• 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

komradebob

Registered User
Validated User
Same dice, different odds: Statistics! Doncha just love them. :crickets chirping: Just me then? Straight distributions, bell curves, normal distributions with standard deviation, exploding results, exponential decay curves, and lots of combinations. With a bit of creative application of modifiers, you can solve problems that plague designers through the ages. The classic problem of over lethal housecats can be fixed by rolling two dice and dividing one by the other, allowing for a tiny average, with the possibility of a substantial hit still there. Similarly, things like rockslides are better modeled with this kind of roll on a larger scale. A clever idea, and one I don't remember many games doing. Is basic division really too hard for people? This is definitely an idea I intend to incorporate, as it seems so obvious, yet so little used. Allowing for longshots like this increases the swinginess of the game. And that makes for more drama, which is generally a good thing. Another abandoned gem I'm pleased to have unearthed.
That is my favorite Dragon article ever, and I'm nothing like a math-o-phile.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 94: February 1985

part 3/4

Creature catalog II: 18 new monsters delivered fresh to your door. Just the thing to terrorize your players with. Be careful unwrapping them, though. Many of them are Ed Greenwood creations, with Roger and Len also getting quite a few contributions in.

Belabra are really rather weird looking tentacled creatures. Thankfully, they don't attack with them. They can be trained too, which could have interesting concequences.

Giant Betta are, as the name says, giant siamese fighting fish. Like the real thing, they're teritorial buggers, easily set off by bright colours and new smells. As they make bubble nests, they're very useful for underwater adventurers in need of a quick refill. Stealth and stuff is good, because you'll probably piss off druids if you kill them.

Bhaergala are one of Ed's great lost gems of weird design and plot hooks aplenty. Virtually every line has some strange bit of flavour, and their abilities are pretty unique as well. Stealing musical instruments, spell reflection, smelling of freshly baked biscuits, these easily mach up to real mythic creatures in sheer idiosyncracy. One I could definitely stand to see some more of, and am very disappointed by future editions treatment of them.

Phase Dragons are exactly what they sound like. Phase spiders have some serious competition. Thankfully they don't grow very big compared to most dragons, and aren't that aggressive either. A 100 foot reptile suddenly appearing in front of you would ruin anyones day.

Ekrat are nasty little paper eating fae. If your wizard suddenly finds himself missing a spellbook, they might well be responsible. Bad puns are employed in the writing of this entry, which is definitely one that's more annoying than deadly. Have them keep pet rust monsters, and the screwage can be shared around equally.

Fireball Flys go boom if you attack them. Ha ha. Like the gas spore, this is a definite play with the expectations of the party monster, only coming at it from the other direction. Laugh? I nearly split my britches. The perfect thing to have hanging around those salamanders and red dragons in their volcanic lairs.

Firestar are floating balls of light that absorb energy. There's good spell components in 'em, so cruel adventurers may want to hunt them down.

Flamewings are our third fire related monster in a row. They expel methane gas and then use it to set fire to their wings. Um, yeah. You couldn't make it up, could you. Thanks for that.

Hurgeon are humanoid hedgehogs. As Good burrowing humanoids, they're pretty unlikely to show up in a game, unless gnomes are involved. They have tricksy magical powers that mean you don't want to despoil nature when they're around. Much mehness.

Giant Lightning bugs, like fireball flys, are little pains in the ass, in this case because they're attracted to metal and shock whoever's in it. This also has the chance of removing an item's magic, which would really annoy lots of players.

Lillendi are winged snake-women from gladsheim. With a ton of powerful tricks up their sleeve, they can be both good allies and scary enemies. Probably the most famous of the monsters from this collection, they get good write-ups in future editions as well. Well, sex sells. They might not have quite the pervalicious qualities of mariliths, but they can still fuel people's fantasies.

Orgautha are gross-looking giant land leeches. They also have two special powers that make them a serious inconvenience for an unprepared group of adventurers. Poor spellcasters. So easy to ruin their days.

Rekeihs are incredibly weird looking mobile plants. With a distinctive style and plenty of ecological detail, they will give adventurers pause, but not be too scary once you get into an actual fight.

Rummele are extraplanar dogs from Gladsheim. They get a whole bunch of feyish powers such as blinking, shapechanging, and divination, plus the ability to deflect missiles. They're a great cohort for mid-high level adventurers, entirely capable of taking care of themselves against all kinds of screwage. What's that lassie? The last group of adventurers all got petrified? We must rescue them! Bring the reflective shields!

Urisk are miniature goat-headed satyrs. They may look cute, but you can bet they'll be humping your leg and chasing the nixies if you don't keep a close eye on them. They have animal companions as well, so expect the unexpected.

Viltch are hooligan monkeys from Pandemonium. They smash pretty stuff and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Like many of these extraplanar versions of standard animals, they have substantial magical and class abilities that'll make them a real hassle even to higher level parties if played cleverly.

Great Wyrms are a mysterious ancient relation of dragons. They may not be quite as badass as later dragons, but they're certainly no picnic. They have toxic breath, a smaug-esque weak spot and can be a source of great knowledge. Pretty flavourful, in other words.

Xaver are decidedly weird looking things that corrode and eat metal like rust monsters. Only they're intelligent and can actually hurt you with their attacks as well. The party is not going to be a happy one after meeting them. Muahahaha.

So it seems like we have a lot of fae, planar, and general screwage creatures this time, rather than stuff you have a straight-up fight with. Introducing these guys to your game will definitely result in interesting times for your players. A definite sign that they were trying to push the envelope on what monsters did and how they acted at that point. Ecology may have been a fairly established concept by then, so now they're pushing the boundaries of how you should act in a fight, and the tactics you have to adopt to successfully deal with these weird creatures. Course, if the way you find out is by trial and error, there's going to be quite a bit of frustration and a few deaths on the way. Eh, if adventuring wasn't a challenge, what would be the point?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I thought the actual reason they gave is that Gladshiem dwarves aren't the same as Prime Material ones?
Yes, but the important clause there is that they cannot be used as player characters without breaking the rules of the game. It's the whole yes, they can do it, no, you can't attitude that annoys me.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 94: February 1985

part 4/4

Fiction: Fortunes of a fool by Nicholas Yermakov. Oh, this is mean. How to go from rags to riches and back again, courtesy of some supernatural meddling with a distinctly pessimistic russian slant to it. That makes a change from the usual happy, or at least bittersweet ending, and still feels nicely folklorish. As a change of pace from most of the stories in here, I very much approve.

Coming Attractions: Lots of stuff out this month. D&D gets Blade of vengance, a solo module, where an elf must avenge the destruction of his homeland. It also gets AC4, the book of marvelous magic. Lots of new spells and magic items for your delectation and twinking out.
AD&D gets C4:To find a king. Part 1 of the prophecy of brie series, this tournament module does indeed sound pretty cheesy. Not a classic.
Endless quest gets EQ 25: Conan the outlaw, and EQ 26: Tarzan and the well of slaves. Seems like they're definitely in a pulpy mood at the moment.
Star frontiers gets SFKH3: Face of the enemy. Not much info is given on this one.
And on the wargaming front, we get The breakout from Normandy, and The Quadrigame of waterloo. Two more highly specialized games designed to cover particular battles in great detail.

S.h.i.e.l.d.tm: The Marvel superheroes game's popularity is rewarded by a 5 page article on these guys. Their history, their enemies, their staff (including lots of rather amusing mugshots) and all the cool stuff they have, (including a cutaway diagram of their helicarrier base. ) and finally stats for Nick Fury, their head honcho. A very dense article, this gets tons of info in in an efficient manner. I've seen articles twice the size that don't actually say as much of importance. Guess they're really getting the hang of this 16 pages limitation and editing stuff down for it. The artwork is also particularly good on this one. A fast and furious way to kick off this section, with plenty of stuff that's useful in actual play. You never know when you're going to need a world-spanning secret organization to clear up the messes your players are making.

The marvel-phile: My gods. Now this dates this issue. We have spiderman's symbiote, but no Venom. They also don't know who the hobgoblin is yet either. Fascinating. Goes to show how movies condense the stuff from years of comics decades ago into their writing. We also get the Kingpin, another villain who would plague spider-man throughout the ages. Once again, I am shown just how much comics have changed in recent years, and paradoxically, how much they haven't, with events happening back then still having reprecussions now. Jeff delivers another three statblocks and potted histories efficiently as ever. I find myself tempted to pick up a compilation of that era so I can read all this stuff I missed first hand. Must. Stay. Focussed. 271 issues to go. Long Journey. No time for unproductive diversions.

From anarchy to empire: David Cook acquires his nickname of Zeb, for the first time I've spotted in this magazine. Another interesting historical footnote for y'all. Anyway, star frontiers continues to get plenty of coverage around here, with details on how interstellar government is handled there. From loose trade agreements to centralized authoritarian rule, they can vary widely. On the plus side, this is system free, so it's easily applicable to other games. On the negative, this is another case where they really don't go into enough depth, due to the short pagecount, and as a result all the advice feels very familiar, just reskinned slightly. Not a useful article to a longtime reader.

A second bit of fiction this month, The gun that shot too straight by Ralph Roberts. So you've developed a gun that has unlimited range. Just how unlimited? Oh dear oh dear. This could get ugly. A textbook example of speculative sci-fi, where the protagonists take a back seat to the conceptualizing. Which is a decent way to finish of the magazine.

Wormy is just plain awesome this month, as multiple plot threads get developed upon. Snarfquest shows us a map of his world. Dragonmirth shows us a variant on the trojan horse.

Well, this has certainly been an interesting issue. Never thought I'd see Katharine Kerr flipping out and being a downright spoilsport. Even if the average quality of articles isn't quite as high as the last three, there's certainly lots of weird and wonderful stuff happening in here. The monsters are good, the reviews are well above normal quality, the fiction is cool. It's just the full sized articles that aren't always the best. Keep the surprises coming, guys. Controversy like this is fun to rediscover.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
The marvel-phile: My gods. Now this dates this issue. We have spiderman's symbiote, but no Venom. They also don't know who the hobgoblin is yet either. Fascinating. Goes to show how movies condense the stuff from years of comics decades ago into their writing. We also get the Kingpin, another villain who would plague spider-man throughout the ages. Once again, I am shown just how much comics have changed in recent years, and paradoxically, how much they haven't, with events happening back then still having reprecussions now. Jeff delivers another three statblocks and potted histories efficiently as ever. I find myself tempted to pick up a compilation of that era so I can read all this stuff I missed first hand. Must. Stay. Focussed. 271 issues to go. Long Journey. No time for unproductive diversions.
I think the history of the Marvel Universe was printed in a second edition about this time to better mesh with the stats in the game (especially Strength).
 

Lord Shark

Varoonik!
Validated User
Dragon Issue 94: February 1985

part 4/4

Fiction: Fortunes of a fool by Nicholas Yermakov. Oh, this is mean. How to go from rags to riches and back again, courtesy of some supernatural meddling with a distinctly pessimistic russian slant to it. That makes a change from the usual happy, or at least bittersweet ending, and still feels nicely folklorish. As a change of pace from most of the stories in here, I very much approve.
Wiki says that Nicholas Yermakov later changed his name to Simon Hawke and has had quite a nice career as a SF/fantasy novelist.

This story is permanently stuck in my mind because I *wince* plagiarized it. It was 11th grade, I had an assignment for English class staring me in the face, I just couldn't think of anything, so I pared this story down to a few pages and filed off the Russian references.

Unfortunately, my teacher liked the story so much that she insisted on reading it to the class -- with me, naturally, sitting there freaking out that someone else in the class might also read the Dragon and leap up to denounce me. And then the editor of the school literary magazine asked me if he could run it there. When I said no, he went ahead and printed it anyway. (Thanks, Rodney.) Either I was indeed the only one in the school who read the Dragon, or no one really cared, because I managed to get away with it -- but still, that was the first, last, and only time I've ever resorted to theft.

Remember, kids, plagiarism isn't cool. And if you're out there, Nicholas/Simon, sorry.
 

gameraMan

Retired User
Whew! I just spent the last few weeks trying to catch up on just reading this thread, never mind the whole dragon archive! I wouldn't let myself contribute until I read the whole thread. But now that I have...

So, first off, great thread, and nice timing for me as I started getting back into AD&D recently after a decade or so of hiatus. I've spent the last couple months sorting and organizing all of my old RPG material, particularly my shelf Dragon mags. My first issue was #44, and after missing a few I ended up subscribing through till #100. Later I was able to pick up a few missing issues from online rpg stores, my oldest being #41. Fortunately I picked up the dragon archive when it was first on sale and now I have all the PDFs on my hard drive. It's been great to follow along with the thread reviews and dig into the best parts of the magazines as I've gone along.

BTW, how are you keeping track of the most useful articles? I'd be interested in seeing that list at some point (maybe some point before #250...)

Anyone else have a problem losing magazine covers? Plastic cover sheets may be a bit on the nerdy side, but my magazine collection would be in a lot better shape than it is now if I had them...
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 95: March 1985

part 1/4

100 pages. Welcome to the D&D experience, blue-jeans style. Certainly an interesting art style for this months cover. I quite approve. No particular theme to this month's issue, just another array of stuff for your enjoyment, for all kinds of systems. Can't think of anything else interesting to say here, so lets get going, as usual.

In this issue:

Letters: We have a letter complaining about how much advertising has increased in the magazine over the years. With statistics. They consider this so significant that they devote the whole editorial to justifying it. Commerce sucks, does it not. Just the price we pay to not have to charge you so much.
One of those awkward questions. If someone is deconverted after a cleric converts them, do they lose XP. The answer is generally no. They take the time to answer some more possible rules quibbles. So it goes.
A dumb question about an apparent rules error that is not a mistake at all. Use a little logic before you write in, it'll save everyone a lot of trouble.
Some questions about the monsters in issue 89. Once again logic and realism have to take a hike. Seems like they're saying that a lot lately. Every trend has it's backlash.
Another question on a recent article. Now they want to know exactly what counts as mental damage. Simple enough to resolve.
As is the next bit, which isn't a letter but a load of errata. All in all, this letters section has been rather a downer. Can't we have at least one feelgood compliment or amusingly insane rant? Poor Kim, having to sift through this crap every month.

The forum: Stephen Inniss rebuts comments on his recent articles. You, sirs, were not paying attention, for I specifically already addressed the problems you mentioned within the article. Fantasy is not real, but you should still try and keep it internally consistent. Not that you have to explain everything upfront, either. Balance, my dears.
Calvin V Jestice wants to introduce chances for broken bones to falling damage. Once again, we see people wanting to put specific injuries into an abstract hit point system. Shoo, Away wi ye, ya varmints.
Leslie G Gillis thinks that the idea of worshipping only one god in a pantheistic society is a silly one. Most people will appeal to appropriate gods whenever they're in a tough situation. Also, why should PC's be completely immune to systems that affect NPC's. They shouldn't be that special. A perfectly valid view. Monotheistic assumptions from the real world can be hard to shake of.

From the sorceror's scroll: After receiving many complaints, Gary decides to loosen up the demihuman racial limits a little, as well as open up the various subraces to general PC's. Welcome to serious power creep. We also see the first named mention of Unearthed Arcana. Having produced so many Official AD&Dtm Rules Additions in this magazine, it's time to compile them and make them easily accessable, like they've been saying they would since 1982. Yeah, that's the ticket ;) And then next year, they'll start work on a new edition. This is interesting information. And that's not all, not by a long shot, no sir. We also have more news on the D&D film, and results from the recent survey. And finally, Gary apologizes once again to the runners of Origins, as bad blood between conventions is not helpful to the hobby as a whole. My oh my. That's some quite substantial news. This will please a lot of people, and piss off almost as many. The D&D ruleset is about to be changed forever, not neccecarily for the better. Looks like the next few issues are going to be rather dramatic ones. Should be exciting for me.

The influence of tolkien on D&D: More pontification from Gary. Once again, for those of you who didn't get the memo way back in issue 13, he talks about D&D's many other influences such as Howard, Moorcock, Lieber, et all. While D&D's races may have been taken from LotR, the tone was very much not. In fact, he's quite critical in many ways of Tolkien's writing style and plot pacing. D&D is not suited to running a game like Tolkien's plots, and you really shouldn't try. Seven years may have passed, and many things have changed in the meantime, but his opinion remains much the same. All you Johnny-come-latelys who've never read most of the original inspirations for the game are Doing It Wrong. Once again we see how he's already the ultimate grognard, pontificating on subjects many people already consider irrelevant, and only grudgingly changing with the times. Still, once again, he does so in an entertaining fashion. It's going to be different once he's gone. Who's going to play the cantankerous ideologue then?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Wiki says that Nicholas Yermakov later changed his name to Simon Hawke and has had quite a nice career as a SF/fantasy novelist.
They're the same person? I never knew that. Guess I just never looked either of them up since getting the internet.

Remember, kids, plagiarism isn't cool. And if you're out there, Nicholas/Simon, sorry.
:D
Whew! I just spent the last few weeks trying to catch up on just reading this thread, never mind the whole dragon archive! I wouldn't let myself contribute until I read the whole thread. But now that I have...

BTW, how are you keeping track of the most useful articles? I'd be interested in seeing that list at some point (maybe some point before #250...)
At the moment, it's just by making notes in the actual reviews, like you've seen. I'll look through everything and do a best of so far when we get to issue 112, where they do the last complete index in the magazine.

Anyone else have a problem losing magazine covers? Plastic cover sheets may be a bit on the nerdy side, but my magazine collection would be in a lot better shape than it is now if I had them...
Yup, its a persistent problem with all my old staplebound books. They tend to lose stuff from the outside and centre, and it is most annoying.
 
Top Bottom