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.


routy said...

i worked at the complete strategist in nyc at the time. i remember seeing that issue, and the bond game. good times.

JB said...

Huh. These days that "5 Keys to DMing Success" look more like "DMing 101." A bit more is needed for success.

[sorry I'm cranky this morning]