Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Stranger Stuff & Teenage Witchcraft (TinyD6)

I am jumping around on systems like a meth-addicted moth this week.  Tiny D6? Sure, why not!

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

Stranger Stuff and Teenage Witchcraft (TinyD6)

Tonight's game uses the Tiny D6 game system and is a supplement for Fat Goblin Games' Stranger Stuff game. Stranger Stuff is described as "80's Inspired Adventure, Horror, and Science Fiction."  I think it is pretty easy to tell where this inspiration is from and frankly, that is good enough for me.

I love how the book cover aims for an old-school writing journal look for the core RPG and a "Sweet Valley High" look to the Teenage Witchcraft book.  Really nice.

Stranger StuffStranger Stuff: Teenage Witchcraft

Stranger Stuff

PDF. 124 pages. Color covers and interior art; sort of. It is black & white with accents of red.

Both books use a similar notebook-style art as their background watermark.  So these books look like they were written in a notebook. 

Stranger Stuff is a Tiny D6 game, based on the Tiny D6 engine released by Gallantknight Games.  IT is also based on Fat Goblin's own vs. Stranger Stuff game.

Essentially you are playing a kid in the 1980s in a small town where things are, well, strange. There is a list of movies to watch to get the proper feel for this time, but I honestly feel that most of my readers have seen them. 

Character creation is simple. Come up with a concept, give them some traits, and disadvantages and you are set to go! There are only two stats, Toughness and Stress.

The system is based on the venerable D6 system, but stripped way down. 

The book is rich in background and has plenty of details about playing in this odd world during the year 1984.

Teenage Witchcraft

PDF. 44 pages. Full-color cover and black & white interior art with accents of red. 

This book takes the basics of the Stranger Stuff game and adds in the ability to become a witch and cast spells.  So if you are thinking the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or The Craft, but in the 80s, then you have the right idea here.

Most of the rules involve the casting of spells, as appropriate, There is an example walk-through with two spells and many examples are given, but the fun, of course, is making your own spells. OR as in the case with The Craft or Charmed, finding the right mix of witches to work with.

The two combined look like a ton of fun and since the rules are easy, something you could pick up and do in an afternoon.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Sucker for a Slipcase

Maybe it goes back to my first set of the Lords of the Rings books, but I am a sucker for a slipcase for my books. I was in my office and I was noticing that many of my books are getting bleached out due to the fluorescent lights I have.  I turned the spines to the back, not a great solution, which got me to notice all my slipcases for other books.

Slipcases

This got me thinking about my AD&D 1st Ed collection and how they seem to be getting the worse of it all. So I went on a search for some slipcases that would fit my AD&D books, in particular my oldest ones, and "fit" them thematically. 

Searching for custom ones was not very helpful since most places that make them custom-made expect you to order a bunch of them.  There are binder ones too, but nothing that I really liked.

Once again, eBay provides.

Back in the 1980s the RPGA made slipcases for Dragon and Polyhedron magazines. I found one on eBay that was only slightly more expensive than a binder slipcase.

RPGA Slipcase

I can fit in my second printing of the PHB, DMG, D&DG, and my softcover PHB and MM from Games Workshop. There was enough room to slip in my DM's screen too.  I can justify grabbing this since I actually had joined the RPGA during its last days

PHB

Softcover MM & PHB

Deities & Demigods

Signed by actual demigods!

You can see why I want those protected.

The only problem is that the double slipcase is taller than my shelves!  I am going to need an oversized bookcase or make room on my desk for my oversized books.

But at least now they are protected.

I still would like to find a custom one for some other books, in particular, my 1st and 2nd Edition reprints.

1st and 2nd Ed reprints


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Mail Call: Dungeons & Dragons The Lost Wave Figures (2022 SDCC Exclusives)

Nice little treat in the mail today.  A while back I had arranged to get some of the new "Lost Wave" Dungeons & Dragons figures produced by NECA and sold exclusively at the 2022 SDCC.  The set included a full version of Skylla and a "new" version of Kelek.  So you know I could not say no.

Well, today they came!

Skylla and Kelek

Full unboxing.

Unboxing

Unboxing D&D The Lost Wave

D&D The Lost Wave all 4 figures

D&D The Lost Wave all 4 figures descriptions

D&D The Lost Wave all 4 figures descriptions

No real desire to keep Pulvereye or Valkeer, but I'll put them in with the other D&D toys for my kids to sell to pay for my medical bills in 30 years. 

I am pleased with the Skylla and Kelek figures. 

Skylla collection

Skylla new figure vs. old

Skylla new figure vs. old

Kelek also looks good. Wish I had kept my original one from the 80s.

Kelek

Right now my youngest is 3D printing my Kelek on Warg. But it was not ready at the time of this posting so maybe next time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Review: DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

DragonQuest First Edition
I have a history with DragonQuest. Not a complicated one or even an interesting one, but history all the same.  Back in 83 or 84 or so I would head to Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown every weekend. There I would get a new edition of Dragon or whatever sci-fi novel piqued my interest and then check out all the new RPG materials.  One I kept going back to time and time again was DragonQuest.  This was the 2nd Edition softcover and looked really different than anything I had played so far.  The barbarian proudly holds the severed head of a dragon. 

The game intrigued me so much. I flipped through it many times and even it got to the point that I annoyed the owner, Paula Belobrajdic, that she told me I should buy it.  In retrospect, I wish I had.  Though had I I likely would not have picked up the great-looking first edition boxed set next to me now.

My history with the first edition is not as long or as storied. I bought it a while back and it has sat on my shelves for a bit. I did do a character write-up last year, Phygor, for DragonQuest and I really liked how the character came it. 

For this month of D&D, I figure a look into the game that tempted me so much would be neat to look into.

DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

This game was published by SPI in 1980.  SPI had been a wargame publisher and decided to get into the RPG market. I am sure they were seeing their market share being eaten away by RPGs, and D&D in particular.  This is important since this game does feel very wargamey. This includes how the rules are presented and even how combat is run. While D&D/AD&D at this time was open to minis and terrain maps this game requires them. Or at least chits and the included maps. 

DragonQuest 1st Edition Boxed Set

The boxed set I have contains three soft-cover books. Some chits. Some ads, a comment card, and a tactical hex map.  My set does not have dice, but I also don't think it originally came with dice.  I added two d10s myself.

The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat
The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat

Our first book is the smaller of the three at 32 pages.  The format is three-column and the rules are all presented in "wargame" style.  So Adventure Rationale can be coded as II.1.A.1.  I won't be using this much but it does make it easy to find any rule. A little cumbersome at first and then it gets really easy. 

This was an interesting time. The Introduction (I.) and How to Play the Game (II.) don't spend a lot of time with the "This is a Roleplaying Game" and instead gets down to business. Requirements for play are discussed as well as Game Terms (III.).

We get into Character Generation (IV.) This is not a completely random affair as D&D was at the time.  You roll and get a pool of points. Though with a high number of points, your maximum is low, likewise a small amount in a point pool will give you a higher maximum.  The traits are Physical Strength, Agility, Magical Aptitude, Manual Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, and Appearance. Scores are 5 to 25 for the human range.  So you roll a 4d5 (1d10/2) which will generate a score from 4 to 20.  Compare this to the table under 5.1. This table gives you your point pool (82 to 98) and a Group (A to G) These groups refer to the maximums. A = 25, B = 24 and G =19.-

There are even some rules for developing other types of abilities if the Game Master desires them. After this other details are figured out; Gender (or even genderless), handiness, human or non-human (such as Dwarf, Efl, Giant, Halfling, Orc or Shape-changer), various Aspects, and Heritages.  It can be a complex character system all for what is nominally an 18-year-old.   This all covers the first dozen pages.  There are no classes (rather famously so) and more to your character from the next books.

The last half+ of this book covers combat. All movement and combat is done on a hex grid, not a square one. Gives it an interesting twist and again a holdover of their wargame roots. Plenty of diagrams and examples are given. Combat rounds are 10 seconds and can be made up of an undefined increment of time called a Pulse. There are Strike Zones, Fire Zones, and all sorts of fun bits.  I am reminded of combat in D&D 3rd Edition here to be honest. 

Damage is an equally detailed affair with damage affecting Fatigue and Endurance. When Fatigue is 0 damage starts happening to Endurance, there is a similar idea here in D&D 4th edition. Maybe when TSR bought SPI DragonQuest didn't entirely disappear.  There is also Grievous injury which is much worse. 

Personally, I feel any D&D player could get a lot out of reading this combat section, at least give it a play-through once.  

The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic
The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic

Ask anyone that has ever played both DragonQuest and D&D about what sets the two games apart the most and you are likely to hear "Magic."  In 1980 DragonQuest took an approach to magic that would not be seen in other games until much later.  What made it different then? Three pretty good reasons. Mana, different kinds of spells, and Colleges.

Mana in DragonQuest fuels the magic an Adept can use. Spell casting can be tiring and there is never a guarantee that the spell will work. It could fail or backfire. Even when it works the target can be resistant to it.  And Adepts can never wear metal to top it all off. This notion is pretty commonplace now, but then it was new and exciting. I have lost track of how many "spell points" and "mana" systems I have seen applied to AD&D over the years and that is not counting systems like Mage and WitchCraft that use some form of Essence or Quintessence. Ass expected Magical Aptitude is important here, but so is Willpower and even Endurance. 

The different sorts of spells the adept has access to. Nearly every adept has access to at least one magical talent (I'll get to that). These talents can be thought of as a power that can always be used and they are related to the Adept's college.  Then there are "normal" spells. These are the most "D&D" like and each college has its own lists and there is very little crossover, though each college has something going for it. The limiting factors here are how many spells you know.  Finally, there are rituals. These are like spells that take longer, usually much longer, require more components but have a far better chance of success.  

I have talked a bit about them already, but DragonQuest's adepts learn their magic from distinct Colleges. There are twelve colleges: Ensorcelments & Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, Naming Incantations, Earth Magics, Air Magics, Fire Magics, Water Magics, Celestial Magics, Black Magics, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings.  Each college has its own requirements.  After the college descriptions, we get [xx.1] restrictions, [xx.2] modifiers, [xx.3] Talents, [xx.4] Spells, [xx.6] General Rituals and [xx.7] Special Rituals.  There are 30 pages of these.

This should all sound familiar. AD&D 2nd adopted the college idea in their schools of magic; though there is more overlap in spells.  D&D 4th Ed gave us at-will, encounter, and daily spells that mimic this setup.  All have been recombined one way or the other in 5th Edition. Again, this was all brand new in 1980.

Also, something that flies in the face of all things of the 1980s is the last 25 pages. Here we get a listing of demons straight out of the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Who they are and how to summon them. And the Christians were going after D&D. 

The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure
The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure

Overtly the Game Master's book. 

Skills can be roughly thought of as professions or even, dare I say it, classes. You get professional skills like Alchemist, Assassin, Astrology, Beast Master, Courtesan, Healer, Mechanician, Merchant, Military Scientist, Navigator, Ranger, Spy, Thief, and Troubador.  Each one is covered in detail along with what each profession allows the character to do. 

Each "profession" skill gets a listing [xx.1] to [xx.9] that covers what is needed to learn each skill (prereqs), what it does, and how it does it. For example, according to 53.1, a Beast Master must have a Willpower of at least 15. In 54.1 we learn that while Courtesans do not have minimum scores there is an XP penalty if they don't meet certain requirements (Dexterity, Agility, Physical Beauty) and a bonus if they have higher scores.   The back cover of this book gives the XP expenditure to go up a rank in each. 

Personally. I think this should have been part of the Characters' book.

The next section is all about Monsters. They are divided by like types. So all the primates, apes and pre-humans are in one section, cats in another, birds and avians, land mammals, aquatics and so on all get their own sections. Dragons get their own section, naturally, but wyverns are part of reptiles.  The usual suspects are all here, but not much more than that. There are however enough points of comparison that converting an AD&D monster to DragonQuest would be easy enough. There are some differences too. Nymphs have the lower half of a goat, like that of a satyr. Gnolls are dog-faced. Kobolds look like tiny old men, neither dog nor lizard-like, and tend towards good.  Medusa and Gorgons are the same creatures. Not much in the way of "new" monsters, even for 1980.

The last section covers Adventure. For a game that has such tactical wargame DNA, I expected a little more here, but I guess I am not surprised, to be honest. We also get a few tables.

--

There is so much packed into this box. I can really see why this game, more than 40 years later, still has such a following. While I lament that TSR (and by extension Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro) have let this IP fall into disuse, I do see where bits of it live on in nearly all the post-1990 (AD&D 2nd ed Ed in 1989 too) versions of D&D. Schools of magic, tactical battle movement, mini use, all of these became standard.  I can't say that all of these directly came from DragonQuest, but they are certainly all headed in the directions that DragonQuest started. 

My issue right now is not counting D&D and its various forms, editions, and offsprings, I have a lot of Fantasy RPGs.  Many of my favorites are more or less dead.

Dead Fantasy RPGs

They are all great fun but with DragonQuest I am right where I was back in 1984; It's a great-looking game, but no one around me is playing it.  If I Am going to play like it was 1984 I am going to pull AD&D 1st Ed off my shelf.

The obvious reason to choose one over the other is how well does it play? Well, DragonQuest is above and beyond many of the others in terms of rules and playability. Also as I mentioned there is a huge amount of online support, informal as it is. 

There is also the idea that with DragonQuest, and adding in SPI's Demons, I could create a fun demon summoning game.  But again I have to ask, can't I do this with D&D now?

DemonQuest

Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game? 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #63

Dragon Magazine #63
Normally with my This Old Dragon retrospectives, I talk a little bit about the time when the magazine was published.  This issue was out in July 1982. But that is not the time I associate this issue with. No, the time this issue came out for me was nearly three years later in 1985.  On Tuesday I spoke about my bumpy transition from Basic-era D&D (or just D&D as I knew it) to AD&D.  By 1985 I was fully entrenched into the AD&D camp. My previous DM had just gotten a job working nights (a job he had held until 2021!) so I needed a new group. In a tale as old as...well the 1980s...I fell into a group made up of mostly theatre kids and other science nerds. This issue, Issue #63, was in my DM's collection and I borrowed it one day and was blown away.  

I had already been reading Dragon now for a little over a year, but this one packed more punch per page than any issue I had seen to that point.  So. Come with back, not to July 1982, but June 1985 when I borrowed This Old Dragon.

Let's start with that cover. They say never judge a book by its cover and I extend that to magazines. But in this case, this cover only hints at the great material inside.  The cover gives us two bandits, perfect for the class inside. The cover artist was James Warhola and I can't tell you off the top of my head what other covers he may have done, but I love this one. 

In a preview of things to come, the back cover is an ad from Epyx Computer Games for The Temple of Apshai. For a brief moment there I could consider Epyx my favorite game software company. I had played this and later Rogue (the forerunner to Moria-like games) on my Color Computer 3. 

We jump in head first into this issue with our first article from none other than Gary Gygax himself (the first of a few for this issue).  Featured Creatures gives us some new official AD&D monsters for your game.  This is the first appearance of this feature. Up first, the Devas, servants of the good gods of the higher planes. We know that the "monsters" featured here will later go on be part of the Monster Manual II, which might have been the least controversial update to the hardcover line for AD&D.  The Devas here are depicted as just "Good" aligned and can be Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic as needed. 

Gary hits us with more official official content next with The Big, Bad Barbarian.  Or...Gary really wanted Conan and Fafhrd in AD&D (and we will get more of Gary's opinions on Conan later in the issue). This class looks more or less the same as what we find in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  The barbarian would go on to get more life in D&D 3 and D&D 5.  While I appreciate this article for what it is (new content is new content!) I was never a big fan of the barbarian.  I can't even recall if I ever had a barbarian character.

Smile! You're on Fantasy Camera covers how Darlene Kay Blanchard (not that Darlene) takes pictures of miniatures. 

A picture of pictures

Robert J. Kuntz is next with Greyhawk's World where he covers the events and notes from the Eastern and Southern Flanaess.  This is also accompanied by a map from Darlene (that Darlene) of the Bandit Kingdoms.  I love little bits like this to help expand the game world more.

The Other Side fan and favorite Len Lakofka is up with Leomund's Tiny Hut.  His article is about Charisma in Make Charisma Count for More.  It has what can only be described as a rough draft for the Comeliness score that will appear in Unearthed Arcana and how he proposed Charisma should effect psionics more.

With new monsters, new classes, and now this, it is a wonder that people were not screaming about the oncoming publication of AD&D 2nd Ed or even AD&D 1.5 (as we would eventually call it).

Now on to our cover story. Bandits are an NPC class (snerk...ok, whatever you say) to add to your game. The article comes to us from Tom Armstrong and Roger E. Moore. The idea is very sound, Bandits are thieves that rely on strength and ambush instead of stealth. We toyed with the idea ourselves in the few games were both my highschool DM and my Jr. High DM were both in.  I rolled up a Bandit character for myself. No, he didn't look like Burt Reynolds (though that would have been fun).  It was not long though before we discovered that there was some logic to making this an NPC class. The Bandit has some interesting skills, but in a dungeon crawl setting, he takes a back seat to the thief.  Still the class was rather fun to play.

Roger Moore is back with last of the Demihuman Perspective articles, The Humanoids: Goals and Gods of the Kobolds, Goblins, Hobgoblins, & Gnolls. Again much of the material from this series will end up in Unearthed Arcana, though not this article in particular.  I used this article to help formulate some of my ideas about goblins and how Hobgoblins are different from Bugbears.  The only one I was not happy with here was the gnolls. I was already moving my gnolls to be more demonic.  I had read at some point (likely the Wildlife Treasury Cards we used to get; used the Vampire Bat as a bookmark for my Expert Book) that hyenas are led by an alpha female, so I figured gnolls had to be matriarchal.  This is something that others had grabbed onto as well since I now see it all over.  

The section continues with a few gods for each of these creatures and the Shoosuva the demonic undead gnoll. 

My Dragon goes from page 32 to 49.  So something is missing.  Checking my Dragon CD-ROM (and this rather meta for this issue, more later) I see it is an adventure named Chagmat by none other than Larry DiTillio.  The adventure is for six to eight characters of 1st to 4th levels. Now by my own rules I can't review this piece because it is not in my physical copy.  So...moving on. 

Dragon Magazine Centerfold

The Man, Myth & Magic ad is interesting since it lists all sorts of Hobby Shops that carry it.  My FLGS is not listed here since it will not open for a bit, but one jumped out at me because it is a.) close to my home and b.) an address that I recognize.  Sure enough The Compleat Gamer in Palatine, IL used to be a game store. Now it is the home of Nancy's Pizza, one of the three pizza places in the Chicag- land area to make the claim of inventing the Chicago-style deep crust.  I mean I used to live just 8 mins away from Games Plus my FLGS, but to have this one here too?  What a treat that would have been.

Ed Greenwood is next with Plan Before You Play. Seems like obvious advice to me but then again right now I have 43 years so of experience. That's 20 years more than Ed was in age at this point, not to mention experience.  BUT I will say this. If nothing else doing these "This Old Dragons" over the years has given me a greater appreciation for the work and scholarship Ed Green brought to the early days of the game.  Gary might get all the glory in this issue, but Ed is here just quietly turning in good material every month. 

An ad/notice from the RPGA.

Gary has a couple more articles discussing the Games Fair 82 convention in London. I should compare this to what White Dwarf was saying at the same time.

There is a mini-section next starting with some Phil Foglio art about Computers in D&D.  Micheal Brian Bently is up first with Computers Games Have a Way to Go.  He talks about how computers for simulating D&D games are not there yet. While the article is interesting as a historical perspective, I don't think the author, or any of us really, knew then how fast computer technology was going to explode.  There are typically two types of software commonly discussed in and around D&D circles; the DM's assistant and the immersive RPG experience type.  By 1986 the DM I had borrowed this Dragon from and I had already written a piece of software for the TRS-80/Tandy Color Computer we called "BARDD" that handled many of the tasks needed to simulate combat.

In fact it was this very computer:

TRS-80 Color Computer 2

I can only imagine what I would have thought of Skyrim back then!

Speaking of computers even not more than 15 years or so later would Dragon see another breakthrough in computers when Wizards of the Coast released the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, the same one I mentioned above.  Unfortunately, it was because of articles like this one from Micheal Brian Bently that would be the reason we never saw any updates.  Why?  Because Micheal Brian Bently retained the copyright on his article (as was his prerogative) and TSR and thus WotC did not own it and could not reprint it. 

Computers and Dragons

We get a note on Dragon's Policy on Programs

The Electric Eye from Mark Herro gives us two BASIC programs for Top Secret.  Developed for the TRS-80 Model I, Level II BASIC it should be usable by the Apple II or Atari 400/800.  I know from personal experience that the BASIC interpreter shipped with IBM XT machines at the time was a bit different and all programs would need tweaking to your particular machine. Don't even try it on an IBM PC Jr.

David Nallo has an interesting article on coinage with historical examples in For the Sake of Change. We played around with different coinage ideas a bit back then.  I tried to set up a silver-based economy vs. a gold-based one at one point after a discussion in history class about the US using a Silver standard in its early history. But in the end it never really made that much of a difference in the day-to-day lives of adventurers. 

Gary is back one more time in his role as a film critic in A Couple of Fantastic Flops. He reviews and rather hates the new Conan the Barbarian movie and The Sword & The Sorcerer.  We get more about the D&D movie coming out in 1984 or 85 and it is going to be better than Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark!

We end with What's New? with Phil and Dixie talking about computers in RPGs and WormyDragonmirth has some comics. One, titled Charisma Roll has a player dreaming that the rolls will give him "Richard Chamberlin, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford..." but the dice are thinking "Ernest Borgnine."  Now I am going to say this, after the article we had from Len I would say Ernest Borgnine had a very high charisma. He was a funny, likable guy with a wonderful personality.  

In the end a pretty solid issue of Dragon punching WAY above its weight class here.  The material introduced here is still being used today and it is all good stuff.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

This Old Computer

I interrupt this A to Z Blogging with my newest acquisition/restoration project.

Over the winter break, I worked on my new Color Computer upgrade to a full retro gaming machine.

Well, I am moving on to a larger project now.

TRS-80 Case

TRS-80 Case

TRS-80 Case

It is the case for a TRS-80 Model III, the first computer I ever used.  

The cabling for the CoCo mod was tight, but this is so roomy on the inside.  Not to mention 2 full-height 5.25" drive bays.  I still have drive rails and even a hot-swap chassis for USB to IDE drives.  I even have DVD and Blu-Ray drives I could put into this.

Honestly, I am high with anticipation about what I could do with this.  The monitor is the limiting factor of course and I would need to design a bunch of new parts to 3D print, but those are just details, and minor ones at that.

Nothing it happening though for a bit.  That case needs some serious care.  When I UV bleached my other one it was recommended that I just paint it.  I might do that here. It is frankly a wreck, but not so much so that I can't make it work.

Now to decide...Windows, Linux or TRS-DOS?  Nah just kidding, this will be Windows I am sure. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

The OTHER Old School Gaming

I love my old school games. No shock, spend any time here at all and you can see that.  I enjoy a good retro-clone. Especially if someone puts a little spin on it as well.  Well, that feeling extends to my computer gaming as well.

Brief history and many of you have read this before. I bought my first computer, with my own saved up money, back in 1985.  It was a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 and I plugged it into a TV.  It had 16k of RAM, and ran at about 900 Kilohertz.  No disk drive. I had to save everything to cassette tapes.  It did have color though and that to me made it better than the TRS-80 Model IIIs we had at school.  In fact it was very much like this computer.

TRS-80 Color Computer 2

This particular computer was given to me by my brother.  He got it from my old High School DM.  We had the same computer, only his was 64k and had a floppy disk drive.  I would upgrade to the Tandy Color Computer 3 with 128k of memory, running at a whopping 2 Megahertz and a floppy drive.

The computer above though was in sad, sad shape.  In addition to a lot of yellowing it had, according to my brother who is an engineer, a broken pin on one of the epromms.  He tried fixing it, but it was DOA.

So I decided to build my own Tandy Color Computer Retro-clone!  But first I needed some supplies and that case needed work.  A lot of work.

Step 1.  Cleaning and Bleaching

The case was a mess and the insides were not much better.

Autopsy of a CoCo2

Autopsy of a CoCo2

Soapy water does wonders

Soapy water does wonders

With some of the grime gone I got out some plastic restore bleach and set it all up under some UV light.

Yellow. The bane of computers

UV light

UV light

UV light

Honestly, I kept it under the light for about a week.  But I can't argue with the results.

Like New!

Part 2. Proof of Concept 

While that was taking a bath in bleach and getting some fake sunlight I worked on my proof of concept.  I had my youngest print out a mini Color Computer case for a Raspberry Pi B.  I also began ordering everything I would need.  Keyboard, USB cables, new case badges, HDMI cables, a USB 3 port, and of course a new Raspberry Pi 4.  

Mini CoCo

While waiting on everything to come in I played around with my proof of concept computer.

Proof of Concept

Boot

CoCoPi

BASIC. I still got it!

COLOR!

CoCo emulator

The CoCoPi emulator even allows me to switch out which classic CoCo processor I can use the MC 6309E or the MC 6809S (my preferred choice).

Got the keyboard and the USB 3 port so those also got tested with the Pi B.  I was able to get the USB 3 port fitted into the old CoCo cartridge slot.  So that was one thing out of the way.

USB 3 port

USB 3 port

Port repicator

Port repicator

I felt that bit came together rather well.  The next part was a little more involved.

Part 3. The Miracles of 3D Printing

I needed to replace all the joystick, cassette, and serial ports with the 21st-century equivalent, USB. My plan was to route high power draw USB 3 to the side port and keep the back for USB 2.  I also needed to replace the TV Out with HDMI.  Unlike the Pi B, the Pi 4 has two HDMI ports, so I needed to work that out.

gotta have a plan

The keyboard is a great size, just a touch too small, and no way to get it into the case and have it stay in place.  Plus I am hard on keyboards, so I needed to make sure it was sturdy.  So the first task, 3D print a keyboard tray.  This is FDM print. Our resin printer is acting up and the bed for it is way too small for this size print.

FDM printed keyboard tray

Keyboard

Not bad.  Now to print the ports.

In addition to printing the ports that go in the back of the computer I got some new male-to-female cables for USB (with splitters), and micro HDMI.  Since they were going to plugged in and out a lot I needed to be sure they were secure.  So I also broke out the resin.  Before fitting the new ports to the computer, I fit the new cables to the ports.

3D Printed Ports

USB

curing the resin

curing the resin

inside

USB went in like a charm.  Next the HDMI ports and power cable.  Sadly though, I had to cut the case of the full-sized HDMI.

had to cut the case

HDMI

power

Though all took a bit to dry and cure.  I was getting close now!

Part 4. Putting it all Together

I knew the hardest part was going to be getting all the cables in.  It was easier than expected except the HDMI kept coming undone.  Still not 100% happy with it.  I had to abandon my plan to also have an ethernet port. It doesn't need it since it has built-in WiFi, but it would have been nice.

Cables stuffed into the case, case screwed back up, time to boot up!

Keyboard lights up!

DOS box works

PC Dragon emulator works

The keyboard lights up (it is a Color Computer after all!) and the DOS box and CoCo emulators work! With that time to put on the new case badge.

case badge

case badge

back

Grab some more emulators from my Pi B and fire up my new retro gaming machine!

DOOM!!!!

Adventure!

Yar's Revenge!

The computer is running Raspbian which is a stripped-down version of Linux Debian for the Raspberry Pi.  I prefer Ubuntu for my Linux, but this is working out fine. 

To match the spirit of the CoCo my side USB 3 port also has an SD Card reader.  So I rummaged through the house to collect all the old SD cards we have laying around.

SD cards

Inserting software on the side

I'll load some programs on these and I'll be able to load software on the side of my CoCo just like the old days!

I spent a long time on this, and maybe way too much money. BUT now I want to do another one! I mean, I already have two, the proof of concept model with the Pi B and the full case with the Pi 4.  There is a micro Windows computer out there that would fit into this case and there is another keyboard that also glows red, green, and blue (proper CoCo Colors) but it is white instead.  Maybe I should wait though.   I have always wanted to gut out a TRS-80 Model 4 and make that into my own version of the proposed, but never produced, Color Computer 4.

In the language of the OSR movement, this is retro-clone.  It uses new mechanics/hardware to simulate/emulate an older experience.  I am not running OS-9 (the OS for the Color Computer) and I am not sure I want to at this point.  While the CoCo is my love, I also enjoy the ability to run an Atari 2600 emulator on it and DOS Box.  So I guess my next step is to grab the Gold Box AD&D PC games and play them on this.

One last look at the before and after.

Before

Before

And After

After

Facebook on a CoCo!

I am very, very pleased with how it turned out.

Now to start trolling some auction sites for a TRS-80 Model 4 and figuring out what keyboard and monitor I can fit into that case.  I already have some old external drives I could fit into it.