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Dragon Reflections #45

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 45 in January 1981. It is 96 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have three new NPC subclasses, everything you never wanted to know about dungeon gas, and the return of Bazaar of the Bizarre!

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Editor Jake Jacquet welcomes the new year with some new faces. Debbie Chiusano joins Corey Koebernick in Sales & Circulation, while Marilyn Mays joins Bryce Knorr on the editorial staff. In addition, Ed Greenwood and Roger Moore join the magazine as "Contributing Editors." These were not full-time, paid positions. Rather, "Contributing Editor" was a title they gave to some of their best freelancers, those who turned in a lot of content and could write to spec. It's significant to see the magazine recognizing two people who would make such tremendous contributions to Dungeons & Dragons over the coming years.

The capsule bios that Jake gives for the two designers are interesting, so I'll reproduce them in full:

Ed is a resident of Don Mills, Ontario, Canada. He is a student in journalism at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, and has been "hooked" on AD&D since the Players Handbook was published in 1978. He has done many types of writing for the magazine, including several contributions to Dragon's Bestiary and Bazaar of the Bizarre as well as longer articles such as "From the City of Brass to Dead Orc Pass," an examination of the potential uses of gates in AD&D (Dragon issue #37).
Roger is stationed in Mannheim, Germany with the U.S. Army and works as a behavioral science specialist—a job which, not coincidentally, has a lot to do with certain aspects of role-playing and the benefits derived therefrom. He and his wife, who is the typist and a behind-the-scenes collaborator, have been responsible for more than a dozen short articles and stories published in Dragon magazine within the last year. Roger's name is on the alchemist and astrologer NPC articles in this issue, and in Dragon issue #44 he became the first author to have two creatures featured in Dragon's Bestiary in the same magazine.

Jake notes that Dragon Publishing will be printing 45,000-50,000 copies of this issue, compared to just 11,000 copies a year ago (and a sharp increase on the official circulation of 21,000 reported in October the previous year). Sales are snowballing.

This month's special feature is "The Dungeon Design Kit," which comprises a cardboard grid and cut-out walls, furniture, accessories, and so on. TSR included this sort of cardboard terrain in quite a few products: The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina, The Revenge of Rusak, and The Veiled Society are just a few examples.

There are plenty of other feature articles in this issue, with a strong focus on D&D. "Gas 'em up and smoke 'em out" by Robert Plamondon discusses the behavior of smoke, gas, and other air pollution in dungeons. Following it is a companion piece called "Dungeon Ventilation Clears the Air," which explains how dungeon ventilation systems could and should work.

Plamondon had published several articles for Dragon by this point, and his third contribution to this issue was "The right/write way to get published," full of advice for would-be article writers. Assistant editor Kim Mohan annotated this essay with a running commentary, essentially showing you how the editors treat magazine submissions. Some of Mohan's notes are very sharply worded, and I can only hope Robert took them with good humor. Plamondon published several more articles with Dragon but is best known for his book, Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook, which is still in print.

Roger and Georgia Moore present us with two new "NPCs for hire." The astrologer creates horoscopes, while the alchemist brews up helpful potions. I wish they'd included more advice about creating horoscopes, as predictions in D&D can be tricky. Roger also gives us "How to have a good time being evil," containing practical advice for running evil campaigns.

"Magic Items for Everyman" by Philip Meyers (best known for I4: Oasis of the White Palm) is a useful though pedestrian article about equipping high-level parties with magic items. "Castles, castles everywhere" by Michael Kluever is a well-written potted history of the castle. Kluever wrote several instructive articles to Dragon about armor, weapons, and tactics. "You can jump HOW far?" by Kevin Thompson provides very detailed rules for jumping, considering the exact number of feet run-up, how much weight is being carried, and so on. I imagine it appealed to the simulationists in the audience.

The final feature article is "Hop, hop, hooray!" by Daniel Maxfield, which presents an assortment of variant rules for Bunnies & Burrows. I believe this is the only article for this game ever published by Dragon.

We've got a full slate of regular columns. "Up On A Soapbox" kicks things off with two contributions. "Be a creative game-player" by Kristan Wheaton urges D&D players to look for lateral methods of combating monsters. In "Ways to handle high-level headaches," Lewis Pulsipher suggests several strategies for challenging high-level parties.

"Bazaar of the Bizarre" is back with six new magic items, this time by authors Roger Moore, Robert Plamondon, Ernest Rowland, and John Beck. Some are trite, such as ruby slippers that teleport your character back home. However, I did like the pet rock, which throws itself at your enemy on command.

"The Rasmussen Files" gives us more Top Secret bric-a-brac from Merle Rasmussen. The results of a player survey were fascinating, with the following snippet demonstrating some of the challenges faced by the marketing team:

Of 272 survey responses returned by players, it was found that the majority of persons playing TS are single, teenage males who earn less than $5,000 per year and own more than 20 games. They rated the game overall as excellent.

In "Leomund's Tiny Hut," Len Lakofka gives us some advanced missile-fire rules and two new NPC subclasses, the archer and the archer-ranger. They are nicely crafted! Glenn Rahman is back with more "Minarian Legends" from the Divine Right game, this time telling us the history of the dwarves. In "Simulation Corner," John Prados asks what makes a bad rule bad? Bryan Beecher has another "Squad Leader scenario," this time with a skirmish in Austria. And "The Electric Eye" by Mark Herro gives us a program listing for a dice-roller.

"Dragon's Bestiary" has three new monsters: the insectoid skyzorr'n by Jon Mattson; the dual-tailed sand lizard by Marcella Peyre-Ferry; and the elemental dust devil by Bruce Sears. The skyzorr'n by veteran contributor Mattson is the best of the bunch.

Finally, "Dragon's Augury" reviews three games. Bloodtree Rebellion by Games Designer's Workshop is "flavorful" and joins a "strong line" of science fiction games from GDW. Space Marines by Fantasy Games Unlimited is "a good treatment of futuristic ground combat using miniatures." Grail Quest by Metagaming, a supplement for the Melee/Wizard RPG, "suffers from the problems that programmed adventures fall prey to."

This month's cover is by Dean Morrisey. Other artists include Jeff Lanners, Roger Raupp, Kenneth Rahman, Tracy Lesch, Bill Willingham, Chris Conly, Greg Lloyd, and Susan Collins.

And that's a wrap! It is a good issue that is stuffed with content. My favorite parts were probably two of the new NPCs, the archer and the alchemist. Next month, we have the Temple of Poseidon, a short story by J. Eric Holmes, and the World of Greyhawk!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black



I have such a soft spot for these cardboard cutouts. I spent a fair bit to get a pristine Revenge of Rusak a few years back. It's no great module, but it hits such a nostalgia button for me.

This month's special feature is "The Dungeon Design Kit," which comprises a cardboard grid and cut-out walls, furniture, accessories, and so on. TSR included this sort of cardboard terrain in quite a few products: The Kidnapping of Princess Arelina, The Revenge of Rusak, and The Veiled Society are just a few examples.

I love and hate these sorts of minutiae-based articles in Dragon. On the one hand, they're fascinating glimpses into how people thought through the gaming world, on the other hand I don't know that my game needs that much specificity. After a certain point, it's just slowing things down. Do we really need to know how air gets to the bottom of the dungeon (and I'm assuming adding a bunch of modifiers and checks relating to bad air while we're at it)?

There are plenty of other feature articles in this issue, with a strong focus on D&D. "Gas 'em up and smoke 'em out" by Robert Plamondon discusses the behavior of smoke, gas, and other air pollution in dungeons. Following it is a companion piece called "Dungeon Ventilation Clears the Air," which explains how dungeon ventilation systems could and should work.

I know nothing of the rules of Divine Right, but I love reading these Minarian Legends articles. The world seems so interesting and rich. Shame they didn't put out a campaign setting for AD&D for it.
Glenn Rahman is back with more "Minarian Legends" from the Divine Right game, this time telling us the history of the dwarves.
 

univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
Good issue for sure. I didn't read these at the time of publication seeing as I would not be born for another four years, but not having an article from Gary in this issue got me thinking: I get the feeling that whenever Gary had an article, no matter the content, it would cause sort of a row in the community (what row there could be pre-internet anyway) and I wonder if there was anything he could have written that would not get people up in arms seeing as everything he said would be taken as gospel instead of just his opinion, as it seemed he often intended.

The pet rock made me laugh.

Fantastic cover by Dean Morrisey. The shafts of light and how he did the hair on the mage? cleric? Top stuff.
 



JonM

Explorer
I know nothing of the rules of Divine Right, but I love reading these Minarian Legends articles. The world seems so interesting and rich. Shame they didn't put out a campaign setting for AD&D for it.
We had a lot of fun with it, in the day, but my copy disappeared during a move, years ago (and was kind of falling apart, anyway - those old cardboard counters just weren't meant to last). Sadly, I missed the 2002 reprint, with all 2000 copies having been sold before I even heard about it. Anyway, as you say, the flavor articles were always fun to read, and the game, itself, probably wouldn't have disappointed you.
 
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Dean Morrissey did some absolutely cracking good covers for Dragon. Like Daniel Horne's, they were heavily inspired by the classical masters.

Fantastic cover by Dean Morrisey. The shafts of light and how he did the hair on the mage? cleric? Top stuff.

I've been eyeing up copies on eBay, but right now they're a little too much for me to justify.
We had a lot of fun with it, in the day, but my copy disappeared during a move, years ago (and was kind of falling apart, anyway - those old cardboard counters just weren't meant to last). Sadly, I missed the 2002 reprint, with all 2000 copies having been sold before I even heard about it. Anyway, as you say, the flavor articles were always fun to read, and the game, itself, probably wouldn't have disappointed you.
 

griffon8

Explorer
We had a lot of fun with it, in the day, but my copy disappeared during a move, years ago (and was kind of falling apart, anyway - those old cardboard counters just weren't meant to last). Sadly, I missed the 2002 reprint, with all 2000 copies having been sold before I even heard about it. Anyway, as you say, the flavor articles were always fun to read, and the game, itself, probably wouldn't have disappointed you.
Finally decided to look up the game on Wikipedia to see what it might have on the game and I am now today years old when I found out that the latest attempt to republish Divine Right was ended by the resignation of the entire design team due to Glenn Rahman's decision to have it published by Vox Day.

Taking A Bow
 
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Can we talk about how weird this cover is?

First, it looks like it's the same person modeling for both figures, who are looking past each other.

Then, the remarkably clean beggar and the nobleman (?) with the very impressive hair are also apparently meeting on a very narrow bridge in the woods, based on the placement of the trees. This doesn't feel like time for whatever negotiation they have going on here.

I do love that you can see it was clearly painted on canvas. You just don't get that kind of texture in fantasy illustrations nowadays unless someone adds it in after the fact digitally.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
I really liked (and like) Bloodtree Rebellion. The concept of cloned soldiers and the issues that comes with that were interesting. The clones were all clones of the unit commander. Your troops were your children. Losing troops was hard, but the solution of dialing up your firepower (literally, the weapons were variable power) had it's own costs with increasing the local opposition iirc... it's been a long time, Interesting take on clones. Units shrank over time with casualties and the clones had a hard time dealing with non-clones.

edit Thanks as always for these articles. They bring back fond memories, revive ideas and remind me of useful / interesting stuff. Like Bloodtree Rebellion. I just saw my copy in the den closet the other day when looking for something else. Time to pull it out and reread the extensive fluff / background information that came with it... GDW did some great games, besides Traveller of course :D
 
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