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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Ah, Star Frontiers. I remember seeing ads for it in GIJoe comic books, but my parents wouldn't buy it for me for Christmas because it was advertised as being by the same people who did D&D, so my parents, God love 'em, figured it was some kind of satanic plot to make me a satanist. How times change; now my 70 year old aunt plays D&D with her grandchildren, and my parents laugh about it and think it is cool.

Needless to say, I didn't get any of these magazines when they first came out.

ANYWAY, Star Frontiers is still my favorite sci-fi RPG to play. This is due to the setting being great, though, rather than the rules being great. But, man, are dralasites the best aliens ever, or what?
 

T. Foster

Retired User
So, he's still got lots of big plans. But how long before he finishes them, flitting between so many projects at once? This is why creative types need a firm editorial hand and deadlines.
Well, getting forcibly shipped out to California and put in charge of the D&D cartoon and movie (and nothing else!) certainly won't help him to get all this stuff done. Stay tuned!

Seriously, I think one of the reasons Gygax was pouring out so much content into the magazine (and getting ever-more-strident and vociferous in his opinions) was because by this point he'd already been completely boxed out of running the company by the Blumes* and reduced to the status of powerless figurehead (or mascot). No wonder he was 1) so pissed off at everybody, and 2) so full of scattershot creative ideas.

*the exact chronology is uncertain (at least from my outsider's perspective) but my best estimate puts the Blume brothers taking over control of TSR c. late 1979 or early 1980. Per Gary their first two big "shows of power" were 1) choosing to publish David Sutherland's version of Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits instead of his, and 2) scotching the proposed merger between TSR and Games Workshop (yes, that Games Workshop), both of which happened in that timeframe (note that although Fiend Folio wasn't published until 1981, it was largely complete by mid-1979 -- look at the date on the Foreword (August 1979); this failed merger is presumably a big part of why its release was delayed so long).
 

komradebob

Registered User
Validated User
But, man, are dralasites the best aliens ever, or what?
I liked the others ( Vrusk, Yazirians and Evul Sathar) too.

In fact, I really need to get down to the craft store and get some polymer clay to make a bunch of Sathar soldiers for boarding actions...:)
 

Mr Teufel

Dashing
RPGnet Member
Validated User
...and 2) scotching the proposed merger between TSR and Games Workshop (yes, that Games Workshop), both of which happened in that timeframe (note that although Fiend Folio wasn't published until 1981, it was largely complete by mid-1979 -- look at the date on the Foreword (August 1979); this failed merger is presumably a big part of why its release was delayed so long).
Wow. TSR + GW! Now that's an alternate history I'd love to speculate about!
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 65: September 1982

Part 2/4

Greyhawk's World: This month, the spotlight goes on the south-east and the lendore islands. What lies beyond the limits of the known map? All sorts of legends of dooooom, for none have returned to tell the tale. Meanwhile, Nyrond masses it's army to defend against Ivid's depredations. How much success will they have? Wait a few years for the next edition to come out and we'll see. Nothing special to see here.

Leomund's tiny hut: Weapon quality. Another experiment in differentiating weapons and armour by minute amounts based upon how well they were made. Which involves lots of tedious tables, and even the best ones provide less benefit than a simple +1 weapon. As is often the case with his rules mods, this is really not worth it and needs some serious refining and streamlining.

Weapons wear out, not skills: Weapon proficiency groups. A good idea they really need to get round to implementing canonically. This article make another attempt to generally improve the proficiency system. It does, but not nearly enough. And I suspect we'll be seeing many more of these attempts before third edition. Hopefully some'll be weird enough to be interesting.

Featured creatures is introducing more good guys to the game roster: Baku are magical mini elephants from elysium. But as they have planar travel, they can turn up in the oddest of places. And frankly, the thought of an invisible elephant in the room should scare most evildoers.
Phoenix are thankfully no longer singular, nor do you get tortured to death and sent back in time to stop yourself by the gods for killing one. They're even more disgustingly powerful though, with another laundry list of powers that'll rarely be used properly in play. Gary does love overpowered good guys, doesn't he. If only he could find a more elegant way of making them so.

The missing dragons: The colour wheel theory. Now there's a dumb idea. Well, if you lived in the D&D universe, where attempts at rigorous science fall apart as the researchers go insane trying to make sense of the results, it'd seem like a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. So anyway, we get another set of yellow, orange and purple nurple dragons. Which bear no relation to the previous set, or future sets. Well, they are pretty lame. Is it any wonder people thought they could do better. We also get more "sages believe" pontification. We want names, damnitt. Academics is all about individuals seeking knowledge, not some nebulous monolithic collective. I think we can consign this one back to the shelves of history without regret.

The RPGA bulletin advertises the R series of modules, only available to members. This includes R2, which is the module Frank Mentzer designed, that won him the the 1980 dungeon masters competition. So it ought to be pretty good. Anyone played these?

Timelords: Ahh, doctor who. You have a lot to answer for. Not that these guys have much to do with the Dr who conception of them, being more like specialist psionicists with lots of different time manipulation powers, powered by a point expenditure system. (Proper stimulation of the chronal glands? Really? How do you do that then? ) Fortunately, Lew avoids giving them powers that break the game, such as traveling back in time and stopping aging, and while certainly not weak, there's no way they can compete in overall versatility and blasting power with standard clerics and wizards. I doubt they'd ruin the game if they were allowed as PC's, although they might upset the tone a little, especially if the other players kept making jokes. Still, more options are rarely a bad thing, especially when they're ones that break new ground, rather than just being hybrids and variants of existing roles like bounty hunters or swashbucklers. Once again, Mr Pulsipher wins me over with the quality of his writing.
 
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Thranguy

Retired User
R1-4 were eventually condensed, compiled, and worked into a single metaplot and printed as I12 (Egg of the Phoenix)...Don't know how much To the Aid of the Falx suffered in that conversion, though.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 65: September 1982

Part 3/4

Monsters of the Midway: Football. Of the american variety, just to ensure no confusion amongst our international readers. Played by D&D monsters, each with their own stats and special powers. I seem to remember Games Workshop doing something similar. Unfortunately, contrary to the (rather good) illustration, hydra is not one of the character choices. And we seem to be missing the stats for satyrs. I'm a bit iffy on this one. The rules don't quite seem to add up, and I can't really visualize how the game plays. It could definitely have been better written and edited.

Tuatha de Danaan: Sigh. It's another article quibbling over the precise stats of a pantheon of deities, based on different sources, readings and translations. Experts in a field are like watches. If you have one, you know what's going on. If you have several, you're never sure. (and disagreeing experts are considerably more annoying than watches that are out by a few minutes.) I might prefer my deities statted, but if I'd had to deal with 10 years of this, I'd throw my hands up and say "Fine, you can't agree on deities stats? They have no stats. They are all beyond mortal reckoning! Are you happy now?!" as well. It might not completely stop the whining, but at least that'd save hours trying to figure out what they ought to have and add up all the math.

Law of the Land: Ed Greenwood gives more setting building advice, once again using examples from the forgotten realms. Shadowdale is now ruled by a PC in his game, and so that means he has to defend his teritory. This is another sortie in his battle to get everyone building their own worlds full of depth and constant evolution, that feel like living places that don't just exist for adventurers to kill and loot. A war as unwinnable as the war against drugs. Anyway, this is about laws, customs, and punishments for breaking them. Differentiating between places in this respect is a good way to make them all distinctive, not just the same old pseudomedieval mishmash. You can even put a few utterly ridiculous laws in there. It's not as if you can think of any more stupid than the ones you can find in real life. As ever, he cites plenty of sources, and writes in an entertaining manner. I can't really fault him on this.

War!: Lew gets a second article published in one magazine. He is pretty prolific. This is about creating in-game justification for conflicts. These things don't just happen for no reason, and discovering and dealing with these can create a whole load of plot hooks above and beyond those simply caused by the fighting and destruction itself. Economics, ambition, religion, race can be complex issues, and solving them a protracted problem. Or it could be as simple as the groups being of opposing alignment and therefore conflict being inevitable and eternal. Either way, it not only keeps the PC's busy, it keeps the world evolving as well. This complements the previous article nicely. When the conflict comes out of the dungeon, the players really have to decide how it affects their characters.

That's no pizza - it's the pong papers: Assassination advice for top secret. As ever, players are often not very clever or subtle, and need to be taught how to avoid detection better. bursting in shooting gets you killed, and it gets innocents killed, while if you plan things properly, no-one will ever expect your involvement.Sniping, Bombs, poison, mechanical "accidents", blackmailing other people into doing the dirty work. All good options bloodthirsty players neglect. The better you do at getting things done smoothly and covering your tracks, the less drama you'll have to deal with later. Surely that's what any professional wants. Only a fool fights when they don't have too.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 65: September 1982

Part 4/4

Up on a soapbox: My god. Lew scores a hat trick for the magazine with this article. Another piece about playstyles, primarily focussing on the risktaking/caution axis of player tendencies, but also with some stuff on the logic/intuition one. Correctly judge your opponent's tendencies, and you'll be at an advantage. Fail, and the reverse is true. It's hard to encompass everything in a little article, and he doesn't even try, but he does put a distinctive spin on the subject. This is less boring than most articles of this type.

The dragon's augury decides to do a whole bunch of computer games this month: Wizardry is an adventure game wih a lot in common with D&D. Generate you characters stats, choose classes, and put together a party. The dungeons are large, pretty, and filled with all kinds of imaginative monsters (creeping coins) Of course, due to memory limitations, this means you have to keep the disk in and do lots of mid game loading, which slows things down a lot. If only they would do something about that in the future. ;)
Akalabeth is a randomly generated adventure game. It takes a different tack, and fails to overcome the information limitations in old computers, so all the locations and adventures look and play the same, and there is no sense to the monster and treasure distribution. Which makes it boring.
Crush, crumble and chomp is an arcade game of giant monsters rampaging a city. It's fairly fun, but there's no way of winning, so its just a matter of how much you can smash and how long you survive to get as high a score as possible before being worn down. Which was often the case in those old games. You'll get bored sooner or later.
The chamax plague/Horde is another Traveller double bill. A pair of adventures that can be run separately or interlinked, they also provide an alien adversary with plenty of bite and ecology. Can you figure them out well enough to use good tactics against them?
Empire builder gives Gary a rare opportunity to indulge his love of railroad games. (no, not that sort ;) ) Build your network and compete with your opponents to make as much money as possible. Maybe not for everyone, but he certainly enjoys it. And as we know, he's not one to sugar-coat things and say so when he doesn't mean it. So that's a pretty good recommendation.

What's new sees dixie playing the pedant. Wormy fits a couple more plot twists in. Dragonmirth only gets half a page, which is a bit half-assed.

Gangbusters gets a cool newspaper style advert on the back page. Yes, I know it's been done here before. It works, ok.

I hope you've enjoyed the Lewis Pulsipher special. ;) Honestly, at this rate, he ought to have a permanent job along with Roger and Ed. Whatever happened to him? I don't remember seeing any stuff from him during the 90's. More questions that I hope our Loyal Readers ( ;) ) can answer. See you next time.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Whatever happened to him? I don't remember seeing any stuff from him during the 90's. More questions that I hope our Loyal Readers ( ;) ) can answer. See you next time.
Sorry to skip ahead a bit, but I have a similar question- Greg Detwiller (sp?). The guy had at least 50 articles in the 180-300, writes one 3.0 book (for Goodman) and then vanishes. Anyone know what happened to him?
 

T. Foster

Retired User
I hope you've enjoyed the Lewis Pulsipher special. ;) Honestly, at this rate, he ought to have a permanent job along with Roger and Ed. Whatever happened to him? I don't remember seeing any stuff from him during the 90's. More questions that I hope our Loyal Readers ( ;) ) can answer.
He's still around, sort of. He maintains a (low-key, rarely updated) website with some essays/rants about how much he thinks the current (as of a couple-three years ago) "hobby gaming" culture and industry sucks and why he chooses to have so little to do with it.
 
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