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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
This is really interesting always. Nice to see you keeping it up. :)
I can't let you down now, especially now I've got all these imitators. I've got to set an example to them. I'll probably have to slow it down to only 1 or 2 a week during may/june, because exam crunch time'll keeping me busy, but once the holidays start, the pace'll pick up again.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 15: June 1978

36 pages. Dragons 2nd birthday. We start with another burst of bitching at the post office. As ever their reliability is seriously random. Always the case, and probably always will be the case. What are you to do. This also starts the period in which their page count starts expanding consistently, as opposed to just for the occasional special issue. I'll keep track of this, and as soon as I have reliable data for the whole run I intend to do a graph, so we can get a proper visual image of the rise and fall of the magazine.

In this issue:

The start of another tradition, although I don't think they know it yet, that of having Dragon related articles on every birthday issue. This time, its a set of new spells for dragons, to supplement their spell lists and increase their versatility. Surprisingly few of them would go into general use, and get converted to later editions, and so these still feel fresh and idiosyncratic. Which means they're ideal for screwing your players over with. ;)

Pits! You never know what you might find at the bottom of them. And if the DM doesn't know either, he can roll on this random table. Just leave the loan sharks IN the pit please.

Random events table for settlements: Something that would become important later on, in the domain management system in the Companion set. Like PC's, settlements need to face adversity on a regular basis to keep things from getting dull. Unfortunately, they didn't think ahead enough to include mechanical ramifications for these disasters, but the domain management stuff was a bit vague and heavily fiated anyway. We can do so much better nowadays.

Monty haul and the German high command: The tales of insane twinkery and crossover madness continue. Epic lulz are had by all, and the legendary meme continues to spread through the gaming populace.

More stuff on wandering monsters, how to decide on them, and how they should react to the players.

Notes from another barely successful D&D player. This one has a lot of elements of using mundane techniques to simulate magical abilities, and other such trickery. A good reminder that often the best way to win in those days was to avoid rolling the dice at all costs. And creative thinking is more interesting than straight-up fights in any game. So this is still valuable advice for anyone who's GM will accept solutions based upon real world physics.

The gospel of benwa: A joke story of the creation of the world, how it came to be, and how it was divided into law and chaos. Feels veeery dated, I'm afraid.

D&D ground and spell scale area: Some stuff from Gary on why they used different scales of movement for indoor and outdoor stuff, how to reconcile them with miniatures, and spell effects, and the proper size of miniatures to mesh with the inches scale used. Rather dry stuff, with a distinct air of high gygaxese to it, but informative in revealing some implicit assumptions about the game. Particularly interesting is the fact that despite being adapted from a miniatures game, they used them very little in the first two years of the original group, before it was published. (as old geezer has recently confirmed here) So though miniatures and their sale were intimately connected with the first few years of D&D as a published game, and would be so again, there had already been a certain amount of ebb and flow in that area.

Weather in the wilderness: More random tables full of stuff that can be ported to any game with earthlike weather. If you can't be bothered to think up weather to suit the plot, and your players care, just roll here.

Examining movement tactics in Stellar Conquest. Mobility, proper exploration, outmaneuvering your opponent in combat. All the usual things that should be common sense in any wargame. Another unremarkable article.

Fiction: The green magician by L. Sprague deCamp. Another proper author who was a big influence on the game gets a story published in Dragon. A fairly entertaining time-travel story, this time involving interfering in the legend of Cuchulainn. Too be continued.

Fineous fingers is illegible this issue, while wormy is just filler art. This isn't very good.

More random encounters, this time for boot hill.

Another fairly average issue, with good articles, bad articles and dull articles. As it's an anniversary issue, it feels like they've tried to get some big guns in, but the overall effect is just more business as usual. I'm starting to get a bit fed up with all these random tables. Still, quite a bit of that stuff is still usable now, this issue is still useful as a resource, and I've got another hint into D&D's early history, so it's not exactly a waste.
 
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The Grey Elf

is the Master!
Validated User
The only advantage to having a magical servant made entirely out of gold is so that you can say to everyone "Look! That's how rich I am. Bill Gates, eat your heart out."
Or rahter, so you can say to the Player Character interlopers, "Look! That's how rich you are about to become, when you kill my servant, and then turn your nasty blades upon me! Bill Gates...ah, fuck it. I'm dead, aren't I?"
 

Phersu

Drogoman
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 14: May 1978

Robots as players in Metamorphosis Alpha: Another article that does exactly what is says on the tin, opening up a new player type, and corresponding playstyle, due to their different abilities. Uses one of the earliest point buy systems to create their stats, rather than the random generation more common in this era, which is nice. I don't think this is the very first instance of point buy character creation, but it'd be funny if it was.
Actually, Superhero 2044 (1977), the ancestor of Champions, and The Fantasy Trip: Melee (1977), the direct ancestor of GURPS, both used point-buy allocation one year before that issue.

I want to thank you once again for this thread, espacially since you comment on every aspect of the magazine.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 16: July 1978

40 pages. Once again, the editor tries to remind people it's just a game, and their readers shouldn't take roleplaying so seriously. Don't confuse fantasy with reality, don't throw tantrums when your character dies, don't try and assign some deep cosmic meaning to everything we write. All things that you would suppose are common sense. But there's always a few who don't listen, and those are the ones sending poorly written vitriolic letters to the magazine. It's no job for the sensitive, being an artist ;) No wonder they have such a high turnover. Your biggest fans become your worst enemies.

In this issue:

More arguments about the cthulhu mythos' stats and fluff, as some people draw upon various authors, while others are lovecraft purists, and the details in stories contradict one-another. Another argument that could go on forever if the editors didn't step in and stop it. And they are noticeably more partisan than most forum moderators in doing so, as they have only limited space, and a personal connection to many of the columnists. Another way in which the internet is a vast improvement, despite its flaws.

The Sumerian pantheon. (ishtar, nergal, etc.) Another deity list. Most notable in that it introduces Tiamat, who would go on to become a D&D regular, and develop into a character quite different from her source mythology; and scorpion men, who would be a staple mystara monster.

Ninjas! Our first new class in well over a year. Some people might have been complaining about class bloat already, but others will always want more, no matter how much they get. This one is very very badly designed indeed. Both overpowered, overcomplicated and stupidly specific in a lot of ways, they specifically say it should be used for NPC's only. (particularly if players are getting overconfident, another case of Gm/player antagonistic assumptions) I think I just won't bother using it at all, thank you very much.

The adventures of the monty haul crew continue: This time Monty gets to GM, and the players have to marshall all their overpowered characters to survive. Also notable because it features the first mention of Drow in dragon magazine, some time before their first iconic adventure and subsequent fame.

Why magic-users and clerics cannot use swords: A typical old skool solution. Its because of a magical curse apprentices have to accept before they can be trained. Which is about as workable as the scribe monopoly on copying magical spells, and its not surprising it never made it into common use.

Realism vs game logic.........: A rather longwinded rant by Gary on a whole number of topics, including spell point systems, people demanding realism in fantasy games, (particularly realistic magic) people trying to coattail on D&D's success by producing unauthorised supplements, critical hits, special weapon expertise powers, spell point systems, people who resent them for making money off their creativity, and people who are incapable of accepting that they are wrong, even when presented with concrete evidence against them. Yeah, thats a lot of vitriol. Public relations were not his speciality. Since a lot of the things that he railed against here made their way into 3rd edition, I can see why he ended up dissatisfied with it. This definitely qualifies as a classic rant.

More metamorphosis alpha expansions and charts, this time focusing on using mutant animals as PC's.

Runequest! King arthurs knights! We're really cooking with classic chaosium products now. Which means BRP, and all the mechanical design advances that come with it. Another important part of RPG history starts here.

The conclusion to the green magician. Once again, the heroes wind up making history happen the way it did. Bit of a lazy way of making a plot, really. Still, I suppose it educates people who can't be bothered to read the originals.

Fineous fingers and wormy are particularly amusing this issue.

Game balance: Jim ward presents a different face to it, reminding us that characters can be obscenely powerful and the game remain fun, as long as they are up against challenges commensurate with their abilities. It is after all, a game, and if you make it too much of a grind, it ceases to be fun. Which is a nice contrast with gygaxian antagonistic GM'ing.

Quite an entertaining issue. We see a lot more of the personalities behind the game, and their interactions and differences than usual. A reminder that this is just a bunch of people who had a cool idea, and were now watching it blow up around them and trying to ride the wave, not always perfectly. They still have quite a lot to learn. And so do we. Maybe some day, I'll wanna settle down. Untill that day, I'll just keep movin' on. (cue banjo solo. )
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Game balance: Jim ward presents a different face to it, reminding us that characters can be obscenely powerful and the game remain fun, as long as they are up against challenges commensurate with their abilities. It is after all, a game, and if you make it too much of a grind, it ceases to be fun. Which is a nice contrast with gygaxian antagonistic GM'ing.
I seem to recall reading a comment from Jim Ward where he stated that he was very much of the Monty Haul-school, so really this commentary isn't much of a surprise. :)
 

JELEINEN

Sizzler Black Squadron
Validated User
How do the ninja in this compare to the ones that came out a few years later in Oriental Adventures?
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
40 pages. Once again, the editor tries to remind people it's just a game, and their readers shouldn't take roleplaying so seriously. Don't confuse fantasy with reality, don't throw tantrums when your character dies, don't try and assign some deep cosmic meaning to everything we write. All things that you would suppose are common sense. But there's always a few who don't listen, and those are the ones sending poorly written vitriolic letters to the magazine.
Jack Chick?
 

snafubar

That moment you realize you have to face the day.
RPGnet Member
Validated User
How do the ninja in this compare to the ones that came out a few years later in Oriental Adventures?
Even the editor called it unbalanced. Among the abilities:
  • Disguise ability
  • Combat rolls as a Fighter
  • Thief skills
  • Tracking as a Ranger
  • Speak a number of languages = Int stat
  • Brew Poisons
  • Night Vision
  • Save a Fighter, except vs. magic where he saves as a Magic User
  • Hit Dice go from 1d4 @ 1st level to 8d12 + 2d4 @ 16th
  • Open hand attack as a Monk
  • Save vs. spells to take no damage
  • Knows how to use all weapons

I might have missed a few in there as well.
 
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