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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 76: August 1983

part 2/4

The nine hells: Layers 6-9 get the spotlight upon them in the second part of this feature. Once again, Ed's descriptions of both the landscape and denizens are exemplary, giving us a great picture of just how unpleasant an afterlife there is for pretty much everyone, even the high-ups. As these are the lower levels, there is less focus on the tormenting of damned souls, and more on the devilish inhabitants, and the way they treat one-another here. Everyone is subject to seemingly arbitrary shit in the name of various schemes, or sometimes just out of general sadism. There is also a surprising amount of sexism, as all the Lords are male, and have female consorts. (all statted out, yay, but relatively weak for the political power they wield, hmm.) I guess that's what they consider the proper order of things, since gender for beings like that is interchangeable as part of their promotions and demotions anyway. And you know they're big on order. Discipline me now mistress. :)
It ends with spells in the hells, another tedious list of how magic spells, items, character abilities, etc etc are changed while you're there. So it's still not perfect, being very much a product of its times. But it is a fascinating read, that is in many ways better than the Baator book in Planes of Law. This is definitely stuff I'd use in game, as it provides the rich cast that a place full of scheming politickers with a web of alegences and grudges between them needs. Can you figure out how to take advantage of their personal quirks and come out ahead? Have fun trying, and don't take it too hard if your characters get sent to eternal torment. It's just a game, and you can't win all the time.

The dragon index gets it's second epic outing, filling up the middle of the issue. They've altered the format a bit to keep it from getting too large, but there's still several different ways you can find each thing. And it looks nice as well. That should come in handy.

The palladium fantasy roleplaying game. Over 20 classes, 290 spells, 13 races, etc etc. Only their second advert, and they're already pretty close to the style and layout that they use to this day. Some things just never change. Kinda reassuring, really.

Saved by the cavalry!: Even having excised the sci-fi stuff, at least they still fit some non D&D bits in the magazine, thankfully. We get info on the cavalry and other soldiers for boot hill, in case lone cowboys are getting boring. This includes rules for making them available as PC's, who have both advantages and disadvantages compared to regular PC's. Not sure if they balance out, and the social restrictions of being under command by high ranking NPC's may cause problems, but it's a good idea anyway. After all, who doesn't love leading a bunch of fight, er, soldiers, to kill some marauding orcs, er, indians ;)

Sage advice is also pretty lengthy this month: Who was Baba yaga (A cannibal ogre-witch from russia. Pretty darn badass. You'll be seeing her again in the future.)
Can a dungeon master change magic items after giving them to players (that would be cheating, unless you have an in-game rationale. We don't recommend it, as pissed off players often result. )
What are mithral and admantite(super badass extra valuable metals for when gold and steel just aren't good enough.)
Can a player character become a free-willed vampire (Hell no. We still think all devil leaders should be male. There's no way we're gonna be enlightened enough to let you play undead. And it would break the game anyway. )
Why can't rangers be in groups larger than 3. Tolkien's rangers don't have that restriction (D&D is not LotR. We can do what we want, so ner.)
How much XP should you get for solving problems and being clever (10-100, depending on how cool they were. Yes, killing is the quicker way to power than being clever and solving a situation without fighting.)
Can characters take over a dungeon after clearing it out? (Sure, why not. Don't expect it to be cheap, as they take lots of upkeep. And now you're the ones who have to deal with pesky monsters and adventurers coming in trying to kill you and take your stuff. Turning things around like that could be fun.)
Why do some GitE characters have percentile scores in ability scores they shouldn't (more differentiation in the upper scales of badass)
What is knucklebones (see appendix F of the DMG)
Which version of a person or monster is correct when there are multiple ones published in different issues(whichever one your DM chooses, or one of their own creation)
Is everything in Dragon official (no.)
Why do BD&D and AD&D contradict each other (because they are different games. Don't mix them up)
What happens if a D&D character is hit by gamma world's de-evolution (they lose levels, no save. Be afraid)
Can a paralyzed character speak or use psionics (no and yes, as psionics don't require movement)
What does " mean (each inch translates to 10 foot inside, or 10 yards outside)
What's the difference between a secret and a concealed door (duh. Ones secret, the other's concealed)
Are constitution bonus' per hit die, or per level (per hit die. Tough rangers have it good, don't they.)
How do you handle pregnancy (we'll leave that up to individual DM's)
What does CO stand for? (Comeliness. It's a new stat. See issue 67.)
How can a human have more hit points than a dragon (hit points don't just represent straight toughness, but also luck and skill. Don't you get that yet?)
Can half ogres be barbarians? (they can certainly be barbaric, but they can't join the barbarian class)
Why do half ogres have such low charisma's (because they're uuuugleeeee. And uncouth, and doodyheads, and smell.)
What do half-ogres think about other races. (depends which side raised them, and how they were treated as kids.)
Do rangers get benefits against half-ogres(no)
Why do half-ogres roll different dice for their ability scores (because we say so. Their ranges are too different for just pluses or negatives to the dice to reflect properly without negative scores appearing and breaking the game.)


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983

part 3/4

We also get another extensive Q&A, on the proper format for submissions to the magazine. Write up submissions neatly, include SASE if you want a reply, what we want right now (more sci-fi stuff please) be persistent, keep trying. Nothing much has changed here since last time.

Off the shelf: Talbot Mundy, Messenger of destiny, compiled by D M Grant, is a combination of biography and bibliography, with plenty of commentary as well. It offers plenty of detail in a well designed package.
A field guide to dinosaurs is exactly that, giving plenty of information about the creatures, when they are from, and also museum listings so you can go see them in person (although those'll be long out of date by now.)
Invasion: Earth by Harry Harrison tells the story of an earth caught between two warring alien species, with vietnam parallels being drawn. Fast-paced and with a twist at the end, it's up to his usual standard.
Tea with the black dragon by R A MacAvoy is an action-adventure/romance with two amusingly contrasting protagonists. The supernatural side is fairly light, but that just means things can stay mysterious at the end.
Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster is a rather puerile comedy/epic fantasy. While that is not an inherently bad thing, it certainly doesn't blend them as well as say, discworld. Sounds like it would be perfect for a movie adaption starring Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler :p
Set of wheels by Robert Thurston is a bleak dystopian future from a battlestar galactica writer. Whoda thought that could happen ;) The protagonist just wants to get away from all that, and blast off down the open highway, and the book follows his attempts to do so. The writer then has fun putting him through the wringer.
Transformer by M A Foster has nothing to do with the soon to be released cartoon about robots in disguise. It does involve a shapeshifting creature though. And the stupid humans try and kill it, as they will do, which ends up causing just the problems they were trying to prevent in the first place. We once again learn about human nature by seeing it reflected through something else.
Against Infinity by Gregory Benford is set on Ganymede, and follows human attempts to terraform it, plus the strange things they find there. They have to struggle against both the environment and each other, but of course, that's what generates the interest.
Khi to freedom by Ardath Mayhar gets a rather sarcastic review. Apart from it's purely first person narration, it has little to distinguish it, being a melange of stock ideas, and weird aliens with unpronouncable names and stereotyped personalities. Could definitely do better.
Storm season, edited by Robert Lynn Asprin is the fourth thieves world compilation. As before, they've got hold of a solid collection of writers for the various stories. And as often happens after several books in a series they seem to be focussing more on the same cast of characters, and making things darker and more metaplot driven. If that's a good thing, it's hard to say. It certainly makes things less newbie friendly. Lets see where the next book takes them.
Yearwood by Paul Hazel is the start of another fantasy saga. It's epicness is both a strength and a weakness, as it's characters feel more like archetypes than real well rounded people, particularly the women. Guess you'll have to tune in for the plot rather than the characterization then.
Forbidden sanctuary by Richard Bowker tells a story of catholicism and aliens with a parallel religion, and what happens when the two collide. Which means there's plenty of philosophical and political thought to drive the plot along. You don't have to be a Christian to enjoy it.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983

part 4/4

Reviews: Gangbusters is of course a TSR game, so the objectivity of a review here is in question. The reviewer does a good job of pointing exactly how the game makes itself fast and furious, and handles the various social aspects of city life and crimefighting. You can't just hack and slash your way through this one. And keeping the party together all the time is not really an option, making it better for small groups. But it is well organized, and includes plenty of material to get your game up and running quickly, so it's still probably more newbie friendly than many modern games.
Borderlands (don't we already have something by that name :checks: yup. Issue 68. Damn name recycling. There oughta be a law ;) ) is a wargame. Get resources, fight enemies, control territories. You ought to know the drill. Simple rules result in complex emergent strategies, and plenty of fun with webs of politics and trading if you play with 3 or more players. For those of you who prefer a little more depth in your world conquering than risk offers.
Cities is a system free game supplement for any fantasy game, helping you both build and populate cities, and create encounters for existing ones. Whether you want realistic economics or high fantasy weirdness, it has some stuff to help you out. As long as you don't mind rolling on lots of tables, but that's a price I'm willing to pay.
Judge Dredd's new boardgame also gets a review. Frag those perps before the other judges do, and get the highest score to win. Good, vindictive fun that isn't too taxing on the brain. A good emulation of the source material then :p
Federation space is a star trek game of future war. Designed to contrast with and complement Star Fleet battles, it serves as the large scale strategic counterpart to the former's ship level tactical wargame. Travel between systems, form and break alliances, spend money, capture stuff. Doesn't sound very star treky to me. But I suppose making money is more important than upholding starfleet's peaceful ideals. You need to make sacrifices for the sake of playability.
Dragonmaster gets a second review in here. This is actually more like a promotional piece and rebuttal than an actual review, and if it were not for its length, should really have gone in the letters column with all the other rebuttals. Still, it includes plenty of actual details about the game, so it's still useful in deciding if you want to buy or not.

Wormy gets back to the snooker and jokes after the high drama. Snarfquest faces it's first challenge. What's new welcomes you to shamcon V. Business as usual in dragonmirth.

Another rocking issue, if not quite up to the standards of it's predecessor. But then, that set a high standard. This one seems more concerned with looking back and outwards, with reviews, indexing and answering questions playing such a large part. Will they have another stroke of innovation any time soon. I'm not sure. Given the form of some of their writers, it doesn't seem that unlikely. Onward! No time to sit around mulling over the past if I want to catch up with the present. :)

T. Foster

Retired User
As a mildly ominous sign, this was the first issue in a long time not to have anything by Gary Gygax in it. That may just be coincidental at this point, but we are getting close to the time when he was exiled to Hollywood by the Blumes...


Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983

part 4/4

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.
Not everyone in MAZES AND MONSTERS ends up as a happy, well-adjusted adult, but I guess that's what makes it a cautionary tale.

I enjoyed HOBGOBLIN until it stopped being a supernatural thriller. Then it went to suck.

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.
When I think fondly of DRAGON, SnarfQuest is part of the reason why. It's charming and silly and a whole bunch of fun.


Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983

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.
The Death Master got a 3E makeover for the Best of Dragon hardcover that was released.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983

Part 1/4

86 pages

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter questioning why Ed greenwood referred to Sekolah as female. They reply that was because sahuagin are female dominated, so it makes more sense if their god is female as well. This is of course an entirely unofficial alteration.
A letter from someone who sent in a module, and then found one with a similar name on the gen con list of events, asking if it is his. They reply that no, they would have told him. Plaglarism is bad, but there are only so many monsters and scenarios, so unless you get all abstract and whimsical, chances are someone else'll do similar things at some point.
A letter from David Axler replying to the comments about his weather system article. Some are valid, some aren't, all will be useful in refining it for next time, you know the drill.
A letter criticizing Roger's all teamwork, all the time soapbox piece in issue 73. Another case where I say bloody well right too. :D
A letter from a person who's realized that the map of Launewt is actually Brittany rotated. Well spotted. As they've said before, judicious stealing creates far better verisimilitude than even the most careful wholecloth creation.
One of many letters they've received asking for the address of Starblaze editions Books. This is duly provided.

Tarot of many things: Random stuff. Muahahahaha!!! I do so love these articles. This brings an extra tactile edge compared to a regular deck of many things, because you can draw from a real deck to determine the results. And what fun they are. You character could be permanently enhanced or horribly debilitated based upon what they draw. Do you dare brave it? Some people would jump right in, while others would rather face a horde of energy draining undead led by a beholder. As this has to cover 78 cards, each with two effects, it spans 16 pages, effectively making it a full special feature in itself. The powers are split fairly evenly between good, bad and mixed blessings, although most are definitely more one or the other. As with any of these gambling things, the trick to them is to know when to quit, because if you keep on drawing, you will lose eventually. (Or cheat. Wild mages kicked ass pre 3rd edition. With an item like this, they could god mod themselves quite a bit. )Anyway, this is definitely a good way to kick off the issue, and another thing I would delight in using at some point.

The ecology of the unicorn: They really are pretty enthusiastic about this series, aren't they. Roger Moore asks PETA girl (who is a dryad, so the nature loving is to be expected. (great, now I want to put an urbanized dryad who's tree is in the middle of a city market square in a game)) about the unicorn, and gets a reply which turns into rather a love-in. Well, they are the insufferably pure mary-sues of the natural world, lusted after by many, but only accessable to virgins. (so most gaming groups are in with a pretty good shot :p ) What's not to hate? Not that the article is badly written, but it is too flowers and skippy-happy for my tastes. This starts the habit of putting game material in the appendix, although they still haven't started using footnotes yet. Still, good to see this series being developed and refined. Hopefully next time they'll pick a less twee creature to tackle.


Yorked by Bond
Validated User
Ahhh, wonderful! I have been waiting for this moment since your thread began. This was my first taste of Dragon, experienced as a 12 year old newly introduced and thoroughly hooked on D&D. At that stage I had bought the red-box set with my own hard-earned pennies and had given up on saving for the extraordinarily expensive (for a boy getting NZ$2 a week in pocket money back when international shipping costs were out of this world) AD&D PHB and was instead relying on the generosity of Santa.

I must have read this issue of Dragon 50 times waiting for Christmas to roll around. By the time I finally got that PHB and had something new to read, the cover (which I thought was wonderful - it had a wizard fireballing some soldiers in a dungeon) and first few pages had fallen to pieces and I was trying to preserve them with sticky tape and by lying them at the bottom of a draw under some heavy books.

Dragon and I didn't have a long and steady relationship, it was too expensive and there were too many AD&D books to save for, but this issue and four or five others had a real influence on me and my gaming.

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
I must have read this issue of Dragon 50 times waiting for Christmas to roll around. By the time I finally got that PHB and had something new to read, the cover (which I thought was wonderful - it had a wizard fireballing some soldiers in a dungeon) and first few pages had fallen to pieces and I was trying to preserve them with sticky tape and by lying them at the bottom of a draw under some heavy books.
This was the first issue I owned to lose its cover, too.
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