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Dragon Reflections #10 – Snits and Orgies

The Dragon Issue 10 was published in October 1977. It is 36 pages long, with a cover price of $1.50. This issue saw the inclusion of a complete, all-new board game.


Editor Tim Kask is full of praise for the tenth GenCon, describing it as "the biggest wargame convention that has EVER been held, by anyone, anywhere." Compare this to the unenthusiastic words he had for Origins 77 in his last editorial!

In contrast to recent issues of The Dragon, this one includes plenty of D&D articles--and no fiction! There's an interesting mix of material here too, and not without some controversy.

In "Gaining a New Experience Level," Tom Holsinger makes some satirical suggestions around the mechanics of levelling. "Designing for Unique Wilderness Encounters" by Daniel Clifton gives a bunch of tables for random wilderness generation, while "Random Monsters" by Paul Crabaugh explains a method rolling up an entirely new D&D monster. All solid articles.

"Let There Be a Method to Your Madness" by Richard Gilbert seeks to bring a more realistic approach to dungeon design, answering questions such as "who originally built this dungeon" and "what was its purpose." Such an approach is standard practice now but was probably revolutionary in 1977.

Two further articles may have done little to endear the magazine to female gamers. "Weights and Measures, Physical Appearances, and Why Males are Stronger than Females in D&D" (also by Paul Crabaugh) was possibly the first shot in a debate that raged in D&D for many years. A debate that is banned from this site, I should add!

"Too Much Loot in Your Campaign? D&D Option: Orgies, Inc." by Jon Pickens suggests a practical solution to a common problem. If your characters have too much money, let them spend it on an orgy! If the idea is a bit juvenile, the accompanying illustration is doubly so, with bare-breasted nymphs cuddling up to goblin-like men. The anecdotal evidence I have suggests that art like this *did* turn women off the game.

On to the special feature. Tom Wham was a Vietnam war veteran who joined TSR as a staff artist in 1977. He already had two published wargames under his belt by this time and managed to convince Tim Kask to include a new game he was designing in The Dragon. The result was "Snit Smashing," in which tiny creatures run out of the ocean and try to reproduce while avoiding attacks from the bored, blob-like Bolotomi.

People remember "Snit Smashing" more for the quirky illustrations than for the gameplay, but Wham went on to create many more games, several of them highly regarded. His most successful product from the TSR years was Awful Green Things from Outer Space, which was later picked up by Steve Jackson games and is still in print. Wham also designed Kings & Things with Rob Kuntz, which was released by West End Games and won the Origins Award for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Game of 1986.

One peculiarity is that Wham seemingly never designed any RPG products. This must have made him quite rare amongst TSR designers at the time, but it does reflect the fact that the staff in those days were "gamers first" and not just roleplaying diehards.

I want to finish with a quick note about Paul Crabaugh, who contributed two articles to this issue. These were Paul's first publications, and he became a prolific contributor to Dragon magazine as well as several other gaming journals. He sadly succumbed to cancer in 1985 at the age of 29, and Kim Mohan wrote a moving memorial for him in Dragon #105.

In the next issue, an influential new column is added to the magazine, penned by one of D&D's most enigmatic creators.

This article was contributed by M.T. Black as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program.M.T. Black is a game designer and DMs Guild Adept. Please follow him on Twitter @mtblack2567 and sign up to his mailing list. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 
M.T. Black

Comments

Henry

Autoexreginated
I wanted to say that, even though I rarely comment on these Dragon retrospective articles, I really quite enjoy them, and please keep ‘em coming, despite my radio silence. :)
 

M.T. Black

Explorer
One thing I didn't have space to mention in the above article is that Tom Wham was responsible for Ironclads!, a wargame that is said to have inspired the combat system in D&D. I sent Tom an email to find out if he was responsible for inventing the terms "hit points" and "armor class", but haven't heard back from him yet.
 

TerraDave

5ever
So that's why the Snits were looking to get Revenge.

I think I have used part of that cover image to make a big stand up figure of Imix, prince of elemental evil fire. I think.
 

Shasarak

Villager
"Too Much Loot in Your Campaign? D&amp;D Option: Orgies, Inc." by Jon Pickens suggests a practical solution to a common problem. If your characters have too much money, let them spend it on an orgy! If the idea is a bit juvenile, the accompanying illustration is doubly so, with bare-breasted nymphs cuddling up to goblin-like men. The anecdotal evidence I have suggests that art like this *did* turn women off the game. <em></em>
<br>
<br>**Golf Clap**<br><br>Well done, sir.&nbsp;&nbsp; I had to check out the bare-breasted nymphs responsible for turning women off DnD but have to conclude that it was most probably a result of the goblin-men.<br>
 

Matesamo

Villager
Loving this series of articles and fondly remember being able to flip through the newest Dragon at the local bookstore. If I had any suggestions it would be to include mention of some of the more interesting letters and ads from the era. It would be interesting to see what was propelling people to write in to the new magazine and what they were asking for/complaining about. I always love the ads in these magazines, the prices and the descriptions always make me say wow.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Didn't realize this was a thing! Great article. I owned a lot of old Dragon magazines and this brought back memories. I'll be tuning in. Keep them coming!
 

R_Chance

Explorer
Too busy. I am that is. Just read it last night and wanted to say "thanks". I'm enjoying this series. The main thing I remember about this issue is how much I disliked the cover. Too "cartoony". I was a serious little nerd back in the day. As for spending their money; iirc the First Fantasy Campaign (on Arneson's Blackmoor setting, published by Judges Guild in 1977?) suggested no XP until the money was spent. I believe carousing was one way among many. Not as juvenile as this one and with more options (and a reason too). I remember snorting about the orgies article even as a young gamer.
 

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