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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
What became of AMAZING magazine?
That lasted for ages. They were still advertising it when I started reading first time around. :checks: According to wikipedia, it was published reguarly untill 1995, and managed to hang on intermittently untill 2006, when paizo (who got the rights to it from WotC along with dragon and dungeon.) finally decided to give up on it, due to poor sales. I guess the licence has probably reverted back to WotC now, and they're just sitting on it.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983

Part 1/4

103 pages. Looks like Gary's recent outbursts have once again provoked a rash of critical responses. And once again, they proclaim their independence. The reason they're covering D&D more is because it's popularity relative to everything else has increased so much, so they're going where the money is. Which is a bit depressing in itself, but that's the nature of an expanding outlier. It takes a while for that success to trickle down to the rest of the industry, if it ever does. Economics sucks. Lets try and get back to the escapism.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter calling out the idiocy of making thieves cant an actual language, rather than a set of jargon, like it is in reality. Frankly, if you can accept the concept of alignment languages, you can accept the concept that thieves and druids have their own language that's the same all over the world. But of course so many people couldn't, which is why they got rid of them in 3e.
A letter saying that read illusionist magic contradicts earlier statements that illusionists don't need spells to read their books. They reply that yes, that was the case, but newest rules supercede earlier ones. It's their game, and they can change the rules any time they want. And then you have to change them too, otherwise you are no longer playing an Official AD&Dtm Game. So there.
Two more letter pointing out errors. Again, they reply. Some of them were indeed errors, but others were actual changes to the rules. But how can we be sure which is which, when it seems like every few issues, we have gary apologizing for an error that was in a previous one.
A letter saying that Nystuls magic aura should be an illusionist spell, because, y'know, it makes an illusion. A valid point.
A letter engaging in lots of quibbling about the language articles a few issues ago, with a particular focus on the prevailance of literacy in D&D's world. Yes, not being able to read has quite a few drawbacks. But even now, there are big chunks of the world where a substantial percentage of the population can't read. Still, I suppose modern D&D is even more realistic in that respect.
Another letter quibbling about the amount of psychosomatic effect illusion spells can have. They quote real life examples of hypnotism and placebo effects. This can't end well. We also get yet more comments on the language articles. They really are proving surprisingly controversial.
And finally a bit of errata. Seems like David Megarry was left out of the credits for the Dungeon computer game. Guess he'll just have to settle for a mention here.

Runes: Ancient languages. Now there's a fitting topic for a D&D game. Lots of real world history, plus some advice on how to incorporate it into your game. Which mainly amounts to window dressing on the current system. Not the most spectacular starter feature ever. But it's to early in the morning for a whole new magic system anyway.

Runestones: Hello again Elminster. What are you talking about this time? Dethlek, the dwarven rune language. What a co-incidence. This is of course a good example of how to apply a real world idea to the game, changing it just enough that it doesn't feel like a total rip-off. Of course, he slips in more realms setting details along the way, and we get more of an idea of elminsters personal voice as contrasted with Ed's. Actually, the framing is more interesting than the subject. I'm not sure that's such a good thing. Oh well, it's more entertaining than the previous article anyway.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983

Part 2/4

Fiction: Be Quest by Atanielle Annyn Noel. Vaguely connected to first two articles in that it's set in a kinda scandinavian mileu, this is basically a little story of overcoming your own fears. No real supernatural element, very little setting, only two pages long. Feels a bit insubstantial really.

From the Sorceror's scroll: Anotther official class introduced this month. The thief-acrobat. Another proto-prestige class like the bard, this allows you to specialize in certain functions of your class at the expense of the others. Which is certainly a development. Albeit one with some precedent, in the illusionist. Now, if only they could apply that principle in an organized fashion to all the classes. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. This seems to be designed for people who want more cinematic, mobile combats. While certainly not at wuxia levels of jumping ability, they are substantially better than most characters. Course, someone buffed with fly and haste'll beat even that no trouble, just as knock beats any lockpicker. This certainly isn't as problematic as the barbarian, in any case. A fairly middle of the road article in terms of quality.

Ha. Despite economic downturns, TSR is hiring 160 new staff. Is that really wise? S'not a good idea to expand beyond your limits and get into debt. ;)

Fiction: Everybody eats everybody on sunday's planet by Jeff Swycaffer. Yay. After a load of mediocre articles, we finally have a kickass bit of sci-fi, setting up a story, an ecology and a fairly convincing alien psychology and using it to make a sociopolitical point, all in three pages. Very nice indeed. And to think some authors would take multi-hundred page trilogy to get to the same point.

Deities and demigods of greyhawk: This month's addition to the pantheon are Istus and Obad-hai. Plus we get stats for time elementals, which are a lot smarter than regular elementals, and get time manipulation powers that make them a pain in the ass to deal with. Bow down and worship, because the alternative is not a good one. No great surprises here.

Charting the classes: Roger Moore gets all statistical on us. Mmm. Just how I like it baby. He analyses relative power level at various XP levels. And we discover that druids and bards rock, monks suck, and illusionists are surprisingly well balanced. Gee, that's a surprise. He then suggests a bunch of stuff to fix these problems. He also turns his eye to Gary's new introductions, and is distinctly critical of them. He obviously put in rather more thought, particularly in terms of mathematical rigour, than the original writer. This is why it's good to have a mathematician on the team. If you don't the game you design will have substantial imbalances, no matter how hard you try. Okay, so it won't be perfect even with one, but you can get a lot closer.

Featured Creatures is still in a fungible mood, with the ustilagor and zygom. Psychic fungus that promotes paranoia, and parasitic fungus that grows inside you and takes you over. Both are pretty gross, and should make for interesting conflicts that go beyond straight-up battles. Especially when they turn PC's against one another. That's always fun.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Later the ustilagor was turned into a larval intellect devourer, I think in the psionics handbook. What a soft, wimpy critter to turn into one of the most rediculously overpowered creatures in the game.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983

Part 3/4

Caped crusaders and masked Marvels: More analytical stuff from Roger. He turns his attention to the superhero genre and the innate problems that making a game for them presents. Killing is not de rigeur and the rules need to support this, because damage systems where characters are fragile (yes, you aberrant) will result in people dying a lot even if you try and play nice. Physics are exceedingly loose, and the range of powers characters can have very wide. Keeping a team together and following the adventure you had planned may be a problem. All of which are surmountable problems, but it does mean the games are easier to break than D&D. While this points out the problems, it doesn't do a lot to solve them, particularly on the mechanical side. You'll still have to convince your players to play along with the genre conventions, which might not be easy. This is definitely an area that needs improving.

Of course there is some themed advertising adjacent to the above article.

Arakhar's Wand: Another complete boardgame. We are building up quite a substantial selection of these. The good guys hunt for the wand before the evil side can amass enough monsters to take over the world (Muahahahaha!) Some very dry point by point rules make the system pretty clear, but feel rather mechanical to read. The number of variations it has should make for a reasonable amount of replay value. Another solid bit of design.

We get another food fight illustration, apropos of nothing.

Leomund's tiny hut: Len gives us another unofficial class, the Entertainer. Are bards and jesters not enough for you? This seems to be designed to make their progression a whole new gamestyle in itself, with an incredibly idiosyncratic advancement structure with multiple forking advanced class paths. Given their variety, I could easily imagine a whole party comprised mainly of entertainers working as a troupe. This is almost as big a departure from the original mileu as the attempt to twist D&D into boys own adventure in the professor ludlow module. I have to applaud him for the bravery of his attempt. On the other hand, I have no idea how well these guys would work out in actual play with a normal team. Does anyone have any actual play experiences to supply, because I'm really rather curious. This doesn't quite top carnivorous flying squirrels for sheer entertainment, but it comes pretty close. I guess they'll have to train some and use them in their act if they want to reach that elusive 12th level. ;)

Ready for anything: Lew reminds us that you should be prepared for anything when dungeoneering. Which of course means big heavy packs full of just in case shit like wolfsbane, holy water, and climbing equipment. They don't have those encumbrance rules for nothing, you know. This is solid advice for anyone engaged in old skool dungeoneering, because you know the DM won't pull punches, and if you forgot to pack something, chances are you'll wind up wishing you had it. Another solid article from him, that's still useful today. Hell, the basic principles are applicable to real life, if you change the specifics. Fill your jacket or handbag with things you've needed in the past, and probably will again in the future, and you'll avoid so many crises and become the envy of all your friends. (Which means they'll be constantly coming to you for help, but that's a price I'm willing to pay. ;) )

Buy the Fantasia strategy game now! No comment needed.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983

Part 4/4

More pages from the mages: Ha. We get the first hint as to the extent of Elminsters wizardry (and letchery) skills. Well, he is capable of interplanar travel fairly easily, so he can't be a slouch at magical knowledge. We get four spellbooks, and seven new spells, six of them named, plus 16 poisons, 4 new glyphs of warding, and tons of realms tidbits. We're starting to see place names and people show up more than once. It still isn't nearly enough to piece the world behind the hints together, but it is more than enough to intrigue. Before you know it, people'll be bombarding him with questions, and he'll have to reveal ever more. It's a nice way to build a world really. Make up whatever stuff seems fun at the time, and then figure out how to piece it together afterwards. He's certainly doing a better job of it than Gary at the moment.

Words of wisdom about weapon statistics: This is actually a spy's advice under different name. Because lots of people have questions about weapons. Remember folks, know what your weapons can do. They could save someone's life. ;)
Why aren't official guns stats calculated using the formulas in the gun design section. (Lots of reasons. But mainly because we know better than to follow the rules we impose on you. Plus custom guns are designed by amateurs, not pros.)
How are range modifiers designed (more complicated formulae based on examination of real world guns, then modified as we choose)
How did you choose which weapons to include in the book. (we cut ones that were too vaguely described, or statistically too similar to other ones, so you had good choices. Here's some of the ones that were cut)

The reviews section has dropped it's header. Well, it's a new year, they've got to change the format somehow. Anyway, this month's reviews AAAAaaaaare.....
United nations is a game of global politics. Which power bloc will TAKE OVER THE WORLD! first? It seems simple at first, but there's plenty of strategy to be found in it's rules.
Jasmine, battle for the mid-realm takes the characters and world from the story, and lets you resolve the conflict yourself with a strategy card game. After all, they never did get a chance to finish it in the magazine. It has plenty of depth and some features that make it not just about luck and tactics, but also your own skills at negotiating with other players. And obviously the art is pretty good. Someone put a lot of care and attention into this. So the reviewer likes it then

The role of books: Lew continues to gives us books that will help us with our worldbuilding. Cities, castles, other cultures. You'll be able to build better ones in your game if you know how the real ones work. Plus some advice on how to get hold of rare and out of print books. This isn't that interesting, but hopefully the things it points you too will be.

What's new tackles what to do with your christmas presents, Wormy finally gets to the fighting. Dragonmirth is hungover from the christmas celebrations and doesn't get there in time.

Lots and lots of adverts, including a clearance sale of some out of print OD&D stuff. That'll be worth a good deal more in a few years time.

Not a very good issue to start the year off with, with tons of dull stuff, particularly near the beginning where it's most crucial to make a good impression. Looks like the slide in quality control is continuing, and however much they may protest that they are not a house organ, they do seem very much beholden to their masters whims at this point. They really could be doing better.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983
I like the issue more than you do. A really good cover. Competent and evocative. The articles on runes aren't immediately useful a game, but background is always good. Both short stories are strong; a terse coming of age story, and a Lem-like sci-fi tibit with sharply-defined characters and an entertaining psychological twist. (We're starting to get into the golden age of Dragon's fiction.) Arakhar's Wand is fun a couple times, though it isn't particularly compelling. The pragmatic aesthetic of Pulsipher's article reminds me a bit of SJG's recent Dungeon Fantasy series. Moore's level progression tables were useful; unlike today, there weren't endless messageboards dedicated to dissecting every new rule so a bit of analysis was good. The Pages from the Mages articles did a good job mixing together crunch and fluff (though other Forgotten Realms articles are better). On the negative side, the thief-acrobat isn't that good, and god stat blocks (Istus and Obad-hai) are always pretty useless. The entertainer isn't funny, and is overly complex, and the fungi were dull.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 70: February 1983

Part 1/4

84 pages

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter complementing them on the weather article, and also providing some minor errata.
A letter asking them to cover other games more. They reply that they would if they were more popular. But they aren't. So there. This is the magazine for the cool geeks. ;)
A letter asking them to use a better form of binding than staples. But then how could people remove the adventures in the center? :) Plus it'd cost more. They don't want to raise prices.
Another article pointing out the flaws in their thieves cant article. Using so many sibilants would not be a good idea when trying to communicate quietly in a dangerous area, as they're incredibly noticable to anyone who might be listening, even at very low levels. A very valid point indeed. You should pay more attention to the specific sounds that make up a language and their voicing qualities when designing them. If only people did that in real life. Then maybe we wouldn't get languages that you need several pounds of phlegm in your throat to pronounce properly. ;)

The smith: Another NPC class for you to ponder the use of. Well, I guess it'll make players thing twice about killing NPC's instead of paying for new stuff. This is another example of new experiments in class design, giving them unique benefits when combined with PC classes. Since their XP costs are pretty low, this might actually be viable for a PC. One of the better examples of profession classes we've seen.

The hull truth about speed: A big correction here. For whatever reason, the people designing the ship rules in the DMG made larger ships slower than small ones. This is rubbish! Though they may have higher inertia, in reality, the longer a ship is, the faster it can go. It'll just take a while to start, stop or turn. Glad that's sorted out then. Now, will they remember this when designing the rules for the next edition? Previous experience points to unlikely.

From the sorceror's scroll: Oh boy, social status. One of those annoying things that crops up every now and then. Since these are Official AD&Dtm Tables, I assume they apply to greyhawk. So lets see what they reveal about the setting assumptions. If characters are too low in status, they can't get the training to qualify for many classes. There is a quite substantial middle class, and adventurers often hail from it. Most people still go in for official weddings. Half-orcs have about a 1 in 20 chance of being from a stable loving family. First and second children either die a lot, or are discouraged from becoming adventurers, as they are less common as adventurers than 3rd-6th children. (also, orcs apparently don't go for virgins, because a half-orc PC generated by these tables has no chance of being a first child. That generates interesting concepts. ) Hmm. I get the impression that these may not have been thought through too well, as they fail to build a cohesive picture. But then, when has D&D's socioeconomic structure ever made sense? Depressing to realize that's par for the course.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The hull truth about speed: A big correction here. For whatever reason, the people designing the ship rules in the DMG made larger ships slower than small ones. This is rubbish! Though they may have higher inertia, in reality, the longer a ship is, the faster it can go. It'll just take a while to start, stop or turn. Glad that's sorted out then. Now, will they remember this when designing the rules for the next edition? Previous experience points to unlikely.
This gets discussed in an issue or two. See here for more details (barring cavitation or planing, the maximum efficient speed is 1.34 or 1.51 * the square root of the waterline length in feet). Apparently, resistance increases dramatically as the factor rises from 1.3 and 1.5. In pre-modern ship designs this became a hard barrier. Reminds me a bit of the falling damage arguments (which'll come up again in about a year and a half, IIRC).
 
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