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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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    411

Lugh

Retired User
Actually, the catoblepas is another of those creatures that seems like a dumb D&D monster, but is based on a pre-existing beast. As with many of the fun ones, it comes to us from Pliny. I guess rigorous research was less important than comprehensive data in those days.


Gary's articles on GM tips are always so interesting. Especially as they always seemed to directly contradict a lot of the advice from other articles in later issues of Dragon. I do sometimes wonder what the industry would have been like if Arneson had written all those editorials instead of Gygax.


Huh. I'm not familiar with any of those magic items, at least by name. It may be because I skipped 1e altogether, going straight from BECMI to 2e.


Good stuff!
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Actually, the catoblepas is another of those creatures that seems like a dumb D&D monster, but is based on a pre-existing beast. As with many of the fun ones, it comes to us from Pliny. I guess rigorous research was less important than comprehensive data in those days.
I am entirely aware of that. It merely heralds their appearance as D&D monsters.

Gary's articles on GM tips are always so interesting. Especially as they always seemed to directly contradict a lot of the advice from other articles in later issues of Dragon. I do sometimes wonder what the industry would have been like if Arneson had written all those editorials instead of Gygax.
Well lots of people say they had great fun playing under him, so who's to say its bad advice. But then again, lots of people say the same about playing under kevin siembieda, and look how his internet communications turn out. Some people can just make you crawl through the mud and still love it and come back for more, but most can't. And if they write advice based on what works for them, that's quite understandable.

Huh. I'm not familiar with any of those magic items, at least by name. It may be because I skipped 1e altogether, going straight from BECMI to 2e.
:Shrug: I'm sure I remember seeing them in the book of artifacts for 2nd ed as well. I'll check this when I get home.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon issue 1: June 1976

So here we are. The prelude is over, the warming up has finished, It's time to begin running this marathon in earnest. At 32 pages and $1.50, they expand yet again. Some terrible color choices here. Pale yellow-green text on bright pinky-orange background does not make for legible teaser text. While the art is better than the last SR issue, there is still extensive amounts of white space on the cover, and the dragon looks somewhat cartoonish. But then again, I seem to remember seeing early 80's books with similar art, so I suspect that style will be with us for quite a while.

It opens with an editorial spelling out their new intentions - to cease being a house organ (which of course they did successfully for over 20 years before WotC swallowed them up again) but instead to cover the whole roleplaying scene. Rates for articles and artwork coming next issue. Another massive historical change is the need for stamped self addressed envelopes. In this era of ubiquitous computers and quick easy copying, we forget that only a few decades ago, you had to make every copy of an amateur work yourself, and often people would send off their only copy to places.

In this issue:

Fafhrd and the grey mouser give their idiosyncratic opinion on roleplaying and the idea of other people playing in their world. A classic of the "pretend that characters are real in another dimension, and the author is merely writing down their stories" trope that would be used by many D&D authors in the future.

Dirt comic continues.

Converting the battle of the 5 armies from the hobbit to chainmail.

A decidedly arcane method of determining odds of success at a general task based on your attribute. Yeah, I can see why this one never caught on, compared to the simple roll d20 under attribute, possibly with modifiers, that most of us used.

Putting superscience into D&D: No real discussion of logistics or the cool issues that could arise from this here. Essentially just an excuse for jim ward to give us a load of *cough*magic*cough technological devices with a vague backstory about atlanteans. Hey, its a trick that'll work three decades later in Mage and Armageddon. Don't knock it. ;)

Some discussions on language in D&D. Does feel very dated, and suffers somewhat from the humans are the only race with different languages problem. Features a cleric who was granted the ability to speak Were-St-Bernard, but who has never actually met a Were-St-Bernard to speak it too, which says it all really.

Fiction: The search for the forbidden chamber by Jake Jaquet. The trope of wizards with metaawareness continues in this silly little tale, featuring a recyclosarus, and whole load of other references and in-jokes.

A 4 page spread of tournament rules for Gen-con 9 by Len Lakofka.

Bullettes! Another monster that barely changed at all throughout editions, Cause what's not to love about a shark that can burrow through the ground with its fin out and then leap out and rip you to shreds. Plus it doesn't have any mechanical kinks that need nerfing, just straightforward combat skills.

Hints on mapping wilderness areas. Another thing that seems to have reduced in focus in recent years, but is still good advice that is still valid now.

An expansion for illusionists by Peter Aronson, bringing them up to 14th level and 7th level spells. Introduces those lovely annoyances color spray, phantasmal killer and dispel exhaustion, among others. Now you know who to blame.

Expansions for Royal armies of the hyperborean age, and Dungeon!

Pimping for "Classic warfare", "Citadel", and "White bear and Red Moon".

Fiction: The Gnome Cache by Garrison Ernst. The first piece of fiction set in Oerth, and immediately I learn some stuff about it I never knew before. Ends on a too be continued, and I'm already interested in seeing what happens next, how Greyhawk developed while it was still young and vital.

An attempt to convert LOTR elves to D&D. Sylvan elves are common and magically nerfed, sindar are equal to standard D&D elves, while Noldor are twinked out. As you may gather, there is no attempt at balance at all.

The number of adverts continues to increase, but more welcomingly, the amount of fiction has as well. With the use of articles by freelancers, the tone definitely feels a lot more diverse. There is a quite substantial quotient of silliness, and it's obvious that many readers found the tropes of the day as lampoonable as we do. The days when things like the ecology of monsters and realistic ramifications of spells on society would become discussed are still some time away.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
So here we are. The prelude is over, the warming up has finished, It's time to begin running this marathon in earnest. At 32 pages and $1.50, they expand yet again. Some terrible color choices here. Pale yellow-green text on bright pinky-orange background does not make for legible teaser text. While the art is better than the last SR issue, there is still extensive amounts of white space on the cover, and the dragon looks somewhat cartoonish. But then again, I seem to remember seeing early 80's books with similar art, so I suspect that style will be with us for quite a while.
I had to take a look for myself:


I also like the logo. Could almost be a a (18th century) textbook case of spontaneous generation. At first, it looked like green slime turning into a snake. Which would be an interesting, if campy, monster.

The overt LotR conversion is interesting. Well before the hobbit/halfling issues.
 

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
Lots of tekumel stuff. Interesting that easily the best setting stuff in the early days is coming from here. Whatever happened to M.A.R Barker?
I'm not aware of any sort of skulduggery or mischief or spat between Barker and TSR. Near as I can tell, Tekumel was simply eclipsed by player interest in more traditional, High Fantasy settings. But by the time I started reading, Tekumel and Dr. Barker had pretty much vanished from the pages of Dragon. I didn't hear about them until a decade after I started playing D&D. :confused:

- Brian
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The Dragon issue 2: August 1976

Another step upwards in production values takes place here, a full color cover, and the first internal color art as well. Along with that, the confidence of the editorial staff seems to be growing. They've found a basic formula, and now they're refining it. Quite a few of the regular features are still missing, but they're putting more articles that span multiple issues in now, with the expectation that people are buying multiple successive issues to get the full story. Which means those bugbears Continuity and Metaplot begin their slow growth into the monsters that would entwine their tentacles around and inside the 90's, violating so many peoples play experiences, here.

In this issue.

A formal arena fighting system for monks. Essentially an entirely different system of combat based around selecting a sequence of fighting moves (6 in a row, which reminds me of burning wheels scripted combat.) and then consulting a table which makes certain moves effective or useless against other ones, rock paper scissors stylee, and seeing how each sequence turns out. This is basically its own self contained minigame, and looks like it could be quite fun, as it involves far less luck than regular D&D combat, but more ability to second guess your opponent, and is a lot more tactical. I'd definitely like to try it sometime.

The second installment of The Gnome Cache and the conclusion of the Search for the Forbidden Chamber. The contrast between these two stories is quite striking, when looked at in succession and shows that people were already playing the game with very different tones.

Hints for dungeon construction, with a particular emphasis on traps and tricks. Adventurers should never trust magic items in old-school games. You never know when one of them is going to explode or curse you with something embaressing.

Fiction: Shadow of a demon by Gardner F Fox. Some very old skool (and rather mysogynistic) swords and sorcery, with some wonderfully florid prose. A real guilty pleasure to read. Their habit of continuing articles several pages becomes really irritating when reading in .pdf, however

Some stuff on Queztalcoatal and aztec culture. Completely systemless, and rather dry.

Remorhaz! With classic Erol Otus artwork! Another iconic weird D&D monster gets its start here.

Finally, a new class that never caught on. The alchemist. That perennial problem of being too dependent on downtime and components makes them ill suited to adventuring (although someone really could do something that does for alchemists what indiana jones did for archeology, as seeking out rare formulae and components is a very adventurable process) and so that is quite understandable.

More Dirt.

A weapons specialisation and two weapon fighting system. Oh yes, another optional rule granting additional powers with no drawbacks. Not that it really balances fighters in comparison to all the amazing things spellcasters can do at high levels. But we've got to give the fighter players some choice to keep them from getting bored. Otherwise we'd lose our meat shields, and that would be no good now, would it ;) .

An advert for Gods, Demigods and Heroes, billed as "The Last D&D Supplement!?!" (Ahahahahaha!!!!! ahem) Already feel like your're scraping the bottom of the barrel folks? Fear not. You will scrape many a barrel more before your time is up.

Lots of good fiction in this one, but the rules stuff isn't as well integrated as in previous issues. Still not a lot of actual setting, just what ever is nececary for the adventure.
 

Keefe the Thief

Guuhhn Fingas
Validated User
Because i was interested in this myself and have the magazines, let´s see who advertised in these issues:


Adverts in the Dragon - Issue 1

- TSR advertises it´s own "Battle of the five armies" rules by Larry Smith. Already the revised edition - 5$ only. And the whole set comes in a zip-lock bag.

- Diplomacy World is advertised: a quarterly magazine about the Diplomacy game. I love ads like these, where you see that it´s really one person on their home adress behind the whole thing. Shows you what fan dedication can accomplish.

- Heritage advertises "fantasy figures". I love their ad text: "An entire new range of 'monsters' and the men who fought in the time of medieval fantasy." And the catalog is only 50c.

- A full page ad from my favorite wargaming company: "Der Kriegsspielers." No, i never bought anything from them, i just like the bad, bad German they used for their name. It´s either "Die Kriegsspieler" or "Der Kriegsspieler" - always brings a smile to my face. German makes wargaming better somehow, i suppose.

- A smaller ad for Miniature Figurines Ltd. They announce that they are the largest manufacturer for wargame figure in the world. Really?

- And of course an ad for Gen Con IX.

Lot´s of wargaming companies realize the potential of the new gaming trend, it seems. It will be interesting when the first roleplaying company buys an advert.


Adverts in Dungeon, Issue 2

(I´m only going to list new or special ads).

- First Game Shop ad! The Dungeon in Lake Geneva, no less. "Fantasy Crossroads of the Worlds."

- Two games advertised in one ad: "The Ringbearer" and "Knights of the Round Table" (4$ and 6$), both by The Little Soldier (Maryland). "Wargaming with miniatures" - i always wonder if some of these games already had some proto-RPG rules contained.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Yeah, the adverts are interesting for historical reference. I am paying attention to them, and will announce significant developments.

Incidentally, this leads onto a problem with the later post Archive issues, where the adverts are cut out from the official scans(why?). This prevents me from doing that for this era when I get to it, and also makes it a bugger for me to determine the precise page count of the last few years, which is annoying because I want to do a graph of page counts over the years. If someone could help me with that (essentially, most of the issues from 286 onwards) I would be very gratefull.
 
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