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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 44: December 1980

Part 4/4

Minarian legends: The Black Knight. Yeah, you know you're reaching the end of the series, because they've finished off the countries, and moved on to the independent guys who have the potential to shift the balance of power in the game. The immortal tragedy of the black knight, geased to be unable to die until he completes a virtually impossible quest. Only it's not as tragic as you'd think as he tricked the high priests into giving him immortality in the first place. Which is a pretty cool spin on the trope. The high standard of most of this series is maintained. What will it's creators do next? Its getting pretty obvious they need to move on to new grounds sometime soon.

The electric eye: Three reviews in this column this issue, plus some miscalanea. Which includes errata for a program they gave us in a previous issue. Because patching computer games is a lot more urgent than fixing RPG's, where people can work around the problems themselves. Bah.
Dungeon of Death: Yeah, its a dungeon crawl. Get experience, penetrate the lower levels and find the holy grail. Seriously limited compared to what real RPG's are capable of.
Android Nim: A quick little multiplayer puzzle game. But at least it has sound, which most games of this era don't.
Time Traveller: An adventure game involving ..... guess what. As this is a beta copy, it has some serious bugs. But it still involves a pretty big set of adventures as you try and recover the 14 rings of whatever. As ever, there are complaints about the price of stuff.

Dragon's bestiary: This months monsters have an arctic theme, for some reason. (let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ;) )The Koodjanuk, Cryoserpents and Ice golems all prefer colder climates, but are otherwise pretty different, in both personalities and roles. If you're characters are traveling up north, at least one of them should be useful.

Nothing but the Ho-ho-ho Truth: What exactly is Santa claus in D&D terms. Now there's a character who's not suitable for shoehorning into the roles and abilities PC's have. Their rough answer is that he's an exceedingly high level elf/halfling hybrid magic user/cleric with tons of followers. Which of course beaks several rules, but hey, that's standard for characters printed in the magazine. Has the feel of something put in at the last moment to make up page count. Well, they did have a lot of pages to fill this time. I guess it was inevitable that there would be some filler material.

Wormy and Jasmine are here. ZOMG implied raep. Oh noes. Fineous fingers and the rest of dragonmirth is not.

An advert for next years calendar. Well, they have been talking it up since the start of the year. It'd be just dumb if they were late releasing it.

This is what a christmas issue should be. A massive pushing of the envelope in size and ideas, hopefully giving us at least one thing that we'll continue to use well into the future. The decade seems to be going pretty well so far. Lets see what next year holds.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

Part 1/4

96 pages. A new year, new staff. Lots of new staff in fact. Roger Moore and Ed Greenwood both get official jobs with the company, having both had tons of articles published over the past year. Quality and quantity will have an impact, and be recognized. Circulation has once again increased around fourfold in the last year, and obviously they can now afford considerably more. Just how much bigger can they get? Hopefully quite a bit.

In this issue:

An advert for Fantasy Modelling magazine. Featuring Boris Vallejo. Snerk. Look at the muscles.

Out on a limb: Another letter complaining about the horrendous character inflation the GM's in his area practice, and asking the magazine to do more to sort them out.
A letter grumbling about Ringside, Traveller and other obscure games getting so much space in the magazine when they want more AD&D. To which they reply only catering to the most popular crowd and neglecting everyone else is how governments lose support and magazines descend into irrelevance. Which is not a good idea. Variety is important.
And someone's finally noticed the magazine losing its The. And they are not happy. They also have lots of other complaints about the recent "kiddiefication" of the magazine in general. The professor ludlow module sucked, the new cover format sucks, you're running too many adverts, and Kim Mohan sucks for trying to cater to a younger audience. Charming. Kim takes the ranting with good humour, and points out that the proportion of advertising they carry has not, in fact, increased, it's just kept pace with their page count expansion. This is accompanied by hard statistics on the percentages other magazines devoted to ads. Most of their rivals are around 20-30% ads, apart from White Dwarf, who are at over 40%, which is an interesting thing to know.

Ha. Look the part you play. Another amusing advert, this time for a costumes company. Well, it's appropriate, I guess. Lets just hope we don't get too many fat unwashed creepy guys dressing up as princesses.

Gas 'em up and smoke 'em out: Muahahaha. Another weapon that bypasses the combat scenario to great effectiveness, at least the first few times you face it. Players getting overcocky with their flaming oil? GM's get poison gas. Nothing to show them who's boss like having to save or die every single round while trying to escape, with no-one to fight (or possibly lots of level draining undead, if you want to be extra mean. :D). Includes proper formulae for determining rates of dispersal and stuff. I like this, as it's a good reminder that life isn't fair, and you shouldn't make the game strictly fair all the time either. After all, what evil overlord worth their horns would intentionally leave a weakness in their defenses? (unless it was as a trap to lure the heroes into a false sense of security)

Dungeon ventilation clears the air: The complimentary article to the previous one. In a real underground setting, without any airflow system things get pretty manky pretty quickly. And yet players rarely encounter this little problem. Yet the solutions to it, such as chimneys and mechanical pumping systems, can add considerable tactical options to your game which are pretty fun to take advantage of. More fun stuff you usually forget, and which I would rather like to use in the future.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

Part 2/4

Two more NPC classes. The alchemist (Again. Honestly, they're like wizards useless kid brother who you just can't get rid of. Can I come on an adventure this time? No.) and the astrologer. Neither of them are very useful, really. If it weren't for D&D's artificial trade monopolies, they'd be screwed next to wizards and clerics.

Magic items for everyman (sic): Ahh, determining how many magic items characters of a particular level are supposed to have. Another persistent problem that 3rd edition just about managed to solve. This is a pretty reasonable stab at dealing with it, but doesn't have the simplicity of the final solution. Another thing we'll probably be seeing several more tries at over the years.

Up on a soap box: Two smaller rants under this ageis this issue. The first involves creative use of real world principles to strategically counter monsters, such as pouring cold water down the throat of a red dragon. Not sure how much leeway you should give to stuff like that, as D&D shouldn't use real world physics too much. The second is about dealing with high level characters. Retirement, wish wars, way too many save or die effects, deity stalemate, and a constant influx of young guns trying to take on the guys with the big reputations are all ways to keep them from getting complacent. This is why keeping the party together is still useful when at high level. One high level character can still get splatted by a bad save, even if they have 2's in every category, while a team can raise each other and form a multiversal political bloc that keeps the dreaded stasis of competing powers from making things dull. Can't say I'm particularly enthused about either of these articles.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Bell of pavlov? Really. Someone in editing was too busy laughing to realize how dumb that is. Lots of other quirky and jokey items as well, including pet rocks, ruby slippers (a la wizard of oz) and the ring of oak, which is pretty useless to PC's, because all it does is allow dryads to roam beyond the usual distance from their trees. Still, I suppose it's better than only listing items and abilities with a direct combat application. That would get tedious even faster.

The write way to get published: Robert Plamondon and Kim Mohan provide a humorously illustrated example of the submission and editing process, following up on issue 43's Dragon Rumbles. Even experienced authors who've been professionally published regularly need an multiple drafts and an editor to produce work of truly great quality. And once again, the virtues of persistence, revision, and making sure you get paid are emphasized. Being a professional artist is no job for the undisciplined. Once again, this is pretty good advice, regardless of the job. I certainly intend to heed it.

The Rasmussen files: Merle gives us some feedback, rules clarifications, and new stuff on training characters up. Nothing particularly revolutionary here, just the usual sound of a developer chugging away, trying to keep his work growing and promoted.

Leomunds tiny hut: Len talks about missile fire, and includes a new sub-class specializing in them, the Archer. As ever, D&D does not accurately represent reality, and he would like to make it a bit closer. Ranges, cover, rates of fire and disruption of spellcasting all get mentions. And once again, once he starts discussing minutinae, I start zoning out. As you might expect, the new class is an excuse to give loads of bonuses that circumvent the penalties he's just introduced for everyone else. Which is not the kind of behaviour I approve of.
 

pg13

Retired User
I believe (as I recognize the alchemist, astrologer "classes") this is the first issue that I bought when it came out.

(The group I started gaming with handed me a stack of badly photocopied pages from earlier issues...adding to the mystery of this strange new hobby I found myself devoted to...)

It is a far better thing you're doing, (un)reason, than anything I could have ever agreed to do... Enjoying this trip down memory lane. (Roll to save vs. nostalgia!)

pg--seattle
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

Part 3/4

The Dragon Dungeon Design kit: Our big centrepiece this month is lots and lots of cardboard components that you are supposed to cut out and use to make dungeons with. Walls, stairs, treasure chests, tables, torches, lots of things that you'll use again and again. Plus both hex and grid paper for laying your new labyrinths out on. Another thing that's a bit problematic in .pdf, but if you can solve the sizing issues and need for cardstock, you can now print as many copies of this bit as you like, circumventing the limitations they had back then. Which is very nice indeed. More stuff that would still be rather useful today, and if I ever get to run a campaign based around stuff from the magazine, this'll be one of the things I'll use in it.

Minarian Legends: The spotlight this issue falls upon the Dwarves. Their history, their (not particularly nice ) deities, and their conquests and defeats. As ever from Glen, this is a pretty nuanced portrayal, which neither mary-sues them, nor villainises them, and gives their setting individuality without going too far from established fantasy tropes to be unrecognisable. So the usual good quality stuff then.

Simulation Corner: This time, the talk is on how a game can be objectively badly designed. Inconsistencies in the rules, poor organization, tedious and impenetrable legal speak, failure to explain technical terms, and outright errata can all make a game more problematic to play than another. And that even before we get into subjective stuff like catering to particular playstyles. The writer seems to have their head screwed on properly. Now, if they could just apply those principles to D&D :D

Squad Leader: The Germans invaded the Russian cities earlier on in these articles. Turnabout is fair play, as they push back in 1945. More close fighting fun.

Castles Castles Everywhere: Not just a medieval invention, there were tons of castles in roman and older periods too, including plenty of bibilical examples. This article goes into more detail on this matter. As with many things designed for war, they were often kludged designs started in a rush using whatever they had at the time, and then refined into lethally efficient forms. Which conflicts with the tendency of D&D worlds to be stuck in technological pseudo-stasis. Which raises more awkward world design issues you may or may not want to address in your game. Sorry, my mind seems to have drifted, as this is another not particularly good article.

The Electric Eye: More build it yourself programming fun, this time showing you how to create your own random number generator to take the place of physical dice. So long, being restricted to the standard range of platonic solids (and d10's) for your number ranges. If only more games had taken advantage of this. I would like to see more d13 rolls. But then, computer and RPG integration is still an iffy subject, 27 years later. What are we to do.
 

andreww

Soul sucking Lawyer
Validated User
After all, what evil overlord worth their horns would intentionally leave a weakness in their defenses?
I am thoroughly enjoying this trip through gaming history but I do have to pick up on this.

The answer is "all of them".
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

Part 4/4

Hop Hop Hooray: Woo! An article for Bunnies and Burrows. You get an "I've been wondering if they'd mention this" Point, Mr Maxfield. Hmm. Some rather odd ideas here. Rabbits riding hares? Wouldn't that be like humans riding gorillas? With these extras, a well organised team has a good chance of taking on a human and winning. Was this really the intent of the designers? I know rabbits can be pretty vicious, but that may be taking player empowerment at the expense of emulation a little too far. Still, I guess imitating real rabbits too accurately wouldn't be fun.

How to have a good time being evil: Sometimes you don't want to be a hero, you just want to kill stuff and get treasure. Ok, so good adventurers do that as well, but this way you get to ride nightmares, torture your prisoners and stab each other in the back for bigger shares of the loot. Just watch out for hordes of angry villagers. Kill too many, and you won't be able to eat them all. ;) Not a particularly great article of its type, but I'm sure we'll see plenty better as the years go by.

You can jump how far?: Rules for determining exactly how far and high you can jump. A percentile system with a whole load of modifiers, this is another classic D&D example of inventing a whole new subsystem for each special case. Not that it's a bad subsystem in this case, but that's not the point. It still means you have to look the damn thing up.

Reviews: Bloodtree rebellion is a game of guerilla warfare on a far planet. And a pretty good one. But of course, games of asymmetic warfare are not particularly popular, partially due to the shadow of vietnam over american society. Will it be able to overcome that? We shall see.
Space Marines: The second edition of this game is a substantial improvement over the first in terms of rules, but still hampered by uninspired fluff. It's certainly no WH40K, for good or bad. ;)
Grail quest. Arthurian legend gets an adaption for the fantasy trip. Designed for solitare play, this seems to do a pretty good job of providing a thematically appropriate set of encounters for a group of questing knights. But as a solitare game it is a little too heavily dependent on random rolls to create a challenge over tactics.

Dragons bestiary: Last month it was arctic monsters, this time, all the creatures prefer more arid climes. Skyzorr'n are a race of giant anthromorph ants that would make good rivals to thri-kreen, Sand lizards and dust devils are pretty self explanatory. Being grappled by multi-tailed reptiles and suffocated by an annoying elemental that then takes your stuff should keep the characters busy for a while.

Dragonmirth is present. Fineous fingers is not only here, he also gets an advert for a big compilation of all his early issues, plus a new exclusive one. Jasmine's eponymous character finally reveals herself, and has to be rescued straight away.

While the overall product remains pretty well done, the average quality of articles this month doesn't seem to be very good. Maybe they blew all their energy on the christmas one, and so this was filled with the leftovers. Oh well. There's plenty more where this came from.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Due to an unfortunate attack of over snarky tagging on my part, I may be forced to take a break in the near future. Apologies to you guys if that happens, and I'll keep on writing the reviews anyhow, and post them faster when I get back.

edit: phew, :breathes out: Thank god the mods are magnaminous in the face of apology.

edit2: Dear god. First thing I think of in the face of trouble is apologising to the readers of this thread. How sad am I?
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 46: February 1981

Part 1/4

80 pages. A very interesting cover this issue, as Steve Swentson creates an intriguing set of anthromorphs to grace the front pages. They also change their typeface and go from two to three columns per page. Not sure why. No more mapping the dungeons in here, because that job has been taken up by the RPGA and polyhedron. The second best of the dragon will be out soon. And their distribution is expanding again. Which should mean lots more new readers. All pretty positive, despite the rather bad weather.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: Is it ok to photocopy the DM evaluation form? The answer is yes. I know we don't normally allow stuff like that.
A letter correcting the top secret article in issue 44, saying that the name agent 99 gave was just another pseudonym. Hmm. Looks like their reaction time between publishings is getting shorter. You never used to see commentary on things less than 3 months ago.
A letter asking how dwarven paladins are possible, as they gave an example of one in GitE. Answer: they aren't in AD&D, if players were allowed to be one it would unbalance the game. But NPC's can break the rules that the PC's have to stick too. And another person misunderstands the term "The exception that proves the rule." Sigh.
A letter expressing appreciation for the anti-paladin article and asking for more of its type, in particular asking for a bounty hunter class, and mass combat rules. What are the odds someone'll follow up on those requests?
Two letters confirming that contrary to sage advice's statement in issue 42, holy water sprinklers were both maces and guns at times. So there, Mr Niebing. You're the one who needs to do better research. (You still can't have guns in D&D though.)
And finally a letter asking for more clarification on illusion spells, as it's still not clear just how effective belief in an illusion is.

Fiction: The Sorceror's jewel, by John Holmes. The unfortunately named Boinger gets another story. One of those stories that reads like the adaption of an actual play, being pretty faithful to the game rules, and using lots of classic D&D monsters like yellow mold and grey ooze. Fairly amusing, overall.

Crane is what you make of it: A rebuttal to the article in issue 40 on Tribes of Crane, saying that he would have enjoyed it more if he'd engaged in private correspondence with the other players, and done more fighting. Essentially, a case of I'm a satisfied customer, and if you didn't enjoy the game, It's because you were playing it wrong. Which is a refrain I've seen plenty of times on the internet as well, and I'm pretty sure I've used a few times myself. He probably has valid points. But still, $2.50 a move, plus whatever you spend in sending private letters. I'd be leery about that now, even before inflation is factored in. I'm really not convinced it's worth it, particularly compared to the cost of tabletop games.
 
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