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

Thursday, August 25, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #117

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

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

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

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

Letters covers the items bothering gamers of the time.  We have one wanting the Cthulhu and Melnibon√© 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. 

Anhkheg

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.

Minimagic

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

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Featured Artist: Darlene (and This Old Dragon Retrospective)

Darlene
Ask any old school gamer to name four classic D&D artists you are likely to get some combination of Elmore, Easley, Caldwell, or Parkinson.  

Ask the REALLY old gamers and they are likely to include Otus, Dee, Tramp, and Willingham to that list.  Sadly, though this has been changing, one of the artist generally not mentioned despite her work is Darlene.

It has taken a long time, but within the last decade or so Darlene is finally getting to accolades and respect she should have been getting since the dawn of D&D.  Her name may not jump out at you, but her art certainly does.



Darlene's RPG BIO

She is foremost the creator of the full-color map of the Flanaess that came with the World of Greyhawk folio and then again with the boxed set.

Darlene map of the Flanaess


She did the cover art for Mike Carr's module B1 In Search of the Unknown.

In Search of the Unknown by Darlene

Art in the Dungeon Master's Guide,

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art

Darlene DMG Art


Many of the logos from the classic days of D&D,

Man in the Moon logo by Darlene

Gods of Greyhawk from Dragon Magazine

Jasmine (and This Old Dragon Retrospective)

But her most personal, and certainly longest lived, project was her comic strip Jasmine.  Jasmine appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine from issues #37 to #48 and no continues on her Patreon site. Darlene retained the copyright to Jasmine.

The Dragon kicked off her debut in style with Darlene's art on the cover.

Darlene Dragon #37

The Dragon #37

In addition to that wonderfully lovey cover, we are introduced to the tale of Jasmine as "a princess marching cheerfully to her doom."  This is one of the very first color comic strips (though "illustrated adventure story" might be better) I remember seeing in the pages of Dragon.  Darlene's style is watercolor dreamlike.  We are viewing this tale through the mists of time.  They are beautiful to behold but sadly too far away to interact with.  

The Dragon #38

The Princess is ambushed and captured by a rider in all black.

Dragon #39

The magazine is now just called "Dragon" but Jasmine continues. With none of her guards perusing the cloaked the rider the Princess begins to realize that help is not coming.

Dragon #40

A bit of recap, and extended to three pages, we learn that Princess Flavia had been placed under a spell and sent to this land because she had refused all other suitors.  After two day straight of riding with her captor, the hooded man in black from #38, they enter a grove.  Their horse rears up throwing them both off. The hooded man is knocked unconscious.  Flavia then meets up with two gnome-like men who introduce themselves as The Guardians and say they are here to help her.  Flavia says she does not need their help. They reply back that she says that because she has no idea what sort of danger she is in.

Dragon #41

We learn that Princess Flavia is destined to become the next Thaumaturgist!  And it appears she already has a mystic ring of some sort on her hand.

Dragon #42

Flavia recounts to Brother Ethelred how the Ring of Emeth came to her possession. We learn of the peril her father the King is now in. We also learn that another seeks this ring.

Dragon #43

(Ah, the Witch Issue!) Here we get more background on the Guardians and the ring.  There are two who seek it, archenemies Bardulf and Thorgall the Ice King.  Only they can remove it from her finger. 

Dragon #44

Flavia spends a few days considering the Guardians' advice.  She feels trapped in destiny and soon wanders off to a bridge to be confronted by bandits!

Dragon #45

The bandits attack and attempt to rape her until they see her ring and their greed overtakes them.  She is "saved" by a Dwarf warrior who kills both bandits, but the bodies already appear to be burned and withered. When he asks her for her name she replies "Jasmine."

Dragon #46

The dwarf warrior, Glynn Kedaroakenheart has also been drawn up in a prophecy about someone named Jasmine.  Meanwhile Jasmines growing enemies plan and plot.

Dragon #47

Glynn discovers more about Jasmine and encounters others hunting for Princess Flavia.

Dragon #48

Jasmine continues her way up the temple. She is pursued by soldiers who try to attack.  When she is discovered by Glynn the soldiers have all been blinded by a powerful light. 

Jasmine the last page

Sadly here ends our tale of Jasmine in the pages of classic Dragon.  Though her tale continues on Darlene's website and on her Patereon.

Links

Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Devils and the Nine Hells

It's the last full week of Halloween (October to you mundanes out there) so what better topic than the go over all of the Devils that have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine. 

Dragons #75 and #76

This Retrospective could go on for a long time, so I think I am going to limit myself to mostly 1st Edition treatments.  Thanks to TSR bowing to the moral panic of the time we got exactly one article about Devils proper that I can find for the 2nd Ed days.  They pick back up for D&D 3rd Ed, but that is getting beyond the scope of "This Old Dragon."

dragon magazine 13 demons
"The Dragon" Days

These were some of the earliest discussions on the Devils and the Nine Hells. They typically coincide with the release of the AD&D 1st Edtion Monster Manual when we introduced devils to D&D for the first time. Demons had already been added in Eldritch Wizardry for OD&D and had become a staple as these articles show.  This also set the divide of Chaotic Evil Demons and Lawful Evil Devils that persists to this day.  But before we get to devils proper, let's have a look at some early articles on Demons.

The Dragon #13

This issue comes to us from April 1978.  This issue is notable in our discussions for two reasons. First is an ad in the back for the Monster Manual and secondly, there is the brief one-page article on Demon creation.  Ok, so not devils, but the same logic could apply. 

The Dragon #20

I covered this one in a proper This Old Dragon a little bit back. In this issue we have Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This expands the above article and makes it more AD&D than OD&D.  Again these are demons, but the same rules can apply to devils.

The Dragon #23

This is the third attempt at a random demon system, this time from Gary himself. This one draws from the first two. Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes is exactly what it says on the tin really.  We should make a note here. This is for creatures of the Lower Planes, not just demons.

The Politics of Hell

Dragon #28, or more specifically for me, The Best of Dragon Vol. II gave us a landmark article that is almost entirely fluff; The Politics of Hell by Alexander von Thorn. Mr. von Thorn's only other contribution to Dragon would be 10 issues later with some skill for Traveller. He continued working, mostly on GURPS, and is still active online.  

Politics of Hell

This was a landmark article that among other things it lets us know why Asmodeus, a lesser demon from the Tobit originally, was the ruler of Hell and where Satan was.  The mythology presented here is extremely Judeo-Christian, so that may or may not work for a lot of games and gamers.  It did however introduce me to Astaroth and by extension Astarte. 

Dragon #42 would make a good choice for a future This Old Dragon.  I'll have to see if I have it in my big old box of Dragons.  This is the October 1980 Halloween-themed issue and has a few articles on Devils and even features on of the most famous pictures of Orcus ever.

The article "Demons, Devils and Spirits" comes to us first from Tom Moldvay.  This one features four new spirits that are Lawful Good, Neutral, Chaotic Evil, and Lawful Evil. So a full house!  Ashleigh Parker is next with The Possessors, or demons that can possess others.  Lewis Pulsipher wraps it up with Patron Demons, a forerunner to what we will see in warlock pacts

The Nine Hells by Ed Greenwood

Not since Dragon #28's The Politics of Hell did Devils and Nine Hells get as much attention as they did in the pages of Dragons #75 and #76.  There is a faint hint of the Realms here, but not so much that I felt this was world-specific.  In fact, in the summer of 1983, we were still a couple more years away from the Forgotten Realms being a thing for the rest of us.

The Nine Hells, parts 1 and 2

These two articles cover every layer of the Nine Hells in descending order and discuss the Dukes that rule them, their consorts, their advisors, and even some of the other devils that can be found here.  There are shades of Dante's Inferno here but this is pure D&D.

This series casts such a long shadow that one would be forgiven if they forgot that Gary opened the series with the Devils that would appear in the upcoming Monster Manual II.  This includes the Abishai devils, which are the spawn of Tiamat.   Even though in my personal campaigns I have taken Tiamat out of Hell, the Abishai remain and are still her spawn. 

Combining these we can see there is a certain level of world-building that has gone on past the publications of books like the Deities & Demigods.  In particular, all non-Devil Gods have been kicked out of the Hells.  I took this a step further and even removed Tiamat and placed her on her own plane.

The articles are long and just filled with great information.  It would not be until the later AD&D 2nd Ed years that we would get this much detail on Devils.  

For Dragon #400, Wizards reprinted the entire series, with AD&D 1st ed stats.

Dragon #91

Greenwood (and Gygax) are back a little more than a year later.  Gary has a revised Goristro demon from Monster Manual II. But the big news is Ed has more Nine Hells with some details left out of the original series. It is quite a long one to be honest.  Of note for me there is a devil "Gargoth" that should replace "Astaroth" from the Politics of Hells article. We are told that Astaroth is a demon prince, but that is all.  Astaroth/Astarte just can't catch a break at all.

This is followed by Eight Devilish Questions, something of a FAQ about devils. 

Interestingly enough, this is also the issue that Ed gives us the sword that would change my campaign in very profound ways; Demonbane.

What the Hell is a Baatezu?

Dragon #223

It will be a little more than 10 years before we get anything else about Devils in the pages of Dragon.  This time it is a similar article to Politics of Hell but the new Lords of the Nine only have a little connection to old lords. Some are the same like Dis, others are related, like Fierana, and others still are new or so heavily disguised they might as well be new (Levistus and the Dark Lord respectively).

Honestly, it wasn't until Wizards of the Coast bought TSR that we ever got proper Devils back.  These lords though have been woven back into the history of the Devils since 3e.  Even in this article the term "Devil" to mean these fiends is never used. 

Final Thoughts

Doing a retrospective like this is mostly just time-filling fluff unless I want some takeaways from it all. 

Cosmic Chicken

There seems to be a game of cosmic chicken going on in the early depictions of devils. While there are some that are different in their mythological origins, Geryon from Dante's Inferno and the Erinyes from Roman Myth to name two, the vast majority of these creatures, especially the ones in Dragon, are from Judeo-Christian sources.  That is of course except for The Devil himself.  The authors are willing to pour through all the Medieval demonologies for names, but when it comes to Satan they blink. That is except for one article.  I get it.  There is a lot of baggage with "The Devil" both for religious and cultural reasons.  If you are going to mine "The Inferno" and "Paradise Lost" then why leave out one of the main characters?

Though I will admit I have also struggled in using the Big D in my games, only because it needs to be something special.

Worlds Apart

While a lot of "game rules" can be applied to both demons and devils equally, I am reminded in this retrospective that they are not, and should not be the same.  So while I was mentally looking over the differences and resorting (something that D&D 4e tried to do as well and met with some successes but most criticism from the fans) them into different categories, one category began to show itself in a surprising way.

Gary was better at creating demons and demon-like devils, Ed Greenwood was better at devils.  So for this reason I have decided that in my games demons take a larger interest in the world of Oerth (Greyhawk) and devils take more of an interest in the world of Toril (Forgotten Realms).  There are some exceptions of course.  Orcus has tried to make headway into the Realms many times.  But generally speaking in the games I have run and the D&D novels I have read, this seems to hold true.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #43

Dragon Magazine #43
It's October and that means horror here at the Other Side. It also used to mean horror in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  While the horror-themed issues would not start in earnest until the mid- and late-80s, this little gem of an issue was released in November of 1980.  

Let's put this all into context.  Holmes Basic was the D&D people were going to now to get started. AD&D was about to hit its highest levels of popularity.  The famous Moldvay Basic set was still a year away from publication.  Personally, I had just learned of the Monster Manual a year before and had gotten my hands on a shared copy of Holmes Basic that had been making the rounds.  I can vividly recall riding my bike to the burned-down Burger King in my neighborhood thinking it would make a great dungeon.  Ok. I was 11.  I wonder how things might have been different if I had gotten ahold of this issue before Dragon #114 (for reasons that will be obvious)?

But let's start at the beginning and that is November 1980. Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" is the #1 song on the radio.  The Awakening is the number one movie and on the stands is issue #43 of This Old Dragon.

One of the real joys of reading any old magazine, and reading Dragon in particular, is seeing all the old ads.  

Ral Partha
Ral Partha, a huge favorite, is up with some of their boxed board games. Here we see one that would vex me for years, Witch's Cauldron.  I mention it more below, but here is the start of what would become my "Traveller Envy."

A couple of things I noticed right away.  One, I tried reading "The Dragon Rumbles" a couple of times and I still am not sure what it was trying to tell me.  Maybe it's because I am tired.  The second one of the featured artists in this issue is Ed Greenwood.  He really was doing it all.

The grinning hag cover art was done by Ray Cioni, a Chicago artist and we are told there are more color pages in this issue of Dragon than any other.  This includes the witch art from Alan Burton and pages of Wormy and Jasmie from Tramp and Darlene respectively.

Out on a Limb covers the questions of the time. Where can I get a copy of Issue 39? Do Angels have psionics? It is continued later in the magazine. Breaking up longer articles was more common then.

Our main feature is Brewing Up A New NPC: The Witch.  This is an update to the witch found in issue #20. Though the presentation is better here.  There is a lot here to unpack.  This article is written by Bill Muhlhausen, revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay.  The witch here is very similar to the one found in Dragon #114.  Again, we get Low Order Witches limited to 16th level and High Order Witches limited to 22nd level.  I wondered if this was related to the 22 level cap found in the Greyhawk supplement.  The class reads through much like that of #114 and I am hard-pressed to find the exact differences. The article covers several pages.  I have had a fairly poor photocopy for years in my research binder. It was a thrill to finally read it again, this time with color, on the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM.  Now I have a print copy.

The Witch

 The true gem for me is The Real Witch: A Mixture of Fact and Fantasy by Tom Moldvay.  This article covers what a witch could be in D&D.  It is only half a page but is punching way above its weight class and I reconsult it often.  With Holmes' "promise" of a witch class and Tom Moldavy Basic about to rock my world in just one year's time, I have often (and I mean all the time) wondered what a Basic witch might be like as penned by Holmes or Moldvay.   I have mine, but they are my witches, not theirs. Especially a couple of scholars like them.

Jake Jaquet is next with the Convetions 1980 report.  It was a pretty good year for cons.   Speaking of which Dave Cook reports from Gen Con XIII with Survival tips for the Slave Pits.  And a report on the winning Dungeon Master of the tournament play, in  He's the top Dungeon Mentzer with none other than a very young-looking Frank Mentzer.

Sage Advice covers some AD&D questions that really are new.  A brief article on D&D in Germany from a West German player.  West German, I have not had to write that in a while. 

There is a six-page questionnaire/survey to determine how good of a DM you have.  It is more of a self-guide to help the players figure out what their DM is or can do for them.  It is a tool for discussion, not actually dissimilar to the RPG Consent list.  The difference lies in who should have the supposed power in this structure.  

Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut discussing Action in the Meele Round. It is always nice to go back to these and read not just what the official interpretation of the rules are/were but what were the areas where they were ambiguous.  41 years and 4 other editions later we lose track of these things.

We get some more color with the Dragon's Bestiary.  Not only color but Erol Otus art at that.  One of the "monsters" is an Amazon.  This is not the first time we get a witch and amazon connection. There is art in the OD&D books of a "Beautiful Witch" and an Amazon together.   It is one of the reasons I like to include Amazons in my witch books.  Both for the Cult of Diana and the duality of magical and martial qualities.   

Dragon's Bestiary

I didn't find the other two monsters, the Tolwar and the Lythlyx to be as interesting. Though I did find the Ed Greenwood art credit. He created the text and art for the Lythlyx.

Philip Meyers discusses illusions in Now you see it . . .but is it really there?.  I wonder that if Dragon #43 had been my first Dragon about witches and not #114, would my witches today have more illusion spells?

Ad for the 1981 Days of the Dragon calendar. If you can find one it will work for 2026 as well. 

For our big center-piece is a Traveller adventure called Canard from Roberto Camino. I have read through it a couple of times and it looks fun. I might need to use this Summer of 2022 when I plan my big outing for Traveller.   

Speaking of Traveller.  The reviews section is next and Roberto Camino is back reviewing the latest Traveller product Azhanti High Lightning in Azhanti: Almost too Creative.   This is likely the start of my Traveller Envy.  This was popular among the "older kids" that played Traveller a lot and it just looked so cool to me. It's a game all by itself AND it is a supplement to the main Traveller RPG.    

Douglas P. Bachmann reviews SPI's DragonQuest.  While he is not a fan of the ad copy hyperbole, he does make me want to try out this game even more.  Though we are warned that with the supplements then planned that DragonQuest could end up costing you $94 to #98 to play. A very expensive game!

A reminder of our forebears is next from Bryan Beecher in the next in his series of Squad Leader articles, #5: The Fall of Sevastopol. This one deals with a battle between the Russians and Germans in the late Spring of 1942. The DM I would meet the very next year was WAY into Squad Leader and tried to get me to play a few times.  He drifted away from RPGs eventually and even deeper into Wargames and Reenacting.  Not my bag, but I could see how he enjoyed them.  This was the DM that ran me through the Slave Lords series years ago. 

An opinion piece is up from Larry DiTillio.  The same that worked on He-Man and She-Ra as well as the Masks of Nyarlathotep.  The article, Apples, Oranges, Role-playing, and Morality, replies an article (in Dragon #39) by Douglas P. Bachmann on morality in fantasy. This article works on the premise that Mr. Bachmann did not truly understand the game worlds and the responsibility of DMing.  It's hard to evaluate this response without reading the first, but there are some interesting takeaways. There is room in AD&D (and other RPGs) for both DiTillio's world and Bachmann's.  As AD&D  game progresses with a good DM there will be other solutions to deal with problems other than with "the sword" (Witchlight is a good modern example).

Hate Orcs? You'll Love this Campaign by Roger Moore details his ideas for an all dwarven game in AD&D.  Now this might strike newer players as odd' not because of the all dwarf nature, but because back then in AD&D dwarves had class limits making it a different sort of challenge.  For example there were no Dwarven wizards.  While I like the newer versions of the game and can choose any class, I personally still find Dwarven wizards a little odd.  BUT that is not the point of Moore's article. His point is how to make it work in spite of the rule of rule limitations. 

Out on a Limb continues. We get a letter from an "E. Gary Gygax" from Lake Geneva, WI. He addresses an article from Dragon #40 about buffing up undead. This Gary guy seems to know a thing or two.

The Electric Eye covers Four From Space on Tape by Mark Herro. What we have are four different space-themed computer games on one cassette tape. I am not going to be all "well..back in my day computer programs were on cassette tape and you had the CLOAD them before you could play..."  No instead I want to reflect on two things.  First. Wow, have we come a long way!  These game were designed for the TRS-80 Level II Basic on a 16k computer.  16k! As of right now this post is 8.5k and takes up 12K of disc space.  One of my new hardware projects here at home is rebuilding a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (with a HUGE 64k).  Let's pause a moment and be impressed by how far technology has come since the 80s.   The second point is, wow, companies really were fairly open about their copyright infringement back then.  This cassette has four games, Ultra Trek (Star Trek), Romulan (also Star Trek), Star Wars (what it says), and Star Lanes which was an outer space stock market.

Dragonmirth is next with the comics. In our color section, we get Finieous Fingers, a Wormy, and Jasmine.  The art in Jasmine is so different from anything else here. This is of course thanks to artist, cartographer, and under-sung hero of the World of Greyhawk, Darlene. I think Jasmine was too "adult" for the target audiences of Dragon at the time. Not "Adult" as in nudity (we have a bare ass on page 70, six pages before this) but in content. The art is fantastic, but the story doesn't pull you in, at least not unless you were there in the start.  Sadly Jasmine was cut for space, but I would like to do a retrospective on it someday.

Jasmine by Darlene

Really one of the great issues for me and it captures a time, for me at least, where there truly was no end of the possibilities in sight. 

Minus Issue #5 (but represented my Best Of Vol 1) I have all the published Dragon Magazine Witches.

Dragon Witches