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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I'm afraid I'm going to have to politely disagree with you there. Snark is fun. I find it fun to produce, and fun to read. And quite a lot of other prople find it so as well...
The snark -- most definitely including the random swipes -- is a major portion of the fun in reading along in this thread. Most definitely do NOT cut down on the snark.

It is the purpose of a reviewer to provide a point of view for the reader's consideration -- in general, the more clear that point of view, the more useful the review will be to the reader. How else are we to judge whether the review is in accord with our own feelings?

And, I certainly would not be in accord with a reviewer who implied that 3e or 4e are unblemished masterpieces of gaming, wholly without fault or shortcoming. So, snark on. plz.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 82: February 1984

part 1/4

86 pages

In this issue:

Loremaster. Yet another rolemaster product line is starting up. Tanara, yog mur, the iron wind. More stuff I've never heard of, and would be interested to know more about.

Out on a limb: A letter picking apart the stats in issue 80's module. You forgot a rule. Now correct it.
Another letter pointing out that halflings cannot be druids. Kim reponds with the PC's are different maxim. NPC's can break the rules PC's are bound too any time the writer wants, so there.
Five more letters pointing out errors that they admit were valid, for various reasons. Kim apologizes. Making a magazine on time every month is incredibly hard work, and tis no surprise that some stuff slips through the net.
A letter asking for clarification on the combat computer as it pertains to monsters. Many of them don't map properly to PC armor types, so you'll have to just leave them out or spend ages on case by case adjustments.

Dr No. The official James bond supplement. You saw the Top Secret imitation, now you can buy the real thing. And there was much rejoicing, particularly amonsgst the people who had to go through the hassle of clearing the licensed products with the film company.

The forum: Nikki Purdue thinks that serfs in medieval times had things better than Katharine Kerr said. Really, it was a period of centuries over an entire continent. I'm sure these things varied widely.
S D Anderson pontificates on the planar cosmology, and how to make it work. He is of the opinion that there should be more than one plane per alignment, and this would solve overcrowding and turf war problems. But there only being one interesting thing in each infinite universe would make the planes feel even emptier. As it stands, creatures of the same alignment competing, or living on planes that don't match their morals because they got kicked around or chose to move (orcs and yugoloths, respectively) produces more interesting stories. I vaguely disagree with your thoughts.
Ralph Sizer thinks that the reason there shouldn't be official anti-paladins is because being good is harder than being evil, so it requires active sacrifices to maintain, while evil is the path of what I was going to do anyway. Ha. Have you ever tried being consistently evil? It's just as hard as being consistently good, because people keep trying to stop you. Someone else has experienced rather different life lessons to me.
Eric Odgaard thinks that the current multiclassing rules are balanced, actually. Hee. If it's working in your game, that's cool, I guess.
Laurel Golding doesn't think that dragon magazine and D&D in general is nearly as sexist as, say, chivalry and sorcery. I'll guess you weren't around for issue 3. Well it's nice to see some people aren't hypersensitive to every implied slight.
 

Dasharr

Adamant Skeptic
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Dragon Issue 80: December 1983

For D&D, B5: Horror on the hill. Oooh, horror. Boogie boogie boogie.(Aiiee, the dread chant of Kool and the gang! Flee ;) ) And we just had Ravenloft as well. People will keep trying to do horror in D&D, despite it not being particularly suited to it. But then, they don't have the competition in that area yet. And it helps fill in Mystara as well.
B5 isn't really a horror scenario, despite the name. Just a brutally hard dungeon bash. :cool:

PS - I'm loving this thread. I've been following along in parts with my old archive CD-ROMs.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 82: February 1984

part 2/4

The ecology of the peryton: Nigel findley!!! One of gaming's most missed writers. And it looks like this is his first appearance in the magazine. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of him in the future. One of legend's stranger creatures gets a nicely creepy writeup, taking a weird, but relatively straightforward monster in actual play, and making it really rather disconcerting to deal with. I suppose you can do that even with monsters that familiarity has made prosaic, like goblins and tigers. He also introduces legends of lost glories for the creatures, and fleshes out the characters of the people doing the telling and their personal dynamics quite interestingly. One of those cases where the writer immediately stands out from the crowd, thanks to their already well developed personal voice. I look forward to seeing what else he gets published in here.

Wounds and weeds: Herbalism! Another excuse to heal and buff your characters when out in the woods away from easy shopping, and reduce an adventuring parties need for clerics. In fact, there's a little too much focus in this article on healing damage, at the expense of the other effects various herbs can have upon your health and state of mind. But I guess that's a problem with the underlying system, as well. It's certainly interestingly presented though, with decent fiction and nice illustrations of the various plants detailed. Despite it's limitations of scope, this is still a likable article, that punctures D&D's tropes in amusing fashion, and is very useful in actual play. One of those things I would have no hesitation about incorporating, as it is neither useless, nor overpowering. Just what the doctor ordered.

Enhancing the enchanter: Another dragonquest article. How pleasing. Quite a substantial one, too. The author takes a look at what is in his opinion the weakest of the schools of magic, and gives it a whole bunch of new things to do. Of course, I can't judge whether they bring things up to par, or overbalance them. So it goes. For all that I like them covering other systems in here for the variety, It still means I have to deal with bits I can't properly assess on a mechanical level.

Rings that do weird things: A bazaar of the bizarre by any other name would still still be just as sweet to shop at. 13 new types of magical ring, including two Ed Greenwood contributions. They're a pretty varied and useful bunch, with both combat and noncombat abilities well catered for. Only problem is, you don't have enough fingers to wear them all. Guess you'll have to share them amongst the party. Another collection of stuff that is both entertaining to read and instantly useful for an actual game. Just what the magazine should have.

New avenues for agents: Another non D&D article here, as they give us teasers for the top secret companion. Two new classes, a load of specialities, and some more informal roles that cross classes like becoming a rogue or double agent. Not sure about the presentation here, I mean, putting the XP tables first isn't the best way of saying Cool new stuff! Come and get it! But it's nice to see games other than D&D getting decent amounts of expansion material. And while you could play the informal roles anyway, spelling them out like this makes GM's more likely to allow players to do stuff like this, rather than being trapped in the "do mission, report back, get new mission" cycle. And expanding the scope of a game is usually good. They're still nowhere near the point of diluting the theme and overcomplicating the game by adding too many options. After all, going renegade or double agent is an established convention of the genre. It can cause problems in troupe based play, but that doesn't mean it should be forbidden outright.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 82: February 1984

part 3/4

The baton races of yaz: Hee. That cover could so be taken the wrong way. Not right at all. ;) Anyway. C C Stoll gets another game published as this month's centerpiece. Celebrate the liberation of the planet Yaz with a game of cross-country tag-team racing. One of those deceptively simple looking strategy games that actually supports some clever tactics, particularly in the build stage. This means it'll probably take a few games to get the hang of, as you learn how to operate the landscape. Like most games detailed here, they include a bunch of optional rules, which should add a few more replays before you get bored with the game and move onto something else. Another solid addition to their ever growing set of mini-games.

Curing the monty haul malady: Ahh, the joys of advancing too fast, and getting incredibly silly in the process. Something the vast majority of us did at some point, and there's nothing wrong with that. A short article in which Roger reminds us that when things have got too gonzo and overloaded, the best thing to do is start a new game, and learn from your mistakes, playing it differently this time. Very much a "we've got a couple of pages to fill, so lets whip up a half-assed reiteration of things we've said plenty of times before" piece. You can safely skip this and not feel you're missing anything.

Reviews: Battlemats and Megamats are useful devices for anyone who likes representing their game environments. Draw on them, then wipe them clean when you're done and start over again. Just another useful way of aiding the process of organizing your game, albeit at the cost of making your setup bulkier and more inconvenient to transport.
The dragonbone electronic dice wand is a mechanical substitute for dice. Set the type and hit roll for a random number. Unfortunately it fails to really take advantage of that and allow rolls like d13's. Still, if you want to play while walking around or something, it does have definite advantages over standard dice.
The fair shake dice device is another little device to prevent cheating from players. Drop it into the little gate tower, and it'll come out the drawbridge suitably randomized. Even d4's dropped from the same start position are dealt with reliably. Cute.
The d4 that rolls is an amusingly horror movie-esque title for what is essentially a D8 numbered from 1 to 4 twice. One of those cases where there's not much more to say apart from about time too.
Pavis: threshold to danger is a Runequest supplement. It details the city of new pavis, it's layout and history, and then gives us a bunch of adventures set in it. There is a certain amount of railroading in the scenarios, but apart from that, it's a high quality set that provides plenty of useful stuff without getting bogged down in extraneous padding.
Big Rubble is another runequest supplement, complementing the previous one. While Pavis described the new city, this covers the ruins surrounding it. Filled with both humanoids and monsters, it makes a great adventuring environment, with tons of things to do, people to meet, and stuff to loot. It includes 7 sample scenarios, many of which are quite RP heavy. So whether you like dungeoncrawling or plotted adventures, these two modules have enough to keep you busy for months of play.
City states of Arklyrell is a fantasy wargame. It gets a decidedly meh review, failing to distinguish itself from the many competitors. The wargaming equivalent of a fantasy heartbreaker, really.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 82: February 1984

part 4/4

Spells between the covers: Another author who would go onto become one of this magazine's most prolific contributors debuts here. Bruce Heard, author of the princess ark series and tons of other other mystaran stuff, has now joined the freelancer pool. Here, he elaborates on the spell research process. Costs and odds of success, and how to modify them, and huge amounts of sample spellbooks. A topic that could be dull very easily. But thankfully isn't. Like Ed, he instantly stands out for his enormous knowledge of the existing D&D canon, and ability to fit new stuff into it seamlessly. Buying and selling magical books, the black market for spellbooks, two fisted research, the kind of stuff which makes the life of a working wizard rather more interesting than sitting at home rolling dice once a week or so. See, this is how you balance the demands of making a fun game in general with that of keeping things tricky for the researcher, so they can't just spend months holed away and then come out with a game breaking new spell. And it's all topped off with a sprinkling of new literary magical items. It's not the most entertainingly written article ever, but it's a huge improvement over all the previous attempts at this topic, particularly from an actual play perspective. Hopefully he'll soon iron out the little kinks in his writing style and produce plenty more awesome articles in the next few years.

Ohh. Dragonlance coming soon. One of those little teasers that's easy to miss at the time, but says a lot in retrospect. D&D's settings continue to build. How long before we see stuff appearing in the magazine on this? Not long, I'll bet.

Fiction: Windwolf by Earl S Wajenberg. Another of those stories that takes on an odd perspective, this time of a newly formed spirit who would grow to be a god. His birth, his early trials, spirit politics, and the inhumanity of man to nature in general. Some interesting thoughts, both in terms of plot and cosmology, are raised. Not quite a classic piece, but another enjoyable addition to what is turning out to be a pretty cool issue in general.

Dragonmirth continues to get things wrong.

Talanan: Another little comic. Say hello to the geekiest DM evar. See the size of his world. It'd take years to play through that. Another great example of how inconvenient having too much built up stuff to keep track of can be.

Snarfquest has a dragon that thinks it's a duck. Dixie stops being a dragon. Wormy talks about how to hunt a dragon. And makes some criminal puns in the process.

One of those issues that's not particularly significant in it's own right, but more for the things it heralds. Two significant writers, plus a gameline, there's definitely some stuff that was important with hindsight. Course, that doesn't really help us predict who's going to go on to greater things in the present, and who'll just sink into obscurity. Also interesting is just how much of this stuff is quickly and easily insertable into existing games. Seems they're really getting the hang of balancing the fluff details with the actual statistical information, without neglecting or messing up either. And we're still miles away from the point where they would start to concentrate on crunch to the detriment of setting details. For the moment, things look pretty bright.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Two writers? I thought Anderson contributed more to Dragon than just Wounds and Weeds.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Two writers? I thought Anderson contributed more to Dragon than just Wounds and Weeds.
:Googles: Iiiinteresting. That's certainly a pretty substantial resume. Vaguely surprised he's never pinged my radar before. This is what I get for not being a big gaming fiction reader. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll keep an eye out for any future contributions from him.
 
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lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
The dragonbone electronic dice wand is a mechanical substitute for dice. Set the type and hit roll for a random number. Unfortunately it fails to really take advantage of that and allow rolls like d13's. Still, if you want to play while walking around or something, it does have definite advantages over standard dice.
Ah, the time-honored tradition of damning through faint praise. I remembered seeing these in stores, thinking that they were pointless and way too expensive, and wanting one anyway. :D
 
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