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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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Jude_the_Obscure

Retired User
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.
Ha ha -- I never played "Akalabeth", but it was the first computer game designed by Richard Garriott, aka Lord British of Ultima series fame, while he was still in high school (as a school project!). It may have been the first "first-person shooter" D&D type game -- did the review mention that? Anyway, the game eventually sold 30K copies and Garriot netted $150K for his first design effort, which is not bad for a beginner. And of course Ultima ended up being a bit bigger than that...
 

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
Ha ha -- I never played "Akalabeth", but it was the first computer game designed by Richard Garriott, aka Lord British of Ultima series fame, while he was still in high school (as a school project!). It may have been the first "first-person shooter" D&D type game -- did the review mention that? Anyway, the game eventually sold 30K copies and Garriot netted $150K for his first design effort, which is not bad for a beginner. And of course Ultima ended up being a bit bigger than that...
Well, the reviewer couldn't have used those words, because nobody knew what a "first-person shooter" was back then. And nobody really "knew" how to create a computer RPG. We all dreamed about the days when you'd actually see your arrows fly through the air and see the orc fall to the ground, but back then such things just were not possible. So the field was wide open for all sorts of crazy ideas. There were text-based games, and top-down games (like the later Ultima series) and then there were this first-person view games where the walls were just vector-based lines creating cubic spaces you traveled through, and where the scenery would be replaced with a pic of the monster you met, a la Wizardry.

One of the truly amazing things about computer gaming these days is how much the field has calcified. There are specific genres now: FPS, RTS, RPG. Back then, if it was fun and you could program it, it could catch on and make you famous for a few months, especially if nobody had ever seen anything like it before. I wonder how you'd categorize games like M.U.L.E. or Archon. And how could a game that doesn't fit into a familiar niche get funding?

- Brian
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 66: October 1982

part 1/4

84 pages. They moved into new buildings recently. Bigger, shinier, and more consolidated, this'll hopefully make things more convenient for everyone on the team. And they certainly won't miss the mice. Language is this month's special theme, with a whole bunch of related articles. We also, as promised, get more stuff for illusionists, and plenty of returning series. Even big upheavals like moving house no longer stop them from putting out a full sized quality product on time. So lets see what else they've managed to squeeze in.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: Glenn Rahman defends his villainisation of the protagonist of the Gor novels. He has read them properly, and can cite extensive quotes to support his choice. One wonders why he kept reading them.
Roger Moore also gives a load of commentary and corrections.
Gary writes in to say that the reasons firearms are not found in Official AD&Dtm Worlds is because the physics of the universe do not allow for gunpowder and similar explosives. Burning stuff simply burns, it doesn't exert outward pressure. (so steam power won't work either) Experiments on those lines will simply do sod-all. If you want blasting effects, you'll have to use magic. And that's final. ;)
And finally we get an actual letter from a reader, saying that is a held creature literally couldn't move any muscles at all, they'd die from suffocation in a few rounds. Kim follows Gary's lead, and reminds him that spells completely bypass real life physics. They can be completely unable to even blink or breathe, and not suffer the ill-effects they normally would. (yes, this contradicts the ruling about held creatures in water, but hey, even a master editor can't remember everything, and if magic can break the rules of the universe, that means they don't have to be internally consistent anyway.)

Should they have an edge: The class weapon restrictions debate gets reopened. Well, it has been a couple of years. You've gotta trot out the old perrenials for the new readers. John Sapienza floats the idea of detaching the damage dice from the weapon used, so cosmetically, they can be using any weapon, but due to lack of training they'll still be limited to d4 or d6, which will preserve the intended game balance. Which is pretty innovative, really. They'll make narrativists out of these guys yet. Bruce Humphrey provides the predictable counter of no is no, and that's final argument. Which is considerably less interesting, as it's just reiterating the status quo. And we all know that drama is found in pushing and breaking the rules. So it goes. I'm sure we'll see this one again in the future.

Elfquest's characters get converted to D&D. Cutter, Skywise, Leetah, Rayek and Picknose. These guys are less twinked than most of these articles, with not a single 18, and relatively few abilities that are illegal for regular PC's. A fluke, or is this a good sign? Lets hope.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 66: October 1982

part 2/4

Sage advice seems to be stuck in the past this month, focussing on demihumans:
Can demihumans make magical items (yes, within the limits of their class restrictions. They can also make some special items humans with the same skills can't, because their gods are nice like that.)
How do you make elven chain. (Its a secret alloy. You don't think they'd give away trade secrets, do you. You'll be lucky to get hold of some if they like you. )
Why can't elves be rangers, when they're so nature oriented. (because the gods say so. They gave humans ranger abilities as a direct way to deal with giants and other wilderness threats. For whatever reason, elven deities aren't so generous, despite the fact that they have ranger abilities themselves. Maybe if you pray enough, they'll change their minds someday. ;) )

Featured creatures: This month, Gary fills out the genie races, so now there's one for every element. Dao, Marids and Jann. How symmetrical of him. These are pretty much as they remain for the next few editions, giving us a wide range of power levels and morals for our genies. You'll still want efreet for the full-on wish granting stuff though. Rather a mixed blessing really, that power.

From the Sorceror's scroll: Lots of new spells in Gary's other contribution this month. This includes both future staples like alter self and shadow walk, and forgettable stuff like read illusionist magic and phantom wind (fnarr) These are generally pretty solid. As is often the case, he follows up the game material with some general chatter about events. A certain ex-editor of the fiend folio gets snarked at for something he wrote in a rival publication (can someone fill me in on the other side of this, as it is annoyingly vague.). He talks a little more about their move to new premises. And he promises to fill in details on the deities of greyhawk sometime soon. Once again, he's produced a pretty interesting, if not always the most organized set of stuff for our perusal.

Is it really real?: To complement the illusionist spells, we get another nature of illusions essay. Why can illusion spells really hurt if you believe in them, but not heal? How much does repeated exposure make spotting illusions easier. How inaccurate do things created from descriptions look? In some respects more lenient, and in some less than things would later be, this is another article that shows up repeatedly, and is useful in gauging how fashions change over the years. Which is interesting from a statistical and sociological point of view.

A primer for the language of larceny: A dictionary for thieves cant, so if you want to learn the basics of it and incorporate some of this stuff into your in character speech, you can. Since its only 8 pages, plus a couple of pages on grammar, it's hardly complete. Unfortunately, I suck at learning other languages, so this makes my eyes glaze and brain squeek. You'll have to get someone else to judge its quality and usefulness as a language and shorthand for communicating larcenous acts.

And a second article on languages. The author creates a possible language tree to show how the various D&D languages could be related.

Fantasy philology: And another one, which also gives various eases of learning related languages to your current ones. Like weapon proficiency groups, this may be realistic, but it's also a considerable amount of extra crunch which you only want to use in a game focussed upon the subject.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 66: October 1982

part 3/4

Old dwarvish is still new to scholars: Another article that gives us some specific details on a fantasy language. The writer steals liberally from tolkien to give us the basics of dwarvish grammar. Which is pretty much as you would expect, given their established personality traits. Meh.

Leomund's tiny hut: This month, Len gives us stats for a load more (almost) natural animals. Compsognathus and euparkia, adorable mini dinosaurs. Vultures and hawks. A whole host of stats for miniature animals, to counterbalance all the dire ones and give low level characters a fair chance. Skeletons for the above. And in a stroke of genius, the carnivorous flying squirrel. (aww) Combined with the amusing illustration, this is the best thing he's come up with evar. What's more terrifying than a swarm of these leaping onto you, each taking off a little chunk of flesh and then scurrying away with it? The only thing that's really in the same league are giant space hamsters. I an definitely using these when I get a chance.

Up on a soapbox: Individuals are important, and can make a difference to the flow of world history. While the truth of this statement can be debated in the real world, it should definitely be the case in your games, particularly for the PC's. Otherwise what's the point in playing? So let them rock. Not a particularly exceptional or controversial position, really.

Off the shelf: The coming of the horseclans by Robert Adams is a reprint of the first book in what sems to be the reviewers favourite series. It goes without saying that he wants you to get it.
The iron dream by Norman Spinrad is another reprint. It tells the story of what could have happened if hitler had decided to become a novelist and emigrated to america instead of taking over germany. Which certainly sounds interesting.
Mallworld by Somtow Sucharitkul (now there's a hard name to write right. ) pokes fun at humanities current foibles via extrapolative sci-fi.
The earth-shaker by Lin Carter is another novel in the Prince zarkon series. The liberal stealing from various pulp stories continues.
The wrath of khan by Vonda N McIntyre is of course the novelisation of the latest star trek movie. Of course, the novel format means you get to see inside the characters heads, as well as some stuff that was cut from the final version of the movie. Which makes it a worthwhile complement to the film.
Collected fantasies by Avram Davidson is a collection of whimsical short stories. Can dentists save the world from alien invaders? Stranger things have happened.
Bolo by Keith Laumer is another load of short stories, this one telling the tales of giant, self powered super-tanks and what happens when they refuse to be shut down after the war is over.
Erasmus Magister by Charles Sheffield blends real history and fiction cleverly, making legends seem plausible.
Death, edited by Stuart David Schiff is a compilation of stories from Whispers magazine about , well, you can guess from the title. It goes from comedy to horror, as real deaths do.
Black easter and The day after judgement by James Blish are two books in a series. Bored billionaire unleashes all the demons of hell. Concequences happen. No-one ends up happy. You'd think people would learn from other peoples mistakes. But no. Still, it makes for entertaining reading, and gets praise for the consistency of its science and magic.
Merchanters luck by C.J. Cherryh follows on from downbelow station. Once again, this reviewers favourite gets plenty of praise for its characterization and plotting.
 

Mr Teufel

Dashing
RPGnet Member
Validated User
...
Up on a soapbox: Individuals are important, and can make a difference to the flow of world history. While the truth of this statement can be debated in the real world, it should definitely be the case in your games, particularly for the PC's. Otherwise what's the point in playing? So let them rock. Not a particularly exceptional or controversial position, really.
Maybe now. But I think it would have been less accepted back in the day. Else why 3d6 rolled six times, in order? Or games like old Traveller?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 66: October 1982

part 4/4

The dragon's augury: Star Smuggler is a solo sci-fi adventure game. Can you make enough to pay off the loan on your starship before it gets reposessed. You'll have to work fast and take risks. This is obviously in the same vein as the fighting fantasy books, if a bit more complex. The reviewer certainly seems to like it. We'll be seeing plenty more of these in the coming years.

An open letter to rick loomis: Ahh, joy. It's another amusing case of Gary airing his dirty laundry in public. (or quite possibly the same one referred to obliquely earlier) This is amusing. What are we to do with these bickering games companies? Not much we can do really unless we invent time travel, so lets just enjoy the show and see how it gets followed up on.

Friends in high places: A jokey minific from Roger Moore. What is the ultimate source of ultimate power that nothing else in the game can match up to? Read on to find out. And then bitch about it in forums, because it's so unfair. ;)

What's new talks about building your own dungeon in real life. Wormy has lots of arcane language stuff that is diliberately incomprehensible.

Seems to be a lot of articles on recurring themes and series this month. Combined with the continuing real life drama, this makes it most interesting in context, particularly since a big chunk of the issue was pretty dull on its own merits. The average quality definitely seems to be on a downswing at the moment. Lets hope they can pull out of this soon.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
An open letter to rick loomis: Ahh, joy. It's another amusing case of Gary airing his dirty laundry in public. (or quite possibly the same one referred to obliquely earlier) This is amusing. What are we to do with these bickering games companies? Not much we can do really unless we invent time travel, so lets just enjoy the show and see how it gets followed up on.
So what's Gary's beef this time around?
 

castiglione

Registered User
Validated User
So what's Gary's beef this time around?
I don't know but I can guess.

Rick Loomis was (and still is), the president of FBInc - Flying Buffalo, Inc., the publisher of Tunnels & Trolls, a game that grew out of Ken St. Andre's house-rules for RPG'ing that grew out of OD&D but eventually became quite different.

I seem to recall that Gary Gygax had some nasty things to say about T & T.
 
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