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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!

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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

R_Chance

Adventurer
The cover of that issue was great. We played Divine Right when it came out anytime we weren't playing D&D . Missing a couple of key PCs on game night... Divine Right it was. Waiting for everyone to arrive... Divine right :D Fun game. As for "dual classing"... my players pretty much said "no thanks". If they wanted to play a character with more than one class they went with a demi-human.

edit And Knights of Camelot by Glen and Kenneth Rahman iirc. Another fun game. Came out after Divine Right (?) I believe. TSR turned out a few good ones in the fantasy board game niche.
 
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wdk_dave

First Post
I still have this one on my bookshelf. I think I bought it, because at the time my group still did a bit of board gaming and the variants for Risk and Snit's Revenge looked interesting. Also, I was keen for anything with a few interesting random tables.
 

wdk_dave

First Post
I still have this one on my bookshelf. I think I bought it, because at the time my group still did a bit of board gaming and the variants for Risk and Snit's Revenge looked interesting. Also, I was keen for anything with a few interesting random tables.
 

M.T. Black

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.
It was so peculiar. I never understood why the option existed when you already had multi-classing rules.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
It was so peculiar. I never understood why the option existed when you already had multi-classing rules.
Multi-classing was the great advantage of demi-humans. The other demi-human traits were useful (especially infravision - but it was spoiled if you adventured with any humans) but not overwhelming. Multi-classing helped demi-humans offset the level limits they had. Humans had no level limits (well, except Assassins, Druids, and Monks). If they allowed humans to do what demi-humans did it would undermine the demi-humans as an option. So, any "multi-classing" feature humans had needed to be inferior to the demi-human version. The only real reason I can think anyone would do this as a human was if they wanted to be a Bard. The original Bard had to go through levels in other classes before they could become a Bard. Anyway, I'd say game balance was the reason for the inferior human "dual classing". All imho, of course.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Multi-classing was the great advantage of demi-humans. The other demi-human traits were useful (especially infravision - but it was spoiled if you adventured with any humans) but not overwhelming. Multi-classing helped demi-humans offset the level limits they had. Humans had no level limits (well, except Assassins, Druids, and Monks). If they allowed humans to do what demi-humans did it would undermine the demi-humans as an option. So, any "multi-classing" feature humans had needed to be inferior to the demi-human version. The only real reason I can think anyone would do this as a human was if they wanted to be a Bard. The original Bard had to go through levels in other classes before they could become a Bard. Anyway, I'd say game balance was the reason for the inferior human "dual classing". All imho, of course.

I agree. Furthermore, we really liked the approach dual classing took. Primarily from a story/narrative/role-playing perspective.

First, it was switching classes. While you can do so within the context of the game regardless, this approach seemed to encourage changing from a character development/role-playing perspective since you'd essentially be starting again. So that fighter that decided they wanted to become a wizard, really did have to go all in.

Second, the fact that you couldn't advance the new class if you used your old class abilities (until you surpassed your old class level) reinforced this feeling.

It also wasn't as much a penalty as many think. Because of the way the XP charts were designed, if you were a group of 7th-level PCs, and you either started a new PC, or dual-classed, the rest of the group would reach 8th-level just about the same time as you reached 7th-level. You'd then be about 1 level behind the rest of the group.

I'm not saying it's the best system ever, but it worked very well for us and our play-style.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Multi-classing was the great advantage of demi-humans. The other demi-human traits were useful (especially infravision - but it was spoiled if you adventured with any humans) but not overwhelming. Multi-classing helped demi-humans offset the level limits they had. Humans had no level limits (well, except Assassins, Druids, and Monks). If they allowed humans to do what demi-humans did it would undermine the demi-humans as an option. So, any "multi-classing" feature humans had needed to be inferior to the demi-human version. The only real reason I can think anyone would do this as a human was if they wanted to be a Bard. The original Bard had to go through levels in other classes before they could become a Bard. Anyway, I'd say game balance was the reason for the inferior human "dual classing". All imho, of course.

Don't know why it double-posted, don't see a way to delete it...
 

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