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Dragon Reflections #22

The Dragon Issue 22 was published in February 1979. It is 56 pages long, with a cover price of $2.00. In this issue, Little Wars meets The Dragon, we get a sneak preview of the upcoming Dungeon Masters Guide, and Gary Gygax talks about the future of D&D!

Editor Tim Kask starts by informing us that this issue consists of two magazines, The Dragon and Little Wars, combined into one. Little Wars was another TSR publication, one focused on miniatures wargaming. Kask does not give much detail regarding why they are making the change, beyond hinting at the efficiencies involved and saying, "we think that we will become a more desirable magazine, covering all of wargaming inside the same cover."

The editorial page includes subscriber numbers for both magazines, which they published periodically as required by law. These numbers suggest another reason for the merger. TSR was printing 8000 copies of The Dragon at this stage and selling most of them. By contrast, they were printing 3000 copies of Little Wars and only selling about 2000 of them. Little Wars was not meeting their sales expectations and rolling it into The Dragon was probably a more attractive option for TSR than cancelling it altogether.

This issue dedicates a large portion of the page count to the historical articles that were the bread-and-butter of Little Wars. There is an overview of the real-life Order of Assassins, the first part of a series describing the Armies of the Renaissance, and an account of the Swiss Confederation alongside an article on polearms, both by Gary Gygax. The Little Wars content is rounded out with the description of a miniatures wargame called Stalemate at Kassala. It is good material, but it was not finding an audience.

The remainder of the magazine consists of content more familiar to readers of The Dragon, including numerous reviews. Several board games are covered: Up-Scope by SPI is "very good"; Panzerkrieg by OSR is "every bit worth its $12.95 pricetag."; while 4th Dimension by TSR is "a fast-moving, exciting game that really tests strategic abilities." There is also a book review of The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs, a "well-written novel of strange hauntings, sorcerous conjurations, and outrageous humor."

Gary Gygax reviews two amateur fantasy gaming magazines, Apprentice and Phoenix. He is merciless, and concludes, "APPRENTICE is certainly bad, but for one dollar it is value if you appreciate jokes. PHOENIX is worse, and no price is given. If it is free, you might wish to get it." He might have been kinder if he had known that the editor of Apprentice, David Berman, was just 15 years old!

Gygax also responds to a review of the Player's Handbook written by SPI's Richard Berg. Gygax blasts SPI as "past masters of the rehash, artisans of the warmed-over WWII battle game, purveyors of the umpteenth version of the same, tired scenario." He dismisses Berg, saying he "has never himself authored or designed a game half so popular as D&D/AD&D." Gygax did not enjoy seeing his baby criticized!

This issue also includes “Mapping the Dungeon,” a regular feature listing the names and addresses of Dungeon Masters who are looking for players. There are over 500 names in the list, mostly from the United States. This sort of list, clumsy as it is, is how gaming networks formed before the internet.

There is a special treat for D&D fans: a nine-page sneak preview of the upcoming Dungeon Masters Guide. The preview includes magic items, attack matrices, and psionic rules. Some readers may have been impressed by the numerous, complicated tables shown. Others, less so!

This brings us to the most important article in the issue. Written by Gary Gygax, it is titled “Dungeons & Dragons: What it is and Where it is Going.” Gygax starts by estimating the current player base of D&D at about 150,000 people and notes that the Basic Set sells 4,000 copies per month. After spending some time ruminating on the reasons for the popularity of the game, he gets to the heart of the matter, explaining the various D&D brands on the market.

Gygax states that the game is moving in two directions, Original D&D and Advanced D&D. The Basic Set he describes as a separate entity that can act as a springboard into either stream. Interestingly, he sees only limited scope for future enhancements to the rules. Original D&D could benefit from a "careful reorganization and expansion to clarify things," while Advanced D&D will undergo "only minor expansions and some rules amending on a gradual, edition to edition." He then states, "I do not believe that hobbyists and casual players should be continually barraged with new rules, new systems, and new drains on their purses." It is a remarkable statement given where the hobby was heading.

Having spoken about the need to cement the ruleset, Gygax finishes by urging his readers to submit articles to The Dragon detailing their own variant rules! How do you hold both ends of this article together? Gygax seems caught between the old wargaming approach of relentless modification and homebrewing, and the commercial desirability of a relatively stable ruleset. It's a tension he never fully resolves, and history shows us that the D&D production schedule would balloon over the coming years.

Next issue, we have a random fiend generator, new psionic rules, and solo play with En Garde!

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. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!
 
M.T. Black

Comments

Yardiff

Adventurer
When my friends and brothers play in the late 70's we didnt know what we were doing. We had the blue box, several AD&D books and a couple Arduin Grimiore books/dungeons. It was kind of confusing but loads of fun.
 

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Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
When my friends and brothers play in the late 70's we didnt know what we were doing. We had the blue box, several AD&D books and a couple Arduin Grimiore books/dungeons. It was kind of confusing but loads of fun.

Good ole' Dave Hargrave's Arduin Bloody Arduin, fun times.
 

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