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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980

Part 4/4

Reviews: Annihilator, a mini board game, gets a rather negative review.
High guard, a supplement for Traveller, expands on making big ships, and gets a particularly clever review, with lots of comparisions to other games that tackle similar topics.
Sword quest, a boardgame, shamelessly rips of the plot of LotR, but reasonably well.
The drawing of the dark, a novel, fails to realistically represent the period it is supposed to be set in, but still manages to be an entertaining tale anyway.
The reviews this issue seem to have taken a huge leap upwards, in both opinionatedness, and sense of perspective. Which is a good thing, because the old dry descriptive reviews were rather tedious. Long may it continue.

Dragons bestiary gets 4 monsters this time. The fire eyed lizard, the Flitte, the Wingless wonder, and the Huntsmen. All are pretty interesting, with setting details and quirks that make them more than just another creature to kill and take the stuff of. Ok, so two of them boil down to a wizard did it, (clerics get no love in the monster creation leagues) but that just means players can learn how to do it as well (muahahaha) And isn't having spells named after you and/or monsters made by you make it into common circulation one of the highest things a wizard can aspire to.

Jasmine recaps already. The voyages of the exploration ship znutar gets another comic.

A 7 page index of all the articles from Issues 1-40. Nice to see them taking stock of what they've done so far. How long before they do it again. And how long before it becomes impossible to do.

And two more pieces of Tom Wham foolery. Outside the znutar, an expansion for Awful green things from outer space, and runngus' game, a whole new little board game based upon dropping your pieces on a board and seeing where they land. I guess that'll provide another few hours of diversion before you get bored of it and play something else.

Another strong issue in general, as while it hasn't innovated as much as recent issues, the overall quality and diversity of articles is particularly high. They seem to have an increasing base of enthusiastic freelancers to draw from, and aren't afraid to try new things and explore controversial topics. And they will be rewarded for this.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Clerics do make monsters, but they are undead and maybe some nature critters for druids.

I wonder why there was never any class or spell in the early Dragons on monster making? The only one I can think of is the merlane in 237.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
A 7 page index of all the articles from Issues 1-40. Nice to see them taking stock of what they've done so far. How long before they do it again. And how long before it becomes impossible to do.
In 36 issues, then 36 issues after that (#76, #112), and it doesn't look like there was another one. Never realized it was so regular.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 41: September 1980

Part 1/4

80 pages. A particularly amusing cover this issue, as lizard boy goes to school. This issue, they focus on the fantasy trip, with 4 articles for melee and wizard. Computers also get an increasing amount of coverage, reflecting their new popularity at the moment.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: Two more letters from the opposing sides of the fence of the dwarven beard debate. Gary once again chips in to provide evidence for his rightness. This one just won't die, will it?
Another letter on the age debate, from a 15 year old boy who feels himself more than mature enough to play and run D&D in a responsible fashion.
A letter of support for giants in the earth, offering lots of suggestions for future issues.
A letter in support of including angels in the game and against too much realism.
A letter from Gary with some rather snarky opinions on many recent articles in the magazine. This stuff is not official and never will be (as long as I'm in charge) As amusing as ever.
And finally, a very long letter about the weapon and armor restrictions faced by clerics and magic-users, with lots of real world references. Yeah, this stuff was really easy to pick apart when you started using real world logic rather than game balance considerations. But the designers have said many a time that realism was not one of their design goals. Take that in mind.

Reflections of a real life cleric: Another of our "issues" articles, this examines the power creativity and fantasy has to enrich our lives, as well as the obvious matters that everyone needs entertainment and outlets of some kind, and that being good is supposed to be fun. (the biggest trick evil pulled is making people think that being bad was more fun than being good, when it very much is not, once the concequences are factored in) Of course, like any tool, it can be used for evil, or you can get too caught up in the means, and forget the proper ends, and you need to be wary of that. But you can't spot that stuff unless you're part of the community. Once again, this is a far cry from the hysteria that would later engulf the game several times.

Playing the numbers: Talk of combat optimization for The Fantasy Trip, with detailed analysis of hit probabilities multiplied by average damage capacity, and the corresponding expected output. Ahh, twinking. I guess any game with tactical decisions will attract mathematicians who pore over stuff like this. And that will be continue to be the case as the fantasy trip becomes GURPS and goes through 4 editions. How does steve jackson deal with it? (publishing munchkin, perhaps ;) )

All fighters are not created equal: More Fantasy trip stuff, as they discuss the unfairness of recieving the same amount of XP, no matter how powerful each combatant is. You know what we need? A challenge rating system, whereby you get more by beating stronger foes, and less from beating weaker ones. Now that's what you call progress. Now, how long will it take for other games to pick up on this?

Dueling dragons: Adapting Melee to model combat between dragons, rather than human fighters. This obviously involves changing the tactics weapons, and stat ranges quite a bit. Because after all, dragons are absolutely brutal. I quite approve of this, as it pushes the games envelope, yet the game adapts fairly well too it. I guess the system was already fairly robust, even back then.

Ready, aim, firearm: Rules for firearms in Melee. Which are out of date already, as official rules for them were released just recently enough that they could mention it, but not cancel the article. Oh well. As is often the case when they have a themed issue, they put the worst article furthest in, so as to hook you into the magazine. But that's a common trick in any media. Put the best bits at the beginning and end, where people'll remember them, and squash the filler in the middle. And it must work, otherwise we wouldn't do it. Cut the page count instead you say? Nahh. We couldn't possibly do that ;)
 

Lord Mhoram

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 41: September 1980

Part 1/4

A letter from Gary with some rather snarky opinions on many recent articles in the magazine. This stuff is not official and never will be (as long as I'm in charge) As amusing as ever.
And his "crits for monsters" list reads like Rolemaster. :)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 41: September 1980

Part 2/4

Giants in the earth: This months exceedingly powerful fictional characters (with atrocious artwork by Roger Raupp that doesn't fit the descriptions and makes them all look the same) are C.L. Moores Jirel of Joiry, H Rider Haggard's Ayesha, and Robert E Howards Valeria. Oh, and sigurd fafnirsbane and Starkad from norse myth, who get slightly better treatment.

Dragon's blood: The norse theme continues in this pair of articles on the benefits of being exposed to dragons blood, again mentioning Sigurd and Fafnir. One of those things that they admit has the ability to unbalance the game, given the importance of AC to combat, and the way it is tuned in general. You'd think that getting a dragon's treasure hoard would be enough. Nah, We won't stop until we've made swords from it's talons, clubs from it's teeth, armor from it's scales, and heaven knows what magical gubbins with it's internal organs. Honestly, it's worse than buffalo. No wonder dragons are extinct in the modern day. ;)

For appearance's sake: The appearances of the various demihuman races are expanded upon, with guess what? Random tables to roll for eye, hair, skin color, unusual features, etc etc. :rolleyes: Truly this is for the uninspired gamer. Still, it does contain quite a bit of implied setting stuff. File under rather average.

Minarian legends: The creation legends of Divine Right Trolls. They do fall a little into the noble savage cliche, but are still given enough of a spin to avoid human in funny suits, thanks to they way their society adapts to their regenerative properties. The general quality of this series continues.

Up on a soap box: Good generalship involves tactics. In real life, the best way to win is to not fight, or let nature do your fighting for you, hitting them in the supply lines, as demonstrated by the russians. Of course, doing that in a wargame would make the game not fun, but you still need to consider tactics and psychology, as well as winning through unconventional means. As ever, the most common sense things are the easiest to overlook, like plan your tactics to account for the terrain and weather.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Magical doors for your amusement and the players frustration (particularly the intelligent talking ones, which are always a pain in the ass.) plus three interesting (and rather powerful) multipurpose Ed Greenwood items.
 

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
As is often the case when they have a themed issue, they put the worst article furthest in, so as to hook you into the magazine. But that's a common trick in any media. Put the best bits at the beginning and end, where people'll remember them, and squash the filler in the middle. And it must work, otherwise we wouldn't do it. Cut the page count instead you say? Nahh. We couldn't possibly do that ;)
It's also relevant that most people apparently read magazines back-to-front, especially if they're just flipping through them in the store.

- Brian
 
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