Showing posts with label dragon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dragon. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Germania

Castles & Crusades Codex Germania
Today I am going further south and a little more back in time.   Related to the Nordic myths and tales are the older Germanic ones.  Given the connections between the two, I am going to have to point out the differences and commonalities. 

Castles & Crusades Codex Germania

For this book, I am reviewing the PDF and hardcover edition of this book.  This book has 110 pages, so slightly smaller than the other codices.  Like a lot of Castles & Crusades books, the art here is from Peter Bradley.  Once again Brian Young is our author and designer.  Young also spends some time comparing the Germanic and Nordic myths and tales.  

These myths come from central Europe and begin as early as the 1st century BCE right on up to the time of the Vikings.  

Chapter 1: In Ancient Tales

Like the previous books, this chapter covers the history of the Germanic peoples as well as a brief bit on their legends and stories.  Like the Nordic (or to the point the Nordic myths are like these) we get an origin story about Giants and three Gods.  Young takes pains to differentiate these myths from the Norse and talks about the shortcomings of the source material.  Here we see the first comparisons between Woden and Odin.

Chapter 2: Of Germania & Beyond

This chapter covers the Germanic lands.  Now to assume there is only one Germany is a huge mistake and one that Young deftly avoids. There are lots of lands here and lots of peoples dating back to the height of the Roman Empire to it's fall.  It is helpful to consult the map or hit up various maps online.  

Germanic Tribes migration

Chapter 3: Magical Beings & Monsters Dwelled

Once again we have a chapter on monsters and it is a real collection of gems.  Here are 40+ monsters. All are a little bit familiar to any D&D players, but these harken back to their "original" forms so great for players that have "seen everything."  

The monsters are of course enough on their own, but there is a nice section here on the complexities of the Germanic dragons.  Essentially if you ever have read about the dragon Fafnir, then you have an idea of what this is about.   Honestly, this is something that all dragons should have or at least the really interesting ones.  Speaking of the interesting dragons, there are also tables to determine what a unique dragon's name would be.  

Halirúna
Chapter 4: In Wizardry & Enchantments

Here we get some new magic-using classes.  There is the Halirúna, or the Dark Witch (Intelligence-based) which I absolutely love, the Erilaz, or the Rune Master (Wisdom-based) which also has runic magic (like the Nordic book), and the Gudja. or People of the Gods, the clerics for this setting. 

Magic is not a "supernatural" force here, but rather a natural one; THE natural one to be honest.  This chapter uses magic as a means of connecting the people to the gods. Which are coming up next.

Chapter 5: To Serve the Gods

This chapter covers the gods and discusses the overlap between these cultures and the Nordic.  Young points out that due to the Roman Empire the gods and myths of the Germanic pagans are a bit better documented than that of the neighboring Celts. Among these gods it is likely that Woden (Odin) and Þūnor (Thor).  Again there are no stats for gods here (as it should be).  

The chapter also details Germanic pagan beliefs and practices. 

Chapter 6: Skilled in Battlecraft

Warriors are still one of the highest castes in the life of the Germanic peoples.  This chapter gives us information on arms and armor used. How retainers were used and honored, and other topics on warcraft, including special unique weapons. 

The new class, the Drachentöten (lit. "Dragon Killer") is a Dexterity-based class. 

Chapter 7: Castle Keeper Info

Like the other codices, this covers running a Castles & Crusades game with this worldview.   The importance of the king and lawgivers are established and explained. 

The common folk are not forgotten and details like the importance of names (and many tables of names) are detailed. 

Chapter 8: Sample Adventure Module

The sample adventure, "The Monster of the Fens," is given.  It reminds me, naturally enough, of Beowulf.  The adventure takes place in East Anglia so Young states that it can be integrated with the Codex Celtarum.  The adventure is for 2 to 4 characters of 3rd to 4th level. 

It is a fun little adventure and reminds GM/Castle Keepers that even a "simple" monster like a Troll would be a menace to the folks of pagan Germanic lands. Indeed, much like Beowulf shows.

The temptation is great to compare this to the Codex Nordica and also to find it lacking.  This temptation must be avoided!  The Codex Germanica is its own thing. While the myths and stories will feel familiar to the more popular Norse myths, they are their own, situated within their own time and place.   These myths feel older and darker in many respects.  In many ways, I like these myths and tales a little more than those of the Norse. 

Again, this book is light on actual rules details, save for the classes, so it is an excellent resource for any RPG.  Converting it over to AD&D, D&D 5, or your favorite OSR-Clone would be trivial at worst. Of course it is designed for Castles & Crusades which is fantastic in it's own right.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Zinc Dragons

Saw this on social media. Got me thinking.


Yeah.  Where are they?  I mean we have had Orange, Yellow and Purple dragons

So what do we know here?  According to the Monster Manual for AD&D 1st Ed.:

Copper dragons live in warmer rocky regions, live in caves, and have acid or a cloud of gas as their breath weapons. They have 7 to 9 HD, the same as the Green.

Brass dragons live in sandy deserts and have two types of gas as their breath weapon, poison and sleep. They have 6 to 8 HD, the same as the Black.

Bronze dragons live underground near the water. Their breath weapons are lightning and a repulsion gas cloud. They have 8 to 10 HD, the same as the Blue.

There is then some parity then between the Chromatic and Metalic. It follows that if I create some "new" Chromatic dragons (Orange, Purple so far) I should have some new Metalic dragons too.

My Orange dragon has 9 HD (9 to 11), my Purple has 10 HD (10 to 12).  I am not saying I need to duplicate the parity of the 1st ed book, but it is a good place to start.

I know I need to work on my dragons a bit more.  There is not really enough detail in my stat block as it is right now.  

Dragon, Zinc
aka Draco Spodium Ailbum
Huge Dragon, Metalic

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Lawful [Chaotic Good]
Movement: 150' (50') [15"]
  Fly: 210' (70') [21"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 5d8+20** (26 hp) (5HD to 7HD)
  Huge: 5d12+20** (36 hp)
THAC0: 10 (+9)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d6+3x2, 2d8+3
Special: Breath weapons (Burning Cloud or Choking Cloud), dragon fear, low-light vision (120’), magic use
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: XV (H) 
XP: 575 (OSE) 660 (LL)

Habitat: Populated temperate to tropical zones
Probability Asleep: 35% 
Probability of Speech: 90%
Breath Weapon: Burning Cloud or Choking Cloud, 
Spells: First: 3, Second: 2

Zinc dragons are silver-white dragons that are often confused with smaller silver or white dragons save that they prefer to live in warmer climates in populated areas.  They will often shape change into human or dwarven form to move among humanoids.  In either human or dwarf form, their hair tends to be a very light blond or white and their skin tones range from olive to dark tans, though they can alter this as they see fit. They are fond of humanoids but still remain a bit aloof from them.

Zinc dragons can attack with a claw, claw, bite routine in dragon form.  They also have two breath weapons they are capable of using. The first is a choking cloud of particulates the other is a cloud of burning smoke. Both require a save vs. breath weapon or take damage equal to the dragon's current hit points. Save results in half-damage.  In both cases, the area 50 ft by 50 ft in front of the dragon has reduced vision to all but the dragon. Attacks are at -2 for the next round following the breath weapon attack.  In dragon or human form they may cast spells as a 4th level magic-user; three 1st level and two 2nd level.

Zinc dragons keep their hoards nearby, usually buried under whatever urban-dwelling they live in, or if in the wilderness, in a deep cave. 

--

Certainly one of the weaker dragons.  Maybe adventurers never encounter them because they avoid adventurers and potential dragon-slayers.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Beowulf (2007)

Beowulf (2007)
"I am Beowulf, I am here to kill your monster."

Moving outside of the 80s and the Swords & Sorcery flicks of old to a newer (but still 14 years old) flick.  The big All-Star Robert Zemeckis and Neil Gaiman version of Beowulf.

I figure since all month is about monsters, let's go with one of the most famous monster-hunting tales in the English Language.  

Now let's be upfront about this.  The movie takes some liberties with the source material.  But I don't feel they are undue liberties.  Beowulf at its heart is a tale of good vs. evil, man vs. monster, and in some ways the Pagan world vs the Christian one.   That at least has always been my take on it.

When I first saw this movie it had been years since I had read Beowulf.  I remember it was stuck in the back of a bunch of myths and legends of Greek and Norse myths. The way the book was structured I thought there was a chronological progression of them; the Greek, then the Norse then Beowulf. And there was, to a degree, but not in the way I was thinking about them.  This is a topic I am going to come back to later.

Beowulf (2007)

I imagine that most people reading my blog have some passing familiarity with the story of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's Mother.  Today though I am talking about the movie. 

Overall I like this particular version of the story, I am not sure I am 100% happy with the animation though. It reminds me a little too much of Shrek.  Now that would be a movie, replace Grendel with Shrek. Might have been an improvement over the whinny Grendel we get here.  This guy is supposed to be a fearsome demon-like monster.  Not an overgrown kid that can't sleep because his neighbors are partying too hard.  Though getting Crispen Glover to play Grendel was inspired.  Still, there is a bit of an Uncanny Valley to all of this. 

Still though, what a cast!  Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar likely his audition for Odin in Thor.  Ray Winstone as Beowulf cuts an imposing figure, but I can't help but think the role would have been better served by the likes of Sean Bean.  John Malkovich as Unferth is woefully underused but still manages to chew up the scenery.  The one though that got everyone's attention was Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother.  Changing her from an ugly monster that was worse than Grendel to a succubus-like seductress was an interesting choice and one I still think works.  Robin Wright plays Queen Wealtheow as a more or less older Princess Buttercup. 

The creatures; Grendel, his mother, the dragon, and the sea monsters all look fantastic. The movie makes the idea that Grendel and his mother are demons. Likely playing into the idea of Pagan vs. Christians. 

Much like the epic poem, the parts leading up to Beowulf's and Grendel's fight and right after it are the best parts.  Afterward, it kind of drags a little for me.

Neil Gaiman wrote the script and did a really good job. 

Gaming Material

I have been posting my Beowulf gaming material now for some time. My two biggest are the Aglæca and Trolla.  This though is another example of something I started thinking more and more about when working on The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition,  a game of fighting demons and other monsters against the backdrop of the rise of Christianity and the decline of Paganism.  Would be a lot of fun.

Monday, April 5, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: D is for Dragon, Purple

I am SO glad I watched Dragonslayer over the weekend because it really puts me in the mood for today's monster.  

Dragons are a huge part of the games we play at home. My oldest son LOVES dragons and has, well, I have no idea how many, scattered all over the place. His games are filled with dragons.  So when I want to add new dragons to my games or books, I first turn to him.  Especially if I want a fresh take.

I remember the Purple, Yellow, and Orange dragons from Dragon Magazine 65 and then updated in Dragon magazine 248.   I included my own take on an Orange dragon in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   This dragon was originally conceived for my High Witchcraft book.  This is the dragon that has given us so many draconic bloodline sorcerers.

Dragon Henry Justice Ford
Dragon, Purple

aka Draco Arcanis Occultis, Arcane Dragon
Huge Dragon

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Neutral Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
  Fly: 240' (80') [24"]
  Burrow: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 10d8+20* (65 hp)
  Huge: 10d12+20** (85 hp)
THAC0: 11 (+8)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d6+3x2, 2d8+3
Special: Breath weapon (magical energy), dragon fear, low-light vision (120’), magic use
Save: Monster 10
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: XV (H) 
XP: 2,300 (OSE) 2,400 (LL)

Habitat: Underground or Urban areas
Probability Asleep: 25% 
Probability of Speech: 100%
Breath Weapon: 75’ long, 5' wide beam of magical energy
Spells: First: 3, Second: 3, Third: 3, Fouth: 2, Fifth: 1

Purple dragons are a very rare mutation among prismatic dragons.  They are born mostly to red, blue, or black dragons and rarely among green or white. Even then only 5% of all dragon births can result in a purple dragon.  It is believed they are born most often in areas of high magic.  Since all of the prismatic dragons are very vain, the wyrmling purple is often abandoned. Green dragons usually kill them outright.  The ones that survive learn that their most important weapon is guile, trickery, and deceit. 

Like all dragons, the purple can fight with its claws and bite. Their breath weapon is a 75' long beam of magical energy. They will also fight with spells in any form. 

The purple dragons are among the smartest of all dragon-kind. They will always speak and use magic. They can cast spells as a magic-user/wizard of 9th level. These dragons are fond of casting Polymorph Self  (fourth level) and masquerading as a human.  In this form, they will be found living in cities where they will often study magic and accumulate wealth.  Their lairs will have an underground area where they will keep their treasures and sleep in their dragon form.

These dragons are very solitary in regards to other dragons, but they do keep humanoids nearby. These are often servants, slaves, thralls, and the occasional victim.  They have been known to also become the patrons of Draconic Warlocks and Witches.  Wizards will also seek them out for advanced training in the magical arts.  A purple dragon can speak draconic, common, its alignment language, and up to four more languages.  Typically elven is learned. 

--

This block has the extra details needed for dragons.  Additionally, we see our first Huge creature.  It can use the normal d8 for hp if you wish to stick to the rules of your particular Basic game, or you can use a d12 instead to reflect its larger size. In the case of this 10 HD monster, the difference is 20 hp.

April 2021 A to Z


AND

If you are doing the A to Z Challenge Scavenger Hunt, you just found a Dragon!



Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer (1981)
Since April is Monster Month here I thought it might be fun to check some monster-themed Sword & Sorcery & Cinema movies.  Up first is a classic and premiered at the height of the 80s fantasy craze. Here is 1981's Dragonslayer from both Paramount and Disney.

We are introduced to one of the most famous dragons outside of Westeros or Erebor, Vermithrax Pejorative.  Though he is mentioned among the dragons in Game of Throne's first season.  

The movie is a little slow, but on par with what was normal at the time.  Peter MacNicol is fine as the apprentice turned dragonslayer Galen, but I can't help but think if someone else would have been better in the role.  Caitlin Clarke was great as the girl pretending to be a boy Valerian.  She returned to theatre work after this and this was her only major role.  She sadly passed of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Sadly the movie under-performed in the box office and some of the reviews were not great, but the movie was fun then and to be honest the effects have held up well enough.  It has achieved "cult movie" status and that is not a bad thing.  It certainly is a great one to have on a Dragon-themed movie night.

The effects are good and the director gets away with a lot of "showing less is more."  We only see bits and pieces of the dragon until the very end when it is most effective. Sure some of the stop motion looks very stop motion-y, but Vermithrax still looks like he could go toe to toe with Smaug or Drogon.  I really can't help but think that this dragon wasn't at least some of the inspiration for the DragonRaid game

The musical queues in this are pure Disney so they are also very effective. 

Gaming Content

Now THAT is a Dragonlance! The Sicarius Dracorum really shows that a spear, or a lance, is the best weapon for fighting a dragon.  The forging scene where Galen heats the metal with magic is really one of the best.  If you are not forging your magic weapons like this then you are missing out!

Caitlin's dragon scale shield, while less theatric, is just as magical. 

I am sure there are those that will nitpick that the "dragon" only has two legs and not four, but I can't get worked up over that. He is still a fantastic dragon.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Pseudo Dragons for OSE

Back in my AD&D days, a pseudo-dragon was the familiar of choice for any of my wizard characters.  They seem to be less desired in the post-3e years which is too bad since they are much more interesting than other types.

Pseudo Dragons
Pseudo dragons are a variety of dragons related to both dragons and wyverns, and some claim other stranger admixtures.  They are small, intelligent creatures, capable of speech and casting spells.


Three types of pseudo dragons are detailed below.

Dragons gain hp per age category.

Age Level Hit Points Age Category
1 1-2 Very young
2 3-4 Young
3 5-6 Sub-adult
4 7-8 Young adult
5 9-10 Adult
6 11-12 Old
7 13-14 Very old
8 15-16 Ancient

Pseudo Dragons
Small, wyvern-like dragon with a scorpion's stinger on his tail.
Armor Class 2
Hit Dice 2 (hp see above)
Attacks 1 bite (1d3), Poison sting, and Spell use
THAC0 18 (+2)
Movement Rate 60' (20'), Flying: 240' (80')
Saves D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (2)
Morale 10
Alignment Neutral (good)
XP for Defeating 35
Number Appearing 1
Treasure Type L (x10)

  • Bite. The pseudo dragon can bite with its dragon-like jaws. 
  • Tail-sting. A pseudo dragon can sting with its tail.  Save vs. poison or fall into a coma-like state for 1d6+1 days.
  • Chameleon ability. Can hide in normal surroundings with 80% chance.
  • Spell-like ability. Can cast spells as a 2nd level Magic-user.

Faerie Dragons
A small dragon with butterfly wings and a wide mischievous grin. Offshoots of the pseudo dragon found in lands of the faerie and other fey creatures.
Armor Class 5
Hit Dice 5 (hp see above)
Attacks 1 bite (1d3), Breath weapon, and Spell use
THAC0 15 (+5)
Movement Rate 60' (20'), Flying: 240' (80')
Saves SV D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (5)
Morale 12
Alignment Neutral (good)
XP for Defeating 300
Number Appearing 1
Treasure Type J, K, L
  • Bite. The faerie dragon can bite with its dragon-like jaws. 
  • Breath Weapon. A 2' cloud. Save vs. Breath Weapon or be affected by a sleep spell.
  • Invisibility at will.
  • Spell-like ability. Cast spells as a 5th level Magic-user.
Hell Drake
A small dragon with wings surrounded in flames.
Armor Class 4
Hit Dice 3 (hp see above)
Attacks 1 bite (1d4), Breath weapon, and Spell use
THAC0 16 (+4)
Movement Rate 60' (20'), Flying: 240' (80')
Saves SV D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (4)
Morale 10
Alignment Chaotic
XP for Defeating 250
Number Appearing 1
Treasure Type J, K, L
  • Bite. The hell drake can bite with its dragon-like jaws. 
  • Breath Weapon. A 2' cone of flame. Save vs. Breath Weapon.
  • Spell-like ability. Cast spells as a 4th level Magic-user.

Pseudo Dragons as Familiars
Witches, warlocks and magic-users can have a pseudo dragon as familiars.  Pseudo dragons can communicate telepathically with their master. They also can communicate with all types of dragon creatures.  So the master gains the ability to speak, read and write draconic, the language of dragons.
They gain a +2 to all saves vs. Dragon Breath (but not non-draconic breath weapons).
Additionally the familiar gives the master the ability to cast 2 first-level magic-user spells and 1 second-level magic-user spell.


Monday, December 30, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Painted Minis Edition

I am still on Christmas vacation and I barely remembered today was Monday.
So here are some minis my wife has painted over break.

First up, a blue dragon.







And, my favorite, a Demogorgon!







Here's to new monsters in 2020!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 2

I am going to spend some more time today with the Babylonian myths and focus on a couple of the personalities in particular.

Again, I am not doing this to poke holes in the scholarship of the original authors of Deities & Demigods.  We have learned a great deal more about these myths and stories than we knew back in the 1980s. AND this is not a historical text. This is a game book, it has different rules as it were.

Who's In Charge Around Here?
I do have one nitpick that I need to get off my chest and it involves Marduk.   What makes Babylonian myths well, Babylonian, is that they come from the city of Babylon.  Whose chief god was Marduk.  So who is this Anu guy?  Well...these are not easy questions.  Anu was an important god of the Mesopotamian religion and described as the father of Enlil (see the Sumerian myths) and the first main god worshiped...well ever, calling him the "Chief of all the Babylonian Deities" is a stretch.  Now if "Babylonian" = these gods and not "Babylonian" = The City of Babylon then ok.  But the chief god of Babylon was Marduk.  He was the most powerful and the one later kings of Babylon would swear fealty to; known as "Taking the Hand of Marduk".   So why isn't Marduk the 400 hp Greater God?  Well I guess this works better for this book.
Also, the physical description of Marduk has me scratching my head a bit.  None of the reliefs I have seen look like that. In fact the only other place I have seen this version of Marduk is in the Real Ghostbuster cartoon "I Am the City".
For the record. I DO think Marduk would have LOVED New York and the Ultimate City.  And I say this as a Chicagoan.



I believe the image came from descriptions of Marduk seeing twice as much/far as others, or being more than the other gods and men.

Bizzare Love Triangle
It's hard to talk about Marduk in AD&D and NOT bring up Tiamat.  Heck even in the Ghostbusters cartoon Marduk (the god of civilization) battles Tiamat the Goddess of Chaos.  Hmm.  Ok, so let's go back a bit.

The year is 1990 and young former-Physics, turned Psychology, student Tim Brannan has become disillusioned with the physics-envy in his field and wants something a little more on the start-up edge of science.   Enter Chaos Theory. The book "Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness" was released and I was mesmerized.   I was convinced (and still am on some levels) that my then research into human memory based on chaotic structures (see my senior honors paper and eventual Master Thesis).  I never got a far as I wanted on this.  Maybe one day.
That is not important today.  Today I want to talk about the Turbulent Mirror and Tiamat.

Now I remembered from my class in mythology some 2-3 years before that Tiamat represented Chaos.  Turbulent Mirror took this and ran with it, and took my imagination with it.

Why is Tiamat a "Lawful evil" dragon?  Shouldn't she be Chaotic Evil?
I have talked about Tiamat many times, but this post explains why I want to be Chaotic and not Lawful.

So now we have Tiamat battling Marduk and Tiamat battling Bahamut.  I used to refer to this as the "Bizzare Love Triangle" after the New Order song.  Irritated my then DM to no end.  I will need to come back to Bahamut some day.  Is he Marduk?  No. But I have no good reasoning yet.  MAYBE Marduk is the only "non-human diety" because he looks like a Dragonborn!  That would work well with what they are doing with the Dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms.

I keep Tiamat mostly as she is in the Monster Manual. Save she is now Chaotic Evil.  She always acted like it anyway.



Dragon Tales
Tiamat is not the only dragon in the Babylonian myths.
Right above Druaga is another Persian import, Dahak.
Dahak, or Zahhak or Aži Dahāka is the "three-headed dragon of death".   Wow.  How could that even be remotely ignored?

Well while Dahak certainly sounds like one of the monsters that Tiamat would produce he is from Iran and not Iraq like Tiamat is (to use the modern countries).

When my oldest son was little we grabbed every book on dragons we could find.  He loved, and still loves, dragons.  He read the stories about Dahak and decided that this was the dragon he wanted to explore more.

To that end he came up with both OSR stats and Pathfinder/3.x stats.   He is working on a 5e version too since that is now his game of choice.
For us, Aži Dahāka is the offspring of Tiamat and Demogorgon.  Part of an ancient pact to provide them both with a monster capable of great destruction.  Well, they got more than they could handle.

Funny thing is that when Liam decided to take on Aži Dahāka and I had forgotton all about Dahak in this book. I am glad I could come back to him full circle as it were.

Wow. I still have more to say about this part of the world.  Looks like a Part 3 will has to happen.

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #74

It's June 1983.  I had just turned 14 so I took about two dozen friends to the movie to see "Octopussy" in the theatres on my birthday (remember when I said I was a huge Bond fan?) and it was great.  In the stores the new covers for the AD&D core books are out and yes I had to buy them.  Bond is in the theatres, new covers on the shelves, Naked Eyes on the radio and There's Always Something There to Remind Me in This Old Dragon Issue #74!

First up this issue is in REALLY good shape given the issues near it (CORRECTION, I have two of these. One is in good shape, the other with the Combat Computer is in terrible shape).  Yes, the combat computer (more on that later) is still there and still intact.  But let's talk about this cover first.   Nothing is more iconic D&D than a group of adventurers fighting a dragon. This cover is one of the more memorable ones.  I did not buy this issue when it was new, but people I gamed with had it and it was well used and well passed around.

The editorial also covers birthdays.  This is the seventh anniversary of Dragon.  Last week I covered the 9th anniversary and like that issue, this one has some dragons in it.  They mark the date in a very subdued fashion. That will change.

Gary is up first with an entry of From the Sorcerer's Scroll in Warhorses and Barding.  Exactly what it says. One might be tempted to pass up this article and flip on past the big James Bond ad, and ignore the second half.  That would be a mistake.  Gary lets us know that a line of official D&D 25mm miniatures are on the way.   We also learn of a script for the Dungeons and Dragons movie that "... is a remarkable piece of work, one which could well lead to a film as successful as STAR WARS or E.T. It will do a world of good for our hobby . . ."  Thankfully Jeremy Irons is really busy during this time and Thora Birch is only 1 year old.   Also on tap is something Gary and Marvel Productions are calling "THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CHILDRENS SHOW".  So reading in 1983 which one of these sounds like the better bet?  Yeah, I was wrong too.

In another long standing feature, Lenard Lakofka with Brad Nystul are both up in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This issue features the Bureaucrat class with the Politician sub-class.  I am not kidding.   It does read like a misplaced April Fools article, but there is too much seriousness in it.  Ok, now I am 100% certain that someone out there reading this now used these classes back in the AD&D1 days.  But come on, really??  Next time someone tells me how much better everything in the old Dragons used to be I will agree, but I will also show them this article.   Not every old is good and not every new is bad.

Ah, now this is the stuff I remember and wanted.  Ronald Hall is up with the Land Dragons.  I loved this article. It was original and it felt like a great addition to the game.  I can remember laying in bed reading this article. It was a great stuff.  With these and the new dragons in the Fiend Folio and the MMII I wanted to over run my world with all sorts of different dragons.

Not to be outdone, The Electrum Dragon by Ed Greenwood is next.  This one I didn't like as much.  Oh sure I liked having more dragons, but this seemed forced since electrum was (in theory for me at the time) electroplated silver with gold.  Later I opted to keep Electrum Dragons in the Realms and Steel Dragons in Greyhawk.

Ah, now here is a memory! Ed comes back with Elminster in tow for Seven Swords: Blades of the Realms.  Now this is a proper article for magical swords.  They have names and they have histories.  And Elminster is looking into them, tracking them down.  This is also great stuff.  Back then I was totally into just what were enough details to convince my DM to put them into our games.  Today I am much more interested in their tales.  Well done Ed. It took me long enough to get your point, but I finally got it.

The Ecology of the Bulette by Chris Elliott and Richard Edwards also does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It makes the "land shark" interesting.

Arlen P. Walker is up with an article I ignored then but am giddy over now.  I was also a fan of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was a great mix of James Bond (and even had Ian Flemming's fingerprints on it) and Sherlock Holmes.  Tracing THRUSH's nest. The place: London The time: 1894 is a GREAT article that I will steal for a Victorian game.  I love the idea of THRUSH being tied to Moriarty and Moran of the Holmes stories. This article expands on that.  The companion article, In trouble? Say UNCLE The date: New York City The time: now, is also fun.

Arlen P. Walker is up with a 3rd article with Spying on the spies, which details the research that went into the previous two articles and their sources.

Lewis Pulsipher is next with The Vicarious Participator which is some role-playing advice on how to mange the two predominant styles of role-playing at the time, the full immersion actor sort and the man-behind-the-curtain sort.  One IS their character, the other only tells what the character does in a 3rd person sort of way.

Here we go with the centerfold.  The (infamous) Combat Computer!
Over the years I have heard tales of love and tales of hate for this thing.  One thing you never hear though is that it was designed by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
I personally liked it, but by the time we started using it we had already started homebrewing stuff.  The first version of my Healer class was in play (and soon out of play, it didn't work) and my witch class was on the way.
Plus we had bigger plans back then...



(there is also a big Gen Con XVI program here. Yes you could fit it all inside Dragon)

D&D Beyond,
1985 Color Computer version
(transferred to 3.5 from 5.25 disks)
Which brings us to
Q: What do you get when you cross a Dungeon Master with a computer?
A: Programmed character creation without human hesitation!

This article and program by Joseph C. Spann was not a revolution for my group.  It was a factor, but by 1983 everyone I knew who played D&D was also in the Jr. High Computer club and computer classes together.  We all wrote bits of software to emulate various parts of D&D.  We had pages and pages of BASIC code for the good old TRS-80.  I had other friends that were just as active on their Apple II's and Commodores. My DM and I finally created a really perfect bit of software for the TRS-80 Color Computer.  It could store 10 characters (more on disk once we upgraded to that) and we put in every monster in the books.    This article captures that time really well.  The software itself though takes away the visceral joy of rolling characters, but we did not care.  In the 80s D&D and Computers were going to come together and soon.  Maybe even before the D&D movie.

So when I hear arguments or complaints of "we never used characters builders back in my day" I say BULLSHIT.  Not only did we use them, we wrote them.  We spent hours learning how to code to do exactly that.  Like the article says:
"It cannot be simply coincidental that there are so many roleplaying game enthusiasts among our nation's rapidly growing number of computer hackers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say so many computer hackers among the ranks of RPG players, as evidenced by the presence of computer-oriented columns and information in gaming magazines like this one."
So maybe YOU didn't try out a character builder of your own but everyone I have ever gamed with from 1979 on has.

The trouble with code is it takes up a lot space. And let me tell you, typing all that in and getting an error. I am so glad I don't have to do that anymore.

Not many articles from this time get quoted or talked about much these days, A Player Character
and his Money by Lew Pulsipher is a notable exception.  I always found his discussion on moving to the silver standard very interesting.  I have often wanted to adopt it, but felt the hassle to correct the books and math constantly to make it not worth it.

Let's see, some listings of Sci-Fi conventions.

Tony Watson is up with The SF "universe" An in-depth examination of the STAR FRONTIERS game.  Something of an ad, something of an overview/preview and editorial.  It's long too. I really, really enjoyed Star Frontiers back in the day.  Two percentile dice, crazy races, giant-ass battery packs on your back to power your lasers. Though give me a gyrojet gun any day.

Off the Shelf has some books. No kidding right. Well, it has one book in particular. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have a long and complicated relationship with this book. More than I care to unpack now.  Sometimes nostalgia is about looking back and remembering something fondly. Sometimes it isn't.  I really loved this book back then and read it a few times.  I have some issues with it and the author now.

Ads..lots of them.

What's New does spies. Wormy does...what ever it is Wormy was doing.

Near the end an ad for the previously mentioned AD&D minis.

Landmark issue to be sure.  Full of nostalgia for the actual articles and less for the ads.

What are your memories? Did you use the Combat Computer? Write your D&D software?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Come back to the City of Irilian and check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #42.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #98

June 1985. Later this month I'll turn 16, but due to the fact I need new glasses, I won't get my license for a few more weeks.   Rambo First Blood is in the theatres and Tears for Fears is on the radio.  On the shelves, the new covers for the AD&D hardbacks and you can buy This Old Dragon issue #98.

The cover features a dragon horde filled with modern day items.  This is also the 9th Anniversary issue.  As far as I can recall all the anniversary issues featured dragons on the cover.  This cover though does not strike any memories with me. It's a cool cover.

We get to the main feature of the issue, all about Dragons.
Up first is Tailor-made Treasure from Roger E. Moore.  This is a new system for figuring out a dragon's treasure hoard.  It has some great quotes from various works of literature. Reading it over it could work well with pretty much every version of the game.

The Magic of Dragon Teeth by Gregg Chamberlain covers the various effects of burying dragon teeth. Each color of dragon will produce a different sort of warrior ala Jason and the Argonauts.
Most gamers of a certain age remember the old movie featuring the Harryhausen skeletons.


There are some neat ideas here.  To be honest I never felt the need to codify this.  Through the dragon teeth on ground and skeleton pop up.  Cause weird shit like that happens in a magical world.
Though more recently I have been using Dragon Tooth Talismans.  These provide protection from the that dragons' type of breath weapon.

Need music from the Ancient Empires for your game?  Well, you can get it in STEREO from Ramal LaMarr!  (I am sure that is 100% his real palindrome name too).


I have to admit I loved these ads.  So corny and over the top.  You can find his music online still.



You keep doing you Ramal!

Leonard Carpenter gives us a nice brief one in Dragon Damage Revised.  A great add for AD&D 1 but something you see now in most newer editions of D&D.

Roger Moore is back again with some background on The Dragons of Krynn.  In this, we learn that Takhisis and Paladine are similar to (but not the same as) Tiamat and Bahamut.    We get some Krynn history that is familiar to all of us now, but here it was all new.   A lot of Dragonlance has migrated back into D&D proper since the 3.0 days and I think that is largely a good thing.  Back in the 80s we used to talk about how the dragons of Krynn were larger and somewhat more "dragon" than the ones you found in Greyhawk.  I know that there are plenty of old-school fans that are aghast with this, but hey. They focused more on dragons in Krynn than Oerth.

Nice big ad for the Dragonlance Chronicles book 2, Dragons of Winter Night.

Ken Hughes gives us an entry with Creative Magic Items.  I want to talk less about this specific article and more about the type of article it is.  There were always a lot of articles in Dragon that I call "You are not bound by books!" articles.  I get that many people want to play RAW, but we were always doing things not in the books. Creating new monsters, new magic items, spells, classes.  Everyone I had gamed with had the books memorized back in Junior High, there was no way to surprise them unless you were willing to go out side of the books. Most of these articles elicited a "no shit, doesn't everyone do this?" but after a while I came to the conclusion that no, not everyone.

Detailing a Fantasy World is from Jim Dutton, whom I feel I should know but don't (flipping further I see his company runs the AD&D PBM game). Now this has some great advice on how to build your fantasy world from the ground up, or at least detail enough areas to keep your players busy.  At only three pages it feels too short to deal with the advice given, but it is short and succinct and should give any budding world builder a place to start and the seasoned ones some new ideas.

I am usually cautious of reviews of TSR products in Dragon. Such is the case of this reveiw of the first two Dragonlance novels by John C. Bunnell in It's a Neat Idea, but ... NOT just a Gimmick. I think we can be adults here and talk about the fact that the Dragonlance novels have some shortcomings. That being said these are fun books and they did represent a sea change in *D&D as a game and as a product.

A surprisingly long article from Dave Rosene discusses what PCs are likely to find in local shops in Knowing What's In Store.   We live in a world today where everything is available at our finger tips. In the 80s even we had malls (lots of malls) but historical medieval lands did not. Fantasy worlds need to tread this line carefully.

The Forum is next.

An ad for Traveller races. At this time and now these books make me want to play Traveller. I want to know more about the Aslan, Vargr and K'kree.  Maybe someone has ported them over to White Star or Starfinder already.

Some coming attractions for TSR products. Highlights include the D&D Masters Rules and the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.

Ad for Chill.  Still love that game.

Our centerfold is the first Gamma World Mutant Manual.  I am very pleased that it is still in this magazine too. Some would make for great additions to an OSR D&D game or a Mutant Future game.

Merle and Jackie Rasmussen have their Part II of Authentic Agencies for Top Secret.  A great find for the pre-internet world, but also real world agencies spelled out in Top Secret format.

The Ares section is next.
The Volturnus Connection is first by Stephen Bonario.  I have to admit, if I ever run a Starfinder game I'd consider a "Return to Volturnus" like game. I had a lot of fun with Star Frontiers.

When History Goes Awry by Mark Acres deals with parallel and alternate timelines for the Timemaster game.  Degree in History not required but certainly helpful.

Big index of all the heroes published for the Marvel Super Hero game in Marvel-Phile.

Huge list of conventions for June to October 1985.

Gamer's Guide has a lot of cool ads including one for the new Super Endless Quest books. These included a simple character sheet/bookmark.

Comics include Wormy and Snarf Quest.  Snarf is long, Wormy is down to a page.

A fun issue really and one I'll go back to for more information on dragons.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine for June of 1985?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #66.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Old Dragon

I have a bad habit of buying whole collections from people when I find them on Craigslist, Facebook or even at local flea markets.   Typically I find one or two items I really want, a dozen or so I can sell in the local game auction twice a year and then there are the leftovers.

Sometimes the leftovers are items that are so damaged they won't sell or are not even gaming related.  Recently though my "leftovers" have been old Dragon magazines.





I picked up a box of Dragons recently that are mildewy, dusty, and the vast majority are missing their covers.  Others are just water damaged. I stick them all into a box under my desk. Well, now they all have to go.

While I could just dump into the recycling (they are in really piss poor shape) I thought maybe I should go through them all first.

So that is what I am I going to do.

Introducing "This Old Dragon"!

This feature should be  (have not decided on the day yet) and I will grab a mildewy issue and read through it.  This will be a review feature like my White Dwarf Wednesdays, but there will be some notable differences.

1. I am not going to go in order.  I am grabbing a magazine out as I see fit and then I'll review it.   If there is an issue you want me to cover, we will both have to be surprised.  I am not even sure what issues I have.  I think the lowest is #54 and the highest is #160, but I can't be sure.  I am going to grab an issue in the morning, pop it open on my treadmill and go for a run.

2. I am not going to cover everything in the magazine.  This is in part out of choice and part out of necessity.  Some of the magazines are missing pages, others have pages too damaged to read.  Plus I only want to devote my attention to articles I like or would like to revisit.  In this case, it means I am likely to ignore the comics, but maybe focus more on the fiction I never read.

3. I have no idea what I have. Like I said I have a vague idea. I know I have duplicates and in one case triplicates of some issues.  There are many I don't have.

I am also not going to try to step on any toes of people reviewing Dragons now. If I see someone reviewing or have reviewed the same issue, I'll post a link.  Likewise, if you have something you want to say about an issue posted then post away!

I'll do this for a while and see how it goes over.  What do you think?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wizards of the Coast Print On Demand: The Results, Part 3

Today is Tuesday so that means new releases.  Wizards of the Coast has some new classic D&D books up for POD today.  Be sure to check them out.

Today I want to compare the POD 3e Draconomicon to the one I bought my son when it first came out.
A bit of background.  The Draconomicon is a watershed book for the Brannan family.  I got it for my son because he loved dragons. Still does really.  Well he carried this book with him everywhere for years.  Needless to say it is in pretty bad shape.  I have wanted to get him a new one for years and I have seen many at Half-Price books and of course at my FLGS, but none have jumped out at me saying "buy me".  We I opted to spend some of the money from the sales of my own books on the POD version.  I splurged and got the "Premium Heavyweight" paper.

In the pictures the original print in on the left side of your screen, the POD on the right.


Side by side it is hard to know which is which.  The art on the POD version seems a little bigger.  You will notice there is a spot on the bottom where the cover doesn't quite make it to the bottom.  I have seen this before on other books.  Sometimes it prints like this other times it doesn't.


The Heavyweight POD is noticeably thicker than the original print.



The POD does not have the dragon art printed on the inside cover.  The images are repeated in the original printing but only one of each in the POD.  The POD actually looks more interesting.



Inside the books are remarkably identical.


My son was 6 when I got this for him.   He carried it to school for two years straight.


This is the LightningSource/OneBookShelf page added to all the books.   So no chance someone will mistake these for originals if they know to look for this.


Equally, the original features an ISBN barcode.  The the POD has a different one that is not an ISBN.


The spines are also very different. This of course is by necessity to accommodate the varying thickness of the paper choices.

In all I am happy with it.  It doesn't look like my original, but that is fine with me.  It makes it more of a "new" book in some respects.  Yes, just like the original I am giving this to my son for Christmas. Don't tell him.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dungeons.. AND Dragons.

So week end wrap up.

Wow. What a busy week really.

Tonight is 2nd Ed. AD&D, a continuation of our Basic game from two-weeks ago. But I am dead tired.

So here is a size comparison of some Dragons.  Happy Friday!



Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D40 Bloghop: Day 22

Day 22: First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance Trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)

I have to admit I don't read a lot of game-based fiction.  I did. But not anymore.

So like most people my age the first D&D book I ever read was Dragons of Autumn Twilight.


I remember being rather excited about it when it came out.  I read it and it was ok.  I liked the Twins Trilogy better, but lets be 100% honest here. These are not great works of literature.  They are fun.

I recently set out to reread the Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles recently.  I have not gotten very far.  There is a surprising lack of violence in these books.  Plus they commit one of the cardinal rules of fiction in my mind, things happen to the characters rather than characters doing things.

My son is reading this now.  He will enjoy it since he is the same age now I was then.

I will admit to reading all the Gord the Rogue books and all of the Ravenloft ones.
To be fair with the Ravenloft books though there are some "names" in those early books, Laurell K. Hamilton, P.N. Elrod, Christie Golden, and Elaine Bergstrom.

I have never read any Forgotten Realms books or anything for any other game line.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Return of the Dragon

So I got this in the mail the other day.



I had this poster when it first came out.  I honestly have no memory of how I got it except that it was something I had to send off for.
I had it till college and had it hanging on my wall in typical college fashion.  That is till my idiot roommate got mad at me one day and ripped it down.

Ever since then I have wanted one.  Well thanks to magic that is eBay I finally got another one.
I am not going to tell you what I paid, save it was more than most people would have been willing to part with, but enough that I am happy. It was still rolled up in the original tube in fact!  

The poster is actually in very, very good shape for being 30 years old.

The timing is great since the Dragonslayers (my kids group) need something from a "rainbow dragon" to finish their quest.