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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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Dragon Issue 56: December 1981

part 4/4

Off the shelf returns, at last (obviously they needed to build up the supply of submissions for the new column)Other stories and the attack of the giant baby by Kit Reed is nowhere near as silly as its name implies, with lots of darkness mixed with the humour and only one of the stories fails to entertain the reviewer.
Sharras exile by Marion Zimmer Bradley is another novel in the Darkover series. The reviewer is decidedly unamused by her continual denigration and mistreatment of her male characters, but still recognizes the quality of her storytelling.
Too long a sacrifice by Mildred Downey Broxon is a story of two people stolen away by the faeries centuries ago returning to earth .... right in the middle of ireland during the Troubles. (my god, how long ago that seems) Tragedy ensues, as they try to make sense of this new world. No easy solutions through magical macguffins here, in a story that sounds like it would be a good inspiration for Changeling:the Lost.
When trouble beckons by Mike McQuay is a sci-fi detective novel in the raymond chandler mold, with convoluted plot and plenty of internal monologue. It also receives a pretty positive impression from the the reviewer.

A holiday gift guide to lots more books, giving us brief descriptions of 20 recent releases from popular authors. Many of which are still familiar to me now, so I guess they've stood the test of time fairly decently. Others are limited editions, and would have been hard to get hold of even back then. Who'd get those as a present for someone else, unless they were stupidly rich?

Simulation Corner finishes off its series on game design by talking about design philosophy. This is of course, one of the most annoyingly nebulous subjects in existence, along with "where does your inspiration come from?" Still, it is important to be able to apply some level of critical rigour to the design process, particularly where it involves mathematical probabilities and sequences of calculations. I suppose taking the time to think up a philosophy can't hurt. Still, if it doesn't produce playable fun games, all that thinking has gone to waste. Better learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

Thieves guild disguises another advert as a comic. Cheeky.

Wormy meets something that can scare even creatures from hell and god knows where. Whats new gets to go colour. Dragonmith misses the opportunity to make christmas related jokes.

Another issue packed full of useful stuff. The reviews in particular are definitely improving again, now they've widened their scope, and there are more RPG things being released for them to compare and contrast. This gives me a better idea of the subculture outside RPG's and the related things they thought gamers would be reading and playing. The amount of wargaming stuff seems to be gradually going down though. Do they ever make an active decision to cut it out, or is this just a gradual loss of interest that reflects the market shift in general. I guess I'll find out soon enough. On to the next year.


Making the Legend
Validated User
I really, really wonder about the "shrooms". Is there a pychedelic drug reference in there somewhere, or was the author just totally oblivious?
Not that I can spot. It's like those Racial war and Asda story MMORPG ads they keep showing. Every time they show them, a part of my mind just goes man what. Do they realise how dumb that sounds. Remember that this was pre internet. Slang took a lot longer to spread in those days.


Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Not that I can spot. It's like those Racial war and Asda story MMORPG ads they keep showing. Every time they show them, a part of my mind just goes man what. Do they realise how dumb that sounds. Remember that this was pre internet. Slang took a lot longer to spread in those days.
There was an entire decade between the 1960s and the 1980s. I don't have the OED, but I can't believe "shrooms" wasn't widely known slang. Though, "Asda" doesn't ring a bell for me at least, so there are pockets of ignorance everywhere.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 57: January 1982

part 1/4

84 pages. Welcome to another year. Once again, they seem to be jiggling up the issue format to keep things fresh. We say goodbye to one long-running column, hello to a few more, and the running order seems to be different this year. Gary is really at the reins again, there's far more concrete setting details, and wargames are fading into the background. Still plenty of stuff on other RPG's, though. Lets enjoy that while we can.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: Ha. A player who independently played a winged character is somewhat peeved about the winged folk, as there are lots of other similarities between his character and them, and he doesn't want to be accused of being a copycat. They tell him not to be ashamed, as the stuff from Dragon is meant to be used anyway.
A letter criticizing the editing and design errors in Cavern Quest. One of which they admit, but the rest they poohpooh, saying he's the one in error.
And that's your lot. Only 2? You people are slipping. Come on, we need more rants.

Modern monsters: Ooh. Welcome to our first attempt at D&D modern, courtesy of Ed Greenwood. He gives us lots of conversions of modern stuff: weaponry, cars, people. Neither side has it too easy, as the adventurers won't know how to use modern equipment, which is considerably more dangerous than medieval weapons, while the modern people have no access to spells. If the adventurers behave as adventurers stereotypically do, there are likely to be a lot of casualties on both sides. As with most of Ed's work, this is very well researched and considered, with proper footnotes and everything. He does err a little on the side of realism over game workability, and concepts such as abstracting machine gun fire don't seem to be common design parlance. But these are minor quibbles in the face of the overall quality.

Leomund's tiny hut: Ha. Len just went to the SCA. Len just went to the SCA. [/taunt] Which means he's back, all bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager to give us new, more "realistic" house rules based upon his observations there. New rules for shields and weapon proficiency training. With lots of tables. Seems pretty similar to his usual modus operandi. Pass me the glasses with eyes painted on so I can snooze through this one.

From the Sorceror's scroll: Gary continues his trip round the greyhawk map, updating us on current events. Another 10 nations get synopses of the recent geopolitical happenings between them. Ice barbarians, snow barbarians, frost barbarians? I guess he can't be accused of creating a monoculture for an area. Even the monsters get to be, if not equal players in D&D geopolitics, important and not all divided up by species.


Making the Legend
Validated User

I had to look it up as well. Probably because I'm not British. ;)
It's so hard to find a simple set of sylables that isn't taken. But yeah, I hear the advert theme every time. It's like making Ash an S-mart clerk, only without the self-awareness. A little googling would have saved them much hilarity from an entire country of prospective customers.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 57: January 1982

part 2/4

In search of a james bond: What Top Secret class would James Bond have been in? Multiclassed between three of them actually. Yes, that is distinctly suboptimal by the current rules. I guess he's just that badass. This writer wants to see more of that in his games, so he introduces rules that make that kind of build a bit easier. Which includes an early instance of dramatic editing rules. Very interesting, if of course somewhat overpowering compared to standard characters. But if you want cinematic in a game not equipped for it, I guess you've got to be prepared to make rules hacks if you want to change a game's play experience. I can't really begrudge them this one, when they're trying so hard. (what was the first canon appearance of a metagame luck/fate mechanic? ) Plus it makes running a game for smaller groups easier, and that's always handy.

The rasmussen files is imitating sage advice this month, with merle answering questions about the rules in general.
How do you raise your language fluencies? (as you advance in other Areas Of Knowledge. Or take a course)
When your life is reduced to 0 by a limb shot, do you die (you're unconcious and die from bleeding if not treated in 5 minutes.
How do you determine if a lie to other PC's succeeds? (by roleplaying. No-ones thought of social conflict mechanics yet, and I don't think I'd like that idea anyway. If I'd heard of it, which I haven't.)
How do you maintain continuity when handling multiple teams (with a good deal of personal effort, and possibly some notekeeping. There's no magic secret to it.)
How do you have PC's communicate without revealing their identities? (secret notepassing to and from the GM)
Why don't shots that miss hit bystanders (frankly, my dear, I couldn't be arsed. Here's a rough kludge of a rule if you're really keen to try it.)
Where and what is the Intercept chart (something we cut at the last minute and forgot to remove all the references to. We may put it in Dragon in a future issue.)
What happens if you shoot an unconcious person ( You scumbag. Anyway, if their non-subdual hit points are reduced to 0, they die if not treated, just like normal.)
Can a spy be affiliated with a foreign agency (yup. If they're caught, they're in the shit. But you knew that when you signed up anyway. It's just a matter of which side wants to kill you. )
What's the purpose of each bureau(to use a metaphor, they are all like the various parts of a human body. I'm sure you can work out which. )
What is point blank range (a meter or less)
Should you keep a low profile, or go in guns blazing(Up to you, but we reccomend using intelligence. It is a spy game, after all)
Will top secret get more stuff published (I certainly hope so. I have no shortage of ideas.)
What's thermite (nasty stuff that flares really bright for several seconds. Good for both distractions and melting through solid steel)
What are light intensifier goggles? ( amplifiers for any existing light in the area, so you can see clearly when it's almost dark. Watch out for sudden bursts of light though. )
What are the stats for Shuriken? :)rolleyes: Bloody ninja wannabes. Oh alright, here you go.)
How much damage do knives do? (look at the special knife-fighting rules. Yes, this is exception based design. )
How do you determine animal's offence ratings(you don't. They just have flat to hit and damage bonus'. See the table.)


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 57: January 1982

part 3/4

Random magic items: Ever thought it a bit odd that only certain shapes of magic item have certain powers? Want a bit more unpredictability in that area. This bunch of tables decouples item type and powers, so you can determine both randomly. Of course, since they have to be generic, the list of powers isn't the greatest. This could have been better, but it still adds a decent selection to my list which should keep players from finding the same old bits of treasure for a few more sessions. Just watch out for the cursed stuff, as ever.

The versatile Magician: A generalist spellcaster for DragonQuest with access to spells from all three colleges, only not to such great ability. This is the problem with games with rigid class roles. First thing gamers try to do when making new classes is to blur the existing ones in various combinations. Before you know it, you might as well have gone for point buy in the first place. This is not as well done as the Top Secret one above.

Giants in the earth: This months characters converted are C.J Cherryh's (she seems to be quite popular with the GitE authors. What's with that?) Morgaine and Vanye, Lynn Abbey's Rifkind, and Robert E Howard's Belit and Dark Agnes.

The Wandering Trees: Another 16 page tournament module, this is obviously a wilderness one, which means druids and rangers get a chance to shine. Watch out for the phucking phooka, because trickster fae aren't funny when you're the butt of their jokes. Nice to see them once again expanding their repetoire and giving regular readers more options to challenge their players with.

Up on a soapbox engages in epic fail this month, with two laughable articles.
Brian Blume falls flat on his face at understanding human nature, and tells us that evil behaviour is completely ineffective in both real life and adventuring because no-one would trust that character, or continue to associate with them. They'd end up alone and friendless, if not locked up or dead. No-one intelligent could possibly enjoy playing an evil character. Er, yeah. Thats as dumb as the people who believe that good would never work because they'd help everyone who asked, even those who took advantage of them, never kill diliberately, and always forgive and give mercy to their enemies, no matter how obviously that would be a bad idea. Oh, and nice guys can't get chicks. ;) No-one could possibly get any success or pleasure out of acting like that. Everyone would hate such an insufferable holier than thou prig. :rolleyes: Sometimes I dispair at people, I really do. Still, I suppose it's more entertaining than another bland common sense article.
Like this one. Roger Moore reminds us again that sexism and rape are bad things, mmmkay, even in fantasy worlds, and putting them in may cause discomfort in female gamers, and discourage girls from joining your group in the first place. No shit sherlock. The only people who don't know that already are candidates for the creepiest gamer thread, and they're unlikely to take it in, even if they do read this magazine fanatically every month and can quote every single optional rule from it.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 57: January 1982

part 4/4

Having been one of our most consistently entertaining regular faces for the past couple of years, Minarian Legends finally comes to an end. (or at least, says it does. We'll see if it stays gone.) I wonder what Glenn'll do next? He finishes off with an extensive chronology of everything since the great cataclysm, so you can see exactly when all the events detailed in previous issues occurred in relation to one another. Farewell. It's been interesting finding out about you.

The history of the shield: Another system free real world historical article. They've had a pretty wide range of shapes and construction materials over the years, as people look for the optimum compromise of protection against whatever weaponry is popular at the time, and mobility. Very little of which is reflected in the rules for games, unlike weaponry, which gets all manner of neat custom effects in some games. I guess offense is more interesting than defense. This article is certainly pretty inoffensive. Actually, that's doing it a disservice, as it is very comprehensive and well researched. But it is the kind of article you need to be in the right mindframe to enjoy.

Send in your entries for the 5th invitational AD&D tournament now! This year, it's the quality of your custom creations such as spells, monsters and magic items that are being tested.

The dragon's augury: Star viking is a tactical boardgame of interstellar raiding and pillaging. While high quality in components and appearance, it suffers from the fatal flaw that the sides are seriously unbalanced, making it virtually impossible for the vikings to win. Which is a bit rubbish, since they're the namesakes. The reviewer suggests some house rules to fix this, which adds a different spin to the article's purpose. Not sure if I should approve of that or not, but it certainly adds interest.
Champions is one of the first iterations of the Hero system. And it's only around a tenth the size of the bullet-stopping brick 5th edition would become. Which means there are still significant gaps in the powerset and some point cost to effectiveness issues. But even so, the effort to fun ratio might still be higher than more recent comprehensive versions. Hard to say.

Simulation corner: The importance of illustration in game design. This can have more impact on the comprehensibility of a game than you might think. It certainly has a big impact on popularity, as good graphic design is crucial in making first impressions. Of course, being able to afford good artwork is one of the things that sets the professionals apart from the enthusiastic amateurs. Another fairly common sense article with several good examples from the actual era.

The electric eye: We get the results from the survey a few issues ago. Unsurprisingly, it is very male and teen oriented, with quite a high percentage of people who program their own games. Apple is the most popular company (hah. D&D players are artistic types. How little things have changed in that respect. ) And cassettes are just beating disks as the preferred method of storing and loading programs. They'd like to see more programs and reviews in the future. Interesting. But only if you enjoy statistics.

Dragonmirth is here. Wormy expands on the wargaming theme that would become significant later. Still no sex in D&D in What's new, but we do get a little cheesecake for your enjoyment.

Even with the changes, this still feel very much like business as usual. They haven't dropped a beat.
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