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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
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983

Part 2/4

Curses!: Ed contributes only a little article this month. A new selection of curses, slightly less brutal than the standard ones given for cursed scrolls and flasks, so low level adventurers have a decent chance of surviving if they find one in a pile. Which still means unpleasant and humiliating stuff happening to you when you least want it too. All part of the fun of old skool dungeoneering. One of those articles you can drop in pretty much any time, given it's modularity and lack of setting.

Nasty additions to a DM's arsenal: More items that are mostly pains in the ass, but can also be turned to useful ends by clever characters. Fun fun fun. We have the helm of enemy nondetection, which is basically a hitchikers guide joke transplanted to D&D. The ring of hypochondria, and arrows of conscientious objection, which do exactly what they say on the tin. The ring of gaseous form, which is very useful as long as you have someone around to help you get it off. The dagger of monster calling, which is just amusing. And the medallion of protection from thieves, which is incredibly useful as long as you're not in a situation where your group needs those abilities. Depending on the type of dungeon, that may not be a problem, particularly if you have spellcasters who can make a rogue redundant in any case. It's good to have peace of mind about the safety of your equipment. Another neat little article that you can drop in stuff from any time.

Elemental gods: Sometimes you don't want to populate your world with hundreds of deities for every concept under the sun, plus the sun itself. If you want to maintain a strong sense of theme, it can be better to have a limited cast of gods covering everything, worshipped under different names for different cultures and aspects. As an example, 4 elemental ones is a good place to start, as you can fit associations to most aspects of life easily enough under their umbrellas. And then you can start building your own. Try not to end up with the krynnish pantheon, as embarrassment and railroading may result. Remember, your job is to help the players make a story, not tell a story and drag them along as spectators. Even if your deities are active agents who's actions regularly impact upon the world, they still shouldn't overshadow the PC's. Anyway, this is a pretty solid worldbuilding article that is useful regardless of system. After all, very few worlds make religion completely irrelevant, even if they don't have D&D style granted spellcasting.

A new game with a familiar name: Frank Mentzer talks about the new edition of the basic and expert sets (again? That's the third new edition in 4 years. And we complain now that 5 years between editions is too soon) and how much of an improvement it is over the last ones, particularly for complete n00bs, with it's introductory adventure teaching you the rules as you go. (remember, it's easier to get people to learn things if they don't view it as work. ) Better artwork, better editing, better initial adventure, better all round. Meanwhile in the expert set, we see the start of Mystara, as they expand outwards from the map in X1. YAY! Another classic setting starts here. All the old D&D modules now have locations on the map there, plus you have a proper hometown in karimekos. This is awesome, and hopefully we'll be seeing articles expanding on my own personal favourite of the generic D&D fantasy campaign worlds soon. The companion set also gets it's first mention, and it and the master set are coming soon. (For a generous value of soon :p ) Yeah, this is a pretty significant article, even if it does fall a little into the trap of selling the new stuff by saying the old stuff was crap. It also once again shows up the differences in tone between D&D and AD&D, with the greater emphasis on evolving playstyles, and the PC's coming to have important social positions within the world, making big changes to the setting instead of just wandering from one adventure to the next getting tougher, but still doing basically the same thing. Funny how that worked out. You might start out smaller, but you have a clearly defined path which leads to bigger and better things. It's a shame they've pretty much dropped that aspect from the newer games.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983
Elemental gods: Sometimes you don't want to populate your world with hundreds of deities for every concept under the sun, plus the sun itself. If you want to maintain a strong sense of theme, it can be better to have a limited cast of gods covering everything, worshipped under different names for different cultures and aspects. As an example, 4 elemental ones is a good place to start, as you can fit associations to most aspects of life easily enough under their umbrellas. And then you can start building your own. Try not to end up with the krynnish pantheon, as embarrassment and railroading may result. Remember, your job is to help the players make a story, not tell a story and drag them along as spectators. Even if your deities are active agents who's actions regularly impact upon the world, they still shouldn't overshadow the PC's. Anyway, this is a pretty solid worldbuilding article that is useful regardless of system. After all, very few worlds make religion completely irrelevant, even if they don't have D&D style granted spellcasting.
I really liked this article. It was almost the anti-Deities & Demigods. No endless lists stat blocks culled from a myriad of (mostly) historical pantheons; instead, focus on just four homemade divinities. Make them abstract, unknowable, and unconquerable in a straight-up fight. This covers all the bases because a single god can have many faces or aspects, while still retaining a unique and identifiable flavor. Strikes a good balance between "how the hell am I supposed to remember all these gods and their silly names" and "monotheism is uncomfortably modern". I never actually used the elemental god concept myself, but I suspect the article influenced how I handled religion in D&D. It's one of the few articles on the topic that's, to be blunt, not absolute garbage.

For some reason I think the Raven Queen from 4th edition would make a good water god.
[snip] This is awesome, and hopefully we'll be seeing articles expanding on my own personal favourite of the generic D&D fantasy campaign worlds soon.
Not in Dragon. Mystara wasn't fleshed out until the (excellent and now somewhat collectible) Gazetteer series.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983

Part 3/4

Figure feature: This month features a slightly more unusual set of minis, with superheroes, civil war, 20's (plus cthulhoid monster), star trek (khaaaaan!), and swashbucklers catered for. Do your games need any of those?

Spy's advice: What are the effects of being exposed to a cubic inch of uranium (how should I know, am I a physicist?(answer, not a lot, unless it's purified U235, as U238 is actually pretty stable, with a half-life of billions of years. A cubic inch won't be a problem unless you make it into a ring and wear it for years. ))
How much does thermite cost. What can it burn through ( $30 per bomb or 12 oz tube. Most things, apart from brick and concrete, which are just too damn absorbent.)
How long does a flash grenade blind you (1-100 minutes)
Can tripods or Two weapon stances increase your hit odds. (yes, by +10)
Why are my characters so much tougher than the NPC's (you're forgetting to divide by 10)
What are the odds of failing a parachute jump. (1 in 500 for round chutes, 3 in 10,000 for square ones)
When you gain knowledge points, do your AOK's go up (yes)
Is there a limit to AOK's (150)
Can you get more superior AOK's (only by buying them up the hard way)
Can NPC's have fame and fortune points (only if they were once PC's)
Does drinking too much alcohol kill you (yes)
How do I keep players from finding out each other's objectives in a PvP campaign. (note passing and leaving the relevant parts of their sheet blank so they can't find out just by peeping.
Are the prices for the other weapon charts correct (yes)

King of the tabletop: Hello again, Mr Wham. You have another game for us? How interesting. Let's see what it entails this time. Looks like he's getting all meta on us for a second time. Having covered the game development process, he now lampoons roleplaying itself. And wargaming, and economics. And still finds the time to make a workable game underneath the humour. He does have an interesting brain. The rules continue to increase in complexity, to the point where I really can't tell how the game will play without trying it. Lets hope that's a good thing, and the crunch creep hasn't reached the point where it gets in the way.

Valley of the pharaohs. Palladium once again expands their repetoire. Don't remember this one. Did it use the same rules as all their other stuff?

Wouldya like to take another survey? It has been over a year. Surely it isn't asking that much of you to fill it out and send it in? We want to know what's changed, so we can change in response. Is that so wrong?
 

Lord Shark

Varoonik!
Validated User
King of the Tabletop was terrific, and my friends and I played the heck out of it. It later got republished in a boxed set as Kings and Things, which replaced KotT's abstract map with a map built out of individual hex tiles -- not nearly as good, IMO, but Tom Wham seemed to like the idea, since he also used it for the Best of Dragon Games reissue of Search for the Emperor's Treasure.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Valley of the pharaohs. Palladium once again expands their repetoire. Don't remember this one. Did it use the same rules as all their other stuff?
Valley was the only boxed set that Palladium released. And, to answer your question: no, it didn't use what was to become the Megaversal system. I don't know anything about the system it did use though.

That said, you can now download it direct from Palladium: http://www.palladium-megaverse.com/cuttingroom/valley/valley.html
 
Last edited:

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
King of the Tabletop was terrific, and my friends and I played the heck out of it.
Agreed. King of the Tabletop and File 13 (from issue #72) were the two board games in Dragon I remember playing most. Tom Wham has a gift. Of the two, KotT had the most replay value.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983

Part 4/4

Reviews: Harn is another thing that has been advertised for ages, and finally gets a review. A pretty positive one, too. Seems the designers already have a pretty solid idea of what their setting is like already, with plenty of geographical, sociological, and economic details, all well organized and indexed. It does get a bit of flak for being so blatantly based on middle-earth, but that's more a taste thing. It also has the problem that since it's all so tightly integrated, it may be tricky to change bits without messing up the game. I guess it depends if you like the idea of playing in someone else gameworld as written or not. Which is the same issue tekumel ran into. What makes good stories and worlds does not always make for good gaming.
Plague of terror is a generic adventure module. It gets a very critical review by Roger, who thinks it has too much plot detail and graphic content. Which, y'know, sound like pluses to me. I guess child abuse, torture and stuff is a matter of taste, and TSR prefer to tread a more family friendly line; plus what makes for good plots may make for railroady adventures, which would be particularly jarring when most modules at this point are location based rather than plot based. Can I get a second opinion on this one, as this review actually makes it seem perversely tempting.

What's new covers death in D&D. Fineous Fingers makes a cameo from ohio, calling out to all the pretty ladies around the world. Snarfquest features comical combat. Wormy goes back to the trolls plotline. Once again we are reminded just how slow time passes when you only have a strip per month to work with. The entire 10 year run is only about 3-4 days of events in setting. Dragonmirth is missing.

Rather a scattershot issue here, with lots of cool stuff, but very little theme, apart from random effects playing a strong part. I think they're doing it diliberately, to provide a nice contrast with the last few and keep us interested. Because they still seem to have a good idea what they're doing. And hopefully the info they get in the survey will help make it even better. (assuming what the public says it wants is also what I want, which they have a spotty record on at best. ) Eh, still time for tons of ups and downs before it's over. Why worry too much.
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
It also once again shows up the differences in tone between D&D and AD&D, with the greater emphasis on evolving playstyles, and the PC's coming to have important social positions within the world, making big changes to the setting instead of just wandering from one adventure to the next getting tougher, but still doing basically the same thing. Funny how that worked out. You might start out smaller, but you have a clearly defined path which leads to bigger and better things. It's a shame they've pretty much dropped that aspect from the newer games.
4E with its three tiers does move in that direction of evolving playstyles again.

But yeah, it was a neat feature of BECMI.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 78: October 1983

part 1/4

100 pages. The request for psionic stuff half a year ago finally yields dividends in one of the more impressive themed issues in some time. Eight, count em, articles getting in on the act. That's even better than the Traveller special with the milk bottles managed. Hopefully none of these'll feel like they were whipped up and crammed in at the last minute just to make up the numbers. We also have another full size module, and several unconnected articles. Well, they have to have a few, otherwise complaints would be guaranteed. This should be pretty sweet.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A letter asking what will happen to games that are neither sci-fi or fantasy after the Ares split. The hobby is getting ever more fragmented, and they don't like it. Kim apologizes at length, saying that roleplaying as a hobby is now too big for one magazine to do it justice. (so buy both ;) ) They can't please everyone, so they're not going to try anymore.
A letter asking for a proper official ruling on phantasmal force.
A letter pointing out the errors in their last index. There's always something, isn't there.
A letter asking about modules based off other properties, and how EX1&2 got past that. They reply that if it's in public domain, it's fair game, but if the author's still here, steer well clear.
A letter praising them on the well targeted nature of their adverts. No booze, cigarettes or porn here. Kim remains silent on this, and I suspect this may be simply because none of them pay to advertise here. We're not an important enough demographic for those ugly corporations to focus their beady little eyes on.
A letter correcting details on 19th century guns for boot hill.
A letter asking what the new monsters mentioned but not printed in the nine hells article were. They reply that they're found in the monster manual II. Out in all good hobby stores now! :teeth ting:
A letter asking them why they don't do an art book compiling issue covers. They reply that in most cases, they only purchased them for a single time use, and so this is not an easy option.
Plus some Q&A for king of the tabletop. Not big enough to give it its own page, so they put it here.

Mind games: We start off with a basic discussion of what psionics is, and what it's ramifications are. While magic comes from an external source, psionics is purely internal. Which means most people have untapped depths of power in their minds. But with no formalized system of training, development of those powers will of course be haphazard and unreliable. (until now, of course) It then goes into a reiteration of the rules quirks, trying to understand and justify them, and failing, in some cases. Yet another instance where the AD&D rules are examined and found wanting, with many contradictions pointed out and thought about. Having done that, it's time to think about cleaning them up, and fixing them. But that's a matter for another article. Because otherwise this would be one huge screed with no dividers. Still, this has been a solid lead-in, that hopefully helped assuage people's trepidation about using psionics in their own games.
 
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