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  1. #181
    Quote Originally Posted by Edgewood View Post
    Dear God they were an exercise in tedium! They were a cruel torturous joke unleashed by savage proto-techno-programmers hell bent on grammatically twisting a certain 12 year old boys fragile mind at the time.
    Umm, I totally disagree. I still enjoy playing the old Infocom classics (favorite: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). I loved my Magnetic Scrolls adventures (favorite: Fish!) and was overjoyed when Legend Entertainment continued the tradition (favorite: Eric the Unready).

    If it hadn't been for text-based adventures I'd probably never gotten involved with either computers or roleplaying games!


  • #182
    Dragon Issue 43: November 1980

    Part 1/2

    80 pages. The theme of this issue, if any, seems to be assessment and examination. Editing gets a good look at, as do DM styles, the latest conventions, and the rules of the game. Lets see if they come out of it with ideas on how games should be better done.

    In this issue:

    Dragon Rumbles: A very interesting introduction this month, as they talk about the editing and rejections process. Lots of people send in crap. And lots of people send in stuff that isn't crap, but they don't feel is appropriate to the remit of the magazine. Pay attention to this, and maybe you've get a slightly better chance of being published. And don't be discouraged if you get rejected. Just read the feedback, pick yourself up and try again. After all, we've got a big magazine to fill every month, plus we want to publish other stuff as well. Your odds aren't that bad (yet)

    Out on a limb: Lots of stuff this issue. A letter of commentary, mostly positive, apart from some minor caveats on len lakofka's generous treasure awarding policy.
    A letter questioning why the angels in issue 35 have no psionic ability detailed, which recieves a reply from the original author that promptly gives them plenty of extra abilities, plus takes the opportunity to get some supplemental roleplaying advice in.
    A letter from Roger Moore questioning Len's decision to make cold magic work less well on the negative material plane. Which is replied with the question of whether something should be more or less effective in an area where it is common, and if immunities or vulnerabilities take precedence over one another. Ahh, philosophy. How abstract issues suddenly become deadly serious when it's a question of double-or nothing to damage, or somesuch.
    A letter objecting to the characterization of anti-paladins as cowardly treacherous s, by someone who would prefer them as dark noble anti-heroes with their own twisted sense of honour and loyalty to their dark masters. (and soulfull eyes, impossibly huge swords, and long hair that flows in the wind, I'll wager :rolleyes: ) To which they reply meh, they aren't official anyway, do what you like.
    A letter commenting on the misconceptions about the game that many gamers seem to have, and requesting that they make the game more friendly to newcomers. To which they reply that a new basic set is in the works, and hopefully it'll satisfy you. Remember, D&D and AD&D are different games, and should be treated as such.
    A letter from Gary that is generaly positive about articles in recent issues, in diliberate contrast with his brutal snark a few issues ago.
    Another letter of praise, this time from one of the playtesters at SPI, for giving them this wonderfull hobby.
    And finally, a letter questioning Gary's refusal to allow angels into the game officially when he is quite happy to have devils, demons and hells, and his apparent contradictions on if you should change the game to suit your needs or not. To which he actually gives a good reply. D&D is the one you can house rule to suit your needs. AD&D is the one that must be played exactly as written, otherwise characters cannot be scored and given worldwide rankings in tournament modules fairly. And he doesn't want to stat up angels while being perfectly happy doing so to demons, because if you stat something up, then people can kill it. And while he is happy to facilitate people killing demons in their imagination, he doesn't want them killing angels in his game. Which I guess has a certain logic behind it. (I seem to remember he was a Jehovah's witness, or some such.) And I guess this is where the "if it has stats, it can be killed" meme gets it's first airing. Nice to be able to pinpoint another piece of history.

    What? A third Witch class? :rolleyes: Well, it has been two years, and as they say, the last issue that covered this is long out of stock, but still, I find this bit of topic recycling tiresome. Particularly in the Old D&D mileu, I fail to see why you need to distinguish them from any other magic-user. And I think they realize that as well, as they've put a lot of effort into editing and refining this article. As with the anti-paladin, they do not recommend letting them be used as PC's, but they are mechanically robust enough to be used as such. Although they will overpower regular magic-users almost as much as rangers and paladins outclass regular fighters. Still, even if you don't use the class, they also have lots of new spells to pilfer for your game. At least they aren't printing overpowered classes every other issue like they did back in the strategic review days

    The "real" witch: Tom Moldvay talks historical crap, and about his design goals in making this class. A very meh article that fails to give any insights we didn't know already.

    Conventions 1980: Origins gets 5/10, hampered as it was by overcrowding and unofficial hawkers squatting outside. Gencon gets 8/10, while pacificon gets 7/10, as both were rather better organized. All once again suffered from the demand rather exceeding the supply, as the hobby grows rapidly. Nice to see them putting an actual scoring system in, instead of just descriptions. Hopefully that'll be repeated next year.

    Survival tips for the slave pits: Another con tournament over, another set of classic modules gets unleashed upon the general public. The slaver series. (A) Oh yeah. This article gives some hints about them, and names the winners, as well as general tips on how to excell in a con gaming situation. Think fast, think smart, and work together well with your team to get as far as you can in the time limit. Remember, this is a competition, and there are winners and losers. And the GM shouldn't forget it either, he should be playing the monsters as smart as they should be, not pulling any punches. Yet another reminder that AD&D was originally designed to be played competitively, and this could easily spill over into full on antagonism. Maybe we should stick to normal D&D.

    He's the top Dungeon Mentzer: A profile of Frank Mentzer, the winner of the 4th AD&D DM's tournament. Another name we'll be seeing again in the future. Good to see someone getting noticed and employed primarily through talent than because they know friends of friends.

  • #183
    Dragon Issue 43: November 1980

    Part 2/2

    Sage advice: Looks like they realized their mistake of last issue, and are now using surnames to differentiate who answered each question. Ha. Anyway. Ton's of questions this issue, so let's not waste time.
    Is a paladins protection from evil aura 1 inch or 10 foot in radius? (Both. It's 1 inch in miniatures measurement, which equals 10 feet inside, or 10 yards outside in game. How does that happen? I dunno. Maybe the ambient evil of the dungeon is pushing against the aura and compressing it. )
    Can lawful good characters use poisoned weapons? (it depends on your DM, but we reccommend if they do so regularly they cease to be lawful good.)
    Issue 35 said that thieves cannot be neutral good, but the PHB says they can. What gives? (Yeah, Jean was wrong about that one. Bad Jean. I cast Drawmij's instant spanking on you.)
    Do you get the same XP whether you kill something with a weapon, spell or psionics.(did we ever say anything that suggests otherwise?)
    We had a bad adventure where one of the characters got level drained, and then next session he tried to pretend that adventure never happened. What should we do. (Enforce continuity properly. He know the risks when he started playing. No retcon's. He should count himself lucky he didn't get killed outright.)
    Can magic-users take their spellbooks with them on adventures? (both a good and bad idea. They need them to recharge their spells, but they are also heavy and expensive, and if they get lost or damaged you're screwed. Decisions, decisions. )
    Do giants get a save when you hit them with a hammer of thunderbolts. (no, but you still can't instakill giant gods with this trick)
    Do you get a saves vs energy draining and arrows of slaying. (no on both counts. Surely the fact they have to roll to hit in the first place is enough of a chance for you. )
    What happens if a 2nd level illusionist casts color spray at 2 bugbears. (read the spell again. This one is perfectly clear)
    Is a cleric making a personal request to their deity every time they recharge a 3rd level+ spell (since they can withhold it, yes. Omnimultitasking is a pretty handy power deities have.)
    Do I need to make multiple saving throws if hit by the same type of attack more than once in a round.(Yes. Yes, this makes carrion crawlers a pain in the ass with their 10 paralyzing tentacles. Attack them at range or something instead of trying to fight them head on.)
    Can a paladin initiate a fight? (If the opponent is evil, yes. They are holy warriors, and good does not mean stupid. This is why they get detect evil as an innate power in the first place.)
    If I get polymorphed into a human, can I surpass my level limits? (no, its only a temporary magic change, not a real change of species. You'd need to die and be reincarnated in a new race, or something else permanent for that to work.)
    Can dispel magic dispel anti magic shell(no)
    How can I optimize my characters to win in tournaments? (You can't. You get given pregens so everyone starts on an equal footing. We don't trust you enough to let you use your regular campaign characters. )
    Can I become dual class if I find an item that raises my stats to meet the requirement? (no, it needs to be an innate boost.)
    What level does the hand of vecna cast at (over niiine thouuusand!!!! Sorry, 21st actually)
    Are multiple haste spells cumulative (hell no, neither additive or multiplacative. That would just be totally broken.)
    Can I cast spells that only require a pointed finger as a somatic component while entangled (No. Stop trying to weasel your way around the general rules by using the specifics of flavour text. )
    If you raise a baby dragon, will it have your alignment. (no. Nature is stronger than nurture when it comes to morals in D&D. )
    What is the flying creature on the MM's cover ( a red dragon. Would we so dumb as to have a Dungeons and Dragons monster manual that didn't have a dragon on the cover?)
    What are the stats of the snakes created by sticks to snakes (here you go. No, they don't get poisonous bites. No swarms of instakill monsters for you. That would be too powerfull for a 2nd level spell. )
    Larva and su monsters have incomplete alignments. (oops. neutral evil, and chaotic neutral, respectively)
    The text and statblock of the mind flayers entry contradict each other. (So they do. Looks like more bloody errata to sort out for the next printing. The text is the right one, by the way)
    What is the difference in tracking ability between a 1st and 12th level ranger? (None. Ha ha.)
    Do you always lose a level when you change alignment (Yes. Consistency in holding a wrong position will get you further than being a flip-flopper. Just like real world politics. )

    D&D in Germany: A very interesting article, particularly as it's published entirely unedited, to keep all the original author's idiosyncratic phrasings. And it looks like roleplaying has a small but exceedingly enthusiastic following there. You ought to pay more attention to translating and promoting your games over there. Before you know it, they'll be producing their own games, so they don't have to deal so much with translations, import times and costs. And then one of their homegrown games'll overtake D&D in popularity. But that's enough smug hindsight for now.

    How do you rate as a GM? Find out by letting your players fill out this feedback form. Very specific to the tropes of D&D, and quite comprehensive, this feels a bit anachronistic, but if you're dungeoncrawling, it should certainly give you plenty of feedback on your GM'ing style, and if you need to change anything. Just don't try and use it in a Vampire game.

    Leomunds tiny hut: Len attempts to clear up the question of exactly how many and what types of actions are allowed each combat round. As he has done several times already, he overcomplicates things somewhat, putting in tons of dull clauses and clarifications, and the rules certainly don't have the elegance of the 3rd ed full/standard/move system. I guess someone's got to do the experimenting and find out what doesn't work, so the rest of us can benefit in the future. But unlike last month, this bit of work in progress fails to hold my interest.

    Dragons bestiary: This month we have Amazons, which do exactly what you'd expect, with extra helpings of mysandry. Tolwar, trunkless elephants who instead use telekinetic powers to manipulate things. (and throw waterballs at you, just for fun.) and Lythlyx, another strange Ed Greenwood monster that will make it into the forgotten realms setting.

    Now you see it...: Talk of illusions and D&D's disbelief rules. They point out phantasmal force was not the best name for an illusion spell, creating false expectations in the minds of some gamers of what it was capable of. And leaving making disbelief up to the declarations of the players is very subjective. And not really fair when it's NPC's being subjected to illusions. (one reason I love PvP) A reminder that there are some things that are pretty much impossible to balance against everything else in an open ended social system, and trying too hard to do so will only make the game horribly restrictive, as 4e shows.

    A 12 page Traveller Adventure, Canard, put in the middle of the magazine. Unlike their usual custom, they do not interrupt their normal page numbering for this one. Which is vaguely awkward, but these things happen. A pretty standard location based dungeon crawl transplanted to a sci-fi setting.

    Reviews: Azhanti high lightning, a Traveller supplement, looks pretty spiffy, with tons of colour foldout extras, and an improved system for shipboard combat.
    Dragonquest, The first RPG from SPI arrives and gets reviewed, after being previewed a few months ago. Pretty favourable, albeit with a big editing error in the review where they lost the start of a sentence. They seem to think it's more refined than either D&D or runequest. But refinement does not equal long term commercial success. Oh, reviewers. How much influence do you really have on the commercial success of a product?
    Hero, (not to be confused with the movie or the system that is currently in it's fifth edition) a mini-game where you brave a dungeon and rescue the princess, gets a short but sweet review. They seem to be putting more emphasis into making each review stand out this issue, with big captions and clearer divisions between each one. Not a bad idea.

    Squad Leader: Another article that compresses a full scenario into half a page. Which is nice. But doesn't leave me with much more to say about it.

    Up on a Soap box: Larry DiTillio replies to Doug Bachmanns reply to his article from issue 36 about morality in fantasy. Which is exactly the kind of thing this forum should be about. Unfortunately, the argument itself degenerates into didacticism and ends with the trite old "there's room for both playstyles as long as everyone has fun, no-ones really right or wrong" saying. Put some fire into your argument, ya damn dirty liberal. I started reading this magazine for the flamewars.

    Hate orcs? You'll love this campaign: Advice on running a campaign where everyone is of the same race, in this case dwarves. You may want to loosen the racial class restrictions a little, and of course, tailoring the encounters and plot appropriately is a must. One of those bits of advice that seems rather sketchy and superfluous these days, as entire splatbooks have since been written on individual races and classes. Still, I guess that stuff had to start from somewhere.

    The electric eye: Space games 3, one of those cassettes with 4 games on it, gets reviewed. With two star trek games, plus a star wars one, I wonder about if it was properly licensed. There did seem to be quite a bit more of that stuff happening then. But then, games were cheaper to produce then. An oddly large amount of attention is being paid to the average playing times of the various games. Not as good as tom's reviews a few issues ago.

    Dragonmirth is here, and Znutar, Fineous fingers, Wormy, and Jasmine are all present and firing on all cylenders. How pleasing and unusual.

    Another very bulky feeling issue indeed, with several more things that will be developed on and go on to bigger things in the future. Unfortunately, the interesting articles are broken up by quite a lot of tedious stuff, including lots of overcomplicated rules bloat. Still, I only have to read the crap once, and then I'll be able to look at the good bits as many times as I like.

  • #184
    Dragon Issue 44: December 1980

    Part 1/2

    110 pages. Holy crap, they've really pushed the envelope on this one. Now this is what a christmas special should be. Man, this is gonna take a while. We start off with another phil foglio cover (he is so instantly recognizable) which hints at the mayhem inside.

    In this issue:

    Iron crown enterprises starts advertising here, with arms law and the iron wind. Still hitching onto other peoples products, they have yet to create their own full system.

    Out on a limb: Three more letters on the female dwarven beards debate. This is the absolute last word on it, they say (again) Will they stick to that promise this time, or will continued public pressure force them to bring it out again? We shall see.
    A letter praising them, and asking them to keep on covering lots of different systems. To which they promise that they will never limit themselves to covering only one system. (Aww, how sweet. Ha :sneers: )
    A letter calling out a bad GM at their school, and asking Dragon to publicly chastise him. Which, errr, they do. Take that, teenage fool. I hope you're sorry now.
    And finally a letter from someone complaining that their DM doesn't allow them to read the magazine, because he's afraid it'll spoil the modules, monsters and stuff for their game. To which they tell him, change the stuff. Players shouldn't be able to memorize every detail of these things anyway, and if they do, you can still catch them out, because it's your game and you are god. But you are not god of this world, so stop trying to deprive us of revenue.

    Niall's 8th story, The lure of the golden godling. And he's still an overmuscled dick with no discernable strategic thinking power. If it weren't for Emelkartha he'd have been dead long ago. I really don't know.

    Oohh. An advert for a Logan's Run play by mail game. Intriguing.

    The super spies: As they have done with boot hill and are continuing to do for D&D, this is a big load of stats of famous characters from the genre, such as James Bond, Emma Peel and Number 6. And what are the odds that they're also disgustingly twinked out? Pretty good, I'd say. You'll never get characters as awesome as these unless you cheat your dice rolls. Back to the 48 hour surveillance grinds in the back of a black (or disguised as a pizza one if you're more sensible.) van with you, lowly agents. (sigh)

    King of the mountain, a strategy game by Mark Simmons, gets a fairly substantial promo piece. Hmm. I am reminded of the first episodes of Visionaries. Interspersing commentary of the rules with flavour vignettes, this does a pretty decent job of getting me interested in the game, if not the best job of explaining exactly how you actually play it. I suppose you'll have to buy it if you want to find that out. Hopefully there'll be a more objective review sometime soon.

    Fantasy genetics I: Humanoids in review. Yay. A whole slew of articles on one of my favourite avenues of real life study. I'm gonna enjoy this. This first one simply lists most of the demihuman races, plus some of the more likely humanoids to be able to engage in a little cross breeding (although they forget halflings for no apparent reason) This includes bad latin names for each race (homofaber? really? :rolleyes: ) and some speculation on their ancestral relationships with one-another. I find myself surprisingly unenthralled. Maybe I'm just spoiled when it comes to this stuff, and these searchings towards a richer setting seem a bit primitive and obvious. They're still another important step forward towards the present in the overall scheme of things.

    Fantasy genetics II: Half orcs in a variety of styles. Does exactly what it says on the tin, offering stats for orc hybrids with all the other types of goblinoid. Which in practice, just gives you an increasingly fine-grained set of statistics for when 1 hit die monsters are too weak, and 1+1 hit die monsters are too strong. It's amusing, in a way. That's what happens when you can't gain class levels. And it's another good bit of evidence of just how annoyingly fecund orcs are, even compared to other goblinoids. Nice to see that bit of D&D mythology gathering weight.

    Fantasy genetics III: What do you get when you cross. Nerfed monsters with the worst abilities of both races, plus some additional disadvantages to boot, if you listen to this writer. Which is ..... not pleasing to me. You know the evolutionary drill. The good (or at least, empowering) articles get used in peoples games, while the bad ones get ignored. You just failed that test.

    Fantasy genetics IV: half and half isn't always full. What happens when you cross two halfbreeds? Not always more halfbreeds. Lets pull out that old mendelian genetics example, that of pink roses. (frankly, I would prefer my genetics Lamarkian, thank you very much.) Which does make for more interesting families than the straight add and divide by two method, and reduces the problem quarter, eighth, etc breeds present in terms of rules. Probably the most interesting of these articles, as while it might be a little too based in real world science for some people, it does raise both questions and solutions that would be interesting to deal with in play. Which is nice.

    Sage advice: A much shorter column this issue. It's christmas. Now is not the time for quibbling. Let us get the formalities over and get back to the celebration.
    Can magic raise your abilities above their racial maximums?(yes, unless stated otherwise in the specific power)
    Can you use your spellbook like a scroll and cast the spells without memorising them by reading them aloud? (no)
    Is it OK for a lawful neutral character to sneak up and backstab someone(only if they know for certain they're an enemy and need to die)
    How do you determine if a character is subdued?( if it's an npc you use the implied damage system, while PC's always get to choose if they're subdued or not. They shouldn't be slaves to dice rolls unless actually possessed or something.)
    Do bards get bonus spells for high wisdom( Why yes. Isn't that nice of us)
    Can you use bows underground (depends how narrow the corridors are. Your GM should use their common sense. If your GM has no common sense, I guess it sucks to be you then. )
    If you're in a dungeon, but take a character out of action to do downtime stuff, does time pass as if they're not in a dungeon (no. Learning new languages and training to go up levels is not a good idea when wandering monsters could butt in any second. Unless you're stuck in the worlds largest dungeon, you should get out first.)

  • #185
    Dragon Issue 44: December 1980

    Part 2/2

    Giants in the earth: Your christmas twinkies this year are reepicheep, (surely I don't need to remind you where he comes from) a mouse with 18/01 strength; and Professor Challenger.

    Leomunds tiny hut: The strength's of lots of monsters, and some talk of exactly where they come from, if they use weaponry, how likely they are to grapple you, and other things that add more depth to dealing with them. This is useful stuff, since it forces you to think more about creatures actions in battle, and what it really would be like fighting them. But it does involve some rather long and tedious tables, as it covers lots of creatures. File under mediocre, as it's neither as good as the planar stuff or as dull as the combat timing pontifications.

    Simulation corner: Another article that throws into relief how much harder doing research was before the internet, as they talk about the difficulties involved in getting a good large scale picture of the history of wargaming, and how rules design has developed through the years. Which is ironic for a genre so devoted to historical recreations. How can the hobby advance and learn from it's mistakes if it doesn't know it's own history? A very good point really. Someone ought to write a book on it. Tell me, did they?

    Food Fight! Another complete game occupying both the centre and the end of the magazine. This comes in basic and advanced versions. Like Ringside, this is primarily a bit of light entertainment. but has the potential for slipping some roleplaying in. A very customisable game, and therefore with plenty of replay potential. Plus some pretty good and amusing artwork. I think this works pretty well as our primary christmas present, and is obviously where most of the extra pages went. Their ambition on this front is definitely growing as well.

    The reviews this month concentrate on judges guild products. Once again, we see a degree of joined-up thinking lacking in D&D, as they explicitly tie most of their products for a line into a single larger setting. They also talk about the history of the company as a whole, their magazines (as ever, anyone willing to tackle the archive of these would be given a warm welcome) and their relationships with other companies, that allow them to produce officially licensed products for them. Which include:
    Modron: Nothing to do with the exemplars of law from mechanus, this is a town in the wilderlands near to tegel manor, and has lots of colorful NPC's.
    Escape from Astigar's lair: A tournament module designed for a druid and ranger. Which makes a nice change from the usual fighter/mage/cleric/thief + hirelings team, but might make it a bit tricky to incorporate into a regular game without being too easy for the party.
    The treasure vaults of lindoran is most notable for having the first mention of Kevin Siembida (on artwork) in the magazine. Yeah, we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
    Inferno is module set in a hell based on Dante's vision of it. This is obviously a very high level module, but also has lots of artifact level items to reward those of you who are up to the challenge. Sounds like my kind of game.
    Portals of Torsh provides an entire planethopping setup for your adventuring fun, with an entire continent detailed. Without the 32 page limitation TSR set for themselves, they can really go to town with their settings.
    Spies of lightelf and wilderlands of the fantastic reaches further build upon their main D&D setting with more places, plots, and maps.
    Duck tower ..... Yeah. You know the drill. Abandoned city previously occupied by anthropomorphic ducks. Treasure and troubles aplenty for your players to explore.
    City of Lei Tabor is another runequest module. Does a bad oriental analogue really have a place in glorantha. I don't remember seeing it in Heroquest. Did it get "Gregged"?

    Minarian legends: The Black Knight. Yeah, you know you're reaching the end of the series, because they've finished off the countries, and moved on to the independent guys who have the potential to shift the balance of power in the game. The immortal tragedy of the black knight, geased to be unable to die until he completes a virtually impossible quest. Only it's not as tragic as you'd think as he tricked the high priests into giving him immortality in the first place. Which is a pretty cool spin on the trope. The high standard of most of this series is maintained. What will it's creators do next? Its getting pretty obvious they need to move on to new grounds sometime soon.

    The electric eye: Three reviews in this column this issue, plus some miscalanea. Which includes errata for a program they gave us in a previous issue. Because patching computer games is a lot more urgent than fixing RPG's, where people can work around the problems themselves. Bah.
    Dungeon of Death: Yeah, its a dungeon crawl. Get experience, penetrate the lower levels and find the holy grail. Seriously limited compared to what real RPG's are capable of.
    Android Nim: A quick little multiplayer puzzle game. But at least it has sound, which most games of this era don't.
    Time Traveller: An adventure game involving ..... guess what. As this is a beta copy, it has some serious bugs. But it still involves a pretty big set of adventures as you try and recover the 14 rings of whatever. As ever, there are complaints about the price of stuff.

    Dragon's bestiary: This months monsters have an arctic theme, for some reason. (let it snow, let it snow, let it snow )The Koodjanuk, Cryoserpents and Ice golems all prefer colder climates, but are otherwise pretty different, in both personalities and roles. If you're characters are traveling up north, at least one of them should be useful.

    Nothing but the Ho-ho-ho Truth: What exactly is Santa claus in D&D terms. Now there's a character who's not suitable for shoehorning into the roles and abilities PC's have. Their rough answer is that he's an exceedingly high level elf/halfling hybrid magic user/cleric with tons of followers. Which of course beaks several rules, but hey, that's standard for characters printed in the magazine. Has the feel of something put in at the last moment to make up page count. Well, they did have a lot of pages to fill this time. I guess it was inevitable that there would be some filler material.

    Wormy and Jasmine are here. ZOMG implied raep. Oh noes. Fineous fingers and the rest of dragonmirth is not.

    An advert for next years calendar. Well, they have been talking it up since the start of the year. It'd be just dumb if they were late releasing it.

    This is what a christmas issue should be. A massive pushing of the envelope in size and ideas, hopefully giving us at least one thing that we'll continue to use well into the future. The decade seems to be going pretty well so far. Lets see what next year holds.

  • #186
    Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

    part 1/2

    96 pages. A new year, new staff. Lots of new staff in fact. Roger Moore and Ed Greenwood both get official jobs with the company, having both had tons of articles published over the past year. Quality and quantity will have an impact, and be recognized. Circulation has once again increased around fourfold in the last year, and obviously they can now afford considerably more. Just how much bigger can they get? Hopefully quite a bit.

    In this issue:

    An advert for Fantasy Modelling magazine. Featuring Boris Vallejo. Snerk. Look at the muscles.

    Out on a limb: Another letter complaining about the horrendous character inflation the GM's in his area practice, and asking the magazine to do more to sort them out.
    A letter grumbling about Ringside, Traveller and other obscure games getting so much space in the magazine when they want more AD&D. To which they reply only catering to the most popular crowd and neglecting everyone else is how governments lose support and magazines descend into irrelevance. Which is not a good idea. Variety is important.
    And someone's finally noticed the magazine losing its The. And they are not happy. They also have lots of other complaints about the recent "kiddiefication" of the magazine in general. The professor ludlow module sucked, the new cover format sucks, you're running too many adverts, and Kim Mohan sucks for trying to cater to a younger audience. Charming. Kim takes the ranting with good humour, and points out that the proportion of advertising they carry has not, in fact, increased, it's just kept pace with their page count expansion. This is accompanied by hard statistics on the percentages other magazines devoted to ads. Most of their rivals are around 20-30% ads, apart from White Dwarf, who are at over 40%, which is an interesting thing to know.

    Ha. Look the part you play. Another amusing advert, this time for a costumes company. Well, it's appropriate, I guess. Lets just hope we don't get too many fat unwashed creepy guys dressing up as princesses.

    Gas 'em up and smoke 'em out: Muahahaha. Another weapon that bypasses the combat scenario to great effectiveness, at least the first few times you face it. Players getting overcocky with their flaming oil? GM's get poison gas. Nothing to show them who's boss like having to save or die every single round while trying to escape, with no-one to fight (or possibly lots of level draining undead, if you want to be extra mean. ). Includes proper formulae for determining rates of dispersal and stuff. I like this, as it's a good reminder that life isn't fair, and you shouldn't make the game strictly fair all the time either. After all, what evil overlord worth their horns would intentionally leave a weakness in their defenses? (unless it was as a trap to lure the heroes into a false sense of security)

    Dungeon ventilation clears the air: The complimentary article to the previous one. In a real underground setting, without any airflow system things get pretty manky pretty quickly. And yet players rarely encounter this little problem. Yet the solutions to it, such as chimneys and mechanical pumping systems, can add considerable tactical options to your game which are pretty fun to take advantage of. More fun stuff you usually forget, and which I would rather like to use in the future.

    Two more NPC classes. The alchemist (Again. Honestly, they're like wizards useless kid brother who you just can't get rid of. Can I come on an adventure this time? No.) and the astrologer. Neither of them are very useful, really. If it weren't for D&D's artificial trade monopolies, they'd be screwed next to wizards and clerics.

    Magic items for everyman (sic): Ahh, determining how many magic items characters of a particular level are supposed to have. Another persistent problem that 3rd edition just about managed to solve. This is a pretty reasonable stab at dealing with it, but doesn't have the simplicity of the final solution. Another think we'll probably be seeing several more tries at over the years.

    Up on a soap box: Two smaller rants under this ageis this issue. The first involves creative use of real world principles to strategically counter monsters, such as pouring cold water down the throat of a red dragon. Not sure how much leeway you should give to stuff like that, as D&D shouldn't use real world physics too much. The second is about dealing with high level characters. Retirement, wish wars, way too many save or die effects, deity stalemate, and a constant influx of young guns trying to take on the guys with the big reputations are all ways to keep them from getting complacent. This is why keeping the party together is still useful when at high level. One high level character can still get splatted by a bad save, even if they have 2's in every category, while a team can raise each other and form a multiversal political bloc that keeps the dreaded stasis of competing powers from making things dull. Can't say I'm particularly enthused about either of these articles.

    Bazaar of the Bizarre: Bell of pavlov? Really. Someone in editing was too busy laughing to realize how dumb that is. Lots of other quirky and jokey items as well, including pet rocks, ruby slippers (a la wizard of oz) and the ring of oak, which is pretty useless to PC's, because all it does is allow dryads to roam beyond the usual distance from their trees. Still, I suppose it's better than only listing items and abilities with a direct combat application. That would get tedious even faster.

    The write way to get published: Robert Plamondon and Kim Mohan provide a humorously illustrated example of the submission and editing process, following up on issue 43's Dragon Rumbles. Even experienced authors who've been professionally published regularly need an multiple drafts and an editor to produce work of truly great quality. And once again, the virtues of persistence, revision, and making sure you get paid are emphasized. Being a professional artist is no job for the undisciplined. Once again, this is pretty good advice, regardless of the job. I certainly intend to heed it.

    The Rasmussen files: Merle gives us some feedback, rules clarifications, and new stuff on training characters up. Nothing particularly revolutionary here, just the usual sound of a developer chugging away, trying to keep his work growing and promoted.

  • #187
    Dragon Issue 45: January 1981

    part 2/2

    Leomunds tiny hut: Len talks about missile fire, and includes a new sub-class specializing in them, the Archer. As ever, D&D does not accurately represent reality, and he would like to make it a bit closer. Ranges, cover, rates of fire and disruption of spellcasting all get mentions. And once again, once he starts discussing minutinae, I start zoning out. As you might expect, the new class is an excuse to give loads of bonuses that circumvent the penalties he's just introduced for everyone else. Which is not the kind of behaviour I approve of.

    The Dragon Dungeon Design kit: Our big centrepiece this month is lots and lots of cardboard components that you are supposed to cut out and use to make dungeons with. Walls, stairs, treasure chests, tables, torches, lots of things that you'll use again and again. Plus both hex and grid paper for laying your new labyrinths out on. Another thing that's a bit problematic in .pdf, but if you can solve the sizing issues and need for cardstock, you can now print as many copies of this bit as you like, circumventing the limitations they had back then. Which is very nice indeed. More stuff that would still be rather useful today, and if I ever get to run a campaign based around stuff from the magazine, this'll be one of the things I'll use in it.

    Minarian Legends: The spotlight this issue falls upon the Dwarves. Their history, their (not particularly nice ) deities, and their conquests and defeats. As ever from Glen, this is a pretty nuanced portrayal, which neither mary-sues them, nor villainises them, and gives their setting individuality without going too far from established fantasy tropes to be unrecognisable. So the usual good quality stuff then.

    Simulation Corner: This time, the talk is on how a game can be objectively badly designed. Inconsistencies in the rules, poor organization, tedious and impenetrable legal speak, failure to explain technical terms, and outright errata can all make a game more problematic to play than another. And that even before we get into subjective stuff like catering to particular playstyles. The writer seems to have their head screwed on properly. Now, if they could just apply those principles to D&D

    Squad Leader: The Germans invaded the Russian cities earlier on in these articles. Turnabout is fair play, as they push back in 1945. More close fighting fun.

    Castles Castles Everywhere: Not just a medieval invention, there were tons of castles in roman and older periods too, including plenty of bibilical examples. This article goes into more detail on this matter. As with many things designed for war, they were often kludged designs started in a rush using whatever they had at the time, and then refined into lethally efficient forms. Which conflicts with the tendency of D&D worlds to be stuck in technological pseudo-stasis. Which raises more awkward world design issues you may or may not want to address in your game. Sorry, my mind seems to have drifted, as this is another not particularly good article.

    The Electric Eye: More build it yourself programming fun, this time showing you how to create your own random number generator to take the place of physical dice. So long, being restricted to the standard range of platonic solids (and d10's) for your number ranges. If only more games had taken advantage of this. I would like to see more d13 rolls. But then, computer and RPG integration is still an iffy subject, 27 years later. What are we to do.

    Hop Hop Hooray: Woo! An article for Bunnies and Burrows. You get an "I've been wondering if they'd mention this" Point, Mr Maxfield. Hmm. Some rather odd ideas here. Rabbits riding hares? Wouldn't that be like humans riding gorillas? With these extras, a well organised team has a good chance of taking on a human and winning. Was this really the intent of the designers? I know rabbits can be pretty vicious, but that may be taking player empowerment at the expense of emulation a little too far. Still, I guess imitating real rabbits too accurately wouldn't be fun.

    How to have a good time being evil: Sometimes you don't want to be a hero, you just want to kill stuff and get treasure. Ok, so good adventurers do that as well, but this way you get to ride nightmares, torture your prisoners and stab each other in the back for bigger shares of the loot. Just watch out for hordes of angry villagers. Kill too many, and you won't be able to eat them all. Not a particularly great article of its type, but I'm sure we'll see plenty better as the years go by.

    You can jump how far?: Rules for determining exactly how far and high you can jump. A percentile system with a whole load of modifiers, this is another classic D&D example of inventing a whole new subsystem for each special case. Not that it's a bad subsystem in this case, but that's not the point. It still means you have to look the damn thing up.

    Reviews: Bloodtree rebellion is a game of guerilla warfare on a far planet. And a pretty good one. But of course, games of asymmetic warfare are not particularly popular, partially due to the shadow of vietnam over american society. Will it be able to overcome that? We shall see.
    Space Marines: The second edition of this game is a substantial improvement over the first in terms of rules, but still hampered by uninspired fluff. It's certainly no WH40K, for good or bad.
    Grail quest. Arthurian legend gets an adaption for the fantasy trip. Designed for solitare play, this seems to do a pretty good job of providing a thematically appropriate set of encounters for a group of questing knights. But as a solitare game it is a little too heavily dependent on random rolls to create a challenge over tactics.

    Dragons bestiary: Last month it was arctic monsters, this time, all the creatures prefer more arid climes. Skyzorr'n are a race of giant anthromorph ants that would make good rivals to thri-kreen, Sand lizards and dust devils are pretty self explanatory. Being grappled by multi-tailed reptiles and suffocated by an annoying elemental that then takes your stuff should keep the characters busy for a while.

    Dragonmirth is present. Fineous fingers is not only here, he also gets an advert for a big compilation of all his early issues, plus a new exclusive one. Jasmine's eponymous character finally reveals herself, and has to be rescued straight away.

    While the overall product remains pretty well done, the average quality of articles this month doesn't seem to be very good. Maybe they blew all their energy on the christmas one, and so this was filled with the leftovers. Oh well. There's plenty more where this came from.

  • #188
    Quote Originally Posted by (un)reason View Post
    The Dragon Dungeon Design kit: Our big centrepiece this month is lots and lots of cardboard components that you are supposed to cut out and use to make dungeons with. Walls, stairs, treasure chests, tables, torches, lots of things that you'll use again and again. Plus both hex and grid paper for laying your new labyrinths out on. Another thing that's a bit problematic in .pdf, but if you can solve the sizing issues and need for cardstock, you can now print as many copies of this bit as you like, circumventing the limitations they had back then. Which is very nice indeed. More stuff that would still be rather useful today, and if I ever get to run a campaign based around stuff from the magazine, this'll be one of the things I'll use in it.
    That sounds like a classic Dragon entry that would be just as useful today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Maybe moreso, for as you say, the stuff can just be copied and printed in large quantities.

    I wonder how well the stuff works with the dungeon tiles released in the early 3e Dragons (which I didn't cut up so I could copy them as needed)?
    PbP info here:

  • #189
    Quote Originally Posted by Orius View Post
    That sounds like a classic Dragon entry that would be just as useful today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Maybe moreso, for as you say, the stuff can just be copied and printed in large quantities.

    I wonder how well the stuff works with the dungeon tiles released in the early 3e Dragons (which I didn't cut up so I could copy them as needed)?
    Do you have an issue number for the later stuff? If you can find them, I'll compare 'em.

  • #190
    Dragon Issue 46: February 1981

    part 1/2

    80 pages. A very interesting cover this issue, as Steve Swentson creates an intriguing set of anthromorphs to grace the front pages. They also change their typeface and go from two to three columns per page. Not sure why. No more mapping the dungeons in here, because that job has been taken up by the RPGA and polyhedron. The second best of the dragon will be out soon. And their distribution is expanding again. Which should mean lots more new readers. All pretty positive, despite the rather bad weather.

    In this issue:

    Out on a limb: Is it ok to photocopy the DM evaluation form? The answer is yes. I know we don't normally allow stuff like that.
    A letter correcting the top secret article in issue 44, saying that the name agent 99 gave was just another pseudonym. Hmm. Looks like their reaction time between publishings is getting shorter. You never used to see commentary on things less than 3 months ago.
    A letter asking how dwarven paladins are possible, as they gave an example of one in GitE. Answer: they aren't in AD&D, if players were allowed to be one it would unbalance the game. But NPC's can break the rules that the PC's have to stick too. And another person misunderstands the term "The exception that proves the rule." Sigh.
    A letter expressing appreciation for the anti-paladin article and asking for more of its type, in particular asking for a bounty hunter class, and mass combat rules. What are the odds someone'll follow up on those requests?
    Two letters confirming that contrary to sage advice's statement in issue 42, holy water sprinklers were both maces and guns at times. So there, Mr Niebing. You're the one who needs to do better research. (You still can't have guns in D&D though.)
    And finally a letter asking for more clarification on illusion spells, as it's still not clear just how effective belief in an illusion is.

    Fiction: The Sorceror's jewel, by John Holmes. The unfortunately named Boinger gets another story. One of those stories that reads like the adaption of an actual play, being pretty faithful to the game rules, and using lots of classic D&D monsters like yellow mold and grey ooze. Fairly amusing, overall.

    Crane is what you make of it: A rebuttal to the article in issue 40 on Tribes of Crane, saying that he would have enjoyed it more if he'd engaged in private correspondence with the other players, and done more fighting. Essentially, a case of I'm a satisfied customer, and if you didn't enjoy the game, It's because you were playing it wrong. Which is a refrain I've seen plenty of times on the internet as well, and I'm pretty sure I've used a few times myself. He probably has valid points. But still, $2.50 a move, plus whatever you spend in sending private letters. I'd be leery about that now, even before inflation is factored in. I'm really not convinced it's worth it, particularly compared to the cost of tabletop games.

    Mightier than the pen: Magic swords shouldn't just be nameless bonuses, they ought to have proper histories and names, and unique abilities. This article is mostly a list of the usual legends, such as beowulf, arthurian legend, and the edda. Honestly, it's as if we haven't been reading the past issues and don't already know all this stuff. Oh well, I guess many of the new readers didn't. We can't all be high level cynics.

    Minarian variants: 6 more optional rules for Divine Right. Sieges, Ambushes, Treasure, leadership skill, forced marches, and barbarian tribalism. Most are of pretty good quality. If you've been playing the game regularly over the past year, I'm sure they will come as a welcome way to spice up the game again. Will there be a new edition, and will they get incorporated into it? Or will they publish supplements to it. Because the writers certainly seem to have no shortage of further ideas for the game.

    Minarian Legends: Speaking of more stuff for divine right. This month's setting elaboration focuses upon The black hand (probably no relation to the V:tM black hand), a powerful lich, and commander of undead armies. Really, he just wants to be left alone to continue his experiments. But for some reason, people have this ..... prejudice against the undead. Particularly when you turn people they used to know in life into one of them. So sometimes he has to fight the various countries of minaria. What a pain in the ass for him. Is any side presented as the bad guys in this game? I guess not. It's certainly a lot more progressive than D&D will ever be in that respect.

    Dragons Bestiary: Just one creature this month, the reptilian gaund, another Ed Greenwood creation. Another one of those creatures with a quite extensive set of abilities, weaknesses and ecological stuff that far outstrips the stuff in the actual books.

    This Here's Tyranosarus Tex: A scenario for boot hill that pits the characters against a recently freed carnivorous dinosaur. Er, ok then. A pretty cheesy bit of crossover. Can people not play these games without introducing supernatural (well, technically not, but you know what I mean) elements. Fantasy is not the be all and end all of roleplaying.

    How to ease the boot hill identity crisis: Another one of those random generation tables to find out what your characters job is/was. Didn't they already have one of these for the game? Eh, doesn't matter. There's always room for more random tables.

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