Showing posts with label traveller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label traveller. Show all posts

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


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Travelling to Ravenloft

Traveller. I universe in a 3-Ring Binder.
Quick update.  

I was going to spend some time this week going over Traveller. From the Classic Traveller books all the way to the newest editions.  But in my research and reading, I found so much more material out there.  More than I can adequately cover in the time I was giving myself.  So I am continuing my readings, my research, and my analyses. 

There is so much to go through and I don't want to half-ass it.  I owe it to myself really and my love for my original Traveller Book (printed PDF version pictured).

Plus I have this other stack of educational research I need to read over and review for work.  No rest for the wicked right?

ed research

Honestly. I am looking forward to both research tasks ahead of me.

Speaking of wicked.  This came out today.

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft

So I have even more reading to do before I can say anything intelligent about it. 

I am certainly going to be using it in my games. Been a Ravenloft fan from the very start.

Ravenloft through the ages

WotC's Ravenloft

I can't say much yet save that it looks like a lot of fun.

My son and I talked about what our plans were for this.

Cthulhu Mythos + Ravenloft

His Ravenloft has an avatar of the King in Yellow. So he is working on his own version of Carcosa. One unrelated to the Geoffrey McKinney version or the Fat Goblin Games version.

I think I am headed back to Black Rose.

Ravenloft + Blue Rose

It's going to be fun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What is "Traveller Envy" and why do I have it?

My memory is hazy, but my second RPG was either Traveller or Chill.  I like to say it was Chill since it gives me Horror RPG cred.  But in truth, I think it was Traveller.  No shame in that, I was a huge Sci-fi fan back then, even if I rarely got to play Sci-Fi games.

Who's Number 2? Sadly I can't recall.

While this month is dedicated to nothing but horror, I have been itching to get back into some sci-fi gaming and I have been reflecting a lot on something I call "Traveller Envy."

Growing up in the middle of Illinois had some advantages.  We were is what has been referred to as the RPG or even D&D pipeline.  We were situated between Chicago/Lake Geneva and Carbondale, IL where Tim Kask's (and my) Alma Mater SIU is.  We were also close enough to the University of Illinois.  It is only within the last couple of decades that I have come to learn how good I had it then.  Meaning, we had access to RPG products that most of the country lacked.  Judges Guild was just on the opposite side of Springfield from me.  Pacesetter was far North of us, but soon Mayfair would move into the Chicago burbs.  I regularly ordered games I could not otherwise find from The Dungeon Hobby shop/Mail Order Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva or Games Plus in Mount Prospect.


I would usually go to the AD&D/D&D material first, but it would not be long before I'd hit the other games, in particular Traveller.

D&D was great and had many worlds. Traveller had the whole universe. Literally.  

What struck me the most was not just all the RPG products Traveller had, but all the board games and other related games that all seemed to live inside the same in-game Universe.   I imagined campaigns (which always looked like a cross between Star Trek and Blake's 7) where you could role-play your characters and then turn around and have massive space battles using one of the many Traveller related board games

It was full immersion into a world universe that I just couldn't get with D&D.   Oh sure. I had the Dungeon! board game and I loved (love) it.  But a Dungeon! character is not the same as a D&D character. Even back in those earliest days.

I still love Dungeon!

I thought we might get a little closer in D&D4 with the various Dungeon & Dragon board games. But even they were both too close and too different at the same time.  Also I never really could get into those board games. I picked a couple up to try, but in the end I just ended up cannibalizing them for the minis.  IF and this is a big if, I ever rerun Ravenloft as a campaign I might pull that on in.

This feeling of wanting to expand my universe more with more varieties of games is something I have dubbed "Traveller Envy."

I suppose I could have also called this "Star Fleet Battles Envy" since they do something similar, but that doesn't roll off the tongue as easy.

Now it could be that my Traveller Envy is built on something that doesn't even exist.  The dawn of it was reading over Game Catalogs and maybe seeing stronger connections that were not really there.  I have learned that some of the board games take place in the RPG's "past." Even then if the connection is less than I suspect, it is still strong.

I have wanted to do something like this for a long, long time.  I have some ideas on how to do it and what to do, but I am nowhere near close to figuring it all out.

"Travelling" with the Witches

My goal would be to use some board games (as many as I can) in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  While my Come Endless Darkness campaign is multi-versal that is not something the characters know until much, much later.  In War of the Witch Queens, they learn this early on.

So it makes sense to give it a multi-versal, multi-media feel.


None of these board games are even remotely compatible with my old-school D&D game.  They are also largely incompatible with each other.  Only Affliction and Witch Hunt work by covering the same historical event. But I have to give it a try.

In one respect at least Cauldron Bubble and Boil has the advantage of featuring my iconic witch Larina in it as the "Arcanist" witch. 


I have talked Wizard's QuestWitch's Caldron, and Witchcraft Ritual Kit before.  Not all of them are going to work. Not all of them will even work well, but I think I owe it to that 13-year-old version of me to at least give it a try.

Maybe I could have picked an easier batch.  Again my BlackStar game could work with StarFleet Battles (any version) and even some Cthulhu related games.  But this is where my love is.  Besides, there is no challenge in climbing hills, only mountains. 

Are there games you look at and think "man, I need to try that in my game"? 

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Basic Set at 40

Gamers of a Certain Age all know about their first Basic Set.  For some, it was light maroon with a red book.  For many it was a red box with red books.  But some of us had a different experience.  The box was blue(ish) and had a dragon on the cover, the book was blue and it changed gaming forever.



On July 22, 1977 the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set was shown at Origins Game Fair and it changed the face of RPGs.  Prior to this people learned to play from others that had been playing.  The John Eric Holmes edited Basic Set gave brand new players with no prior experience in either RPGs (which really meant D&D) or in wargames.  It gave us the Moldvay Basic set and the  Frank Mentzer Basic set. But more importantly, it opened the world of D&D to others.

Dr. Holmes took on the massive task of collecting what was then OD&D, edited it and reorganized it into a game that made sense to new players.  There is some debate as to whether this was designed as a stand alone game line (which it would become) or as an introduction to Advanced D&D (which it reads like).

A lot of blogs will talk about the history of the Holmes Basic Edition. A great post can be found over at +Wayne Rossi's Semper Initiativus Unum, Basic D&D at 40  and pretty much the entire Zenopus Archive blog by +Zach H.

My experiences with Holmes though are a little different.



My gaming began in 1979, before the Moldvay set, but after Holmes.  I had read the Monster Manual and I had a copy, badly xeroxed, of the Holmes Basic set.   Like many, my "first" D&D was a combination of Basic and Advanced. Still today that is the same experience I look for in D&D.



I will be honest, it took me a while to get the game down.  With Holmes D&D I always felt like there was something I was missing. I only learned later of the "Little Brown Books" and how "Basic" actually came about.  I also did not have a full copy.

I would later get my hands on a copy of Holmes to read in full.  It was an eye opening experience to be sure. I had been playing Moldvay Basic for a while and moving over to AD&D proper.  Holmes felt like a Rosetta Stone to me.  A product that could crossover between these two games.
When I got a hold of a copy of my own much later I would use it for 1st level characters with my adventure of choice, B1 In Search of the Unknown, before moving over to AD&D.

I became a fan of J. Eric Holmes work and even stumbled on vague references for a Witch class!


I had found some alternate evolution of D&D, one where Basic lead to Advanced and not to Expert. Where you played a magic-user in one and a wizard, illusionist or witch in the other.
It should come as no surprise then that my own witch class is heavily influenced by my time playing using the Holmes and Moldvay rule sets.

Re-reading my Holmes set over the weekend made me think about how much fun a box set really is.  The next time I start up an AD&D game, I'll be starting with Holmes.

I also feel the need to mention that along with Holmes the Traveller "Little Black Books" also celebrated 40 years.


Safe journeys to you Free Trader Beowulf. Hope you found help.



Friday, May 20, 2016

White Star Traveller

Free Trader Beowulf, this is "The Lady Lilith". We acknowledge your Mayday and have you on long range scan. Our ETA is 2 mins, 37 seconds.  Hold tight Beowulf, help is on the way.

I love White Star.  It's not groundbreaking, or 100% original (Star Wars + D&D), but it is a great representation and it is a ton of fun. +James Spahn did a kick ass job and managed to get me back into Sci-Fi RPGs.

But back in the day our Sci-Fi games were not this:



But this:



There are some things in Traveller that I think of as a "must have" in a sci-fi game. Things like skills, some more psionics, and dying in character creation...wait, maybe not that.

White Star's class system covers broad skills well, but I have not tried to do very granular or specific skills yet.

Plus there are just a lot things in Traveller I just liked that I would love to see added to the White Star.  Maybe this is something I can do for my Black Star game.

There are also some things in Star Frontiers I like too, but that is something more for blog posting I think.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Kickstart Your Weekend: We have Movie (and Book) sign!

First off, I have to repost the MST3k Kickstarter.

Lots more information including the first host and first Mad Scientist.



Yup. That is Felicia Day as the new Mad.  I was not a fan of her's originally, but after seeing her in Supernatural I have come around.


In game-realted news.

Marc Miller of Traveller fame has a Kickstarter for his Traveller novel, Agent of the Imperium.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/traveller5/agent-of-the-imperium-marc-millers-traveller-novel

I would have sucked this up back in the day.  I hope it is a great success for him!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

D&D40 Bloghop: Day 20

Day 20: First non-D&D RPG you played.

It is a toss up really.  I am not quite sure of the dates but it was either Traveller or Chill.

Of course with Chill I never played, but I managed to run a couple of sessions.
Traveller, at least how we played it, ended up being D&D in Space.

Though now that I think about it is also could have Villains & Vigilantes.   But all we did in that was use our D&D characters.

Since then I have branched off into scores of games and have a few that I regularly play.



Friday, January 4, 2013

Star Trek RPGs, Part II

I feel the need to make this "Wrath of Something" or "Into Dorkness" jokes.

Anyway, last year (snerk) I was talking about Star Trek RPGs.  Well fellow blogger, sci-fi fan, all around good guy (with a GREAT name) Tim over at Hero Press posted these gems today.
http://www.heropress.net/2013/01/fleamarket-friday-gaming-where-no-die.html

First we have the Pre-Order for the Traveller based Prime Directive.
http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpgs/traveller/core-rulebooks-accessories/traveller-prime-directive.html
I am not sure what you all know about Prime Directive, but it is almost a thing onto itslef.  It is based on the TOS era Star Trek, but it goes in a different direction all together.  Now the purist in me used to reject this.  Especially when the later movies and TNG began to air.  But these days I find it much more appealing.  Plus, like I said, Prime Directive is now almost a thing into itself with a rich history, while not quite as equal to Trek, it is still fun.



As many of you know from my White Dwarf Wednesday I have a history with Traveller, something I want to rectify someday.  Could Prime Directive be the game for me?  At the current exchange rate that would be $50 or so.  So I might wait to see after it out in PDF.

Another game that gets mentioned to me is Where No Man Has Gone Before.
http://www.abillionmonkeys.com/trek

I don't know much about it at all save that most people seem to like it.

Maybe this is the year I find my Sci-Fi RPG.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday #27

White Dwarf #27 starts of with another great sci-fi cover.  Or rather a pulp-age inspired one. The other thing that jumped out at me (other than the transparent space suit the woman has on) is that the month/year is missing from the front cover. But those keeping track this is October/November 1981.

Ian Livinstone lets us know why, White Dwarf is going Monthly in 1982.  They also got some new, larger offices.  WD is hitting it's next big phase of growth along with the rest of the hobby.  Many would claim this period marks the end of the Golden Age, but I have a hard time with that because the popularity and growth never has been, and arguably never will be again, as high as this time.

Roger Musson is back with Part 3 of the Dungeon Architect.  This time he talks about the Populated Dungeon.  This delves into what some other Bloggers have referred to as Gygax Naturalism. Or how do these life forms get to where they are and survive there?  Steady diet of 1st levels?  If you are working out a dungeon crawl then these are good articles to find.  I guess in a way this is also a sign of the "end of the golden age".  The GA did care about dungeon ecology or why things were there, they just were.  The later Silver Age (or even, the Dragonlance Age) dungeons had a reason for being and the monsters there did something other than wait around to be killed.

Robert McMahon takes us to a new career option in Traveller, the Imperial Secret Service.

Open Box has some reviews for us.  Deluxe Edition Traveller is out, combining previous books plus Book 0, a map and 2d6s. I notice this is also one of the first uses of "role-playing game" used other than an academic or editorial context as opposed to SF/F game. I still have not seen RPG used yet.  Back on track, Andy Slack gives it 10/10 for newcomers, but 4/10 for old hands since there is not much that is new.
Chaosium has a new Runequest supplement/adventure Griffin Mountain. Actually it is more of a campaign at 200+ pages.  It gets a solid 9/10 from Murray White.  Star Fleet battles from Task Force Games is up next. I always wanted to try this game out and I know it has it's legions of fans, but it never happened.  The review is solid and John Lambshead gives it 8/10 citing it might be a bit complex for new players.  A bunch of Traveller books are up next, IIS Ship files (10/10), Traders and Gunboats (9/10) and Asteroid (8/10).  It was a great time to be a Traveller fan.

Lew Pulsipher is back with Part 5 of his An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons. This time talking about characterisation and alignment.  Ahh, more evidence the Golden Age is nearly over if we are talking about characters. I am joking. (well, only a little). The interesting idea here is that Alignment should have an effect on role-playing your character and thus you get experience rewards accordingly.  So not an in-game mechanic, but a meta-gaming concept.

The Dungeon at the End of the Universe continues where Issue 26's The DM's Guide to the Galaxy left off. Marcus Rowland continues the D&D in space concept to combat, magic and equipment.  Though I have my doubts that a quasi-Dark Ages metalsmith can make air-tight armor.

Letters are up next.

A mini adventure for AD&D is next, Hell's Portal, fir 7-9 characters of 4th level. Fairly straightforward adventure.  I did notice that HP was constantly referred to as HTK which was common in many non-sanction D&D products.

Star Base has an article on putting Traveller weapon information on  index cards for quick reference.  Even then people were trying integrate cards and RPGs.

In what I believe is a White Dwarf first we have a female author of an article!  Penelope Hill gives us the Summoner class in Character Conjuring.  Summoners are a sub-class of Magic-User that summon monsters to do their bidding.  It looks solid, but the proof is in the playing as it were.

Fiend Factory is back with the "near misses" of the Fiend Folio.  These are the ones that didn't make it (and yet the Flumph did...) We have the Spikehead (an ape with a spike on it's head) and the Wirrn (large maggots) I suspect the Wirrn didn't make it due to a similar creature with a similar name in Doctor Who. The Greenman (a creature with green skin and four arms) and the White Ape (ape with four arms) both have their origin in the ERB's Mars books.  The last one, the Cold Beast, is something like a Lamasu or Shedu without wings and lives in a cold area.  Well that and it eats people.

Treasure chest has a bunch of new spells.

We end with a bunch of ads. The last page has the official AD&D miniatures page with the first time I recall seeing the new "man in the moon" TSR logo.

I see this issue as still a transition issue.  Obviously White Dwarf is deeply in love with D&D still, but the Traveller content is now about equal to it.  Runequest, which was always strong, gets mentioned still, but not as much.

Looking forward to 1982 and more changes!