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Dragon Reflections #38

TSR Periodicals published The Dragon issue 38 in June 1980. It is 74 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the secret history of Top Secret, a guide to the seven magical planets, and Gary Gygax explaining the concept of good!

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Astute readers will notice a change in the organization of the magazine. Throughout its history, The Dragon has experimented with different ways of categorizing the contents table. From this issue on, they have just three sections: "special attractions," "regular columns," and "other features." This three-fold categorization of material remained in place for several years.

Editor Jake Jacquet informs us that TSR Periodicals, the company that publishes The Dragon, is changing its name to Dragon Publishing (which remained a wholly owned subsidiary of TSR, Inc). One reason for the change was distinguishing themselves from TSR Hobbies (also owned by TSR, Inc.), the sister-company that published Dungeons & Dragons. Jacquet says,
"...we do not publish TSR Periodicals, we publish and distribute THE DRAGON; import and distribute WHITE DWARF and THE WARGAMER; we will be publishing and distributing an anthology of fantasy fiction... and a myriad of other publishing projects."
Jacquet also notes that Dawn Pekul has joined the accounts department, bringing the total number of employees up to 6.

This month's special attraction is a 10-page lift-out game called Ringside, and it is a boxing simulator written by TSR co-owner Brian Blume, who also wrote Boot Hill. The game is pretty simple. You move chits about a gridded ring and roll a percentage dice to hit when adjacent. On a success, you secretly select the punch you threw (uppercut, jab, etc.) while your opponent secretly selects the punch they are anticipating. If your opponent guesses correctly, it mutes the effect of the punch. The game had its fans and is currently rated 5.3 by Board Game Geek. It was republished in 1990 as part of the Best of Dragon Magazine Games boxed set.

On to the regular columns. In "Leomund's Tiny Hut," Len Lakofka buffs up dragons with additional magic. Arthur Rahman continues his "Minarian Legends" series in support of Divine Right, this time with a history of Mivior. "Simulation Corner" by John Prados presents a potted history of the Charles S. Roberts Award for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby. This article is a good read, and it taught me a lot about the early wargaming hobby.

"The Electric Eye" is disappointing this month, with Mark Herro publishing annotated screen dumps of the beloved Star Trek and Civil War computer games. I suppose it may have helped inform those who had never played the games before, but it felt lazy. In "Dragon's Bestiary," Kevin Readman gives us the Foliate, which is a flying tentacled monster that resembles a ball of light. It's a mildly interesting concept, though I don't believe anyone ever republished it.

"From the Sorcerer's Scroll" is typically fascinating, as Gary Gygax discusses the meaning of "good" in the D&D game world. He asserts that the game provides "pretty clear definitions" of good and evil. However, he says this is true "nominally" rather than "conceptually" - whatever he means by that! The longer the article goes on, the more relative his concept of good becomes, and perhaps it ultimately demonstrates how hard it is to model morality in games.

"The Dragon's Augury" has a single lengthy review this month, concerning Freedom in The Galaxy from SPI. Reviewer Tony Watson says it is an "impressive game" of "grand scope," and "one of the few of SPI's full-size SF games to really live up to expectations."

The issue includes an eclectic collection of other feature articles. The longest of these is Gardner Fox's "The Cup of Golden Death," the latest Niall of the Far Travels stories. This fiction found a small audience but is a pale shadow of the Conan stories it imitates. In "Tesseracts," Allen Wells describes how to create a tesseract-shaped dungeon.

Merle Rasmussen describes how he created the Top Secret RPG in "The Rasmussen Files." It's an amusing article written in the style of a confidential intelligence report. In "The Seven Magical Planets," Tom Moldvay shows how you can use the ancient idea of planetary correspondences ("as above so below") to add flavor to your campaign.

F.C. MacKnight concludes his series on Lankhmar with a challenging puzzle. This series has mainly been of interest to fans. "It's the little things that count" is a D&D story by Lewis Bryson, describing a short dungeon crawl. These sorts of stories rarely make for good reading, and this one is no exception. Bryson is known for contributing to Ysgarth around this time, a simulationist RPG renowned for its detail and complexity. Rounding things out, "Spelling out a strategy for hostile Magic-Users," by Jon Mattson presents a series of tables for randomly determining the spells used by enemy spellcasters. Mattson was a frequent contributor to The Dragon and later wrote an AD&D adventure for Judges Guild.

And that's a wrap! My favorite articles were "The Seven Magical Planets," which gave me several campaign ideas, and "Simulation Corner," which shared some fascinating history that I didn't know before. The next issue features women in gaming, a Top Secret module, and a new NPC—the Anti-Paladin!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

Riley

Adventurer
I was jealous of kids who had access to Dragon from the library. We unsuccessfully lobbied our school library to get a subscription.

And not to derail the thread, but what was it like being a kid growing up playing D&D in Lake Geneva at that time? Did you go to the famous TSR store? Play in the cons? As a Canadian kid reading the Gen Con programs published in the Dragon in those days, Lake Geneva sounded like some kind of gaming Shangri-la.
Sadly, I did not live in Lake Geneva. My Grandmother lived 15 miles from there, which allowed me to occasionally visit TSR’s Dungeon Hobby Shop, and to peruse the sizable collection of TSR products at the public library.

The Hobby Shop was (to my 12 year old heart) the coolest place on the planet.
In my recollection, it was disorderly and packed to the gills with strange gaming products I had never seen before or since. (The TSR board games were beyond my budget, so I mostly bought Citadel, RAFM, and Superior miniatures.) I imagined that the people behind the display counters were probably the authors of D&D. (They probably weren’t.)

That’s about the extent of my exposure to D&D in Lake Geneva. The only tales I know were ones I heard from a school guidance councilor who‘d gamed with Gygax, et al. a bit in the 70’s.
 

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Wrathamon

Adventurer
I was jealous of kids who had access to Dragon from the library. We unsuccessfully lobbied our school library to get a subscription.

And not to derail the thread, but what was it like being a kid growing up playing D&D in Lake Geneva at that time? Did you go to the famous TSR store? Play in the cons? As a Canadian kid reading the Gen Con programs published in the Dragon in those days, Lake Geneva sounded like some kind of gaming Shangri-la.
We had D&D and early Dragon at my library but then they all disappeared ... they were the mono colored modules and the original AD&D books for example. Not sure if they were stolen/lost or "satanic panic".
 

Yeah, I remember a bunch of the AD&D books in the library going missing from the shelves. You could probably flip a coin to see if it was Satanic Panic busybodies or just kids that took the books for their own collections.

We had D&D and early Dragon at my library but then they all disappeared ... they were the mono colored modules and the original AD&D books for example. Not sure if they were stolen/lost or "satanic panic".
 

Lidgar

Hero
I remember riding my bike to the public library to play many sessions of D&D and Top Secret. Also played in a class room with an accommodating teacher after school, and of course at each other's houses.

I really enjoyed Top Secret at this age (I was around 10 or 11) - we played it more than D&D at the time. The hand to hand combat tables were a confusing mess, but I due remember defaulting to "rabbit punch" quite often...

I still remember my favorite character too: "Tex Mularky", with his FN Browning and .303 Lee Enfield bolt action with scope. Yeah, I was 11. :)
 

Wrathamon

Adventurer
Yeah, I remember a bunch of the AD&D books in the library going missing from the shelves. You could probably flip a coin to see if it was Satanic Panic busybodies or just kids that took the books for their own collections.
I assumed they were stolen ... but when they never got replaced with the newer versions and mazes and monsters came out .. endless quest books never showed up. I started to think maybe it was more political.
 


Wrathamon

Adventurer
Our local librarian told us that they stopped buying D&D books due to the high theft rate. He (and we) also suspected that there was a race between religious zealots and gamers to see who could steal them first.
We cant just have nice things
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
Tables of correspondences (as with the seven magical planets mentioned here) were a big part of actual occultism: each of the seven planets (or twelve zodiac signs, or four elements, etc.) has associated colors, days of the week, times of day, smells, gemstones, rocks, plants, animals, materials, and the like. The best known primary source is Cornelius Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, though most modern New Age/occult books will have tables you can use (and are much easier to work from).

They made it into a few RPGs. GURPS Thaumatology went over a few, GURPS Cabal had a long list based on the 36 decans, and I think they were mentioned in passing in some of Dark Ages Mage and Mage: the Awakening. If you can actually find a copy of Fantasy Wargaming (the extremely obscure RPG book that had stats for all the saints and the Virgin Mary), it had a bunch as well.

They never caught on in D&D for some reason. Probably too many classes, races, etc. "Okay, magic-users are Aquarius, fighters are Aries, paladins are Leo, clerics are Taurus, warlocks are Scorpio...oh rats, we've got 13 classes and where do we put artificers?"

(though as an aside the four suits of the minor arcana--wands, cups, coins, and swords--correspond pretty well to mages (use wands and throw fire), clerics (healing spells and water), thieves (steal money and concerned with the material and thus earth), and fighters (swords. what else is there to say?)
 
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Garmorn

Explorer
Yea, this makes me want to find a way to use my discs with the Dragon magazine on them. It was an old produce that had all of the Dragons up until 3rd on them in PDF format.
 

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