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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983

part 1/4

100 pages. Its a devil special! The nine hells and their occupants get an extensive look over, courtesy of Ed Greenwood. This is nice. Another plane is now described enough to be playable. And because it's so big, they've cut in half, so there's still plenty of unrelated stuff in this magazine. Sweet! I can't wait to get my fangs into this one. Should I have saved that joke for the halloween issue? Maybe. Eh, it matters not. There are plenty more where that came from.

In this issue:

Harn, rolemaster and middle earth are once again occupying both the inside front and back covers. Are they not all by the same company. That's quite the saturation of advertising. They must be shelling out a lot to get the premium positions every time.

Out on a limb: Two letters correcting some out of date and incorrect information in the PbM article a couple of issues ago. Its a fast changing world.
A letter criticizing the champions article and the way it handled it's rules changes. Frankly, my dear, you should be grateful for getting anything at all.
A letter praising the first ecology article, and asking for lots more, with more details about their lifecycles and dietary habits. Sounds good to me.
A letter asking how you use the cavalier with the attack priority system. They reply that you'll have to figure that out yourself. As most of the articles are unofficial and by different people, there are bound to be some that are incompatible.

Hmm. Looks like they're looking for a japanese translator. Does that mean Oriental adventures'll be along in a year or so? Does that mean it'll be properly researched? We shall see.

The ecology of the mimic: The magazine finally starts producing homegrown articles for this series, instead of recycling them from Dragonlords. And it seems like Ed is quite taken with the concept, as this is the first of many that he'll contribute over the years. We get descriptions of the way mimic's internal structure produces various textures and colours, probably drawn from real life examples such as octopi. We also get some tactical ideas, including an amusing story of a mimic living in waterdeep disguised as a statue. Still feels a bit short, but it does manage to fit a good deal into a single page. Another article that's well up to his usual standard. Looks like the series is in safe hands.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983

part 2/4

From the sorceror's scroll gives us an extensive list of the dukes of hell, plus several other devils, including abishai and barbazu. As you would expect, they are rather scary, and have extensive lists of powers. A lot of information is given about exactly who is in charge of what. Which makes sense. It is the plane of lawful evil. Having a precise hierarchy to present your players with adds to the sense of solidity of the world. Of course, details may differ from source to source. Chalk it up to the devils lying. Wheels within wheels, muahahahahaha! Anyway, this is indeed a pretty useful article, although it feels a bit weird having Gary be the warm-up act for Ed. There is a bit of illegible scanning, but I think I can figure out roughly what's on it, since I have plenty of planar stuff from other sources. So lets not worry about that, and get to the main course.

The nine hells: Ed greenwood once again shows that when it comes to prose, there are few that can rival him in skill and attention to detail in this era. This first installment covers the first five layers, plus huge quantities of their inhabitants. Considerable amounts of research has gone into collating all the hints from various monster descriptions and providing a home for them, without any contradictions. And so far, he's done a great job. Hell under him is indeed pretty hellish, with each level having it's own distinctive flavour of environmental and social nastiness to negotiate your way through. Pity tha foo paladin that decides to just wade in and smite as much evil as he can. Chances are you won't even get a dignified death, instead being drowned in the eternal fetid swamp, enslaved, or starving, as everything is tainted. Lest we forget, lawful evil is not necessarily polite or negotiable with. If you're not useful, don't have the right permissions to be in a place, or are simply the "wrong kind of person", you can get summarily stomped. And if you're a living human, you can be sure you're breaking tons of regulations just by being there, unless you filled out the forms in triplicate and signed them in blood (yeah, like you really want to do that) before you even entered. If you're coming here, you'd better have a plan, a realistic goal, and several escape methods if you're to have any chance of coming out ahead. Or, given the power level of the princes, princesses and dukes as statted here, if you could gather a few hundred level 20+ characters, you could probably take down the entire devilish hierarchy in one fell swoop in the most epic endgame raid ever. (yes, badwrongfun, I know, but it does have a certain appeal, seeing level 20 characters having to fight to their limits, attacking swarms of pit fiends, dropping like flies and being rezzed (and possibly reincarnated if they run out of rez'es :evil: ) several times per battle by the clerics.) Anyway, I'm sure many of you had fun with this, and I hope some of you will in the future as well. Because it's definitely some pretty impressive work, and t'would be a shame if it just disappeared into history unused.

Mutants, men? and machines: A load of gamma world monsters. All have rather silly names. Hydragen are fire breathing snakes. Raydiums are flying telekinetic manta rays. Cycloptrons are metal boned giants which shoot lasers from their eye. Cyber-netters are giant robot spiders. And nitrodjinn are atomic powered weather spirits. Yes, gamma world can be a silly game at times. Funny how you can accept these things in a fantasy world, but as soon as they stick pseudoscience explanations on, it rings false. Not the greatest monster article ever.
 

GestaltBennie

Cycle Fish Messenger Boy
Validated User
Ed's article(s) on the Nine Hells is my favorite Dragon article of all time. There was a lot that I loved in this era; Gary's contributions often had great, gameable concepts; Katherine Kerr, Lew Pulsipher, Arthur Collins, and Roger Moore's articles were always fun to read and often to play, but the Hells was Ed at his creative, knowledgeable, and inventive best. I couldn't wait for you to get around to reviewing this issue, and I'm glad to see you liked it as much as I did.

Ed often takes it on the chin from fandom because they don't like Elminster, but Ed's campaign detailing was (and remains) extraordinary. I very much hope that when his long and very distimguished career finally comes to an end, work like this and the Realms grey box will be what Ed is remembered for.
 

Phersu

Drogoman
Validated User
Harn, rolemaster and middle earth are once again occupying both the inside front and back covers. Are they not all by the same company.
I don't think Hârn (by Columbia Games) was ever distributed by Iron Crown Enterprise (RoleMaster / M.E.R.P.).
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983

part 3/4

Beyond the rule book: More Gming advice from Lew Pulsipher. First he gives 10 guidelines that should be good for virtually everyone, whatever the game. Then he gives 10 that are slightly more specific, based upon his own style. While he does have a tendency towards the conservative, these are generally pretty solid too. Once again, he's played his part in making the magazine as good as it is.

Can seapoint be saved: Having already served us with a huge special feature, this month's module is only an 8 pager. But it is a pretty neat open-ended one as you figure out a way to protect a town from pirates. Will you wait for them to attack, set some bait, or hunt them down? A scenario that has plenty of opportunities for tactical thinking and roleplaying, its another example of the fun you can have with town and wilderness adventures that dungeoncrawling simply can't do. You need more DM effort to run these scenarios, but it's well worth it. And this gives you a good framework to start from.

Even orcish is logical: Another attempt to create a fictional language for D&D. Hmm. What would you say orcish sounds like? Functional, gutteral and ugly, with lots of words for weapons and hurting stuff. Makes sense. The rest of the article gives us a basic grammar and language list for an orcsh language that looks very much like Tolkien's. Well, it's easier to get people to accept it. It certainly shouldn't provoke the controversy that thieves cant did, anyway.

All games need names: We've had contributions from Gary, Ed and Lew. Now Katherine Kerr (who it also seems is one of the few writers smart enough to retain their own copyright on their articles.) takes her turn this month. We get more info on the proper construction of your own language, including the sounds you choose to make them up (bi-labial fricatives strike again) and avoiding unpronouncable or silly names in your settings. Gender descriptives, morphemes, agglutinative and fusional languages, and tons of other geeky details. I would enjoy that, but once again I am reminded how crap I am at playing with and within the rules of even one language, let alone other ones. I'll never be a Tolkien. I might be able to work up detailed physics, ethics, psychologies, societies, music, and statistical data for my worlds and stories, but languages? Sorry. I'll leave that to someone else.

Figure feature: This month's mini's are humans of all kinds, from medieval to futuristic. Oh, and a grim reaper. Good guys, bad guys, shoot you in the eye guys. Just buy em. Otherwise the companies'll go out of business, and we'll have to stop doing features on them.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983

part 4/4

Reviews: The runequest companion is a grab-bag of stuff for glorantha fans, from a whole load of different writers. Essentially, this replaces having a magazine, and they intend to publish further editions of it later. Which I suppose is one way to go about it. As long as consistency is maintained, and it sells well, there's nothing wrong with a good periodical, under whatever name you choose to call it.
The solomani rim is yet another traveller supplement. (the 10th official one) And we finally get to see the homeworld of humanity in the traveller universe. Once again, there is plenty of setting detail, as entire star systems and their histories are filled in.
Oh dear. And now we see some more of the D&D backlash. Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe, and Hobgoblin by John Coyne are both novels where roleplaying is used as a symptom of an underlying personality problem in the characters. Because no normal, well adjusted person would ever do something as weird as that. Issues are examined, emotional dilemmas are had, and in both cases, they give it up in the end and become happy well adjusted adults. :rolleyes: Thank you for that, sensationalist hack writers.

UK revisited: games fair 83. Gary's back in the UK. And once again he has a pretty good time, as does his kid. Well, when you're guest of honour, it's relatively likely things'll go smoothly. Lets hope this continues next year.

What's new gets superheroic. Featuring gazebo boy! Wormy illustrates one of the more amusing aspects of dimensional travel, as well as the fact that dragons are smarter than cyclopses.

Snarfquest! Larry Elmore gets his own comic. Interesting. And this is before thundercats also used the name. Where did it come from? Looks like this is another largely humorous strip. Can snarf get enough treasure over the next year to become leader of his tribe. Will he fail. Will the plot drift until the original reason he left on his adventures becomes completely irrelevant. Keep reading and find out.

A very strong issue indeed, with not only the epic centerpiece, but plenty of other really good stuff in there as well. And the great thing is, next issue is almost guaranteed to have a load of stuff of the same quality. Which is reassuring. After all, you never know when things might go south because they're not getting any decent stuff in, or editorial policy changes for the worse. So lets enjoy what is definitely one of the classic runs of the magazine, that would still hold up today.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
[Reviews: The runequest companion is a grab-bag of stuff for glorantha fans, from a whole load of different writers. Essentially, this replaces having a magazine, and they intend to publish further editions of it later. Which I suppose is one way to go about it. As long as consistency is maintained, and it sells well, there's nothing wrong with a good periodical, under whatever name you choose to call it.
Ah, the plans of past days... :)

The Companion would be the last Runequest item (though not the last Glorantha item -- that honour goes to 1995's Wyrms Footprints) that Chaosium would publish.

They entered into their agreement with Avalon Hill shortly thereafter and from 1984 onwards all other items* their writers worked on for the line would be published via them -- be it as part of a game product or as articles in AH's short-lived Heroes magazine.

(* There may have still been some RQ stuff in Different Worlds after this point. However, the Index's listing of DW issues is woefully incomplete.)
 
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andreww

Soul sucking Lawyer
Validated User
Beyond the rule book: More Gming advice from Lew Pulsipher. First he gives 10 guidelines that should be good for virtually everyone, whatever the game. Then he gives 10 that are slightly more specific, based upon his own style. While he does have a tendency towards the conservative, these are generally pretty solid too.
I am curious, would you care to share?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983

part 1/4

100 pages. Lots of big features in this one, too. Our second big index, and the conclusion of the nine hells article. Unfortunately, they're stopping doing sci-fi stuff for the forseeable future, as they want to give Ares magazine some room and set different niches for the two. After all, they have to do something with all those SPI properties they have lying around. Which means while they may be devoting more space to it somewhere, I'm not going to get to see it. As ever, anyone else who wants to start a reading thread on that would be welcomed.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: Another letter saying the computer program they gave us doesn't work on their machine. Given how many variations on computer code there are running around at the moment, that's understandable. Maybe we ought to give this one up. It really doesn't seem worth the effort.
A letter criticizing their language articles. Real languages aren't remotely as logically derived (see, I told you so) from culture. Plus even 8 pages is nowhere near enough to make a language properly usable. The vocabulary just isn't there.
A letter by michael gray further following up on the PbP clarifications he received last issue. Correspondence has been sent. Misconceptions cleared up. Isn't that great.
Two letters criticizing the amount of advertising and promotional material in the magazine. Kim of course reminds them they need that stuff so they can afford to fill the rest of the pages with useful stuff, and the amount of that each issue is expanding as well. You'll have to tolerate the commercial considerations, because there's no getting away from them. We are not a charity.

The ecology of the beholder: Now here's a monster that certainly needs some rationalizing. And as it's such a big task, both Ed and Roger contribute to it. The results are not as impressive as you'd think, they obviously were not very inspired when they wrote this one. Oh well. You can't hit a home run every time. It's still fairly solid as a piece of fiction. And the amount of actual ecology is increasing as well, with dietary, reproductive, and tactical considerations mentioned. Because if any creature will slaughter a bunch of adventurers that just wade in with swords swinging and spells blasting, it's a beholder. You want lots of hirelings with ranged attacks to take the brunt of those rays. You need to take advantage of your superior speed. You need to surround them so they can't anti-magic everyone. Etc etc. And you should still expect to lose quite a few people in the battle. Just be thankful there aren't any social beholder variants like the ones that'll turn up in spelljammer yet.

Leomund's tiny hut: Len gives us a new NPC class, the death master. Necromancy specialists, and all that goes with it, plus some amusing experience tables (gaining xp for digging graves and embalming bodies, fnarr.) For all his exhortations about never allowing it as a PC, it's probably actually less powerful than a regular wizard or druid. But then, this isn't about power, it's about morals. Len seems to be part of the brigade that thinks PC's should never be evil, and assassins shouldn't be allowed as a PC class. Which surprises me less than you might think. My love of PvP is pretty public, so this is one thing I'll probably have to complain about quite a bit, particularly when the morals brigade really take over around the 2nd ed changeover. But then, they did a lot of stupid things then. Thankfully I can pick the bits I like and ignore the ones I don't.

Figure feature gives us a titan, elves riding bumblebees, a bard, an assassin, a magic-user, a barbarian riding a giant owl, and a demon rising from a well this month. You'll be unlikely to get to use those in a game too often, unless you skew the encounter tables a bit.
 

T. Foster

Retired User
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983

Unfortunately, they're stopping doing sci-fi stuff for the forseeable future, as they want to give Ares magazine some room and set different niches for the two. After all, they have to do something with all those SPI properties they have lying around. Which means while they may be devoting more space to it somewhere, I'm not going to get to see it. As ever, anyone else who wants to start a reading thread on that would be welcomed.
It would be a very short thread -- within 9 months Ares magazine will have folded and sf material been introduced back into Dragon in the "Ares Section" of the magazine, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves...

P.S. Glad to see you're liking the 1983 issues more than the 1982 ones (which I still think you were too harsh on -- maybe they don't stand up so well in 25 years' retrospect, but at the time it seemed like there was a ton of new usable stuff in every issue, that the game was so vital that it was growing and expanding right before our eyes).
 
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