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

R_Chance

Adventurer
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.
And given the Satanic panic of the 1980s is it any wonder the Witch / Warlock had to wait to become an official class of any sort in D&D? It took decades for that hangover to wear off...
 

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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.
There's a lot of takes on witches. Pacts is a common thing, especially in the witch trial era, but very few are all about the eldritch blast. There's definitely conceptual space in D&D for a separate witch. That said, it'd also be extremely easy to make Witch a subclass of warlock, wizard, sorcerer or druid. WotC should pick something, though. (Hey, WotC! That'd be a great way to move anniversary edition reprints in 2024: Add the first-ever official PC witch class!)
 

I believe that D&D is still not very big in Germany, with the homegrown RPG Das Schwarze Auge being far more popular.
One minor thing here: D&D is actually quite popular over here. I feel things were already shifting with 3e, though there was a bit of set back with 4e (among others, WotC pulled the license from Feder&Schwert), but right now 5e is doing quite well and probably reached a tie with DSA, maybe has even surpassed it.
 

MGibster

Legend
There's a lot of takes on witches. Pacts is a common thing, especially in the witch trial era, but very few are all about the eldritch blast. There's definitely conceptual space in D&D for a separate witch.
Sure, there's a lot of takes on witches just like we've got lots of takes on sorcerers, wizards, necromancers, etc., etc. You lamented that D&D never came up with their own witch class but that's exactly what the Warlock is.
And given the Satanic panic of the 1980s is it any wonder the Witch / Warlock had to wait to become an official class of any sort in D&D? It took decades for that hangover to wear off...
I wouldn't doubt it if that had some influence. If I was thinking of adding new classes to the game around 1984-85 I'd probably avoid witches just for PR purposes. On the other hand, they did have thieves and assassins.
 

talien

Community Supporter
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.
In my high school D&D games, there was at least PC of each (although not all at the same time!). NPCs indeed.
 

Is there anyone that actually played AD&D precisely as written? I'm sure there are people out there, but I know we treated it more like a buffet/toolkit, taking what we liked and readily abandoning what we didn't. To use everything as written seems like it would've been odious, both from a play perspective and from having to navigate the shambolic organization to reference the rules.

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.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Nice review! I actually have a partially converted 5e Witch class based on the class introduced in Dragon 43 and later updated by Bill Muhlhausen in Dragon 114. Really good sources of inspiration.
 

MGibster

Legend
Is there anyone that actually played AD&D precisely as written? I'm sure there are people out there, but I know we treated it more like a buffet/toolkit, taking what we liked and readily abandoning what we didn't. To use everything as written seems like it would've been odious, both from a play perspective and from having to navigate the shambolic organization to reference the rules.
We tried a variety of the rules but I can't even attest to having tried them all. We used weapon speeds for a bit but abandoned it as being silly and cumbersome.
 

We tried a variety of the rules but I can't even attest to having tried them all. We used weapon speeds for a bit but abandoned it as being silly and cumbersome.
Nowadays, weapon speed could probably be reduced to a pretty simple initiative penalty or bonus. But it wouldn't be a whole chart you'd have to refer to, but just a tag applied to a weapon, like "swift" and "slow."

I'm not sure that additional level of complication would improve gameplay meaningfully, though, as the folks most likely to use a swift weapon like a rapier already have high dexterities and are likely going early in the initiative order most rounds.
 

M.T. Black

Adventurer
One minor thing here: D&D is actually quite popular over here. I feel things were already shifting with 3e, though there was a bit of set back with 4e (among others, WotC pulled the license from Feder&Schwert), but right now 5e is doing quite well and probably reached a tie with DSA, maybe has even surpassed it.
That's great to hear - thanks for letting me know! :)
 

griffon8

Explorer
"Many readers will want more material. There is a wealth of commercial and fan material available for fulfilling such needs. Similarly, even the most important material herein can be altered and bent to suit the needs of individual campaigns. Where possible, true guidelines have been laid down to provide the barest of frameworks for those areas of the campaign which should be the most unusual and unique. Read the work (or both works if you are a DM) through and assess for yourself what ADVANCED D&D really is."—E. Gary Gygax, from the Preface to the Players Handbook, 1978

"What follows herein is strictly for the eyes of you, the campaign referee. As the creator and ultimate authority in your respective game, this work is written as one Dungeon Master equal to another. Pronouncements there may be, but they are not from "on high" as respects your game.…

"Naturally, everything possible cannot be included in the whole of this work. As a participant in the game, I would not care to have anyone telling me exactly what must go into a campaign and how it must be handled; if so, why not play some game like chess?"—E. Gary Gygax, from the Preface to the Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979

Yeah, there's a reason nobody paid attention to Gygax's thoughts on how much mucking with the rules you were allowed to do.
 



Sithlord

Adventurer
I don't think anyone in my group(s) ever played a witch, but we did the rest.
Lots of players played a witch in my games. They just didn’t need a class called witch (not that there isn’t some cool witch classes out there). Same as the wizard that didn’t need a class named pointy hat (very uncool imho).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Lots of players played a witch in my games. They just didn’t need a class called witch (not that there isn’t some cool witch classes out there). Same as the wizard that didn’t need a class named pointy hat (very uncool imho).
I don't think it was consciously avoided due to the name or anything. At least if it was, nobody said so. It just never got picked.
 

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