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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 4/4

The electric eye: A computer terminology glossary. Which weirdly enough, gives me WoD corebook flashbacks. ;) Funny how unrelated things can have stylistic connections.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Lots of cool items this time around, from Cloud castles to Red dragon scale armor. And Ed Greenwood once again sneaks in some realmsian setting detail, with Laeral's storm armor. As does Richard Forsten for whatever his own setting was. (not that we're likely to ever know what that was, unfortunately.) Stuff that's usefull for every class here.

Research in Imperium: A table based system for modeling scientific research that realistically reflects how slow, tedious, expensive and unpredictable this process can be. File this under the same category as all those annoying spell research systems for D&D.

Reviews: The Beastlord, a fantasy boardgame. Intruder, a solo sci-fi boardgame based off Alien, where you hunt down an increasingly deadly metamorphosing monstrosity. They seem to have stopped doing little single line summaries of a load of further games along with the full reviews. Hopefully that'll return sometime.

Simulation Corner: The importance of graphics to a games success. Ahh, another classic refrain that never changes. Some companies put more emphasis on pretty cover pictures and miniatures than they do in making a game play well. And you can only tell if the game plays well after already buying it, so they've already made money off you. Includes plenty of specifics and information on how design technology has improved in recent years. One of those articles that gives me a good sense of history, and how it has and hasn't developed.

City state of the world emperor. The legendary Duck tower! (snerk) Hooray for interesting adverts.

Dragons bestiary: the Groundsquid. A good compliment to the landshark, this is an example of a real world monster adapted to the weirdness of the fantasy world. It has a very long and extensive desription, with lots of stuff on both its hunting tactics, and the uses its various organs and byproducts have. A very well written entry that could well become a major sideplot in a game to exploit. (trained groundsquid would be exceedingly useful in dungeon construction)

Yay for dragonmirth.

Fineous fingers, Wormy and Jasmine are together in the same issue for the first time. How often will that be the case, since neither JD or Tramp have been that consistent with their contributions.

Top secret gets a module, The Missile Mission. Eeexcelllllent :steeples fingers: Two teams of competing commies from russia and china try and get the scoop on a secret missile program simultaneously. Fun stuff happens, hopefully. As is typical for modules of this period, this is more location than plot based, which feels a little odder in a modern setting. But this still looks like it has the potential for much spy vs spy goodness.

They really pulled out all the stops for this one. Both size and quality are at a high, and despite its size, I don't feel the exhaustion and boredom I have getting through some of the recent issues. Hopefully that will continue to be the case, even as the issues get even bigger and more detailed. After all, I'm still only a small fraction of the way through this endeavour. The idea of spending 8/9ths of it bored out of my skull is not an appealing one.
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
City state of the world emperor. The legendary Duck tower! (snerk) Hooray for interesting adverts.
Amusingly enough, despite the name, Duck Tower is probably one of the more collectible of the Judges Guild items. (Or maybe because of the name -- who knows.)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Amusingly enough, despite the name, Duck Tower is probably one of the more collectible of the Judges Guild items. (Or maybe because of the name -- who knows.)
Controversy sells. Despite being roundly slated many times on forums, both WoD Gypsies and Dirty secrets of the black hand sold well enough to get reprints, and went on to be some of the OWoD's best selling supplements. I suspect a related principle may be at work here.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980

Part 1/4

86 pages. Convention season is upon them again, and that means we'll be seeing articles about them, and how they went in the next few issues. The convention circuit continues its rapid expansion in venue size and professionalism, mirroring the rise in the hobby in general. What new releases will be making the big buzz in the rumor mill this year? We shall see.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: We have one letter bitching about all the modules they print, asking for less filler and more fiction. One mans cheese is another mans rancid milk m'dear. They can't please everyone.
A letter complaining about the price increases, and also about the joke article on taxes in issue 36. Someone needs to learn to laugh at their problems. Yes, that particular article wasn't very funny, but that doesn't mean the principle behind it is wrong.
A letter complaining about the inconsistency between restricting PC's levels and the presenting super-powerfull characters in GitE. Yeah, I'm in agreement with you on that one.
A letter complaining that the dragon accompanying the gem dragon article in issue 37 has only 2 legs. To which they quite rightly reply don't be such a pedant.
And finally, a letter saying that people shouldn't complain about high level characters so much, and there ought to be more adventurers catering to them. Go you, I quite agree.

Sage advice is missing. Booo.

The dueling room: Sometimes you don't want the sembelance of plot. Sometimes you just want a one-one arena fight to determine who is the superior character. Another one of those anachronisms of D&D like alchemists and scribe monopolies, where it is assumed that there are high level NPC's there readily available just to maintain conventions like this, yet the main setting remains pseudo medieval. If you want a white room fight, just make it happen out of continuity. A silly but fun article, and it's good to see PvP get a little love instead of being roundly discouraged.

Fantasy has reality: Douglas Bachman expands on his piece in Up on a Soapbox last issue. He goes into a complex explanation of his vision of the fantasy realm, the moral quests and questions it ought to pose, the difference between the realms of adventure and the places where people actually live. This includes such tricky subjects as characters gaining incredible power in the magical realms, but then becoming regular people again on returning home; dooms and destinies, and the world becoming unbalanced because of the sins of the heroes. This is the kind of article which if used, would completely alter the character of the game, slanting it towards a very particular type of Campbellian high fantasy. I'm really not sure if I like this or not. It has some ambitious ideas, but implements them in a heavy handed way, and would only be fun if the players actively bought into the principles espoused.

Funerals and other deathly ideas: Looting the bodies of the things you've just killed, and then leaving them to rot really isn't a very nice thing to do, particularly for supposedly heroic adventurers. Similarly, just divvying all your own fallen comrades stuff with no regard for supporting their family shows rather a disregard for societial mores. Your players may complain when you introduce the ideas from this article, but they do help make the world seem more like a real place, not just a game where you kill with no reprecussions. One of those ideas you shouldn't overuse, as too much realism spoils the fun.

Wham's revenge - his games: A history and profile of the Gratefull Dead of RPG artists, Tom Wham. An unpredictable and eccentric designer, with a tendency to get sidetracked, he seems like the kind of person who is fun to be around, but a nightmare to employ. Still, this is another interesting insight into TSR's inner workings and the people who make it up. Hopefully we'll be seeing more profiles soon.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980

Part 2/4

Don't drink this cocktail - Throw it!: Many people had realized that using flaming oil was considerably more tactically advantageous than fighting with conventional weapons. This article examines this more closely, including figuring out ways to keep players who overuse it under control. One of those cases where emergent rules turn out to be far more deadly than a fair fight, and another thing that would never work in 4th edition (do they even give stats and costs for flaming oil in 4th ed?) File this under muahahaha.

The wolf in your paint pot: Advice on painting wolf and werewolf miniatures. A fairly detailed article that does exactly what is says it does.

The fatal flaws of Crane: A bored player drops out of a play by mail game because the cost to fun ratio was rather too low. This article describes how the game was skewed towards people willing to spend more money on their characters and empires, the cost for playing each turn went up, odd social conventions grew up as people learned to exploit the rules of the game, and the gamemasters failed to provide new material for higher level characters. Which shows how many parallels old play by post games have with modern MMORPGS, in the problems they have to deal with. And that is very interesting indeed. One case of there's nothing new under the sun I wasn't expecting to see. A very thought provoking article.

Artifacts of Dragon pass: I guess someone's finally paid attention to the repeated requests for Runequest stuff. This is a big load of magic items, each with their own big chunk of history, and full integration into the setting in a way that contrasts sharply with D&D's vague hints of ancient wizards and curses. Like tekumel, Glorantha seems to attract people with a greater love of worldbuilding than D&D at the moment. Its nice to see it arrive in Dragon at last, and I'm guessing there'll be plenty more articles on this game in the future.

The other were? Right here!: 10 new types of lycanthropes for your game. Some of which are rather silly, such as weresloths and bison. As is the norm for this period of D&D, they seem to present an implied setting where after being infected, people lose interest in mortal society, and wander off into the wilderness and form little tribes of lycanthropes, spending most of their time in hybrid form. What's all that about then and where did it come from?

Squad leader: Scenarios 3 and 4, the battle for warsaw. I've figured out what I like about these. The articles for this game really do feel like a throwback to the strategic review days, given how compact yet full of interesting little details they are. Which as the issues and articles around them bloat in size, makes them feel like a little breath of fresh air.

Giving the undead an even break: A revised undead turning table based on hit dice rather than just undead type. Which of course makes scaling encounters easier and more sensical. While it wouldn't be used directly in future editions, its a good example of an early attempt to put more joined up thinking into D&D. Which is pleasing, in a way.
 

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
Don't drink this cocktail - Throw it!: Many people had realized that using flaming oil was considerably more tactically advantageous than fighting with conventional weapons. This article examines this more closely, including figuring out ways to keep players who overuse it under control. One of those cases where emergent rules turn out to be far more deadly than a fair fight, and another thing that would never work in 4th edition (do they even give stats and costs for flaming oil in 4th ed?) File this under muahahaha.
Heh... Yep, flaming oil was a low-level magic-user's best friend, especially in a campaign where the DM didn't give XP for treasure. All that cash at 1st level, and if the DM followed the suggested rules and didn't let brand new characters hire henchmen, it went into gallons of oil turned into Malatov cocktails. Am I misremembering, or didn't 1e have rules for Greek fire?

And yes, I've seen multiple sources pointing out that oil didn't make it onto the 4e equipment list. I imagine that pools of burning oil would be extremely effective in 4e combat, especially if you use minis.

- Brian
 

Phersu

Drogoman
Validated User
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980

Artifacts of Dragon pass: I guess someone's finally paid attention to the repeated requests for Runequest stuff. This is a big load of magic items, each with their own big chunk of history, and full integration into the setting in a way that contrasts sharply with D&D's vague hints of ancient wizards and curses.
Hey, I had not heard of that!

Does anyone know if those artifacts were reprinted in Rudy Kraft's 1980 Runequest supplement Plunder?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980

Part 3/4

The Rasmussen files: More writing from Merle Rasmussen on the design process of top secret. As is often the case, the name was derived from an offhand comment during design that stuck. And there were vast amounts of things that were cut from the rules (some of which may reappear in future supplements, if you ask nicely, hint hint ;) )

And from Sprechenhaltestelle to?: Getting away from the introductory setting and going globetrotting in Top Secret. Includes a random table to determine what city the next clue to your mission will be found in. A fun concept, but rather dully handled in this article. A good GM should already have realised that to make top secret more james bondesque, you need more globetrotting, cinematics and explosions. Now, did the rules support such behaviour, or would that have been a losing battle anyway?

The miniature spotlight: Filling in holes in your miniatures. One of those jobs you gotta learn sometime,and this ought to help.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: A bunch of oriental themed magic items, several magic helms, plus two wands by Ed Greenwood, in which he sneaks in yet more little realmsian setting tidbits. How long before it is first mentioned officially, instead of snuck into ostiensably generic creature and item entries? Having just seen the runequest entries, the limitations of this format are thrown into stark relief.

The electric eye: Basic programming in BASIC ;) Now this is a real nostalgia trip. All these PRINT and IF THEN GOTO commands. Now that's how you construct a computer program. If you have the time. Ahh, the days where you could understand the workings of a program without years of training and edit it for yourself without breaking everything.

Simulation Corner: This month the spotlight falls upon West End Games, a plucky new arrival in the wargaming arena starting to make waves. We'll be hearing more about them in the future. Another article that gives me historical perspective, and shows how much more in touch with the rest of the gaming scene the magazine was back then.

An advert for real life clergy of various religions to give their opinions on D&D. I suppose they covered women last issue, so they feel like tackling another big society defining topic soon.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
And from Sprechenhaltestelle to?: Getting away from the introductory setting and going globetrotting in Top Secret. Includes a random table to determine what city the next clue to your mission will be found in. A fun concept, but rather dully handled in this article. A good GM should already have realised that to make top secret more james bondesque, you need more globetrotting, cinematics and explosions. Now, did the rules support such behaviour, or would that have been a losing battle anyway?
It would have been a losing battle. The extensive lists of jargon and real-world agencies in Top Secret are very focused on Cold War shadow games like those in novels by Le Carre and Deighton, and the rules themselves are very fiddly and not at all cinematic, with a touch of gun fetishism thrown in. Though the adventures writers didn't quite figure that out until the fourth TS module — Fastpass was the first adventure about spies, instead of a dungeon crawl like Sprechenhaltestelle or a commando raid like the next two. James Bond 007 and the later Top Secret/S.I. (despite the name, an entirely new game) are far better at action heroics.

On the other hand, there's a really good article coming up in a couple dozen issues that gives some excellent advice on running dramatic spy adventures with fascinating locations, interesting characters, and convoluted plots.
 
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