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Dragon Reflections #41

Dragon Publishing released The Dragon issue 41 in September 1980. It is 80 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have The Halls of Beoll-Dur, Tomb Tappers, and the revenge of Gary Gygax!

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Editor Jake Jaquet muses on the reasons that role-playing games have recently become so popular. He speculates that we all desire to create stories and that RPGs are an easy way to do this. He says:
Reading books, watching television, listening to Grandpa's stores about WWI— they're all passive. We want to tell a story or two ourselves—not just re-telling someone else's, but creating our own. And what better way than an adventure role-playing game?
What better way, indeed.

The Special Feature is "The Halls of Beoll-Dur," which won third place in the International Dungeon Design Contest. Dave Luther, Jon Naatz, Dave Niessen, and Mark Schultz wrote it, though none of them appear to have published anything else in the hobby. The adventure concerns a clerical training center built into the side of a dormant volcano. When the volcano unexpectedly awakes, salamanders take over the facility, and the characters are called upon to clear them out. The dungeon contains nearly 70 locations and has a typically twisty map. Many tricks, traps, and puzzles make it a fun-looking adventure, and it may be my favorite of those published in The Dragon.

The other features include "Reflections of a real-life Cleric," by the Rev. Arthur W. Collins, a Methodist minister. As an avid D&D player, he finds his hobby creates tension on both sides. The religious community questions playing a game that involves "magic and demonology." The gaming community assumes that playing with him would be "a crashing bore." Leaning on the academic writings of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, he explains how gaming is consistent with his vocation. Collins published several other articles for The Dragon and later did some work on DMGR2: The Castle Guide.

There are four articles about Steve Jackson's Melee system, which was the predecessor of his hit RPG, GURPS. The articles contain tactical tips as well as several new options. One of the authors, Robert Camino, appeared in The Dragon quite regularly at this time, mostly writing reviews.

We have two articles on the benefits of bathing in Dragon's Blood, one by Robert Plamondon (a regular contributor) and the other by Tom Moldvay, who had recently joined TSR. H.R. Lovins gives us "Elves, dwarves & halflings: for appearance’s sake," which contains random tables for demi-human features, such as eye color, hair color, hair length, etc. There is nothing exciting there. Rounding out the other features, "Guerrilla warfare, Napoleonic style," is a set of miniatures skirmish rules for the Napoleonic period.

On to the regular columns, and there are a great many of them this month. "Giants in the Earth" by Tom Moldvay gives us stats for five "classic heroes." Included are Moore's Jirel of Joiry, Haggard's Ayesha, Howard's Valeria, and two figures from Norse mythology, Sigurd and Starkad.

In "Minarian Legends," Arthur Rahman tells us all about the Trolls in his fantasy world. "Up on a Soapbox" is this month focused on good generalship in wargames. Meanwhile, "Bazaar of the Bizarre," gives us a selection of fun new magic items from Ed Greenwood, including Arbane's Sword of Agility and the Glowing Globe.

This month's "Simulation Corner" is an interview with Tom Shaw, VP of Avalon Hill, and it is all about the past, present, and future of that company. One interesting titbit that surprised me--in 1979, four of the companies five best-selling games were sports simulations. Shaw informs us that the company is focused on bolstering its fantasy and computer game lines, all of which gives credence to the idea that the traditional wargame market was declining by this time.

"Dragon's Augury" has a good selection of reviews, including four Avalon Hill computer games. B1 Nuclear Bomber will appeal to Fail-Safe fans, while Midway Campaign is "interesting, if somewhat predictable." Planet Miners is a "longish game" that leaves "very little" for the players to do, in contrast to Nukewar, which is "fun" and "fast."

On to tabletop games. Perilous Encounters by Chaosium is "an excellent place to start" if you want to get into miniatures gaming. Dark Nebula by GDW, a budget game of warring galactic empires, is "fatally marred by play balance." Meanwhile, The Golden Horde by Excalibre Games is a "fast-moving, easy-to-learn, fun game."

"Dastardly Deeds & Devious Devices" returns after a several-month absence and includes three new traps in what you might call the Grimtooth-style. I don't much care for them myself--too intricate to explain to players and too many "save or die" effects for my taste.

"The Electric Eye" contains three small BASIC programs: one tracks dungeon time and rolls for wandering monsters, another randomly creates town statistics, and the other randomly generates a royal family. There are numerous things like this on the web these days, but it must have seemed pretty revolutionary in 1980.

"Dragon's Bestiary" gives us two new monsters from skilful designers. The Silkie by Tom Moldvay is a kind of were-seal. Of more interest is the Tomb Tapper by Ed Greenwood, which is a personal favorite. The Tomb Tapper was recently added to Fifth Edition in Rime of the Frost Maiden.

A final note before we wrap up this issue. I don't typically mention the letters column, "Out on a Limb," as it rarely contains much that interests me. This month, however, Gary Gygax writes in to give his opinion of Issue #39, and he is not shy about expressing his disapproval.

In response to the angelic stats, he says, "Angels will never be part of D&D/AD&D as long as I have anything to say." The anti-paladin he declares to be "as useful as a third leg" (no Xorn's were available for comment). He pooh-poohs the recent discussion on morality in the game, and with regards to the article on women in D&D, he suggests, "Until more females play, the games will certainly remain male-oriented." History gives more support to the inverse idea--once the game became less male-oriented, more women began playing. Regarding the critical hits and misses table, he says, "Stupid, really stupid." The letter has a bit of "old man shakes fist at cloud" vibe to it!

And that's it for Issue 41! Quite a lot of content, with my favorite articles being "The Halls of Beoll-Dur" and the "Dragon's Bestiary." The next issue is a Halloween special, with a spooky D&D adventure, scads of scary new creatures, and demonic patrons!
 
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M.T. Black

M.T. Black


Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Loved that cover, it amused me to no end at the time. Jirel of Joiry and Valeria quickly were added into my ongoing campaign at the time as npcs that you might come upon. If I recall, I think I used Valeria as an npc contact to bread crumb the party into heading out into the desert to the fortress I had out there.

The fortress which I took the judges guild module "The Thieves of the Fortress Badabaskor" and then built upon it had quite a few adventures on going. The next year I incorporated the fortress into my new Thieves World based campaign and the fortress changed enough more as the Raggah took it over as I mapped out more of the world starting in Sanctuary and expanding outwards.
 

dave2008

Legend
A final note before we wrap up this issue. I don't typically mention the letters column, "Out on a Limb," as it rarely contains much that interests me. This month, however, Gary Gygax writes in to give his opinion of Issue #39, and he is not shy about expressing his disapproval.

In response to the angelic stats, he says, "Angels will never be part of D&D/AD&D as long as I have anything to say."
Mr. Black, do you know what issue has the angel stats in it? I have looked throughout issue #39 and I could not find them (nor did you mention them in your reflections of issue #39). Just curious if you knew what EGG was referring too, and I am interested in the stats!
 

Eyes up the Monster Manual 2 entries for the "Deva"...

Also, unfortunately not surprised by the tone-deaf response to "Women want equality—and why not?"

A final note before we wrap up this issue. I don't typically mention the letters column, "Out on a Limb," as it rarely contains much that interests me. This month, however, Gary Gygax writes in to give his opinion of Issue #39, and he is not shy about expressing his disapproval.

In response to the angelic stats, he says, "Angels will never be part of D&D/AD&D as long as I have anything to say." The anti-paladin he declares to be "as useful as a third leg" (no Xorn's were available for comment). He pooh-poohs the recent discussion on morality in the game, and with regards to the article on women in D&D, he suggests, "Until more females play, the games will certainly remain male-oriented." History gives more support to the inverse idea--once the game became less male-oriented, more women began playing. Regarding the critical hits and misses table, he says, "Stupid, really stupid." The letter has a bit of "old man shakes fist at cloud" vibe to it!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Mr. Black, do you know what issue has the angel stats in it? I have looked throughout issue #39 and I could not find them (nor did you mention them in your reflections of issue #39). Just curious if you knew what EGG was referring too, and I am interested in the stats!

It was Dragon #35 (Angels in Dungeons and Dragons). Gygax was likely also responding to the letters in Dragon #37, complaining about how male-oriented D&D is and that having angels in D&D was insensitive to religion (aka, Christians).

Which also might explain the article by the Rev. Arthur W. Collins in this one. :)
 



Zaukrie

New Publisher
Bizarre----I don't recall that issue. I thought I had them all in that era (I have the CDs, so I'll go look at it).

The anti-paladin should have been the future of "paladins" (along with the later article with 9 different "paladins") rather than the generic "all paladins are the same regardless of who they serve" that we have now.....
 


Not sure how to feel about the fact that he was younger than I am now and is labeled a crotchety old man :oops:

Not that I disagree that that's what he came off as back then. Judging by his behavior here, he mellowed considerably in the years since.

I found a lot of the letters and columns Gary wrote in those years left me rolling my teenage eyes. I love the man and the fact that he played such a big part in bringing roleplaying games into my life, but he sure did come off as a crotchety old man.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Not sure how to feel about the fact that he was younger than I am now and is labeled a crotchety old man :oops:

Not that I disagree that that's what he came off as back then. Judging by his behavior here, he mellowed considerably in the years since.
To me at the time it wasn't that he came off like a crotchety old man, but more really arrogant and unaccepting of anything that wasn't his idea or under his control. He definitely was a mixed bag at the time, I grew more fond of him in later years.
 

M.T. Black

Adventurer
Mr. Black, do you know what issue has the angel stats in it? I have looked throughout issue #39 and I could not find them (nor did you mention them in your reflections of issue #39). Just curious if you knew what EGG was referring too, and I am interested in the stats!
My apologies - as others have pointed out, Gygax was responding to articles in a range of issues, not just issue #39.
 

dave2008

Legend
My apologies - as others have pointed out, Gygax was responding to articles in a range of issues, not just issue #39.
Well, in his letter he even specifically mentioned issue #39 so I completely understand. I guess he changed his mind about angles by the time the MM2 came out?
 

griffon8

Explorer
I find one of the most interesting things in this issue is the ad for subscribing to Dragon. The things that could casually be mentioned at the time as reasonable! Certainly my reaction to it now is very different than it was back in the '80s.

Why? CW:
The ad implies that suicide is an alternative to not being able to find Dragon at your FLGS. You check "yes" on the subscription form for "Yes. Life is worth living now that I know about Dragon. Rush my subscription… or I'll hold my breath." and "no" for "No, thanks. Dragon? Who needs it? I'm going to eat this ad and choke myself to death." The picture used shows a guy with a rope around his neck, the other end tied around a block, and he's going over a guardrail.
 
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