Dragon Reflections #2: Heavy On Fiction But Light On Mechanics

Today our Dragon Reflections column takes a look at the second issue of The Dragon magazine. This issue was big on fiction from well known names in fantasy fiction, but lighter on gaming content. What was in this issue? Let's look!

d2.jpg

The Dragon Issue #2 was published in August 1976, two months after the debut issue. The cover price was $1.50. Issue #1 was successful enough for editor Tim Kask to proclaim it "the fastest growing magazine in the hobby." He refers to overwhelmingly positive feedback, while simultaneously begging for more letters. The plea for correspondence would become a recurring theme in the early issues.

Kask stated that the "increase in interest in Fantasy gaming in the past year has been nothing short of phenomenal." He was impressed that even the "big two" of gaming (Avalon Hill and SPI) had started to treat fantasy games seriously. In fact, TSR would soon be much larger than either company and acquired SPI in 1982, while Avalon Hill came under the control of Wizards of the Coast in 2004!

Issue #2 was still thirty-two pages in length, but there were fewer articles than in issue #1. There was definitely some "filler" material present, and more pages are also devoted to fiction. D&D was the only game covered, which must have disappointed Kask given his determination to shake the "house organ" label.

The longest D&D article featured was "Hints for D & D Judges Part 3" by Joe Fischer. The first part of this series appeared in The Strategic Review, while the second part appeared in The Dragon issue #1. Joe seems to have published little else in the RPG field, with one notable exception—he was also the author of the original Ranger class for D&D (published in The Strategic Review #2)!

"Monkish Combat in the Arena of Promotion" by John M. Sneaton gave a monk-on-monk combat system that is quite complex and has pretty limited applications. Sneaton would contribute to the cover for Issue #3 but appeared to have not done any further work within the RPG field.
There were two articles by Jon Pickens—one described an Alchemist character class and the other a new weapon damage system. Neither article is very noteworthy, but the author of them was. Pickens was completing an English and Economics degree and was an avid gamer and a Gen Con regular. In 1978, TSR hired him as an editor, and he was with the company (and later Wizards of the Coast) for around 25 years. During that time, he worked on dozens of products from old classics like Vault of the Drow right up to the Monster Manual for D&D v3.5.

This issue also includes statistics for a new monster, the Remorhaz—and that's it for the gaming material. It's a disappointing assortment when compared to issue #1. There is also a rather dry essay on the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. These mythological essays would appear in later issues, though often accompanied by game mechanics for the featured deity.

Once more there were three fiction pieces in The Dragon. The most interesting of these was a novelette called "Shadow Of A Demon" by Gardner F. Fox. Fox was well-known as a comic book writer, credited with creating The Flash, Hawkman, The Sandman, and the Justice Society of America, and had a long career writing fantasy fiction. Given The Dragon published a Fritz Lieber story in issue #1, they were clearly having no trouble attracting high-profile fiction writers.

However, the sparse nature of the gaming articles shows how difficult it was for Tim Kask to source this material in the early days, and it's hard to believe he would have been very pleased with this follow-up issue. And behind the scenes, complaints were already piling up about the amount of fiction he was publishing. Kask was forced to make a difficult decision in Issue #3, and we will find out what that was next week!

M.T. Black is a game designer and DMs Guild Adept. Please follow him on twitter at @mtblack2567 and sign up for his mailing list.
 
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M.T. Black

M.T. Black




Shasarak

Banned
Banned
However, the sparse nature of the gaming articles shows how difficult it was for Tim Kask to source this material in the early days, and it's hard to believe he would have been very pleased with this follow-up issue. And behind the scenes, complaints were already piling up about the amount of fiction he was publishing. Kask was forced to make a difficult decision in Issue #3, and we will find out what that was next week

This is exciting cliff hanger, what will happen in issue 3?
 

Ethan Burke

First Post
I love the articles keep them up! I can't wait til we get to my favorite article in issue 5 (pg 27) "GANDALF WAS ONLY A FIFTH LEVEL MAGIC-USER".
 

It was an OK issue, but I wasn't a huge fan of the fiction. I went elsewhere for my fiction fix. And while we used the Ranger (from SR) right off the bat, the Alchemist didn't fly with my bunch. I thought the Monkish combat was interesting but didn't want to add another form of combat to the game. We stuck with the "alternate" / d20 version of combat from the boxed set for everything.

*edit* We went for the Illusionist class as well, although I can't remember when that one came out... SR I think, but maybe TD. I should dig up my CD Rom Dragon archive or unbox the early stuff. It's been awhile. Thanks for the series by the way. It's making me think and look back over my early game. It's appreciated :)
 
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