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  1. #41
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  • #42
    The Dragon issue 5: March 1977

    Another year, another change in publishing schedule. Due to it's considerably greater sales, Dragon is moving up to being published 8 times a year, while Little Wars is relegated to quarterly. How long before it reaches the full monthly schedule most of us remember? How long can Little Wars hang on? Do you already know? Will you find out yourself, or wait and discover it with me. They also ask for more articles on other new RPG's out there, particularly the science fiction ones, as they try and expand. Which reminds me, its almost time for the cultural phenomenon that was Star Wars. The plot thickens.

    Anyway. In this issue:

    An article on witches. Mentioned in a previous issue, this was sent in without a name or return address, and attempts to establish who it was by failed. Despite this they must have liked it quite a lot, (or been short of decent submissions) as they decided to publish it anyway. It pushes the envelope of the current spell system, but in doing so also shows just how much only having one magic system to work from limits the imagination.

    More articles on Metamorphosis alpha. Setting and equipment stuff that was left out of the book due to editing snafus. We'll be seeing more of this in the future as well. Before you had the internet for eratta, you had to go to the magazines, and if you missed the issue, well, hard luck to you.

    Ankhegs! Whosa classic little digestive acid spitting worm thing. Yes you are, yesu yesu R! :tickles chin: Ahem. Sorry about that Like the bullette, this is one creature that never fails to provide a fun fight. Strike from below and let them quail in terror.

    The letters page is particularly entertaining today. We have a hopelessly ambitious GM seeking 55 sub GM's, each to control 20 players, to run his epic campaign world idea. Yeah, that one's never going to work out. The pedantry about converting tolkien elves to D&D continues, and I suspect, would do so forever if the editors let it.

    Dirt is atrociously scanned to the point of being illegible this issue. This is no good at all.

    Appearance table for metamorphosis alpha. If you want your characters to look weird in a random fashion, this will do the job, although it doesn't give any mechanical modifiers for these changes.

    Beyond the Wizard Fog by Gardner F Fox. The adventures of Niall the barbarian and his mighty thews continue. And he slips further into the power of the demon goddess he interacted with in the last issue. I'm definitely interested in seeing how this develops further

    Wizard research rules: These are the sort which make researching a single 9th level spell the kind of thing that would bankrupt a kingdom. I suspect we'll be seeing level advancement training rules which are similarly economically unfeasible sometime soon. Its the kind of thing they liked to invent (and then be ignored by most people) back then. Still it includes rules for making The One Ring, so its not a complete wash.

    Gandalf was only a 5th level magic-user. Ah, yes, I know of this one by reputation. Still seems somewhat specious, and relies on the argument that the magical effects that don't have D&D equivilants would translate into low level spells just because they don't seem that powerful. It concludes that D&D is not actually that well suited to emulating Tolkien's world, so its not as if we're dealing with a mad one true wayer here.

    The Gnome Cache continues. It is increasingly starting to feel like an actual D&D adventure turned into a story, given the way the plot progresses from one point to another.

    They seem to be chugging along nicely here. How quickly will the schedule change to monthly, and the page count bloat to the hundred plus issues that were standard in the 90's? How long before I'm forced to slow down posting due to the bulk of stuff I've got to get through each issue? Will I be able to find decent copies of all the issues I'm missing in time? Lets press onwards, deeper into the adventure.

  • #43
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  • #44
    The Dragon Issue 6: April 1977.

    We learn this issue that they have quadrupled their circulation in the past year. Which doesn't surprise me, but it's nice to see concrete figures. Its pretty much business as usual for the magazine. The usual mix of fiction, articles and adverts. No letters pages this time, and more significantly, No more Dirt. I suppose there's only so long you can keep two pairs of eyes talking to each other interesting. What will replace it? That would be telling.

    In this issue:

    An alternate character background for metamorphosis alpha. Instead of being wild decendants of the people on the ship, the characters are clones imprinted with memories, grown to repair the ship as an emergency procedure. As you would expect, it is heavily dependent on luck what abilities you get, which range from food service technician (go red dwarf!) to immortal.

    Sea trade in D&D campaigns: Creates a nice little greater risk/greater profit gambling game for managing your high level characters trade in the background. It doesn't have any real element of skill, and so it a little dated, but seems like it would do the job quickly for players who have reached high level and want to own companies while still going out adventuring. Also interesting because it references a particular players campaign, which is always revealing, as it is more evidence that people were trying things beyond the scope of the rules and playing in styles not spelled out by the designers.

    Legions of the petal throne painting guide: More of the tremendous attention to detail and inventive creatures we've come to expect from professor Barker.

    Fiction: The forest of flame by Morno. A wizards apprentice learns about hubris and not trying spells beyond your power the hard way. Or does he?

    An advert for dragonewt figures. I've seen nothing on runequest in the magazine so far, but this means that glorantha is already out there, developing. Was there a boardgame set in it before the RPG? Why, I do believe there was. More on this when it becomes significant.

    More extra rules and errata for Metamorphosis alpha. They really didn't make it as self-contained as they should. I suppose when you're dealing with characters that diverse, its hard to be comprehensive in the little booklets they used then.

    From the Fantasy Forge reviews a load more monster figurines.

    Another interesting advert. Monsters! Monsters!, the game of gribleys from the dungeon wreaking havoc on villages of innocent humans. Turnaround is fair play, I suppose.

    The Gnome Cache continues.

    Ral partha. Another familiar face starts advertising in Dragon.

    Optional expansions for psionic abilities and morale.

    Angels of Death. You know the drill, relentless and virtually impossible to get rid of permanently, they seek out those who's time has come and take them away. The Bastards.

    As you may have noticed, the number of adverts by recognisable companies is increasing rapidly at this point. The magazine's been around long enough, and achieved enough of a reputation that we're seeing other significant companies spring up and follow in their tracks. Still no book reviews though. I wonder how long it'll take before they get round to that?

  • #45
    The Dragon Issue 7: June 1977

    So its a year since Dragon started. They're pretty happy with what they've achieved, but still have bigger ambitions. Already they can look back at their old issues and cringe at the quality. But as we know, there are still substantial improvements coming ahead. Still, lets see what the present contains.

    In this issue:

    How to vote for the third annual strategists club awards. Gives me a pretty good idea of what was released and did well this year, as well as what authors are currently popular.

    What to do when the dog eats your dice: Pretty self explanatory. shows how to use other common methods of generating random numbers to substitute for dice rolling. Most notable for including mexican jumping beans as one of the options, among other joke options.

    Gary talks about the origins of TSR and D&D. Most of this is pretty familiar, particularly as its only a short article. But as their fanbase is expanding so quickly, I guess he gets asked it a lot. Rest assured, you have many long years of answering that question ahead of you.

    Mapping the dungeon now includes entries for australia and germany.

    Mystery hill - Americas stonehenge: Manages to cover several different ancient conspiracy theories in a couple of pages. Lots of stuff thats transplantable to virtually any setting here.

    Fiction: The journey most alone, by morno. This continues the journey of the wizard from the forest of flame. It's a bit late, but I can't help thinking that this story makes an excellent example of a seeking for mage: the ascencion.

    Military Formation stuff for tekumel. Making battles look like advanced geometry lessons with florid titles from above since 1977. This is really more aimed at the wargamers among the audience, and I found it pretty dull.

    More Finieous Fingers

    Monster: The prowler. Another worse than death inflicting creature who can makes life a nightmare for dumb or unlucky PC's. More nice errol otus artwork depicting it.

    The gnome cache continues, with the situation going from bad to worse for our protagonist, with the ready promise of getting worse still. Will there ever be a happy ending to this story? No, because this is the last installment before it simply gets dropped unceremoniously. So much for that then.

    Pretty dull issue really. Doesn't seem to be anything historically significant or hugely entertaining or thought-provoking in this one.

  • #46
    The Dragon Issue 8: July 1977

    Oohh. Several very cool things here. We get fiction from the co-creator of Lankhmar, harry fischer, plus the first proper map of the planar cosmology. We also get lots of hints on upcoming games. It seems that they are planning something big in the near future, putting a whole game into issue 11. We'll see how that one pans out. We also get a case of the disappearing freelancer, as the creator of finieous fingers goes AWOL. Again, I look forward to seeing how that turns out.

    But enough of the future/distant past (we have got to invent better time travel tenses) In this issue:

    The great wheel cosmology that has defined D&D all the way through 1st and 2nd edition, and still got plenty of coverage in 3rd, with various variations and additions; gets its first outing. It's still the same basic setup: 6 inner planes representing building blocks of reality in a sphere, 16 outer planes representing moral positions in a big ring, ethereal and astral planes to connect them to the prime material. There's still a few differences to the final model, the upper planes are in a different order, and there's no Outlands or demi/quasiplanes. What upheaval could move them to the classic form most of us are familiar with? As a longtime planescape fan, any further developments on this front will be reported with great enthusiasm.

    The development of towns in D&D. Looks like we're starting to get thoughts on realism and worldbuilding. Guess sharing a magazine with professor barker all this time is starting to rub off. Includes a whole bunch of implicit suggestions about the average level of characters and distribution of alignments that you may want to take or leave, but thats implicit setting stuff in general for you. You have to watch out for it and know how to change it for your own game.

    The Finzer Family - A tale of modern magic, by Harry. O. Fischer, the co-creator of lankhmar (Who's books are all out of print, it seems while fritz lieber continues to sell nicely. Quite shocking. ) This is a long story, taking up a full third of the issue, and ends on a too be continued. I won't spoil you on this one.

    Gamma World! Coming soon, they give us a sneak preview. Seems a bit odd to release two gonzo sci-fi games within a few months of each other. And I can't say I'm overly inspired by the teaser either. I guess I've just seen these tropes done too many times, often better.

    A set of tables for those of you who want more detailed gems and jewelry, measured in carats, and their respective value in GP. Pretty dull stuff, only for hose of you crave detail in everything.

    So, you want realism in D&D. A joke article on how to translate youself into D&D ability scores. Most notable for its wisdom entry. Calculate the average number of hours in a week you spend playing D&D and working on your D&D campaign, and subtract it from 20 Which also becomes a subtle dig at how often the writer actually gets to play, thanks to being a tsr staffer. Ahh, turning your hobby into your job. Destroying the joy you take in life since the age of 18.

    From the Fantasy Forge continues to point out miniatures for us. Not much reviewing this time though, just straight out pimping, which isn't briliant.

    Name that monster! They give us a picture and then ask readers give a name and stats for it. Best entry gets published plus other prizes. I'll report how this one turns out.

    Yet more stuff on Metamorphosis alpha by jim ward. He really is plugging this for all he's worth. I suppose it is his creation and all, so he has a strong stake in its success.

    An odd little comic on the creation of the world.

    This ones a mixed bag, going from the very interesting ( the planes and the fiction) to very dull with little in between. It's nice to see their imaginations are expanding along with their ambitions, but there's still something missing as far as consistency goes. Once again, due to their limited page count, they've bumped their "regular" features out the way to make space for the special stuff. Since they've only been going a few issues, that stops them from feeling regular, and letting people get a feel for their format. Which is a bit annoying. Still, I know they got there in the end. I just have to keep following the path to find out when.

  • #47
    The Dragon Issue 9: September 1977

    Once again the fiction eats up a huge portion of this issue, possibly even more than in issue 2. We also see the start of a proper comics section, instead of putting them throughout the magazine. Most significantly, Wormy! Yes, many peoples favourite flat-capped dragon and his demonic pal with a brooklyn accent get their debut here. Now I know.

    Also in this issue:

    Mixing alignments in D&D. Gary reminds us that even in D&D, everyone doesn't automatically know each others alignment and try to kill each other because of it. It is often more profitable to tolerate people different from you, and take advantage of those different outlooks. Particularly among humans, who span a range of alignments, this is simply not viable, and you have to think politically to survive and achieve your ambitions. Which is important to reminds people. This may be a fantasy, but it's not totally unrealistic (and will continue to get less so, in many ways.)

    The finzer family story takes a sharp right angle, and turns into a "time travelers who go to observe an event wind up making it happen" story. Only without the horrible ending in something like Behold the Man. But then, this is a family friendly magazine.

    Seal of the imperium: A Q&A column by MAR Barker about tekumel. Lots of boring little rules niggles that I shan't go into, but we do get one very valuable bit of advice. The tekumel that exists in the game is not the same as the one in the books. If every event and item was incorporated, then any semblence of realism and sanity would soon go out the window. Advice which was never heeded by D&D settings like athas and krynn later. Oh well. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. And we're certainly learning quite a lot of history here.

    The fastest guns who never lived part 2: More boot hill stats for fictional cowboys, including luminaries such as Tom mix and Lee van cleef. Still not familiar enough with the shows or the rules to comment on how good they are, but there certainly seems to be a good selection of genre emulating abilities there.

    Tombs and crypts: Another set of random tables for determination of monsters, should players decide to do a little unplanned graverobbing. Like PC's do.

    An Elric boardgame being advertised. I guess this means Moorcock already knows about D&D now, and a RPG will be along soon. Iiinteresting

    The comics section. We get Floating in timeless space, Wormy and Finieous fingers. All seem to involve ongoing storylines.

    The first issue of White dwarf magazine is released around this time, and they put an advert here. I was going to ask if someone wanted to take that job on, but since they already have, I don't need too. Which is nice.

    More building up of detail here, but nothing else stands out. Still, surely wormy is enough for you. If they crammed all new stuff into every issue it'd be a nightmare to keep track of.

  • #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by (un)reason View Post
    awesome stuff
    These are awesome to read, keep up the good work!

  • #49
    The Dragon Issue 10: October 1977

    Going up to 36 pages long, this includes a full boardgame with it, as they hinted at earlier. We'll see several more of those over the years. Such a shame I'm reading in .pdf and can't make proper use of it. Oh well. We also see another development. In an attempt to stem the cries of canonwankers, they're going to clearly mark which new articles are "official" and which are optional variants. Will, it work? It wasn't around by the time I started reading, so it can't have lasted too long. I'll let you know when it stops.

    Also in this issue:

    Orgies, inc: Changing the rules to make the game more S&Sish, characters using this variant gain experience by blowing their money instead of earning it. Wait a minute. Didn't I see this rule in Iron Heroes recently, where it was hailed a a rather good idea. And do we not also know that mike mearls is still partial to a little OD&D. Not that I'm implying anything, oh no. There are fewer truly original ideas than you would think. Includes some rather NSFW artwork by Dave Trampier. Someones certainly willing to push the family friendly line most of this stuff sticks too.

    Designing for unique wilderness encounters: More random tables full of stuff to let you build areas quickly when out of ideas. System free, and so still useful today. It'd be cool to design a world using only the tables in these issues.

    Random Monsters: Another set of tables, literally allowing you to build a monter by rolling on them to determine its appearance and stats. Handy (as they say) when dealing with players who already know all the monsters in the books, and have strategies for how to best fight them all worked out. Dontcha just hate that.

    Let there be a method to your madness: The worldbuilding continues with this essay on how to create logical dungeons by working from principles such as who built it, why, and what resources they had. This is madness! It'll never catch on!

    Snit Smashing! A fun little game of hunting and reproducing, leading on from the floating in timeless space comic.

    An article on why males should be stronger than females in D&D, because of things like weight, height and differences in build, along with "realistic" tables for the determination of these factors. As I don't want to annoy the PC among you, I shall say no more apart from to mention that this is another thing which would spawn an analogue much later on, with the height influencing weight multiplication method used in 3rd edition.

    Gaining a new experience level: This starts off as a serious article about making gaining a level an ordeal in itself (as people were wont to do back then with training house rules), and then turns into a joke, as the requirements grow ever more ludicrous and arbitrary, ending up with the great pink elephants granting the character his new level while he lies in a drunken stupor. Read as satire, this is a great article, and amongst the jokes are some sound mechanical suggestions, such as allowing magic-users to forget spells that are no longer useful so they can learn new lower lever ones that do have use at higher level, and make the most of their spells known limit. Which as we know, became an invaluable ability for sorcerers in 3.5.

    The tactics of diplomacy in Stellar Conquest: Advice on how to play a game where you can't communicate directly and indicate lack of hostility, as well as general tactical advice for the game such as exploration and supply lines. Pretty standard stuff, really.

    Wormy and fineous fingers continue.

    This has quite a fun issue. There have been several cool new developments, with a higher than usual level of ideas that will be reused in the future, and a proper sense of history is starting to grow.

  • #50
    The Dragon Issue 11: December 1977

    38 pages. The board game fun continues in this issue, with snit smashing getting a sequel. Even more importantly, we get the first rumblings about AD&D, with the monster manual coming soon, and lots of resulting promotion for it. (odd that the monster book should be released before the players and DM's books. Still, I guess all the monsters were compatible with OD&D rules. ) On top of that, we have the first official D&D novel coming soon, by Andre Norton! (excuse me while I have a fanboy moment here) of all people. On top of that, they have new staff, and thanks to that, and their still increasing sales, dragon will be going monthly very shortly. That was quick. Just 3 years to go from quarterly to the monthly schedule most of us remember. Now the only way up is in the page count.

    In this issue:

    View from the telescope: Gary blasts people trying to copy their work, or produce material compatible with D&D without permission. (a bit rich when you consider the hassle they had with hobbits and cthulhu) Quality control must be maintained! We do not produce shoddy rushed work just to make a quick buck! (yeah, I know. How long was the publishing gap between the 3 AD&D corebooks? ) AD&D will be a massive improvement over the previous edition of the game! I think most of you are familiar with the flow of high Gygaxese by now, so I'll stop here before we die laughing. On the other side of the page an advert for Judges Guild Officially Approved D&D compatible licenced products. See, we're not monsters. You can do business with us.

    Brawling! As ever they make it far more complicated than armed combat, for far less benefit unless you are specifically intending not to kill. Which I guess is important sometimes, particularly when low level characters are so fragile. Given the way the D&D hit point system worked at that time, capturing and imprisoning people would be virtually impossible unless you used magic, or they surrendered. And some people want more options.

    Defending against the OGRE: Tactical advice for the boardgame of the same name. Can't really comment on this one.

    The Play's the thing: A little article encouraging people to think up backgrounds and personalities for their characters. Along with the worldbuilding stuff in the last issue, it seems that D&D is starting to seriously move beyond its wargaming roots and involve actually viewing characters as roles rather than just pieces to explore, fight, level up and die with. Betcha we'll be seeing a roleplayers vs rollplayers quip within a few issues.

    Seal of the Imperium: More Tekumel Q&A by Professor Barker. Mostly setting stuff this time round, clearing things up and expanding on stuff in the books, rather than rules niggles.

    From the sorcerers scroll: More teasers on the upcoming AD&D products. The monster manual, and a big outdoor map by Brian Blume. Also notable is an offhand comment about Chivalry and Sorcery, as D&D's closest rival yet. So we know thats out now. Ends by asking the readers to rate what they want more of in order of importance.

    Sea magic: More Fafhrd stuff by fritz lieber. Our barbarian learns to shoot bows around corners, despite having recently lost a hand. Truly he is pretty badass. Meanwhile the Grey mouser has acquired a whole ship full of followers. Definitely has the feel of a high level later story, and makes me wish I had the intervening stories. Which is a good thing from the writers perspective, isn't it.

    Quarterstaff fighting rules: Another completely disconnected fighting subsystem is introduced. And promptly ignored. Also featuring incredibly twinked out stats for robin hood and his men, who all have all physical attributes at 15 or above. Yeah, not very impressed with this one.

    More Wormy and Fineous Fingers.

    A review of the Rankin-Bass cartoon of The Hobbit. A very scathing one. Good to see that people realised just how crap those cartoons were even back then. Shame that didn't stop them from producing crap cartoons all through the 80's and making huge amounts of money doing so. Oh well.At least we have a pretty good movie version of LotR now, hopefully with the hobbit to come.

    Snits Revenge! A second boardgame continues the story of the timeless space setting. A whole new game, plus errata for the first one.

    All in all, this has been a pretty good issue. A few duff articles, but the combination of good ones, and the extensive amount of teasers for the future has made it feel pretty significant in general. This is the first time most of the players at the time would have heard of AD&D, and we know how well that one worked out. Which is nice.

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