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[Let's read] Dragon magazine - Part two: Gimme some Moore

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Well, I've made it this far. 107 issues. 10 & 1/2 Months writing. More than 10 years of history covered. And we're still less than a third of the way through this journey. Can I make it? Just how long will it take? The further we go, the bigger the task seems to become. Stick around, because there's lots more interesting things to come in the history of our hobby.

Once again, Here's the links to all the previous entries. The next installment in this story will follow tomorrow. Hope you enjoy the ride.

The Strategic Review Issue 1: Spring 1975
The Strategic Review Issue 2: Summer 1975
The Strategic Review Issue 3: Autumn 1975
The Strategic Review Issue 4: Winter 1975
The Strategic Review Issue 5: December 1975
The Strategic Review Issue 6: February 1976
The Strategic Review Issue 7: April 1976

The Dragon Issue 1: June 1976
The Dragon Issue 2: August 1976
The Dragon Issue 3: October 1976
The Dragon Issue 4: December 1976
The Dragon Issue 5: March 1977
The Dragon Issue 6: April 1977
The Dragon Issue 7: June 1977
The Dragon Issue 8: July 1977
The Dragon Issue 9: September 1977
The Dragon Issue 10: October 1977
The Dragon Issue 11: December 1977
The Dragon Issue 12: Februrary 1978
The Dragon Issue 13: April 1978
The Dragon Issue 14: May 1978
The Dragon Issue 15: June 1978
The Dragon Issue 16: July 1978
The Dragon Issue 17: August 1978
The Dragon Issue 18: September 1978
The Dragon Issue 19: October 1978
The Dragon Issue 20: November 1978
The Dragon Issue 21: December 1978
The Dragon Issue 22: Februrary 1979
The Dragon Issue 23: March 1979
The Dragon Issue 24: April 1979
The Dragon Issue 25: May 1979
The Dragon Issue 26: June 1979
The Dragon Issue 27: July 1979
The Dragon Issue 28: August 1979
The Dragon Issue 29: September 1979
The Dragon Issue 30: October 1979
The Dragon Issue 31: November 1979
The Dragon Issue 32: December 1979
The Dragon Issue 33: January 1980
The Dragon Issue 34: Februrary 1980
The Dragon Issue 35: March 1980
The Dragon Issue 36: April 1980
The Dragon Issue 37: May 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
The Dragon Issue 38: June 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 39: July 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 40: August 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 41: September 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 42: October 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 43: November 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 44: December 1980 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 45: January 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 46: Februrary 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 47: March 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 48: April 1981 part 1part i/1^0.5part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 49: May 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 50: June 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 51: July 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 52: August 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 53: September 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 54: October 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 55: November 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 56: December 1981 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 57: January 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 58: Februrary 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 59: March 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 60: April 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 61: May 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 62: June 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 63: July 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 64: August 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 65: September 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 66: October 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 67: November 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 68: December 1982 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 69: January 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 70: Februrary 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 71: March 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 72: April 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 73: May 1983part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 74: June 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 75: July 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 76: August 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 77: September 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 78: October 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 79: November 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 80: December 1983 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 81: January 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 82: Februrary 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 83: March 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 84: April 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 85: May 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 86: June 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 87: July 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 88: August 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 89: September 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 90: October 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 91: November 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 92: December 1984 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 93: January 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 94: Februrary 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 95: March 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 97: May 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 98: June 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 99: July 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
Dragon Issue 100: August 1985 part 1part 2part 3part 4
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 101: September 1985

part 1/4

100 pages My god. The price increase was only temporary. That's a new one. How long before it goes up for good? As ever, this will be reported as I discover it. Another reminder that they're not really in it just for the money here, as Kim talks in the editorial about refusing to print an advert that slagged off another company. Nevertheless, the party is over, and it's back on the treadmill. The deadlines are coming strong as ever, and the contents page looks surprisingly empty. Hopefully that means several big articles rather than a glut of advertising, but of course the only way to be sure is to get reading. See you on the other side.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter asking about the level limits for aquatic elves. They remain reluctant to give any, because they don't want them as PC's. They may have opened up a whole bunch of subraces in UA, but an all underwater game? That's a little too far for their comfort.
A question about the problems underground demihumans suffer in the light. They take the time to once again promote UA, but point out that PC's of those races have been nerfed in comparison to their NPC relations for the sake of game balance. Is this going to help sell it, or provoke complaints? Probably both.
A simple question. Does the will-o-wisp keep glowing after dying. An equally simple answer. No.
Yet more questions about demihumans, this time concerning their new increased level limits, and how they interact with old articles. They reply that yes, a whole bunch of old stuff is invalidated by UA. You'll just have to like it or lump it, because all the new stuff will be using it. We are currently in a phase of preferring cool ideas over consistency or universal compatibility, and publish our articles based on this. Which bits you take and use in your game, and how you make them fit together is your concern.
Some questions about the lightning bug. This is not a huge problem.
A question about murlynd's stats. Once again, there are very different versions of the same character floating around the D&D multiverse. It's like Amber. They got played in the original games, so they spawn tons of references and funhouse reflections all over the universe, long after they've retired.
An editorial turn in response to getting far too many letters to print on the subject of the Dragons Teeth article. Man, people have picked this one apart like a flock of crows on a dead sheep. Please, folks, don't look to us for all the answers, make them up yourself. Seems to be becoming a familiar refrain here.
A rather dumb letter that they seemingly printed as a joke, while still making a serious point. Logistics, people. All the old issues don't exist in some kind of phase space until ordered, there's bloody great warehouses and trucks and printing runs and all that. Its quite the issue.

The forum: Mike Dombrowski has some rather complicated thoughts about the balance of humans and demihumans, and how it changes over a very long term game, with different races aging and dying at different rates, as well as having different class maximums. How do we deal with and compensate for this? This is definitely a topic worth examining.
Gary comes in to make some comments on recent stuff. These are pretty positive, actually. He likes the idea of more scaling in dragons, so they can be a challenge for all levels of parties. After all, it is D&D. Without the Dragons, it would just be a dungeon crawl.
Sam Swanson is very much against the DM fudging dice rolls. This may seem like a good idea in the short term, but in the long run it will ruin your game by taking away the sense of danger and freedom of events. Plus it sets a bad example and the players are more likely to cheat as well if they have a DM who does it. A good DM should be firm but fair. So there, David F Godwin.
Dan Swingley has a short comment on the way climate affects the terrain. It's not just the plants and animals living in it. It also has significant effects on the erosion patterns. Why do you think we only get fjords in the far north.
Jim Ayotte talks about his gaming experiences, and how one size most definitely does not fit all. Also, Gary should stop being so cranky. I know he has lots of deadlines, but that's no excuse, plenty of other writers manage to meet their deadlines and still not let their personal feelings spill over into what they're writing.
And finally we get a rather innappropriate use of the forum, as Frank Mentzer pops in to shill the D&D companion set, and the new challenges it offers for jaded mid-level characters who think they've seen it all. You think dragons aren't scary anymore? Think again. With all their tactical moves, they make even a party of that level look like chumps if they don't think fast. While he has a point, this is definitely not where he ought to be saying it. I disapprove.

Update from the chief: Unearthed Arcana has sold out immediately! Holy jumping jimminickers Mohan! Back to the printing presses! We also have two big new books coming soon. Oriental adventures. Booyeah! And Temple of elemental evil is finally finished and will be coming to you in a bumper pack book containing the contents of all 4 intended modules. Double Booyeah! Am I not the man! I can run two companies simultaneously, find time to make products personally, and still think of myself as lazy. Would a satanist do things as amazing and selfless as that? I think not. Now back to work. I can't rely on you incompetents to do anything right when I'm not around and someone's got to keep this company afloat. Plans and plots, we have lots. (Many of which are going to fall through painfully in the next year or so, but that's life) We take another step, albeit an entertaining one, towards the realization that the supplement treadmill is the way to go to make the bucks the company needs to pay all it's built up staff, and the infrastructure they require. Be afraid.

All about the kender: Oookay, upgrade that. Be very afraid. Because these guys can't be, so you've got to be terrified for everyone. Roger Moore (lest you've forgotten, the creator of splat articles for all the other PC races back in 1982) outlines the history of the kender, and how they differ from halflings or humans. Fearless, insatiably curious, whimsical, no sense of personal property, vicious taunters. It's like they were custom developed to be pains in the ass to party dynamics in the hands of all but the best players. What were their creators thinking? Oh, yeah, we can handle it, and it works well in stories, so it should work well in a game. Plus it's the 80's, so you've got to have a silly comic relief character. It's a law or something. The transformers movie managed to survive four of them, so we can put in three bloody comic relief races and still create a serious, epic and dramatic story. Urgh. :throws hands in the air: Someone give me 20cc's of babylon 5 stat to cancel out the cheese overload. Funny how the writers of something liking them too much can result in other people finding them tremendously annoying, and not in the way intended. This is deeply problematic. Once again the integral flaws of the dragonlance setting are shoved in our face and called features. I do not find this pleasing.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
I think the main issue with the kender and tinker gnomes is the number of players who took them to make the party dick character. After all, they do seem like concentrated PC goodness. Never scared? Does stupid shit constantly? Steal everything not nailed down, on fire, guarded by an Elder Evil and under a Divine Curse?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 101: September 1985

part 2/4

Traveler alien modules. Now there's a splatbook series if ever I saw one. Once again, traveller is ahead of D&D when it comes to book type trends. Funny to notice that.

Plan it by the numbers: Another attempt at a CR system. Oh joy. [/deadpan] Frank Mentzer gives us the one he uses. Actually, this is pretty good for it's time, allowing you to calculate the deadliness of an encounter and reverse engineer it to your taste with a few minutes math, and being pretty accommodating to parties of various sized and mixed levels. At least, as long as the creators of the monsters don't mess up their number of asterisk calculations. A system is only as solid as it's weakest link. Still, if you stick to the BECM stuff that he also developed, this should hold up pretty well. More evidence that Frank was one of the people who really helped make TSR a professional outfit. I can see myself using this, which is a good sign.

For king and country: Great. Moral relativism and D&D alignment. Two flavours that do not happily mix. It's time for one of those detailed examinations of what exactly morality in D&D can mean. How can we have genuinely compelling morality tales when there is an absolute right and wrong, and people know for certain if they are good or evil. This writer dislikes the idea, and would rather change that. He'd much rather throw the idea of cosmic standards of behaviour out, and substitute specific ones derived from the character's culture and the specific gods they worship. That way, you can have people who both feverently believe they're right, and have their holy powers back them up. This is one of those cases where I find myself divided, as this is a well-written article, but one holding a position I'm not very keen on, as I rather like the idea of objectively quantifiable morality, even if the folks on the ground don't know exactly what the rules are they should be following. Still, this goes quite some way towards demonstrating that you can make subjective morality work in D&D, despite all the rules that get in it's way, as long as you apply a little effort. I'm not going to knock the fact that many people do like to play it like that.

The role of books: The destiny dice by David Bischoff tells the story of things happening within a fantasy game people are playing, and discovering that they may be inside a game played on an even higher level of the multiverse. The book leaves lots of questions unanswered, presumably for future books in the series to deal with. This makes it an interesting but unsatisfying read. Fortunately, this is a long time later, so you can now get the full trilogy.
The Isle of Glass by Judith Tarr (typoed as the isle of class in the header :p ) tells the story of a half-elven guy trying to find his place in your typical pseudo english fantasy world. Our protagonist is dragged into big battles for the fate of the kingdom, largely against his will. Despite the very generic elements, it gets a fairly positive review, being good gaming material. Guess it's all in the way the story is actually told.
Cats have no lord by Will Shetterly (awesome title) is a riddle filled story of why every race apart from cats has a god. (Because they're waay too arrogant for that.) The quest to solve these puzzles is handled in a surprisingly low-key, humorous way. Even after it's over, there are still plenty of questions left open for the audience to discuss. Will and his co-conspirators are definitely ones to watch.
Ladyhawke by Joan D Vinge is of course the novelisation of the film. It hews fairly close to the plot of the movie, and the changes it makes are generally improvements. In general, the reviewer is pretty positive about both the book and the film. I guess there were many far cheesier films produced in the 80's.
The sword of Calandra by Susan Dexter may be part of a series, but is rather more episodic than the usual trilogies that are currently clogging up the fantasy genre. This is probably a good thing, as along with the good plotting, it helps keep things from being too predictable.
Dayworld by Philip Jose Farmer is the rather clever tale of one man's attempt to buck the far future system in which most people are placed in suspended animation for 6 days a week, to deal with overpopulation. This is a great combination of theoretical speculation and fast paced action that is well up to his usual standards.

Charging isn't cheap: Making magical items. A most tedious process. Just how much do you codify it, forcing players to personally hunt down the ingredients for a device. How much random rolling will you insert to see if it works as planned, or fails, or even develops unplanned features. Here's a big load of sample procedures for making and recharging wands, rods and staves. Another thing you can insert into your campaign fairly easily when the issue comes up, even in different editions, and is full of flavor. Another thing that'd definitely save you time making everything up if you're not feeling inspired.

Draco dracorum: The limited edition figurine celebrating ral partha's 10th anniversary. Get it now, because it'll soon be very collectible.

Reviews: The DC heroes roleplaying game gets reviewed by Jeff Grubb. This is actually a pretty positive one, as he welcomes the competition to the genre he is currently the leader in. While crunchy, and not always brilliantly organized, it scales to handle the huge disparities in power level well, and emulates the combination of big world shaking plots and keeping track of personal drama you see in the comics. He's going to take this as motivation to step up his own game, so much arse may be kicked. A pretty cool review that manages to skirt the problems that his very partial position presents.
 

Dasharr

Adamant Skeptic
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I think the main issue with the kender and tinker gnomes is the number of players who took them to make the party dick character. After all, they do seem like concentrated PC goodness. Never scared? Does stupid shit constantly? Steal everything not nailed down, on fire, guarded by an Elder Evil and under a Divine Curse?
The worst part is, just as Dragonlance was losing it's popularity and kender were fading away from game groups, along came Vampire the Masquerade with the Malkavians. ;)
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
For king and country: Great. Moral relativism and D&D alignment. Two flavours that do not happily mix. It's time for one of those detailed examinations of what exactly morality in D&D can mean. How can we have genuinely compelling morality tales when there is an absolute right and wrong, and people know for certain if they are good or evil. This writer dislikes the idea, and would rather change that. He'd much rather throw the idea of cosmic standards of behaviour out, and substitute specific ones derived from the character's culture and the specific gods they worship. That way, you can have people who both feverently believe they're right, and have their holy powers back them up. This is one of those cases where I find myself divided, as this is a well-written article, but one holding a position I'm not very keen on, as I rather like the idea of objectively quantifiable morality, even if the folks on the ground don't know exactly what the rules are they should be following. Still, this goes quite some way towards demonstrating that you can make subjective morality work in D&D, despite all the rules that get in it's way, as long as you apply a little effort. I'm not going to knock the fact that many people do like to play it like that.
Perhaps my favorite article in the first 101 (108?) issues. As you mentioned, it's really well written. The examples of integrating the standard D&D tropes like classes and races into a variation on Arthurian Britian were fascinating. The expansionist yet morally lax paladins of the Round Table waging bloodly war in the Holy Land against Saladin and his paladins; while at home the druids of the conquered Old Religion train the rangers as commandos.

While moral absolutes make it easy to know who to kill, there are just so many stories that can't be told in a world where Right and Wrong come with capital letters and every race has a convenient label.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
The worst part is, just as Dragonlance was losing it's popularity and kender were fading away from game groups, along came Vampire the Masquerade with the Malkavians. ;)
Ha. Trouble is, a certain amount of goofiness can massively increase a work's popularity. Having a jarringly silly element in an otherwise well crafted product gets people talking about it, which generates interest in people who would otherwise never hear about it, (often morbid curiosity ) which results in sales. When there's no conflict, there's less interest.

Perhaps my favorite article in the first 101 (108?) issues.
I bet I know which article from issue 109 you're thinking of. :)
As you mentioned, it's really well written. The examples of integrating the standard D&D tropes like classes and races into a variation on Arthurian Britian were fascinating. The expansionist yet morally lax paladins of the Round Table waging bloodly war in the Holy Land against Saladin and his paladins; while at home the druids of the conquered Old Religion train the rangers as commandos.

While moral absolutes make it easy to know who to kill, there are just so many stories that can't be told in a world where Right and Wrong come with capital letters and every race has a convenient label.
This is also why when there is objective morality as a fact of the universe, I prefer it's standards impossibly stringent for humans to live up to perfectly, and/or just plain alien, as the cosmic beings that decide what morality is are not human, and have standards informed by that cosmic perspective on things. The more troublesome they are, the more interesting the conflicts between what is objectively Right, what is culturally right, and what would be the most practical option become. When there are several axes to the moral compass, and all have their benefits and drawbacks, so which one to prioritize is not a foregone conclusion, it becomes particularly pleasing to me in terms of world design.
 
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