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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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Akkala

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Thieves guild designers notes: The creators of the system and magazine talk about their intents for the system and plans for future products. Loose leaf books that you reassemble yourself? Another experiment that will pass into history unlamented. Another bit of interesting historical perspective here.
They abandoned the loose leaf printing pretty quickly and reprinted everything as regular books.
The dragon's augury: Thieves guild also gets reviewed here. Focussed around, well, the class that you would expect, and scenarios for them, it is both more and less complex than D&D in various ways. I suppose it might not be as focussed as some modern indie games, but it's certainly a step down that path.
Not really a step toward focussed indie games. It was more like modules with thiefly adventures. Even though the party is in the thieves guild, they had the regular D&D classes. So there were wizard who steal and fighters who steal and clerics who steal, etc. The game started as just expansion rules for D&D but by the time of the second edition (which this issue of Dragon talks about) the game had turned into a D&D clone. I played it back in the 80s and own most of them.
 
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Sirharrok

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Barbarian prince is a solo adventure game in which you reclaim your kingdom. It offers rather more freedom of choice than most pick your path games, and offers a rather more badass protagonist. The reviewer seems to rather like it.
At the time, I remember being terribly disappointed that I could never find a copy of this, because it looked great.

But... the publisher has now placed it on teh interweb for free, and it can be accessed at: http://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_barbarianprince.html

Conclusion after all these years: it's actually quite fun, in a 'sitting in your room shuffling counters all by yourself' sort of way.

Cheers
Sir Harrok
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
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Fiction: Abomination, by D. Aaron Achen. A great story of the healing of a corrupted swamp, from the point of view of the sentient patch of land. Some great imagery here, and a real sense of atmosphere and dynamic tension, as you're never sure who you should be supporting. I really like this one.
Just a general comment, nothing specific to this particular article. But overall the fiction in Dragon was surprisingly good, at least in the 80s. Looking back, I might actually have more fond memories about the stories than the rpg articles themselves. Which is a little surprising, given their relative paucity.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 54: October 1981

Part 4/4

Minarian Legends: This month, Glenn talks about the pirates of Rombune. More interesting setting detail in what is becoming one of the most filled-in settings of the era.

Cash and carry for cowboys: Glenn Rahman gets a second article published straight away, expanding on the equipment list for boot hill. Because players always want things that the rulebooks don't think of. This'll take you all the way from derringers to tombstones. (because you wouldn't just leave dead PC's to rot, would you, and burials are expensive. ) Another one of those articles that may be useful, but still makes for dry reading.

Simulation corner: Part 3 of their series on game design. They further tackle the subject of realism, and how to apply it. Obviously true realism is impossible. And a lot of the time people synonymize realism with quality when reviewing games, even though that is not the case. Historical accuracy and realistic physics are also not neccecarily linked. I am not overly enthralled.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: 13 more Quaals feather tokens. Quite the useful little pieces of kit, aren't they. People ought to appreciate them more. Plus two magical maces, and an undead trapping bottle. Careful with the last one. Letting things out without the power to control them is always problematic.

The electric eye: Another quiz this month, this time about the history of computers and how they work. As ever, much of this stuff is seriously outdated. Which is only interesting if you care about the minutinae of old computers.

Whats new's infestation of dragons has spilled over into the entire damn issue, amusingly. How many are there lurking throughout the magazine? Try and figure it out. Growf growf.

Orcwardness: Another parody article about the more irritating idiosyncracies of certain gamers. Nothing you haven't seen already, probably.

Dragonmirth has more dragon related jokes.

Wormy introduces the book-eating pterodactyl, another character who would somehow become a regular in this crazy soap opera. How did Dave Trampier come up with this stuff?

Fineous fingers' plot is brought to a rather abrupt close as JD leaves for Adventure Gaming magazine, to work with Tim again. Everyone sighs, some with disappointment, some with relief that they no longer have to deal with such a flaky columnist. At least he gets the chance for a proper goodbye, unlike the other comics that were unceremoniously cut. (yeah, I'm still not amused about that) His story isn't over yet.

A purple worm busts into A D&D Adventure this month.

Another issue with articles ranging from the sublime to the utterly tedious. One thing's for sure, with JD gone, and Elminster on board, its not going to be the same from now on. We've just taken a big step away from old skool to, if not the current generation, a different one anyway. How soon these things happen. Soon we'll be nostalgic for the old ways, even with all their flaws and unreliability.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 55: November 1981

part 1/4

84 pages. We get another look at their second class mailing figures this month. And this time the scan is legible. Their current circulation is up to 60,000 as of last month, with average printings per magazine over the last year of 45,000. Which means they've approximately doubled their readership again. Pretty good. They also welcome a new addition to the staff, congratulate another one on getting married, and look forward to the D&D sales blitz this christmas. It should be a good one for TSR. How many of you guys got your roleplaying start as part of a christmas present?

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter criticizing the monk articles in issue 53, and asking for more separation between roleplaying fluff and design crunch.
A letter complaining about all the errors and inconsistencies in the D&D books, but also wishing that people wouldn't argue so much about which game was best or worst.
A letter of generalized praise. Always room for one of them to get published.
A letter encouraging playing with players expectations, not letting them know exactly what is going on statistically with their characters and the things that they face.
Another letter decrying ridiculously overpowered characters. Rather a stock selection this month, isn't it.

Fiend folio Findings: Ed Greenwood expresses his disappointment with the latest tome of monsters, calling it inconsistent in tone, lacking in setting integration, full of silly names, unclear in description on many monsters, and a whole bunch of other unappealing things. Alan Zumwalt is a somewhat more satisfied customer, enjoying the illustrations, but wishing there were more extra planar monsters, stuff from magazines made official, and fewer rehashed hybrids. Finally, Don Turnbull, the guy primarily responsible for the book, gives his rebuttal. He didn't put monsters from recent Dragon or White Dwarf issues in because the book has been completed and in legal limbo for 2 years before they could get it published. Some of the things that you found unclear are in there, you just needed to look closer. And monsters with unpronouncable names are perfectly justifiable, particularly if it's what they call themselves. But yeah, there are some things he wishes he'd done better. Pleasing to see Dragon isn't afraid to call out the flaws in TSR's products. It's good evidence that they still aren't just a house organ.

New theories for old monsters: Dinosaurs! One of those things that blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy when included. This article gives stats for lots of them, including all the usual suspects, revised in light of new scientific discoveries. What, you want realisticaly accurate dinosaurs in your magical fantasy? I think that should be the least of your worries.

From the sorceror's scroll returns after quite a substantial absence. Gary apologizes for this, and lays out his plans for the future. The temple of elemental evil is delayed again, because he's been busy making this years tournament module (the lost caverns of tsojcanth. Another one many of you will remember fondly) Lost of other greyhawk stuff is in the works, including city and castle of greyhawk. Lets hope you don't suffer so many delays on those. ;) :( We also get a reiteration of the Oerth racial groups from issue 52, with some more stuff on their favoured dress and other little details. Which is pretty interesting. Looks like he's finally realized there's a market for full-on world building, and is working to make up for lost time.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Fiend folio Findings: Ed Greenwood expresses his disappointment with the latest tome of monsters, calling it inconsistent in tone, lacking in setting integration, full of silly names, unclear in description on many monsters, and a whole bunch of other unappealing things. Alan Zumwalt is a somewhat more satisfied customer, enjoying the illustrations, but wishing there were more extra planar monsters, stuff from magazines made official, and fewer rehashed hybrids. Finally, Don Turnbull, the guy primarily responsible for the book, gives his rebuttal. He didn't put monsters from recent Dragon or White Dwarf issues in because the book has been completed and in legal limbo for 2 years before they could get it published. Some of the things that you found unclear are in there, you just needed to look closer. And monsters with unpronouncable names are perfectly justifiable, particularly if it's what they call themselves. But yeah, there are some things he wishes he'd done better. Pleasing to see Dragon isn't afraid to call out the flaws in TSR's products. It's good evidence that they still aren't just a house organ.
I took a look, and it's pretty interesting. Mild as rants go, but definitely a rant. Greenwood clearly espouses the idea that one of the big differences between D&D and AD&D is that monsters aren't just random bugaboos for DMs to spring on unsuspecting parties; rather, they need to have a rationale for existing before and after they encounter the PCs. Which is a clear precursor to the ecology articles and eventually the detailed descriptions in 2nd edition's Monsterous Compendium. A philosophy that becomes marginalized again in 3.X and 4E, with their abbreviated descriptive text.

Three interesting tidbits: The blue-skinned goblin-cousin and candidate for the silliest humanoid ever known as the xvart was apparently called the svart when it first appeared in White Dwarf, and is based on the svart-alfar of Norse mythology. Secondly, while "adherer" is a terrible name for a monster, the original name (also in White Dwarf) was even worse: the "Gluey". And I never realized until he pointed it out that the lava children look a bit like Alfred E. Neuman. That makes their childish, perpetually smiling faces even creepier.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I took a look, and it's pretty interesting. Mild as rants go, but definitely a rant.
For all his many skills, rant-fu is not one that he can match Gary in. It's also interesting that while he may think that now, D&D was the one that got all the domain ruling and large scale political stuff. The divisions between the two are more nuanced than they first seem.
 

JohnBiles

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At the time, I remember being terribly disappointed that I could never find a copy of this, because it looked great.

But... the publisher has now placed it on teh interweb for free, and it can be accessed at: http://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_barbarianprince.html

Conclusion after all these years: it's actually quite fun, in a 'sitting in your room shuffling counters all by yourself' sort of way.

Cheers
Sir Harrok
I got lucky and bought it when it originally came out. It's a pretty fun game, though if your dice luck goes bad, you can end up in a lot of trouble.
 

Skiorht

Despair Shouter
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Dragon Issue 55: November 1981 Lost of other greyhawk stuff is in the works, including city and castle of greyhawk. Lets hope you don't suffer so many delays on those.
*snort* Four years later I actually believed that those modules would in fact appear soon. Accordingly, I set my Greyhawk campaign in the nearby areas so that I could use the new stuff when it came out. Oh yeah.
 
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