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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)

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Making the Legend
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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?
There are a quite considerable number of people from the old skool who are not only still gaming, but registered on this forum. I do hope however, that time and the changing of editions has blunted peoples fervour about the more controversial topics of the old rules and settings.
Well, I had four articles published (beginning with #133 I think, so be kind when you get there :)
Certainly not. :p I shall endeavour to treat all articles with the same degree of fulsome praise, merciless mockery or utter disinterest as they merit, regardless of who the writer is or if the writer is present here or not. ;) I gave Old Geezer and GestaltBennie no special treatment, and you shall get none likewise. :D I have a reputation to maintain, you know. ;)


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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.

WOW, I remember purchasing this issue! The 'Zines article only did the small guys. Notice, nothing about the White Dwarf.

I'm going to have to start at the beginning of this thread. My first Dragon Magazine purchase was issu #25 as that was the first issue to show up at the hobby store about 40 miles from my home back in '79 (about two years after I started playing OD&D).

Luckily, I have the Dragon MAgazine Archive CD-ROMs, so no digging through the acid free boxes in my basement.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 51: July 1981

Part 1/4

100 pages. Shouldn't you have done the beefing of the page count last issue? Oh well. Better late than never. This issue is a second traveller special, with 7 articles devoted to it. (which has absolutely no connection to the fact that The Space Gamer's most recent issue was also a traveler special, honest. We're not taking bribes from GDW and Marc Miller either) Plus another wonderfully weird game from Tom Wham. Lots of other returning things this issue. The band is all together, and they're playing some pretty tight grooves. So lets let them rock.

In this issue:

The D&D computer labyrinth game from mattel now available in all good toy stores. Batteries not included. Pieces not edible. Please do not introduce my little pony crossovers to the game.

Out on a limb: Len rebutts the letter in issue 49 attacking his archer class. It turns out he's a longbow fanboi and crossbow h8er, which is why he doesn't give halflings a bonus as archers.
Two letters, (plus plenty more that weren't printed) criticizing the samurai article from issue 49. Why am I not surprised. Yeah, they weren't what you would expect to go under that name, are they. Which Kim does acknowledge. But they stand by it in terms of quality and playability.
A letter from the designer of fury of the norsemen comments on last issues review (man, they really are speeding up their turnaround time) of his game. And he also takes the time to give us some errata. How nice of him.
Two letters commenting on the AD&D exam from issue 46.
And finally, a letter requesting that they go back to giving modules separate page numberings, so they can be removed without the magazine looking messy. Yeah, I'd prefer that as well.

Make your own aliens: yay. Yet more random generation tables. What a wonderful and original idea [/sarcasm] Still like regular character generation in traveller, half the fun is seeing what you end up with and trying to make sense of it. And playing a three armed, two headed, parthenogenic creature with ultraviolet vision, eyes on its hands, ears on its legs, sonar, perfect memory, and a fetching red and yellow scale pattern could be pretty fun, in the right kind of game. But watch out for those damn speciesists. Its not always easy being green.

Plotting a course for choosy players: Part of the idiosyncratic fun of traveller was its lifepath system. But some people would prefer more choice over their character development. This system doesn't eliminate the randomness, but does give you the ability to sway the crucial dice rolls at times. The odds of getting everything you want are still stacked against you though, just like real life. Lots of dull tables in here.

New ideas for old ships: Sometimes you can't afford to buy exactly the ship you want, so you get what you can and then jury rig it to your needs. Sometimes a pre-owned ship'll come with some of these modifications. Roll on these tables if you want to add a little unpredictability to your second hand purchases. Yes, more random tables. It is traveller. What were you expecting, chicken marengo? A nice shower and a jog before brunch at a little restaraunt I know? No, you'll have random tables, and you'll like it.

In defense of computers: Man traveller computers really do look anachronistic these days. And it looks like even back in the day, people were picking holes in what their reasonable capabilities should be. And this article tries to defend this. And does a reasonable job, given what they knew at the time. In hindsight though, this is pretty laughable. Reality has simply moved on too much.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 51: July 1981

Part 2/4

Planet parameters: Guidelines for determining a planets approximate gravity, mass, rotational period, size, etc, based on real world figures. Of course, you are free to deviate from that if it would make things more interesting, as planets are hardly homogenous. But at least this'll give you a solid grounding in real world physics to work from.

Masers and cameras: Stats for a couple of new pieces of equipment that you may find useful in combat and reconnaissance. I think they're starting to struggle a bit and are just putting any old submission they can get to fill out the page count.

The miller milk bottle: Ookay. We've reached the final article in the traveller section at last . And it looks like they're really reaching to think of things to put in there. This final article covers the many uses of the humble milk bottle, for some reason. (Yeah, I'm baffled too) Almost as many as those douglas adams found for the towel. So remember to bring one with you, mmkay. It could save your life.

The winged folk: Oh man. Now here's a classic example of a mary sue race if ever there was one. The winged folk, also known as Al karak elam, long lived prettyboys and girls with minimum attributes of 12 or higher in every single ability score, pretty good level limits for the era, and lots of general niftyness without many drawbacks. Any DM who lets their players play one deserves everything they get. Thank god wingfic has ruined my ability to ever take stuff like this seriously again.

Leomund's tiny hut: This month, len gives us rules for playing 0th level characters, and the training they need to go through to reach 1st level. In multiple stages, covering every special ability, each of which requires months of training. For when playing 1st level characters trudging through the mud and facing goblins in dank little moldy caves isn't disempowering enough for you. A far cry from the later BD&D approach (as soon as an 0th level hireling earns an experience point, they get to choose a class straight away) I don't disapprove of this as much as I thought I would, as it is pretty well done. But I still wouldn't want to play in a game that includes this stuff for more than a one-shot. 1st level characters are more than weak enough for my tastes.

The worshippers of Ratar: A Runequest article about the aforementioned god. A somewhat secretive cult of magic, they seem designed as antagonists, as the default setup has them infiltrating the government of a city and taking it over covertly. Yes, it might be an old chessnut, but thats because its a good one. Mechanically it seems reasonable, as far as I can tell.

A new breed of bug: A new unit for Metagaming's Chitin, the wargame of competing bug hives. The low hacker, designed to increase the role of stealth, defense and reconnaissance. Another article that seems reasonable enough from what I can tell without knowing the precise details of the rules.

It's not easy being good: Ahh, paladins. One of the most problematic classes in the game. Unless the GM and player are on the same page when it comes to what behaviour constitutes lawful good, there will be problems. Because being stripped of your powers when you don't feel you deserve it sucks. That and its a hard line between don't be stupid and foolhardy, and you must spend your existence promoting law and good and smiting evil wherever it may be found. Roger Moore's opinion on this subject is that moral relativism does not have a place in D&D, drugs and casual sex are not lawful good behaviour, full stop, as they can have unfortunate concequences that gets in the way of being ready to go out and do good at all times; and the paladins code should be pretty strictly enforced. (and so should the anti-paladins, by the way. One act of genuine generosity, selflessness or compassion, and you're out. ) If they look like they're about to stray, heavy handed hints from the GM should be used to make sure they realize their god disapproves. And if they go through with it, sometimes they'll just be smitten and killed outright on top of losing their powers. Which isn't very nice, is it.

Thou shalt play this way: The paladin pontification continues. Robert Bezold is rather more constructive in his approach to defining what paladins should and shouldn't do, setting out a sample paladins code in the form of the ten commandments. Yes, it may be another cliche, but drawing on the christian tradition is easy to relate to, even for those of us who don't subscribe to it, simply because of familiarity via exposure. You want to invent a whole pantheon of religions and their customs that have nothing in common with real world ones, be my guest.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 51: July 1981

Part 3/4

Search for the emperor's treasure: Tom Wham presents this months centerpiece, a somewhat comical fantasy boardgame. Will you return the emperors treasure to him, or keep it for yourself? Where could it be hidden? etc etc. Once again he's come up with the goods. If only he'd managed to come up with them a month earlier, so we could have a proper birthday game instead of a half-assed railroady module.

A part of the game: A piece of fiction by Darren Schweitzer. Never trust the things you see in desert oases. Even if the illusion doesn't fade straight away, you never know what horrible stuff might really be behind the pretty image. A nicely dark little story I thoroughly enjoyed.

Con season is coming up, so we get lots of stuff on what's happening and when.

Figuratively speaking is back to two pages this issue. To go with the theme, they're concentrating on sci-fi appropriate mini's such as spaceships and soldiers.

The electric eye: Wouldya like ta take a survey? It'll help us know what to put in future issues. Aw, go on, goon goan gowan Go ON!

The world of beysycx? I don't remember that one. Looks like another advert for a D&D compatible 3rd party product. Anyone got any info on this?

The rasmussen files: Lots of new courses and a few new traits this month. Although do you really want to be colour-blind, deaf, know what your blood group is, etc? I think those definitely fall under the category of unnecacary crunch. Having to spend months of downtime learning new things does rather get in the way of adventuring. Did len and merle work together at some point, as they seem to be of similar minds on the matter of additional crunch.

Dragon's bestiary: Two rather badly named monsters this issue. Darkdwellers are basically smart trolls with the special mining powers of dwarves who ride carnivorous dinosaurs into battle. Whether that is awesomely metal or deeply cheesy and unimaginative is for you to decide. Pirahna bats are another D&D hybrid monster in classic format, and do exactly what you would expect given their component creatures, fly around, swarm you and strip all the flesh from your body. What a lovely way to go. Lets hope they don't learn how to hide in shadows and develop a communal hive mind. ;)

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
RPGnet Member
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The miller milk bottle: Ookay. We've reached the final article in the traveller section at last . And it looks like they're really reaching to think of things to put in there. This final article covers the many uses of the humble milk bottle, for some reason. (Yeah, I'm baffled too) Almost as many as those douglas adams found for the towel. So remember to bring one with you, mmkay. It could save your life.
Quite possibly, the weirdest Dragon article I ever read. Utterly could not understand the point of it. I've always assumed it was intended as humor... of some sort... even though it wasn't very funny. As a young boy, it was my first inkling that game designers might not be cool, but might actually be... nerds.

I kind of imagined Mark Miller doing that nose-snorting laugh from Revenge of the Nerds while writing it and congratulating himself on how clever he was. I just wish he'd explained the joke. 'Cause I still don't get it.

Those new bugs were pretty well balanced for Chitin. Unfortunately the game itself wasn't terribly compelling -- played it once or twice, then lost its appeal, alas. Never heard of beysycx, though.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 51: July 1981

Part 4/4

Minarian legends: A story of the fairies of minaria, the Golglio favre and Ta-botann, and how schardenzar, a half-fae, became another great hero and sorcerer. Full of classic tropes such as the stolen fairy bride who leaves her husband if he violates a particular commandment, and enemies who lose their power if prevented from touching the element they are bonded with, this is another strong addition to the mythology of Divine Right.

Reviews: The sci-fi theme continues in this section, with lots of traveller focussed stuff. Triplanetary is a board game of interplanetary conflict, with a exceedingly good system for handling the way space travel works in a form that is realistic, but not too complicated to make a fun game, and can handle a wide range of scenarios, including plenty of scope for player designed ones.
Traders and gunboats is another traveller supplement (the 7th official one, man, marc could really churn them out back in the day) focussing upon more starships, and the things they get up to as they explore the universe.
Ley sector is a judges guild supplement for Traveller detailing an area of space and the planets and creatures within. Which like any module, is pretty usefull for when the players want to go somewhere you haven't detailed yourself yet.
Fenris and Tethys are two starship plans by FASA, also intended for use with Traveller. Looks like lots of companies were producing supplements for the game. They have detailed ship plans and sample NPC's running them, so they can also be dropped into your game to fight, buy or negotiate with easily enough.

Whats new is starting to get into its stride. Fineous racks up the tension another notch. Wormy gets spectacularly extraplanar. The rest of dragonmirth trundles onwards.

An issue that has considerably more for other systems than D&D, and makes me wonder about the wisdom of posting this thread in the d20 forum. They still had lots of non D&D stuff when I started reading, which means they're likely to keep this policy for at least the rest of the 80's. And it would be a shame if people interested in traveller, runequest or marvel faserip (for example) missed it because they never look in here.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 52: August 1981

Part 1/4

84 pages This month, clerics get the spotlight upon them. And I'm guessing they'll be running through the other classes in the near future, as its the kind of topic that's always good to fill out a load of articles with every few years, like women in gaming.

In this issue.

A Dungeons & Dragons adventure. Oh god, I remember seeing these adverts being mocked. A jackalwere! Don't look in it's eyes or you'll sleep forever! So this is when they start. I get the impression that we'll be seeing more in this series in the near future. Honestly, this is preaching to the choir. You do not need to run these adverts in this magazine. Concentrate more on TV and stuff, getting it out there.

Out on a limb: A letter criticizing issue 49 for putting a big interview in the middle, rather than more modules. You ain't gonna be happy with this months issue either then.
Another letter criticizing issue 49, this time for focussing too much on convention stuff.
A letter praising the interview from issue 49, and asking for more. Because they do so love presenting contrasting viewpoints.
A letter from someone who worked his characters up to high level the hard way, and resents being lumped in with the monty haul crowd, or being asked to retire their character. They also object to making deities untouchably powerful, particularly considering the number of real world myths where a mortal manages to somehow get the better of a god. It makes for better stories when gods aren't untouchable, as comparing greek and norse myth to the bible demonstrates.
A letter from someone who wants articles to be less DM focussed, and more useful to the players. After all, they make up a far bigger proportion of people roleplaying.

The role of the cleric: Or, Verily, Archbishop Turpin kicketh righteous posterior. Why should D&D clerics not behave likewise? Know they not the tales of heroic priests to draw from? Or those of adventurous shamen who outsmarted the spirits and monsters bedeviling their lands. It is most demeaning to see the glorious servants of gods treated as mere medics and second string fighters or wizards. Be we weak? Be we restricted to pseudochristian dogma? I say thee NAY! We will have respect as befits our station. We will smite those who oppose us. We will not rest until it is proven that clerics are deserving of a place in adventuring parties to a degree matching any fighter or thief. Did I mention the massive hard-on for Archbishop Turpin, by the way? As usual, the themed section comes out with its biggest gun first. And quite an impressive ...... weapon it is too. Ok, you can put it away now. No, Really. Put it away. I don't care how much epic poetry you read me, I don't swing that way. Thank you.

This land is my land: Hmm. This is very interesting. Should the power of a cleric be influenced by the amount of power his deity has in an area? Quite possibly. But probably not quite to the extent this article posits, as it'd mainly benefit stay at home clerics and hinder adventuring ones. Which would not be useful or fun from a PC's point of view. This kind of thing is ok when you're going extraplanar, at which point things should be epic, weird and stacked against you, but not for normal adventures.

The sense of sacrifices: Even good gods like receiving gifts. (including sacrifices of sentient beings it seems, as long as they're of an alignment opposed to the deities. That's a little dubious. Another example of the double standards applied to the morals of deities.) If you give them something special, they might do so in return, granting a miracle above and beyond the usual spells. Don't take it for granted though, and don't give them the wrong stuff. You are their servant, they are not yours. A bit of a filler article, really.
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