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Dragon Reflections #34

TSR Periodicals published The Dragon Issue 34 in February 1980. It is 73 pages long and has a cover price of $2.50. In this issue, we have lots of articles about the Divine Right boardgame, a new column dedicated to traps, and "Doomkeep," a dungeon by Brian Blume!

Drmg034_Page_01.jpg

This issue contains seven features about Divine Right, a fantasy boardgame released by TSR in 1979, where players control kingdoms engaged in warfare and diplomacy. The articles cover errata, variant rules, and some additional lore for the setting, Minaria. What is striking here is how much effort The Dragon put into promoting this game. They even announced a new semi-regular column to support it, called "The Minarin Legends." All this effort for a just-released game stretches the "we are not a house organ!" claim to the limit!

“Sage Advice” has the usual plethora of questions about rules minutia. For example, "One of my crazy friends has a Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User who also happens to be a human. In the Players Handbook under human, it says that humans are not limited as to what class they can become. Under the section on multi-classed characters, it says that only half-elves can be Clerics/Fighters/Magic-Users. Am I right in saying that his human can’t be a multi-classed character?" Important stuff!

"Leomund's Tiny Hut" proposes a more complex alternative to the standard AD&D initiative system--itself notoriously complicated. "Bazaar of the Bizarre" presents a detailed method for generating magic fountains. "Dragon's Bestiary" describes the Vilkonnar, a subterranean, energy-draining, and energy-blasting humanoid. The accompanying art is uninspiring, but the monster itself has some potential.

There is a new feature devoted to traps called "Dastardly Deeds & Devious Devices." The editor's introduction suggests readers were swamping the company with articles in this genre, and the published entry is a reasonably good example of a "Grimtooth-style" trap. For whatever reason, the series only saw one more entry (in issue #35) and then ceased.

We have variant rules for Risk, Avalon Hill's D-Day, and Snit's Revenge. For Dungeons & Dragons, there is a set of random monster tables, a fun little character name generator, and a list of quirks and minor curses to associate with otherwise useful magic items. I rather like some of the quirks, such as your touch kills green plants, or small fires within 10 feet of you sputter and go out.

“Dragon's Augury” presents a smaller than usual collection of reviews. The Bushido RPG by Tyr Gamesmakers Ltd is "worth the price to the person interested in developing a more cosmopolitan outlook." Quite a claim! But the game was widely reviewed and made quite an impact at the time. By contrast, Spacefarers Guide to Alien Monsters by Phoenix Games is "a shoddy and carelessly-produced product that has no place in any intelligence science fiction roleplaying game." Fortunately, Phoenix Games went on to do better work, including the second edition of Bushido!

Two fiction books get a review by Gary Gygax. Hammer's Slammers by David Drake is a "very good, action-packed work," while The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber is "enjoyable and worthwhile."

The longest article contains a 24-room dungeon called "Doomkeep," written by Brian Blume for the Second Official AD&D Masters Tournament. The 36 invited players divided into parties and then tried to complete as much as possible in the 3-hour time limit. The dungeon itself is a typical death-trap affair, with lots of puzzles, traps, mazes, and weird monsters. Here is a sample encounter:

"10. You are inside a room which is 20'x20'. There are two doors. In the center of the room is a pedestal, intricately carved, which is about 5' high and 3' in diameter at the top. From the top, a beam of blue light rises to the ceiling and enters a similarly carved fixture. Suspended in the blue beam is a folded piece of parchment, apparently floating with no support."

Anything touching the blue beam, except for a naked arm, is instantly disintegrated. That's how things rolled in '79! The feature includes the scoring system and the original player scores, enabling readers to test their groups against the "Masters." Robin Hostetter of Georgia won the tournament, though he has seemingly disappeared from gaming history.

And that's pretty much everything of interest. It was weaker than some previous issues, though the inclusion of a full tournament dungeon was a highlight. Next month we have Traveller variants, an AD&D player rating system, and Gary Gygax discussing the future of TSR!

M.T. Black is a freelance game designer and a Dungeon Master’s Guild Adept. You can follow him on twitter here. Please check out his new Kickstarter, Nazi Dracula Must Die!
 
M.T. Black

M.T. Black


Tyler Do'Urden

Soap Maker
All this effort for a just-released game stretches the "we are not a house organ!" claim to the limit!

I always had that feeling back in the 90s when I'd read their reviews section - could I really trust reviews of a product coming from a publication made by the same company? Especially because they never contained much criticism of that company's own product...

At the same time, I missed seeing writing about other company's games after WotC really did turn Dragon into a house organ (and then, paradoxically, an outsourced house organ under Paizo).
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
These old issues a fount of inspiration. I just used a magic item from the Bazaar of the Bizarre inside issue #188 for my 3.5 game and stumbled upon a short story The Wizards Three by none other than Ed Greenwood. I often scan through old letter columns in comics and magazines. Just to see what was on everyone's mind in fandom at the time.
 

Michael Dean

Explorer
This cover really stood out to me back when I was a kid. I had just gotten DnD for Christmas, we were visiting family friends and the son had a stack of Dragon magazines all the way back to the 1st issue. This cover was pretty evocative, and I couldn't wait to get home and get a subscription to Dragon.
 

That cover is just so striking and different from just about every other Dragon issue. Love it.

A column devoted to traps would've been a great thing. Not that DMs of that era needed encouragement to come up with more dastardly tricks.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I also remember this cover, and how much I liked it.

That dungeon....I've used parts of it over the years. Traps were so deadly back in the day, no wonder we had several new characters ready all the time....
 

Von Ether

Adventurer
I could be wrong, but the human dual classed to get there but I smell shenanigans. Dual implied only two and the fellow had to be something like a 1/1/4 vs a multi class would have been like a 2/2/2 by then.
 

Superchunk77

Explorer
I could be wrong, but the human dual classed to get there but I smell shenanigans. Dual implied only two and the fellow had to be something like a 1/1/4 vs a multi class would have been like a 2/2/2 by then.
Sorta. Humans were the only race that could "dual class" while non-humans got to multiclass. The main difference was multiclassing you were advancing in all classes at the same time and split your XP amongst them as it was gained. Dual classing you focused on one class first, then changed to a new class which started at level 1, You also couldn't go back to the original class to level it up anymore once you switched.
 


Wrathamon

Explorer
Sorta. Humans were the only race that could "dual class" while non-humans got to multiclass. The main difference was multiclassing you were advancing in all classes at the same time and split your XP amongst them as it was gained. Dual classing you focused on one class first, then changed to a new class which started at level 1, You also couldn't go back to the original class to level it up anymore once you switched.
I believe until the new class got to or exceeded the old and then you could lvl in that one again. but its been a long time so I could be completely wrong. I know something has to do with you getting back to the original class level.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
Fond memories of that issue. I had just gotten into Drake's Hammer's Slammers and reading that others liked the book was a nice addition. Great cover of that Dragon as well, stuck out in my memory even to this day. :)
 


Ed_Laprade

Adventurer
I believe until the new class got to or exceeded the old and then you could lvl in that one again. but its been a long time so I could be completely wrong. I know something has to do with you getting back to the original class level.
I believe this is correct. Also, while you were levelling up your second class you couldn't use some/all of your abilities from your first one. After they evened out, I believe, you had to choose which one you were going to play for a given adventure?
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
I believe this is correct. Also, while you were levelling up your second class you couldn't use some/all of your abilities from your first one. After they evened out, I believe, you had to choose which one you were going to play for a given adventure?
yep. that part I never liked. It was like you forgot your past training until your new training was over.
 

Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
Yep- bascially if you were leveling your new class and used abilitites for the old you, you lost all XP. You could not use any abilities from old class because of that. You could never get more levels in the class you abondoned, but one you had equal (or maybe one more) level in the new class you could mix abilities freely. That is how I recalled it.
I really abused that once - the game was to start at ligh levels, and we weren't given a level to be, but had X experince points. I wanted a lot of useful abilities, so I played a character that was like 8th level barbarian then 9th level monk. The barbarian bascially lost his memory and was taken in by a local monastery. I called him Brother Pugg. He was shaven headed like a monk but with a full barbarian beard. The GM wasn't too uptight with alignement change there - and I kept all abilities from both. It was awesome.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
yep. that part I never liked. It was like you forgot your past training until your new training was over.
You could use the old class abilities but forfeited any xp in your new class until you surpassed the level. I played a rogue for 3 levels and then trained from a zero level wizard. The xp you needed to level up in your new class was so low you could get away with it.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
2-classing rules for Humans were a hot mess. Far easier and simpler just to make multi-class Humans work the same as multi-class other races and have done with it.
 

Orius

Adventurer
I'm going to have to go look this up. Sounds interesting!

Lasko's Magical Fountain or something like that. Most of the article was reprinted in the second volume of the Encyclopedia Magica except for some brief advice to the DM on forcing reluctant (i.e. smart :p) players to take a drink from said fountains.

I've been looking at random dungeon generation methods lately, and I think the article could be quite useful expanded to all sorts of random special dungeon features and not just fountains.
 

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