Dragon Reflections #20 – Demonology Made Easy!

The Dragon Issue 20 was published in December 1978. It is 36 pages long, with a cover price of $2.00. In this issue, we talk about board games, witchcraft, demonology, and the Lord of the Rings movie!


Editor Tim Kask starts with an apology for the price increase to $2.00, which came into effect last issue. It was unavoidable due to increases in the cost of paper, ink, and postage. He also apologizes for the printing problems in issue 19 - TSR had switched printers to save money, and the new printer made a mess of things. Of more interest is his plan to resurrect an old feature:

"We plan to reintroduce our controversial Out On A Limb letters column. Letters submitted to OOAL should be typed, double-spaced. They should deal with responses to previous articles, responses to editorials, and if it works out, responses to previous letters. You may substitute “rebuttal” for “response”, if you wish... All letters are subject to editing, and only the author’s name will be printed, or in rare instances, his or her initials. All letters must be signed."​

Out On A Limb was a feature of early issues but was discontinued due to a lack of letters. Kask must have been receiving enough unsolicited mail to believe he could sustain the column. He is also pretty clear about what he doesn't want:

"They [letters] should NOT deal with character assassination, ridicule or petty fault-finding."​

Good luck with that.

Issue 20 includes several articles focused on board games. Marc W. Miller recounts the creation of his award-winning board game, Imperium, and also lists out some errata. Allen Hammack (who later achieved some renown as the author of Ghost Tower of Inverness and Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords) shares a rules variant for SPI's popular War of the Ring wargame. And Gary Gygax reviews David Wesely's Source of the Nile boardgame and offers some variant rules.

Some notable trivia about David Wesely. In the late 60s, he was responsible for creating an unpublished wargame called Braunstein which was a critical precursor to the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It's too much to claim that Wesley was the father of RPGs, but he is one of several grandparents.

On to D&D itself, and here we find the typical medley of articles. "It's a Good Day To Die" shares the most common causes of character death in the author's home campaign. It's hard to see the broader application of such an article, and it feels like filler. "The Mythos of Polynesia in D&D" continues Jerome Arkenberg's quest to (apparently) stat out every mythical being in history. Truthfully, these "Mythos" articles most interesting for the little bit of color text Arkenberg shares. The game statistics themselves are uninspiring.

"A New Look at Witches in D&D" is a pretty well thought out Witch class and includes some interesting abilities. It is marred a little bit by Tim Kask's introduction:

"For those DM’s bold enough to try it, it provides a very viable character for ladies; be they sisters, girlfriends, lady gamer or others. D&D was one of the first games to appeal to females, and I for one, find it a better game because of that fact."

These words read as a bit condescending to modern ears, though I don't doubt Kask's sincere and well-intentioned desire to promote gaming amongst women.

Gregory Rihn gives us a well-designed and well-written article called "Demonology Made Easy" which is much the same style as his article on Lycanthropy in issue #14. Given the quality of this piece, it is surprising he did not contribute more to the hobby. A separate article by Charles Sagoi called "Demonic Possession in the Dungeon" covers some similar ground.

There are two more RPG articles in this issue. "The Asimov Cluster" gives Traveller statistics for the planets mentioned in Asimov's Foundation series, while "Distributing Eyes & Amulets in EPT" gives a short magic item table for Empire of the Petal Throne, and is the first EPT article published in about a year.

That is the gaming material dealt with. Allan Hammack (mentioned above) also gives us a preview of the Lord of the Rings animated film, which was directed by Ralph Bakshi and released in 1978. The article describes Bakshi's long question to get the movie made and also explains the new animation techniques he pioneered to produce it. Hammack is optimistic about the prospects of the movie. History tells us that the film was a commercial hit, but it has divided critics and fans ever since. The film actually ends mid-way through The Two Towers. A dispute between Baskhi and the studio meant that the planned sequel was never made.

In the next issue, we have more board game fun with the Source of the Nile revisited, Rail Baron, and new variants for Dungeon!

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.
 
M.T. Black

Comments

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Ye gods, how I love that particular cover. The Halloween covers were generally pretty awesome.

Still a shame that we never got the second half of Bakshi's LOTR. It's quirky and at times dodgy, but you can't deny it's got style. And, Ahriman/Saruman stuff aside, it's fairly faithful to the books.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I think my knowledge of Dragon only goes back into the late 40's, and it's been interesting to see how much I missed from the early years (the good, and more often it seems bad).
 

Hussar

Legend
Great stuff. For a silly little game, the MOUNTAIN of material that has been produced for D&D is really awe inspiring.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
Thank you as always - I really enjoy these trips down memory lane.
What he said :) This was a good issue. I used the demonology rules, mainly with high level (evil) NPCs. PCs tended to look at the costs and difficulties of spell research and the consequences of failure I suspect... Haven't thought about that in a few decades. Thanks again.

*edit* And yes, Imperium was fun. GDW did some great science fiction wargames back in the day. D@mn... what was the name of the one set on a planet between a cloned regiment of high tech soldiers occupying a planet vs. local rebels... have to check the oldies shelf...
 
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R_Chance

Explorer
*edit* And yes, Imperium was fun. GDW did some great science fiction wargames back in the day. D@mn... what was the name of the one set on a planet between a cloned regiment of high tech soldiers occupying a planet vs. local rebels... have to check the oldies shelf...
It was "Bloodtree Rebellion". A pretty good game (not as good as Imperium), but some great world building in it. One thing that stood out for me, the clone soldiers were clones of their commander. His children basically. Spending their lives wastefully was not an option...
 

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