• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


  • Total voters
    411

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 86: June 1984

part 3/4

Great stoney: This month's centrepiece is certainly an interesting departure from their usual servings. A full-on cardboard castle, this must have added quite a bit to the production costs of this issue. (I wouldn't be surprised if they actually made a loss on this one, like they did with some of the later boxed sets) At 8 storeys tall, it would certainly make an impressive adventuring ground, which you could fill with all kinds of challenges. Like most of the more physical extras, this is of course a bit of a nuisance in .pdf format, but still, I can see what they were doing here, and I'm quite impressed by their ambition. If TSR was run by bean counters and lawyers, this would never have been approved. Yes, it may have got them into trouble, and eventually killed them, but that's the risk an adventurer takes. At least they're living with style and producing extravagant stuff like this along the way.

Chill! Another classic game is about to be released, and gets advertised here. Neat.

Fiction: Mzee by Charles R Saunders. Life is hard for a young orphan. Bullied by other kids, looked down upon by the adults, getting the last share of any stuff the tribe has, and generally having a pretty sucky life. The question is, will that adversity break you, or make you strong? Everyone loves a good coming of age drama. Seems like half the stories (all of them if you believe Joseph Campbell ) are based around that theme. (and the others are romances.) Another likable but not particularly exceptional or original bit of fiction to fill out the pages with.

Reviews: Battlesuit is a wargame set in the same world as the OGRE game, focussing on infantry battles. This is only slightly more revealing about it's ruleset than saying that Mario Kart and Paper Mario are set in the same universe. It's more a marketing decision. But that doesn't stop it from being a fun game, as long as you like wargaming that has no pretensions towards realism, you should get along fine with it.
Phantasy Conclave is almost the definition of a fantasy heartbreaker, (only with a ph, which like using vampyre, faerie, deamon, or khaiyne, automatically marks it as pretentious as well as insipid) essentially a bunch of someone's AD&D houserules turned into a game of it's own. And it is very badly done indeed. The writing is badly done, there's tons or errata, the illustrations even worse, and there are huge amounts of basic detail like character sheets, weapon ranges, movement rates, and general worldbuilding just missing. If you don't want your heart broken and your money wasted, avoid it like the plague.

Ares section:

Know your enemy: An article on constructing supervillain groups. Why they exist, how they survive, and what you do with them. A topic that could be a lot of fun in the right hands. Unfortunately, this particular attempt misses the mark, being too concerned with realistic worldbuilding, and not enough with the creation of a fun story. Trying to force superheroic worlds to be consistent is even harder than trying to get fantasy worlds to be coherent, well-structured and have decent continuity. You'll have to try a hell of a lot harder than this to marry the two goals of worldbuilding and fun gaming, with all the genre conventions keeping them apart. Plus the article feels way too short. Once again we see the problems inherent with only having 16 pages to play with. You just don't have the room to create the depth a topic like this needs.

A world gone mad: This month's examination of the moon goes to the Gamma World universe. The lunar outposts have been taken over by mutant plants, and gigantic single celled organisms. (gross) Now it's a jungle up there. Can the PC's reclaim it and get hold of some kickass technology on the way? Or will they find this a leap too big for mankind. In just a couple of pages, Jim opens up a whole new avenue for adventure that could become the basis of an entire campaign. Just like going extraplanar in D&D, once you have space travel, it's never going to be quite the same game again. Unfortunately, like the planar stuff, it's still pretty sketchy, with vast areas given the most superficial of examination. Better get to work then. Those moonbases aren't going to draw themselves.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
The next issue has 3 plants and 3 macrobes for the GW moonbase. Those 2 articles and the Polyhedrons on Gamma Mars (in the 30's?) really did provide a lot of ideas.

And those who want more macrobes, 111 has an D&D article with a dozen or so.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 86: June 1984

part 4/4

Fast and deadly: A short but sweet article introducing a bunch of new ships to the star frontiers game, and then giving us three new sample scenarios employing them so you can get the hang of them before developing your own. See, this is how you make a short article worthwhile. You've got to cut out all the extraneous bits and get right to the point. With proper editing, you can fit in far more than you'd expect. It's a skill that any creative medium, be it movies, books, music or whatever, can benefit from.

Interstellar athletes: Ahh joy, another traveler variant. We used to get quite a few of those before they got rid of sci-fi stuff in here. Good to see them return. Don't want to have a past in the military? Be a professional athlete instead. There's probably more money in it, and less chance of being horribly killed before you retire. Unless your chosen sport is slaughtersphere. :D And given the age most professional athletes retire, a second career as an adventurer is a pretty decent option. So this is a handy little article that you can easily slot into your game. They're definitely getting the hang of this.

Starquestions is handled by Jim Ward on his own this month. Well, he did invent Gamma world, so of course he's the ultimate authority on it's rules. He doesn't need the help of Penny or Will or Jean this time round.
Can cyborgs be mutated. (their organic parts certainly can)
It should be obvious how a gun works, you shouldn't have to work it out (Ha. Try shooting a bow or lighting a fire with a pair of rocks while we watch you and laugh (from a safe distance) for a few hours. Then say that all modern appliances are utterly self-explanatory in their use.)
Why do you get automatically hit when surprised (to encourage you to be more cautious.)
My ref isn't checking for reactions, but just making the NPC's act the way she chooses (That is entirely within her perogative. The dice do not rule personality.)
I want stats for more weapons (Kill kill kill. That's all you people ever think about. Look, bikini's! That'll distract 'em. Or maybe not. Great. Now they're homicidal, fetishistic, and have dreadful taste in music. ;) )
I haz 10 questions on mutations. Pls ansewer them. (longlist is looooooong. Jim hopes people don't get into the habit of doing this. )
Aren't swords and arrows a bit weak. (well, we had to make modern weapons more badass, or what was all that technological advancement for.)
When is gamma world set. (1st edition is in 2471, 2nd is in 2450. Not sure why we went backwards. New editions usually advance the timeline of a game. )
What happens to characters caught by cyber-netters (use the most sick and twisted part of your imagination. )
Can you crossover Gamma world and Metamorphosis alpha ( Effortlessly, my dear Watson. They use pretty similar rules and themes. They could be part of the same universe without either being compromised in the slightest. )

Wormy goes fishing. Watch out, because the fish'll eat you. Talanalan faces sudden death from the skies. Snarfquest has wishes go wrong, as usual.

Bug eyed monsters. The new game of alien abduction from greg costikyan. Looks like fun.

A fairly strong issue, with plenty of gameable material. (although I'd prefer more birthday stuff) The ares section in particular is definitely a substantial improvement on the first two, as they get the hang of the format, and figure out how to get the most into it. Looks like the turmoil of the first few months is over, and we can look forward to another year or so of the format staying stable before the next revamp. And that's not a bad thing, as they seem to have a pretty sweet gig going on here. It's risky to mess with a working formula.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 87: July 1984

part 1/4

100 pages. A rather amusing cover this issue. Don't let the cutesy art style fool you about the seriousness of their predicament. Those are some scary plant creatures. Meanwhile, the editor would like to assure you that Dragon itself is in no danger whatsoever from the Tolkien estate. Unfortunately, TSR is now big enough that the left hand doesn't neccecarily know what the right hand is doing. We can't say with certainty what's going to be out when, or why changes have to be made sometimes. Sorry about that. Maybe if we had leaders who weren't bickering over control of the company, y'know. Anyway, enough with the inept rumour-quashing that'll just create more speculation, and on with the show.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: The vice-president of empire games writes a letter direct to Michael Gray, saying that the problems he mentioned in his PbP article have now been fixed. Please don't judge us on what happened in the past. Your money is safe with us.
A letter saying Kim's rulings on healing magic are inaccurate. Kim decides to defer. On consideration, nerfing healing magic's ability to help convalescing characters too much is a bad idea.
A letter praising them for printing dragonquest stuff, and asking for more ASAP. They say they'll do what they can.
Two letters complaining about inconsistencies between the ecology articles and their original monster entries. They reply that it matters not. You can pick and choose the fluff for your monsters, or even throw out the canon one and make your own. Don't sweat about it so much. The canon police aren't going to break down your door for changing things....... yet.

The forum: David W Sisk is still not happy with the way disbelief on illusions works. Other GM's in the area disagree with his rulings. You badly need to spell this out to us better.
Scott D Hoffrage gets a second letter published. In it he introduces us to set theory, the idea of different sizes of infinity, the balance of the universe, and lots of other cool conceptual stuff. You can make the other planes fantasticly alien, yet still functional, by correct application of advanced mathematics and imagination. Sounds to me that you ought to be sending in a proper article on this, instead of just pontificating in the forum.
David F Godwin thinks that given the standard amounts of treasure given in modules and random tables, it is pretty probable that characters will have a selection of items which give them a decent chance of taking down gods by the time they get to their upper teens, even without actively twinking. And they are unlikely to be happy about being forced to retire. The game's breaking at high levels is inherent to the system, not a result of bad players, and they shouldn't get all the flak for it.
Edward R Masters is another returning forumite, and he still thinks the planes don't really make sense as written. How can planets orbit through earth? How do you negate pressure in an infinite solid expanse with a defined down. It's too much hassle to fix, so I'm never going to let my players go there. Dear oh dear. I'm afraid I'm gonna have to side with Scott.

Beyond the dungeon part 1: Katharine Kerr starts really earning her keep around here, with one of those articles that tries to push people out of their comfort zone, and into new vistas. Wilderness adventures may be well established amongst the TSR cognoscenti by now, but there are still substantial holdouts of grognardia that haven't seen the sun in years. Ironic that the dungeon could wind up being considered safer than the wilderness for many people. The basic and expert sets have a lot to answer for.
For a start, moving around on different terrains dramatically impacts your movement rate. This requires an exception based new susbsystem that only works for humanoids! And lots more rules tinkering, all over the shop. While the goal is laudable, and the ideas interesting, the execution of the crunch isn't that well integrated. She's right though that D&D really needs a perception stat rather than having flat chances to surprise that a few class and race abilities modify in arbitrary ways. But then this would involve overhauling the entire system. A good article, that tries hard, but is just lacking that final push to get it into the classic domain, in my opinion. Lets hope part two can pull something really cool out of the hat next month.
 
Last edited:

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Beyond the dungeon part 1: Katharine Kerr starts really earning her keep around here, with one of those articles that tries to push people out of their comfort zone, and into new vistas. Wilderness adventures may be well established amongst the TSR cognoscenti by now, but there are still substantial holdouts of grognardia that haven't seen the sun in years. Ironic that the dungeon could wind up being considered safer than the wilderness for many people. The basic and expert sets have a lot to answer for.
For a start, moving around on different terrains dramatically impacts your movement rate. This requires an exception based new susbsystem that only works for humanoids! And lots more rules tinkering, all over the shop. While the goal is laudable, and the ideas interesting, the execution of the crunch isn't that well integrated. She's right though that D&D really needs a perception stat rather than having flat chances to surprise that a few class and race abilities modify in arbitrary ways. But then this would overhauling the entire system. A good article, that tries hard, but is just lacking that final push to get it into the classic domain, in my opinion. Lets hope part two can pull something really cool out of the hat next month.
I forget whether it's this article or the second one in the series, but she also introduces the ability check. Of course, instead of rolling 1d20 and comparing it directly to your ability score, you're supposed to multiply your score by 5 and use percentile dice. Which is a completely unnecessary step.

The rules could use some work, but still a worthwhile set of articles. Non-combat challenges is something that D&D always struggled with.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 87: July 1984

part 2/4

The ecology of the dryad: Ahh, another of the popular sylvan creatures. How many people have fantasized about being charmed by one and lured off to be their love slaves for a few years. And how many adventurers have found them an almighty pain in the ass. All we wanted to do was cut down a few trees to make a fire with, and cook the animals we just killed for our dinner. Plenty of detail is gone into on their lifecycle, and a few new words are invented as well. They finally manage to strike a decent balance between fiction and footnotes in this one as well. If they'd included a little more action, rather than the fiction just being a load of sagely pontification, it would have been perfect. There's always some little nitpick, isn't there. Keep trying guys.

Gods of the suel pantheon: Len continues his elaboration on greyhawk gods, with Kord the brawler (now there's a familiar name) and his son Phaulkon, god of the open air. Seems like he's quite the Zeus figure, with tons of kids all over the place, more than a few of which become demigods. Your PC can become one too if they can roll 2 18's for their stats. Shades of Synnibarr here, as they reward arbitrary luck with even greater fortune. Once again a whole page is used up recycling the generic god abilities as well. In short, this is a rather poorly thought out piece, that I would recommend you keep in the Lendore isles where it belongs. There is an excellent reason why this style of game design has been largely abandoned. If you try it, you'll find out why pretty soon, when all the other players start complaining.

The legacy of hortus: A load of botanical fluff about a wizard who transferred his lifeforce into the plants he created. Lots of very very bad pun names are used as the basis for animal/plant hybrids of various kinds. It all gets rather silly. And they don't even make stats for them either. I strongly disapprove. At least when Jim gets silly with his mutants he does so inventively, and with decent crunch. I'm sorry, but dedicating the article to a dead person doesn't get you a pass on quality judgements, and I pronounce this article very much wanting.

Reviews: Stalking the night fantastic combines modern day occult, and the spy genre, like an early X-files. Unfortunately, the cool premise and setting is ruined by seriously clunky, poorly organized and overcomplicated rules. Steal from it and convert to conspiracy X or something.
The forever war (another product they've been advertising in here for a while.) is a wargame loosely based off one of the scenarios in the book. Again, the potential offered by the book is left unfulfilled, with big chunks missing or not very well modeled. While not a terrible game in it's own right, it does seem like rather a waste of a license. The review is notewothy for being the first mention of "beer and pretzels" gaming in the magazine though. Guess I get to pinpoint the popularization of another catchphrase, which pleases me.

Whiteout: A 16 page top secret adventure. Head to the antarctic to figure out what the hell the Children Of Neptune (not literally, we aren't straying into crossover land here.) are up to. The previous adventures that appeared in the magazine were all part of a larger plot by a villainous mastermind! Can you foil their plan? The fate of the world rests in the balance. Looks like an open ended and rather tricky mission designed to be a climactic part of an extended campaign. The PC's have chance to make a real difference in the world with this one. That certainly makes a change from all the completely disconnected D&D modules. (particularly the railroaded metaplot ones where the difference you're gonna make is predetermined, no matter what the players do.) I very much approve, apart from the continued tendency towards silly names. Top secret has definitely come quite a way in the last few years from pseudo dungeon crawls in Sprechenhaltestelle.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 87: July 1984

part 3/4

Fiction: Simon Sidekick by John E Stith. Sci-fi manages to stray out of the Ares section in this fairly long piece about, oohh, yet another little boy learning how to come of age, and the people and things that help him through the experience. Angst is felt, the plot is nicely telegraphed and twists where it ought to, and the end is bittersweet. No great surprises here. File under solid but unexceptional.

Dragonriders of pern game and calendar available now! Buy it! Hee.

Freeze! Star law!: It's not easy enforcing the law properly out in Star Frontiers land. With such a huge area to cover, and much of the power in the hands of huge corporations who essentially are the government on many planets, a star law ranger's gotta be a pretty badass character, who can track a fugitive down over the light years, and get the job done by underhanded means and compromises if neccecary. Now that's a job custom suited for adventurer types, who even if they claim noble ends, often wind up using the most sociopathic of means to achieve them, and care nothing for collateral damage. You can even have a whole team of PC's working as a posse, and they actively encourage that, as well as drawing fun old west parallels in other ways. This is almost a textbook example of how to open up a new mileu of play and make it seem fun and inviting. (unless you don't like space exploration and cowboys, in which case you are dead to me :p ) The bureaucratic rules are handled with a light touch, and you have plenty of leeway to be a maverick and push their limits without being kicked out. I love this idea, and would very much like to play something in this style at some point.

Luna, a travellers guide: As the pun name suggests, welcome to the moon in the Traveller system. As Traveller is set waaaaaaay in the future, the moon has a history of habitation stretching back thousands of years, and a population of 8 million. It's a fairly decent place to live, but there is a substantial minority of Solomani extremists, and plenty of other things going on to keep it interesting for PC's. Marc Miller personally oversees this, turning in a well integrated and thought out piece that makes it feel like a real place with plenty of built up cultural quirkiness of it's own. Seems like the entries in this series are continuing to improve as they go along, which is definitely promising. If they can keep this going for a year or so, we should get some pretty cool variations by the end of it.
 

owe for the flesh

Servitor of LOLth
Luna, a travellers guide: As the pun name suggests, welcome to the moon in the Traveller system. As Traveller is set waaaaaaay in the future, the moon has a history of habitation stretching back thousands of years, and a population of 8 million. It's a fairly decent place to live, but there is a substantial minority of Solomani extremists, and plenty of other things going on to keep it interesting for PC's. Marc Miller personally oversees this, turning in a well integrated and thought out piece that makes it feel like a real place with plenty of built up cultural quirkiness of it's own. Seems like the entries in this series are continuing to improve as they go along, which is definitely promising. If they can keep this going for a year or so, we should get some pretty cool variations by the end of it.


Unfortunately, this is the last in the series. :(
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 87: July 1984

part 4/4

A field guide to lunar mutants: Jim follows up on last month's lunar article, as he promised. We get three examples of each of the two big competing genera, macrobes and plants. That should get your evil imaginations started.
Sword macrobes are giant amoeba with a vibrablade tentacle. Now you can have lightsaber battles with amorphous monsters on the moon. That's a pretty cool image. What more could a cinematic adventurer want.
Ball Macrobes look like a certain brightly coloured kids toy, and throw exploding stink balls at you. Such a humiliating way to go.
Eye Macrobes look like giant disembodied eyes sitting on a wall, duh. They're the brains of the single celled organisms, using their psychic powers to organize and direct all the bacteria in the area. If you spot one, expect trouble to follow soon after. On the plus side, if they're intelligent, you have a shot of negotiating. Hmm. What does a giant psychic eye want?
Coners are mutant pine trees. Not only do they shoot their cones, but they can plug themselves into a socket and use that power as a weapon.
Rosoid are ambulatory roses. Yeah, it's as silly as it sounds, but remember, roses have sharp thorns. And when they're 3 meters tall, you don't laugh at them for being froofy unless you want a fistful of thorns in the face.
Shooters are mutant dandelions that shoot their flowerheads like giant shuriken. Ouch. And if you don't dig them out fast, they'll start to grow a new flower inside your body. The old tricks are the best, eh.
As ever, the gamma world contributions are often rather gonzo and silly. That certainly hasn't changed. In a way, the game is already starting to seem outdated compared to the new more sophisticated settings. Still, it is funny and inventive. And it's certainly not generic in any way, despite allowing a pretty kitchen sink selection of add-ons. Jim really knows how to switch things up, and would probably be great fun as a GM. I'm sure these guys would make for a fascinating game in actual play.

Star questions is headed by Roger Moore this month, and is tackling the Universe game, one of the properties TSR snaffled up when they bought SPI. So while they may not have designed it, anything he says is Official Material now.
What new stuff are you making for the game. (lotsa new articles in various magazines. We shall remain curiously silent about any bigger stuff. )
What unpublished stuff do you have for the games. (lots more articles, some quite big. Write lotsa letters and we'll consider putting them in the magazine. )
What do the interiors of starships look like. (You tell us. We're all agog and fascinated to find out as well.)
I want more info on star systems. (You can get more info on stars in any good astronomy books. Star systems in the game, on the other hand, are all made up, because our telescopes just aren't good enough.)
Why do many stars have such silly names (Because there's a lot of stars, and a lot of bored astronomers trying to name them. Strings of numbers are hard to remember, and they ran out of sensible god names ages ago.)
Hw do you get a meteor storm in outer space. (When a comet falls apart, it can make space hazardous over quite an area. especially when you're traveling through at high speeds. Pinprick punctures are a pain in the ass. )

Wormy is still on a fishing trip. Talanalan gets metagame. Snarfquest is off on another mission.

Apart from the saggy bit in the middle, this has been a pretty impressive issue. The Ares section continues to gather steam, and the forum is finally starting to have recurring writers. We're seeing an interesting mix of new and old style articles, as they might be moving away from the game's roots, but there are still quite a few people writing and playing games like that. Still, as that results in an interesting variety of articles, it keeps things interesting for me. I can definitely see why this can be considered a classic era for the magazine.
 

morgue

Diceratops guy
Validated User
Yay! I've been waiting for this - issue #87 (and issue #88) were the very first RPG products I bought with my own money, having been gifted the Moldvay D&D Basic beforehand. Hell of a way to come into the hobby. I have used Whiteout, in particular, a half-dozen times in different systems over the years, most memorably in a Doctor Who game where I had the complex under assault from robot yeti.

I'm enjoying this ride. Great thread.
 
Top Bottom