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D&D 1E Dragon Reflections #26

TSR Periodicals published The Dragon Issue 26 in June 1979. It is 52 pages long, with a cover price of $2.00. In this issue, we have Giants in the Earth, D&D vs. AD&D, and the Bazaar of the Bizarre!

dragon26.jpg

Editor Tim Kask welcomes a new assistant editor to the team. Gary Jaquet, known around the TSR office as "Jake," was a journalism graduate and a member of Kask's gaming group. Jaquet was working construction at the time but had already published several articles in The Dragon and was also one of the writers on Gamma World. He notes that "Tim and I have been talking about the magazine for the last three years, and now we have the opportunity to work on it together. We both have great expectations."

There are five feature articles in this issue. The first is called "Miniatures meet Boards" and is a review of System 7 Napoleonics by Game Designer's Workshop, a miniatures-style wargame played with counters. The reviewer is thrilled by the product, believing it is a game-changer that will open up Napoleonic-era wargaming to a much wider audience.

"Giants in the Earth" is a new, regular column that provides D&D statistics for "classic heroes from fiction and literature." This inaugural effort describes Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever, Karl Edward Wagner's Kane, and Talbot Mundy's Trost of Samothrace. Although the article is anonymous, I've heard elsewhere that Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay wrote it. Purists may find this sort of thing a bit pointless, but the column carried on for several years and was presumably popular. I think it is all great fun!

Another new feature column is the "Bazaar of the Bizarre," which Kask intends to include things such as new magic items, spells, and other "exotica." The first article is by Len Lakofka and is called "Blueprint for a Lich." It describes how to turn someone into a lich and goes into great detail about the process (some of the steps are too unpleasant for me to repeat).

"The Dragons Bestiary" is the new name for the "Creature Feature" from older issues. The new monster this month is the Barghest, a dog-like devil from planes of hell. This creature is a very solid low-mid tier fiend, and was updated for 5e in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The final feature article is Gygax's "Sorcerer's Scroll," with this month's topic called "D&D®, AD&D® and Gaming." For historians of the game, this is a critical essay. In it, Gygax gives a potted history of D&D, one which (arguably) diminishes Arneson's contribution. Gygax then tries to convince us that D&D is an entirely different game to AD&D, which TSR had just released. Gygax says:

"ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a different game. Readers please take note! It is neither an expansion nor a revision of the old game, it is a new game... To prevent any further misunderstandings, it is necessary that all adventure gaming fans be absolutely aware that there is no similarity (perhaps even less) between D&D and AD&D than there is between D&D and its various imitators produced by competing publishers."

Why was he so emphatic? It may be because TSR had agreed to pay Arneson a royalty on all future D&D products, but were refusing to pay him anything for AD&D products. Five lawsuits followed, with the court ultimately favoring Arneson.

This issue includes a slew of variant rules. "And What of the Skinnies" presents new units and options for the popular Starship Troopers game. "Chinese Undead" offers a small collection of creature stats inspired by Chinese mythology. "Boot Hill Additions" includes an easy to use "Exact Hit" table, alongside some other miscellaneous rules. "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme" gives a short ethical code for each alignment. It's a neat and useful idea.

"Deck of Fate" contains rules that allow you to use a regular tarot deck like a deck of many things. It's a neat idea, but the card effects are not very imaginative. "Birth Tables and Social Status" gives you various tables to help flesh out your Empire of the Petal Throne character. Rounding out the variant rules, the "Strength Comparison Table" gives rules for Strength ability scores below 3 and above 18/00.

There are several reviews in this issue, including another one for System 7, described as "versatile, inexpensive, and enjoyable." Tribes of Crane, a new play-by-mail game, is "worth every penny it costs to play." Ice War, a sci-fi micro-wargame, is "fast, fun, and challenging," while Mercenary, the 4th Traveller book, is just "fairly good." The best that can be said for The Battle of Monmouth is "the emphasis in design has been towards simplicity but with no great sacrifice in realism." Finally, Battle Sphere is "fairly clever, if simple."

There are a few more miscellaneous articles, including a Q&A with the System 7 designer, Rick Banner. There is some strategic advice on the placement of castles for the Lords and Wizards board game from FGU alongside some solitaire rules for the William the Conqueror — 1066 wargame.

In "Hirelings Have Feelings, Too," the author discusses the proper treatment of D&D hirelings, while "Notes from a Very Successful D&D Moderator" is another article on how to outwit smart players. Some of the ideas are quite amusing, such as the wizard who made fake gelatinous cubes from jello to guard his treasury.

In "Impromptu Adventuring Groups," Gary Gygax presents a well-thought-out system for randomly generating D&D characters, including things such as equipment and magic items for high-level PCs. In "The Thief — A Deadly Annoyance," the author argues that the thief class is much better suited to urban adventures than dungeon crawls.

There is one final article of note. "D&D Meets the Electronic Age" discusses how to use a computer to enhance a D&D game by automating things such as the hit tables. The use of computers in tabletop RPGs is widespread these days, but in 1979 the personal computer revolution was in its infancy, and so this is quite a seminal article.

Next issue, we learn lots about the Battle of Agincourt, there is a guest column from the owner of Judge's Guild, and the Bazaar of the Bizarre introduces us to the Bag of Wind!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black


Absolutely love that Dragon logo. It's got character and feels very 70s.

Tros of Samothrace seems to have disappeared in regard rather quickly, whereas Kane and Cugel the Clever have had more staying power. Heck, I've had Mundy's book in my to-read pile for years and have yet to touch it.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Absolutely love that Dragon logo. It's got character and feels very 70s.

My favorite logo was the next one. Very crisp and sharp, and less LSD ;)

Also, I found this part interesting because the other day we had a big thread on the history of fantasy gaming:

Fantasy wargaming began
before adventure gaming. In fact it began before CHAINMAIL. Tony
Bath of England was conducting table top battles roughly based on the
“Hyborean Age” of Robert E. Howard’s Conan years before the “Fantasy
Supplement” of CHAINMAIL was published. Similarly, role playing
has been common in wargaming for years—decades, I suspect,
when one considers the length of time that hobby has been pursued in
England. I can personally recall being part of the nationwide game
which was conceived by “The AdHoc Committee for the Re-Reinstitution
of WWII”. The group was based in Stanford University, and this
writer was given the role of the Chinese Communist commander, while
my friend, Don Kaye, was the Chinese Nationalist leader, and our
associate, Terry Stafford of Chicago, was the British Far East Squadron
Commander. Interesting and differing roles, but all involving thousands,
or millions, of men to be commanded.
 

Bazaar of the Bizarre (its name ripped off from a Lankhmar short story) and Giants in the Earth (its name ripped off from, um, the Bible) were both great features. Even if you didn't want actual fictional or legendary figures in your games, it was a great starting point for NPCs or even ideas for player characters.
 


Oh, don't get me wrong, I dig the following one - that one barely changed in the decades to follow, and is for me the definitive Dragon logo. But that earlier one feels very much like a product of its time, and I dig it.

My favorite logo was the next one. Very crisp and sharp, and less LSD ;)

I wouldn't say that I didn't like the column, but I've found them of limited utility. For me, the fictional/folklore character adaptations to D&D are a mixed bag. Sometimes they're interesting, but other times it requires such contortions to get close to the right feel. Even Fafhrd and Grey Mouser, two of the most influential characters on D&D, are generally written up as having at least three character classes to make them work. And far later, with the Song of Ice and Fire issue of Dragon they really had to struggle to shoehorn those characters into 3e terms.

People didn't like Giants in the Earth? Huh.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think one of my favorite things about Dragon magazine (outside of Dragonmirth and Wormy) were the Ecology series. I loved those. They really brought the monsters to life.
 



Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
Loved Giant's in the Earth articles, always great fun. And per usual at the time Gary's musings in his Sorcerer's Scroll tended to annoy me. The System 7 Napoleonics never really picked up in Southern California that I recall. Most of those who played Napoleonics were really into their figures and counters lacks a certain something that the painted figures full filled.
 

I agree. As I collect the older issues that still have them, they seem overly didactic. For a company whose tagline was "Products of Your Imagination," his missives could get awfully authoritarian. There one that really rubs me the wrong way is from an issue later than this, where he talks about how if you don't play AD&D exactly as written, you're not playing AD&D.

And per usual at the time Gary's musings in his Sorcerer's Scroll tended to annoy me.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I agree. As I collect the older issues that still have them, they seem overly didactic. For a company whose tagline was "Products of Your Imagination," his missives could get awfully authoritarian. There one that really rubs me the wrong way is from an issue later than this, where he talks about how if you don't play AD&D exactly as written, you're not playing AD&D.

I think most of those comments were to reinforce the idea that AD&D was his and his alone, so he wouldn't have to pay Dave any royalties, and that attitude spilled over into his articles. But you're right.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
I agree. As I collect the older issues that still have them, they seem overly didactic. For a company whose tagline was "Products of Your Imagination," his missives could get awfully authoritarian. There one that really rubs me the wrong way is from an issue later than this, where he talks about how if you don't play AD&D exactly as written, you're not playing AD&D.

Looking back, I thought I felt the way I did because I was young and just didn't get something that he was trying to convey. As I got older and would occasionally re-read the articles my opinion didn't change and actually as I became older I grew even more critical of his point of view.

While I'll always be fond of him in a general way, there is a part of me which will always be very critical of his ego and arrogance. So I guess, in the end it just makes him as human as the rest of us and prone to error. :)
 

There is a lot of "this is my game and my game alone" attitude to a number of the essays. Heck, there was one that was all about how the feedback they had gotten on the Barbarian class was wrong.

I think most of those comments were to reinforce the idea that AD&D was his and his alone, so he wouldn't have to pay Dave any royalties, and that attitude spilled over into his articles. But you're right.
 

Same. The Gygax of the early 80s was very different from the Gygax we had the pleasure of interacting with here. We all change over time. As Walt Whitman said:

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large -- I contain multitudes."

While I'll always be fond of him in a general way, there is a part of me which will always be very critical of his ego and arrogance. So I guess, in the end it just makes him as human as the rest of us and prone to error. :)
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
There is a lot of "this is my game and my game alone" attitude to a number of the essays. Heck, there was one that was all about how the feedback they had gotten on the Barbarian class was wrong.

Sometimes over the years I've wondered, "Are those passages in the DMG about being flexible, and it's your game, etc all forced at the time? Because everything he wrote afterward seems to counter that. I can certainly imagine him getting a bit upset at hearing that someone is playing AD&D totally different then what was written, even if there is a paragraph in the DMG saying that that is perfectly acceptable ;)

Which is kinda understandable. As a game designer myself, I totally get how it doesn't feel good when people play a different way than you intended. An ego thing.
 

M.T. Black

Adventurer
Sometimes over the years I've wondered, "Are those passages in the DMG about being flexible, and it's your game, etc all forced at the time? Because everything he wrote afterward seems to counter that.

I think Gygax was trying to juggle two things. He genuinely believed in the homebrew spirit that characterised the wargame movement from which he emerged. At the same time, he desperately wanted a consistent and tight set of rules so he could encourage tournament play across the country (and world).

I heard somewhere that his home game resemebled original D&D more than AD&D.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I think Gygax was trying to juggle two things. He genuinely believed in the homebrew spirit that characterised the wargame movement from which he emerged. At the same time, he desperately wanted a consistent and tight set of rules so he could encourage tournament play across the country (and world).

I heard somewhere that his home game resemebled original D&D more than AD&D.

As to the last sentence the answer is Yes.
 

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