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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
Adapt that to gaming. Heroes as celebrities, bards fill the role of YouTube or MySpace. Imagine the party arriving in town, only to be flocked by hordes of gasping and starry-eyed slightly smaller versions of themselves acting like dizzy, excited, gibbering tweens and teenagers.
Its all fun and games untill they start killing you and taking your place. Which explains why so many people stop producing decent work after becoming famous. You say they're not the same, or just producing shallow imitations of what they used to do. Truer than you know. :D It gets really wierd though, when the other dopplegangers don't notice, and start replacing one-another in the same person's role.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 47: March 1981

part 2/4

Creatures from elsewhere: The extraplanar theme continues with a load of new monsters. Wirchler are from gehenna, look like mouths with arms coming out their sides, and have a nasty no save power that's an instawin against anyone who can hear. Take them out hard and fast, or you'll watch your characters slowly die, and even if they're rescued, their ability scores'll be permanently reduced.
Aruchai are from Limbo, and have a lot in common with chaos beasts, but are way way cooler, having an awesome plot hook that makes being killed by one both better and far worse than just dying, while not taking the characters out of play they way being undeadified would. These guys are worth the whole magazine.
The Pheonix is .... You know what it is. Bloody immortal mary-sue bird with the favor of the gods. Virtually impossible to kill, and if you do, you get tortured by the gods, then geased to go back in time and make sure you don't kill it after all. Thankfully they got rid of that bit in the 2nd ed MM entry.
Again, you ought to know what the furies are. They live in tartarus, and torture people who pissed off the olympian gods. They're pretty powerful too, so careful when you mess with them.
Mapmakers are surprisingly adorable. Reptilian creatures from pandemonum, they have a fetish for maps, and their whole existance revolves around making and obtaining them. Which means they can be useful for trading with, but also might nick your stuff showing the way out if you aren't careful. And they are from pandemonium, so chances are the maps they make are oddly designed and filled with elaborations that may not be strictly accurate. Another really cool creature that I wish had made it into future books.
Flard are from nirvana, and exist only to answer questions. Ahh, the omniscient monolith, such an overused archetype.
Sugo were originally created by jubilex, but rebelled and now live in acheron, and show that the conception of this plane still hadn't reach its current state, still being much closer to it's original greek source. Essentially malevolent flumphs, they live in marshy areas, and try and eat passers by. Meh.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: The planar theme continues here. The flute of dismissing gets rid of summoned gribleys, which can be pretty darn usefull.
The staff of ethereal action allows you to hit ethereal creatures, and use Blink as well for some reason. Good for turning the tables on those pesky phase spiders.
Horeseshoes of hades turn a normal mount into a Nightmare. Which is not a good thing, unless you have some means of subduing the nasty bugger quickly.
Syrar's silver sword (another Ed Greenwood mage gets a namecheck.) is another weapon for dealing with those pesky creatures who lurk on co-existant planes and attack you while you can't hit them back. Because everyone hates them, don't they. All in all, this has been a well above average set of items.

Leomunds tiny hut: Len takes a closer look at thief abilities, and their proper application. Thieves should be able to make traps as well as disarm them, sneaking into place is a good way to make maps, so when the full party comes in, they can have more effective plans on how to clear place out. The rest of the stuff isn't very useful, but those two cool bits make up for it.

Giants in the earth: Two women from greek myth get the twinktastic treatment this issue. Camilla from the Aeneid, and Medea from Jason & the argonauts. Although they do both have several abilities at average or below, so I guess opening this series up to the floor has helped a little.

The merry month of mirtul? The Forgotten Realms gets it's first proper named mention as Ed Greenwood talks about the calendar in his own game. He also talks about tailoring the setting in general to be more suitable for creating opportunity for adventures, by making the weather more extreme than on earth, with periods of rapid growth, technological/magical advancement and prosperity, regularly interrupted by freezing winters that cut off any large scale communication or travel for several months a year, and frequent (not so) natural disasters that kill off entire towns or even civilisations, leaving plenty of ruins to investigate. Looks like something close to points of light was part of the Realm's original design. So much for that being a new idea. Now this is a very interesting article, both in its own right and from a historical point of view. And it shows that despite becoming a full setting later, FR had a considerably longer history in the pages of the magazine than dragonlance did. We'll be seeing considerably more on this in the future.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The merry month of mirtul? The Forgotten Realms gets it's first proper named mention as Ed Greenwood talks about the calendar in his own game. He also talks about tailoring the setting in general to be more suitable for creating opportunity for adventures, by making the weather more extreme than on earth, with periods of rapid growth, technological/magical advancement and prosperity, regularly interrupted by freezing winters that cut off any large scale communication or travel for several months a year, and frequent (not so) natural disasters that kill off entire towns or even civilisations, leaving plenty of ruins to investigate. Looks like something close to points of light was part of the Realm's original design. So much for that being a new idea. Now this is a very interesting article, both in its own right and from a historical point of view. And it shows that despite becoming a full setting later, FR had a considerably longer history in the pages of the magazine than dragonlance did. We'll be seeing considerably more on this in the future.
I always loved the hints of the Realms that Greenwood scattered across dozens of Dragon magazine articles. But the boxed set in 1987 was the start of my dillusionment. It wasn't a bad product, in fact it was pretty good, but there was was something lost. The endless catalog of nations, the details on the movers and shakers, the detailed histories. It wasn't just that some of the Earth-analogs like Mulhorand became too transparent. No, it was something more basic. The mystery was starting to be lost. "Here Lie Dragons" was replaced with taxonomies and guidebooks. And then all the succeeding supplements went and killed it dead by hammering out every last detail of the setting in elaborately-interwoven precision. The Forgotten Realms turned from a dark world where unknown threats lie behind every turn of the trail, to something terribly cosmopolitan. More modern, more New York City, than the claustrophobic and wondrous world of the Eddas or the Kalevala where rare and ambiguous heroes quarrel and stand against the night.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
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I always loved the hints of the Realms that Greenwood scattered across dozens of Dragon magazine articles. But the boxed set in 1987 was the start of my dillusionment. It wasn't a bad product, in fact it was pretty good, but there was was something lost. The endless catalog of nations, the details on the movers and shakers, the detailed histories. It wasn't just that some of the Earth-analogs like Mulhorand became too transparent. No, it was something more basic. The mystery was starting to be lost. "Here Lie Dragons" was replaced with taxonomies and guidebooks. And then all the succeeding supplements went and killed it dead by hammering out every last detail of the setting in elaborately-interwoven precision. The Forgotten Realms turned from a dark world where unknown threats lie behind every turn of the trail, to something terribly cosmopolitan. More modern, more New York City, than the claustrophobic and wondrous world of the Eddas or the Kalevala where rare and ambiguous heroes quarrel and stand against the night.
You do realise that's the equivilent of the aforementioned scenesters saying, "I liked them when they were underground, but it's all been downhill since their first album, man. They totaly sold out when Ed Greenwood started letting other people write songs for the band.":D
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
You do realise that's the equivilent of the aforementioned scenesters saying, "I liked them when they were underground, but it's all been downhill since their first album, man. They totaly sold out when Ed Greenwood started letting other people write songs for the band.":D
Well, Ed Greenwood was his own worst enemy sometimes. Anybody remember Spellfire? Or Dragon 110, where it turned out that the muddled old sage just happened to be a 26th level magic-user with all kinds of stats and special powers the PCs just can't have? (Like the Giants in the Earth :p....) I just really liked the spellbooks, and the otyugh, and the hints about Tethyr's lost heir, the pet sea lions, and the 7 swords.

Opening up a setting to other authors means you get some really neat stuff, and some really terrible stuff (like the Avatar trilogy). But that's not really the issue. It's the points of light philosophy. Too much coherent setting-specific detail is a bad thing. A book full of unconnected plot hooks and random magic items and NPC foils and other GM tools is more valuable than a detailed fully-mapped setting with hundreds of well developed NPCs in a web of relationships and centuries of backstory.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 47: March 1981

part 2/4

The rasmussen files: Multiclass characters and their titles and positions in a group. Get levels in all 4 roles, and you can become an Administrator, and start setting missions for other groups. As this offers advice on how to design and run a team of characters as a proper team, this is another article that feels fairly familiar in light of recent events.

Crimefighters: A complete game by David Cook, this is based upon pulp comics and novels, with a particular emphasis on detective stuff. A rather fast and loose system, as you would expect given the theme and space available, with some big rules holes. But still, it's more suited to being bent to various situations than Ringside and Food Fight. At 21 pages, counting the introductory adventure, this is another pretty cool special feature, taking up more than a quarter of the magazine. I suspect we may see a few complaints about this, but I have to applaud them for pushing the envelope again.

The pulps - Paper heroes: Bryce Knorr defends the often shallow and two dimensional characterization in pulp magazines. They may have been mass produced, primarily commercial products, that imitated one another quite a lot, but they still managed to produce lots of cool stuff along the way. And there are substantial cultural parallels betwen the 1930's, and the start of the 80's. Which may explain Indiana Jones' success. A bit of an anticlimax after the last article.

Sage advice: Can paladins associate with neutral goods? (yes, they have good in the description, don't they, ya twit)
How does the range of stuff in inches translate to real distances (1 inch = 10 foot inside or 10 yards outside. But spell areas of effect should stay the same inside or out.)
Is everything in the monster manual a monster, and therefore you can't use speak to animals on it. (No. But giant versions of animals don't count as normal. )
Do PC gnomes get the poison resistance mentioned in the MM? (yes)
I don't understand how shields interact with the armor/to hit table (headdesk headdesk headdesk. How do these people remember to breathe?!)
Can PC's be grey elves or drow? (if your DM allows it. )
Is torture ok for chaotic good characters? (No. If you've got a good reason, (such as if they killed the pheonix :rolleyes: damn deities and their double standards) you might get away with it once or twice, but doing so with any regularity will stop you being good pretty damn quick. )

Reviews: The tendency to put more emphasis on each individual review continues. Robots! is a game of resource management and combat set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of earth, and gets a pretty positive review.
Fast attack boats is a game of er, the 1973 arab-israli naval war, and gets a rather less positive review, with the reviewer critisizing it's dull counters and small play field.
Starfire gets a new edition, which builds nicely on the previous one.
Across the bright face and mission on mithril are a paired set of traveller adventures, set in the spinward marches. One is a planet based trek, while the other is a scout ship based mission. Which gives you a nice set of choices for directions to take your game in.
Research station gamma is another traveller supplement. (they did seem to be releasing quite a lot of them at this point) It's basically a location based module, as was common in this era. Of course, a space station is somewhat different from a dungeon, but I'm sure the overall experience won't be that different.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 47: March 1981

part 4/4

Figuratively speaking: A new column covering miniatures to replace the fantasysmiths workshop, with more emphasis on reviews, and less on customisation. Unfortunately, the bad contrast on the scanning makes most of the photos virtually illegible, which sucks. This month, we get some stuff from Martian metals, a whole load of arthurian models, some dungeon walls, and an evil wizard carried on a litter. Afraid I can't really comment more than that. Hopefully they'll move to colour soon, so I can get decent looks in.

Simulation corner: More on the history of SPI. This focusses on the managerial changes they went through in the past year, and the changes in direction that resulted from that. As in previous articles, they try their best to put a positive spin on everything. Yes, they've cut the number of products they're making in half, but they intend to develop and playtest each one more thoroughly. Whatever you say. I'll be here in pessimist land, because I know you haven't survived to the present day. It's just a question of when you go under. And I won't spoil myself on that just yet.

Squad leader: The 1945 scenarios continue on from last issue, as the russians rape and pillage berlin. Pull out the stops and invoke a whole bunch of special rules, because this is gonna be an epic one. Yet it still fits on half a page. Which is nice for the editors when they need a little something to complete the issue.

The electric eye: This month, they focus on sports video games. Real time joystick controlled games, and strategic simulations both get examined, and several specific examples and companies get mentioned. Not my personal cup of tea, but still quite a well written article. I don't have a problem with this.

Pinsom and jasmine continue to develop. Wormy returns after quite a bit with a fantasy sequence thing unconnected to the main storyline.

A particularly cool back cover this month from Martian Metals, a mini's company, disguised as a newspaper cover. I am quite amused.

This one's pretty good, although not in the articles I was expecting. Funny that, the ones I most enjoyed were the ones they didn't hype so much. Likes and dislikes are subjective things, and obviously I'm not entirely in tune with Kim's mind. But would you want that, anyway? Probably not. If I didn't have my own opinions, this would be a duller series.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 48: April 1981

part 1/4

96 pages. Another april, another load of comic stuff in issue 48+1/2. Phil foglio does another tremendously entertaining cover piece. Meanwhile, the serious special topic this issue is underwater adventuring. But it only has three articles on it. You'd think they could have kept the adventure from number 46 for later, as it would have fit in better here. I guess long term planning is tricky when you've got to make pagecount for a deadline every month. We also see more signs of kim's growing dominance in the editing department, as Jake starts deferring to him, even if it is in jest. Verrry interesting.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: We start with a letter of generalised praise, with particular emphasis on the value for money of getting a whole module, plus loads of other stuff in each issue, especially when compared to the cost of most of the modules currently out there.
A letter criticising the fact that the scale in the Dungeon design kit is not the same as the 1 inch = 10 foot scale that most of the miniatures and game rules use, hurting it's compatibility.
A letter by someone bemoaning the over $400 they've spend on gaming over only 6 months. And that's even before the supplement treadmill became standard. Silly person. You need more willpower.
A letter offering a balanced view on the power gaming debate, saying that there's nothing inherently wrong with high level characters, but they ought to work up to it properly, otherwise they won't be able to use their powers to full efficiency, or have well rounded personalities to match. And in his experience, maturity has surprisingly little correlation with age.

Watery words to the wise: Lots of cool stuff on running coastal and underwater campaigns, and the challenges and opportunities that these present. 3d combat, a fun but tricky business. But for those monsters used to it, land combat would seem horribly constricting tactically, previously easy obstacles becoming insurmountable problems. Which is why sahuguin haven't scoured every coastal village clean. A pretty cool article, well deserving of being this months lead-in one, that reminds you that you don't have to go to other planes to have a very different adventuring experience.

Dragons bestiary continues the underwater theme, with the water horse, (arthurian stickybacked breed) Golden ammonite (no relation to gold dragons, I hope) and sea demons, which aren't actualy demons, just intelligent malevolent giant octopi. No spectacular standout monsters here.

Bazaar of the Bizarre also provides lots of water focused items as well, with 5 boring weapons with extra pluses against some water creature or other, the necklace of air breathing (don't put this on if you can already breathe air, because death by drowning often offends.) and the periapt of protection against vampiric Ixitachital (now how often are you going to encounter one of those) Oh and spongestone, which adds quite a few quirks to the real world item. A decidedly low interest article this time round, given the amount of recycled adaptions in it compared to actual ideas.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 48+1/2

part i/-1^0.5

Dragon mumbles: Our joke articles begin with some incomprehensible gibberish from the editor. Some of it I can translate, but some of it is just stupid for stupids sake. Meh.

Out in limbo: 4 comedy letters. There are no saving throws in school. And someone's found the wand of orcus and would like to return it to its proper owner. Yeah, that'll go well. ;)

Red dragon blues: The filking returns. Please don't sue us, Johnny Cash.

A class that really counts: The accountant. Be very afraid. Thankfully, the rules for it aren't complete, or indeed entirely legitimate, so your players can't ask to play one. Which means you can relax, sorta.

Real life: A minigame. I think the rules for this just about hold together. But you don't want to play it, because it's a very depressing game indeed. Everyone loses. Its just a matter of how long you can keep playing for.

Saturday morning monsters: Bugs bunny and daffy duck, Popeye, Rocky and bullwinkle, and dudley do-right. Just about statistically legitimate, you still don't want to use these guys in your game unless you want your players to hate you forever. Because they're bigger pains in the ass to defeat than the denebian slime devil. It's quite a while still untill who framed roger rabit makes cartoons killable.

The various Dragon comics crossover in puntacular fashion.

Fish, in the eyes of her sweetest melodies, makes for an entertaining nonentity this year. The quality of its cummerbund plucks feathers from my wings, and tears from my toenails. Next year is time dilated to also dilate my eyelids within the month that suceeds the outermost moon of jupiter. Tsk tsk, tanks. You shall learn more of peace when you rust. I anticipate the day you shall be last years golden aniversary.
 
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Ceti

of the Polepack (retired)
Validated User
I recently looked over the Dragon archive and found the April Fool's magazine a waste of paper. If I got them after shelling out money and waiting for a whole month I'd be pissed. But maybe the perception was different at that time?
 
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