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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)

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Lord Mhoram

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He's got a lot to kick about: An extensive article about the flaws of the monk, exactly how and why he is underpowered compared to other character classes, and then setting out to fix this. Hey, power creep! Next thing you know, everyone'll want some. Another example of give them a new power at every level based design, that I'm pretty sure overcompensates, making them too powerful. I am rather dubious about this one.
That one was reprinted in a best of compilation, and we actually used that writeup as the default monk for nearly a decade.

Good to see stuff I know starting to come up in these. Pretty soon we get to mags I've read (I have the compilation CDs, but I haven't really read the stuff I didn't have as paper issues).

As usually keep up the good work, always entertaining.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 53: September 1981

part 2/4

Another new class, The Oracle, gets a writeup. (well, its a bit too soon for a fourth witch or alchemist class) Another one that seems rather unsuited to adventuring, given the nature of their powers, and involves a load of implied setting stuff that falls apart all too easily if looked at hard. Frankly, given how much more specific and reliable the divination powers PC spellcasters have are, this is rather pointless. Vague predictions of the future don't work well in RPG's anyway, given how big a part randomness plays in the outcome. I really don't approve.

Understanding Armory: Iiiits Mr Pulsipher again! He is getting a lot of articles published lately. This time, he's talking about heraldry. It's development, conventions, and the legalities around it. Which could be a dull topic, but lew manages to keep it interesting. It's just another part of making a rich detailed world that feels real.

Some universal rules: Speaking of creating your own world, Roger Moore goes into some more general discussion on doing just that. Interestingly, it seems like playing the same characters under different DM's, who would then take the game in very different directions, was more common back then. He's not that keen on that, and would prefer characters who are properly integrated into a single world, playing a consistent storyline. Of course, to achieve that, you need to make up a world. The rest of the article is devoted to details on one of his own recent campaign worlds, (Well, Ed's doing it, so why shouldn't Roger?) and ways of getting characters from one universe to another. Another perfectly decent article from another of our reliable regulars.

Up on a soapbox: Oooh. Disabilities and roleplaying. A pretty important topic I'm surprised it's taken them this long to get around to covering. (and they still haven't got around to race and gaming. What's up with that?) A person with cerebral palsy gives her account of becoming a gamer, and the difficulties she faces in things other people take for granted, such as rolling dice and writing stuff on the character sheet. Man, escapism is harder than you think, when your body doesn't work properly. (And even that's not as big a problem as trying to play with the mentally disabled, as I know from personal experience (and would rather not repeat)) A pretty strong article which gives us a good picture of the problems some people have to face, and how lucky the rest of us are.

Giants in the earth is replaced by Larger than life, which seems to do much the same thing, only in a more compact format, and focussing on even more overpowered characters, as they are explicitly intended to be on a deity level of power. They start by giving us the Bogatyrs of the Russian Byliny stories, and many of their enemies, including one would go on to enjoy solo success in future products. Baba Yaga. This is intriguing, because it's a set of myths I was entirely unaware of before now. Not sure if I support the overall idea of this, but at least they've got off to a strong start.

The Garden of Nefaron is this months centerpiece module. We're back to a full 16 pager here. And very distinctively, it's an around name level module aimed at evil and neutral parties, rather than the usual do-gooders, featuring heavy use of psionics. Which is interesting. Nice to see them catering to a different kind of party, for a change. Modules should have plenty of variety.


Despair Shouter
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That one was reprinted in a best of compilation, and we actually used that writeup as the default monk for nearly a decade. .
Yup. This was also our monk version of choice for five years. In our experience the class wasn't really overpowered, certainly nowhere near the druid. To be fair, most of the time we used a lot of Unearthed Arcana stuff, so the other classes were beefed up a bit, as well.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 53: September 1981

part 3/4

The rasmussen files: Merle gives us a load of Gming advice, in response to letters recieved. How to deal with players who treat missions like a dungeon crawl, rather than an espionage mission, and start killing everything in sight; and how to keep players from just having whatever equipment they can afford, regardless of its appropriateness to the current mission. Yeah, he really isn't into the cinematic approach, is he.

Dragon's Bestiary: This months monsters are the Argas, super lawful good lizard creatures who eat precious metal and drain magic items. Good thing they're on our side, because you'd hate to have them as enemies. Narra are also exceedingly moral, close relations of shedu and lammasu, only with bulls bodies instead, they can be both effective guards and healers, and are quite happy to do so if asked nicely by people of the right alignment. Nice to see a few more additions to the forces of good, they're so outnumbered in D&D. Our final monster this month is the oculon, a weird rubbery construct, with an eye on a long stalk. Don't ask me why a wizard would want to make something like that? I suspect by the time you get to 18th level you've long exhausted mundane forms of entertainment, and need to go for ever more esoteric things just to get any pleasure out of life. :eyelid twitches:

Leomund's tiny hut: Len looks at another part of D&D design that he considers flawed, that of opening doors. It makes no sense for all doors to be just as easy to open. The solution he comes up with is fairly elegant. Give doors a strength rating, and compare it to the strength of the person trying to open it to determine the odds. He also looks at the magical means of penetrating (and reinforcing) a stronghold. To top it off, he also gives us the method for building a teleport pod network, for those wizards who want to get around their home faster, and drop unwanted guests who try to use it in the shark pit. Which is all pretty neat, and the kind of stuff that can be applied to actual play quite easily.

How to give disease a fighting chance: Clerics curing any diseases you're confronted with too easily? Make the diseases so badass that only a cleric of high enough level can fix them. Another generic nerfbat article. Yawn.

The ways of the Triffids: John Wyndhams classic plant monsters get the D&D treatment. Like the kzinti one a few months ago, this is a pretty detailed account from an obvious fanboy. Instant death and blinding if they hit you requiring separate saves to avoid? That's rather a lot of overkill, and would result in quite a lot of unhappy players. But not as many as a properly played beholder ;) Don't mess with them.

Merchants deserve more too: Oh noes. All the other traveller career paths have got expansions in supplements by now, but merchant's haven't. We must rectify this forthwith! And lo, it was done. On to the next article.

Simulation corner: part 2 of the game design series talks about building a model of whatever it is you want to emulate, and how to go about this. How much compromise between accuracy and speed of play are you willing to make? Is game design primarily an art or a science? Are you sure you want to go for realism anyway? Careful you don't delve into too much theory wank and get nothing done.

Mr Teufel

RPGnet Member
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...Our final monster this month is the oculon, a weird rubbery construct, with an eye on a long stalk. Don't ask me why a wizard would want to make something like that? I suspect by the time you get to 18th level you've long exhausted mundane forms of entertainment, and need to go for ever more esoteric things just to get any pleasure out of life. :eyelid twitches:
I dunno. Have you seen how popular the Spore Creature Creator is? :D

Steven Howard

Retired User
Defining and realigning the monk: More monk related pontification, this time focusing more on their position in the game world. Particular attention is given to the problem of how they should behave, and the logistics of their upper heirachy, how the upper level monks are supposed to deal with both training new monks, and getting more experience so they can challenge their superiors and move upwards. The author use some decidedly dubious statistics to try and justify how this could work. Which really just proves how full of holes the D&D implied setting was. Its no wonder they got rid of monks in 2nd edition if they were this problematic to deal with.
I haven't seen this in ages, but I'm sure it's horrible. I was 16, which means I'd taken less than one year of high school math at that point, so it's unsurprising that the statistics don't work.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 53: September 1981

part 4/4

Junta needs more instability: The game of corrupt african dictators looting their country and brining it to ruin (my, how topical. Another thing that's changed depressingly little in 30 years) gets a load of houserules from Glenn Rahman, in an attempt to make things more dynamic. As this is another game I've never heard of before, I can't comment on their effectiveness, but since this is Glen we're talking about, they're probably pretty well thought out. The writing is certainly as high quality as ever from him.

The electric eye: My god. Computer controlled models being used in movies for quicker, more realistic effects. New home computers with 16k of memory! Three inch thick tv screens! You could almost carry these things around. Maybe you could sit them on your lap. Hmmm. This has definite potential. ;) Oh, and here's some errata. At only half a page, this months column feels a bit underdone. Well it is just a load of random bit's he couldn't fit in other articles. Still more entertaining than many long pontifications on single subjects, though.

Coppercon, urcon, rheincon, babel conference. That's a lot of amusingly named conventions in the near future. :D

The dragon's augury: Stalin's Tanks is yet another WWII game, based around the eastern front, and as you might guess, primarily focussing on individual level combat between armoured vehicles. Not particularly realistic, and plagued by typos, it still manages to be a fairly fun game.
Warlock, a card game of dueling wizards, gets avery short and not particularly impressed review. It's probably too expensive for the amount of entertainment provided to be worth it.
A house divided is based around the american civil war, and it yet another reasonably fast moving game to spend an evening on.

Dragonmirth is here. Fineous fingers and what's new are present. Sex and D&D is once again cancelled, this time due to dragon infestation. How are they going to get out of this one?

The D&D adventure continues. Meet auric, the fighter, Tirra, the elf, and Khellek, the wizard. No cleric or thief? This group is doomed. Well, they are fighting hoards (sic) of creatures, so I guess their enemies they aren't as mobile as they should be. ;)

One of those issues with more than its fair share of forgettable articles. But there's still plenty of interesting stuff in it, particularly in the smaller articles that don't get so bogged down in dull details. And its also nice to see them starting to seriously consider that AD&D might be flawed and need redesigning in some respects. Now all they need to do is convince the rest of the company. ;)


Registered User
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The Dragon Issue 31: November 1979

Sage advice! Last seen over 3 years ago in the strategic review 6, this finally becomes a regular column in the format most of us remember, with readers questions answered by a designer.This first column is headed by Jean Wells. In this . . . . a reminder that torturing things is not allowed for paladins, no matter what weasel excuses the player tries to give.

Out on a limb: A much smaller column this issue. We get a second case of a person trying to weasel around the paladins code and getting slapped down for it. When will these people learn? You don't tug on supermans cape, and you can't rules-lawyer your way around the paladins code.
Any of those letters from a J. Yoo, K. Rove, "Rummy", "W", A. Scalia, or J. Bauer?



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The Dragon Issue 33: January 1980

Sage Advice: . . . . Can humans be multiclassed (no, they can be dual classed, they are completly different things, you doofus.) Can elves and half orcs be raised with raise dead (no, because they don't have souls :confused: ) As ever, this is very handy in revealing the weirdness in these old rules, and design thoughts behind them.
In the DMG, all the other races had souls that went into their respective afterlife after death while elves had spirits that reincarnated. You had to use a resurrection spell to bring one of them back (and the Rod of Resurrection used a crazy amount of charges to jump-start an elf).
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