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Dragon Reflections #43

Dragon Publishing released The Dragon issue 43 in November 1980. It is 80 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have a Witch class, help with illusion magic, and a Traveller adventure!

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Editorial assistant Bryce Knorr wants to talk about fiction. The company has just published its first fiction collection, Dragontales, and they need more stories. Submissions must be short (not novels), in the fantasy or science fiction genre, and not pornographic. I'm not sure they ever published another volume of fiction--perhaps one of my readers can tell me?

There are two special features this month. "Canard" is an adventure for the Traveller RPG and involves investigating an alien terraforming facility. It was written by Robert Camino, who had several articles published in The Dragon and The Journal of the Travellers Aid Society around this time.

"Brewing up a brand-new NPC: The Witch" presents witches as an NPC class. Bill Muhlhausen, who seems to have published little else, wrote the original article, but Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay heavily revised it. The result is an entertaining class with lots of good spells but also unique abilities such as potion brewing, control dolls, and candle magic. The introduction warns Dungeon Masters that this class is for NPCs only--advice I'm sure that everyone ignored!

There's a handful of other features. "D&D is not very common in Germany" is by Stefan Neubauer, a resident of West Berlin. The title summarises the article perfectly. I believe that D&D is still not very big in Germany, with the homegrown RPG Das Schwarze Auge being far more popular.

"How do YOU rate as a DM?" is a Dungeon Master Evaluation Form. I recall these were all the rage in the 80s, and I even distributed a few similar forms myself. It all seems clunky and overly formal to me now.

"Now you see it. . . but is it really there?" by Philip Meyers supplies some well-considered (and much-needed) guidance for D&D illusion magic. Meyers was a genuine talent who later wrote the well-reviewed Oasis of the White Palm and Balton's Beacon for TSR before disappearing off the radar.

In "Hate orcs? You'll love this campaign," Roger E. Moore suggests you try an all-dwarf game with the focus on fighting the goblinoid races (orcs were classified as goblinoids back then). It's a pretty uninspired article from a man of his talents.

Let's look at the regular features. "Sage Advice" has a small army of TSR staff answering the usual array of questions. I found this exchange interesting:
Question: An elf magic-user has reached maximum level, and the player has decided to polymorph the character into a human so he can continue to gain levels. Can he do this?
Answer: No, he cannot. He may look like a human, but he is still an elf in reality, and therefore racial limitations still apply.
Personally, I would have allowed that. What a great little story!

In "Leomund's Tiny Hut," Len Lakfoka proposes an entirely new melee system for AD&D. He's troubled by the 1-minute melee round rules for AD&D--after all, why can a fighter only strike once in all that time? This rule used to bug me too, but I can see what Gygax was trying to address now, and I'm much more comfortable seeing AD&D combat as highly abstract. Anyway, Lakofka's suggestions are over-complicated.

"Dragon's Bestiary" presents us with the "Amazon" by Roger E. Moore, the "Tolwar" by Todd Lockwood, and the "Lythlyx" by Ed Greenwood. I rather liked the Tolwar, an undersized, trunkless elephant with telekinetic power.

"Dragon's Augury" has three reviews. Azhanti High Lightning by GDW is an "outstanding" game with "first rate" artwork. DragonQuest, SPI's much-anticipated entry into the fantasy RPG market, is an "exciting game," and buyers will "get their money's worth." Hero by Yaquinto Games is "enjoyable" but becomes "repetitive" after a few playings.

We have a new Squad Leader scenario by Bryan Beecher, who this time takes us through "The Fall of Sevastopol." In "The Electric Eye," Mark Herro reviews Space Games-3 from Creative Computing Software and concludes it is "well worth it's modest price tag."

Finally, there's an amusing exchange in the letters page. Eric Robinson from Connecticut says Gygax's approach to AD&D rule variants ticks him off. He characterizes it as "l-am-Lord-of-All, Everything-I-say-is-God's-Holy-Word syndrome." Gygax responds, "Eric, you seem to have D&D confused with AD&D. The former promotes alteration and free-wheeling adaptation. The latter absolutely decries it, for the obvious reason that Advanced D&D is a structured and complete game system aimed at uniformity of play world-wide. Either you play AD&D, or you play something else!" Of course, the idea that AD&D cannot be extended without breaking the whole system doesn't hold water, but Gygax often held to that line.

And that's it! It was a lightweight issue elevated by the Witch class and the article on illusion magic. Next month, we have a mini-game called Food Fight, new fiction from Gardner F. Fox, and the Super Spies of Top Secret!

M.T. Black is a freelance game designer. Go to his website for a free, five-star adventure!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

aco175

Legend
Let's look at the regular features. "Sage Advice" has a small army of TSR staff answering the usual array of questions. I found this exchange interesting:
Question: An elf magic-user has reached maximum level, and the player has decided to polymorph the character into a human so he can continue to gain levels. Can he do this?
Answer: No, he cannot. He may look like a human, but he is still an elf in reality, and therefore racial limitations still apply.
Personally, I would have allowed that. What a great little story!
Sage Advice, Making ________ calls since the beginning. You fill in the blank.
 

collin

Explorer
Interesting they mentioned DragonQuest by SPI. I played in a group in the early 80's that used that game system and preferred it to AD&D. Within a couple of years, TSR acquired SPI. It was interesting to see TSR incorporate a few game mechanics from DragonQuest into AD&D for 2nd edition, such as colleges of arcane magic (although that could have come from a Vancian source just as easily). We thought at the time that DragonQuest was a more elegant and logically derived system that 1st edition AD&D.
 


AmerginLiath

Adventurer
Sage Advice, Making ________ calls since the beginning. You fill in the blank.
In terms of the metaphysics of 1st edition, I can see their logic. There was a very classical soul/body distinction in Gygaxian planar logic (The Alexandrian blog is actually in the midst of a fun series discussing that), so the Polymorph spell here would have free reign in transforming the body’s substance from elf to human while not necessarily affecting the essential animus tied to that substance (converting an elven spirit to a human soul) — hence why Polymorph could affect so many substances, including non-living (a.k.a. non-ensouled). To make the switch intended, I’d use Reincarnation — the spell which explicitly reshapes substance and can likewise reshape essence (hence while animals and human/Demi-human beings can go back and forth so readily there). It’s a price to be paid, but you are twisting the formal nature and order of reality to gain more power…
 

This was easily our most-treasured issue of Dragon and one of the first that my brother and I received in our subscription. (One of our middle school friends had a letter published in an issue a year or so later.)

You'd better believe everyone made witches. It's a really well-rounded and rich class.

I'm still baffled that D&D -- which featured witches in the original OD&D booklets as monster illustrations -- never came up with their own witch class. Easily the biggest bit of European myth and folklore that has never made the jump to D&D, even decades later.

This Dragon's Bestiary featured three monsters that, as I recall, all made the jump into TSR's Monster Cards later on, and Erol Otus' Amazon art for the monster (which may have just been on the card, not in Dragon -- I don't recall) is one of the images you constantly see shared on Erol Otus Tumblr and Facebook fan accounts, as it sits in his uncanny valley of "sexy but also vaguely threatening."
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Finally, there's an amusing exchange in the letters page. Eric Robinson from Connecticut says Gygax's approach to AD&D rule variants ticks him off. He characterizes it as "l-am-Lord-of-All, Everything-I-say-is-God's-Holy-Word syndrome." Gygax responds, "Eric, you seem to have D&D confused with AD&D. The former promotes alteration and free-wheeling adaptation. The latter absolutely decries it, for the obvious reason that Advanced D&D is a structured and complete game system aimed at uniformity of play world-wide. Either you play AD&D, or you play something else!" Of course, the idea that AD&D cannot be extended without breaking the whole system doesn't hold water, but Gygax often held to that line.
The idea of any D&D game being played with no house rules is an amusing one but pipe dreaming at best, and always has been. But it's funny how this line of demarcation between D&D and AD&D - the idea that the former was intended for a fast-and-loose nature and the latter featuring rules to cover everything - was apparently a prevalent line of thought. Bruce Heard described the games that way too, back in the day, and I bet lots of players did too (I personally came into D&D a little late for the arguments to have any real relevance).

It's especially funny to see Gygax take the hard line here, which he frequently (but not always) did, especially since a bunch of mid-80s supplements he wrote were basically just his own houserules in hardcover form.
 

The idea of any D&D game being played with no house rules is an amusing one but pipe dreaming at best, and always has been. But it's funny how this line of demarcation between D&D and AD&D - the idea that the former was intended for a fast-and-loose nature and the latter featuring rules to cover everything - was apparently a prevalent line of thought. Bruce Heard described the games that way too, back in the day, and I bet lots of players did too (I personally came into D&D a little late for the arguments to have any real relevance).
In my experience -- and pre-social media, I don't think anyone has a really good view on how the masses felt -- no one gave Gygax waggling his finger at us any thought. We didn't use weapon speeds, we didn't use encumbrance, we didn't use level limits for non-human characters and we made characters using every single "NPC class" from Dragon. Anti-paladins, jesters, witches, death masters -- every single one of them.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
In my experience -- and pre-social media, I don't think anyone has a really good view on how the masses felt -- no one gave Gygax waggling his finger at us any thought. We didn't use weapon speeds, we didn't use encumbrance, we didn't use level limits for non-human characters and we made characters using every single "NPC class" from Dragon. Anti-paladins, jesters, witches, death masters -- every single one of them.
I have a hard time believing anyone other than Mr. Gygax himself took his beratement too seriously. I came about in the 2e era, and we scoffed at level limits and class restrictions too (though I still love the bit in the 2e DMG where they warn about how allowing gnomes to be paladins will immediately result in a party of gnome paladins, as though players were just chomping at the bit to play that specific combo but just couldn't, because RULES, man).

Anyway, I enjoy reading these articles when they come out - almost as much as I enjoy reading various people who are (or were) industry titans sniping about each others' pet systems in the letter columns of yore.
 



Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
Anyway, I enjoy reading these articles when they come out - almost as much as I enjoy reading various people who are (or were) industry titans sniping about each others' pet systems in the letter columns of yore.
My favorite one of those are the two authors that did the Psionics articles, arguing about what a power point was.

The other I remembered - I don't remember the article but it was about some realism or something talked about the weight of a round stone to lift or about how deep you were, and the letter responded with "If it's round, I'll roll it" and "I'd trust the dwarf, who's racial ability to know about such things would tell us".

Just like modern boards - the flamewars are there.... just slower.
 


mach1.9pants

Adventurer
“He's troubled by the 1-minute melee round rules for AD&D--after all, why can a fighter only strike once in all that time?”

This never troubled me as it was adequately described as not one hit but many blows and the results of. What did, and still, bugs me is the stupidly glacial movement over a minute. Even in the midst of combat I could crawl faster! Add armour speed reduction, which shouldn’t be a thing in short bursts of combat - it would be over the course of daily travel, the speed in combat is ridiculous. And the exploration speed per turn just as bad!

I try not to think about it when playing OS games haha.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
This was easily our most-treasured issue of Dragon and one of the first that my brother and I received in our subscription. (One of our middle school friends had a letter published in an issue a year or so later.)

You'd better believe everyone made witches. It's a really well-rounded and rich class.

I'm still baffled that D&D -- which featured witches in the original OD&D booklets as monster illustrations -- never came up with their own witch class. Easily the biggest bit of European myth and folklore that has never made the jump to D&D, even decades later.

This Dragon's Bestiary featured three monsters that, as I recall, all made the jump into TSR's Monster Cards later on, and Erol Otus' Amazon art for the monster (which may have just been on the card, not in Dragon -- I don't recall) is one of the images you constantly see shared on Erol Otus Tumblr and Facebook fan accounts, as it sits in his uncanny valley of "sexy but also vaguely threatening."
My assumption was always that labelling something an "NPC Class" allowed them to put new classes into the Dragon. Oh, and avoid being burned at the stake for heresy by the Gygaxian Church :D
 

You'd better believe everyone made witches. It's a really well-rounded and rich class.

I'm still baffled that D&D -- which featured witches in the original OD&D booklets as monster illustrations -- never came up with their own witch class. Easily the biggest bit of European myth and folklore that has never made the jump to D&D, even decades later.
Agreed. Witches are far more native to a pseudo-medieval European setting than AD&D's version of the monk class.
 


MGibster

Legend
I'm still baffled that D&D -- which featured witches in the original OD&D booklets as monster illustrations -- never came up with their own witch class. Easily the biggest bit of European myth and folklore that has never made the jump to D&D, even decades later.

The witch did make it into D&D proper they just called it a Warlock instead. The belief in dablerie, that witches gain their powers by making a pact with Satan, had become popularized in the 15th century and continued to spread throughout Europe for the next few centuries. That's pretty much a Warlock in a nutshell.
 

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