Thursday, June 1, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #79

I like to post This Old Dragon on Thursdays.  Feels like a good day to do it really.  Today is June 1st which also means we have five Thursdays in June.   I should have been looking ahead since that sounds like a great time for a month of theme postings.  But since I rarely know which Dragon I am going to pull out of the box, and often know even less what's going to be in when I open it, planning ahead doesn't always work out.  Today's Dragon has no theme.  So let's head back to November 1983. I was a freshman in High school and this is Issue #79 for This Old Dragon!

I remember this issue. We used bits of it a lot in our games back in High School. My HS DM had it, but I don't think I read it till almost a year after it was published.

Well.  I am not sure about this cover. I doubt it is anyone's favorite but it is a fun one.  Feels more like an April fools issue or if it is a harvest scene then September would have been better. It also has nothing to do with anything else in the issue going by my first read.

Kim Mohan discusses some upcoming changes to Dragon, namely the change of typeface. This is the evolution of the magazine that I think many gamers my age remember the best.  There are more changes coming including the inclusion of The Forum feature (not in this issue) and the eventual demise of the Phil and Dixie comic.  In retrospect, it feels like another marker of the end of the Golden Age of D&D. That's not too bad though, some cool things are coming up.

Susan Lawson is up first with The Ecology of the Treant.  Interestingly I don't remember this one at all.  Rereading it now I see why. There is precious little information in the article.

Sage Advice covers some smaller letters sent in covering various topics from previous Dragon articles.

Coming up on the first meaty article, Magic resistance What it is, how it works. No author is given.  The article discusses the hows and some of the whys of magic resistance.  Namely, how does it nullify spell-effects and what control the creature with magic resistance has over this power.   The article tries to highlight some of the issues with the depiction of MR as presented in the AD&D rulebooks and I think creates more confusion than clarity.  The article is not bad, but it also doesn't help.  It is easy to see why MR, as presented in AD&D, was removed from later versions of the game.

We get some pictures from the Gen Con Miniatures Open '83. Some nice looking minis here too. Modern molding techniques and 3D Printing make some of these look, well, dated, you have to admire the artistry all the same.  This is an aspect of the hobby that will never go out of style I think.

Gregg Chamberlain must have enjoyed "The Twilight Zone: The Movie" from the summer of '83.  In his Blame it on the gremlins: Militaristic mischief-makers we get a bunch of the little monsters. In truth his version is closer to the old military superstitions of Gremlins than the Twilight Zone movie (or even the Gremlins movie due out in another 7 months; June 1984).
I always liked the idea of gremlins, but never the execution. Plus to me they seemed a little too 20th century to me.  If I want a mischievous creature I had loads of fae to choose from including the Brownie, Boggart, and Buchwan that also all did this sort of thing.   Though this article is very clever and has a lot of great ideas.  I could have my cake and eat it too by adopting these to "Trooping Faeries" of the more mischievous sorts. I think even Charmed did something like this. A little surprised the Supernatural hasn't yet.

Up next is an article we used a lot in our games.  Setting saintly standards by Scott Bennie details a divine class of ascending mortals, aka Saints.  Not being Catholic (or religious at all for that matter) this article had no connotations for me outside of D&D.  I really liked the character of St. Kargoth, king of the Death Knights and immediately figure that he had to be the "13th" Death Knight.  I used him a lot in my games.  At this point, my first generation (Basic D&D) of characters had retired and the next generation (AD&D) was going strong.  I worked with my DM (whose issue this was) to make my first character into a Saint according to these rules.  I figured if there is a "Saint" of the Death Knights then my character, Father Johan Werper, would be the patron saint of those that battle undead.  I have detailed his history here and his Sainthood is covered in the Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall Special Edition. So yes, not only did I make him a Saint, I made him an officially published OSR Saint!  It all started with this article.  It was also not the last time I used an "Ascended Human" in my games.  The whole plot of my Buffy Game "The Dragon and the Phoenix" revolves around an ascended witch.

The centerpiece of this issue is an adventure for Top Secret.  Wacko World by Al Taylor.  I never played Top Secret. Spy games were never my thing.  I have no means to judge this one to be honest.
If you played this adventure then let me know you think of it!

Page Advice II: Getting started covers writing for your favorite RPG.
The genesis of this article is stated in the first few lines, "However, it is apparent from those responses that the vast majority of readers who sent for the TSR submissions packet have had no experience with freelance design"
Well. Off course they don't! Your readers are fans. If they were like me at the time the most they ever wrote was a term paper.  The article though does go into some helpful tips.
Their advice, "Pick up a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White - an invaluable book." is spot on and I think I picked up a copy soon after.  I still have it.  A bunch of other books are also mentioned and selection of *D&D modules, but the best advice they give is practice. You can't get better at anything without practice.  The article looks like it is setting up for a Part III, delievering what the publisher wants.  I'll have to look into that (or if I have an issue 80).

The fights of fantasy: Good generalship from a non-medieval viewpoint by industry leader Lew Pulsipher discusses the differences between a historical medieval battle and a fantasy one. Certainly this draws on the uniwque history of our hobby having grown out of historical miniature battles to fantasy battles.  Putting content of this article aside for a moment I want to address an meta-issue around this article.  As the first Generations of Grognards move on to the sandbox in the hereafter (not being a dick, it's sadly just true) the remaining generations, myself included, are moving further and further from these roots.  This is neither good nor bad, like old age, it simplly is.  Sometime though I feel the need to honor the grogs that came before me and do a real huge fantasy battle.  I have done some in the past, but I mean something truly epic.  World War II meets Crisis of Infinite Earths meets the Battle of the Pelennor Fields meets the battle of Endor/Death Star II.
Lew's article is getting saved for that day.

Lew is back in a double header this issue with Be aware and take care: Basic principles of successful adventuring.  Lew's article read a lot like his lecture series on YouTube.  You get the feeling of hearing a learned sage, but all along the answer you sought were with you all the time.  More or less. Reminds me of some lectures on Socrates I had some years later in college.
Both articles are good but also really long.  I wonder if they were light on page count for this issue and needed these.  The lack of a lot of art in this issue and the editorial about change leads me to think this.

We come to some ads next.

The On the Shelf feature deals with new books from Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Peter Straub, and Alan Dean Foster. A "whos who" of sci-fi/fantasy literature.
At this time I was huge into my Tolkien and then Moorcock kick.

We end with Wormy and What's New.

80 pages.

Certainly some memorable articles and some I didn't remember at all.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #47.


Unknown said...

Holy smokes! I forgot all about Wacko World. I ran thatbso many times!

Zudrak (Michael G.) said...

Alas, while I did run & love Top Secret, this issue predated our play. Weird that I did not get it because I began collecting Dragon with issue 76. It must have been a lean month delivering the newspapers!

Another nice walk through my favorite magazine. Thanks, Tim.