantasy worlds need to tread this line carefully.

The Forum is next.

An ad for Traveller races. At this time and now these books make me want to play Traveller. I want to know more about the Aslan, Vargr and K'kree.  Maybe someone has ported them over to White Star or Starfinder already.

Some coming attractions for TSR products. Highlights include the D&D Masters Rules and the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.

Ad for Chill.  Still love that game.

Our centerfold is the first Gamma World Mutant Manual.  I am very pleased that it is still in this magazine too. Some would make for great additions to an OSR D&D game or a Mutant Future game.

Merle and Jackie Rasmussen have their Part II of Authentic Agencies for Top Secret.  A great find for the pre-internet world, but also real world agencies spelled out in Top Secret format.

The Ares section is next.
The Volturnus Connection is first by Stephen Bonario.  I have to admit, if I ever run a Starfinder game I'd consider a "Return to Volturnus" like game. I had a lot of fun with Star Frontiers.

When History Goes Awry by Mark Acres deals with parallel and alternate timelines for the Timemaster game.  Degree in History not required but certainly helpful.

Big index of all the heroes published for the Marvel Super Hero game in Marvel-Phile.

Huge list of conventions for June to October 1985.

Gamer's Guide has a lot of cool ads including one for the new Super Endless Quest books. These included a simple character sheet/bookmark.

Comics include Wormy and Snarf Quest.  Snarf is long, Wormy is down to a page.

A fun issue really and one I'll go back to for more information on dragons.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine for June of 1985?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #66.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #82

Ok. So I know I just did issue #83. And in truth this could have been the next one in, some of them are in order, most are not and I pick randomly.  But I did choose this one on purpose for the Spell Research article.  More on that in a bit though.  In truth this was the one right next to #83.
So let's get to it. Put your VHS of Cronenberg's "Videodrome" on and curl up with This Old Dragon Issue #82.

Ever wonder what a "Dancing Sword"  looks like? Well this issue's cover might give you a good idea.  Or it is a magic spell being used by the wizard in back.

So let me think. February of 1984. I would have been a freshman in high school.  I had already moved over to AD&D proper by this point but was still using the "Known World". I knew of Greyhawk, of course, but didn't have anything for it yet.  In truth I was not doing much at this point since I had just come off of a 16-week sickness due to pneumonia. I had in this time read all of the Tolkien books that were out of the time and watched an obscene amount of Doctor Who and Space: 1999.

Moving on...Letters covers mistakes or typos from issues.

Big ad for the Dr. No supplement for the James Bond game.

The Forum covers some details about Ed Greenwood's Nine Hells Revisited articles (cant' wait to do those!) namely what to do about Lawful Evil gods.  Still a good question really.

Nigel Findley is up for our first proper article, The Ecology of the Peryton. My memory is fuzzy, but I do remember that this is one of the first Ecology articles I ever read and it was also one I really liked. It really made this creature into something more than a collection of stats and a weird picture in the Monster Manual.  Note that this Ecology article is not by Ed Greenwood.  Still, it is a fine read.  I challenge anyone to reread this and NOT want to use a Peryton in your game.

Wounds and weeds, Plants that can help keep characters alive is an AD&D game herbal from Kevin J. Anderson.  As expected it has a warning not to try these at home, these are AD&D game stats only.   What follows are six pages of various herbs, with some pictures, that have some uses in the game. These are various healing herbs that work when magical healing is no where around.  I think this is a good addition to any Druid or Witch class since healing magic is not their prime focus.  While long, even at six pages it feels short. Maybe because I have seen other articles and books like this that were much longer.



Enhancing the Enchanter by Craig Barrett is for the DRAGONQUEST game.  DQ was always "one of those games".  I saw it all the time at the bookstores and in Dragon, but I knew very little about it.  I picked up many times and flipped through it.  It looked complicated (to me, at the time) but more to the point I didn't know of anyone playing it.  Did you play this game? The article is largely rule changes. At five pages it is also a longer article.

We get another ad for "Riddle of the Ring" card game.  I share this because I KNOW no one ever thought the Balrog looked like this.


Speaking of rings.  Up next is an article about a baker's dozen of magical rings. Rings that do weird things:  Thirteen pieces of jewelry not from the DMG.  All these rings are by various authors (two by Ed Greenwood).   The Ring of Bladeturning eventually had to be banned in my games.

New Avenues for Agents is a preview of the Top Secret Companion. I never was really into spy games. Again, I'll admit a certain curiosity to play the James Bond game and I tried the Spycraft d20 game back when it was new.  But overall they never really grabbed me like fantasy or horror games do.

Our centerfold is a full game, The Baton Races of Yaz.   It looks like a kid's game.  Certainly that is true, but I have watched people bid on that old boxed set of the "Dragon Magazine Games" and people really seem to love it. I should point out that my copy does not have this. I only know about it because of my Dragon CD-ROM.

Curing the Monty Haul Malady by Roger E. Moore deals with a common problem of most D&D games. The article is an edited version of some letters that have come in.  Some of the examples given I just can't really take seriously;  "He decided his character would kill Orcus, and after that his character became the new prince of the undead, with an unlimited amount of any undead to control, even an unlimited number of liches. The character also has some star destroyers he uses to fly around in space or to destroy planets."  Yeah.  This was the 80s. Sad to say...but yes I knew a guy that claimed his character had a Star Destroyer.  Not a Star Wars character, a D&D character.
This though has been an issue in some games since the very beginning.  Star Destroyers? No, the Monty Haul problems and the ridiculously over-powered game (not the same thing mind you, but they usually go hand in hand.)
While we were encouraged to not go to crazy high levels, there was nothing in the rules to stop you.  Tim Kask's warnings in "Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes" read more like a challenge I think to many.  future editions of *D&D tried to make these limits more ingrained in the rules; usually stopping at 20th level (or ~30th for BECMI and D&D4).  But gamers will be gamers I guess.

A review of battle mats, dice towers and the "Dragonbone" computerized dice roller.  I always kinda wanted one of those, but every DM I ever had said they would not allow it.  Also rolling dice is still the best.   I still have and use a battle mat though.

Spells between the Covers is the big reason I grabbed this issue. +Bruce Heard does a great job of filling some of the gaps in our knowledge on how to do spell research.  While I think many players know now many of the points made here, this article did not have the benefit of years of the community playing Call of Cthulhu.  In that game a good occult library is worth more than gold and more dangerous than plutonium.

Speaking of dangerous.  This magazine's mildew is getting so bad I am switching over to a print out from my CD-ROM.


The costs associated with building a library really should hold up edition to edition.  There is a lot of great stuff here about purchasing books.  BUT the REAL treasure is the list of books and the sages that wrote them.  Here is a brief sampling that NO real wizard, mage, sage or occult scholar should be without.

  • Idioms & Rare Cryptographs by Elminster 
  • Legendry of Phantoms and Ghosts by Evard
  • Lore of Subtle Communication by Tasha
  • The Forgotten Arts of Oratory Magnetism by Leomund
  • Theory of the Invisible Forces by Tenser
  • Gazette of the Norse Climates by Otiluke
  • Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers by Mordenkainen
  • Repertoire of Illustrious Conjurations by Drawmij
  • Treatise of Universal Astronomy by Melf

And many more. Really worth the price of the magazine alone if you ask me.  Tips on appraising the books, special books and cursed books are also discussed.   
Looking over the list it is dominated, naturally, by Greyhawk wizards, though Elminster is there too.  Even then Elminster had a better publishing deal! 

This is also tucked away in a small corned of the article.


The fiction section is Windowolf by Earl S. Wajenberg.

We get some ads. Namely these two.


Yes. I will admit to own both that game and that dragon claw amulet.  Once again...it was the 80s.

We end with the comics.  Once again one of those rare issues with Wormy, Snarf Quest and What's New all in one issue.

This was another big issue and maybe one of the reasons we look back at this time with such nostalgia, or at least with the rose-colored bifocals of the 40+ something gamer.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf at the same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #50.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #83

Have a look at that cover.  1984 was a good year for Chess themed things.  In October we would get the #1 hit, "One Night In Bangkok" from the Album Chess and sung by Murry Head.  In March we got this famous cover of Dragon #83 by  Denis Beauvais.  It is part of the oft mentioned Chess series that stretch to the modern day.  On the radio "Jump" by Van Halen dominates the airwaves. In the theatres we get "Against All Odds", "Police Academy" and "Romancing the Stone" as the big box office hits.  On the shelves "Dragonlance" is starting to appear and we get Issue #83 of This Old Dragon!

Letters cover the usual questions about psionics and where someone can get an article reprint.  Hang tight, you will be able to buy everything on CD-ROM in about 15 years.   There is also a letter on the longest continuous game of D&D at 100 hours.  I think the longest game I ever played was a combo Ravenloft I6/I10 game at 48 hours.

Ads for James Bond and Cities of Hârn.

Michael Lowrey is up first with The many facets of gems. Since a lot of my D&D game play is 70s and 80s fueled I always wanted to use gems as a means of storing magical energy in my games.  I never quite got it the way I wanted it to be honest (still working on it) but this article was a huge help back in the day.  It is also a pretty long article.

Ed Greenwood is back with the Ecology of the Stirge. Is it a bug? Is it a bird?  Going back and rereading these now I admire how well Ed could take even the most banal monster and turn it into something interesting.  While I used to find his "in universe" writing a little twee now I am genuinely amused by it.  I can imagine some Academy in the Forgotten Realms where monster experts debate the finer points of monster biology and killing methods, all safe in their academic halls and ivory towers.

Sign of the times.  The fiction section is not only by Margaret Weis, it is the first Dragonlance story in the pages of Dragon magazine.  Test of the Twins features the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the effect on D&D by Dragonlance.  Whatever your point of view on this the Dragonlance era starts here and now with this issue.   The story is a pivotable one in the Dragonlance saga. So much so that I have read it, or versions of it, in other books before I saw it here.

The centerfold is the massive adventure from Roger Moore, the Dancing Hut. This was such a great adventure then that I had to rerun for my kids.  Though I combined it with bits of the 2nd Edition version that came out much later.  This one is a keeper.
Baba Yaga is such a historic figure in D&D it is no surprise there are so many adventures built around her.

Roger Moore follows this up with a simplified unarmed fighting system in How to Finish Fights Faster.  Frankly, I never used it.

There is an ad for my FLGS here, +Games Plus.  This might have been the first time I discovered them to be honest.  I used to order the hard to find stuff from Games Plus because they were the only Illinois game store that knew of that did mail orders. They were about 210 miles away from me at the time, but now they are only 8 miles. So I am very, very pleased to still be going there.

There is a Top Secret article here, but mine was cut out.

There is another ad and a long review of the James Bond 007 game.
I am a HUGE Bond fan.  My first Bond movie was Live and Let Die. It gave me a life long obsession with Bond, Voodoo and Jane Seymour.
Despite this, I have never played a James Bond game.  My loss to be sure.  I'll need to fix that someday.
My first Bond may have been the late great Roger Moore (no relation of course to the above-mentioned RM), the BEST Bond is Daniel Craig.

Ads...an order form for the Mail Order Hobby Shop to get back issues of Dragons.

In the comics section we get a rare celestial conjunction; Wormy, What's New with Phili and Dixie AND Snarf Quest all in one issue.  There is even an entry of Talanalan here.

A great issue really, if for nothing else than for the Baba Yaga adventure.

March 1984 was also a good issue of White Dwarf. Check that out on my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #51.

Using Baba Yaga in your games
This adventure features Baba Yaga and gives her stats ala Deities and Demigods.  She is a tough one to beat too.   She has 3 attacks, 135 hp, a -1 Charisma which gives her horror like effects.  She fights like a 16HD and has the spell casting ability of a 25th level Magic-User, a 15th level Illusionist and a 14th level Druid.  Crazy.  Oh, and she has some abilities of an assassin too.

There is no doubt that she is one of, if not THE, most powerful witch in the D&D multiverse.  When she is not working with her daughter Iggwilv on Oerth she is off on Golarion dealing with the Winter Witches of Irrisen.  I would not be surprised to discover she has also been to Aglarond and Rashemen. And if she hasn't been there then her Hut has.

No one is better suited for a Basic Witch write-up to be honest.
I will use Roger Moore's stats as a guideline and use the witch rule from my The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games.

Baba Yaga, Witch Queen
36th level Queen of Witches, Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition (She is the Tradition founder.)
Female, Chaotic (Nuetral Evil)

Strength 20 (+3 / +8)
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 23
Dexterity 18 (+3)
Constitution 21 (+6_
Charisma -1* (Baba Yaga uses her negative CHA the way other witches use positive. So +5)

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 3
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 3
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3
+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+ for Wisdom

Hit Points:
AC: -10
(Grandmother's Shawl +5, Bracers of Defense +3, Ring of Protection +5, Dex 18 -3)

THAC0: 4
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (crow)
Minor: Kitchen Witchery
Medial: Detect Bloodline
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Longevity

Spell Immunities
Baba Yaga is immune to the following spells:
Cause fear, charm person, command, friends, hypnotism, forget, hold person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, beguiling, bewitch, domination, fear, charm monster, confusion, emotion, fumble, suggestion, telempathic projection, chaos, feeblemind, hold monster, magic jar, mass domination, quest, geas, mass suggestion, rulership, antipathy/sympathy, finger of death, mass charm, Otto's irresistable dance and any spell created by one of her "Daughters" (for example Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter).

Other Powers
Arcane Diversity: Baba Yaga may learn other arcane spells (Wizard, Necromancer, Illusionist). She can replace 1 Ritual spell per spell level with an arcane spell she has learned.  These spells must be learned like other magic-users and recorded in her Book of Shadows.

Spells
Cantrips (8): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading, Summon Vermin
1st (9+4): Bad Luck, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Darkness, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Minor Fighting Prowess, Protection from Spirits, Silver Tongue
2nd (9+3): Agony, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (9+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Ghost Ward, Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Magic Circle Against Undead, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Witch Writing
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Speak with Dead, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Withering Touch
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Death Blade, Eye Bite, Ethereal Banishment, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Call the Restless Soul, Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Foresight, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Gate (Ritual)
8th (9): Antipathy/Sympathy, Astral Projection, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Ensnarement (Ritual), Imprisonment (Ritual)

Magic Items
Grandmother's Shawl (Greatest), Broom of Animated Attack, Baba Yaga's Hut, Baba Yaga's mortar and pestle.

To make her closer to the version presented here in Dragon #83 I could give her the Mind Bar from +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.

Enjoy!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #103

1985 was an interesting year for D&D.  It saw the publication of Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.  "Deities and Demigods" had been renamed to "Legends and Lore".  60 Minutes did their hatchet job on D&D.  We were deep in what many have called the "Hickman Revolution" and indeed the third Dragonlance novel, last of the first trilogy was published.   1985 gave us a little peek at what 2nd Edition AD&D would have been like and it would see the departure of Gary from TSR.  A lot of this can be seen in November 1985 and in issue #103 of This Old Dragon!

While there is a loose theme here, the real theme of this issue is a glimpse into the future.
But first, let's start with the cover.  My copy is missing the cover so I had to pop in the old CD-ROM to see it.  It's a cool blue dragon that reminds me of earlier covers. I don't remember it at all really.

The Letters section covers the old "Photocopying service" Dragon used to offer.  Anyone take advantage of that?
Also starting next year (1986) Dragon will be $3.50 an issue.

Gary is up in one of the biggest "What If" scenarios we have all talked about.  That is "What if Gary Gygax had designed AD&D 2nd Edition?"  We will never really know, but there are some tantalizing bits in this month's From the Sorceror's Scroll. The Future of the Game talks about how now that UA and Oriental Adventures are now out the game should evolve to a 2nd Edition.  He planned out the publication order to include the new Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, DM's Guide and a new Legends and Lore (a name he very much opposed).  It should be noted that here Gary also says that a 3rd and 4th editions (or more) are not only inevitable but also desirable as the AD&D game is "vital. It grows and it changes". He said there is no likelihood that the AD&D rules will ever be set in stone.    BTW, if you want to get an idea of what AD&D 2nd Edition as-written-by Gary Gygax *could* have looked like check out +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep. He spent a lot of time researching and this article was the genesis of that.

Kim Mohan is up with updates for Unearthed Arcana.
We had a rule in our games, that if it was in the books it was law, even if the rule was obviously "off".  We did it this way to avoid rule-lawyering arguments over intent.  Plus the book was an impartial party. It didn't change based on the situation at hand. So I can't recall if we used any of this errata or not.

There are many reasons why people don't play gnomes.  I think this is one of the biggest ones.  All About Krynn's Gnomes from Roger Moore details the "Tinker" gnomes of Krynn.  Of course, this is also why my brother, who is now an engineer, only played gnomes.   I have to admit I REALLY disliked the Tinker Gnome idea and I hated the execution of the idea. An entire race prone to failure and explosions? You know what we call that right? Extinct.  Honestly, it was not till 3e that I could even look at gnomes again and really not till 4e that they became something I'd consider having a character for.

Like Dogs? Stephen Inniss seems to with a collection of 12 domestic breeds in A Dozen Domestic Dogs.  My favorite bits are on the armor for fighting dogs.

The Role of Books covers a few books I am not at all familiar with. Though there is one, "Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning" that everyone knows. One, "The Song of Mavin Manyshaped" by Sheri S. Tepper sounds interesting.

An ad for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is next.  Long before there was a cartoon there was this game. Talk about striking when the iron is hot!

Stephen Inniss is back.  He had submitted an article on centaurs at the same time another author, Kelly Adams has submitted an article on centaurs.  The resulting article, The Centaur Papers, is a combination of these two works.   They fit together nicely (deft editing) and produce a long article, but what must be considered to be the Master's Thesis on Centaurs in D&D.  At 11 pages it is no small article.   Every so often I run into someone that is really, really into some concept in the game.  I remember back in the 90s stumbling upon a website dedicated to the Bariaur race, others for different things. This article reminds me of that.  Just detail on detail.  If you are into centaurs at all then this is your "must read" article.

Our centerfold is a collection of errata and corrections for Unearthed Arcana.

TSR Previews lets us know that Oriental Adventures and Saga of Old City are on the way.  This is followed by TSR Profiles of Gary Gygax himself.



The Wages of Stress is the fiction bit for this issue. It takes place in the fantastic future world of 2007 when everyone is connected by computer.   Ok, not to be too glib about it there is a bit about how everyone's health can be monitored remotely.

The Ares section is next.

A Traveller article on the planet Tarus is up first.  Of Nobbles and Men by Paul Vernon.  He had some great White Dwarf articles around this time as well.

The Saurians is the article I used the most from this issue.  A race (with subraces) for Star Frontiers I mixed them in with the Sea Devils and the Silurians from Doctor Who to make a race of "Saurials" that I used in many sci-fi games and then later used again in D&D.   Plus it was easy to add in bits of UFOlogy to this with their Reptoids.

Roger E. Moore has a review of the Gen Con 18 designer's forum on Supers RPG in A Super-Powered Seminar.   A brief history of supers games is discussed here and what the future mught hold.

The Marvel-Phile covers three heroes I know nothing about; Armadillo, Count Nefaria and Hyperion.

Ads...Convention Calendar...Wormy and Snarf Quest.
Dragonmirth gets in a dig at 60 Minutes.



Issue #103 was not a bad issue, just not a memorable one for me. Some memorable articles and a tantalizing article on AD&D 2nd Ed.  

Curious about what White Dwarf was doing at the same time? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #71.
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