Showing posts with label DragonQuest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DragonQuest. Show all posts

Thursday, August 25, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #117

Dragon Magazine #117
Time to return to the dusty, mildewy box under my desk and see what issue of Dragon magazine is on top.  In some ways, I like that these issues don't have covers (removed by the previous owner), while I do remember what issue numbers have what material inside, most I have the visual clue of the cover to help me remember.  In this case, if I had seen the cover first I would have known, now it is more of a surprise for me.

This issue, #117, comes to us from January 1987.  At least that is what the issue says on the front page, the page footer tells us this is January 1986.  Oops!   It is 1987 though. I am in my Senior year at High School getting ready to go off to the University. I have no idea yet, but life is gonna change for me in wonderful ways.  But that is still to come. It is January 1987. The number #1 song on the radio is "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung. In the theatres, the #1 movie is Eddie Murphy in "The Golden Child" and on the shelves and game tables around the world is #117 of This Old Dragon!

The cover is one from Jim Halloway, one of my favorites of his.  

It is 1987 and things feel different at Dragon. For starters, Kim Mohan has now been gone since November and Roger Moore is now the EiC at Dragon (and I think Dungeon as well).  You can feel the change in terms of letters, profiles, and even the new games. I'll get to these all in turn.  I attributed this back then to the rise of prominence of the Forgotten Realms, but that was just an outward manifestation of what was happening.  In less than a year Gygax, Mentzer, and Mohan had all left TSR.  The current "Sage in Residence" would fall to Ed Greenwood. 

Letters covers the items bothering gamers of the time.  We have one wanting the Cthulhu and Melniboné mythos back. Sorry dude. Another wants more DragonQuest material now that TSR owns it. Also sorry dude.  We are given a nice list of Dragon issues that have DragonQuest material: #49, 57, 78, 82, 86, 89, 92, 96, and 97.  So we at least have that.

Big ad for Hawkmoon.  While I did not play the game I was HUGE in the Eternal Champion then and would finally get my hands on the Hawkmoon books at college. 

People in the Forum are STILL debating over the "mostly nude" cover from Dragon #114.  

Ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. Show of hands, how many of my readers got books from them?  I can count at least 4 or 5 I had bought from this ad, or one like it, back in the day.

Our first article is The Elements of Mystery from Robert Plamondon.  An interesting short article about adding the thrill of the unknown back to your game. 

Ah, the math geek in me is very happy to see this article from Arthur J. Hedge III.  What are the Odds covers the probabilities of the Unearthed Arcana's Method V of rolling up characters.  I love that he proudly tells us that the tables were generated on a DEC VAX computer using a program written in C! You can do the same now on any computer that can run a spreadsheet program. Or even in Google Sheets. The tables are great and he introduces a new terminology in dice rolling.  So Method V for humans allowed you pick your class first and then roll up to 9d6s in your prime attribute to find your score. Hedge's notation would have this at 9d6s3 or "Roll 9 six-sided dice and choose the best three rolls".  For what is considered standard in many games then is 4d6s3.  I kinda wish it had caught on. BTW in the 9d6 here are 10,077,696 combinations with an "18" resulting from 1,796,446 of them for a P=0.17825960.  

Feuds and Feudalism comes to us from John-David Dorman. It is a short article on, well, basically reminding everyone that Feudalism is a thing in AD&D. 

Travis Corcoran streamlines the tables for AD&D combat on the heels of Unearthed Arcana in Condensed Combat.  If you are playing AD&D and really love the weapons vs. AC matrix then I highly recommend finding a copy of this. My issue here is not the chart or how it was intended to be used, I think the intent was right. It was with how it was used in every day play.  While the AC is a nice shorthand, the table would have been better served by putting the Armor type down. So instead of "AC 5" on the chart is should say "Chain Mail."  The author DOES make an effort to help clear this up and that makes the chart more useful. 

Need to know how much Alchemical equipment costs? How about a couch? Robert A. Nelson has these for you in The Dungeoneer's Shopping Guide. Obviously a nod to the recent Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

Adventure Trivia is a 100-question trivia quiz for AD&D.  Answers are on page 88.

Friend of the Other Side Vince Garcia is back with A Touch of Genius as a way to actually use the characters' Intelligence score in training.  It is certainly a workable system.  There is also a bit on using Intelligence to modify saving throws against Illusion. Nice touch really.

 TSR staffer Penny Petticord, whom we will meet later, covers various Unearthed Arcana-related questions in Sage Advice.  Not the first time. Not the last time either.  These largely cover the Cavalier class. 

Mark Feil gives us The Ecology of the Anhkheg. It features some color art, which is nice. I always had a soft spot for Anhkheg.  I watched the movie "Them!" with my dad as a very young kid.  They are giant monsters, but driven by instinct and not really evil. These guys always remind me of them, or Them, as the case may be. 


Expert on all things Illithid Stephen Inniss is back with three new monsters. Hounds of Space and Darkness deals with three different types of dogs adapted to their new environments. Two used by the Gith (Kaoulgrim and Szarkel) and another, the Xotzcoyotl or "Bat-faced Dog", I am totally disappointed I never came up with myself!

Fun without Fighting from Scott Bennie covers different sorts of games and role-play that are not combat. These include Romance, Business, and Organizations.  These are great ideas of course but in 1987 other games were doing this.  AD&D was starting to play catch-up in the industry they started.

Thomas M. Kane reminds that followers are a thing in The Forgotten Characters.

I mentioned above that our new Sage in Residence at Dragon has fallen to Ed Greenwood and his alter ego Elminster.  He is up with By Magic Masked a great little piece on magic masks. I know these were used in the Forgotten Realms and I have made a few of my own, but this is a rather good article and frankly, there should be a mask slot (maybe it used with head) in modern D&D-like RPGs. 

This is followed immediately by Bazaar of the Bizarre. How do we know we are dealing with a new TSR now? This one covers magic rings.  I am kidding of course...mostly.

Over the years I have come to associate the Bazaar articles with the Forgotten Realms. Feeling that these items would mostly be found there as opposed to Greyhawk or the Known World.

Switching gears, More Power to You gives us new skills and powers for Champions.  The article is copyrighted to Leonard Carpenter. I can't speak to the value of the article because I have never played Champions.  Seems like a big hole in my RPG career I know. 

In quite literal switching gears we get Tanks for the Memories by Dirck de Lint (also copyrighted) which gives us tanks for the Car Wars game. I also didn't play this one, but I don't consider that a big as a miss as say Champions. 

Thomas M. Kane is back with Roughing It, or the Wilderness Survival Guide for Top Secret. It is rare that we get a Top Secret article that was not written by Merle Rasmussen. Outside of the game-specific detail it could work with almost any modern RPG.

Now here is something interesting. We get a Villains & Vigilantes article written by the late Stewart Wieck of White Wolf fame. The article, Even the Bad Get Better, discusses how villains can gain from their criminal experience.

Ad for White Dwarf.

James Ward and Harold Johnson discuss the new Gamma World 3rd Edition in Gamma III.  This also includes some basic conversion guidelines.

The Role of Books covers the then-current batch of SF/F books. Of particular interest to me is their review of the first Silverglass book. At the time I am not sure if it was known that author J.F. Rivkin was not only a female author but was in fact two different female authors working together. There is a new author's edition out now published by one of the authors and it has been on my TBR pile for a year.  

TSR Profiles covers artist Clyde Caldwell (with Alerelean model Jeanne Stanley) and writer/RPGA Cooridnator Penny Petticord. 

TSR Previews gives us what we can expect in the coming months.  I can't be certain from memory, but I feel like some of these products never saw the light of day. We do see what I think is Frank Mentzer's last contribution to TSR in I11 Needle. There is also Petticord's C6 The Official RPGA Tournament Handbook

Nice big ad for the upcoming Wilderness Survival Guide. I kinda wish I knew where mine had gone off too. 

The Game Wizards discusses changes coming to Dragon Magzine columns. Namely changes to the Game Wizards column itself.  Michael Dobbson, Jeff Grubb, and Jim Ward all mention new products and projects they are working on.  With the recent turmoil at TSR, I wonder if this wasn't an attempt to ease fans and customers into being assured that everything was all right.

Small ads in the Gamer's Guide. Convention Calendar lets us know what is happening in the start of the 1987 con season,

Snarf kills a dragon with a revolver in Snarf Quest. We get to the Wormy comic and an arc we would not see the conclusion of.

An absolute ton in this issue with no real central theme.  

I can't help but think that the overall message here was "everything is fine at TSR, things are changing, but everything is fine."  Or am I projecting with knowledge of what I know was going on behind the scenes and nearly 35 years of hindsight?  Who knows from casual reading? 

Not an Earth-changing issue, but a solid one all the same.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Friday Updates; Retro-Builds, DemonQuest and July is coming up.

Finding it hard to post on a Friday when it is so nice out!

So some updates.

We had some really hot days this week so I took advantage of it and went out to get my TRS-80 Model III case and give it a new paint job.  It now looks like a TRS-80 Model 4.

TRS-80 Model III Before

TRS-80 Model III After

That is the first coat of primer. I primed it in flat white and used a glossy white top coat.  It's dry but I might put on another coat. 

For this "Retro-Build" I really wanted to use a Raspberry Pi 4 based system again, but I also have this motherboard just laying around. I have not idea if it will fit save for my quick and dirty measurements. I have a new hard drive for it and the keyboard.  I need to cut the bottom of the case to fit the keyboard in, but that is no big deal, and I already have my support.  Going with some industrial foam this time instead of 3D printing one.


If I stick with Windows on it versus the Pi I can run all the Gold Box D&D games on it.  Make this nothing but a D&D-related computer. Just like the 1980s. 

My DragonQuest post went over rather nicely. I am going to be checking out the fan revision of 2nd Edition, called Version 2.19 soon.   I am not entirely sure what, if anything, I will do with it but I do love the idea of mixing in bits of the SPI Demons game and calling it "DemonQuest" instead.  Maybe I take some notes from DragonRaid!  This is only a passing idea.  Maybe something I can pick at every now and then.  I do have some ideas though that I like.

July is coming up.  I was talking with my friend Greg this week and the topic of Superhero Games came up.  I might spend some time with some supers games and maybe even get to some Sci-Fi stuff I did not cover in May and some D&D stuff I now know I won't get to this month.  At the end of July (or rather the last )  I have something special planned that should be fun.  No details yet, but here is a spoiler.

Next week, either some Castles & Crusades or Pathfinder and how they relate to D&D!

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?


Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: DragonQuest 1st Edition

DragonQuest, 1st Edition
I am actually quite thankful for this challenge right now.  I feel my creative batteries are in need of a recharge and this has been a help.  

The Game: Dragonquest

Everyone has that "one game" the game they admire from afar, want to learn it or more about it, and maybe, just maybe get to play it one day.  For the early 1980s that game for me was DragonQuest.  I can recall looking over the 2nd Edition book sitting prominently out front of Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown.  I'd flip through it and marvel how "Not D&D" it was.  I always wanted to buy it but since my gaming budget was limited to what I could make on my paper route it was a fascinating game that no one I knew played OR the next AD&D hardcover.  Not a question of who was going to win really. 

Thankfully I am at a point in my life now where my RPG budget is several orders of magnitude greater and even expensive aftermarket books are within my grasp.  So I was quite pleased to have picked up DragonQuest 1st Edition boxed set a while back.  It confirmed everything I had thought at the time.
The game is wonderful in it's "Not D&D"-ness, it is wonderful to read and a joyful look back into the past of our hobby.  And I also know that no one I gamed with at the time would have played beyond one session.  Ah well.  I have today.

I do recall reading more about DragonQuest in the page of Dragon Magazine and I remember when TSR bought SPI (DragonQuest's publisher) that a new 3rd Edition was going to come out. I even held out hopes that the dual systemed D&D/DragonQuest adventures would lead to more crossovers.  But sadly that never occurred.   

At some point, I will need to do a deep dive into this game. But for now, let's make a character.

The Character: Phygor

In my games Phygor was one of the greatest wizards to have ever lived.  He was a well to do student in Glantri's Magic School. He was smart, well-liked, and had a very rich family. He was sitting in the courtyard of the school one day when just decided that he could not learn anything else here. So he got up left his books, belonging, and half-eaten lunch and he walked.  He kept walking until he had gone all over the world learning esoteric magics from hundreds of different spell casters.  He was something of a magic "Batman" in my games, only with no tragic backstory.  When he returned to Glantri he was able to quickly and decisively put down a rebellion of other wizards; having no defense against his new and strange magics.  While he was in the D&D sense a Lawful Good Wizard, he has the respect of almost all the magic-users, wizards, witches, and warlocks of my world. Even the evil ones since Phygor believed in the crazy notion that magic should be for all so he made all of his discoveries public.   

He was never really a character.  Just a name and a myth. I would then claim that my wizard character Phygora was named for him and of course he would also go on to learn a lot of strange magics.  Sort of like how Harry Houdini named himself after his idol Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin. 

So let's go back in time. To a point before Phygor at age 25 got up and left his life to learn different magics.  This is 18-year-old Phygor just getting started at his school. Not discontent, but bright-eyed and eager to learn.

Human Male, 18 years

Primary Characteristics
Physical Strength 12
Agility 10
Magical Aptitude 21
Manual Dexterity 16
Endurance 16
Willpower 18
Appearance 13

Secondary Characteristics
Fatigue 20
Perception 5
Action Points 9

Starting XP 140

Adept, College of Ensorcerlments and Enchantments
Talents: Witchsight
Spells: Spell of Telekinesis
Rituals: Ritual of Enchantment

None yet

He looks like a likable chap. He would have to be, he is going to travel the world and seek out all the masters of esoteric and occult knowledge.  

There is an absolute ton to like about this game.  Frankly, I'd love to get some more XP and see what skills I could start with this guy.  Maybe even advance him far enough to even start his big world-spanning journey.

I could even see a future feature here where I try to stat him up in other FRPGs but each time have him a little more advanced.  Maybe even ending with his BECMI stats at 36th level.


What are your memories of DragonQuest?  I'd love to hear them.