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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #80

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


So. Moving on.

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

Cool ads for Star Fleet Battles and Fantasy Games Unlimited.

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

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

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

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

More small ads.  The con calendar.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #61

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


It also features a pre-Ferris Bueller Allan Ruck.

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

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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #177

Ok. I will freely admit that this one was third on my stack of Dragons. But in my defense, the first one was a duplicate of one I had done back in December and the second one just was not grabbing my attention today.  So let's sit back, relax, put on some Nirvana as we go back to January 1992 with Issue #177 of This Old Dragon.

Ok. I have no memories of this issue really at all.  In 1992 I was working on getting into grad school and finishing up my first published works of research. I was heavy into Ravenloft as my game setting of choice for 2nd ed AD&D, but I had also been exploring other games. I was hearing rumors from a friend of a friend about this new Vampire game and how White Wolf was going to eat TSR.
Going on from this I have NO memory of this cover at all.  I am not sure how well a woman in a cage with leering "Dungeon Master" would go over today.  I am also unfamiliar with the artist, William
Carman.
Notably this issue still has it's cover on it.

How can you tell this is an early 90s magazine?  Big advertisement for Waldenbooks. Pour a little out for Waldenbooks and Borders.

Looking over the Table of Contents it appears the special feature is DM advice. Ok, let's jump to it!

In Letters, we get one ripped right out of today's social media, DM's Dilemma Fee or Free? A reader writes in wanting to know if he should charge for running games. The author, whose name was withheld, points out that he (assuming it's a he) has spent thousands of dollars on game material and that prep time is also that, time he is spending that the players are not.  The response to this feels less from Dragon and more from TSR, Inc.  I would love to reproduce the whole thing here, not only for the advice but for the snapshot in time this was.  Needless to say, TSR takes (took) a rather dim view on the idea of DM's charging for games.  This is also the only thing I have read that resembles official policy on the issue from the time.  I would wager that WotC is a little more even-handed on this than TSR was, but I have not read a current policy on this.

What are your thoughts on DM's charging for games?

Roger Moore talks about "Kinky" games. Meaning odd or weird games, based the interoffice slang "kinky" meaning weird.  He talks about Metamorphosis Alpha, Lace and Steel and Bunnies and Burrows.  Interesting story here.  Before I got really involved in blogging I was a Wikipedia Editor.  Still am in fact, but not as active as I once was.  One of the articles I worked on was the Bunnies and Burrows entry on Wikipedia.  In fact, I was one of a few editors who worked on it to get it to Good Article status.  Apparently, this made me and my fellow editors eligible for a grant from some large Furry research and advocacy group (yes, there are such things) and I was offered money for my work.  I was a little shocked to be honest.  I was also still in hardcore academic frame of mind then and did not want to take money for this work, so I had them donate the money to a charity of their choice.

In our DM's section we have Jim Shamlin up first with Keeping the Party Going. I was hoping for some edition-agnostic advice and I am pleased so far.  He covers the various ways a party can get togehter and stay together.  Like I said there are a lot of good ideas here and all can be used with any system, not just D&D.  I am new school enough though that I want the players to tell me why the party is together. What are their reasons they are joining forces.

Thomas M. Kane has a interesting article on technology and scientific advancements in That's Progress. The key feature of this article is a condensed timeline of scientific and technological advancements in the world up to the 17th century and it is not entirely Western-focused.

In Secrets of the Masters Revealed, Michael J. D’Alfonsi has us "apply fiction-writing techniques to game-campaign design".  While this is good advice some of it can apply to players as well and works best in a system where the players have a little more agency in the game.   Still such things as keeping a campaign journal (this is a great one and one I do all the time) and developing the personalities of the NPC (also something I do) adds a bit more fullness to the game. It also does nothing to change the idea that DMing is a lot of work!

Now we are getting to something very specific to AD&D and D&D prior to 2000.
In Defend Yourself, Blake Mobley tries to reduce some of the back and forth you see in the THAC0 based combat. The system he proposes is interestingly engough close, but still just this side of "not there yet" of the d20 combat systems of 3rd edition on.  If he could switch the idea of armor class getting stronger if the numbers go up instead of down then his system work even better. Some sacred cows do need to be ground up into burger.

Up next is the Game Wizards.  In this issue the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
Steven E. Schend has the task to let us all know what the newest D&D book is like.  There is a nice history on the development of the D&D game line with particular emphasis on the recent 1991 "Black Box" getting started game and a little more background on the BECMI sets of 1983 on.  He refers to this book as "complete" and "exhaustive", but he also says it is not a radical change, so it is not a "2nd Edition".



I REALLY wish I had read this article back in the day when I was dismissing D&D (BECMI flavor) because I was playing the more "adult" AD&D.  Yeah, yeah I was stupid. But I hope I have made up for that now.

Marcus L. Rowland is next with some more DM advice in "If I Ruled the World...", or how to deal with "Mad scientists, megalomaniacs, and their motives in gaming".  A great read really on how to think like a megalomaniac.  He gives some examples including some sample NPC (or sorts, broad strokes).  For me, the value is getting into the head of your mad villian in order to think about how and why they do what they do.  Whether you are Ming the Merciless, Lex Luthor or Dr. Evil you have to have your reasons and they need to make sense to you.

John C. Bunnell has some books include a few I remember.  A couple in particular by Daniel Cohen (Encylopedia of Ghosts, Encylopedia of Monsters) were always great fun.

Nice big ad for the combined Gen Con 25 and Origins Game Fair in Milwaukee.

Lawrence Schick is up with a quiz based on his new book Heroic Worlds, a History and Guide to Roleplaying Games.   I wonder if he still has it the quiz?

Part 24 of Voyage of the Princess Ark is up from Bruce Heard. Done up in a very "Gazeteer style" type article with some maps, data and letters included with the story.  Still makes me want to collect all of these for a longer retrospective.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice is next. Lots of Dark Sun questions.

Role of Computers covers the State of the Art for 1992.  Let's see...at this point in time I was either using a Tandy 1000 Ex that I got from sister in a trade. I bought her a Brother Word Processor, OR I was using this knocked together 286 I bought on one of the first grants I ever got for research.  Likely that one since I in 92 I took an extra year of my undergrad to get a minor in Computer Science and I was learning to write code in Pascal and C.  There is a review for Wing Commander. My roomate, who was getting a CS degree had one of the new-fangled 386 computers and he played that game all the time.  I didn't even remember that till I saw a screen shot in this magazine.

(note the mildew coming off of this magazine is about to kill me.  I need a break!)

Ok. Back.

So we have a lot of ads and the Convention Calendar for early 92. Sadly I missed the Egyptian Campaign at SIU Carbondale even though I certainly walked by it at least a few times.  Remember I was trying to get into grad school at this point.

The Forum is way in the back of the magazine this time, well compared to where it normally has been.

The Marvel Phile is up this time by Scott Davis and Steven E. Schend with a collection of superwomen.

Chris Perry has an oddly placed D&D-themed article (odd since it is near the end after the Marvel stuff) Defenders of the Hearth. This deals with Halflings and their priests.  While the game content is specifically AD&D 2nd Edition there is a lot here, most really, that can be used for every other edition after that.  In fact, I might just copy it for my kids to use.

Ad for a GDW game coming out in the Summer of the 92 that they are calling a "break through"  I am guessing it was for "Blood and Thunder" but I could be wrong.



Rare bit of topless mermaid in the fiction section, even if it is still firmly PG.

More high-tech equipment for GURPS Space.

Dragonmirth is next, but not at the end of the magazine!  Don't really recognize any of these anyway.

Small ads.

A few pages of minis in Through the Looking Glass. The rest are for larger, full page ads.
Two close to my heart. The Rules Cyclopedia, which is my interest these days and Ravenloft Guide to Vampires, one of my favorite Ravenloft books.


So not an issue I have read until today, so I have no memory to compare it too.
It is an interesting issue though all the same.  It looks like the Dragons I read as a kid, but there is a different feel.  Of course the difference is only in me really.  Still though plenty of good advice and a testiment that somethings never change.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #92

We are nearing the end of the mythic year 1984 where we had been warned that Big Brother is Watching You. Fast forward 34 years people ask why no one is watching them on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and so on.  On the big screen, Beverly Hills Cop is still bringing in cash. Wham! Madonna and Daryl Hall and John Oates rule the airwaves. It's December 1984 and this Issue #92 of This Old Dragon!

Oh I am in for a treat today. This is one of my favorite issues, wonder how it stacks up to my memory.  For starters, we have another beautiful Denis Beauvais cover featuring a dragon attack. I always liked seeing dragons on the cover of Dragon.  Seemed to make the issue special to me.

A quick peek at the contents tells me this is a cleric-themed issue, so I know I would have loved it back then.

Letters are still focused on falling damage. Well, at least one letter is.  Back then I loved that stuff, I even wrote a program for my Casio programmable calculator to do it.  Which of course led to discussions of is the gravity of my game world the same as Earth?  Today I'll just roll a d6 per 10 feet and be done with it.

The Forum has some more thoughts from readers on Katharine Kerr's Issue #89 Forum discussion about evil PCs.  I tried to play in a game once full of evil PCs. Didn't work. No one could trust anyone long enough to get things done.

Big ad for the "First D&D Fantasy Novel" Dragonlance's Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  We are getting to the so-called "Hickman Revolution" in D&D.  1985, as I have mentioned here many times, was a transitional year for the game and TSR.  We only see the hints here, ones that only reveal themselves in retrospect.  Then? I had no clue! I Was thrilled to be gaming every weekend.

Our first real article is by none other than the man himself. Gary Gygax's From the Sorcerer's Scroll feature gives us Clerics Live by Other Rules.  Today this advice is given, but back then it was as close to heresy (pardon the poor choice of words) if it had not been from Gygax himself.  To summarize Clerics should get spells and use weapons unique to their faith.   We would later see this in 2nd Ed AD&D with the Priest of specific mythoi and in later editions with domain spells.  But what Gygax is saying here goes beyond the dozen or score spells that are different.

Paul Vernon is up with First, spread the faith which is all about clerics remembering what their purpose really is; they are on a mission from their gods (to quote the high clerics Jake and Elwood Blues).
Bruce Barber takes this one step further in his The more, the merrier: How clerics can find new followers. Or cleric conversion rules.  I remember getting a Xerox copy of this and stapling it to my cleric's character sheet. The problem I ran into is that there were never enough NPCs that were not trying to kill us to convert.  Still it is a nice long article and has some good clerical advice that can still be used in any game today.

Kim Eastland and Dan Sample have some text and pictures from the 1984 Gen Con miniatures open.  I never read these in detail, my money never went to minis back then, but I loved the little Jabberwock at the end and always wanted one.

Speaking of minis, next page over is TSR coming attractions featuring a set of metal minis for the Indiana Jones game.  I don't remember if they ever got made, but those would be a prize today.

Ahh.  One of my faves is up.  The Suel Pantheon from Len Lakofka.  In this, the last of the series, we get Lydia, Bralm, and Jascar.  One day I want to collect all of these (issues 86 to 90 and 92) and look at them as a single work.  These gods and their write-ups were a nice working model of what Gygax was saying above about how clerics need to be different.

Let the horse buyer beware is an article on how to buy horses from Robert Harrison who is obviously pulling on a lot of real-world knowledge he has.  While I don't find this article particularly useful to me I do admire the work that went into it.

The Ecology articles are back from Ed Greenwood. This time taking on Ettins in 'Duh Cology of...Duh Ettin!  Again, given to us in-universe, even though that universe will not be available for another 2 years.  I think this is the first time I began to think of Ettins as two-headed orcs rather than two-headed hill giants.

Ed is back for more in Pages from the Mages III, another favorite feature of mine.  In particular, I remember going on a quest to recover Aubayreer's Workbook having only the glyph as a clue.  I don't remember all the details save that the quest was dangerous and the spells in the book were a bit anti-climatic given the quest.  Not that the spells are bad (hardly!) it is the quest was that hard.
This is also, at least from what I can tell, our very first mention of The Simbul, "the shapeshifting Mage-Queen".  I guess she is looking for a copy of this book too! I think I see a plot hook for my next Realms game (and playing on the events in The Simbul's gift).  MAYBE that quest was only half of the tale! Maybe the other half was really to get this book to The Simbul.  I am only 30+ years late.   Thank you Ed!  Of course, that is only one of FOUR magic books. The others also have great history and potential for adventures.

Book Reviews are up next.
One of the books reviewed is the famous "Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco.  Eco is required reading for anyone playing the WitchCraft RPG from Eden studios.  Name of the Rose needs to be required reading for anyone playing a cleric AND anyone who thinks playing a cleric is lame.

Our centerpiece is an adventure that I have ran on a couple of occasions. First it is for the D&D game (not AD&D).  Jon Mattson's The Sword of Justice.  It's nice little low-level adventure that can be snuck in between dungeons or other adventures. It is a nice mystery involving a missing sword, a mysterious elf (remember when elves were mysterious!) and a village full of scared but well meaning folk.  A tiny bit of tweaking here and there and it could be run under any edition of the game.  Yeah, even 4th (I thought about that version in particular. If I can convert it to 4th I can convert it to anything).

Big ad for the TSR 10th Anniversary game pack with four pages of game shops you can buy it from.  I checked the local listings and sadly only one or two reamin.  I am also kicking myself for not getting this.  Well...never had the chance really.

Let's see...
A review for the TOON game is up.  I liked the idea of this game, but never got a chance to play it.

Some advice for characters in DragonQuest, Going up and getting wet: How DRAGONQUEST natives climb and swim by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh.  DQ is another game I want to try someday.

The short fiction is The Multidimensional Caper by Mark Acres.  It is an interesting story and a good example of mixing D&D with Gangbusters.

The Ares section is up.
The Six Million Dollar Mutant covers cyborgs in Gamma World.

Jeff Grubb's Marvel Phile gives us some Heralds of Galactus.  I remember reading this one because I never understood the fascination with the Silver Surfer.  I got it, I think, a little more after this.

Ed going for three gives us (along with Penny Petticord) some answers to Star Questions on Star Frontiers.

Small ads and classifieds.
Con Calendar.

Ad from The Armory which looks exactly like the stand I bought some paint from over the weekend.

Wormy. Dragonmirth. SnarfQuest, where we are introduced to the Gagglezoomer for the first time.

Really a fun issue with a lot going on.  Plus it has a lot of material that I can still use today in my D&D 5e games.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf at the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #60.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #149

Grabbing the next issue of the top I see we are moving to the end of the 80s.  September 1989 I was in my Junior year at University.  I was not playing a lot, though I did have an occasional game going. AD&D 2nd Ed was the game on the shelves and tables, but it was still mixed with 1st Ed for the most part.  The music scene at the time was a vapid collection of soft AOR and look-a-like, sound-a-like hair metal bands.  To give you an idea Milli Vanilli was the number #1 act on the radio.  Tough times.  But we won't let that stop us. It's September 1989 and this is issue #149 of This Old Dragon!

The cover of this issue is one I remember fondly.  It is another really awesome piece by Robin Wood called "The Trinket".  Personally, it is the look of joy our protagonist has when she sees this little bauble that attracts me.

You can tell this is Roger Moore-era Dragon and not Kim Mohan-era.  The Moore era was a bit more stylized and had better layout and internal art. Also, most, if not all the magazine is in color.  I am not passing judgment. A lot of this can be attributed to evolution and better layout software.  In fact, there is very much a "Macintosh" feel to this.  I could be wrong though.

Also at this time, we begin to see names of people that are still active in the industry today.

Well, maybe not active in the strictest sense, but certainly infamous.  Case in point the big ad on the next page is for Mutazoids from "Whit Productions, Inc.", yes the first company from Ken Whitman.

This is followed by ads for various TSR book lines.  The novels got a HUGE pushback then and hundreds were written.

The Letters are a bit of fun.  I guess Issue #137 had a letter from a player discussing his 358-level Magic-user who had destroyed Greyhawk with a nuclear bomb he had invented. I guess he demanded that everyone mail in their character sheets so he could calculate Waldorf's XP.
I say he should have sent in Waldork's sheet for characters from other worlds to try to take him out. ;)

Sage Advice is up from Skip Williams.  This issue covers the new Player's Handbook for 2nd Edition AD&D.

Gregory W. Detwiler is up with our first real article, Magic for Beginners.  Basically some interesting ideas for magic items for 1st level characters.   While I try to avoid giving 1st level characters any magic, there are some great ideas here and ones that work with an edition of the game.  Except for maybe 4th.  4th Ed had some pretty detailed magic-item rules and budgets.

Few more pages in we get the 1988 Origins Awards winners.

The Dragon’s Bestiary: Not quite horses but perhaps better from Kurt Martin gives us a lot of different kinds of horses.  Interestingly enough the stats are still in 1st Edition. Or I suspect not so surprising.

Another Sage Advice of sorts again from Skip Williams.  This time on Gamma World 3rd Edition.

Ken Rolston is up with Orcs in Space!  Role-playing campaigns in Games Workshop’s  WARHAMMER 40,000 universe.  Or how to do more role-playing in WH4k.  My knowledge of any WH is limited to watching guys at my FLGS paint armies after armies and then playing on these huge tables in the game room.  This article addresses that perception and also talks about how to get more a role-play element in.

Articles are notably longer than previous issues.

Cheryl Peterson has a true oddity and one that really could only appear in a handful of issues around this time. Certainly not before and not really after either.  Kesmai and Beyond Updating the Island of Kesmai on-line fantasy game.  Now. By online they mean online via CompuServe.  So no graphical interface, but you can LOOK AT things or FIGHT them. If you are lucky you might even kill a monster and TAKE COINS.  I am being flip, but remember what it was like back then?  Suddenly you could interact with others, and time and distance did not matter!  Computers and computer gaming grew up with D&D and both influenced the other in a multitude of untold ways.

We get some boats and ships for Star Frontiers. No really.  From Freighters to Flying Boats Traveling the high seas in the STAR FRONTIERS game by Matthew M. Seabaugh details a lot of boats.  It's actually a neat idea.  In a couple more years Scotty will let the rest of his Enterprise crewmates know he is ready for retirement and he "just bought a boat".  So it's really not all that out there.

We get to the middle section and there are the small ads normally seen at the end of the magazine.  Makes me wonder if I am missing something, like a poster.

Richard W. Emerich has some advice on running games at Cons in Getting It Right the First Time.  It's a good article with solid advice.  Though the advice "Be prepared and run your adventure before you get to the con" won't give you the same pay-per-word count.

So there are some interesting ads in this issue.  Not the normal game-related ones but ads that I consider more mainstream.


American Heart Association, American Cancer Socity and the Give Five campaign.
Interesting really.  I wonder if the TSR management wanted to reach out to other sources of ad revenue.  Makes sense to me really.

Following these, we get the TSR Previews.  Heavy on the 2nd Edition books and Campaign books. 
In fact we get a nice big ad for the New Spelljammer system.

John C. Bunnell has some book reviews in the Role of Books.

The Role of Computers talks about the new Azure Bounds computer game.  I have to admit, I have a desire to try this game out as part of my Forgoten Realms education.  I seem to recall that their were for sale somewhere.  Anyone remember that?

In Role-Playing Reviews, Jim Bambra covers GURPS Autoduel, Cyberpunk and Top Secret SI Lancers.  Of these, R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk has had the longest lasting effect on the industry.  Not just for the system, or even the genre but for the introduction of "Maximum" Mike Pondsmith.  Mike had already given us Mekton and in a few more years he would give us the groundbreaking Castle Falkenstein.

Oddly enough the only article I can remember from this issue is this next one.  Time Marches On
An RPG campaign creates its own history as you play by Thomas M. Kane discusses that as the game moves on and ages it builds up it's own mythology.  I can remember sitting in my dorm and reading this, but nothing else in the issue.  Strange.

Con Calendar and Dragonmirth wraps up this issue.

So a good issue, but not a memorable one (well for me, but it was college).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #95

Ok, this really is less of a cheat than it might appear.  This issue was actually third on my list for this week, it gets promoted due to one article that I'll mention in a bit.  For now, it is March 1985, Madonna rules the radio and MTV.  Eddie Murphy dominates the silver screens with Beverly Hills Cop.  On the way to our shelves is Unearthed Arcana (more on that) but there now is issue #95 of This Old Dragon!

Our cover is something of a classic from Dean Morrissey.  I will admit I did not like it when this was new.  I liked the idea, but the cover left cold.  Over the years my mind has changed and I consider this one of my top 20 covers.  Not quite top 10, but certainly up there.

The table of contents promises a lot of things, but at the bottom we get a note from Kim Mohan.  Titled In defense of advertising Kim advises us to read the letters on the next page and then come back.  I'll talk about that in a bit.  This article is a defense of the number of ads in Dragon magazine.  He points out that while the magazine has grown the price, $3.00, has been consistent for nearly five years.  Having grown up in that time with a limited income from a paper route I appreciated the price stability.  Plus I *loved* the ads.  That's how I knew what was new and what was going on with other companies.  Some games I bought solely based on their ad in Dragon.

Ok Letters. Dan Fejes sends in one titled "Hard of hearing?" where he complains about the number of ads in the magazine AND the fact that the editors are "not listening to the readers".  Dan can't defend himself here, so me ripping into him is counter-productive.  But seriously?   I understand that no one is really made of money, but this sounds like typical entitled-gamer bullshit to me.  Unless he has a degree in economics where he can show his price per useful content ratio is somehow less...but I digress.  Forget Dan. I love the ads.  My only beef is when the ads went exclusively to TSR. But that is some time away yet.

Speaking of ads...We get our first look at the nearly-mythical D&D Set 3: Companion Rules!


Suck it Dan.

Gary is up first with Demi-humans Get a Lift in his From the Sorcerer's Scroll feature. This covers the new level and class limits for Demi-humans in the AD&D game.  A preview of sorts for the new Unearthed Arcana he announces at the end of the article.  We also get an update on the D&D movie.  That is to say that there is still a D&D movie being shopped around.
Gary mentions that Gen Con was attended by 8,000 people, the most ever of this kind of convention.  I bet it will grow!  This is cover some sort of argument over which one con was better/larger Gen Con vs. Origins.

Here is the article that bumped this issue to the head of the queue today.
The influence of J. R. R. Tolkien on the D&D® and AD&D® games. Why Middle Earth is not part of the game world by Gary Gygax.
Let's take a moment and remember when this article was written.  1985.  I.C.E. has the MERP game now and TSR has already had a litigious past with the Tolkien estate.  I am going to forward this quote first,
The popularity of Professor Tolkien’s fantasy works did encourage me to develop my own. But while there are bits and pieces of his works reflected hazily in mine, I believe that his influence, as a whole, is quite minimal.
- Gary Gygax, p. 12. Dragon 95, March 1985.
Now there are plenty of reasons for him to state this, and he follows up in the article going over now well known ground on how the pulps, Howard in particular, were the source of most of his fantasy thoughts.  None of this is really in dispute.  What follows is a breakdown of creatures D&D and Tolkien share in common and where Tolkien might have derieved them.  All of which has the benefit of being true, we know this from Tolkien's own letters, and completely not really the point.
Gygax might be trying to make the point that D&D would have come about with or without Tolkien. He might be right, but it would certainly not have come out like it was in 85.  The fertile ground that D&D grew in was tilled by Tolkien.  Others have also tilled and sown those fields, but our good professor did a little more than his fair share of work.  Plus I can't help but feel there is a bit of revisionism going on here.  Lest we forget that the original D&D rules featured Hobbits, Ents and Balorgs by those names.  Halflings in D&D are defacto Hobbits right down to their hairy feet and subrace names. Harfoots, Fallowhides, and Stoors for Tolkien and Hairfoots, Tallfellows and Stouts for AD&D.  I am not going to belabor this point really other than to point out that Gary is both correct and wrong in his article.  How much of this was oversight or even on advice from his lawyers we will really never know.  There have been a number of follow-up articles, interviews and the like since then and right on up to his death.
For me. I am content that Tolkien is a model of a good D&D world. Maybe not a by-the-book one (any or either book) but for me, Tolkien and D&D have been together since the very, very beginning.

Whew!  We are only on page 15!

The Convention Calendar is up.  I see my FLGS is having a Game Day on March 30.

Yes. They are still open and they still have the same phone number!  Well, the area code has changed twice since this ad.  It is now 847-577-9656.  Not too bad really.  Want to buy a copy of the Dragons I review?  I usually buy them here!

Ok I do want to talk about this ad.


So DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was apart of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even that did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   You can still buy the game directly from the publisher.
Anyone ever play this game?

Next up is How taxes take their toll: The king’s collectors don’t have it easy, either by Arthur Collins is done as a faux interview.  The basic premise is how to do taxes in your fantasy medieval world.

Ecology of the Cockatrice is next from Ed Greenwood.  He has another entry later on. This is another good piece and reminds me why I liked these "Ecology of" articles so much.  They can take an uninteresting monster and really do a lot with it.

In the days before the internet, this next article by Glenn Rahman was pure gold.  Prices for the Roaring 20’s: A way to measure PCs’ purchasing power gives us price lists. I remember sitting in my then local library for hours looking up prices for one of the first Victorian-era games I ever ran.  Now it is a click away.

Katharine Kerr is back with more advice on experience rules in Credit where credit is due. This article looks to examples from other games to award some non-combat experience and in particular the use of skills.

Next is an article I actually used quite a bit. The many shapes of apes: Giving primates the attention they deserve by Stephen Inniss gives us some stats for various primates including the Gigantopithecus, which I used quite a lot.

We get to the main feature of this issue. A new mid-level adventure from Ed Greenwood called Into the Forgotten Realms.   This might not be the first official Forgotten Realms entry in the pages of Dragon, but it is the biggest so far.  Run as a tournament module at Gen Con 1984, this adventure has you begin in the Realms. There are characters provided.  It has been my plan to use this adventure in my Realms based game someday. I am still planning this.  It looks really fun to be honest.

Battles above the dungeon by Tim W. Brown has advice for combat in open spaces.

The fiction section is next, Desperate Acts, I know nothing of the story save that it has one of my favorite pieces of art to appear in a Dragon magazine. No surprise it is by Denis Beauvais.


I thought she was an awesome looking character.

The Ares section is next.

We get some new starships for the Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks game NOW back in print.

Penny Petticord has some answers to various GammaWorld questions.

Jeff Grubb talks Iron Man in the Marvel-Phile.  Though at this point it is Rhodey wearing the armor of Iron Man and not Tony.

We get Dolphins as a space-farring race for RingWorld by Sherman Kahn.  Now we know how they left Earth in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.  Interestingly enough a Star Trek TNG novel had dolphin crew member and I always pictured this art for it.

Small ads.
Big ad for Gen Con 18.

Wormy, Dragonmirth and Snarf.

Wow.  What another packed issue.  So much here that I remembered and so much more I had forgotten.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time period?  Have a look at White Dwarf Wednesday #63.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #52

It's August 1981.  I am hitting what is about to become the "Golden Years" of my D&D Basic playing.  Up to this point, I had been relying on a poorly Xeroxed copy of Holmes Basic (I never even knew what the cover was till almost now) and some monsters from the AD&D Monster Manual.  I had started playing a year and half before because of my interest in Greek myths.  So that had lead me to the MM and then to D&D proper. Though I was still not exactly playing proper D&D. Just a DIY version that I think many gamers of a certain age went through.  From here though I discovered The Hobbit, Tolkien and the wonderful world of Fantasy Art.  Seriously, no issue of Dragon has better captured what was going on in my life than this Issue #52 of This Old Dragon!

Ok. Let's stop here and look at this cover.  The Art is pure fantasy, but not really D&D is it.  Doesn't matter.  Dragon has had some great artists grace their covers over the decades. Many started here and got famous. Some were famous before but still growing in their fame.  Not this artist.  This is Boris Vallejo.  He was famous and popular before this.  Dragon made a lot of A-listers in the world of fantasy art, but Boris was an A-lister already.  Let's look at this cover again.  A Faerie Dragon hatching from an egg. A woman looks on (likely a faerie herself) while mountains float in the background.  It's not D&D as it was then, but it could should have been.  I want to rank this among my favorite covers, but that feels unfair.  Kinda like watching Michael Jordan join the 92 Dream Team in the Olympics.  Yes we love Mike, yes we know that he is going to kick everyone's ass. But he is the best professional there is and everyone else he meets is also great, but only at the start of their career. Still, we have more Boris in this issue and I have not even opened it up yet!

Next page is a big ad for new D&D Basic Set.  I loved these ads and wanted to find them all to see how the story progressed.


The Dragon Rumbles deals with the various different looking dragons that have appeared on their covers the last few issues.   Gamers like things to be well defined I guess. I know I was no different then.  Also don't give money to Michael Stoner and his Beholder Zine.  I guess a bunch of readers did and he ran off with the cash.  Some things never change.

The Letters cover various praise and criticism of the last few magazines.   It's issue 52 and some readers want Dragon to "go back to the way it was".  What was I saying about change?

Robert Plamondon is up first with a feature on Clerics in The Role of the Cleric.    This is immediately followed by This Land is My Land... by Douglas Loss which also covers clerics, churches and land and The Sense of Sacrifices also by Douglas Loss.
All articles strive to give the players of clerics more insight on how to play these classes with an eye towards medieval realism AND good fantasy play.  In a way this pre-sages the "feature" issues we will see more of in the next 5 to 6 years.

Sage Advice covers various questions about spells and a lot about clerics.  If you are into clerics then this is a good issue to look back too.  Interesting how there is so much in this issue that appeals to me now AND would have appealed to me then as well.  In 81 I was all about clerics, Basic D&D and already thinking a little about my future witch classes.

The next article is a two for one deal, and a must read for any student of D&D's history.
Basic D&D Points of View...From the Editors Old and New by J. Eric Holmes and Tom Moldvay is a fascinating look back at the "1st Edition Basic Game" and the "2nd Edition Basic Game".  There is an interesting disclaimer on the first page of the article that says "the opinions expressed are those of the authors and not Dragon or TSR."  Interesting. I wonder what they say to merit such a notice.


Holmes is first discussing his version of the Basic rules.  His rules, he says, were designed to teach people how to play the game that had not seen the game played before.  By contrast, the "three little brown books" (what we refer to as "White Box" today) were for people already playing and are "incomprehensible" to new players (his words, not mine, but I tend to agree).
Here we learn that Holmes had the express permission from Gary to create a "beginners guide" to D&D.  He used wording from the White Box where he could and he wanted a Spell Point system (!) that Gary quickly rejected.   The classes chosen were the ones they felt starting players would want to try.  Given this logic, there is a clearer path to AD&D from Holmes Basic D&D. 
Holmes then compares his edition to Moldvay's "2nd Edition".  We are given reasons for the simplified alignment system and for the use of a Caller.  In general, I get the feeling that he approves of it and lauds many of the new ideas it brings.
Moldvay says his piece on why a new edition of the Basic set was even needed.  I think anyone that has read and played both editions can see the reasoning now but was the reasoning then?  Well, they wanted to correct some of the flaws found in the earlier edition (corrections that Holmes applauds) and they wanted the rules to follow the same outline as the upcoming Expert edition. So now Basic flows to Expert and not to Advanced. This shift seems to come from the idea that that Basic rules need to be flexible to allow the DM to do what they want while AD&D needs to be more rigid and codified.  I wonder though, what was the business decision to move to a new separate path of D&D? Not just what gave us the Moldvay D&D, but what prompted the desire for an Expert Set so that a new Moldvay-edited Basic was needed?

I can go on forever about Basic D&D. But we are only to page 17 as is!

Moving on we get a new one from Len Lakofka in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This is so new in fact that I think this might be the first ever Tiny Hut article ever!  There is an introduction by Gary himself.  This installment covers giving more depth to the humans of the Flanaess.  Cool article and one that every Greyhawk DM should have handy.  Actually, it is good for most DMs. The article is pretty long, longer than most Tiny Hut articles in my memory.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh gives us The Undercover Job Guide for Top Secret, though I think it could work with any spy game.  I have to admit looking at the starting salaries for some of these jobs in 1981 is interesting.

Bryce Knorr has the big feature of this issue. Boris details the life and art of Boris Vallejo.
We get eight pages of information about the man and his art.  I would have liked to have seen more art, to be honest, but I understand that it could not have been cheap to get us what we see.  Also there four photos of the artist that are all essentially the same. Not sure why that was included.  The article itself is very interesting

Giants of the Earth is next. This time Katharine Kerr covers sorcerers that like to hang out on islands.  We have Shakespeare's Prospero, Ariel, and Caliban. Though sadly no Sycorax.
She does give me a wonderful version of Circe though.  Circe, of course, is a Magic-User here, but I built my own version as a witch and shared that with you all yesterday.



Our centerpiece is an introductory Gamma World adventure Cavern of the Sub-Train by Gary Jaquet. A fun adventure on a subway line.  A fun little adventure that captures what I liked best about Gamma World; taking something as mundane as a subway line and turning it into something exciting and dangerous.

Ooo. Just when I thought the issue could not get better we get a Dragon's Bestiary!  Victor Selby and Ed Greenwood give us a lizard thing in the form of the Rhaumbusun and the vaguely Lovecraftian Pelins by Lewis Pulsipher. 

Ok. If you are keeping score at home this issue has content from Ed Greenwood, Lew Pulsipher, a bit from Gary Gygax, Tom Moldvay, Eric Holmes, Katherine Kerr and Len Lakofka. Oh. And art by Boris.  To quote a popular song on the radio of the time "They Don't Write Like that Anymore"!

Michael Kluever has a good bit on the history of siege warfare in Knock! Knock!
Great if you can't tell your catapult from a trebuchet.

Next, we get a new class. No! Three versions of the same new class!
In Wanted: the editors tell us about getting three new Bounty Hunter classes all at once and they can't tell which one is the best.
The contributors are Scott Bennie, Tom Armstrong, Robert L. Tussey,  and Kenneth Strunk. With the last two giving us our last Bounty Hunter class.
Back in the day, I would have totally worked out one class from these three.  I wonder if I should try it for a Class Struggles someday.  That could be fun really.

Lew Pulsipher is back again with some DM advice in To err is human, to repair divine.  It's interesting since a lot of it runs very counter to the adversarial DM philosophy that was popular then and often misattributed to all old school DMs and creators.
This is followed up with The best DMs will look further than the book by Tom Armstrong.
Both articles could be reprinted today and still hold 100% true and valuable.

The Minarian Chronicles continue with The evolution of the Shucassamites by Glenn Rahman.  I really don't have enough of a background to speak to this, to be honest, but I am fascinated about learning some more.

And the hits keep on coming!  John Prados is next with his Simulation Corner (a feature that completely predates my first time encounters with Dragon).  His continuing series is on game design, or maybe I should say his first one since this is 1: Choosing a Topic.  I love all the Game Design posts, blogs and videos I can get to today, but some of what they are saying was already said here if we decide to go looking for it.   In this overview, though he mentions some of the new up and comers in game design that sadly are not around at all today.  If there is a meta-lesson here it is while game design is not rocket science, managing a game company still takes a fair amount of knowledge, skill and no short amount of luck. 

Reviews are next and we look to another "Basic" this time Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying, reviewed by John T. Sapienza, Jr. in Basic Role-Playing Made Easy.  He gives these basic rules a "highly recommended".  Given that the same rules still exist more or less in the same format and guise some 36+ years later it is a good indication that he was correct in his assessment.

Off the Shelf reviews books by Larry Niven, Robert Adams, and C.J. Cherryh.  A paperback book will set you back $3.00. 

We get some comics namely What's New and Wormy. But none of the small ads that dominated the pages before the comics.

Wow. Seriously. How packed was this issue?
When Ed Greenwood is providing the "lesser" content you know it is good. 

This is Dragon at it's best.  Great articles, helpful tips and plenty of things you can use on your table for $3.00. 

Want to know what White Dwarf was doing at this time?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #20.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This Old Dragon for 2018!

I am still on vacation and it has been great.  I might even get out of my sweatpants today! Ok...to be fair I have been on the treadmill every day this week and I have shoveled snow.

What's that all mean to you good reader?
Well no "This Old Dragon" today.  Sorry.

But I have many more Dragons to give you.


I also was given a nice gift.  A friend of mine sent me his copies of the Strategic Review.
So I could add those to the mix or maybe when I am done with these Dragons.

Hope your 2018 is going well so far.  I have reviews, games and more to bring you!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This Old Dragon #148

Jumping ahead this week to go solidly into the 2nd AD&D era.  Or is it?  A brief look at the table of contents tells me that 1st Ed is not going away so quietly.  It's August 1989.  I am a Junior in University now.  D&D has had to take a back seat since I am now in a lot of "honors" level courses, I am even eyeing grad schools now.  I do still have my notes about my witch class still from this time. I spent the summer working but also playing in some D&D games.  I began to convert her from a stand-alone 1st ed class to a sub-class of the Priest.  So let's see what else was going on in This Old Dragon #148.

This is not a cover I remember well. At first, it looked like a Clyde Caldwell painting, only not enough.  It is by Ned Dameron and I guess it was enough that there is an editorial about it.

The theme of this issue appears to be loosely collected around fighters and fighting.

Big ads for Ghostbuster International and AD&D 2nd Ed.  While Dragon is becoming more and more D&D focused we are getting more and more other types of games. 

Letters cover a wide variety of issues.  Most importantly we learn that Jeff Grubb has moved on to other projects with TSR and the Marvel-Phile will not appear as regularly as it used to. 

The Editorial covers issues of art looking like other art.  In particular some dragons on the cover of 146 looking like some form the cover a Larry Niven book. Also, this month's cover looks similar to last months Clyde Caldwell cover.  They talk about how they see the same ideas over and over and how hard it is to have a truly original idea.  Case in point, they talk about Wood Golems. At about this time I had also come up with my own Wood Golem, the Druther, and thought I was being very clever about it.  Later I discovered, no wood golems are actually pretty common.

Skip Williams is up with Sage Advice. This month he covers the 2nd Edition Player's Handbook.  Some stem from translation from 1st Ed ("Can Halflings become clerics?") to typos ("page 44 is right, page 45 is wrong"). 

Fighting the Good Fight is our featured theme section this month.  Maybe why I did not buy this issue since I tended to focus on magic using classes.

Gordon R. Menzies discusses armor in Always Wear Your Best Suit. Armor enameling, engraving and decorations are discussed. Some increase the value of the armor other might have a small AC bonus.

Tracking Down the Barbarian by David Howery shows that 1st Edition is not going to go quietly off to the Old Games Home.  This is a revised barbarian class for 1st ed.  Making this what, the 3rd or 4th barbarian we have seen?  Now if the barbarian was a class I was interested in I'd roll up some, each using a different take on the class.  Maybe something Celtic.  Could be fun.

Scott Bennie takes on a topic closer to my heart with "Good" Does Not Mean "Boring". He talks about the 1st Ed Paladin. This immediately brought the Gary Gygax article Good isn't stupid, Paladins & Rangers, from Dragon #38 just over 9 years before (the same article where Gygax says that female dwarves DO have beards). This article goes into much more detail about Paladins than the Gygax one did.  Indeed, reading this over now I see a lot of good advice for D&D 5e Paladins as well.  There is also a Paladin-Cavalier class.

Speaking of which, the next article is all about the Cavalier.  The Corrected Cavalier by David Howery is another attempt to give us a working Cavalier class for 1st ed.
Now I like the cavalier class, always did.  I think I would have rather seen a 2nd Ed Cavalier.  I know now that one was coming in the Fighters book, but I didn't know that then.

Bruce Kvam breaks out the theme with Arcane Lore: Can a wizard cure your light wounds? No, but... . Or healing like spells a wizard can use.   Again this is a 1st Ed focused article.  Lots of interesting spells here, but really designed for a party that wants a wizard, but no cleric.

TSR Previews is up next.  The big ones are The Monstrous Compendium vol. 1 for July and the new Dungeon Masters Guide for August.  I have to admit that the 2nd Ed DMG was a bit of a disappointment compared to the vast tome that the 1st ed DMG was.

Robin Jenkins has a short story about the Deck of Many Things, in Luck of the Draw.  It also includes some rules and some notes, so it really feels more like an "Ecology of..." article.

The Game Wizards covers SPI's Sniper game on the Mac.

Jim Bambra has some Reviews, mostly featured on monsters.  Ents for MERP, Trolls for Rune Quest, the Orcs of Thar by +Bruce Heard and the Bestiary of Dragons and Giants both for D&D.  The D&D products are also ones I still use to this day.

The Role of Computers covers the then state of the art software.  I am hesitant to say too much about these articles.  The biggest issue is I was not really playing these games all that much back then.  When this article came out I owned my second computer, a Tandy Color Computer 3.  It was as expanded as much as I could make it at the time and it got me through my undergrad days well enough.  But aside from Rogue there were no games I could play on it.  It would not be till my fifth computer in 92, a Gateway 2000 486 that I had anything like a "real" powerful computer.

We have some small ads next.

Jim Bambra is back with a fantastic article covering the D&D (B/X and BECMI) Gazeteers in Around The World In 36 Levels.   This one of those articles that really needs to be reprinted or revisited with new eyes.  The article is long and really gives you a good idea of what to expect in the books.  2nd Ed may be king of the 90s, but I like to think there was a time and maybe places where BECMI and the Known World rulled.   This article begins with a good overview of the splt between AD&D and D&D that really should be a must read.

Robert Bigelow covers minis in Through the Looking Glass.

Watch Your Step! by Thomas M. Kane details landmines in the Top Secret SI games.

The Con Calendar is a whopping 3 pages for just the next few months. When was the Golden Age of Cons?  Was there a time where there was a good one every week?

Dragonmirth has some comics. 
Yamara is here.  I never knew exactly when this one started. 
None of the comics though I remember are here anymore.  End of another era I guess.

Big ads for Sniper, the 1990 TSR calendar, and the new Dungeon! board game.



I don't really have any memories of this issue. I am sure it was not one I bought. 

If I ever play 1st ed again I am certainly going to have to comeback to this issue.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #55

Let's go WAY back today to issue that is falling apart as I read it.  Hall and Oates have the number 1 spot on the radio. Time Bandits, the first of the great "Trilogy of Imagination" from former Python Terry Gilliam.  Tell me you didn't try to use those "time holes" at least once in your games. It's November 1981. I am in 8th grade and playing Basic/Expert D&D all the time with bits of AD&D. This is issue #55 of This Old Dragon!

Oh my, but is this an issue of treasures!  Let's start with the cover.  Erol Otus in his weird best.  Looks like the same cave system our intrepid adventures are battling a dragon in on the cover the Basic Set.
Otus is one of those artist people either love or hate. I always loved his style and subjects, but sometimes it was like viewing D&D while on mushrooms.   I mean seriously, what the hell is that thing? Why does it have such perfect teeth? Who is that little gnome dude and what the hell is his staff for?  I have no answers but I think D&D is better off in general because of EO.  I am not sure what that thing is but as DM I'd love to stick him into a dungeon.  As someone that appreciates art though I don't want to define it. Stay weird giant toothy slug monster. Stay weird.

The next page is one of the true odd and rare finds in the D&D merchandising landscape.  The official Dungeons & Dragons portfolios.  I had one of these way back when, but it got destroyed. Now they go for outrageous sums on eBay.  I used to keep characters in it and I had it till about the late 80s.


A feature missing from newer incarnations of Dragon is here; Cover to Cover. Which...hmm...covers what is going on in this issue.  No need to detail it here since that is what I am doing anyway.

The Letters section cover various topics from previous issues including some discussion on the Monk class.   I never fely that *D&D got a good grip on the what the monk was supposed to be in D&D until about 3rd Edition.

Up next is the first big controversy in AD&D that I can remember.  The Fiend Folio and whether or not it is any good.
Up first is Ed Greenwood with Flat Taste Didn't Go Away.  Ouch. That is a bit harsh Ed and the article doesn't get much lighter. I am sure there were plenty of old-school AD&D fans who were at the time saying "Who the hell is this Ed Greenwood guy and why do I care about his opinion?"  Sy though, Ed is no fan of this book and calls many of the monsters incomplete, inadequate and many are redundant.  AND to be 100% fair he is making some very good points here. The editing is all over the place, many of the monsters are useless or way overpowered in some respects.
Alan Zumwalt follows this with Observations of a Semi-Satisfied Customer.  An endorsement, but not the ringing endorsement one might want.
Not to be forgotten Don Turnbull,  Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd. and Editor of the FIEND FOLIO Tome ends with his Apologies - and Arguments; his defense of the Fiend Folio.
All three articles make good points and overreach in others. In the end, I still love the Fiend Folio, not despite its weirdness, but because of it.  I have decided though that when I run a pure Forgotten Realms game that I will not include any of the monsters that Ed found objectionable.  I was going to say not include any from this book, but that includes Drow and we know that isn't going to happen!

What were your thoughts on the Fiend Folio?

We follow this with a big ad for White Dwarf. You know those guys that gave us the Fiend Folio in the first place? (more or less).

Ah. Now here is something fun.
Lawrence Schick has a nice big article on Dinosaurs, New Theories for Old Monsters.  Plenty of stats of various prehistoric beasts are given. I am not sure if these would later appear in the Monser Manual II or not but they feel familiar.

The man himself is back with a new From the Sorcerer's Scroll. Gary lets us know he is still working on the Temple of Elemental Evil (it doesn't quite come out the way he wants) and more on Greyhawk.  A lot of this in one form or another would later reappear in the Greyhawk Boxed set.

Ever want to include Robin Hood and his merry men in your game?


Well thanks to Katharine Kerr you can! Robin, Wil Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham himself (looking exactly like Roger Delgado as The Master from Doctor Who).


The fiction section is next and holy shit! It's Gardner Fox! Fox might not be the biggest name in D&D but in comics? I put him in the pantheon of the Great Old Gods like Kirby and Lee.   I have not read The Coming of the Sword, but I think I should.  It is an installment in the saga of Niall the Far-Traveler.  This is exactly the sort of thing I love finding in these old dragons. Gardner Fox..."slumming" at Dragon! The story looks cool and it's actually pretty long.

Our centerpiece is another rarity.  A D&D Basic-Set adventure.  Seriously. Is this like the most 1981 issue ever?? The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth is a Basic D&D adventure for 2 to 12(!) characters under 3rd level. It is a nice combination of exploration, plot-driven mystery,  and dungeon crawl with a freaking dragon at the end! It makes for a great introduction adventure really and one that can be easily adapted to any version of the game.

The Electric Eye has answers to last month's computer terminology quiz.  At this point in time, I am learning to program in BASIC on the very high tech TRS-80 Model III in my school.

The many ways of getting away: Methods and magic to keep your character out of the crypt by Pat Reinken covers the many ways your character can avoid death.  Or as I like to call it, Advanced Running Away.

Jon Mattson is next with some Traveller advice on skills in Filling in Skills, Experience, service-switching make TRAVELLER more ability-oriented.  I have mentioned in my reveiws of White Dwarf I was already taking a pass on Traveler at this point.  I was gravitating more towards Chill and other horror games and I could not find anyone to play Traveller with.

The Monuments of Minaria is the next installment of the Minarian Legends series for the Divine Right game.  Though I get the feeling that one is not only expected to convert to other games (coughD&Dcough) but encouraged too.

Dragon's Bestiary is next. What a nightmarish mix! The Devil Spider, with text and art by Erol Otus.  The Surchur by Jeff Brandt and the Dyll by Ed Greenwood.  We also get a new, non-evil but very chaotic, version of the Poltergeist by Craig Stenseth.

Practicing Game Design IV: State of the Art is the fourth of a five-part miniseries
in Jack Parados' Simulation Corner that gives a detailed but non-technical answer to the question of how to make a game.  This month covers the experiences the author has had with successful game designers.

Jeff Swycaffer reviews the Universe RPG in Universe is an Artistic Triumph. I have always been curious about this game.  He deems it superior to Traveller in almost every respect.

Kim Mohan reviews some gaming accessories.
Various minis, back when they were still made of lead.

Next, we have a real oddity.  A Larry Elmore penned and drawn comic "Da Letter" that can only be described as Proto-Snarf.  I am a bit surprised this never comes up in discussions of Snarf Quest.




Phil and Dixie are still in Black & White at this point.
Wormy is in color.

So. Wow.  What an issue.  Not just for crazy nostalgia fun, but for being so packed full of great stuff.  AND stuff I can still use today really.  The Basic set adventure, Robin Hood, all sorts of great stuff here.  I am glad I took extra time on this one (I started reading it two weeks ago!)

Now compare this issue to what was happing in White Dwarf #27 from the same time in my White Dwarf Wednesday #27.  Similar themes but White Dwarf was moving more towards Traveller at this point.  Mimics the gaming scene I was in during the last days of 1981.  I was digging D&D Basic but a good sized chunk was headed to Traveller.

What are your memories of this time?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #105

I remember the start of 1986 as being a very cold one.  Of course this is the month that the Challenger exploded on take off forever changing how we felt about our space program.
I was in the middle of my Junior year in High School. My regular DM was going to graduate and move on so we started a campaign that mimicked WW I mixed with Crisis on Infinite Earths (which was the biggest thing happening in comics at the time).  It was so big that depending on where you were in the game world it was called The Shadow Wars, the Dragon Wars or even the Demon Wars.  It had a huge impact on my game world and how I later played in college.   In fact, this issue gave me some ideas for the group of characters I was playing at the time that were central to the fight.  So without further ado, it's January 1986 and this is issue #105 of This Old Dragon!

This cover was also one of my favorites.  A flying wizard attacking giant bats? How cool is that! Seriously that is pretty hardcore.

This is issue comes just before the "themed" issues later in the 80s. It has the same look and feel but there is still some evolution happing here.

Letters, as has been a while and will continue to do so, covers clarifications of the new Unearthed Arcana rules.  In particular getting the rules to work with other classes that have appeared in Dragon.  This is exactly the sort of thing that must have gotten the think tank at TSR to work towards a newer version of the AD&D game. After 12 years things just were not holding together on the fringes as well.

Big ad for the new Dragonlance Legends series.  I thought the Legends were a much better set of books than the first trilogy, The Chronicles.  The scope was larger, but also more personable.

Speaking of Unearthed Arcana, Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature in Tone Down the Demi-Humans.  Or putting some caps on the power of the new demi-human races.  Of the four, Wild Elves, Gray Dwarves, Deep Gnomes, and Drow, I agree with him on the Drow.  So much in fact that I banned them as a PC race until only very recently.  There was one very notable exception, also see that below.  No one ever played a Deep Gnome or a Gray Dwarf in my games for me to have a strong opinion about them.

Paul Vernon is up with Travel Works Both Ways. This is a guide for people (and things) the PCs are likely to meet on the road. Great for any type of hex-crawl or sandbox game.  It also fits into the larger philosophy I use in my games that the PCs are not the only ones in the world.  They might be the center of attention, but there are others.

Seeing is Believing by Geoffrey Meissner is one of those articles that had immediate and profound effects on my game.  Essentially it covers the three types of invisibility you can do in the AD&D game: Light-based, illusion-based, or psychic.   Since we were at the time heavy into psionics we used, and abused, the shit of this.  If you used the Invisibility spell well then no one could see you, but your thoughts would still give you away to a psychic. If you used the psionic power of invisibility then people didn't "want" to see you, but a mindless creature (undead, construct) could.  We got very, very particular about it.   I have eased back on it in more recent years, but it's still something I consider.

We get a little bit more on Centaurs in The rest of the Papers. No author given, but a followup to the Centaur Papers.

Ed Greenwood is up with The well-equipped victim: A “treasure type” system for 0-level encounters.  Exactly what is sounds like, what 0-level humans/humanoids would have on them.  In retrospect, this feels like a "Realms" article. It certainly has the vibe we will later see in the realms where people are more important than monsters (even if some of those people are monsters).   Five pages of "stuff" people can carry.   Now what I get from this is a good "normal setting" on what we can expect people to have.  PCs causally throw around gold pieces, but not everyone can or should do that.

Ah. Now here is something very near and dear to my heart.  Especially back then.
Fraser Sherman gives us A world of difference: The parallel concept expands gaming horizons, an article on how to use parallel worlds in your AD&D game.  I had already mentioned that DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths was already having a huge impact on my games at the time, but I had also just read Job: A Comedy of Justice and The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein.  I would later pick up Frederik Pohl's The Coming of the Quantum Cats having read the first part in my Pre-calc class when I borrowed a friend's copy of Omni.
Parallel Earth/Universes played a huge, huge part of my gaming then and now.  This article did not tell me anything I didn't already know, but it was a springboard AND an excuse to go crazy with the idea.  I would later gleefully steal the "D-Hopper" from the Myth Adventures series to make travel between the dimensions easier than travel between the continents of the same world.

Our centerpiece is an AD&D adventure, Betrayed!, for characters 3rd to 5th level by Jim Bengtson.
I will admit I never ran this or even read it in great detail. It looks like it could be fun and got me thinking I really need to run a murder mystery style adventure again.

Merle M. Rasmussen has Spy's Advice or some advice for Top Secret.

One of the first TSR Profiles I remember is up. This time featuring EIC Kim Mohan and Managing Editor Pat Price.

The fiction section is On the Rocks at Slab's which I am sure is related to Well Bottled at Slab's.

The Ares Section is next.

We get some alliances in Rites of Passage for Gamma World.

The Marvel-Phile deals a lot of snake-themed villains.  This article had a huge impact on my AD&D game.  Not because of the content, but the idea.  I created as my central characters for the this world ending war mentioned above a street gang known as the "Spider Society".  These were my characters built from Unearthed Arcana.  There was the Thief-Acrobat Eric "Spyder" Masters, a fighter (with all the specialization) Kiev Scorpius and drow (this was the exception) assassin "Arachnia".  I liked the idea of running a group of first level characters in some adventures of this war along with my high-level characters in other adventures in the war.  It was a lot of fun.

Up next are some optional rules for Villains & Vigilantes.  Not sure they will port over to the new Mighty Protectors, but there are some good ideas here. Such as lethal attacks (must be the late 80s!) and threatening civilians (yeah, definantly the late 80s).

Big Guns covers tanks and other military equipment for Marvel Super Heroes.

Expanding the Frontier gives us ideas on how to (basically) do Star Trek with Star Frontiers.  It's actually a good read and one I wish I had made more use of.

Con Calendar, Small Ads, Wormy, Dragonmirth and Snarf.
Dragonmirth has one of the few cartoons I still remember to this day.


Not a watershed issue for me, but certainly a very memorable one and a very useful one.

Want to know what I Was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #73.
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