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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 50: June 1981

Part 1/4

80 pages. Welcome to a landmark issue, in more ways than one. Both their 50th issue, and their 5th birthday, this means it's time to do a little looking back. My, hasn't the time just flown by. They also have another slew of dragon related articles, as is their habit, and most of the usual suspects show their faces.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter criticizing them for not offering enough material useful to D&D players in issue 46. They also want more wilderness and urban adventures.
Another letter asking for reprints. Which they deny. Even with the massive increase in readership, the logistics involved in reprints make it still not profitable. Just go buy the best ofs instead.
A letter telling a story of another monty haul DM. They aren't going away.
A letter complaining that recent centerpieces have sometimes been off center, so you can't remove them from the magazine cleanly. They apologize, give us permission to photocopy those pages, so you don't have to ruin your magazine to extract them, and promise to do better in the future. How nice of them.
Another letter complaining about how expensive gaming can become.
A letter criticizing the Top secret Module Dr Yes from issue 48. Oh well, can't please everyone.

We also get a nice birthday piccie and get to see the story behind its creation.

Self defense for dragons: Ha ha! This is an article that'll have quite a substantial impact on next edition's dragons. Wing buffets! Kicks! Tail lashes! Scaling damage based upon size. Watch out adventurers, the namesake of the system just got a hell of a lot more badass.

True dragons: Lew Pulsipher also believes dragons as presented in the rules are insufficiently mysterious, magical and badass, and has his own suggestions on how to beef them up and give them more variety. Polymorphing, supernatural terror aura, magic resistance, invisibility detection, again, all suggestions that got incorporated into the next editions dragons. Plus several that didn't, such as anti-magic breath, truenames and custom spell lists. Reminds me of arcana evolved in the way it posits a single race of dragons, each of which has individual powers, rather than dozens of subraces that could never maintain viable breeding populations in an ecology. Again, I quite like most of this.

Hatching is only the beginning: Want to raise a baby dragon? This gives you lots of help, by giving the probabilities that various things will happen, based on how you treat the little nipper. Teach it how to fly and wash itself properly when its young, or it'll have bad habits in those areas for the rest of its life. And watch out, because if you treat it badly, it'll turn on you pretty quickly. Without the inherent sociability of humans, they aren't the kind of creature to put up with abusive relationships. Obviously, using this puts in quite a bit of implied setting and ecology, but I guess you have to make decisions on matters like that. Still, another high quality article, that can be adapted to later editions without too much problem.
 

JollyRB

I'm not armed mister!
Dragon Issue 49: May 1981
Wormy and Fineous Fingers are also here. Jasmine and Pinsom are not, having been unceremoniously cancelled mid-storyline without notice. Not that most people'll realize they're gone for good for a few months, as they don't even mention their absence. What brought that decision on? Were they unpopular, did the artists do something wrong, did they quit in response to having their characters used by J.D in the crossover last issue without permission, did Kim decide to throw his new weight around with some arbitrary sackings? Anyone have any idea at all?
Darlene recently resurfaced (is apparently doing work for Troll Lords) and is dong art again in the gaming industry.

Her website/blog at http://darlenetheartist.com/?p=163 has a bit of her history at TSR if you dig back a few months. There's some back story on the Jasmine strip as well and talk of finishing up the story line and publishing it as a trade.

update: this link will take you right to the backstory - http://darlenetheartist.com/?page_id=455
 
Last edited:

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Darlene recently resurfaced (is apparently doing work for Troll Lords) and is dong art again in the gaming industry.

Her website/blog at http://darlenetheartist.com/?p=163 has a bit of her history at TSR if you dig back a few months. There's some back story on the Jasmine strip as well and talk of finishing up the story line and publishing it as a trade.

update: this link will take you right to the backstory - http://darlenetheartist.com/?page_id=455
Thanks a lot. This kind of thing is one of the reasons why I started this thread. Its interesting to see where people are now, and what went on behind the scenes of the books we love.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 50: June 1981

Part 2/4

The kzinti: They got into the Star trek cartoon. Now Larry Niven's misogynistic alien felines make their way into the D&D multiverse (as usual, a wizard did it.) They go into a lot of detail on their social structure and ecology (because as prime predators, they need quite an infrastructure to support them. If worst come to worst, they can just butcher their troll slaves and eat them repeatedly and let them regenerate.) A well written article, although it does come a little close to mary-sueing its subject as badasses. Still, they did end up losing to humans in the original stories, and he doesn't forget why. You'll just have to make sure the PC's work hard so they don't get outshone by the antagonists.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Only one item this month. However, it is an exceedingly powerful item, with a long and interesting history and set of powers. Barlithian's Magical Mirror. Like many artifacts, though, it'll often be more trouble than it's worth to own, with all manner of strange creatures coming to look at their reflections in it. Maybe it would be best to sell it on. After all, there'll be no shortage of creatures willing to pay ridiculous prices for it, not know what they're getting themselves into.

The 'zines: A big load of fanzines get reviewed this month. Which is intriguing. Nice to see them acknowledging the other people trying to get into their field. I wonder if this'll become a regular feature. Like the computer game reviews, they use a system where each magazine gets marks out of 10 in 4 different fields, allowing you to make a better value judgement than just reading the descriptions.
Abyss is a short AD&D focussed zine with a tendency to go into arcane and complex subjects that they can't really do justice to in the time they have. Still, that does mean they're enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the subjects. But when you get too geeky, its hard to get mass appeal.
Alarums and Excursions is the top amateur press association zine, with a circulation of around 500, and regular monthly issues. Obviously pretty well produced, its main flaw is a tendency towards smugness and back-patting commentary between the regular writers. To cover their costs, they charge the writers to get their stuff published in it. Which does suck a little, but thats working in the amateur world for you. :(
The beholder is a D&D zine that is good on campaign building, but lacks exceptional standout articles.
The lords of chaos has lots of cool ideas from enthusiastic writers, but most of it is from peoples home campaigns, and may not be that adaptable to your game.
Morningstar is from australia, and is consistent and reliable, but not exceptional.
Pandemonium is a magazine based in new york, with lots of communication between industry insiders in it that will probably be impenetrable to an outsider looking in.
Quick quincy Gazette (a rather silly name) is largely written and run by its editor. While short, it packs lots of little tidbits within to snack upon and put in your campaign.
The stormlord is a small magazine that probably isn't quite worth its cost.
Trollcrusher is a british magazine that is organized as a series of columns, largely written independently by its various writers.
The wild hunt is a debate focussed magazine, doing the kind of thing that would be handled by forums nowadays in terms of critical scrutiny of products and ideas. Which means it may be a bit highbrow for the average reader.
Zeppelin has been around even longer than Dragon itself (1974). Made in canada, it covers a wide range of stuff in both wargaming and roleplaying, and is fairly professionally produced.

Don't look! Its A...: Lew Pulsipher gets another article published this month, this time on the intricacies of adjudicating gaze attacks. The principle of firghting them while not looking directly at them is an old one, as old as the idea of monsters with gaze attacks itself. So he creates a fairly simple formula that determines the odds of accidentally looking at at their face when trying to fight them based on ability scores, level, distance, equipment, etc. In this case it's a d20, roll under one. Most of it seems pretty reasonable, although I'd put more emphasis on level and less on dexterity. But thats the kind of tedious quibbling I sneer at in the letters page, so I won't dwell on that.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 50: June 1981

Part 1/4

80 pages. Welcome to a landmark issue, in more ways than one. Both their 50th issue, and their 5th birthday, this means it's time to do a little looking back. My, hasn't the time just flown by. They also have another slew of dragon related articles, as is their habit, and most of the usual suspects show their faces.
For me it's a landmark because I saw it at our town's bookstore and bought it at a whim because it had a dragon on the cover (I was 12). This caused me to go looking for D&D to understand what I bought, and thus began my 26 years of gaming so far.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 50: June 1981

Part 3/4

The glyph of Cerilon: Another regular writer gets another article published. Larry DiTillio expands on the list of effects available to glyphs of warding. This also includes quite a bit of implied setting, as he also gives them flavourful names and pictures of what the various glyphs look like. As is often the case, it's better to go for the more inventive effects than the straight damaging ones, as they are substantially more dangerous overall, plus the players reactions will be more amusing than if it were just a bit of burning they can heal no trouble. (disintegrate all paper items on in their possession. Muahahahaha. Now you have no map of the way out, and no spellbook. Shrunken to 6 inches tall. Random teleportation. Memory loss.) They'd never allow much of this stuff in more recent editions. Oh well, nothing's stopping me from playing older ones save finding a group of players. I know there's still plenty of people around who enjoy this stuff, especially when their players can learn it as well.

Thieves do it in the shadows? Someone's using that joke in an actual advert?! Man, that is such a cheap shot. My eyes, they are rolling. Have an anticookie

The Chapel of Silence: This months module is only 8 pages long, a bit of a letdown after the more epic recent features. Designed for low level characters, it's the kind of 1-3 session dungeon you can drop pretty much anywhere. They forgot to clear out the railroady tournament intro that forces the players into the plot, and there are are several horrible no save effects, and monsters which a party of the suggested level won't be able to beat by straight combat, instead having to use the items found earlier on in the adventure cleverly to have a decent chance. So another frustrating dungeon that you have to really work at to survive and solve then, because they wanted a big chunk of the people attempting it to fail outright. It also has several awkwardly written bits that leave it unclear as to what the author actually intended for certain sections. So all in all, it is not a very good module, for either the players or the DM. I think you can safely skip this.

Minarian legends: Gobins! Even these guys get a balanced account in Minaria. Yes, they do eat people from other races. But they also love their children, and have a fascinating cultural and economic setup (which includes democratic elections in a world still largely governed by heriditary monarchies.) And really, given the things humans eat if we have the chance, are we actually any better? Another high quality article full of setting ideas to steal.

The ups and downs of riding high: Flying mounts! One of the things that really changes the overall tone of a campaign, moving it from the mundane towards the awesome. Of course, there are quite substantial logistical issues in obtaining and caring for a flying mount, and that's what this article is here to help with. Intelligent vs nonintelligent mounts. One big mount for everyone or smaller ones for each person, good or evil, each has their own advantages and disadvantages, and optimal ways of caring for them. A solid, but not exceptional article that seems pretty well thought out.

Up on a soapbox: One of those articles that attempts to define the proper way a GM should run their game. This particular soapboxer seems to fall on the firm side of things, encouraging making a ruling and sticking to it, ignoring all further complaints from the players, letting the dice fall as they may, so people know that their life is always on the line, but the GM isn't cheating to make it easier or harder than it should be, and making sure that digression and messing around while the game is on is kept to a minimum. Oh, and don't run games way into the night. Tired players and GM's get cranky and make mistakes. One of those articles that generally seems reasonable, but every now and then throws up something that makes me go man what, and reminds me that the fashion for what is commonly considered good GM'ing has changed quite a bit since then, particularly as regards frequency of character death and use of preprepared modules. They may be starting to build familiar settings, but we're still very much in old skool territory in many ways.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 50: June 1981

Part 4/4

Figuratively speaking only gets a single page this month. And once again, the scanning leaves me unable to really get a good picture of the models. You could definitely have done a better job of this, WotC.

Reviews: The fury of the norsemen is a fun little boardgame of rape and pillaging. Slightly stacked in the favour of the viking players, but you'd expect that, wouldn't you.
The morrow project is another post-apocalyptic game where you play cryogenically frozen soldiers trying to reclaim an earth full of mutants and shit. Technically a roleplaying game, it seems more oriented towards tactical combat situations than character development, with a heavy emphasis on realistic weaponry. Still, if you want a less zany post apoc game than gamma world, this could do the job. After all, roleplaying is more a matter of a good group than system.

Dragons bestiary: Giant vampire frogs! Adapted from an article in OMNI magazine. And definitely not written by PETA girl. :D Man, these things are pains in the ass. One of those monsters which grabs onto you, meaning any attacks against it have a good chance of hitting the victim instead. And there are few things more annoying than being accidentally killed by another PC. One of those monsters designed to annoy players as much as they are to fight characters.

Simulation Corner: More talk on the cold hard economics of being a professional game designer, this time from the perspective of a company owner. The need for starting capital to get the first games designed and advertised, the question of mail order vs retail distribution, and the respective benefits and drawbacks of each. ( a question that is being seriously revisited in the modern day, as the internet makes direct ordering a far more viable option. ) The problem of offering too many discounts and freebies and undercutting your profits. All stuff that is relevant for virtually any business in any field. Just because this is a labour of love, don't get the idea that working in gaming won't be bloody hard work.

The electric eye: More on choosing your computer properly. Computers are changing rapidly, and dropping in price, even though virtually everything else is going up, so you might want to hold off on buying one until the market is a little more stable (but don't keep doing it, or you'll be waiting 30 years at least ;) ) Look out for hidden costs, and don't buy any old books about computers, because they'll be useless. Once again we are reminded how much things have changed in this area. But other things are still the same, such as the tricks people try to sell you things.

Dragonmirth is here, and really rather amusing. What's new has a failure of artwork, and resorts to the old tricks Dirt used, turning out the lights, and recycling pictures. Fineous fingers gets King Kong in to help him flush out those halflings. And Wormy reveals the secret of how he got his treasure hoard. And it's a doozy of a revelation that'll be important for the rest of the run. Feel the meta.

I think they've just about pulled off making this a proper celebratory issue. A combination of looking back, bringing in familiar faces, and trying new things. There are still a few dull articles, but I suspect that'll be the case for the rest of the run, as they're too big and diverse now for every article to please everyone.
 

atonal chaotic

Retired User
Part of me would be amused if this thread caused an ancient multi-issue Dragon Forum argument to be revived by the original participants. I wonder how many of the old Dragon article writers and forum writers are still involved in gaming in some capacity or another?
 

TGryph

Dire Halfling
Validated User
Part of me would be amused if this thread caused an ancient multi-issue Dragon Forum argument to be revived by the original participants. I wonder how many of the old Dragon article writers and forum writers are still involved in gaming in some capacity or another?
Well, I had four articles published (beginning with #133 I think, so be kind when you get there :)

I still game avidly!

TGryph
 
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