Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #89

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rise! Tharizdûn!

Spent some quality time with the Order of the Platinum Dragon this weekend.

These guys:


They just cleared out the first level of the Hall of the Fire Giant King and are now headed down to the second level.  They have encountered the first bit of solid proof of the Drow interference.

We (You and I that is, not the players or the characters) that they will eventually encounter Lolth.


She should put up a pretty good fight.  What happens to her depends on the actions of the characters.

After that there is a real good chance that they (or they along with the Second Campaign Characters) will also have to fight Orcus.


He looks a lot tougher.

But the problem is that they are not the "big bads" of my 5e games.  All my campaigns will link up at the end to fight the mastermind pulling all the strings.

Tharizdûn!


Yup. I know that is a WoW figure (Demon Form Illidan Stormrage), but he works perfectly as Tharizdûn as I envision him.  Part drow, part demon, part dragon, part devil.

Tharizdûn, through Asmodeus and Graz'zt, have manipulated the characters (in all three campaigns), Lolth, Orcus and scores of other demons to locate the Chaos stones. Once collected the PCs will think they are using them to save the world, but really it is the key to Tharizdûn's prison.  Blocking out the sun is a herald of his return.

I'll get more details on how this is all going to work in future posts.
Right now I need to make some minor alterations to that figure.  I need to find some chains to wrap around his wrists and ankles to show that he had been imprisoned.


My players have not seen this figure yet. I plan on keeping it hidden till he is released.

Now to come up with some appropriate stats for him.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #114

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neat, full color ad for the Immortals set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fruits of 30 years:

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


Which one is next?


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Witches (and Warlocks) of Swords & Wizardry

This is a post I have been meaning to do for a while.  Collect all my Swords & Wizardry Witch books in one place.

Roughly in reverse publishing order.

The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry



The Witch: Hedgewitch for the Hero's Journey RPG


The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry



The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Light



Sisters of the Aquarian Order



Not for Swords & Wizardry, but still largely compatible are:

The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games



Spellcraft & Swordplay: Eldritch Witchery



Combine them all for a Complete Witch!

Warlock Lodge: Masters of the Invisible College

Today I want to share one of the Warlock Lodges from my new book The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.  Also, this is a good topic for this month's RPG Blog Carnival topic Magic and The Occult, hosted by Sea of Stars RPG.

Warlock Lodges
The Lodge is a secret order that often only admits a few Warlocks at a time. Each Lodge has their methods of instruction for their potential Warlock, and these are a closely guarded secret. While a Witch may leave the lands where she learned her tradition from her sisters, Warlocks join a Lodge for life. The Lodge is also the physical meeting place, sanctuary, and library of the Warlock.

Masters of the Invisible College
This esoteric lodge believes they are the foundation for all arcane study, not just Warlocks, but Wizards and Witches as well. Their vaulted halls contain the wisdom of the ages and spells never before seen. Only those of the highest intelligence may be admitted and then a rigorous training program must begin. Only when the Warlock has proven himself (10th level) will he be allowed access to the Deeper Mysteries and Hidden Knowledge of the Akashic Records. The location of this great store of knowledge is one of the best-kept secrets in the world.
Warlocks of this Lodge believe that nothing is more important than the arcane pursuits. This lodge is unique among lodges in that it actively recruits warlocks, witches, magic-users and clerics of gods of magic and knowledge to join their ranks for the pursuit of arcane knowledge.   Members of this lodge agree to put aside personal differences in terms of patrons, alignments, and racial differences so that they gain greater insight to magic. Masters of the Invisible College are the foremost expert on identifying magic items and researching spells. Prospective members must bring a new magic item to the lodge for study. The item need not be powerful, indeed, low power but unique items are more sought after. Items with history or created by famous spellcasters are also sought after.
The Lodge does not reveal what they do with these items outside of study.

While the Masters of the Invisible College has the overt makings of a Grand Lodge or a Grand Coven (a grouping of both Witches and Warlocks), it is actually neither.
Witches most likely to join the Secret Masters will belong to the Aquarian Tradition (from the Witch).  Wizards and Alchemists are also likely to join.

Witches in this Lodge will treat it as their Coven.  They can learn Magic-User spells of the appropriate level to replace their Ritual Spells much like a Hedge Witch or Witches of the Aiséiligh Tradition.   Such spells could also be unique or rare to the game world.  (I suggest something like +Dyson LogosMagical Theorems & Dark Pacts to add more spells.)

Joining the College
Potential entrants are brought in at 1st level.  They must have Intelligence scores of 16 or better and bring in one new magic item.  Entry must be done before 2nd level.  Often the College seeks out gifted individuals and waives the normal entry fees (1000 gp).  All Probationers are required to have a Sponsor who will eventually become their Mentor.  Entry is decided by the Deans of the College.

GM's are encouraged to make Lodges that fit their own game world.

Pick up a copy of the Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Good Times. Bad Times.

In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man...

Oh wait. Not those times.

Good News. I got the proof copy back of the Warlock today! I was going to make it live.
Bad News. Rather glaring typos on the back cover.

Not happy about this. So I am going to fix them and re-submit.  But it looked so great.





No More Secrets in Saltmarsh

Over the weekend we continued with what was going to be the Second Campaign.  Still is...but I'll get to that.

The boys made some new characters and we started the "Treasure Hunters" group.  Overtly this group is getting together to hunt treasure. We have a band centered around "an expert treasure hunter" (a ranger), a cleric of the god of Knowledge and warlock.  Joining the group is my favorite character to date, a gnome druid named "Erky Timbers", played by my youngest.

I took them through U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh.  We had such a great time we played for about 10 hours, only stopping to quickly grab a bite to eat.



We played it under 5e and I used +Mark Stout's  "Classic Modules Today" conversion of U1 to help us out.

Though this proposes and interesting problem for me.  This is the adventure I wanted to use to start the "Second Campaign", the one that runs parallel to the "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.  At some point, after 15th level, the survivors of both campaigns will come together to fight a larger evil.

I supposedly started the Second Campaign back in March with the Forgotten Realms.  But so far we are only one adventure and two sessions into that one.  Plus that one is in the Realms, the Come Endless Darkness is very much Oerth/Greyhawk.

So. I might change that game to a simple "Into the Forgotten Realms" game and pick the Second Campaign Game up here in Oerth.  I was vague on where Saltmarsh actually was, so I can still decide. Given the adventures, I am pretty sold on it being in Greyhawk.

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God levels 1-3 (novice)
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3
U2 Danger at Dunwater, levels 1-4
U3 The Final Enemy levels 3-5
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7
I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10
Gary Gygax's Necropolis, levels 10+

With a break right after I4 for the Council of Greyhawk. This group will be sent to the desert but unlike the Order of the Platinum Dragon the Treasure hunters will not be transported back.

This could end up being quite epic.  Hope I am able to get it all done.
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