Friday, October 12, 2018

Best of the Dragon Vol I & II: Old school D&D Straight from the Source!

Greetings fellow gamers of a bygone era! Back again with a look at some ancient tomes: The Best of the Dragon magazine Vols I & II! Ready to return to an age before the interwebs, 24 hour news cycles & ebay? Me too....lets go!

     "The Best of the Dragon magazine Vol I & II" were published in 1980 &'81 respectively. I actually picked up Vol I "back in the day" and loved it. Wasn't running my own campaign back then...but loved the articles & stories that are in it regardless!
I believe anyone looking to add a bit of "old school" authenticity" to their gaming would love these collections. Straight from the creators...both magazines contain interesting & thought provoking articles that will spice up any campaign! And you don't have to buy numerous old issues of The Dragon to get the articles! "Fiscal Responsibility" to everyone can agree upon!

Vol I opens with an intro from Tim Klask, the original editor of both the Dragon magazine as well as its predecessor The Strategic Review. Check out his Youtube series "The Curmudgeon in the Cellar"!
Excellent insight into the early days of D&D!
Want a little background into the beginning of Sci/fi gaming? How about an article on "Metamorphosis Alpha", the forerunner on "Gamma World"!

Pretty cool to see the charts that create your own custom mutant!
Great article by Rob Kuntz on the influence of Tolkien on original D&D.

Have to dig that add for "The DUNGEON! Hobby Shop"!

Looks like the work of Tom Wham to me....and it is spectacular! "Old School" D&D right before your eyes!
Want some wisdom from the man himself? Plenty of articles from Mr Gary Gygax himself! Covers everything from Alignments to being a creative & fair DM!

Another bit of nostalgia...a full page Judges Guild ad! Just look at those prices! Imagine if you loaded up on supplies "back in the day"! Those old JG products are worth a King's ransom now!

Need a bit of levity in your day? Try the short story "The Search for the Forbidden Chamber" by Jake Jaquet. Chronicling the adventures of Ralph the Wizard, Dimwit the Dwarf & Lumbo the (Stoner) Elf.

Very funny story with a surprise ending that I loved as a teen! No spoilers here, Bub!
Hoe about a full page TSR add, with the *NEW* Wizard logo? They've got ya covered!

How about the charts for Rangers & Monks before AD&D? Check! I very much favor the idea of a Bard being able to build a stronghold at 12th opposed to 23rd as in the Players Handbook! And a Monk combat diagram...for taking on those Higher Level Monks when you have to "Level Up"!

Want some old school D&D weirdness you won't find in any book? Check out the stats for a NPC Witch! Pretty nasty or helpful NPCS if you were to run into one! Probably a good idea that this was left out of D&D "back in the day". The Occult accusations were bad enough...this would have only added fuel to the fire!

You even get some killer art from some of the Icons of D&D: David A. Trampier & Tom Wham!

Vol I of "The Best of the Dragon" is a treasure trove of great & useful information for the DM & gamer alike! I've only scratched the surface of the greatness of this magazine!
I highly recommend that anyone into D&D, old or new, pick it up!
Vol II picks up were Vol I left off with killer articles & great ideas! 

Anytime I see a cartoon/caricature of Gary Gygax I break into a smile. You had better, too!

Vol II has a bunch of Player Character classes, sub-classes & NPCs that showed up elsewhere in later years...or not at all!

The "Anti-Paladin" is a brutally powerful & evil arch nemesis for any group of adventurers! Berserkers & scribes would add some flair to any campaign!
I love the idea of a Healer as a class! Cleric/Fighter Combo...think of having your own M.A.S.H. unit traveling with your group!

Articles on the "finer" points of the game by Gary Gygax abound in this collection as well!

There are many more than this....stuff for a DM to really sink there teeth into!
A number of articles by other early D&D minds as well. "Blueprint for a Lich" by Lenard Lakofka is suitably creepy for this time of year!

"Varieties of Vampires" by R. P. Smith gives a list & abilities for various Vampires from around the globe. If your campaign heads into distance lands...this article is for you!

"Best of the Dragon" magazine Vols I & II are two old school mags with a ton of brilliant articles & ideas. Both pop up periodically on Ebay or might have to pick your spot to get 'em at a reasonable price! Very highly recommended & worth every penny!
Here's an old "Tunnels & Trolls" ad to tide you over till the next installment of this blog! 'Till then....Excelsior!

Monday, September 24, 2018

D & D Treasures: Holmes Dice & Box, and other rarities!

Greetings fellow warhorses of destruction! Another D&D blog entry for those as obsessed as I! Just showing off a few recent Ebay pickups! Lets jump right in...
     I didn't have the Holmes "Blue Book" "back in the day"....but have always wanted it & the incredible box it came in! That cover by David C. Sutherland III is just iconic! I managed to snatch one recently off Ebay for a decent price...

The color is still vibrant despite its advanced age! The back of the box shows a B&W pic of the contents...which brings me to another part of this sweet deal...the Original Holmes polyhedral dice!
     I've noticed that these dice go for as low as $50 on Ebay...and as much as $125! I paid less than $50 for the entire set...which shows that exercising some patience is well worth your time when it comes to Ebay!
     Also included was an original copy of "In Search of the Unknown" module....which will replace my reproduction version purchased recently!
      Even the advertisement for "The Best of The Dragon" magazine was included!

A dream come true for a middle-aged gamer to pick up all these cool aged artifacts....and as an extra bonus...I grabbed this brilliant St. Regis Dungeons & Dragons portfolio too!

These old portfolios, produced back in 1981, are usually very pricey on Ebay. I lucked out again by biding my time & waiting for a reasonably priced one to come along!
     Hope you enjoy looking at this old D&D stuff as much as I do....until next time fellow Grognards...Excelsior! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Keep on the Borderlands: The Original Sandbox!

Greetings fellow Dungeon Crawlers! Looking at, for myself and a great number of you, the TSR module that really sent the D&D craze into the stratosphere.....1979's The Keep on the Borderlands!
   THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS was written/created by THE Dungeon Master himself Gary Gygax! Intended as an introduction for both new DMS & new players alike...
A little background/history for you youngins out there...the Basic/Holmes set of Dungeons and Dragons, starting in 1979, came with the B2 (TKOTB) module...printings 6-11 (1979-1982). B1(In Search of the Unknown) was included in the 4th & 5th printings....the OG 1st-3rd printings had the "Geomorphs" book & the "Monster & treasure Assortment" book...for those so interested in perhaps finding the oldest source material/versions.
  The basic box set, on the strength of the box alone, grabbed a bunch of new players attention. The great cover art by David C. Sutherland III assured that this version practically flew off the shelves in the late 1970's!
I believe that I've seen it written that more than a million of the these box sets with THE KEEP were sold....making TKOTB the best selling D&D module of all amazing number!
     Let's check out the cover. The front cover art, depicting a battle between some adventurers and a band of hobgoblins, is by the underappreciated Jim Roslof.
Jim worked for TSR during the "Golden Age of D&D"....and his work is outstanding!
The back cover has a drawing of the Keep itself...with adventurers heading toward it. The great Erol Otus is the man who created it! 
    I didn't own this module "back in the day"...but my best friend, who had the Holmes Basic Box set, did. A lot has been written about Mr Gygax's TKOTB...great intro module for beginning DMs & players alike. A walled keep complete with some NPC's & housing. A perfect place for a campaign to be based.
The maps of the wilderness were an intro to most of us for "Outdoor adventuring". We were the stereotypical "Dungeon Crawling Murder Hobos" of the 1970's/80's! So the introduction of actually traveling TO a dungeon to kill stuff was novel for its time! Not saying that all of us liked doing that...but it was a 1st! Gary wanted us beginning players to get a taste of a well rounded adventure right out of the gate!
Another great work by Jim Roslof is on the very 1st page...adventurers fighting a fearsome Owlbear!
Later players of AD&D would get a good chuckle out of the halfling fighter brandishing a polearm! Great drawing that is forever burned into the minds eye of a generation of gamers!
Next up is a drawing by Jeff Dee of s shakedown taking place...literally! As a fighter & halfling look on!
Maybe a thief with sticky fingers or a Magic User who overstepped his bounds...
The next drawing goes with the description of the Keep itself...
 This simple work of a fighter on horseback is by David S. LaForce.
     A cool map of the Keep is included...
This was the basic blueprint for many(of our) countless Castles created by Dms & players alike who played TKOTB!
A 2 floor map of the Guild House was included for the Dm...
Mr Gygax encouraged aspiring DMs to thus map out the rest of the buildings in the Keep explore and to learn from the Master!
1st "Outdoor"map too! This module had a bunch of "1st" in it!
For those of us too young for "Original Dungeons & Dragons" this was "ground zero"...the place that most of our original campaigns began! I think that just about every single campaign I played in had TKOTB it it somewhere....not as a part of "Greyhawk"...but integrated into our own original setting! 
Gary even had a surprise for the fledgling adventurers who set off across the wilderness: A crazed hermit to battle/encounter!
With a pet Mountain Lion to boot! Great drawing by Erol Otus...seems to be a bit like that Gollum guy we new so well...
Mr Gygax had a bunch of villians/monsters waiting for us newbie adventurers!
"The Cave of the Unknown" was purposefully left blank/unfinished...and the new DM was instructed to devise their own dungeon or setting or his players to explore! Many spots on the map are left nameless so the DM could tailor it to his own "homebrew" campaign!
And then..."The Caves of Chaos"!

Talk about a "Super-Market" of monster! Evil Priest, Orcs, Bugbears, Hobgoblins, Stirges, Gnolls, Skeletons & more undead await...better have your Monster Manual at the ready, Bub!
Great intro module...gave you taste of a bunch of different encounters & scenarios...and, oh yeah, a "Boss" monster...the Minotaur!
Eventhough he's not credited at the end of the module you can see (sig) that this is the work of Bill Willingham! Great looking Minotaur sporting a chainmail shirt! He's even guarding a maze!
Hats off to Gary Gygax on the most widely played product in the RPG cannon! "The Keep on the Borderlands" ushered D&D into the mainstream culture...I can't wait to run this module again for old friends & new alike!
Ps.....just for the "old timers" out there....picked up this T shirt a few years can see in the collar that it was a licensed Holmes D&D!