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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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DJorgensen

New member
Banned
The Dragon Issue 7: June 1977

Military Formation stuff for tekumel. Making battles look like advanced geometry lessons with florid titles from above since 1977. This is really more aimed at the wargamers among the audience, and I found it pretty dull.
Damn, I wish I knew where my copy of the Dragon Magazine Archive was. See, while flipping through the White Dwarfs I'll be covering in my review thread, I happened to notice I'll eventually be reading an article in one of those on the very same subject. I kind of wonder if it will actually turn out to be the very same article, just resold to a second publisher.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 9: September 1977

Once again the fiction eats up a huge portion of this issue, possibly even more than in issue 2. We also see the start of a proper comics section, instead of putting them throughout the magazine. Most significantly, Wormy! Yes, many peoples favourite flat-capped dragon and his demonic pal with a brooklyn accent get their debut here. Now I know.

Also in this issue:

Mixing alignments in D&D. Gary reminds us that even in D&D, everyone doesn't automatically know each others alignment and try to kill each other because of it. It is often more profitable to tolerate people different from you, and take advantage of those different outlooks. Particularly among humans, who span a range of alignments, this is simply not viable, and you have to think politically to survive and achieve your ambitions. Which is important to reminds people. This may be a fantasy, but it's not totally unrealistic (and will continue to get less so, in many ways.)

The finzer family story takes a sharp right angle, and turns into a "time travelers who go to observe an event wind up making it happen" story. Only without the horrible ending in something like Behold the Man. But then, this is a family friendly magazine.

Seal of the imperium: A Q&A column by MAR Barker about tekumel. Lots of boring little rules niggles that I shan't go into, but we do get one very valuable bit of advice. The tekumel that exists in the game is not the same as the one in the books. If every event and item was incorporated, then any semblence of realism and sanity would soon go out the window. Advice which was never heeded by D&D settings like athas and krynn later. Oh well. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. And we're certainly learning quite a lot of history here.

The fastest guns who never lived part 2: More boot hill stats for fictional cowboys, including luminaries such as Tom mix and Lee van cleef. Still not familiar enough with the shows or the rules to comment on how good they are, but there certainly seems to be a good selection of genre emulating abilities there.

Tombs and crypts: Another set of random tables for determination of monsters, should players decide to do a little unplanned graverobbing. Like PC's do.

An Elric boardgame being advertised. I guess this means Moorcock already knows about D&D now, and a RPG will be along soon. Iiinteresting.

The comics section. We get Floating in timeless space, Wormy and Finieous fingers. All seem to involve ongoing storylines.

The first issue of White dwarf magazine is released around this time, and they put an advert here. I was going to ask if someone wanted to take that job on, but since they already have, I don't need too. Which is nice.

More building up of detail here, but nothing else stands out. Still, surely wormy is enough for you. If they crammed all new stuff into every issue it'd be a nightmare to keep track of.
 

Redfeild

Retired User
Which comes across as utterly bizarre for me. When we were playing through "Keep on the Borderlands" using Moldvay Basic, that module taught us that it was always better to sneak, trick, or talk your way past monsters, since the alternative was almost always a quick, messy death. Which is, I suppose, just another example of the many different ways the game was played back then.

- Brian
Tell me about it. I had always played it as a hack and slash.
 

zanshin

Registered User
Validated User
Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this very well written canter through the early days of our hobby. Thank you very much for taking the time to produce this highly entertaining read.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 10: October 1977

Going up to 36 pages long, this includes a full boardgame with it, as they hinted at earlier. We'll see several more of those over the years. Such a shame I'm reading in .pdf and can't make proper use of it. Oh well. We also see another development. In an attempt to stem the cries of canonwankers, they're going to clearly mark which new articles are "official" and which are optional variants. Will, it work? It wasn't around by the time I started reading, so it can't have lasted too long. I'll let you know when it stops.

Also in this issue:

Orgies, inc: Changing the rules to make the game more S&Sish, characters using this variant gain experience by blowing their money instead of earning it. Wait a minute. Didn't I see this rule in Iron Heroes recently, where it was hailed a a rather good idea. And do we not also know that Mike Mearls is still partial to a little OD&D. Not that I'm implying anything, oh no. There are fewer truly original ideas than you would think. Includes some rather NSFW artwork by Dave Trampier. Someones certainly willing to push the family friendly line most of this stuff sticks too.

Designing for unique wilderness encounters: More random tables full of stuff to let you build areas quickly when out of ideas. System free, and so still useful today. It'd be cool to design a world using only the tables in these issues.

Random Monsters: Another set of tables, literally allowing you to build a monter by rolling on them to determine its appearance and stats. Handy (as they say) when dealing with players who already know all the monsters in the books, and have strategies for how to best fight them all worked out. Dontcha just hate that. ;)

Let there be a method to your madness: The worldbuilding continues with this essay on how to create logical dungeons by working from principles such as who built it, why, and what resources they had. This is madness! It'll never catch on!

Snit Smashing! A fun little game of hunting and reproducing, leading on from the floating in timeless space comic.

An article on why males should be stronger than females in D&D, because of things like weight, height and differences in build, along with "realistic" tables for the determination of these factors. As I don't want to annoy the PC among you, I shall say no more apart from to mention that this is another thing which would spawn an analogue much later on, with the height influencing weight multiplication method used in 3rd edition.

Gaining a new experience level: This starts off as a serious article about making gaining a level an ordeal in itself (as people were wont to do back then with training house rules), and then turns into a joke, as the requirements grow ever more ludicrous and arbitrary, ending up with the great pink elephants granting the character his new level while he lies in a drunken stupor. Read as satire, this is a great article, and amongst the jokes are some sound mechanical suggestions, such as allowing magic-users to forget spells that are no longer useful so they can learn new lower lever ones that do have use at higher level, and make the most of their spells known limit. Which as we know, became an invaluable ability for sorcerers in 3.5.

The tactics of diplomacy in Stellar Conquest: Advice on how to play a game where you can't communicate directly and indicate lack of hostility, as well as general tactical advice for the game such as exploration and supply lines. Pretty standard stuff, really.

Wormy and fineous fingers continue.

This has quite a fun issue. There have been several cool new developments, with a higher than usual level of ideas that will be reused in the future, and a proper sense of history is starting to grow.
 

JimLotFP

New member
Banned
Random Monsters: Another set of tables, literally allowing you to build a monter by rolling on them to determine its appearance and stats. Handy (as they say) when dealing with players who already know all the monsters in the books, and have strategies for how to best fight them all worked out. Dontcha just hate that. ;)
Ah shit, I just wrote a 28 page thing on this very subject. :p
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Adamant Entertainment's Monster Modifier seems to do something very similar for 3.5, though it just changes an existing monster rather than creating a whole new one.
 

castiglione

Registered User
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 10: October 1977
Designing for unique wilderness encounters: More random tables full of stuff to let you build areas quickly when out of ideas. System free, and so still useful today. It'd be cool to design a world using only the tables in these issues.
I just posted over at one of the OD&D forums asking if something like this was ever written.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 11: December 1977

38 pages. The board game fun continues in this issue, with snit smashing getting a sequel. Even more importantly, we get the first rumblings about AD&D, with the monster manual coming soon, and lots of resulting promotion for it. (odd that the monster book should be released before the players and DM's books. Still, I guess all the monsters were compatible with OD&D rules. ) On top of that, we have the first official D&D novel coming soon, by Andre Norton! (excuse me while I have a fanboy moment here) of all people. On top of that, they have new staff, and thanks to that, and their still increasing sales, dragon will be going monthly very shortly. That was quick. Just 3 years to go from quarterly to the monthly schedule most of us remember. Now the only way up is in the page count.

In this issue:

View from the telescope: Gary blasts people trying to copy their work, or produce material compatible with D&D without permission. (a bit rich when you consider the hassle they had with hobbits and cthulhu) Quality control must be maintained! We do not produce shoddy rushed work just to make a quick buck! (yeah, I know. How long was the publishing gap between the 3 AD&D corebooks? :D ) AD&D will be a massive improvement over the previous edition of the game! I think most of you are familiar with the flow of high Gygaxese by now, so I'll stop here before we die laughing. On the other side of the page an advert for Judges Guild Officially Approved D&D compatible licenced products, such as character sheets and dungeon geomorphs. See, we're not monsters. You can do business with us.

Brawling! As ever they make it far more complicated than armed combat, for far less benefit unless you are specifically intending not to kill. Which I guess is important sometimes, particularly when low level characters are so fragile. Given the way the D&D hit point system worked at that time, capturing and imprisoning people would be virtually impossible unless you used magic, or they surrendered. And some people want more options.

Defending against the OGRE: Tactical advice for the boardgame of the same name. Can't really comment on this one.

The Play's the thing: A little article encouraging people to think up backgrounds and personalities for their characters. Along with the worldbuilding stuff in the last issue, it seems that D&D is starting to seriously move beyond its wargaming roots and involve actually viewing characters as roles rather than just pieces to explore, fight, level up and die with. Betcha we'll be seeing a roleplayers vs rollplayers quip within a few issues.

Seal of the Imperium: More Tekumel Q&A by Professor Barker. Mostly setting stuff this time round, clearing things up and expanding on stuff in the books, rather than rules niggles.

From the sorcerers scroll: More teasers on the upcoming AD&D products. The monster manual, and a big outdoor map by Brian Blume. Also notable is an offhand comment about Chivalry and Sorcery, as D&D's closest rival yet. So we know thats out now. Ends by asking the readers to rate what they want more of in order of importance.

Sea magic: More Fafhrd stuff by fritz lieber. Our barbarian learns to shoot bows around corners, despite having recently lost a hand. Truly he is pretty badass. Meanwhile the Grey mouser has acquired a whole ship full of followers. Definitely has the feel of a high level later story, and makes me wish I had the intervening stories. Which is a good thing from the writers perspective, isn't it.

Quarterstaff fighting rules: Another completely disconnected fighting subsystem is introduced. And promptly ignored. Also featuring incredibly twinked out stats for robin hood and his men, who all have all physical attributes at 15 or above. Yeah, not very impressed with this one.

More Wormy and Fineous Fingers.

A review of the Rankin-Bass cartoon of The Hobbit. A very scathing one. Good to see that people realised just how crap those cartoons were even back then. Shame that didn't stop them from producing crap cartoons all through the 80's and making huge amounts of money doing so. Oh well.At least we have a pretty good movie version of LotR now, hopefully with the hobbit to come.

Snits Revenge! A second boardgame continues the story of the timeless space setting. A whole new game, plus errata for the first one.

All in all, this has been a pretty good issue. A few duff articles, but the combination of good ones, and the extensive amount of teasers for the future has made it feel pretty significant in general. This is the first time most of the players at the time would have heard of AD&D, and we know how well that one worked out. Which is nice.
 

dohnut king

Retired User
Reagrding "Defending Against the Ogre" this refers to Steve Jackson's first game, the classic boardgame OGRE, which pitted a single cybernetic monster tank against the second player's headquiarters, which was defended by the usual array of infantry, atrillery, and armor.

This was a great game. It was small, the rules were fairly simple and well-written, and both sides had fun. The problem, as I believe the article pointed out, was one of the units for the headquarters, the G.E.V., a type of hovertank, was too powerful.

Once this was remieded in future editions you had one of the all time great hex based board games.

Thanks for the memories and the great thread.
 
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