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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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brianm

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Having reread my old Dragon issues a couple of years ago, I was definitely struck at Greenwood's facility for using extraneous details to give the impression of a larger, living world. I can't say that I'm that fond of his overall worldbuilding or other storytelling elements, but he always has impressed me in generating interesting psuedohistories and flavor in his articles and settings. Sometimes it does result in silly levels of detail (did we really need to have articles on all the types of trees you can find in Realms' forests), but it does good things for verisimilitude.
I have to give direct credit to Greenwood and this tendency of his for helping shape the way I still game to this day. I never played in the Forgotten Realms, but I've always embraced the way he treated the setting like a real place, with history and cultures and villains and heroes. Sprinkled with a bit of Lovecraft's more casual attitude towards setting detail, it can really make your worlds come alive.

- Brian
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The modules were on of the reasons I regularly bought Dragon back in the day. They looked like a great bargain, since you got all those articles and things, plus an adventure at something like 3/4s the cost of one of card-board covered modules.

- Brian
Economics is a funny thing. The best way to pick up something of good quality at a decent price is often to go to a related field where it's not the primary focus, and so simply has to work efficiently for people to focus on what is ostiensably the primary role of the product.
 

zanshin

Registered User
Validated User
Reviews: Bushido, a roleplaying game
I would be interested to know what they said about that. Awesome system IMO - really encouraged the samurai roleplay with the On and karma subsystems. Also an early example of a level and skill based system, very elegant IMO. Shame it never took off.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I would be interested to know what they said about that. Awesome system IMO - really encouraged the samurai roleplay with the On and karma subsystems. Also an early example of a level and skill based system, very elegant IMO. Shame it never took off.
Hmm. The main points, apart from the stuff that is just description, are comments on how most rpgs are too eurocentric, which is of course makes it a good change, albeit one they fear might not be too successful (damn eurocentricism again.) and some criticism for the large amount of typesetting errors. And the comment that the company has already gone out of business, and they hope the game'll be picked up again.

I haven't been commenting on the reviews much because unfortunately, most of them have been pretty dull so far, with not much for me to play off. Hopefully that'll improve sometime soon. Even if it doesn't, it'll still get better once we get to the times where I actually have many of the things reviewed, and my own opinions on them, so I can give more informed commentary.
 
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zanshin

Registered User
Validated User
Thanks for that :)

Bushido got picked up and streamlined by FGU. The 1e was very much an amateur press production, but the enthusiasm of the creators (including the references to other must reads) really shone through.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon Issue 35: March 1980

64 pages. A particularly cool cover this issue, Phil Foglio's snowmen of doom. This issue, Traveler gets focused upon, with 5 new articles for it.

In this issue:

Dragon rumbles: This issue marks the retirement of Tim Kask as the main editor, with Jake Jaquet taking over that job. It also marks the point where RPG's really start making it into mainstream toy stores. Having been to the trade convention mentioned last month, it seems that lots of people want in on the action.

Out on a limb: This month we have a letter complaining about character inflation. Two letters about agism in gaming groups, from opposite sides of the spectrum. And an extensive letter justifying the unrealism of simply scaling up human proportions to create giants weights and strengths in the recent article. Once again we see the battle between the people constantly picking unrealistic stuff apart, and the "its just a game" guys, with the TSR staff pretty firmly in the just a game camp.

Errata for AD&D: All three corebooks get extensive goings over, with the changes to be incorporated into the next printings. Also includes stats for those magic items we would have had if the typos hadn't been spotted, such as the Cube of Farce and Manual of Gollums. Goes to show what cabin fever can make seem funny.

Fiction: Oasis, by Cynthia Frazer. A little D&D meets cthuluesque horror adventure. One of those stories that feels like the start of a series.

Jobs, profit and peril: Joining the Interstellar bureau of internal security. Yes, instead of being a military guy, now your PC can be an ex spy with retarded aging. Which means you'll be pretty badass, if you survive to play.

Usefull Skills: Expansions to the traveller skill system. The kind that divides broad skills into more specialist subjects, reducing their individual usefulness, and making it harder to build a well rounded character. Also includes huge anachronisms such as tape recorders which remind me how much real technology has overtaken the visions of technological advancement back then.

The "Other" Options: Creating a civilian character in traveller. Obviously, you'll have more financial and social abilities, and less combat ones, but that doesn't mean you won't be a viable character. And more variety in your team is always a good thing.

More Clout for Scouts: Another traveller article focussed on enhancing the options of a particular character type. I think you can work out which one.

Black Holes! The final traveller article, this of course focusses on the havoc you can cause with black holes providing rules for placing them, spotting them and escaping them. You'd better roll well, because failure means death for the whole crew. God, traveller could be brutal. Seems like death awaits you at every turn ;)

From the Sorcerers Scroll: Gary once again talks about where D&D is going. Demonweb pits and caverns of tsjocanth are coming soon, and they're planning on producing expert and master (but not companion, yet) sets for D&D, to make it into a separate game, intended to be friendly to people who have never played wargames, let alone RP'd before; instead of just something that leads off AD&D. AD&D is getting lots more modules, plus a second book of monsters (although they haven't decided on the name yet) And possibly an AD&D computer game. So lots of stuff is in the pipeline. How long will it take to get it all sorted out? Watch this space. But not too hard, otherwise you'll get very bored. I guess even with their expanding staff, the number of people working for them was still somewhat lower than the amount working for hasbro now.

Leomunds tiny hut: Another set of training rules. This one isn't a joke like the last ones, but is rather time consuming, both in and out of game. Can't people figure out stuff on their own? If only characters of the level needed or higher were able to teach people how to advance in levels, then you would rapidly suffer generational degradation until there were only 1st level characters left. It just doesn't work. Still, if you want to keep players dependent on staying on the good side of your annoying uber NPC's, no matter how powerful they get, this is one way to go about it. (sigh)

Sage advice: No preamble this time, just straight into the questions. Can magic users cast spells one handed? (yes, unless the GM rules otherwise for individual spells) Can a character who can't be raised normally be brought back by a wish (yes) Can you shoot arrows in hand to hand combat (no) How do I stop the assassins guild going after me for something I didn't do? (that, my dear, is up to the GM) Do druids automatically know speak with animals? (druids and clerics don't need spellbooks, they can pray for any spell on their list) Can evil characters cast protection from evil (oh yes) How do you deal with an annoying, treasure grabbing, bossy tantrum throwing player (Lay down the law, and stick to it, bitch! The rules can't solve this one for you) Do you have to read scrolls aloud to cast them (yes) I'm bored with dungeon delving. How do I spice up my game (start putting proper plots in it. Ask your players what they want to do.) Can you stack multiple armour types(no) Can thieves be chaotic good (no) Man, they really were harsh on thieves in those days, seems like every issue we have someone trying to question limitations on them that now don't exist anymore.

Up on a soap box: Wargaming, a moral issue? Wargaming is a threat to the morals of our youth. If they play it they'll grow up thinking that fighting and killing is a perfectly normal thing to do. Classic. Is there a form of popular entertainment or technology that moralizing reactionary fearmongers haven't turned their sights upon in the history of creating stuff. Pay them no attention. A decade or two later their worries usually seem pretty comical.

Angels in AD&D: Another attempt at this topic. This is pretty elaborate, and draws heavily on real world mythology. They have pretty much the abilities you'd expect. Nothing particularly exceptional to see here. Move along.

Giants in the Earth: This time, the disgustingly twinked characters for your delectation are Cecelia Holland's Muirtagh the bowman, H. Rider Haggard's Umslopogaas, and Henry Kuttner's Edward Bond and Ganelan.

Dastardly deeds and devious devices: A particularly elaborate set of traps this issue, two of which will cause you more harm if you take the obvious route to try and solve or get around them. No wonder adventurers who survived for any length of time became so paranoid. This is nasty stuff. I love it ;)

The AD&D national player rating system: More stuff supporting the use of AD&D as a tournament system, allowing you to work out how good a player you are compared to everyone else who's played in a particular con module. Includes the top 50 rankings from the recent tournaments, which of course has most of the TSR staff in fairly high places. No 1 ranking player in the world at the moment, however is Kristine Bailey, with the highest tsr staffer at 3rd, and Gary coming 47th, Oh, the woes of other people beating you at the game you invented.

The mystery of the bow: Another one of those historical articles explaining the real world history of stuff. Seems very hung up over the handedness of bow firers, and the historical accuracy of various miniatures because of it. Which is a rather petty thing to spend so much time writing about. Worse things happen in academia.

The History of Hothior: More cool stuff on the setting of Divine Right by its original creator.

A big double page advert for citadel miniatures in the middle of the magazine. Someone's got money to spend. :p

Simulation Corner: The history of wargaming company SPI. One of those potted history bits that presents the topic in a very positive light, focussing largely on their achievements, and saying the future looks great, without revealing any of the drama and work behind the products. Which is the most interesting part. :( So not a particularly interesting article.

Reviews: Gangster, an RPG. Titan strke, a wargame. Double star, another sci-fi wargame. War in the Ice, a wargame. Plus lots of minireviews.

Classified ads continue.

TOP SECRET!!!! (shhhh). Having done fantasy, cowboys, and two gonzo sci-fi games, TSR moves into the spy adventure genre as well. I suspect we'll be seeing articles for this in the near future.

Dragonmirth gets both pics and a joke article on the way the rules of the universe change with new editions. Even the most mighty character can be unexpectedly nerfed by the AD&D rules revision.

Fineous fingers gets all 4th wall breaking in a double page finale.

Errata for Quirks and Curses from last issue, that arrived just after printing. Ahh, deadlines. How many mistakes are not fixed properly because of them.

Despite not being as long as last issue, this one has been a real slog to get through. All the articles start blurring into one after a while, which frankly is no fun at all. I shall have to develop a mental sorting method to keep my mind from getting overcluttered with the new information.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Errata for AD&D: All three corebooks get extensive goings over, with the changes to be incorporated into the next printings.
Amusingly enough, one DMG correction, two MM corrections, and all but four of the PHB errata listed in the article never made it in any of the subsequent rulebook printings. I'm now curious as to how much earlier than the cover date that this article was written, given that the Acaeum pages on the DMG and MM note that the last revisions that were made to their text were in late '79 printings. The PHB took until sometime between 1980 and 1983 for the last of the corrections that actually made it into the book to appear.

From the Sorcerers Scroll: Gary once again talks about where D&D is going. Demonweb pits and caverns of tsjocanth are coming soon, and they're planning on producing expert and master (but not companion, yet) sets for D&D, to make it into a separate game, intended to be friendly to people who have never played wargames, let alone RP'd before; instead of just something that leads off AD&D. AD&D is getting lots more modules, plus a second book of monsters (although they haven't decided on the name yet)
Given the amount of delayed product listed in this article, I'm scanning these summaries intently for the first mention from Gygax of Greyhawk (either the Castle or City) being worked on for release. :)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Amusingly enough, one DMG correction, two MM corrections, and all but four of the PHB errata listed in the article never made it in any of the subsequent rulebook printings. I'm now curious as to how much earlier than the cover date that this article was written, given that the Acaeum pages on the DMG and MM note that the last revisions that were made to their text were in late '79 printings. The PHB took until sometime between 1980 and 1983 for the last of the corrections that actually made it into the book to appear.
:Facepalms: Errata is the first thing to get forgotten about when people are busy, unless it's absolutely critical (wraith 2nd ed pathos regaining, I'm looking at you) After all, most of the people who are going to buy the book already have, unless you're dealing with a perenial seller like the corebooks. So why bother. Its too expensive. :mad: This is one area digital printing really has an advantage over solid books.

Given the amount of delayed product listed in this article, I'm scanning these summaries intently for the first mention from Gygax of Greyhawk (either the Castle or City) being worked on for release. :)
Noted and taken account of.
 

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
A big double page advert for citadel miniatures in the middle of the magazine. Someone's got money to spend.
Those two-page spreads were drool-isious, especially later when we got 'em in color. :D

- Brian
 
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