Dragon Reflections #61

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 61 in May 1982. It is 84 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have new cantrips, new weapons, and a new D&D adventure!

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Jake Jaquet has some big news in this month's editorial: TSR is acquiring the wargame manufacturer SPI and the AMAZING Stories periodical. With revenue doubling every year, TSR had the cash to expand. Sadly, it turned out that both businesses were in decline, and TSR did not have the skills to turn them around.

This month's special attraction is "Quest for the Midas Orb" by Jennie Good, which was the third-place winner in the second International Dungeon Design Contest. This adventure has some creative encounters but is overly verbose. Matters are not helped by an unconventional layout, with the room numbers embedded in free-flowing text rather than having numbered paragraphs. So far as I can see, Good did not publish anything else in the industry.

Roger Moore presents another entry in his series on demi-humans, this time featuring gnomes. "The Gnomish Point of View" describes their sociology, drawing on sources such as Poul Anderson and Clifford D. Simak. "The Gods of the Gnomes" presents four gnomish deities, including Segojan Earthcaller and Urdlen, the Crawler Below (who happens to figure prominently in my current Calimshan campaign). These articles prefigure the splat-books that would dominate the industry in the 90s.

"Without any weapons..." by Phil Meyers defines yet another set of unarmed combat rules. "...or with a weird one" by Rory Bowman describes unconventional new weapons for D&D, such as the atlatl and the tonfa. The author did a competent job, though it's unclear whether the new weapons add any value to the game aside from a bit of color.

There is a one-page advertorial for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Cards. These are playing card sized and have a color picture of monsters on one side and statistics on the back. Monster cards remain popular down to the modern day.

A few short articles wrap up the feature section. "The winnah: Father Time!" is a set of aging rules for Brian Blume's Ringside, a boxing game published in Dragon #38. The author was Mark Schumann, who later did work for R. Talsorian Games. "Jo-Ga-Oh" provides D&D game stats for the "little people" of the Iroquois. Finally, "Special Knowledge and a bureau for Infiltrators" by Gary Gygax offers new options for Top Secret.

On to the regular offerings! "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" by Gary Gygax describes eight illusionist cantrips. Some are relatively powerful, such as Rainbow, which can effectively stun a creature for half a round.

"Giants in the Earth" gives us a description and game statistics for C. J. Cutliffe Hyne's Deucalion, John Norman's Tarl Cabot, and Charles R. Saunders' Dossouye. These characters are a little more obscure than some previously featured in this column!

"Dragon's Bestiary" has four new creatures this month. The firetail by Ed Greenwood is a worm-like creature of living flame. The umbrae by Theresa Berger is a shadowy creature that can only be attacked by another shadow. The light worm by Willie Callison is essentially a snake that can create magic lights. Finally, the tybor by Jeff Brandit is a brilliant, flightless bird. Not a particularly inspiring set of creatures, but the tybor is my favorite.

"Dragon's Augury" reviews two games. Hitler's War by Metagaming is "highly recommended." Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium is "a good game for experienced role-playing gamers and ambitious judges." However, the reviewer recommends new roleplayers "wait on this game until they have more experience."

"Off the Shelf" has capsule reviews for seven books. Fall Into Darkness by Nicholas Yermakov Berkley is a "tight, finished work by an author making his debut." The Deadliest Show In Town by Mike McQuay is "good mystery writing... good science fiction and social commentary as well." The Claw Of The Conciliator by Gene Wolfe is "destined to be a classic."

The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe by Douglas Adams "should be on everyone's 'don't miss' list." The Book Of Philip Jose Farmer is "a masterful collection." Durandal by Harold Lamb is "filled with epic battles, court intrigue, dark motives, and all of the other flags of good pulp fantasy." Finally, Beneath An Opal Moon by Eric Van Lustbader is "great fun to read."

This month's cover is by Susan Collins. Interior artists include Harry Quinn, Steve Peregrine, Jack Crane, Roger Raupp, Mary Hanson-Roberts, Bruce Whitefield, Paul Sonju, Phil Foglio, Jim Holloway, and Dave Trampier.

And that's a wrap! The highlight for me was Gygax's collection of illusionist cantrips. Next month, we have lots of dragons, a new Top Secret adventure, and "Pages from the Mages" makes its debut!

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

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Great stuff as always and thanks for this.

“Obscure” certainly is right. Wow. I’ve never heard of those characters.

Yay we’re getting up to where I started my collection soon.


5ever, or until 2024
I have some of those monster cards! And didn't miss Restaurant at the End of the Universe or CoC, which, fortunately, was not my first RPG.

Lord Shark

Great stuff as always and thanks for this.

“Obscure” certainly is right. Wow. I’ve never heard of those characters.

Tarl Cabot is the main protagonist of the infamous BDSM-fantasy Gor novels. This write-up inspired a running argument in the Dragon letters page because it gave Tarl an evil alignment.

Dossouye is interesting because she's an African warrior woman inspired by the historical Dahomey Amazons, similar to Black Panther's Dora Milaje or the recent movie The Woman King. Saunders's books about Dossouye and his other character, Imaro (think "What if Conan were a Masai?") are well worth reading. Especially since they're written by an African-American author who's well-versed in African geography and cultures, so you don't get the shallow, cliched treatment a lot of swords and sorcery writers give to Africa.

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