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

Thursday, July 22, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #125

Dragon Magazine #125
Been a bit since I did one of these I thought this might be a good time to pull this one out. 

Dragon #125 comes to us from a magical time in ancient history known as the Fall of 1987.  This issue is from September 1987 in particular.  I just met this girl from the dorm next door. She had already kicked everyone's ass in cards in her dorm and now she was over at mine to humiliate everyone here.  So yeah we quickly became friends, then best friends and sis years later we were dating and today is our 26th wedding anniversary.   So yeah, I look back at this time rather fondly. 

Dragon #125's special feature is Chivalry.  Not a bad choice with all the Arthurian movies I have been watching this month.  The cover art by Roger Raupp is a great portrayal of Arthur vs Modred. 

Letters include one to remind us the Wormy has appeared in 100 issues at this point. Sadly the end is near.   Also mentioned is Finieous Fingers which hadn't appeared in Dragon for a long time. There is also a letter about religion in D&D and the DragonRaid game gets mentioned. 

Nice ad for the Science Fiction Book Club.  This would have been around the time I joined for the second time and I see a number of books here I still have.  This was my transition phase of moving out of dark fantasy and into horror proper. 

Forum has the usual collection of deep cuts for the game.  One, in particular, discusses a letter from #121 about parthenogenesis in Amazons and delves into the details of the mating habits of harpies.  Is this Dragon Forum or Penthouse Forum?  Likely to have the same level of "Dear Editors, I could not believe this, but this really happened..."

The first true article comes up and it is a neat one.  Nigel D. Findley gives us The Ecology of the Greenhag.  The central idea revolves around the notion that all hag types are born of the mating of a Night Hag and various humanoid species.  It is a neat idea really.  I like that the Night Hag has a gestation period of 13 months. Greenhags likewise can give birth to an Annis after their "quite frequent" matings with ogres or hill giants. No indication on how the Sea Hags or other hags fit into this.

Ed Greenwood is up with a Realms article.  This was the start of the Golden Age of the Forgotten Realms.  The article, Woodlands of the Realms, covers magical and mundane trees and forests of the Forgotten Realms.  You have to give the guy credit, he came up with some good stuff even in the minutia such as this.  

Our special section of Chivalry begins next.

The Code of Chivalry by Mark Easterday gives us some knightly orders and what to do with them. There are benefits and drawbacks for PC Knights and even a simple system for honor.  It is nothing Earth-shattering, but it has appeal in it's simplicity. It is also something more people should be doing with knights, cavaliers, and paladins. 

Nice big ad for the Time-LIFE Mysteries of the Unkown series, now frustratingly incomplete at your local used book store. 

Time-LIFE Mysteries of the Unknown

Thomas M. Kane is next with Meanwhile Back at the Fief...  This one covers all the duties of a feudal lord. There are some details on day-to-day activities and tables of odd occurrences.  I seem to recall some similar rules in the D&D Companion set. These came after that so I wonder how they compare.  

Armies from the Ground Up by James A. Yates is next and deals with the hows and whys of raising an army in an AD&D game specifically.   Again, very useful to have. 

A "new" section that was going to be semi-regular is up, Lords & Legends.  I have no idea how much or for how long it continued. A quick Google search shows it came up at least one more time.  This is entering as bit of a "Dark" time for me and Dragon.  I was in college and any spare money went to food, school supplies, or...other school supplies.  It is "dark" in the sense that it is a period that is unknown to me.  I remember reading this issue back then, but my Dragon purchases would be only for special occasions like the October issues. 

For this Lords & Legends from Katharine Kerr we have three lords of the Age of Chivalry; Count William of Orange, Bertrand (nephew of William), and Count Rainouart of Tortelose.  All from the Chanson de Roland ("Song of Roland").

Our last article in this series is Glory, Danger, and Wounds by Garry Hamlin.  This article also draws on The Song of Roland for inspiration and deals with battle and honor for Cavaliers. Large battles and private duels are discussed.  More importantly how such battles and duels should and should not be used. 

The Best for the Best covers elite espionage agencies for Top Secret and is a rare non-Merle M. Rasmussen article. This one is from William Van Horn and it is more proper for the Top Secret S.I. game that Rasmussen did not develop. 

For our centerpiece, we get a new "mini" game from David "Zeb" Cook, Clay-O-Rama, a miniatures battle game where the playing pieces are made from clay or Play-doh. You get some friends, some dice, some pencils, and some modeling clay (Play-Doh is recommended) and you get started making your Claydonian to do battle. Make sure you leave some clay/playdoh aside for missiles  The rules are really simple, you move, you attack, you calculate damage. The whole thing takes up three page and a cover.  Pull it out of your magazine and you are good to go.  It does look like silly fun, to be honest. 

Clay-o-rama

Our fiction selection is by Lois Tilton titled The Passing of Kings.

Lee Ian Wurn is up with a rare post-Gary Greyhawk article. In the Bazaar of the Bizarre, we have the Magical Maps of Greyhawk.  We get magical maps that more or less are the magical GPSs of their day.  The article though gave me an idea.  What if there was a giant magical Bazaar, like what you find on Deva in the Myth Adventures books by Robert Lynn Asprin.  I could make each article a stall, like you find in those giant flea markets or the vendor's room at Gen Con.  And just to be that guy, the stalls have the same number of the magazine they appeared in.  This shop of magical maps is found in stall #125.

Jeff Grubb is up with Plane Speaking. This time featuring the Positive Quasi Elementals. There are only three, Radiance (Fire-Positive), Steam (Water-Positive), and Mineral (Earth-Positive). The Lightning (Air-Positive) appeared in the Monster Manual II.

The Game Wizards talks about the new Dragonlance Adventures hardcover.  This was a rather popular book with my small group in college. There were a lot of ideas I freely stole from it for my own games.  I also thought it was odd about the hard cap of 20 levels.  Now that is normal. 

A Second Look at Zebulon's Guide comes to us from Kim Eastland and covers all sorts of errata and clarifications.  I was out of Star Frontiers at this point having switched over to FASA Doctor Who and Star Trek. I have heard that Zebulon's Guide changed things but I will admit I do now know to what degree. 

Big ad for Mayfair's updated City-State of the Invincible Overlord

City-State of the Invincible Overlord

Role-Playing Reviews is next covering three fantasy adventures.  This is another one of the articles that would get WotC into trouble despite their good intentions.  The article is Copyrighted 1987 by Ken Rolston, which means he likely still held the reprint rights. The adventures in question are The Grey Knight for Pendragon, Phantom of the Northern Marches for MERP, and Treasure Hunt for AD&D.  We learn something we had suspected at this time, that the term "Module" was growing out of fashion. So for the adventures Rolston lets us know that the Grey Knight is one of the best he has seen, Treasure Hunt is a fantastic adventure for 0-level AD&D characters, and Phantom is wonderful.

The Role of Books covers some of the new releases for the last quarter of 1987.  There is the Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son, a couple from Harry Turtledove, and the debut (more or less) of Peter David who later go on to be one of America's most prolific authors.  

Jeff Grub's Marvel-Phile is up with some enemies for the Incredible Hulk; Abomination and Zzzax, and an ally, Doc Samson.  I was thinking about Abomination just the other day while trying to decide if I should include the Hulk movies in my Marvel re-watch that I might never get around to.

Gamer's Guide has the classified ads. I wonder how many of these places were still around. 

Convention Calendar covers the cons of Fall 1987.

Three pages of Snarf Quest, a page of DragonsMirth, and three of Wormy.

Some interesting bits to be sure, but nothing that jumps out to me to be used today.  The Greenhag stuff is fun, but I have taken my hags into a completely different direction really.  While everyone talks with glowing nostalgia for the Dragons prior to these (and I do as well) there is a lot between 1987 and 1997 that I never read and only have briefly glanced at.  So that might be my new sweet spot for The Old Dragon.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #20

Dragon Magazine #20
This issue has been on my want list for a very long time, well this weekend I finally got a copy and I could not be happier.  My copy is a little worse for the wear, but still I am happy. So let's get right to it!

This issue comes to us from November 1978, exactly one year before I would discover D&D.  The cover is a Halloween-inspired one, and frankly, I think it is great. It has a Ravenloft feel to it, five years early.  It's one of those that rewards you the more you look into it. I can't tell who did it though. I want to say Tom Wham. 

I also should point out that this isn't "Dragon #20" this is "The Dragon #20".  

We learn from Tim Kask's editorial that the price of The Dragon has gone up to $2.00 per issue. Plus they are going to a new printer for color, things look better, but there is a cost.  Out on a Limb is coming back and I guess it was "controversial."  

Up first Marc Miller talks about his game Imperium, described as "1977's Game of the Year."  He gives us a bit of history of how the game was created and it completely invokes all my Traveller Envy.  Marc follows this up with some rules addendums. 

Some reprinted editorials from Gygax; Dragon Rumbles #19. Largely about Gen Con and Origins. Gen Con is expanding and having growing pains. 

Speaking of expanding, TSR is looking for a new assistant to Gary Gygax.  You need to have good typing, spelling, and proofreading skills.  I wonder who got the job?  I have my guesses.

Job ad, be Gary's assistant.

Mike Crane has a nice random table of various Eyes and Amulets for Empire of the Petal Throne. Easily adaptable to D&D of course, if I knew what any of them actually did. 

Nice big ad for Star Trek minis, 75mm versions at $10.95 each. 

Jerome Arkenberg is up with a great one, The Mythos of Polynesia for Dungeons & Dragons.  The format is similar to what we find in "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes."  It is detailed enough for me to do a One Man's God for it but I know so little about these myths. The gods themselves are an interesting lot. Of them all, I knew Pele and Tangoroa the best. 

Wormy is next and in full color. 

Ah. Here is the reason why I bought this issue. 

Another Look at Witches and Witchcraft in D&D by Ronald Pehr.  This article is a sequel to the article from Dragon #5, and the prequel to the ones in Dragons #43 and #114. This one is more detailed than the one found in TD#5.  This one still has the disclaimer of an "NPC Class" but offers it as a potential PC class for some DM's games.   This one also makes the connection that witches are to magic-users as druids are to clerics. The author does point out that a witch is typically neutral although individuals can be good or evil as they please.  They are not Satan/Devil worshipers even if they can summon supernatural assistance. The author points out that Cleric, Druids, and Magic-users can summon the same sort of aid.   He also dismisses the stereotype that all witches are solitary old hags indicating they need to be to work with others and in harmony with nature so a Charisma of 9 is needed at the minimum.

Presented here are 18 levels in OD&D format. They have saves and attack rolls like that of the Magic-user but require more XP, 3,000 points needed for level 2 and it scales on from there.  This witch gains several powers per level as well.  Why making a Bag of Holding comes before the more stereotypical Brew Love Potion I don't know, I do know that even I think this witch is pretty damn powerful.  

This witch also has spells up to the 8th level.  This has always felt right to me as being between the Cleric and the Magic-user.  Even in modern games where every spellcasting class has access to 9th level spells I still like the idea that Wizards/Magic-users have access to greater magics, even above my beloved witches.  She may be limited to "only" 8th level spells here, but some of these spells...damn.  "Destroy Life Level." "Wither," "Circle of Distegreation."  I don't recall if all of these made it forward to issues #45 or #114, but they are some pretty powerful spells. 

The first part covers two pages then it is continued on for a quarter page later in the magazine.  What strikes me the most is not how really overpowered this class is (it was toned down in #45 and #114), or the casual sexism in the presentation ("it provides a very viable character for ladies," it was 1978 after all), but the fact that this was the headlining article and there is no art associated with it. 

This version of the witch is the one I have typically associated with Holme's Basic set. Mostly because they share a publication time. This fits since the witch from The Dragon #5 is very obviously an OD&D witch and the one from Dragon #45 is connected to the Moldvay Basic game. Also because of the time of publication and because Tom Moldvay did a bit of the editing on that version.  This leaves the obvious connection of Dragon #114 with AD&D 1st ed.

I suppose my collection of Dragon MAgazine witches is complete, more or less. I do not have a copy of The Dragon #5, the first witch, but I do have the reprint in Best of the Dragon Vol. 1 which is identical to what was in #5.

Dragon Magazine covers featuring the witch class.

The second reason I wanted this issue, Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This article also calls back to The Dragon #5, in particular the article on Spell Research in D&D (also in the Best of Vol. 1).  The editor reminds us that the author, Gregory Rihn also gave us a great article on lycanthropy (again, in the Best of Vol. 1) so they feel this is a worthwhile article.  This article is good. It covers the reasons why a magic-user might want to summon a demon in D&D and then how to do it!  Take a moment to breathe that one in. The Satanic Panic was just about to happen.

There is a lot of detail here and a lot of really awesome role-playability.  I mean really if your wizard or witch hasn't tried summoning some evil from the deeper dark are they REALLY living?  There are even guidelines to what needs to be in the rituals (new vestments, items, even sacrifices) and what sort of tasks of the demon can be demanded.   

This article, plus the witchcraft one, when combined can be used to add a lot of flavor to the Warlocks of D&D 5.  

Halfway, we get some photos of the various winners of awards for 1977 at Gen Con XI. Pictures of John Holmes, his son Chris as well as awards presented by Elise Gygax to Marc Miller and Tim Kask among others.

See Africa and Die! Or, Mr. Stanley, Meet Dr. Livingstone comes to us from none other than Gary Gygax himself providing a review of the game Source of the Nile.  IT is not only a pretty detailed review but also suggests some rule corrections.  The review does make the game sound fun but this is the problem in reading 40-year-old+ game magazines. All the great stuff is long out of print and expensive as hell to find. 

William B. Fawcett gives us a Traveller variant/addition in The Asimov Cluster.  Traveller! Why must you haunt my every step! But seriously, this is the exact sort of thing I would read back in the day and make Traveller feel like this epic sweeping Space Opera.  I am sure it is. I am sure there are people (and I have read their blogs) that are just obsessed with Traveller as I am with D&D who would read the D&D articles and wistfully say "someday. someday I'll play that game and it will be as epic as I imagined."   I did play some Traveller, but mine never got epic.  I don't even know which Traveller system to start with now if I wanted to get back into it.  This is my "Sci-Fi" month. I should figure this one out.

Anyway, this article provides details on the Asimov Cluster with a lot of planets here to provide points of interest for your Traveller game.

A really cool ad for the D Series modules from TSR.  I bet these will be cool.  Followed by a preview of the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" movie.

The Drow series and Lord of the Rings

Lyle Fitzgerald gives us a breakdown of character death in It's a Good Day to Die (Death Statistics of D&D Players).  I should note that these are statistics only from his local gaming group. And it is not Players that are dead but rather Characters.  Though props for using this as a title 10 years before Worf would utter the same words.  Though like most things it is better in the original Klingon.   It's an interesting read and might even be a good snapshot of the times.  Maybe I'll create a poll one day to get some more data.  Not that I honestly care much about character death, I just like statistics.

Allen Hammack, a very prolific Dragon writer back in the day, has a rule variant for hidden movement in the War of the Ring game.

Finieous Fingers is up. People talk about being able to judge the generations of games by their feelings on Tracy Hickman. I also say you can make the same judgment on the generations just prior to that on their opinion of FF.  It's fun, but does not fill me with nostalgia.

The Convention Schedule fills a quarter of a page. In a couple of years, it will expand to several pages.

Our last article is about Demonic Possession in the Dungeon from Charles Sagui, a name I don't think I have seen before.  It's a good guide and, as the author points out, something not used enough in games with demons. This article presents demonic possession as sort of a trap to be found in dungeons (well, that is the title after all) and a good use of it. Reading this it is easy to expand on it a little more and get your Regan and Captain Howdy types. 

A nice big ad for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

Back cover is an add for the Space Gamer magazine. 

Ad for the Player's HandbookAd for the Space Gamer

Counting covers a total of 36 pages, but a lot has been packed into these pages.

It is interesting to read a Dragon from this time period when I was imprinted on Dragon from the Kim Mohan/80s period.  This one feels a little more like a White Dwarf magazine to me.  If you are curious, White Dwarf #9 was published around the same time.  

Also there is a feeling of embracing more games here.  It feels like gamers were far more open about trying out other games than with what some of the older gamers today would lead you to believe.  This is also consistent with how we all played back then.

So yeah. I paid a lot of money for this issue and I don't regret it at all really.  I still have my Dragon CD-ROM with all the PDF files, but having this in my collection is still worthwhile in my mind.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mail Call! Minis, Blue Rose and Old Dragons

I got a bunch in the mail this past weekend so let's have a look!

Mail call items

HeroForge

Up first,  Some new minis from HeroForge.

Graz'zt in 25mmBold and True, Johan Paladin of Light

Graz'zt and my paladin Johan.  His sword, Demonbane, is on fire because it is a demon-hunting sword and Graz'zt is near.

You can get a better look at Graz'zt below.

Screenshot of Graz'zt

If you click on the HeroForge link here you can even see he has six fingers on each hand!

I forgot who made this, the post on Facebook is gone, but she did a great job.

He compares well to the official mini that was made for him.

Graz'zt minis

Graz'zt minisGraz'zt minis

And he looks good next to my HeroForge Iggwilv.

Graz'zt and Iggwilv minis

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

The Blue Rose Adventure's Guide is out as a DriveThruRPG POD and it looks great!

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

This allows you to play a Blue Rose game using the D&D 5th Edition rules. It is surprisingly complete.

Blue Rose Core and Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.

A full review coming soon.

Dragon #20

And last, but not at all least, I finally got a copy of Dragon #20 with the Witch class and demonology guide.

Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Expect a "This Old Dragon" post on this one soon!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #101

Dragon Magazine 101
It has been far too long since I did This Old Dragon.  I'll grab the next one of the pile and see what we have.  Looks like we are headed back to September 1985 for This Old Dragon #101.

This one is another with no cover.  That is interesting because I will admit it is among one of my least favorite covers.  I am not sure why really, it is Dave Martin and did the (in)famous Dragon #114 cover, but I never cared for this one.

One of the good things about taking so long to this is these now seem to smell less moldy and mildewy. That's a plus.

Kim Mohan's Editorial repeats a sentiment I have shared here; Aren't We All In This Together? Essentially they refused to run an ad that disparaged another companies product. I have often felt the same.  Other gamers, games, game designers are not my competition, they are my colleagues. Like Mohan maybe I am naïve. 

Some ads for Call of Cthulhu and ElfQuest.  The ElfQuest, one covers Sea Elves.  I have been re-reading Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning that introduced the Sea Elves. Been wanting to do more with them myself.  Maybe I should check on eBay for this.

The first article, Update from the Chief, comes to us from Gary Gygax himself.  This might be the last article written by Gary as a member of TSR.  He will be out in October of 1985.  The article covers many topics.  Unearthed Arcana sold over 90k copies in its first month and his Gord book did well.  Gary announces two upcoming publications, Oriental Adventures and T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil for AD&D and more "family-type" games including All My Children. Gary also briefly discusses the critics of D&D and RPGs in general. 

In a fortuitous (turn for me) Roger E. Moore's article on Kender in All About the Kender is up. I just posted stats for what I think is the very first Kender character I have ever made. Lots of people hate Kender. I will admit I never liked them much, but hate was too strong.  My dislike comes more from my enjoyment of halflings.  Moore's article, rereading it all these years later AND while also rereading the first Dragonlance Chronicle my opinion has softened.  Now I think I find Kender in the light they were always intended. What I disliked about them then is what endears them to me now.  I have to admit that some of what I did with gnomes in the 3e days were likely based on 1st ed Kenders.  I am perfectly happy to keep them on Krynn in my own games, but here they get to be as Kendery as they can.   Since I am going to be running DL15 Mists of Krynn, this is a great article to reread.

Plan it by The Numbers is up from Frank Mentzer.  This is a system he had planned on using in the D&D Master Set. It is similar in many respects to the Monstermark system from White Dwarf or the Challenge Rating systems from D&D 3-5.  The system was not used because it was "too heavily mathematic" but it seems rather simple to be honest.  Almost too simple. In any case I think I will give it a try for my Basic-era War of the Witch Queens game. 

Paul Suttie is next with For King and Country. I have say, I find nothing more tedious and dull than discussions about alignment. For something that is only one aspect of the game I find the multitudes of discussions on it largely pointless.  For example, this article covers five pages.  Why?  Do we really need that?  In then he just wants to dump the whole thing.  

The article is at least broken up by a cool black ad for the D&D Master Set.  Makes it look like a limited edition sort of deal. There is also an ad for Unearthed Aracana.

D&D Master SetAD&D Unearthed Arcana

The Role of Books covers the then-new offerings from SF/Fantasy.   I will admit I don't know most of these, but 1985 was around my turning point of leaving science fiction and fantasy reading and moving more into dark fantasy and horror.  Of the titles, I do recognize the novelization of "Ladyhawke" by Joan D. Vinge.  I enjoyed her "Snow Queen" and "Cat" series quite a bit as well as her novelization of "Return to Oz." 

Peter Johnson is next with Charging isn't Cheap on how to recharge magic items.  The nice feature of this article are the examples of how various wondrous magic items are/were created.  This is a nice change from the very formula-driven approach seen in 3e.  Other than the level restrictions on who can create or enchant these items, this could easily be added to any version of the D&D game. The levels might need to be altered is all. 

Jeff Grub, of Marvel Super Heroes fame, sets out to review a game that could be considered a conflict of interest; but he is very clear about where he is coming from on it. So instead of a conflict or a competitor, he comes off as "Expert."  This is good because the game he is reviewing is the DC Heroes RPG.  It's a good review and Jeff obviously loves the game as it is and loves it as a competition to his own MSH game. 

We get to the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of this issue.  The Creature Catalog III.  I loved new monsters in Dragon Magazine, and the Creature Catalogs were among my favorite features.  This one has 24 new monsters for your AD&D game and includes submissions from the likes of Ed Greenwood, Roger E. Moore, and Stephen Inniss. With art from Marsha Kauth, Dave LaForce, and Roger Raupp.   There are a few very interesting monsters here too.  The avari are cool-looking bat-like humanoids. The bogeyman is another take on the bogey, bogle, boggart of myth and legend.  The creeping pit is a magical mishap gone wrong. Another hamadryad and lhiannan shee.  The mantimera is a crossbreed of a manticore and chimera (not sure I want to know how that happens). And the yale from mythological lore.   

Consequently, Owen Kermit Edwards is now doing posts on the monsters of Dragon magazine.  His first one is up today on his blog Haughty Fantasy Adventures

TSR Comming Attractions lets us know that T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil is on the way, as well as Book 3 of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Spring Dawning.  I have been rereading that and am just about done.

Fiction from Brenda Gate Speilman.

We get to the Ares section now.  

One day I need to back through all of the Ares and see what I can use for my BlackStar and Star Trek: Mercy games. 

Roger E. Moore (our MVP of this issue) has his article on Starships and Star Soldiers on the use of minis in science fiction games.  Timely for me since I just started getting into some 3D printing of some of the FASA Star Trek ships. 

Sorry, Wrong Dimension from Mike Manolakes covers dimensional or parallel universal travel in superhero games.  As a big fan of both the comic and TV event "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and someone that uses different universes in my fantasy games as well.  The 6-dimension coordinate system he has here is EXACTLY something we would have used back then.  This uses a 2d6 for determining dimensions. I like that.  But the d12 is my go-to sci-fi die, so I used that instead. 

More from Jeff Grub on The Marvel-Phile. This time back to Asgard with Beta Ray Bill and Sif.  

Out of the Sun covers man machines for Gamma World from James Ward and Roger Raupp.  And Michael Brown gives us The Stellar Diocese of cleric for Traveller.   That is something I should adopt for BlackStar, but only cultists.

Convention Calendar covers the hottest conventions for Fall 1985 and Winter 1986. Some small ads, notably for a couple play by mail games and art for your D&D characters. Something that I still enjoy getting. 

Wormy gets two pages. I think I need to reread that one from the beginning. I know how it ends, but hitting these in piece-meal, out of order fashion, I forgot what the hell was happening. 

Dragonsmirth gives us TWO different picnic scenes. SnarfQuest gets three pages, mostly about the Gaggleleech. 

I remember this one when it first came out. There is a lot of great material here and the Creature Catalog will certainly see some new use in the future.

Dragon Magazines

Still plenty more to go!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

This Old Dragon Retrospective: The Gods and Goddess of the Suel

World of Greyhawk books
Something a little different today.  I had always wanted to combine two of my regular features, "This Old Dragon" and "One Man's God" into a series of the gods and goddesses presented in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  I can think of a few examples off the top of my head without cracking the musty pages.  I had always wanted to start with the Suel Pantheon, but I wanted to wait till I was done with the Deities & Demigods.  

Well, last month we all learned about the death of Len Lakofka and I wanted to mark it in some way.  I thought maybe this would be a good way of doing that.

Introduction

A little bit of background here on This Old Dragon. I had purchased a couple of large gaming collections over the last few years. My brother also gave me a box of Dragons in really bad shape. After combining, keeping some, selling off others, and tossing (yeah, had too) ones that were in terrible shape I was left with about 100 or so Dragons that were in pretty bad shape. Most were missing covers, many are missing pages and maybe one or two are fully intact. In This Old Dragon, I am grabbing an issue out at random and reviewing them. I can only review what I have, so if it is missing I won't talk about it. The only exception I make is the covers. If I feel too much is missing or something important is missing I'll check my Dragon-Magazine CD-ROM. 

One Man's God is my feature on the various mythos, gods, and goddesses as presented in the AD&D 1st Edition Deities & Demigods.  Here I look through the various gods and monsters and see which ones would be better classified as AD&D 1st Ed Demons as defined by the Monster Manual.  When there is nothing I look to the original myths to see what we can find.

Today I am going to do both features for the Suel Pantheon.

This Old Dragon: The Suel and their Gods

This feature began in Dragon Magazine #86 from June 1984 to #92 in December 1984. Or in my prime AD&D time.  The feature was authored by Len Lakofka and had Gary Gygax's official stamp of approval on them.  Len had also created the L Series of modules and the Lendore Isles.  So in my mind, that meant there was still active Suel worship in the Isles and that the wizard on the cover of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill was a worshiper of Wee Jas.  But I am getting ahead of myself. 

The Suel made their very first appearance in the pages of the first The World of Greyhawk folio as an ancient empire whose language was still used. The Gods would get names, but not information blocks in the boxed set World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting.  Soon after we began to get the gods in Dragon.

Before I get into the Gods proper, there are a few other issues we should cover.

Dragon Issue #52

This issue gives us a very new looking Leomund's Tiny Hut from  Len Lakofka. This is so new in fact that I think this might be the first-ever Tiny Hut article.  There is an introduction by Gary himself.  This installment covers giving more depth to the humans and languages of the Flanaess.  Cool article and one that every Greyhawk DM should have handy.  Actually, it is good for most DMs. The article is pretty long, longer than most Tiny Hut articles in my memory.  

This is the article that lets us know that Suel are very near albino looking save with shades of violet for eyes.  Given that these were the forerunners of the Lawful Evil Scarlet Brotherhood then it was kind of obvious that the Empire was some kind of a cross between the Melnibonéans and the Nazis.

Dragon Issue #55

In his From the Sorcerer's Scroll Gary gives us some more details on the Suel and how they moved across the continent to the Snow, Frost, and Ice Barbarian lands and how these peoples are the purest strains of the Suel bloodline. If the picture being painted is these are not particularly nice people then consider the painting done.  Still, there are some interesting tidbits and it made me want to find out more and it made me want to find an offshoot of the Suel that weren't such xenophobic dicks.

I think Len made a lot of that possible in his series.

Dragon Issue #86

Dragon #86 was one of those issues that punched way above its weight class. I mean there was just so much in this that one would be excused if Len's article, Presenting the Suel Pantheon, was ignored.  Here we are introduced to Lendor (the chief god) and Norebo (the god of thieves).  The gods are presented in the same format as the D&DG gods; which sadly in the early 80s meant these were creatures that could be fought and could be killed.  But I want to ignore that for bit and instead focus on what is really one of these first full (A)D&D pantheons.  In the 3e era some of these gods would be folded back into the "Greyhawk" pantheon, but here they are on their own with their fellow Suel.  

Lendor has a solid Odin feel to him and Norebo (maybe one of the most popular gods during my AD&D years) is like a slightly less evil Loki.  This trend is going to continue.

A box of old Dragon magazines

Dragon Issue #87

This issue covers the gods Kord and Phaulkon.   Kord is the son of the lesser gods Phaulkon and Syrul, though he himself is a greater god.  He is also one of the most popular and worshiped Suel god.  He is the god of battle, swordsmanship, and berserk rage. He has thousands of semi-mortal/semi-divine children, any of which who meet his challenges can claim demi-god status.  If you are thinking Thor with a sword mixed with Conan then you are not too far off.  Since this issue also featured the Ecology of the Dryad, I figured that Kord had a particular affection for them.  In fact I am going to say that the Korreds, who would later appear in the Monster Manual II, began as the offspring of Kord and the multitude of dryads he..uh.seduced. Sure let's go with that word. 

Phaulkon is the winged god of air, flying and archers. If Kord is the superior melee combatant, then Phaulkon is the superior missile combatant. He can speak with any bird or any creature that uses wings to fly, including demons and devils.  He is Chaotic Good so I always felt there would a natural rivalry between Phaulkon and Pazuzu, both striving for control over the air and air creatures. 

Wee Jas by Jeff Butler
Dragon Issue #88

Here we get Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas the unrequited love of my life (circa age 14).  Wee Jas, of course, grabbed my attention like nothing else in this issue. She was a gorgeous goddess of magic known as the Witch Queen?  How in the hell was I supposed to ignore that?  For years I thought this art was a Larry Elmore piece, but it is actually Jeff Butler.  I think the wide eyes are what really sets this piece off. Bella Donna indeed.

Of all the Suel gods it is Wee Jas that has had her best life in the years following this publication. What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her. She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.

If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact, she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.

In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathed to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.

Also, have a look at her name "Wee Jas" or "Wee" and "Ja" or "Oui Ja".  She is the goddess of the Ouija board as well. Magic. Death and Spirits. Clever Gary.

Syrul is the evil goddess of lies and false promises.  Fortubo is the dwarf-like god of mountains, stone, and metals. Neither are half as interesting as Wee Jas.  Well, Fortubo was interesting on his own, but not compared to my 1984 girlfriend here. 

To stretch out Norse analogies a bit Wee Jass is a bit of Hel and Freyja combined. But there is also a good amount of Hecate in her.

Since Len also created the Death Master NPC class I figured at least a few Death Masters were aligned with Wee Jas instead of Orcus.  This was part of their strong rivalry for the dead. 

Dragon Issue #89

This issue continues those wonderful Denis Beauvais "Chess" covers.  So therefore the Suel Empire invented chess on Oerth.  

In this issue, Len features Pyremius, Beltar, and Llerg.  It is interesting to see which of these gods survived to today. These gods made it to the 3.x Living Greyhawk Gaz and Complete Divine. Pyremius is the God of Fire, Poison, and Murder. He looks like a conehead to be honest.  The next goddess, Beltar, just has a Conehead sounding name.  She is the Goddess of Deep Caves, Pits, and Malice.  She appears as an old crone, a beholder or as a Type V, or Marilith, demon.  I would say she has a few of both types of creatures under her command.  Llerg is the God of Beasts and Strength and appears a bear-like man. He seems like a decent enough god. He prefers to live on his own in the woods and deals more with animals and other beasts. I was half-tempted back in the day to also make him the God of Bears, in the sub-culture sense. Now I am fully tempted. 

This issue also gave us the first Creature Catalog from Dragon. Here are a number of creatures that could easily be re-classified as demons; at least in the OMG sense. These include the Fachan, the Ghuuna (already has a demonic origin), and the Utukku.  Beltar in particular would have Utukku under her control. I went back to the original myths and did my own Utukku and Umu demons for Ghosts of Albion and a completely different version was created for Pathfinder.

pages from the Creature Catalog

Dragon Issue #90

Before we get to the Suel article proper, Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.  Though given that Norebo and Wee Jas are also half-siblings, I guess really complicated. Well, no one bats an eye when it happens in Egyptian and Greek pantheons. 

You can also go with Mike's take on it over at Greyhawkery.

On to the article proper we have a collection of sea gods. Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.    Phyton is the God of Beuty and Nature, he is our ersatz Baldur.  Xerbo is our God of the Sea, Money, and Business, so a cross between Nord and Poseidon/Neptune.  Osprem is the Goddess of Sea Voyages. Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one. They only have cool relations with each other.  They try not to fight each other and when a threat challenges the seas they are allied. But otherwise, they do not get along.  Osprem is in particular worship in and around the Lendore Isles.

This issue also featured the Incantatrix. Under normal situations, I would figure out a way to bring her into the fold with the Suel gods, but the write-up is not only so Realms specific, the Incantatrix has a history in the Realms.  So she stays where she is. 

Dragon Issue #92

Here again, we come to the end. Not just of 1984, but of this series. 

This issue also covers some new rules and ideas for clerics. Since I played a lot of clerics back then I rather enjoyed this issue.  Gary offers up some advice ("Clerics Play by Different Rules")  and a few others. This issue also gave us installment III of Pages from the Mages, but that was covered in a previous retrospective

Out Suel gods are Lydia, Bralm, and Jascar.  Lydia is the goddess of light and song. Bralm the Goddess of Insects and Industriousness, and Jascar the God of Hills and Mountains. No mention of his relationship to the other mountain god, Fortubo.  These gods and their write-ups were a nice working model of what Gygax was saying above about how clerics need to be different.

That is all the Suel gods from the World of Greyhawk.  These gods all survived to the 3rd Edition Living Greyhawk Gazetteer with some edits.  I guess the Suel Empire is not so forgotten after all!

One Man's God: The Demons

The nature of these articles did not include demons or even demonic creatures. They were very focused on the Gods themselves.  For demons that fit into this pantheon, I would suggest we go back to the source, the Monster Manual.  Here are the demons of this pantheon.  

Of the ones mentioned above, I think Orcus, Pazuzu, and Yeenoughu are the obvious choices.  

The Demihuman Mythos from the D&DG is another good source.  The Oerth gods though do have their own "devil" in the form of Tharizdûn.  He is a god, or was, or still is, but a fallen one. 

The Suel were a people of such xenophobia that any non-lawful god, godling, or monster would have been considered a demon. The Suel in fact would have more in common with devils and the 4e lost empire of Bael Turath.  In fact there could even be a link between Bael Turath and the Suel Empire.

In my own games, the Suel Empire were still the xenophobic dicks they always are, but they also had a special hatred for demons. The great artifact sword "Demonbane" was of Suel manufacture.

There is always more to hear about the World of Greyhawk and the Suel. Sadly one of the voices is now no more.   Gonna miss you Len!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Pages from the Mages

Another This Old Dragon Retrospective today. Today I want to cover one of my favorite series in the run of Dragon, and one that had far fewer entries than I thought, Pages from the Mages. Again this series is by Ed Greenwood writing to us as Elminster. It's a wonder I wasn't a fan of the Realms until pretty much 2001.


The premise is laid out in the first installment, Elminster (or Ed, sometimes it is hard to say) wondering aloud why we don't find more unique spell-books in treasure hordes. He goes on to explain that such tomes are very rare.  The set up is solid and less in-universe than The Wizard's Three.  But like The Wizard's Three, this is used to give us some new spells and some magic tomes worthy to build an adventure around.  So let's join Ed and Elminster and pour through these pages of a nearly as legendary tome, Dragon Magazine, and see what treasures we can find.

Pages from the Mages

Our first entry is in Dragon #62 which has one of my all-time favorite covers; the paladin on horseback challenging three orcs.   This takes us all the way back to June 1982, the height of my D&D Basic/Expert days.  The magic books we discover here are:

    Mhzentul’s Runes, with details for making a Ring of Spell Storing. Rings that become guardian creatures (but no details) and the spells Fireball, Fire Shield, Fire Trap, and Delayed Blast Fire Ball.

    Nchaser’s Eiyromancia, this book gives us two new spells, Nulathoe’s Ninemen and Nchaser’s Glowing Globe.

    Book of the Silver Talon, this sought after tome has a number of good spells, Read Magic, Burning Hands, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Erase, Write, Identify, Message, Shocking Grasp, Shield, Darkness 15’ Radius, Detect Invisibility, Knock, Ray of Enfeeblement, Web, Wizard Lock, Blink, Dispel Magic, Gust of Wind, Infravision, Phantasmal Force, and Protection From Normal Missiles.  Additionally, it has recipes for the ink for Read Magic, Buring Hands, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Erase, Write, Identify, Message, Shocking Grasp, and Shield.  All in-universe and fluff, but fun all the same AND an often overlooked aspect of magic.

    Chambeeleon, the unique spellbook is described as a treasure.  In contains the spells, Water Breathing, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Fire Shield (cold flame version only), Ice Storm, Airy Water, Cone of Cold, Conjure Elemental (new version), Disintegrate, Glassee, Part Water, Spiritwrack, Cacodemon, Drawmij’s Instant Summons, Reverse Gravity, and Vanish. Which leads to the obvious conclusion that Drawmij was also moving between the planes between Greyhawk and the Realms.  This book is also considered to be a religious text by many priesthoods of aquatic gods.
 
In each case, we also get a little history and the last known or suspected whereabouts of the tomes. I say tomes, but thankfully Ed was not so limited in his thinking.  Some are books, some are collections of pages and others are stranger still.  I find it interesting that this entry is followed by the classic NPC class, the Scribe, also by Ed.

More Pages from the Mages

Our next entry comes from Dragon #69 which I also covered as part of my This Old Dragon Issue #69. Again a fantastic cover from the legendary Clyde Caldwell.  The article is titled "More Pages from the Mages" and has art by Jim Holloway. Interestingly there is a book in the art named "Holloway's Guide to Everything" could that be the next 5e book to come out?  The actual books covered here are:

    The Magister, this particular tome has no title so it is just called "the Magister". It consists of 16 sheets of parchment between two ivory covers.  It includes a treatise on illusion magic and the spells Change Self, Color Spray, Phantasmal Force, Detect Illusion, Mirror Image, Dispel Illusion, Nondetection, Massmorph, Shadow Door, Programmed Illusion, and True Sight.  There is also an alternate version of the Clone spell. There is also a lot of debate on what is exactly on the last page. 

    Seven Fingers (The Life of Thorstag), this tome is bound in leather. It describes the Void Card from the Deck of Many things. How wonderfully random! Yet so on point for an academically minded wizard.  There is also a recipe for Keoghtom’s Ointment, which may or may not be correct.  There is also some local history. 

    The Nathlum, is a rather non-descript book.  But there is some saying about books and covers.  This one will cause damage to anyone of Good alignment holding it! It includes recipes for poisons, so not all these books are limited to spells.  Something that honestly is not stressed enough. 

    The Workbook, there is no accurate description of this tome.  So Elminster isn't all-knowing (ok to be fair, Elminster and Ed would be the first to point this out).  This is rumored to include the spells Spendelarde’s Chaser, Caligarde’s Claw, Tulrun’s Tracer, Tasirin’s Haunted Sleep, Laeral’s Dancing Dweomer, Archveult’s Skybolt, and Dismind. All are new.

As I mentioned in my original post, back in the day I would go right for the spells, today I am more interested in the story behind the spellbooks.  Maybe the spells inside are some I have already seen, but that is not what makes it valuable to me now. It's the story, the history, maybe there is something really special about this book. Maybe the spellcaster is still alive. Maybe his/her enemies are and want this book.  My cup runneth over with ideas.

Pages From the Mages III

We jump to December 1984 and Dragon #92.  Damn. Another classic cover. This time it is "Bridge of Sorrows" by Denis Beauvais and he has updated it on his website.  what a great time to be a classic D&D fan.  This one is very special for me for many reasons. First, this was the very first PftM I had ever read. I didn't know a damn thing about the Realms (and I only know slightly more now) but as I mentioned in my This Old Dragon Issue #92 I remember going on a quest to recover Aubayreer's Workbook having only the glyph as a clue.  I don't remember all the details save that the quest was dangerous and the spells in the book were a bit anti-climatic given the quest.  Not that the spells are bad (hardly!) it is the quest was that hard.

This is also, at least from what I can tell, our very first mention of The Simbul, "the shapeshifting Mage-Queen".  I guess she is looking for a copy of this book too! I think I see a plot hook for my next Realms game (and playing on the events in The Simbul's gift).  MAYBE that quest was only half of the tale! Maybe the other half was really to get this book to The Simbul.  I am only 30+ years late.   Thank you Ed!  Of course, that is only one of FOUR magic books.  Let's have a look.

    Aubayreer's Workbook, this "book" is a long strip of bark folded accordion-style between two pieces of wood with a rune carved on it.  The spells are read magic, burning hands, dancing lights, enlarge, identify, light, message, write, ESP, wizard lock, dispel magic, explosive runes, fireball, and extension I. There three special spells  hailcone (a version of ice storm), and two new spells, Aubayreer's phase trap and thunderlance.

    Orjalun's Arbatel, not to be overshadowed this book's pages are beaten and polished mithril! Lots of Realms-centric details here. In fact this might be where many of these topics saw print for the very first time. This one includes two new spells Encrypt and Secure.

    The Scalamagdrion, bound in the hide of some unknown creature this book has a little surprise. The spells included are (and in this order): Write, erase, tongues, message, unseen servant, wizard lock, identify, enchant an item, permanency, blink, disintegration, feeblemind, fly, death spell, flame arrow, delayed blast fireball, invisibility, levitate, conjure elemental, minor globe of invulnerability, wall of force, remove curse, and dispel magic.  The book also has a unique monster bound up in the pages that will protect the book! 

    The Tome of the Covenant, named for the group of four mages that gathered together to stop the onslaught of orc from the north.  What this entry makes obvious is exactly how much detail Ed had already put into the Realms. There are four new spells in this book, named for each one of the Covenant wizards. Grimwald's Greymantle, Agannazar's Scorcher, Illykur's Mantle, and the one that REALLY pissed me off, Presper's Moonbow.  It pissed me off because I had written a Moonbow spell myself. Only mine was clerical and it was a spell given by Artemis/Diana to her clerics. My DM at the time told me it was too powerful at 5th level and here comes Ed with a similar spell, similarly named and his was 4th level!  Back then it was known as "Luna's Moonbow" named after one of my earliest characters. Ah well.  Great minds I guess.

Pages from the Mages IV

We jump ahead to Dragon #97from May 1985.  I also covered this one in This Old Dragon Issue #97. Rereading this article years later is the one where I thought I should stop being such a spoiled Greyhawk twat and see what the Realms had to offer.  It would still be a long time before I'd actually do that.  This one also had a bit of a feel of the Wizard's Three to it. The books covered here were:

    Bowgentle's Book, a slim volume bound in black leather. It has a ton of spells in it, so many I wonder how "slim" it actually was.  Cantrips clean, dry, and bluelight, and the spells affect normal fires, hold portal, identify mending, push, read magic, sleep, continual light, darkness 15' radius, detect evil, detect invisibility, ESP forget, knock, levitate, locate object, magic mouth, rope trick, strength, wizard lock, blink, dispel magic, fireball, fly, hold person, infravision, Leomund's Tiny Hut, lightning bolt, protection from evil 10' radius, protection from normal missiles, slow, tongues, water breathing, charm monster, confusion, dimension door, enchanted weapon, fire shield (both versions), minor globe of invulnerability, polymorph other, polymorph self, remove curse, wizard eye, Bigby's Interposing Hand, cone of cold, hold monster, passwall, and wall of force.  The two new spells are dispel silence and Bowgengle's Fleeting Journey. 

    The Spellbook of Daimos, this one has no title on the cover and described as very fine. Very little is known about who or what "Daimos" is.  The spells included are, identify, magic missile, invisibility, levitate, web, fireball, monster summoning I (a variant), slow, suggestion, confusion, fear, fire trap, polymorph self animate dead, cloudkill, feeblemind, anti-magic shell, disintegrate, geas, globe of invulnerability, reincarnation, repulsion, Bigby's Grasping Hand, duo-dimension, power word stun, vanish, incendiary cloud, mind blank, astral spell, gate, and imprisonment.   The new spells are flame shroud, watchware, and great shout.

    Book of Num "the Mad", this one is interesting. It is loose pages held in place by two pieces of wood and a cord.  Num was a reclusive hermit who learned a bit of druidic lore.  There are a few more spells here. But what is more interesting are the new ones. Briartangle, Thorn spray, and Death chariot.

    Briel's Book of Shadows. Ok, the title has my attention. Though it has little to do with the Books of Shadows I am most often familiar with.  This one has the following new spell, Scatterspray. It does have some details on uses of Unicorn horns and a recipe for a Homonculous.

These books really upped the number of spells included in each book.  Was this intentional? Is this the "Power creep" that was starting to enter the game at this point? It was 1985 and this was not an uncommon question to ask with the Unearthed Arcana now out (and now these spellbooks all have cantrips!) and classes like the Barbarian and Cavalier making people say "D&D is broken!"  The more things change I guess...

Pages from the Mages V

Dragon #100 from august 1985 was a great issue all around. From the Gord story, to Dragon Chess, to this. I really need to give it a proper This Old Dragon one day.  But until then Ed is back with some more magic.  
    Sabirine's Specular, the first book from a wizardess. It has a good collection of standard spells.  The new spells are Spell Engine, Catfeet, Snatch, Spark (Cantrip), Bladethirst, and Merald's Murderous Mist.
    Glanvyl's Workbook, what is neat about this book is it appears to be the book of a lesser magic-user and these are his notes. So like the workbook a student might have in a writing class.  There are three new cantrips, Horn, Listen, and Scorch. One new spell, Smoke ghost, which is level 4 so he had to be at least high enough level for that.  and the preparations for inks for the Haste and Lightning Bolt spell.
    The Red Book of War, this is a prayer book for clerics of the war god Tempus.  I liked seeing that spells for clerics were also offered.  These of course would differ from the arcane counterparts in many ways, or, at least they should.  Ed makes the effort here to show they do differ and that is nice. Many often forget this.  There are a number of prayers here that are common.  Also the new prayers/spells are Holy Flail, Reveal, Bladebless, and Sacred Link, one I enjoyed using back then.  None of these spells though would late make it to the AD&D 2nd published version of Pages from the Mages.
    The Alcaister, this is a book with a curse. Not the spell, but rather a poison worked into the pages that is still potent 600 years after it was written. Among the common spells it has three new cantrips, Cut, Gallop, and Sting. There is one new spell, Body Sympathy, and the last page of the spellbook is a gate! Destination determined at random.

Arcane Lore. Pages From the Mages, part VI

It is going to be a five-year jump and new edition until the next Pages comes in Dragon #164. The article has some subtle and overt changes. First there is a little more of the "in character" Elminster here.  Ed has had more time to write as the Elminster and I think this is part of the success of the novels. The overt change is now the spells are in AD&D 2nd Edition format.  Not too difficult to convert back (or even to any other edition) but it is noticed. It is December 1990, lets see what Ed and Elminster have for us. 
    Book of Shangalar the Black, a deeply paranoid wizard from 700 years ago you say?  I am sure this will be fun! There are only new spells in this short (4 page) spellbook. Bone Javelin, Negative Plane Protection, Repel Undead, and Bone Blade.  Well, the guy had a theme to be sure.
    The Glandar's Grimoire, now here is something else that is rarely done, at least in print.  This book is only a burnt remnant.  What is left of what is believed to be a much larger tome is four pages with new spells. Fellblade, Melisander's Harp, Disruption, and Immunity to Undeath.
    The Tome of the Wyvernwater Circle, this is a druids prayer book.  Now I know D&D druids are not historical druids that did not write anything down. So a "Druid book" still sounds odd to me.  But hey when in the Realms! This book has a few common spells and some new ones; Wailing Wind, Touchsickle, Flame Shield, and Mold Touch.
    The Hand of Helm, another clerical prayer book. This one is of unknown origin. It has 27 pages (and thus 27 spells; one spell per page in 2e), four of which are new;  Exaltation, Forceward, Mace of Odo, and Seeking Sword.

Is it because I know TSR had gone through some very radical changes between 1985 and 1990 that I think the tone of this article is different than the one in #100?  I can say that one thing for certain is that Ed Greenwood is more of a master of his craft here.  The history of the Realms is, for lack of a better word, thicker in these entries.  There is more background to the spellbooks and their place in Realms lore.  This is a positive thing in my mind in terms of writing.  It did make it hard to add them to my Greyhawk campaign, but by 1990 I was hard-core Ravenloft; shit just randomly popped out of the Mists all the time. If I needed one of these books I could make an excuse to get them there.



Pages From the Mages

It is now May 1992.  I am getting ready to graduate from University now and Dragon #181 is giving us our last Pages from the Mages.  It has been a fun trip.  A little bit of framing dialogue starts us off. I did notice we have gone from talking about "the Realms" to now saying "FORGOTTEN REALMS® setting" instead. 

    Galadaster's Orizon. This book is actually considered to be a "lesser work" in the eyes of the wizard-turned-lich Galadaster, but this is all that survived of his tower's destruction. Among the common spells there are three new ones. Firestaff, Geirdorn's Grappling Grasp, and Morgannaver's Sting.
    Arcanabula of Jume, another book from a wizardess (rare in this collection of books). This one is written in the secret language of Illusionists (which are, as a class, slightly different in 2nd Ed) and is a traveling spellbook. It has four new spells, Dark Mirror, Shadow Hand, Prismatic Eye, and Shadow Gauntlet.
    Laeral's Libram. I was just about to comment that while these books are fantastic, none of the names have the recognition factor of say a Tenser, Bigby, or even Melf.  Then along last comes Laeral. Now here is someone famous enough that I have box of her dice sitting next me! Laeral Silverhand is of course one of the famous Seven Sisters. So not just a name, but a Name. This spellbook has the common spells of feather fall, magic missile, spider climb, and forcewave.  As well as the new spells of Laeral's Aqueous Column, Jhanifer's Deliquescence, and Blackstaff.  The blackstaff spell was created by another Name, Khelben Arunsun.  This one would be worthy of a quest to be sure.
    Tasso's Arcanabula.  Our last spellbook comes from an illusionist named Tasso.  Tasso is almost a  "Name." I recognize it, but I am not sure if it was because of this article or some other Realms book I read. The spell book has what I consider to be the common illusionist spells and four new ones. Tasso's Shriek, Shadow Bolt, Shadow Skeleton, and Prismatic Blade.  That's where I have heard of him. I have used that Prismatic Blade spell before,

After this series, the Wizard's Three took over as our source of spells from Ed.

I have read that Ed created this series based on his love of some of the named spells in the AD&D Player's Handbook.  He wanted to know more about the characters and how they came to be associated with those spells.  I think that he showed his love here in this series. I also think it was made clear that sometimes the spell creator's name gets added to a spell not just by the creator, but by those who chronicle the spell, spellbook, or spellcaster later. Sometimes centuries later. 

We got away from this but now it looks like it is coming back. especially with the recent Mordenkainen, Xanathur, and now Tasha books coming out from WotC.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Wizards Three

Getting back into the "This Old Dragon" frame of mind. I thought I might try something new here and instead of looking at one issue, I would look at one feature across many issues. A few easily come to mind but I want to start with the one that gave me the idea in the first place. The feature in question is "The Wizards Three."

The concept is a bit silly. The great sage and mage Elminster has guests over to his place for dinner and light chat. The guests are typically other wizards. Most often Mordenkainen of Oerth (World of Greyhawk) and Dalamar of Krynn (Dragonlance). Later Dalamar was replaced by Mordenkainen's, young apprentice Rautheene. Hiding in a suit of armor and trying to remember it wall was out helpless scribe Ed Greenwood.

Like so many, Dragon was my first introduction to the Realms and to Elminster. Throughout my AD&D 1 and 2 years, I was focused largely on Greyhawk and then Ravenloft. I didn't even pay much attention to the Realms at all until later in the 3.x days and it was not even an option I took seriously until 4e.


Even so, I always enjoyed this series because I love the idea of the multiverse and that travel between the world can sometimes be done. Sometimes it is easy, as this series shows, and sometimes impossible; as this series also shows.

So without further ado. Let's grab a drinking jack, see if we can squeeze into Ed's old armor and spend a nice evening, or a dozen, with some old friends.

"The Game Wizards" by Jeff Grubb, Dragon #153
This one is not really part of the series, but it fits the mold well enough to be a proto-version of the tale. In this case, Elminster has come to our world and is imparting wisdom on Jeff Grubb.

"Magic In the Evening", Dragon #185 (56), September 1992
This is the first piece of the series before it was the Wizards Three. Here Elminster and Mordenkainen meet on Earth (with Ed hiding away). A lot of the conceits of the series are established here. Elminster with his typically archaic speaking. Mordenkainen always feeling like he is about an hour or two away from some cosmic victory or equally cosmic defeat. Some good-natured fun poked at each character, plenty, but never enough to make them actual caricatures. I did sometimes wonder how Gary, who had been long gone from TSR at this time, felt about Ed's portrayal of Mordenkainen.
I did enjoy how the characters did seem rather fond of each other. Maybe not friends exactly, but certainly more than co-professionals.
Also, the rules of their meetings are established. So this is the first meeting of this sort between the master mages.
One thing I get now, that I didn't then, was how Realms and Oerth lore was weaved into the conversations. Nice little treat that must have been for people reading all the novels at the time. The spells that were later presented we also worked into the discussions.

In the game mechanics bit at the end Ed let's know what discussions were connected with which novels and which adventures. I usually more up on the adventures than the novels.

This episode included the spells "Curse of the Grinning Skull", "Thundaerl's Universal Taster", "Lesser Spelldream", "Greater Spelldream", and "Moonweb". Anytime I could get more spells the better. I figure these spells have been out for a bit so no need to detail them all here.

This one also included Samader's Ring and the Alhoon creature, or the Illithid Lich.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #188 (26), December 1992
This one is a proper Wizards Three since it now includes Dalamar the Dark. The Master of the Black Robes Tower of High Sorcery in Krynn. Elminster's power was unknown to me, and Mordenkainen was always a guess I safely put them both in the "above level 20" area. I knew Dalamar was below level 20 thanks to the hardcover Dragonlance book.


Moving on to the tale, tragedy has struck Mordenkainen, of which I had been vaguely aware of thanks to the Greyhawk books that had been coming out in the end of 1st ed and the start of 2nd ed. Most of the Circle of Eight had fallen to the hand of Vecna leaving only Mordenkainen himself. I know it was a tale, with characters that were not real, but I was always happy with the exchange between Elminster and Mordenkainen here. It seemed, well, heartfelt. This is contrasted well with the near come to magical blows that Dalamar gets into with the other mages when he is introduced. If Elminster and Mordenkainen are beginning to act like something akin to friends, the Dalamar has a long way to go before even trust is part of the relationship. But at least he agrees to stay for dinner.

The inclusion of Dalamar changes the tenor of the meetings and the nature of some of the spells.

Our spells include "Blastbones", "Double Spell", "Whip of Pain", and "Manshoon’s Xorn Talons."
Magic items include a "Ring of ESP", "Cloak of Healing", and a "Fleeting Fail." And some undead monsters.

"3 Wizards Too Many", Dragon #196 (82), August 1993
Dalamar relaxes enough to have some fun with Mordenkainen and he gives as good as he gets now. It is easy to forget that on Krynn, Dalamar is the big badass evil mage. I just never read him as really being evil I guess. Not in the Dragonlance stories and not here either. Selfish, sure, but not really evil. I am sure I just missed some of his darker exploits.

The spells include "Bloodglass", "Fistandantilus's Firequench", "Thultaun's Thrust", "Barrier Reaver" and "Dragon Breath". Magic items include "Helping Hands" and "Spell Mirror".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #200 (20), December 1993
I recall this one quite well. The Dragon magazine had the then way cool hologram cover, and this Wizards Three features the Simbul. This entire exchange with the Three Wizards and A Witch Lady was reproduced in the Forgotten Realms book "Pages from the Mages". I liked this one, even if Dalamar did go back to acting like a petulant child. But I can overlook all that. This was not the first time I had ever heard of The Simbul, but it was the first time I had read about the character and really grew to like her. Here are the three greatest mages of three worlds and they all pay deference to HER.


I mean look. Mordenkainen is bowing to her. That's impressive.

This one has the most spells, which includes "Shadow Bolt", "Slowspell", "Acid Bolt", "Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry", "Bonebind", "Bloodstars", "Lightning Storm", "Alamanther's Return", and "Tempestcone".

I didn't spend a lot of pixels on it, but this might be my favorite of the lot.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #211 (82), November 1994
Now we are getting into ones a little less familiar to me. Some I read when they came out, but only briefly, others I did not encounter at all until I bought the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM Archive.

This installment finds Elminster with a burning tongue from chili and a Mordenkainen in a jovial mood. So much so he even pranks Dalamar. See I find this totally in-character for Mordenkainen, knowing what I know of Gary. Though I don't pretend to be an expert on either Mordenkainen or Gary. The three share reminiscences of "Nights of Shadows" past, or essentially Halloween. The text seems to suggest that Dalamar is a Drow, but he isn't, he is a "Dark elf" which is something very different on Krynn.
Their spell trades have moved now into subtle contests of who can impress the others more. It seems less about power and more about the story behind the spell; a bit I really liked. Who cares how powerful a spell is, how interesting is it? Though there is less sharing of the stories behind each spell.
This is the shortest one to date, but it has a lot of spells.
For those interested, Elminster contributed "Falling Wall", "Jonstal's Double Wizardry", and "Jonstal's Improved Double Wizardry"; Mordenkainen presented "Argaster's Cloak of Shadows", "Belsham's Mace", and "Othnal's Spectral Dagger"; and Dalamar set forth "Battlecurse", "Sphere of Eyes", and "Valiancy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #219 (90), July 1995
The subtitle of this one is "Warmer than Expected" which is appropriate. In July 1995 I got married and came home to the largest (and deadliest) heat wave Chicago had seen in decades (though we would surpass it many times later) and our AC was dead.
There is more "plot" in this story with the introduction of Shaan the Serpent-Queen. This whole set-up to trap the Serpent-Queen.
In the end we are introduced, sort of, to Mordenkainen's thee new young apprentices.
Spells featured here were "Handfangs" (turns your hand into a venomous viper), "Farscry", "Dauntra's Cloak", "Translocation Shift", "Temporal Freedom", and "Brainblaze".

"The Return of the Wizards Three", Dragon #238 (42), August 1997
The biggest gap of time between installments so far just occurred. Elminster even comments about the last installment noting reading about it on "the Net". Something about "gamers with dirty minds." I checked a little on the Usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd and there does seem to be some complaining. Was this the reason? Most likely it had more to do with the fact that this was a very dark time at TSR and Wizards of the Coast had either bought them at this time or was close. I just checked, this was one of the first Dragons to be published by the newly acquired TSR.
This installment tries to walk back some of the implied ribaldries of the last episode. We get nearly a page and a half of this before any other wizard shows up.
In something of a manifestation of this, we are introduced to Rautheene, one of the new apprentices of Mordenkainen. She was introduced to keep the number at three. Dalamar will not be joining the group this night, nor any other night, nor any other night for the next 10 years. I have to admit I was always curious about why exactly Dalamar was excluded. I know it had something to do with the relationship WotC now had with the Dragonlance properties. But for me, this was the big issue that overshadowed whether or not Mord and Elm went frolicking with young apprentices.
The addition of Rautheene also adds something akin to a Doctor Who companion; a younger, less learned character whose job is to ask "What is that Doctor?" or in Rautheene's case "What is that Lord?"
The spells shared were, "Spell Echo", "Scourage of Stars", "Firedart", "Turnblade", "Backshift" and the evocatively named "Mystra's Unraveling".

"Jest the Wizards Three", Dragon #242 (48), December 1997
This one comes a mere four months after the last. I know I said that I didn't care about the implied ribaldry between the old mages and young apprentices, but now I can't read about Elminster and Rautheene as nothing but really creepy flirting. Ah well. Thought maybe because of this Rautheene is also becoming a more developed character, though she is still something of a walking stereotype at the moment. But she is getting there.
The mages trade spells and strange flavor combinations (smoked salmon and ice-cream, which is something I think my youngest son has also done).
The spells include "Coinsharp", "False Ioun Stone", "Hither", "Wizard Gong", "Echo", "Fingerblade", "Nextremity", "Sortil's Aqueous Transfer", and "Spy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #246 (86), April 1998
This installment has the first full-color interior art. The artist, David Day has been with us since the start.



More discussion on how they can't reach Krynn. This installment is also fairly short, but there are some interesting spells. "Beneath the Surface" (looks beneath the surface of something), "Blade of Memory", "Brester's Beam of Light", "Onsible's Key", "Runefinger" (allows the mage to draw in mid-air), "Smahing Stike", "Standfast", "Tanatha's Melt", and "Tentacled Visage".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #344 (56), June 2006
Previously we got three installments in eight months. Then eight years till this one! What changes happened to our trio of wizards? For me I went from being married and living in my brand new home to being married, having two kids, living in my second home, and having published a few of my own RPG materials. Soon I'll pick up the tattered remains of my old website and recreate it as this blog. This was also the time I had a subscription to Dragon.
Ed is still the author, but we get a new illustrator in Tom Fowler. Dragon is now published by Paizo, the system is now 3.0 D&D and TSR is almost 10 years gone.
Some other changes. Mordenkainen is now in his new "Anton Le Vey" look (ok that is not really a fair comparison, but he is bald with a goatee). Rautheene no longer seems to be his apprentice (though she is still called such), but a full mage in her own right, and she is sporting some new tattoos. Seems she was a college student in the 90s! Again, more lip service given to looking for Dalamar, this time it is Rautheene doing the looking. It occurs to me that an epic quest to find a completely lost world might be fun.
Interesting change in tone here. I attribute it to all the novels Ed had written since, but Rautheene is less the "giggling coed" and now more capable young mage. She is aware of the power difference between her and the two older mages, more so than Dalamar was, but for her, it is less "I am not as good as them" and more "that's going to be me if I learn from these two." I'd like to see if there is more about her out there.
The spells are now in 3e format, so they are for wizards and sorcerers. They include "Battle Tentacles", "Mailed Might", and "Wymcone". I would have liked some more discussion on the arrival of Sorcerers to these two worlds, but that has been discussed elsewhere.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #359 (78), September 2007
This is the end of our journey. This is the last published, print copy of Dragon Magazine. I have not checked to see if any were published in the 4e online Dragon or Dragon+ for 5e. So let's see what this rather special installment has for us.
Dalamar has returned for this final meeting which I admit is a really nice surprise for the other wizards and myself. Rautheene now holds her own against Elminster.
This time Ed is outed, in a manner of speaking, as to why he hosts this gathering of wizards and the Wizards Four decide to let him live if he continues to show off their brilliance. Dinner is shared, but no spells this time.



The Wizards Three was a sometimes delightful, sometimes amusing little romp of the important worlds of classic D&D; Toril, Oerth, and Krynn and not to mention Earth.



I will admit I was disappointed in the end that Mystara was never represented, especially since the feature would share issues with such Mystara-centric features as "Voyages of the Princess Ark" and even an article about Mystara's wizards from Bruce Heard himself.

The spells were always welcome and I could never get enough new spells to be honest.

The series is also one of the few that is covered in both the Greyhawk online wiki and the Forgotten Realms one. The closest thing the online Dragonlance wiki has is an Ed Greenwood category.

Through these outside sources and from the articles I gathered that The Year of the Turret, 1360 DR marked the first meeting between Elminster and Mordenkainen on Earth (1992). On Oerth, this was shortly before the year 581 CY. I am unsure of what the date would have been on Krynn.

I am curious to know what the fans of the various worlds think of this series. Did it do your favorite mage justice? What else would you have liked to have seen? Who else? Ringlerun? Kelek?

I also wonder if this was re-done today what other wizards and worlds would be included. Would Dark Sun? Birthright? Eberron?

Edited to Add: Ed has weighed in on this!