Dragon Reflections #64

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 64 in August 1982. It is 84 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have Planet Busters, Angels, and Sumo Wrestlers!


In the editorial, Jake Jacquet discusses the recent collapse of wargame manufacturer Simulations Publications, Inc (SPI). There were industry reports that TSR had purchased SPI, but Jacquet denies this. Instead, he says TSR made a loan to SPI, secured by the company's game assets. When SPI collapsed and defaulted on the loan, TSR acquired these assets. Jacquet stresses that TSR did not acquire SPI's liabilities, especially "unfulfilled magazine subscriptions." TSR's subsequent failure to honor these subscriptions greatly angered SPI fans and was probably a significant cause of the failure of the new line within TSR.

This month's special attraction is Planet Busters, a science fiction game by Tom Wham and Jim Ward. It is the distant future and players battle for control of the solar system by melding cards from a draw pile. The rules are simple, while the art is quirky and cute. It looks like a fun game, and Troll Lord released a boxed version a few years ago.

Let's look at the other features. First, "The Assassins' Guild" by Elizabeth Cerritelli and Lynda Bisson provides a detailed description of the titular organization, including a well-crafted set of "Assassin's Laws." Complementing this is "The Assassin's Run" by Ed Greenwood, a one-on-one gauntlet-style AD&D adventure that anticipates Greenwood's own Blue Alley, published a few years later. Within a couple of years, TSR would infamously drop the assassin class altogether.

Regular contributor Jon Mattson brings us "Robots: Mechanical sidekicks for TRAVELLER players." It certainly filled a gap, as it was another four years before GDW released an official book on robots--although the Journal of the Travellers Aid Society had published some material on the subject a few years earlier.

"The Next-to-Last Mistake" by Paul McHugh is a short story about love and betrayal at a renaissance fair. The writing is better than much of the pulp fare we've had in Dragon, but the pace was a bit slow for me. McHugh has not done anything else in the RPG field.

In "Why gamers get together," Ken Rolston extolls the virtues of gaming conventions. Most of his reasons are obvious and relate to meeting other gamers and learning new games/techniques. Rolston had already accrued credits on Chaosium games like Runequest and Superworld, and he was about to enjoy great success writing on the Paranoia line for West End Games.

Finally, "Champion Sumo Wrestling" is a one-page sumo wrestling game by Brian Blume, one of TSR's owners. The game gives the players some interesting decisions, with the optimal choice depending upon factors such as weight, agility, and speed. For example, if you are fast and your opponent is light, an opening charge has an excellent chance of pushing them over. But an agile opponent could anticipate this and step aside, which would itself have a high probability of succeeding. It's a surprisingly subtle little game.

On to the regular offerings! In "From the Sorcerer's Scroll," Gary Gygax shares a collection of new weapons from the upcoming Unearthed Arcana book. He wryly acknowledges that Rory Bowman already supplied unofficial stats for some of these weapons back in issue #61, which is what prompted him to bring these to print.

"Featured Creatures" is another Gygax column, focused on monsters from the forthcoming Monster Manual II. This month he shares statistics for the angelic planetar and solar, which are both now staples of the game.

We have yet another Gygax offering with "Greyhawk's World," a single-page article with AD&D statistics for Raxivort, god of the Xvarts and lord of rats and bats. There's a fun backstory describing how Raxivort used to serve a demon lord but tried to wrest control of an Abyssal layer from him before escaping to Pandemonium.

In "Giants of the Earth," Roger E. Moore presents statistics for Tanith Lee's Myal Lemyal and two folk heroes: John Henry and Finn MacCumhal. The vignettes are nicely written, as is typical of the Moore columns.

Sage Advice is back with all sorts of questions about Dungeons & Dragons. This exchange surprised me:

Q. What is the chance for climbing walls, etc., for non-thieves?

A. The same chance thieves have of knowing spells or possessing 18/00 strength: none.

"Dragon's Augury" has two game reviews. First, OGRE/G.E.V. by Steve Jackson Sames offers "exciting and interesting play." Meanwhile, Worlds of Wonder by Chaosium is "well worth exploring for both the novice and the experienced rolegamer."

This month's "Off the Shelf" has nine book reviews and includes some classics. Timescape has reprinted The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, a book that "sparked one of the most popular continuing epic series in the genre." The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak is "greatly enjoyable." Honeymoon in Hell, an anthology by Fredric Brown, is "the perfect book for those who like their fiction in bite size pieces." And The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov is "infinitely better than his longer works."

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) by Philip K. Dick is "one of the best science fiction novels ever written, and worthy of everyone's attention." Outward Bound by Juanita Coulson is written with "a sure, modernistic hand." Castaways in Time by Robert Adams is "one of his best." Unfortunately, Warlock's Gift by Ardath Mayhar is "boring" and "crammed with little confusions." Finally, Elephant Song by Barry B. Longyear is "a sad book, one without easy answers or much happiness."

This months' cover is by Tim Hildebrandt, and interior illustrations are by Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, Steve Swenston, Steve Peregrine, David Larson, Roger Raupp, Phil Foglio, Tom Wham, and David Trampier.

And that's a wrap! It's a substantial issue, though lacking a stand-out article. If forced to choose, I'd pick the sumo wrestling game as my favorite. Next month, we have fantasy football, character classes teased, and new dragons!

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

Genghis Don

ok, the assassin article is ok, for what it is, but naw, I came up with as much or better w/o it. The specific guild rules/example are not at all my cup of tea/a bit silly

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