Dragon Reflections #51

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 51 in July 1981. It is 100 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have rules for paladins, the winged folk race, and lots of Traveller!

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Editor Kim Mohan kicks off the issue with a sort of apology. Just after they finished putting together this month's magazine, they received the latest issue of The Space Gamer and discovered that it was also doing a big Traveller special. So Mohan wants to assure folks that Dragon Publishing isn't just copying its rivals! There are seven Traveller articles in all here, and we'll look at each one.

"Make your own aliens" by Roger E. Moore contains a stack of alien generation tables. They are good, though I would have liked a more extensive selection of special abilities. "Plotting a course for choosy players" by Jeff Swycaffer is a variant character generation system that gives players more choice over skill selection. Designer Marc Miller has a tongue-in-cheek article called "The Miller Milk Bottle," which describes the use of milk bottles in the Traveller universe. Finally, we have four pieces by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh. "New ideas for old ships" is a set of ship customization tables. "In defense of computers" justifies the high cost of computers in the game. "Planet parameters" gives additional stats for new planets. And finally, "Masers & Cameras" are two new fit-out options for your ship.

This month's special attraction is a Tom Wham game called Search for the Emperor's Treasure. The art is fun, and the game seems fondly remembered by many people. I like the game board as well!

We have a lot of other features in this packed issue. "The Winged Folk" by William Lenox presents a new demi-human race, and it is well-executed with lots of great detail. New playable races were rare in the pages of Dragon, perhaps because Gygax explicitly discouraged them. Lenox appears to have done little else in the field of RPGs.

"The Worshippers of Ratar" is a new cult for RuneQuest, written by Eric Robinson. Meanwhile, "A new breed of bug" by Ben Crowell provides an additional type of unit for Metagaming's Chitin.

"It's not easy being good" by Roger E. Moore and "Thou shalt play this way" by Robert J. Bezold are both articles prescribing limits around the behavior of paladins. I remember that these articles profoundly influenced my game when I first read them, especially Moore's contention that paladins would not associate with evil characters. It so happened that our lawful good paladin, Elric, was good pals with Zyx, the party's chaotic evil magic-user. I told the players something had to change, and Elric sadly got the chop. As we all know, paladins no longer need to be lawful good in the modern game!

The final feature, "A part of the game" by Darrell Schweitzer, is a piece of atmospheric, though rather ponderous, fiction. Schweitzer was (and is) a prolific author of speculative fiction.

On to the regular columns! Glen Rahman brings us another edition of "Minarian Legends," this time describing the story of Schardenzar, a young man who overcame many misfortunes to achieve immortal fame. And in "Leoumnd's Tiny Hut," Len Lakofka presents a flavorful system for zero-level characters; is this the first such system published for Dungeons & Dragons?

"The Electric Eye" by Mark Herro returns, this time with a survey asking what readers would like to see in future columns--surely not a good sign! Meanwhile, "The Rasmussen Files" presents a series of college courses and other training that Top Secret agents can undertake to increase their skills.

"Dragon's Bestiary" describes two new monsters for D&D. We have the troll-like Dark Dweller by Mark Cummings and the Piranha Bat by David Dougher. I wish they'd provided art for the latter!

"Dragon's Augury" reviews four science fiction games this month. First, Triplanetary by GDW is "marvellously well-conceived," while Traders & Gunboats, also by GDW, is "an interesting and useful supplement for Traveller." We also have Ley Sector by Judges Guild, which contains "imaginative encounter charts." Finally, Tethys and Fenris by FASA are "good candidates" for Traveller referees looking for new ship designs.

Susan Collins painted this month's striking cover. Interior artist credits include Kenneth Rahman, Gail Gierahn, Phil Foglio, Roger Raupp, Mason Jones, Todd Lockwood, Tom Mason, Paul Jaquays, Bruce Whitefield, Tom Wham, J. D. Webster, Darlene Pekul, David Trampier, and David Sutherland.

And that's a wrap! The highlight for me was Moore's article on paladins, which was also selected for Best of Dragon Vol 3. Next month, we have a Gamma World scenario, a feature on clerics, and the new D&D Basic Set!

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

One of the things I loved about the Dragon was its coverage of non TSR games. Traveller had its own mag (JTAS) but articles about it were always welcome. This was definitely a good issue in a string of good issues...


Moderator Emeritus
I had that Winged Folk article in a "Best of Dragon" collection - man everyone at one point or another wanted to play one.


Frumious Flumph (Your Grace/Your Eminence)
I loved the dark dwellers. They were basically trolls, but intelligent and with a strong metalworking craft. I think they're a good fit for a campaign where the PCs are having too easy a time of it, but unfortunately they don't have a lot of cultural details described -- an issue with many humanoids in the game.

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