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Dragon Reflections #50

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 50 in June 1981. It is 80 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the International Dungeon Design Contest winner, powerful new magic from an acclaimed writer, and a review of fantasy 'zines!

Drmg050_Page_01 (002).jpg

Editor Kim Mohan notes that this is both the magazine's fifth birthday and its fiftieth issue. He says, "Today, each DRAGON issue enjoys a readership far greater than anyone could have realistically imagined when the first few thousand copies of issue #1 rolled off the press five years ago." It has been quite a journey.

This months' special attraction is "The Chapel of Silence," a D&D adventure by Mollie Plants and the winner of the second International Dungeon Design Contest. An evil vampire priest has taken residence in an ancient chapel, and the characters must set things right. There is a focus on tricks and traps as well as combat in this adventure, and the dungeon has some imaginative features. For example, the gods who originally owned the chapel have sent several warriors to aid the party and embedded them in "living paintings" about the dungeon, waiting to be activated. Mollie previously published an adventure called "The Treasure of Barlawn" in the Judges Guild Journal but does not seem to have done anything else in the field. A great shame.

There is a collection of feature articles on dragons, which seems appropriate for this special occasion! First, "Self defense for dragons" by Gregory Rihn complains that dragons are too weak and gives them a big boost, including the addition of wing and tail attacks. Next, "True dragons" by Lewis Pulsipher presents us with more dragon buffs, granting them special powers such as the ability to change shape and mesmerize. Finally, "Hatching is only the beginning . . ." by Colleen A. Bishop describes how to raise a baby dragon. Good fun!

Robert Plamondon describes a new monster, the "Kzinti," a leonine humanoid invented by writer Larry Niven. It is an excellent article, and it's a shame Plamondon didn't present the Kzinti as a playable race. Meanwhile, in "Don't Look," Lewis Pulsipher offers a sub-system to determine if your character met the eyes of a creature with a gaze attack. A thoughtful design though it may be more complex than many like. We also have "The ups and downs of riding high," where Roger E. Moore presents aerial mount rules, including a nice system of benefits and flaws for the flying creatures themselves.

David F. Nalle (author of Ysgarth) is next up with "The 'Zines," giving potted reviews of eleven small-press fantasy gaming magazines and rating each one out of 10. Let me run through them all.
  • "The Abyss" boasts a "high quality of thought and writing" and scores an 8 (Nalle himself is the editor of this 'zine).
  • "Alarums & Excursions" features "many of the leading thinkers in fantasy gaming" and scores a 7.
  • "The Beholder" has "useful" content and impressive presentation, scoring a 9.
  • "The Lords of Chaos" has quality writers producing "awesomely trivial" material and scores a 5.
  • "Morningstar" is the "major voice" of Australian gaming but also only scores a 5.
  • "Pandemonium" has a lot of "pointless drivel" and scores a 4.
  • "Quick Quincey Gazette" specializes in "quick articles" and scores a 6.
  • "The Stormlord" doesn't deliver much and scores a 5.
  • "Trollcrusher" has "something for every gamer" and scores an 8.
  • "The Wild Hunt" is for the "experienced DM" and scores a 7.
  • Finally, "Zeppelin" covers a "broad range of games" and scores a 7.
This article was a fun read and made me want to look up some of these old zines. Sadly, Dave Nalle passed away earlier this year.

The final feature is "The Glyphs of Cerilon" by Larry DiTillio, a celebrated writer famous for the incomparable "Masks of Nyarlathotep" campaign. This article is just superb, presenting a whole range of new warding glyphs, each with a name, an icon, and an interesting effect. Top shelf content.

On to the regular columns! Glen Rahman brings us another edition of "Minarian Legends," this time describing the land of Zorn and its goblin inhabitants. In "Up on a Soapbox," Thomas Griffith has several suggestions to make D&D games run smoothly. I can't say I agree with all of his principles, such as a DM should never change their decisions. And in "Bazaar of the Bizarre," Mark Corrington brings us a new artifact, Barlithian's Mystical Mirror. It felt a little weak for an artifact, in my view.

"Dragon's Augury" reviews two new games. The Fury of the Norsemen by Metagamming is "fast-playing and fun," while The Morrow Project by Timeline, Inc presents a "less futuristic and more realistic alternative" to the Gamma World RPG. "Dragon's Bestiary" has a single new monster for D&D, the giant vampire frog by Alan Fomorin. It's quirky but accompanied by great art.

"The Electric Eye" by Mark Herro shares a guide for buying a home computer. I seem to recall they've published a couple of similar articles before, and it feels like this column is running out of steam. Finally, "Simulation Corner" by John Prados discusses the ongoing consolidation of smaller wargaming companies and suggests what is needed to survive in the current economic climate.

Carl Lundgren painted this month's excellent cover. Interior artists include D. R. Elliott, Corinna Taylor, Bruce Whitefield, Susan Collins, John A. Morgan, David de-Leuw, Will McLean, Roger Raupp, Chuck Vadun, Dexter Pratt, John D. Olson, Mark Corrington, Phil Foglio, Kenneth Rahman, J. D. Webster, John Hart, and David Trampier.

And that's a wrap! It was a fantastic issue and worthy of the occasion. There were several highlights, but my favorite article was "Glyphs of Cerilon." Next month, we have a Traveller special, zero-level characters, and a new Tom Wham game!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

Rabulias

Hero
Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 50 in June 1981. It is 80 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the International Dungeon Design Contest winner, powerful new magic from an acclaimed writer, and a review of fantasy 'zines!
Dragon was fully into its groove here, and that would continue for a number of years to come, IMO. The first issue of Dragon I bought off the rack was issue 63, but I was able to find this issue (and some other back issues) in a comic book shop on an out of town visit. I remember being delighted at my find!
There is a collection of feature articles on dragons, which seems appropriate for this special occasion!
The tradition of the June issue's focus on dragons (that begins here) would continue for the rest of Dragon's print run I believe.
 



Larry DiTillio's animation CV has to be one of the best a child of the 80s could imagine. Still blows my mind a little that he was also an RPG writer.

The final feature is "The Glyphs of Cerilon" by Larry DiTillio, a celebrated writer famous for the incomparable "Masks of Nyarlathotep" campaign He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, and The Real Ghostbusters. This article is just superb, presenting a whole range of new warding glyphs, each with a name, an icon, and an interesting effect. Top shelf content.

Old RPG zines are such neat, idiosyncratic glimpses into how other gamers did things. I love the rough around the edges art and layout you see in older zines. I'm glad to see that we're coming back around to that style of product, as evidenced by Exalted Funeral, for example.

This article was a fun read and made me want to look up some of these old zines. Sadly, Dave Nalle passed away earlier this year.
 




Quickleaf

Legend
Thank you for these excellent writeups, M.T. :) I don't have issue #50, and now I really want to track it down just for the Glyphs of Cerilon article. I'm always trying to do creative twists whenever I put a glyph of warding in one of my dungeons, like having them radiate magic in a 20-foot-radius so it's impossible to tell where the precise source of the magic is, but then the glyph glows in darkness making it visible to the naked eye if the party extinguish their torches. More creativity there is very welcome! Thanks for the cool find!
 


Quickleaf

Legend
My pleasure, Aaron, and it's nice to hear from you again. It's been a while!
Indeed it has! I moved back to San Diego and have been immersed in architecture, and a little humbled this past year. So I haven’t been as active on the forums

To stay gaming I’ve actually been running one-shot adaptations of Chris Perkins’ old Dungeon adventures for complete strangers over Discord, and so far it’s been a blast.

Would be great to catch up with you. I’ll reach out. ☺️
 


griffon8

Explorer
Along with #46 & #48, this was the first issue I bought. The beginning of an unbroken run of purchases, eventually a subscription to it. Lot of memories packed in this and upcoming issues.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Thanks, good article and a good issue. Upcoming number 51 was a favorite of mine, and I look forward to it, including the Marc Miller milk bottle :D
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
Along with #46 & #48, this was the first issue I bought. The beginning of an unbroken run of purchases, eventually a subscription to it. Lot of memories packed in this and upcoming issues.
Agreed. Nostalgia can be great about so many things, but D&D nostalgia is especially warm, I think, because it overlays with the kind of story-telling that made “real world” myths, legends and fairy tales so powerful.
 

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