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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #167

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Con Calendar is huge this month.

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

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

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

Ah, here are the small ads and classifieds.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #94

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some pictures from a recent miniatures contest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small ads follow this.

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

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

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We get some ads.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #65

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ad for the RPGA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #80

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So. Moving on.

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

Cool ads for Star Fleet Battles and Fantasy Games Unlimited.

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

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

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

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

More small ads.  The con calendar.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #61

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It also features a pre-Ferris Bueller Allan Ruck.

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

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

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
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 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.
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