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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
Dragon Issue 39: July 1980

Part 1/4

78 pages. So its their 4th birthday. Notice something different? Yes, folks, you knew it was coming, even if you didn't know when. This is the point that Dragon Magazine loses the definite article from its cover. It continues inside for a few more issues, but the knell has sounded for it. Not that it saves me much time, because I'm copypastaing that stuff in advance anyway. It also marks yet another high (and new minimum) point in size, and changes in formatting. The magazine now has a computer, and a UK office. But does the UK office also have a computer? Probably not. How long before computers become integral to their operation, as they are for almost every business in the world today? I doubt we'll know exactly, as these things creep up on you. And then you're a slave to the machine. ;)

They're also auctioning off a complete set of back issues. Which is nice for those completists out there. Ahh, the hassle of getting hold of old issues before the electronic age. Ebay and .pdf's really have been a godsend. Also, ask for The Wargamer at your local store, because we're distributing that magazine in america now. Busy beavers build bigger businesses. (as the zoologist said to the gynacologist)

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A rather strident little letter accusing them of being afraid of covering Runequest, because it is so much better than D&D and they'd go out of business if it got the popularity it deserves. To which they calmly explain, yet again, that they are not a house organ, or dependent on TSR, and if another RPG became more popular than D&D they'd switch to primarily covering that. And they can't publish articles on a game if no-one sends them in. (anyone listening, bueller?)
A letter supporting the recent article on angels, saying that they don't seem to have a problem with demons in the game, why should angels be one? They're the good guys.
A letter of generalised praise from a self proclaimed Charismatic and Spirit-filled Christian, saying he doesn't think they're doing anything wrong by depicting angels, plus commentary on other matters.
A request for binders, to store the magazine in and protect it from the ravages of time. To which they respond they don't think the readership is large enough to do this profitably, but maybe some day
And finally a request for an updated version of the MM with the various monsters from Dragon issues in. To which they respond that they aren't doing so, but the fiend folio will be out soon, with all manner of new nasties within for your enjoyment.

The fantasysmiths notebook: On one one side, an illustration showing you how to cover up a naked miniature, attiring it so it doesn't offend the feminists or make the moralists go into think of the children mode when fielding it in your army at a con. On the other page, an article about increasing your speed and efficiency via production line techniques and doing things in batches instead of working on one miniature until its done, then moving on to the next one. This becomes particularly helpful if several people work in a team, each concentrating on a particular aspect of the job. All seems pretty common sense to me.

Antipaladins! Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (cough, wheeze, hack) Ahem. Yes folks, one of our oft-mooted annoyances finally gets (semi)official rules. And heavens to betsy, they're pretty solid ruleswise, if a little overpowered, and entirely recognisable as the inspiration to 3e Blackguards in the specifics of their special abilities. Hell, their 5th level title is Blackguard ;) Of course they are not recommended as PC's, because they refuse to accept anyone as their equal (under pain of losing their powers), so if they're not in charge of the party, they'll spend the whole time scheming to backstab whoever is and get in charge. Which may not be good for group dynamics.
 

Bill_Coffin

Part of the solution
First off, a medal of valor for ecapping the entire run of Dragon. Hell, a medal of valor for even attempting it.

As a proud owner of the CD-ROM archive, and one who periodically goes through the catalog of issues, I really appreciate this recap. You're really hitting these issues on the head and reminding folks what the magazine was all about. For a long time, Dragon was the crossroads of the hobby and the industry. It was a heady time.

I paged through the 4E corebooks today and marveled at how differently the game looks and feels compared to AD&D, which I still play. Going through old Draogn issues further underscores the differences, but it also shows how the game's evolution got its start. For as much as I loved the simplicity of AD&D, many of the articles and discussion in Dragon highlighted just how wonky and arbitrary it could be, too. For me, it also is a strong argument for why Castles & Crusades can provide such a complete AD&D feeling at a fraction of the page count - because as much as I played AD&D, I ignored a substantial chunk of it as stuff getting in the way of my fun.
 

Ceti

of the Polepack (retired)
Validated User
I paged through the 4E corebooks today and marveled at how differently the game looks and feels compared to AD&D, which I still play. Going through old Draogn issues further underscores the differences, but it also shows how the game's evolution got its start. For as much as I loved the simplicity of AD&D, many of the articles and discussion in Dragon highlighted just how wonky and arbitrary it could be, too. For me, it also is a strong argument for why Castles & Crusades can provide such a complete AD&D feeling at a fraction of the page count - because as much as I played AD&D, I ignored a substantial chunk of it as stuff getting in the way of my fun.
Irtonically, reading the 4E DMG I see a lot of the vibes from the early days still striking notes.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Dragon Issue 39: July 1980

Part 1/4

78 pages. So its their 4th birthday. Notice something different? Yes, folks, you knew it was coming, even if you didn't know when. This is the point that Dragon Magazine loses the definite article from its cover.
It also marks the coloured-border cover style that continues for roughly the next two years, if I recall correctly.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 39: July 1980

Part 2/4

Up on a soap box: The problem of morality in fantasy. A direct rebuttal to the article in issue 36, attacking the use of modern moral relativism in fantasy and playing up the use of the heros journey as a means of defining the moral trials that adventurers should go through. Which as they were designed for dramas with a primary protagonist, not troupe dungeoneering, might not work too well in D&D, in my opinion. But the point that morality is not relative in D&D, and you shouldn't be able to get out of it by arguing cultural exemptions or other rules lawyerish behaviour is a good one. As ever, defining what good and evil is in the game needs to fall to the GM, and then they need to be consistent. Otherwise, you end up with a situation like modern day earth, with loads of different people arguing which rules are more important than others and what god really meant, because he isn't around to explain and enforce them. ;)

Minarian Legends: The history of Divine Right barbarians, and their greatest hero, Juulute Wolfheart. A cool story involving animism and people breeding with spirits. In fantasy games, people like this can be real living legends, instead of just myths distorted and magnified by time.

Women want equality: The long advertised article by Jean Wells finally arrives. And is a little underwhelming really, given the build-up. Sexist crap happens, and this, along with the way that RPG's are marketed in hobby stores that have previously catered almost entirely to men, does put quite a lot of women who would be interested in roleplaying off gaming. (if RPG's had evolved primarily from amateur dramatics rather than wargaming, the demographics of gaming might well have been very different) Women want different things from their gaming, like romance (but only on their own terms, not being used as sex objects) and talking to NPC's instead of fighting straight away. Oh, and the first use of hack and slash as the primary derogatory term for players who are only interested in the fighting side of gaming, rather than actually playing a role. (Which I guess is pretty significant. Now we know who to attribute the popularising of that phrase to.) Chesecake outfits are annoying, and decidedly unpractical for adventuring purposes. Lots of stuff that is still an issue today, in other words, if maybe not quite as frequently. Human nature is a pain in the ass to change. But we've got to try, otherwise we're no better than animals. And I guess they've already come quite a way since the first time this topic was covered in issue 3. That was ....... not good.

Points to Ponder: Female fighters can kick much ass as well as male ones, and there are plenty of historical and mythological examples. Don't underestimate them. Women are both more agile and better at withstanding pain than men, and this should be reflected in their stats.

Leomunds tiny hut: Len talks about designing a party and an adventure for that party. An interesting article because it reveals his assumptions about proper party size, ability score ranges, amount of control players should have in creating their characters, and similar matters of demographics. Which is always useful, as it allows me to get points of data on how the game, and attitudes to it have changed over the years.

Fiction: Next time, try a cleric, by Tom Armstrong. A short story poking fun at D&D ressurection, where a character can be restored to life several times in one day if things aren't going well. Which kinda takes the threat out of death, doesn't it. Nice to see people back then were realizing it as well.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 39: July 1980

Part 3/4

Of staves, strings, and other things: Talk of the construction process of various types of bows. and their advantages and disadvantages. Yawn.

Giants in the earth: This month they decide to go all Sagaical, with Bodvar Bjarki, and Egil Skallagrimson from norse stories. Slightly less twinked than most previous entries, they still both have abilities that PC's can't have. Business as usual then.

Sage advice returns, after a months break, with more rules quibbles and enforcement. Can I use a potion of gaseous form to get cursed magical items off me? (No. You can't get around curses that easily. You are now naked when you reform, with only the cursed item on. (Now, is it worth it wearing cursed robes or armour just for that minor benefit?))
Is there such a thing as a lawful neutral dwarven paladin? (no, stop breaking the rules immediately.)
Is a ranger in violation of his alignment for breaking a written contract? (That depends, is it an evil contract? If so, then he can and indeed should break it. )
Does every weapon require a separate proficiency slot, even really similar ones? (yes. Suck it up. This ain't the complete fighters handbook. You can't get benefits by appealing to realism here.)
Why can elven fighter/magic users wear armor and cast spells, when full MU's can't. (There is no in game reason, it's entirely an out of game balancing rule. Someone'll invent some stupid justification for it sometime, I'm sure. And then It'll be an article in here. Betcha ten dollars.)
Page 10 and 26 contradict one another on how many spells a magic user can have (there is a difference between how many spells they can know it total, and how many they can have memorized at one time. Is that so hard to understand? A brain's a brain, and it does what it can. If you don't like it, play a cleric instead.)
If I change my alignment to chaotic neutral good will I lose a level? (There is no such alignment. You could however be Chaotic neutral (good tendencies) and as long as you don't push over the actual boundary, you won't suffer any xp penalty. )
Can any race have psionics? (no, only humans, dwarves and halflings)
I've found the duration for ghoul paralysis. In T1, it says it lasts 3-12 turns (well spotted. Carrion crawler paralysis lasts the same amount of time, and ghast paralysis lasts twice as long. )
If someone is killed by poison, does have to be neutralised before you try and raise them? (no)
Which weapons are two-handed (here's the list(no, I can't be bothered to type it out))
Can centaurs read scrolls, have psionics, and be raised? (possibly, no, and hell no, do I have to give the whole no fucking souls screed again for you people?)
Can a ring of regeneration regrow limbs lost before you found it? (no, your body matrix is already fixed in its new form if you've already healed the hit point damage, or some such crap, so it can't fix old wounds. You'll have to keep your eyepatch and pegleg, I'm afraid)

Good hits and bad misses: Ahh, critical hits. How many attempts at putting you in D&D will we see before 3rd edition makes them stick in a form most people were happy with? This is one of those ones that involves several extra dice rolls, and then consulting a table for the specific effect the crit has. Increased complexity for decreased fun, in other words. Meh, meh ah say.

Uniformity, conformity, or neither?: A look at how D&D has increased in complexity over the years and editions, and looks like it's only going to get more complex and diverse, until it's impossible for any one person to keep track of, yet alone use all the options. Which means it's up the GM to ensure their campaign doesn't get bloated beyond their ability to handle. Welcome to the upward part of the complexity cycle. It's gonna be quite a while before D&D gets its first spring cleaning and streamlining. You'll just have to live with it.

Fiction(ish) The aliens frombeyond (sic) by Bryce Knorr: An exaggerated account of the dragon magazine research process, as the staff race to find out the origin of a particular set of miniatures before the magazine deadline hits. Which is amusing.

What are the odds: The probability of rolling a particular ability score using 3d6, and thus how common each one should be among the general population. A simple bit of statistics I calculated myself ages ago, but nice to see it here.
 

JimLotFP

New member
Banned
Mine. And not actually my own idea, as we had a thread on that topic here a while ago. But I was reminded of it by this article, and it seemed relevant.
I think the source inspirations influenced this as much as the actual evolution of the game elements...
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I think the source inspirations influenced this as much as the actual evolution of the game elements...
Quite possibly. Hmm. Anne rices interview with a vampire was published in 1976. What would things have been like if things had been reversed, and Vampire was published in the 70's, then D&D turned up later, once the WoD was well established and most RPG's were conciously or unconciously ripping it off.
 
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