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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

Registered User
Validated User
Out on a limb: A letter expressing horror at Ed Greenwood's firearms article, saying it would destroy both the balance and the spirit of the game. Guns have no place in D&D. (oh noes)
I remember this one - there was a comment about "just get rid of the Lawful" - I thought that showed early alignment bias; some people equating Lawful with "not fun to play"

This one gets a response from the author in a later issue.

And as I recall Gary comments later on the Firearms issue, and on the dragon armor article as well - with Gary echoing the letter writer saying firearms don't belong in D&D. I think one of the the best back and forth in the letters column were some responses to the big Psionics issue upcoming.
 

komradebob

Registered User
Validated User
Regarding Barbarians.
How in the world these guys ever got past the editors and playtesters I'll never know.
They were playtested?!?:confused::p

Joking aside, I am under the impression that playtesting before publishing a magazine article wasn't held to be all that important back-in-ye-olden-tymes.

Instead, magazine articles represent something more like a first draft, albeit a spiffed up one. Since the rules are optional anyway, it isn't like there's a whole lot of valid bitching a person can do about it (IMO).

Anyway, wouldn't the reason for the twinkage/powercreep partly relate to the idea that the Barbarian was morre likely to be a solo adventurer, or the member of a two-three person team, rather than a single member of the bigger adventuring parties ( 5-8 people) common at the time?
 
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T. Foster

Retired User
Anyway, wouldn't the reason for the twinkage/powercreep partly relate to the idea that the Barbarian was morre likely to be a solo adventurer, or the member of a two-three person team, rather than a single member of the bigger adventuring parties ( 5-8 people) common at the time?
Exactly. The default model of early D&D was that low level characters would adventure together in huge groups (5-8 PCs + assorted henchmen and hirelings) that would gradually splinter apart at higher levels where the standard would be 1 or 2 PCs + henchmen. The barbarian (and the cavalier, coming soon) allow that dynamic from the beginning -- a barbarian is, literally, equivalent in power and versatility to 2-3 standard characters (combining aspects of the ranger, thief, and druid), allowing for smaller parties of 1-3 PCs from the start. Gary was attempting to grow the game and expand its scope beyond traditional large-party dungeoncrawling (we'll see more of this in the cavalier, a class whose abilities and limitations are particularly ill-suited to dungeoncrawling). Unfortunately, because he did so in a piecemeal manner (with these articles, and later UA, which was pretty much just a collection of same) and never got to present the full context a lot of these additions come off as "broken," which, viewed in the traditional D&D paradigm, I suppose they are.

[note: Gygax's post-TSR Dangerous Journeys game gives a good sense of where I think he would've taken D&D had he remained at the helm -- not mechanically (the DJ mechanics are completely different from D&D, in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to keep TSR from suing over them), but stylistically and flavor-wise. DJ features small parties of very detailed and powerful characters and adventures much more centered on (in D&D terms) the "town" and the "wilderness" (which is to say the larger game-world) rather than the "dungeon" (the largely self-contained place where you go to kill things and take their stuff) -- a move that, admittedly, was occuring pretty much everywhere in rpg-dom by that time.]
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Instead, magazine articles represent something more like a first draft, albeit a spiffed up one. Since the rules are optional anyway, it isn't like there's a whole lot of valid bitching a person can do about it (IMO).
For anyone else, that would be true, but coming right after he'd just made a big proclamation about how stuff from his pen is an Official AD&Dtm Rules Expansion, ( :rolleyes: ) I find that statement debatable. It certainly would not have seemed that way to readers at the time, especially when they went to lengths to point out that everything else was optional, but gary was the ultimate authority.
Anyway, wouldn't the reason for the twinkage/powercreep partly relate to the idea that the Barbarian was morre likely to be a solo adventurer, or the member of a two-three person team, rather than a single member of the bigger adventuring parties ( 5-8 people) common at the time?
Exactly. The default model of early D&D was that low level characters would adventure together in huge groups (5-8 PCs + assorted henchmen and hirelings) that would gradually splinter apart at higher levels where the standard would be 1 or 2 PCs + henchmen. The barbarian (and the cavalier, coming soon) allow that dynamic from the beginning -- a barbarian is, literally, equivalent in power and versatility to 2-3 standard characters (combining aspects of the ranger, thief, and druid), allowing for smaller parties of 1-3 PCs from the start. Gary was attempting to grow the game and expand its scope beyond traditional large-party dungeoncrawling (we'll see more of this in the cavalier, a class whose abilities and limitations are particularly ill-suited to dungeoncrawling). Unfortunately, because he did so in a piecemeal manner (with these articles, and later UA, which was pretty much just a collection of same) and never got to present the full context a lot of these additions come off as "broken," which, viewed in the traditional D&D paradigm, I suppose they are.
Iiinteresting. So it's balance in the palladium sense, where you've got to pick a set of compatible classes of a similar power level for a team, and god help you if you mix the cosmo-knights with the fortune tellers. :p That's the kind of thing you really need to spell out before just throwing it in to play with.
 
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komradebob

Registered User
Validated User
Iiinteresting. So it's balance in the palladium sense, where you've got to pick a set of compatible classes of a similar power level for a team, and god help you if you mix the cosmo-knights with the fortune tellers. :p That's the kind of thing you really need to spell out before just throwing it in to play with.
Games from that period seem to have been built with a more "Chinese Menu" mentality than today's games. Pick one from Column A, two from Column B, etc.

The more time goes on, I can't say which approach I prefer.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 63: July 1982

part 2/4

Smile! You're on fantasy camera: Another little artist profile. Darlene Blanchard engages in miniature photography. With filters, a little dry ice, and some backdrops, you can achieve surprisingly effective results on a limited budget. Just goes to show, just how many ways you can express your creative and artistic impulses.

Where the bandits are: A little one-pager giving us the borders of the various teritories in the Bandit kingdoms and who's in charge of them. So if your players want to clear out this place, you know how much they have to face (usually in the hundreds. ) It's going to take more than just storming in, swords swinging to sort this lot out.

Greyhawk's world: More political machinations, focussed upon the southeast, and Ivid the overkings plots. At the moment, he rather seems to be winning, bringing even people who should know better under his power. Looks like it's up to the PC's to sort things out again, because the NPC's have no chance.

Pirates & Plunder! (now there's an obvious rip-off name) Swashbuckling on the high seas. Buy it now! Interesting advert. Anyone remember this one?

Leomund's tiny hut: Len turns his attention to what was definitely the dump stat pre 3rd edition. Charisma. So often, people just ignored the henchman stuff, and purely roleplayed any interactions with NPC's, making it useless in play. Shock, horror, this will not do, etc, etc. We need more subsystems! We must define exactly how your charisma is expressed! Once again, I yawn. Nothing much to see here.

Bandits: Speaking of bandits, looks like we have another new class for you to try out this month. Another wilderness focussed fighter/thief hybrid, (which means they have a lot in common with their logical enemy, the bounty hunter ;) ) they aren't particularly over or underpowered, but also don't have any particularly imaginative new abilities. So they're merely a bit meh, as compared with the utter embaressment that are barbarians.

The guns of navarone adventure from FASA. Hmm. Interesting.

... But not least: Roger finishes off the races series with a grab-bag of short articles on the common humanoids. Kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins, gnolls each get a few paragraphs plus a new god. (one of which I've never seen before, and so must have not gone into common use. ) The shorter word count means he gets to the point, really focussing on what makes the various humanoid races different from one another apart from hit dice and power level. Kobolds are cowardly gang fighters and trappers. Goblins are bootlickers and users of other races to get what they want. Hobgoblins are status obsessed stoic disciplinarians, while gnolls are lazy scavengers. Which is nice. All in all, a good way to end what has been a pretty informative series that's influence is still seen today.
 

Steven Howard

Retired User
Were the UA version an improvement from this mess?
I don't think so.

Wait till you see the Cavaliers in issue 72.
The UA barbarian is different, but I don't remember exactly how. I think they were nerfed slightly, and I'm pretty sure the restriction on using magic was scaled way back.

Also, yeah, if you've never seen the 1st edition Unearthed Arcana, you're gonna flip when you see the cavalier.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 63: July 1982

part 3/4

Chagmat (what? Not quite the dumbest monster name evar, but not far off.) is this months adventure, another 16 pager. That aside, it's a pretty interesting one, with a combination of small encounters and a full dungeon at the end. Plus the monsters get plenty of depth of history and setting of their own. They could probably even be turned into a PC race without too much trouble.

Plan before you play: Hello again Mr Greenwood. More campaign building advice from the master? Railroading (although that term still hasn't been invented yet) is bad, and players like to feel that they have choices, and the world exists beyond just something to challenge them. He then goes into his world building technique, one again including stuff that would appear later (with some alterations ) in the forgotten realms. While creating political situations and relationships might be a bit of effort, once you have done, the story virtually writes itself from there, as the NPC's make their moves and give the players tons of stuff to do on whichever side they choose. Once again, his passion and dedication to the art of storytelling and worldbuilding shines through, keeping things interesting that could be (and have been under lesser writers) dull all too easily. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Do you dare to try and keep up with him?

The RPGA posts a bulletin that is both an advert, and an example of content, with some special rulings about how Official RPGAtm Games are run. Because they have to standardize, so adventures can be run fairly and consistently throughout the world. Ho hum.

This year, Gary has taken the trip to england, courtesy of Don Turnbull, to attend games fair 82. And it seems he finds english players quieter and better organised than american ones. Do stereotypes have some basis in reality then. He also takes the time to review a couple of fanzines, Dragonlords and Thunderstuck. Both get rather less scathing reviews than the ones he has delivered in the past. He must be enjoying himself.

Computer games have a way to go: More interesting historical stuff on the nature and use of computers, and the logistics of creating a game at that time. Most games are way too short and lacking in depth. He looks forward to the days when memory and processing power is no longer the primary limiter on what people can make. Reality, as ever, will be less impressive than your optimistic predictions. Still interesting though. Particularly interesting is how much less simulationistic computer games have become, despite being able to model reality more accurately. Genres such as platformers are still in their infancy, and many games are simply computerised versions of board and puzzle games. i guess they still have yet to build their own identity and subculture.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 63: July 1982

part 4/4

For the sake of Change: Where does money come from? In reality, money comes in many forms, each region with its own, and substantial fluctuations in prices and exchange rates. Should you adopt some of this in your game? Given how complicated economics can get, too much would seriously derail a D&D game. Just like everything, you'll have to find your own balance between reality and usability.

Once again, Gary refuses to put his reviews in with everyone else's. He is really rather scathing of Conan the barbarian, calling it Conan meets the flower children of Set (he has a point there). The sorceror and the sword is also called pretty mediocre. All these bad fantasy movies will put people off the idea of making and watching them. This simply will not do! I shall create a D&D movie, and it will blow these amateurs out of the water! If I fail, I shall roast the incompetents responsible and apologize to you personally! This is entertaining. He's certainly in fine form this month.

The dragon's augury: Simba Safari is a traveller adventure of, yeah, big game hunting. Travel from planet to planet, killing stuff, and intriguing with the other people on the cruise. Well, It'd certainly be a change of pace from most adventures, if a rather politically incorrect one. Not sure what to make of this, although the reviewer seems to like it.

Wild west. Looks like fantasy games unlimited is trying to compete directly with boot hill. Anyone remember this one?

What's new faces the danger of computers taking over. Wormy should feel lucky he's out when the shadowcat comes calling. Dragonmirth reminds us that when dealing with undead, your expected level at the end may be substantially lower than at the beginning.

Seems we have another case of when designers attack this month. Gary delivers one of his largest broadsides in a long time, consisting largely of things I found rather unpalatable. Still, even when I disagree with him, he's always interesting, and never mediocre. This stuff should have reprecussions in following magazines. Also notable is the number of interesting adverts in this one. Seems like lots of games are coming out now, people are jumping on the bandwagon, and the amount of adverts is increasing. Even the second stringers have half-decent budgets to work with. What will happen next?
 
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