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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)

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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 72: April 1983

part 3/4

Up on a soapbox: Oh, this is good. Someone's realized that hardly anyone uses the level titles in actual play, for quite a number of reasons. They're a cultural mishmash, and imply things about your social status that may not be true. They eat up synonyms that could be used for other classes. (this must have made D&D a real pain in the ass to translate to languages that don't steal liberally from other cultures. ) All in all, they cause more trouble than they bring benefit, especially if used as in game terms. Which is probably true. But of course the designers still have to stick with their current choice until the next edition at least. Such is the nature of progress.

A new name? It's elementary: Want a flavourful name for something in the game? Use ye olde english. Still stuck, roll on this random table to generate appropriate sounding names. If you want names that sound like a different culture, go somewhere else. Not really much to say about this one. Just another way to fill up a couple of pages.

Spy's advice: Can you stop someone from attacking you with a ranged weapon by attacking them hand to hand (Yes, by a strict reading of the rules. Hmm. Maybe we should do something about that.)
Should players be allowed to see the combat tables (yes)
How far do you move when you retreat (10 feet)
Can you keep from being hurt by clinching. (as long as they're trained and roll well. )
How do you get a HtH weapon value above 250 (dual weapon wielding. Twinktastic!)
How did you extrapolate the extra damage in the combat example (see the injury modifiers table)
Can you convert semi-automatic weapons to fully automatic ones (yes, but it'll cost ya. )
Who pays for food and stuff when you're on a mission (normally the agency, within reason, unless you're deep undercover and have to fend for yourself)
Do you get XP for rescuing someone during the course of an assassination mission (no)
How do you learn a new language ( do a course, or treat it as an area of knowledge)
When an agent switches bureaus, do they lose their raised ability scores (no, general experience counts for something. )
Can you describe the social special powers (surely they should be self-explanatory. Oh, alright then, here's a few lines)
Do you get xp for using fake money if you don't know it's fake (no. You aren't honing your lying skills if you think you're telling the truth. )
What do you classify rolling as (Crawling for movement rate, running and dodging for penalties to hit.)
What's with the modifiers for called shots (I have my reasons. You can change them if you don't like them)
Do distractions work in ranged combat (not very well)
What's the damage for a hollow point bullet filled with mercury (same as for a Dumdum bullet)
Are the new bureaus in dragon magazine legal (They aren't official yet. We have tournament compatibility to consider. You are encouraged to try them, if your GM will let you. )

Dr. Mabuse

Hueymakt Initiate
Validated User
Dragon Issue 71: March 1983

part 2/4
Who gets the first swing?: A new, more realistic initiative system? :rolleyes: Here we go again. 12 pages of experimental rules and modifiers. Well, it's definitely more realistic, and adds more tactical options for fighters, which is to be lauded. The quantity of tables on the other hand, is not, and despite what they say, using this does look like it would slow down play. I really don't think I can be bothered to test it, and see if it does work out in actual play.
We had a lot of fun with this system. It does make combat slightly slower, but not much – and I think what we got in return made it worth it.

The core of the system is that every weapon has two modifiers to initiative: One for closing (based on weapon length, Dex, Size and level) and one for in-range combat (based on weapon speed, dex and level). While a bit fiddly to calculate, once calculated they didn’t change (outside levelling etc). A character may have something like “Short sword -1/+1” and “Quarter-staff +3/-1” on his sheet.

In combat the appropriate modifier is added to the initiate d6 roll. Besides deciding who goes first, lower than 1 reduces the to-hit chance for that round, while 7 or higher gives a chance for a second attack.

With this system you get to chose between fast weapons and hard hitting weapons – the fighter has to choose between the 2H sword and the light mace. It gives the thief and other high dex types a little more action in combat. They still don’t do as much damage as the fighter per hit, but they may hit more often.

Then there is the range system. A positive (roll + modifier) was necessary to move from closing to in-range. You need to manoeuvre to maximize your bonus, and/or your opponent’s penalty – or switch weapon when if you are unable to do so. If unable or unwilling to manoeuvre (“hold the line” or “mind the chasm”), there is a special tactic protecting the weak-skinned: When closing, you can convert your initiative bonus to a penalty for your short weapon opponent, hoping to keep him out of range and unable to attack. A favourite tactic for my staff wielding magic-user: hoping to keep the orc at bay long enough for the fighter to come to the rescue :)

The attack priority system adds a lot of tactical fun to AD&D combat. I like it because it gives the player choices (weapons, manoeuvre, tactics) and makes characters of the same class less alike.

We abandoned AD&D for fantasy gaming in favour of RuneQuest (and Pendragon) more than 20 years ago, but I still miss this initiative system and the fun combats we had.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 72: April 1983

part 4/4

Off the shelf: Once again, the entire conan series is getting reprinted. You'd think they could keep such a big author in print continously, but no. Besides. If you put different covers and running orders on the collections you can scam people out of more money. Anyway, the books given full reviews this month are
Out of their minds by Clifford D Simak tells the story of a person finding his way into the place imaginary creatures live. The results are both amusing and scary.
We can build you by Philip K Dick is another of his books with a strong message about technology and the way humanity can be blurred by it. Yes, it has dangers, but we still ought to try and improve ourselves. The world will only last so long, and becoming inhuman is better than going extinct.
Elfquest by Wendy & Richard Pini is a novelisation of the first 5 issues of the comic. This means they can retell it with a different perspective and fill in some details. So they can sell it again to the diehard fans for minimal extra effort. ;)
Elfquest II by Wendy & Richard Pini is not a novelisation, merely the trade collection of issues 6-10. I hope that's not confusing.
The making of the wrath of khan by Allan Asherman is an in-detail look behind the scenes, with lots of photos from the set and conceptual art. If it details all the production shenannigans I don't know, but I doubt it.
Myth directions by Robert Asprin is the third in a series, but that doesn't matter too much, as its mostly about the humour rather than the plot. With illustrations by Phil Foglio, it's certainly well served in the visual area. File under light reading.
Misplaced persons by Lee Harding is one of those stories about a person who suddenly finds the whole world starts ignoring him. Why? How does he escape this condition? Read it and see, because the review doesn't spoil us.
Retief to the rescue by Keith Laumer is the first new book in the series for 10 years. But It's another strong entry, not a cynical cash-in. Much bureaucratic comedy occurs.
A world called camelot by Arthur H Landis puts sci-fi up against magic, and turns the offworlder into an unsuspecting epic hero in Edgar rice Burroughesque fashion. Good triumphs (at a cost) evil is defeated in the end, everyones happy.
Fantasy annual V, edited by Terry Carr is another returning series that the reviewer rather likes. Get the earlier ones as well, You won't regret it.
The wind from a burning woman (ew) by Greg Bear is an innovative collection of short stories from a brand new author. The ideas are interesting, and the book looks good as well. I wonder if we'll see him again.

The role of books continues to give us more potentially helpful guides to help us make our own worlds and mythology. I'm afraid even Lew can't keep this interesting. I think that's enough installments. If we spend all the time reading other people's stuff we'll never get the chance to make our own.

Reviews: Questworld takes the runequest system and turns it towards more generic game settings. Why am I getting a sense of deja vu? ;) It still has a default setting, and is slanted heavily towards fantasy gaming, so it's hardly a universal system yet. Baby steps, I guess. Those reservations don't mean its a bad game, by any means, and it's adventures are useful to both Gloranthan adventurers and people making their own homebrews. A pretty reasonable review, really.

Whadaya know, What's new almost manages sex in D&D, but gets distracted by jesters Haven't you cleared them out from last year yet?. Dragonmirth references pac-man. You'll never clear out that dungeon, ever. Wormy is mostly in foreign this month. Great Harold, what are they talking about?

A pretty good issue, overall. They're introducing cool new cool stuff, and seem to be pulling out of the new year slump. Lets hope they keep their promises to put Monster trucks and other new topics into the magazine. ;) We could do with the variety.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 73: May 1983

Part 1/4

100 pages They change not only their format, but their typeface and column layout this month. Very interesting. I expect we'll soon take it for granted, like most little changes of this sort. But they haven't made the changes they said they would last issue. April fool :D In fact, they've actually increased their size, and intend to keep this up. Great. More work for me. We have several old things elaborated upon, plus the usual array of new stuff and returning features. On with the show.

In this issue:

Hmm. A Harn advert. Interesting. Another long running setting gets added to the list of arrivals.

Out on a limb: Two letters asking some questions about the attack priority system in issue 71. Kim does his best to help, as usual.
Two letters commenting on and complaining about the social class articles. People really don't like the idea of being unable to get into a class because they're too low on the totem pole. And if every other PC is going to try and break the rules just because they're there, why have them at all?
A letter filling us in on the effects of extreme cold (or at least, canadian temperatures. :) ) and asking for a better article on the effects of temperature in general. They reply that since the writer seems so knowledgable, perhaps they should write it. :p
A letter engaging in some mathematical quibbling.
A letter telling us more about tides around the world. As usual, things are never as simple as they first seem, and there are a bunch of variations and exceptions. Fascinating.
A letter praising their humble artists. They really don't get enough credit for their part in making the magazine look good. Damn right. Good to see a purely positive letter once in a while.

Another new class this month, The Duelist. Designed to put a little more drama into D&D combat, they are exceedingly good at one-on one battles, but not so much at facing monsters, spellcasters and other stuff. While more powerful than straight fighters, they still can't hold a candle to a properly designed druid or wizard. They would make a perfectly legitimate character as long as you weren't facing nothing but humans in your adventures. I quite like this, even though they might outshine the other fighting classes a bit, it's well written and has a strong sense of flavour and thematics.

From the sorceror's scroll: Oooh. The planes take another big step forward, as Gary introduces the para and quasielemental planes. Ooze, magma, radiance, vacuum, and all the rest in their instadeath inflicting glory. Plus we get the code for the colour curtains when engaged in ethereal and astral travel. Every planar traveller ought to know them, because ending up in a place that'll kill you instantly when unprepared is not a good idea. As ever, it's fascinating to discover how this stuff started and evolved. That he gives us several alternatives that he tried and rejected as well is a definite plus. After all, even if they're not canonical, you could still use them in your own games. It keeps players who've read the books from knowing all the answers.
We also end with another blatant plug for money, as Gary mentions the TSR scholarship fund for gamers (?!) and encourages people to both donate to it and apply for it. Ookay. That's a bit of a sour note. He could definitely have phrased that a bit better.

The solo scenario: Katherine Kerr considers the benefits and difficulties in one-on-one play. You have to put in rather more effort to tailor the adventure to both the abilities of the character and the personality of the player if you want it to work well. However, it does offer substantial benefits in terms of attention, you're free to have extensive attention on emotional matters that would result in big chunks of the group doing nothing for parts of the session, and you don't have to worry about splitting the party. She quotes plenty of personal experiences and her advice seems sound, particularly if you want to do more roleplaying than dungeon crawling. She also digresses onto how to introduce a new player to the game, and how to integrate a newly joined player into an established group. This is a very strong article indeed, and really stands out from the crowd. I get the impression that this inspired quite a few people to develop their playstyle beyond team based dungeoncrawling. Which is good.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 73: May 1983

Part 2/4

The ecology of the catoblepas: Looks like this series has been taken up eagerly and is already in full swing. They have entries lined up for the rest of the year. And why not. Who doesn't love ecology (apart from the current D&D developers). This month's entry takes a particularly strange tack in inventing and rationalizing it's subjects powers and mating procedure. The catoblepas we see are the females, and the males are pathetic little grazing things that have to run up behind her and get their end away without being looked at and dying. (so many comments I could make here but won't :D ) Their death attack is due to their breath, rather than an actual gaze. (grody) And the fiction ends with an amusing twist. Even if you don't use the changes and additions it makes, its still an entertaining article. The antics of the sages in it jive well with my view of D&D sage groups of this period's implied setting. Lets hope the next few entries in the series keep up this strong showing.

The whole half-ogre: Roger Moore reiterates and expands upon the half-ogre. (from all the way back in issue 29. That's quite the gap) Yes, they are quite limited in a lot of ways. You'll just have to accept that if you play one and concentrate on the good parts. Low stats do not neccecarily make a character not fun to play. Not an exceptional article, especially as so much of it is rehash. I wonder why they decided to do that now. Seems like the sort of thing that would be more appropriate for the best ofs than here.

Relief for traveller nobility: Oh joy. Another article offering extra detail (and more importantly, extra powers) for a particular career path. [/sarcasm] Yeah, I'm recycling my material. So are they. You want to be a noble who actually has the money to own an estate or a full-on ship, rather than just being some hanger-on relation, use these. Seems pretty self explanatory.

Lights, camera, life!: Having done several artist profiles. they're now showing you some hints on how to make your own dramatic images from miniatures. Basic set-up, how to make simple special effects, and lots of sample pictures. Once again I am reminded just how much computers have revolutionized the editing process, allowing even amateurs to achieve results that would take tons of equipment and training years ago. This is one of those articles that feels woefully short, as you could fill whole books on this subject, and he's got only a page or so of writing to give to us. But at least they're trying to cover other topics.

Figure feature has lots of ridable stuff this issue. Dinosaurs, elephants, big cats, wyverns, griffons. Quite the selection for your character to choose from. Hopefully the figure on top will also suit your conception of your character.

When it gets hit, it gets hurt: Equipment damage and maintenance rules. No thanks. Particularly when they happen every time you roll a 1 or 20. While I don't inherently object to realism, those odds are just bastardliness masquerading as realism, and would not make for better games. On the plus side, they're simple, so if you want to set your game in a universe where entropy has a far more brutal hand on the balls of reality than this one, it won't slow the game down too much. You can still expect complaining from the players, unless they get a chance to escape and kick entropies ass at some point.

Non-violent magic items: Well, this is nice. One hundred new items, all of which aren't combat focussed, and many of which are very handy for everyday living. Thank you very much Mr Pulsipher. These'll definitely come in handy for when want to award treasure. We can always do with a little more general setting depth. I'm sure some of these items could be put to broken purposes in the hands of devious players, but they'd have to think about it. And since that kind of ingenuity is something I encourage, I may well choose some of these over another +1 item if I get the chance.


Validated User
Can you give us some examples of some of the more creative of those magic items? They sound rather cool...

Lord Mhoram

Registered User
Validated User
Who doesn't love ecology (apart from the current D&D developers).
Raises hand.

I always found them boring to be honest. Anytime I looked at a monster/creature that kind of info sprang to mind immediately - so just seeing someone else's interpretation (that I would likely never use) was just not useful to me.

But I am strange that way - new mechanics give me story ideas, plots and such, but fluff stuff never inspired me.


Rite Publishing
Validated User
I always enjoyed the ecology articles, when the pertained to the Game, not just and excuse to play armchair biologist.

They also became excuses for ficiton (most very well written though), but those also were not useful as they were told from some outside third party point of view rather than say the intelligent creatures viewpoint (which could have helped with more effective roleplaying).


committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
I liked most Ecology articles, save for the very one about the catoblepas - since it changed the mechanics of the monster it sought to describe.

Mr Teufel

RPGnet Member
Validated User
I enjoyed the ones that didn't turn into farces about the "monster hunters", but just described the creatures.

As for the catoblepas, the author there seems to be familiar with the legendary beast, which indeed was significantly different from the D&D version. But I agree, that makes it less useful as a D&D article.
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