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!


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!

log in or register to remove this ad

M.T. Black

M.T. Black


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 remember that last bit well. That was a bit annoying. I just thought "oh well". We all just shrugged, put it down to legal issues, and went on playing our games.

log in or register to remove this ad

Aaron L

These articles are wonderful, and really make me wistful for a contemporary physical Dragon magazine. Internet articles and .PDFs are all well and good, and I would never want them to go away, but nothing can beat having a physical hardcopy to read through at my leisure and consult during a game.

Trying to keep several articles/chapters/sections from multiple books all bookmarked and open to the right spot on a tablet computer so as to reference them during a game session is a real nightmare, or even just an outright impossibility.

Epic Threats

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Epic Threats

An Advertisement