Showing posts with label This Old Dragon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label This Old Dragon. Show all posts

Thursday, March 2, 2023

This Old Dragon: Issue #91

Dragon Magazine #91
I thought I would turn back to pages of one of my musty old Dragons. Today's topic comes to us from October of 1984. Gygax is still at TSR. Prince and the Revolution still dominate the airwaves with "Let's Go Crazy" hitting number 1 following the success of "When Doves Cry" and preceding the success of the single "Purple Rain."  Nick Nolte and JoBeth Williams star in the number #1 box office "Teachers." All I remember from that movie was Crispin Glover was really insane in it. On the shelves in the local Waldenbooks is Issue #91 of This Old Dragon.

I did not own this one back in the day. My High School DM and I had an agreement to pick up every other issue. This was the one he got.  I found the cover to be really cool and thought that it would make for a great concept. Something we would try about four years later. 

I did finally get an issue. The one I have is beat up and missing a cover and some pages.  This image is from my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM.

We are introduced to the new Table of Contents page. It is easier to read than the older one with the gray background and will be the standard for a while.  

Letters praise the recent Katherine Kerr articles and have a few helpful suggestions. The recent Rust Monster ecology didn't fare as well. 

Nice ad for Milton Bradley's Broadsides & Boarding Pirates. Back when gaming magazines would run ads for their competitors. The ships from that game would make great props in a sea-faring adventure. 

The Forum is less praise-filled on Katherine Kerr's stance on playing evil characters. while I have played evil characters in the past I find playing them these days a bit tedious. Playing a good character was always more fun for me. 

Gary is up with From the Sorcerer's Scroll.  This one deals with some of the new demon information (and one demon) we will see in the upcoming Monster Manual II.

Long-time contributor Stephen Inniss is back with Realistic Vital Statistics. This is a new guide and system for how much a particular humanoid-like creature, from pixie size to titans, should weigh based on height.  The system certainly works and has a lot of internal consistency which is what you need in a game system. He points out some inconsistencies with the data provided in DMG and attempts to make it better. He does give practical and magical adaptations to the Square-Cube Law (though he does call his observations this, that is what it is) and it plainly sets out why giants could never have existed like described in D&D. I do like his notion there is some sort of magic at work here, maybe a low-level sort of levitation spell going on.  It is a very useful article.

Dragon Magazine MVP (certainly of this issue) Ed Greenwood is up with The Ecology of the Leucrotta. I will fully admit when I first saw this my first thought was "Why? There are so many other interesting creatures out there." Which I think is the whole point. This article and the one on the Slithering Tracker (the first Ecology of article I ever read) pointed out that even so-called "pointless" or even "useless" monsters can be interesting. It also helped shift my focus of D&D/AD&D as "character-centric" to "normal human-centric" and realizing that even a "pointless" monster can be a huge threat. This also reminds me I should do a retrospective at one point on all of these Ecology of articles. 

Ecology of the Leucrotta

More Devils. More Hell. And more Ed Greenwood! Nine Hells Revisited gives us some details about the devils and hells they live in. We get some new devils, some of which I have not seen repeated since. There are even a couple that share their names with others like the Greater Devil Dagon (formerly Jaqon), the Greater Devil Azazel, and the Arch Devil Gargoth (formerly Astaroth).  This is every bit as useful as the series from Dragons #75 and #76. 

Ed follows this up with Eight Devilish Questions. This is the article than also originally clued me it to how to figure out the HD of various higher level demons and devils. I say clued me, but in reality it was more along the line of "duh, why didn't I think of that!" 

Nice ad for White Dwarf.  Bigger ad for the 10th Anniversary set of D&D books. Really, really wish I had grabbed those then. Of course, if I had they would have gotten lost with all my other AD&D books from that time.

A big overview slash big advertisement is next the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight in Chronicles: A Novel Idea. I know a lot of gamers around my age and older complain about Dragonlance, but frankly I don't get it. It did change the game, but in all ways for the better. 


Ad for Bard Games' The Compleat Fantasy Series and The Atlantean Trilogy follows.

My entire middle section is gone here. It was The Treasure Trove. I am not sure if I took this out or if it was like that when I bought this box of old Dragons.  While by the rules I invented for myself saying I could not review what I don't have, I do want to make one minor breach of that.

What is missing?

As I mentioned, this particular issue was bought by my DM at the time. He took all the magic items here, and a few more of his own, that rewrote all the magic item tables in the DMG. Impressive or ADHD? You decide. Anyway, we were running a small side quest for my paladin, Johan Werper II, and decided that he was on a quest (something that I later would call a "Secret Journey" that all member of his holy order had to do.  On this quest, to make a long story short, he found the sword Demonbane. It fit so well with his quest that I made it and even the Citadel of Conjurers a part of my world mythos. MY Demonbane and Citadel of Conjurers took on a different life than the ones that eventually were published in the Forgotten Realms but history was made on that cold rainy afternoon in October.

Penny Perricord is up with Spies' Advice, some questions and answers for Top Secret. Normally this particular column was written by Top Secret Head Administrator Merle Rasmussen. Not sure why he wasn't here. Maybe out watching the Top Secret! movie?

Coming Attractions lets us know what is getting published soon by TSR. An Indiana Jones adventure  Crystal Death. Some Dragonlance metal minis. The second Conan adventure. The odd one, 2001: A Space Odyssey for Star Frontiers. I never grabbed this, but I wondered with a universe like Star Frontiers with lasers and robots and faster-than-light travel, we would get one about a ship that only made it to Jupiter.  Well that is the nature of licenses boys and girls. Indian Jones, Conan, and Dave Bowman here were all part of TSR's big license push. I am pretty sure they lost money on these.

Speaking of Sci-Fi the Ares section is up next.

"Does Anyone Here Speak Aslan?" from Joseph Benedetto, Jr. covers language skills in Traveller.  It is a pretty good guide and one I would adopt for other sci-fi games like Star Frontiers. 

Sadly I am missing the next pages of Day of the Juggernaut a Star Frontiers scenario by William Tracy. I am also missing the Marvel Phile of Cloak and Dagger, two of my favorite Marvel characters to be honest.

Alex Curylo is up with Careers in Star Law. This is a follow-up to Kim Eastland's article in Dragon #87. Not about lawyers, but law enforcement. 

Not to be forgotten but we do get some new Gamma World material in Don't Leave Home Without 'em! from Scott Hutcheon. This covers new gear for Gamma World.

Our short fiction piece, The Rune and the Dragon, is by Lawernce Watt-Evans.

Paul Smith reviews the Shōgun card game. Ken Rolston is back with full reviews of Mercenaries, Spies, & Private Eyes, Death at Dunwich from Theatre of the Mind Enterprises for Call of Cthulhu (I always like the cover of this one), and The Vanishing Investigator for Gangbusters. He has capsule reviews of Dragons of Despair (he didn't care for it), Marvel Super Heroes, and Bree and the Barrow Downs from ICE for MERP.

Gamers' Guide covers all the small ads. Including an ad for Texas Instruments TI-99 programs to create characters. So yeah computer character generators are at least 40 years old. The rather infamous "Who sez dragons don't fly" t-shirt is featured twice. Lots of other t-shirts too. 

Ad for the Indian Jones RPG.  Wormy, Dragon Mirth, and Snarf Quest wrap up this issue.

All in all a really great issue. Lots of great articles, including many that can still be used today. Did Malarea ever see her diabolic plans come to light? I must know!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #129

Dragon Magazine #129
Going back to my box of Dragons this week to pull out a nice one from January 1988.  I say "nice" but the issue is in fairly bad shape with no cover and pages falling out.  The winter of 1988 was an odd one for me. I had a girlfriend leave me (quite literally, she never came back to school), and I was entering my second semester of college.  Though I did start hanging out with the girl I would eventually begin dating and then marry, but that was still years off.  INXS was the biggest music group on the radio. Robin Williams and "Good Morning Vietnam" was the king at the box office (whatever happened to "Good Morning, Chicago!"?) and on the shelves was #129 of This Old Dragon. 

We are solidly into the "theme" issues of Dragon now. The cover, a Dwarven cleric of Thor, reflects this.  There are a few articles coming up that I think helped set the stage for how demi-humans would later be dealt with AD&D 2nd ed. Certainly, it was beyond what you would have seen in the Golden Age of AD&D 1st Ed. These are the end of the Silver Age of AD&D 1. 

Letters has some Top Secret S.I. questions and some questions about cover art.

Forum has the (then) latest debates on whether or not Magic-Users can use weapons and/or armor.  Some good cases are made here to be honest. All largely moot these days. 

We get to the Featured Section, Demi-humans.


Len Carpenter is up first with Arcane Lore, Magic of the Dwarven Priests. It is a rather good one to be honest that gives tips and ideas on how to play the "newly permitted" Dwarven cleric PC.  I am not sure if this article had anything to do with it, but the Dwarven Cleric became something of an iconic figure in the 3.x days.  To that end this article still has some sound advice on not just what a Dwarven Cleric can and could do, but also what spells they are likely to have access too and which ones they would not.  There are also plenty of new spells just for dwarven clerics. If you play a dwarven cleric today then this is a good article to dig up regardless of the system you are using. 

Children of the Spider Goddess from Eric Oppen is next and gives us some insight on the Dark Elves. I went back to this article way back when I was running the D series for my family. I was running it all under 5e and there have been millions of words written about the Drow and Dark Elven between this publication and when I used it, but I still found it quite helpful for working out how the drow act and do what they do.  While I have always felt that Drow should be Lawful Evil this article made a good point about how Chaotic Evil would work better. 

John R. Prager hits us with a short article about altering the dice rolls for abilities in Give Demi-humans an Even Break! Essentially demi-humans get extra dice they can roll for determining their abilities.  For example, if you are going to play a Hill Dwarf you roll 7d6 for Strength and just take the highest three. This might run counter old school dice rollers where you roll first and then determine the race/class or new schoolers where getting a low score in something typically associated with a particular race is really no big deal.  Yes, there is even a column for Comeliness. 

Halfling get a new class of their own in Don't Sell Them Short by Peter Dosik. The Halfling Guardians are bit like Halfling Paladins. Perfectly playable archetype/class.  

C.E. Misso finishes us up with a bit on driders in Entering the Drider's Web.  Driders' status have changed over the years with them being either cursed (this article) or the chosen of Lolth.  I also took this and put it in my Drow (D1-2,3) folder. While maybe not the exact heralds of the age, they were certainly forerunners of the days when everyone wanted to play an edgy drow. 

The Role of Computers by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser (and copyrighted 1988) covers the then state of the art in computer games.  Their featured game is Tower of Myraglen for the Apple IIgs. Make sure your Apple has been upgraded for stereo sound for this game! It is not the best game they have played, but it does take advantage of Apple's 640×200 resolution and sound capabilities.  They also have a bunch of smaller reviews for Acolade's Pinball Wizard, Beyond Zork, GBA Championship Basketball, California Games, and more. 

Nice full-page ad for Traveller 2300

Runequest fans get a treat in A Sorcerer's Supplement: New Sorcery Spells for RUNEQUEST by Michael DeWolfe.  I have the classic Runequest rules, so I should hold on to this.  I have still never played. 

Sage Advice covers all those new questions that come with new rule books.  This time for the D&D BECM (no I just yet) rules. 

Big four-page ad for Warhammer. The worlds of D&D and Warhammer have been drifting further and further part by this time. Might be one of the last ads I'll see for it.

Warhammer 3rd Edition

Dean Shomshak gives us a nice treat. The Dragon's Bestiary this month covers monsters from the Para-Elemental planes of Ice. 

The Game Wizards from Jim Ward this month is A Volume of Oerthly Delights. He lets us know what could be part of the new Greyhawk Adventures hardcover (the last AD&D 1st edition hardcover). He gives us some ideas he is considering for the new book. They include: Greyhawk's Hall of Heroes, Greyhawk's Book of Creatures, Greyhawk's Book of Magic, Greyhawk's Book of Magical Devices, The Free City of Greyhawk, and Greyhawk's Clerics and Temples.  I can't recall how many of these made it to the hardcover, but I do recall their being some monsters.

Our fiction section is The Old Ways are Best by Larry Walker.   

"Who's in Charge Here?" by Bryan Caplan gives us guidelines on how many leaders in the form of higher-level fighters and/or cavaliers one should expect from a group of soldiers. 

Powered armor gets more details for Star Frontiers from David Dennis in Armored and Dangerous. I really should get a Star Frontiers game going again. It was a lot of fun. 

John C. Bunnell is back again with more book reviews in The Role of Books. He covers the likes of Sword and Sorceress IV, Tales of the Witch World, Agnes Day, and Murder at War. 

Role-playing Review by Ken Rolston gives us two soon-to-be classics; one for AD&D and one for D&D.  Up first we have GAZ 3 The Principalities of Glantri.  Long-time readers here know how much of a fan I am of Glantri, and Rolston concurs, saying it is the best city presentation for a TSR game world. He also says that the book is nicely presented and well-written.  His other is a little boxed set known as The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set. I don't suppose I need to go into detail on how this one was received here. 

Up next are small ads.  Lou Zocchi has some Deities & Demigods with Elric and Cthulhu in them. Send him 40 bucks.  Oh, and I never did get my characters drawn from Anvil Enterprises.

Small ads in Dragon #129

The Convention Calendar has the best cons for the Winter of 1988, including one I actually went to!

The Egyptian Campaign

Lots of conventions listed here. Far more than we have now.

Dragonmirth has comics.

We end with some ads and just Snarf Quest. No Wormy, though. The last strip would show up in a couple more issues. Little did I know I was at the time living just a couple miles away from where Tramp was living. 

 So a fun issue. Great if you are into demi-humans. 

Mine has seen much better days, and I am unsure if it will survive the trip back to my box.

This Old, decrepit Dragon #129

Thursday, October 20, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #76

Dragon Magazine #76
Last week I talked about Dragon Magazine #75 and how packed full of material it was. Today I breaking my own rule and going for the very next issue because it has Part 2 of the Devils article. But there is a lot more here than just that. So once again let's sit back, put on a copy of The Polie's "Synchronicity" and drift back to August 1983 for Issue #76 of This Old Dragon.

Ah. Not only do we have a Clyde Caldwell cover this issue, but it is one of my favorites. Sure the redhead is in boob-plate, but at least she is not wearing high heels. The wizard in the background would also be the visual I'd use for my NPC Magnus until it was replaced by another Caldwell piece.  

Letters covers the woes of computer programs, in particular trying to translate BASIC from one system to another. 

An interesting little bit about the Ares magazine appears on page 4. TSR had just bought SPI in 1982 and their magazine Ares. The plane was, in 1983 at least, to keep them separate with Dragon handling the fantasy content and Ares the SciFi. Readers here will know of course that was short-lived and by April of 1984 Ares became a section within Dragon.

Ed Greenwood and Roger E. Moore are up first with The Ecology of the Beholder. Maybe one of my favorite "Ecology of..." articles ever. The "Sage" of the article is doubtless Elminster, though he lacks his normal archaic form of speech. One of the true joys of doing these "This Old Dragons" has been the rediscovery of these Ecology articles. One day I need to track them all down and do a retrospective. One thing I love to do with them is to put them into my Monstrous Compendiums.

Ecology of the Beholder

Yeah, that might feel like blasphemy to cut up my old Dragons, but I have multiples of this one, and the one I cut up was water damaged anyway. On that Beholder mini? Yeah more on him later.

Ahh...speaking of Magnus. We have the late, great Len Lakofka and his masterpiece, For NPCs Only: The Death Master. Magnus was my NPC Death Master and damn was he great. I mean this was such a great class. There is just so much about this class that just hits right. I am so pleased I am doing this issue in October. 

Up early is the SF/Gaming Convention Calendar for August 1983. Gen Con 16 gets a mention. 

Here we go. The main event. 

Ed Greenwood is back with The Nine Hells, Part II. This one covers the next four layers Malbolge to Nessus. Also featured here are 21 new Devils including Other Side favorite Lilith as the consort to Moloch of all people. Once again Ed is dropping hints about witches here (they serve Lilith).In addition to all the new devils and information on the layers we get seven pages discussing how magic is changed in the Hells.

This would be enough for any other issue, but we are only to page 45.

Next, we have The Dragon Magazine index. A complete index of Dragon magazine issues #1 to #74 and all seven issues of the Strategic Review. It covers 8 pages and would have been fantastic to have. Today it is superseded by the DragonDex and even that doesn't cover everything.

Ads for the Palladium Role-Playing Game and The RPGA take out middle section. 

Carl Smith provides us with a Boot Hill article about the Army in Saved By the Cavalry! Boot Hill largely gets forgotten these days as people remember D&D, Gamma World, and Star Fronters rather fondly. 

Sage Advice answers questions about Baba Yaga, mithral and adamantite, why AD&D Rangers are not Tolkien Rangers. Oh and how to deal with pregnancy in game. I assume they mean characters and not players.

Page Advice covers questions on how to submit articles and get published. 

Off the Shelf gives us some reviews of what was hot in Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the summer of 1983. Of these, I remember reading Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster and Storm Season by Robert Lynn Asprin, the fourth book in the Thieve's World series.

There is a feature, not really a review, on the Gangbuster game in Expanding the genre of RPGs.

Long ad or review or feature on Eon Publications in Borderlands is Worth the Price. It is a type of fantasy wargame.  Reviews for Cities, Judge Dredd, and Federation Space also appear.  There is another review, a re-review of the Dragonmaster card game.

Nice big ad for AD&D books. Again featuring one of my favorite bits of D&D art.

Issue 76 page 75

Small ads are next, Wormy, Snarf Quest #2, and Phil and Dixie go to Sham Con V.

Nice ad in the back for Star Frontiers minis.

So once again we have a Dragon that hits so far out of the park that all you need is the first 45 pages. Yes the index was great for 1983 and everyone still loves the comics, but for $3.00 you could get a mini-rulebook here and that was something special.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #75

Dragon Magazine #75
Something special for the scariest of months this week. I normally grab a random Dragon magazine out of this old box and review it here. This (and next) I am doing something different.  This one actually sits on my shelves with a few other rare Dragons because I consult them often.  So let us go back to July 1983. I am 14 years old and playing AD&D pretty much all the time. The Police dominate the airwaves with "Every Breath You Take" from the wildly successful album Synchronicity (which also introduced me to the writings of Carl Jung) and "Return of the Jedi" the last of the Star Wars trilogy for decades is still running in my local theatre (I saw it 78 times).  On the shelves, it is Dragon Magazine #75 and this is This Old Dragon.

Anyone familiar with this issue will know why I am doing a One-Two punch of issues #75 and #76. Yes, it is because of the fantastic Devil and Nine Hells information included by the prolific Ed Greenwood.

But let's do this issue right. 

A day at the beach is this whimsical cover celebrating Summer. Looks like it was made by Jack Crane. I am not familiar with the name, but the style is familiar. 

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers just that, Summer.

Letters get into the problems with play-by-mail games and some observations about a recent review of Champions. There is praise for the Piercer article (praise I agree with) and some concerns about the Cavalier class. I am sure that will all be sorted out before long.

Nice big ad for the James Bond 007 game. I was at a game auction recently and there was a lot of James Bond material going for some really high prices. I have always enjoyed the Bond movies and consider myself a fan, but I have never played this.

Our first article from our issue MVP. Ecology of the Mimic covers these irritating creatures. It is just a page, but Ed manages to pack a punch into few words.  Since I have (had) multiple copies of this issue, the water-damaged one gets sacrificed and added to my Monstrous Compendium.

And that is how you trap a mimic

We get right to the meat here with Gary Gygax in the odd role of "opening act" to Ed Greenwood. New Denizens of Devildom is this month's From the Sorcerer's Scroll and it gives us a look into what sort of devils we will get for the Monster Manual II. Six pages with 13 new devils. These will all appear in the MMII, but having this as some sort of Monster Manual 1.5 is still pleasing to me. 

Up next is one of my all-time favorites. The Nine Hells, Part 1 by Ed Greenwood. It left such an impact on me that I have always set up my worlds with Demons more interested in Oerthand Greyhawk with devils more interested in Toril and the Forgotten Realms. I mean I am on the first page and Ed is hitting me with so much here. What are the Realms? How can I get a copy of Dragon #64 on a paperboy's pay? Even today they pact a punch.  How much? I went right to the text just now and completely failed to mention the fantastic Larry Elmore art for this! So do we get? Fifteen pages. Five layers of Hell, Avernus to Stygia. And a total of 23 new devils are listed by layer. Ed did his homework and there are many names familiar to anyone that has read old medieval demonologies. The trick as always is figuring out who is a demon, who is a devil and who is a god.  Bist for example seems to be related to Bast. Nergal was a Babylonian god,  Lilis is a riff on Lilith, and others are names that appear in demonologies. There are things written here that you can still find in D&D books printed in the last couple of years for the latest system. 

After that everything will seem a bit tame. Or will it?

Roger Moore gives us some new Gamma World monsters in Mutants, Men(?), and Machines. Gamma World 1st Ed monsters were close enough to Basic D&D to make conversion easy. Though the only one I ever recall using is the Hydragen, or the mutant diamond-backed rattlesnake, and the Nitrodjinn (cute).

Lew Pulsipher is up with Beyond the Rule Book which has style tips for good GMing. 10 Procedure tips (things you can do) and 10 style tips (how you do them). The advice is solid and can still be used today.

Nice ad for Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan miniatures. I would have freaked out to have seen today's 3D printers then.

The USS Protector

Before Dungeon Magazine Dragon would have adventures and sometimes adventure contests. Here is one that won first place by Bob Waldbauer. Can Seapoint Be Saved? is an adventure for 4 to 8 characters of 4th to 7th level. It is a sea port and ocean/sea based adventure. Which is cool because I lack adventures of this type. I never read it because it was a potential adventure to be used for a possible ocean-based adventure we were going to do but never got to 4th level. I still think about it every so often.  

Clyde Heaton is up with an article that always fills me with all sorts of curiosity and wonder. Even Orcish is Logical covers how to create an orcish language.  Ever since I read Lord of the Rings I have be fascinated with ConLangs or constructed languages. I have toyed with the idea in theory, but never in practice. I don't have those kinds of skills. This article makes me think I could at least do the basics. I remember reading this one and some of the words were familiar. 

The prolific Katherine Kerr is up next with our next language lesson, All Games Need Names. Hers is a much longer overview of languages and how they are made. Hers comes from the point of view of a novelist and storyteller, the same as Tolkien in purpose, but not exactly in practice.  Could I make a language with both of these articles? Maybe. I don't know enough about the process to even know what I don't know. But I would like to try. 

Great ad for some Atari 400/800 software. I always liked the Atari 400/800 computers, but it was the 1200 series that I really wanted. 

Figure Feature: Humanoids covers humans in words and pictures.

A bunch of reviews are up. Ken Rolston is back with a review on the Runequest Companion in Companion Fill the Glorantha GapVisit The Solomani Rim a review by Tony Watson covers Traveller supplement 10.

Mike Lowery treats us with Tales Stranger than Fantasy or reviews of Mazes and Monsters and Hobgoblin, two fairly notorious fiction books about the dangerous world of Fantasy Roleplaying games. I have been meaning to read them both someday but there is always something else, something better on my pile to read. 

UK Revisited: Games Fair 83 is a report from Gary Gygax.

SF/Gaming Convention Calendar covers the game convention scene of the summer of 1983 including a nice big ad for Gen Con XVI.

Two page ad for Asgard miniatures. 

Three pages of What's New! with Phil and Dixie. Three pages of Wormy.

And tucked away, hiding in the back is five pages of Snarf Quest #1.

Pardon the pun, but this is a HELL of an issue. Even ignoring the new content from Gary. And the material from Ed. We still have two fun sections on languages, an adventure, AND the very first Snarf Quest.

I mean really. This was PRIME Dragon Magazine years. 

Next week we go back to Hell.

Dragon Magazine issues #75 and #76

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.

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Traveller Articles

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Traveller Articles
In all honesty, you have my wife to thank for this one.  

I was talking with her about Sci-Fi month (she is a huge scf-fi fan) and Traveller and how I learned of the game via Dragon Magazine.  She suggested that it was high time I did another "This Old Dragon" and focused on Traveller.  So I have spent this week going through some of the Dragons I left and some of the articles I have already "liberated" from various Dragons.

Remember that a lot of the Dragons I have water damage or are other wise in bad shape.  A few were so mildewy I dropped them in favor of the Dragon Magazine CD-ROMs.

There are a few Traveller articles, TSR/Dragon was very eager to embrace other companies' products more in the early days. This is good for me since I really wanted to focus on Classic Traveller. 

I am not going to hit *every* Dragon article about Traveller, but I do want to hit the big ones. I am, for obvious reasons, going to feature the ones I still have in my collection.

The Dragon Days

William B. Fawcett is up first with The Asimov Cluster in The Dragon #20.  This area of space is an attempt to emulate various Science Fiction novels while keeping everything within the scope of Traveller.  There are 10-star systems described here.  I have the feeling that if I had read more classic sci-fi I might recognize these worlds a bit better. 

The Dragon #25 has New Service Options for Navy Characters by R.D. Stuart.  Now the date on this is May 1979 so I am not sure what is happening with the Supplements at this time so no idea if this information had been rendered redundant at any point.  I will assume it had at some point.  But until then it is not a bad set of charts. If you are still using the 3 LBBs this is still good stuff.

We move on to The Dragon #27 and two articles from Gary Jordan. Up first he gives us another take on his Tesseracts article from TD #17 (and famously in The Best of Dragon II).  Where that article was used to confuse map mappers, here it is a boon in Traveller since the area is hyperdimensional.   What does that mean for Traveller characters? You can cram more into your hold.  This is followed by a Star System Generation system. 

The Dragon #35

This is the first of a couple of Traveller-themed issues.  This one comes to us from March 1980.  We get an article on the "Space FBI" from Kenneth Burke in IBIS: Profit and Peril. Alexander von Thorn, famous for his "Politics of Hell" article, is up with one of two articles on new skills.  The other is from Charles Ahner & Rick Stuart. More Clout for Scouts from Anthony Previte and Jame Cavaliere is next and establishes that this article, in particular, takes Mercenary into consideration.   The Traveller universe is growing!  In a switch from characters, James Hopkins is next with Block Holes! about, well, Black Holes.  This one would have been very welcome to me back then having just seen the Disney "Black Hole" movie at the "67 Drive-In Theatre" back in 79.  

This was 1980 though. I was firmly entrenched in my newest obsession, Dungeons & Dragons, and I barely knew other games existed, yet.

Dragon #51

The next, and also sadly the last, issue to have a Traveller featured section was Issue #51 from July 1981.  Though there is a lot here.  And a lot of that is quality.

The heading for this feature is "The Future is Here."  Trust me living in the 80s felt like the future was just right around the corner.  No wonder Traveller attracted me so.

Up first we have Dragon vet Roger E. Moore with Make Your Own Aliens. The Aslan and Vargr are still a bit off for Traveller fans at this point, but Moore takes Andy Slack's article series from White Dwarf #13 to #16 and expands on it.  The article is interesting and feels a little more like a "create your own monster" for D&D or mutant for Gamma World.  The rolls on the charts are d% and not d66.  On the plus side it would also work for something like Gamma World or Star Frontiers.

I do find it entertaining that the art for this article features what can only be described as "Dralasites."

Jeff Swycaffer is next with Plotting a Course for Choosy Players. This takes out some of the randomnesses of character generation by adding a Point-Buy system.  It looks like it could work well enough and I am sure something similar was added to future versions of Traveller. Point-Buy systems were all the rage in the 1990s.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh is up with a few articles. First is New Ideas for Old Ships. The art and the article give this a full "Used Cars" feel to these ships, but to be honest this feels right.  Characters just completing their terms of service are not going out to buy a brand new Porsche 911 with the heated leather seats, heads-up display, and personal wifi.  No, they are getting an 11-year-old Honda Civic with all after-market parts and a rattle that no one can figure out.

Next, he gives us In Defense of Computers and tackles the two biggest issues people had with computers then; they are too expensive and do too little. First I never felt the computers in Traveller were too expensive, at least not for what they are supposed to do on a Starship.  I do agree they do too little by today's standards. But anymore I of the frame of mind there are computers in Traveller and there are Computers. 

Crabaugh delivers two shorter articles. The first is Planet Parameters which details various features, mostly gravity, of an alien world.  It works...for the game, but actual stellar data is wildly different.  I think we are fine with the size, G, Vesc, and Mass columns, but the P (rotational period) we know can vary wildly.  Earth and Venus are roughly the same size (say Size 8 and 7 respectively). Earth's rotational period is 23 hours, 56 minutes, or one day.  Venus has a P of 116 days, 18 hours. Mars, a Size 4 or 5 planet has a P (day) of 24 hours, 37 minutes.   Jupiter, which is off this scale, has an M of 317 (the chart goes to 2.4) and a P of 10.  In his defense, he does say that rotational periods can be slowed due to gravity.  The Earth's is slowed by our relatively large moon, Venus by the Sun and Mars none really at all. 

Next, he deals with Masers, or microwave band lasers (and points out the lasers are really visible light masers, but hey).  

Lastly, we get an article from none other than Marc Miller. The Miller Milk Bottle is, I think, an attempt to be the Towel of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for Traveller.  Half a page on how useful the mundane milk bottle is.

The Jon Mattson Articles

Over the next several months we get a number of articles from Jon Mattson.  These are also usually longer articles and add more details to your Traveller game.

Filling in Skills from Dragon #55 does exactly that. This one details a "learning by doing" system of skill improvement. I never got to play enough games to know what my character would have done long-term. So I have no practical experience here. 

Moving on to February of 1982 in Dragon #58 we have Anything But Human, another attempt at creating aliens for Traveller.  Again this one is heavy on the d% rolls. 

Later that year in August we get Robots in Dragon #64, with some nice Larry Elmore art showing us where the VR-X9-4-M2 Galactic Probe, Government Issue Robot was made.  Like the Alien article above it has a lot of random tables.  Also it could be used with Star Frontiers if you wanted to. 

The Luna Series

In the early to mid 80s Dragon's Ares Section, which was devoted to Sci-fi, ran a series of articles on Luna, the Moon, and how it fit into various science fiction games.  I thought it was a great series and I loved reading all the different takes on it.  It had a side effect on my developing the moons of my D&D worlds in more detail.  But today we are looking at Dragon #87 and Luna: A Traveller's Guide by the first Traveller himself Marc Miller.   Note this article was copyrighted 1984 by GDW, so I imagine this is as close to official as it could get.  It is a library computer readout of Luna and it's place in the Imperium and to Terra. 

The Later Years

Post-1984 Traveller and all sci-fi began to see subtle changes.  These would be complete by the late 1980s and early 90s when Sci-Fi became darker and more cyberpunk.  I enjoyed the change myself, but also at this time I was drifting away from sci-fi and fantasy and more into dark fantasy and horror.

A sign of the times could be seen in Igor Greenwalds' Rogues of the Galaxy in Dragon #97 (May 1985).  Called a character "class" these are essentially characters who came up via organized crime instead of military, merchant, or other services.  It also features art from Jim Holloway, so maybe a sign of MegaTravller to come?

Rogues. Yes I cut this out of a Dragon magazine.

We get more Jim Holloway art in September of the same year (Dragon #101) with The Stellar Diocese from Michael Brown.  I know as a D&D player I talked about my Traveller Envy before. But I am getting some serious "D&D Envy" from the Traveller fans here.  Or...maybe these are the articles that Dragon printed since they knew they might appeal to D&D fans.

High Tech and Beyond from James Collins in Dragon #108 discuss some issues that were brought up all the way back to The Dragon #20 and that is that a lot of sci-fi media is much higher tech than the TL 16 depicted in Traveller. This article introduced some things that we take for granted in scifi like planet-destroying weapons, antimatter and transporters.

Michael Brown is back in Dragon #109 with The Double-Helix Connection or Mutants in Traveller.  Gamma World Envy? 

Put on "Bad Boys" because Terrence R. McInnes gives us Star Cops! in Dragon #113.  This article is also one of the reasons why I don't have a Dragon CD-ROM for issues past 250.  This article is copyrighted by McInnes, so likely there were never any second-run or reprintings allowed.   Anyway, this article deals with character creation for police forces. It actually looks rather fun.  This one also cites an earlier article from The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #14.  That is an entire universe left unexplored at present by me!

So we have done Gamma World and D&D with Traveller, why not Top Secret?  John Dunkelberg, Jr. has Space-Age Espionage in Dragon #120.  This is presented as a new career (not class) for Traveller characters.  The article is in-depth and in my very untrained eye, it looks like it could work out well.  Interestingly enough the following article is from Douglas Niles about the new Top Secret game.  

This is also the last article in Dragon about Traveller until Dragon #270 (April 2000) and even then it is only to convert it to Alternity. 

1987 is my personal cut-off date for Classic Traveller.  I am sure others share that, but 87 was also the year I went to University and my tastes moved from Sci-fi to Horror.  I still LOVED Star Trek and that was the bulk of my sci-fi roleplaying.  These last two weeks have given me so much Traveller information that I honestly could stop right here and be very happy.  But I have to admit there is Traveller 2300, MegaTraveller, T5, T20, and more out there I need to learn about and figure out. 

The Future is Now

This is going to be a fun trip.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #113

Dragon Magazine #113
Reaching into the box of musty old Dragons I keep under my desk I find this little gem from September 1986.  I was a senior in High School and dying to get out.  I had just auditioned for the part of Dr. Seward in our school's performance of "Dracula."  Steve Winwood and Chaka Khan were singing about Higher Love.  It's fall of 86 and this is This Old Dragon issue #113.

My copy does not have a cover, but thankfully I still have my trusty Dragon CD-ROMs.  And this is one of my favorites.  I had just rolled up a cavalier from the Unearthed Arcana and I figured this was a good representation of him.  This particular cover was painted by Robin Wood.

Given the mustiness of my copy I might be sticking with the CD.

Kim Mohan talks about how he spent his summer, working on the new Wilderness Survival Guide, a follow-up to the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.  We ate those books up in our group.  I remember going back and trying to retcon proficiencies for all my AD&D characters in play, some had gotten to fairly high levels.   These days prefer a much simpler skill system.  D&D 5 is a good example. And many "cinematic" point-buy systems.  In my OSR games, I more or less let my players tell what they are good at and leave it at that.  For example, I'll mention Erky Timbers below. He is a gnome who is an expert on cheese. He gets a +2 on any rolls involving cheese.  It comes up more often than I expected.

Letters cover something timely for me, responses to the Hooves and Green Hair article from Dragon #109

The Forum covers questions about HD and quibbles about the Unearthed Arcana.

A nice big colorful ad for the Dragonfire II Dungeon Master's Assistant software.  There is a review in Dragon #116, so I think I'll get into the details of it then and there.

Out big section for this issue is all about Hades, the Land of the Dead.  It looks to square the mythological Hades, a place of gloom but not really evil with the D&D Hades, a land of Neutral Evil.  Bruce Bauer gives us the treatise and his bibliography is top-notch for the time.   Like the nature of the planes in AD&D 1st ed, the article spends a lot of ink on how spells work or don't work, in this land.  There is a bit on the land itself and the various rulers.  This is sort of the problem I ran into in One Man's God, there is mythology here based on real-world myths mixed all together that don't always work out.  Still, though it is a fascinating read and a topic that often gets lost when dealing with the Lower Planes.  The material is still good today and not entirely incompatible with newer games. 

An old friend of the Other Side Vince Garcia is back with A Capital Idea. Vince covers how the PCs can make money becoming business people. I go back to this article every so often because every so often I get a player that wants to go into business.  Currently, my youngest's character, Erky Timbers, wants to hire a legion of gnome artificers to build magic items.  Erky is taking all his treasure and putting it to this goal.  Gods help me if he figures it all out.

Nice ad for the Dragonbone dice roller and the Dragonskin book covers.  They looked cool, too bad they tended to melt onto the covers of books and ruin them.  

John C. Brunnell is up with The Role of Books. Covered are Janet and Isaac Asimov's The Norby Chronicles.  Janet Morris takes a break from Thieve's World to go to Hell in Heroes in Hell. The one I read back then was Diane Carey's Dreadnought! about the Dreadnought class starship in Star Trek. 

Folklore is the topic in Thomas M. Kane's The Tales People Tell.  This is the backstory part of world-building that so many of today's gamers love. It gives examples of tales from our world and how they are used and then provides some examples.  Though to really use this article well you should read Kane's examples, but make up your own.  

Computers are all the rage in the 80s and Mike Gray reviews Ultima IV in Magic and Morality. Gray mentions he hates giving rave reviews since they are rarely accurate, but he raves about Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.  He talks a lot about the morality of the game and even mentions that *shock* you can get through it without a lot of combat!  He makes the claim that this is the closest that anyone has gotten (so far) to a full-fledged RPG experience on a computer.  

Clout for Clerics is a good article to expand the role of the Cleric and give them some followers.  James Yates gives us lesser clerics and man-at-arms followers for clerics and explains why, out of all the classes, they should have them. 

A Saddle's Not Enough by Mike Albers covers the historical importance of the stirrups. This actually helped me on a history exam later in life. 

William Carlson covers combat in the Conan RPG from TSR in Combat Complexity.

Our centerpiece is a cut-out cardboard dragon that my issue does not have.  The CD-ROM has it, but no idea if it is complete or not. 

Ah, now time for a bit of a look into the Way Back Machine.  First is TSR Previews with what are going to be the hot new titles from TSR in November 1986.  The Wilderness Survival Guide is coming out for AD&D. The Creature Catalog for Basic D&D is on the way and wait, what's this a SEQUEL to Ravenloft?  Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill? Sign me up!  We also get the Convention Calendar for September/October 1986.  

TSR Creator Profiles feature the late great Keith Parkinson and the still great Bruce Heard. 

A Difficult Undertaking is our fiction bit from none other than Harry Turtledove. 

Easy as 1, 2, 3 from Rick Swan talks about how to make NPCs more interesting.  This article largely focuses on how to make the best use of tables on pages 100-102 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. 

Larry Church tries to tempt me with better math in One Roll, To Go.  Using his binomial tables he has you reduce the numbers of rolls you need to make.  Nice idea, bad concept though.  Why? People love dice and love to roll them.  While rolling less might mean a faster game it doesn't mean a more fun game. 

Top Secret gets in on the Top Gun craze with military aircraft in Top (Secret) Guns.  My first college roommate was Air Force ROTC. Nice enough guy, but fuck I never want to see Top Gun again. Though that soundtrack by Berlin was quite good. 

Mike Sitkiewicz is a triple threat with his Minimagic article where he painted the minis, built the dioramas, and took the pictures.  See for yourself.


Like many of us, Scott A. Hutcheon loved the Terminator movie (there was only one still) so he gives us Cold Steel, various hunter and killer robots for Gamma World 2nd Edition, with 3rd Edition notes promised.  I can't throw stones really. I even wanted to try out a "Terminator" like future in Gamma World of the last of the pure strain humans vs killer robots I called Machine World, gleefully stolen from the Queen song of the same name

Ah some Traveller goodness. Here we get Star Cops! from Terrence R. McInnes.  It is still three years before COPS hits the Fox Network, but if you start humming Bad Boys no one is going to stop you.  This article is also one of the reasons why I don't have a Dragon CD-ROM for issues past 250.  This article is copyrighted by McInnes, so likely there were never any second-run or reprintings allowed.   Anyway, this article deals with character creation for police forces. It actually looks rather fun.  

We get to the small ads. You can cast your own metal minis for just pennies! Get your own custom full-figure character from Avil Enterprises (always wanted one) and ads for various game stores including the legendary Wargames West. 

Tramp was making some news again on social media so it is a bit bittersweet to see Wormy here. Dragonsmirth has the normal silliness, but this issue has extra black mold. Not happy.  And three pages of Snarf Quest.

All in all not a bad issue. Not a completely memorable one. But not bad.  Though I am going to need to double up on the Benadryl after this one. 

Dragon #113