Dragon Reflections #65

Dragon Publishing released Dragon issue 65 in September 1982. It is 84 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have fantasy football, timelords, and Star Frontiers!

Drmg065_Page_01.jpg

This month, we have a guest editorial by Gary Gygax. It is essentially a history of the rivalry between Gen Con and the Origins Game Fair. Gygax complains that Origins was created to "teach TSR where we belonged." He refuses to join GAMA (the Game Manufacturers Association, which sponsored Origins) because its members refuse to support Gen Con. He says the battle lines are now drawn "...between TSR and the remainder of the industry." Gygax urges his readers to boycott Origins and support Gen Con. It is hard to feel much sympathy for Gygax here. His complaints against GAMA are vague and unsubstantiated, and it feels more like resentment at Origins' evident success.

This month's special attraction is a board game titled "Monsters of the Midway." It's a fantasy-themed American football game with teams populated by AD&D monsters. It's a fun idea that pre-dates the similar but far more famous Blood Bowl by about four years. The game was designed by Gali Sanchez, who worked for TSR and later for Pacesetter Games.

The first of the other features is "Blastoff!" by Steve Winter, which introduces TSR's new Star Frontiers game. It includes a rather fascinating history of the game's design. The initial target audience was hard-core science fiction fans, but after the explosion of interest in RPGs in the early 80s, they greatly simplified it to appeal to those new to roleplaying. It seems plain that TSR intended to create a Traveller-like game before this pivot. In any event, Star Frontiers soon became the industry's top-selling science fiction RPG and kept that position until West End Games released Star Wars in 1987.

Christopher M. Townsend brings us "Weapons Wear Out, Not Skills," describing a weapon proficiency system for AD&D. Gygax published his own weapon proficiency/specialization rules in Unearthed Arcana about three years later. Unfortunately, this appears to be Townsend's only RPG credit.

"The Missing Dragons" by Richard Alan Lloyd describes the yellow, orange, and purple dragons. The creatures are competently designed, and the yellow and purple dragons were eventually codified in AD&D second edition. I can find no other RPG work by Lloyd.

"Timelords" by Lewis Pulsipher presents an NPC class of time manipulators. They have an array of temporal powers allowing them to slow enemies, catch glimpses of the past, and skip forward in time. The design shows evidence of careful thought, and there's a genuine attempt to help the DM manage the challenges presented by time-traveling creatures.

Pulsipher has another article, this one entitled "War!" He notes that alignment in D&D, though often criticized, sets the stage for various conflicts in the game, ultimately giving the characters a reason to go adventuring. He then outlines several broad categories of conflict that could affect a fantasy world, such as religious war, political struggle, etc.

"Tuatha De Danaan" by Robin Emrys Atkinson presents a revised Celtic mythos for use in the D&D game. The author intended to correct several errors and over-simplifications of the Celtic mythos described by Deities & Demigods. Unfortunately, this article is the only credit I can find for Atkinson.

In "Law of the Land," Ed Greenwood discusses the importance of creating a realistic legal system in your fantasy world. It is a detailed piece highlighting many considerations, but it is far from my favorite Greenwood article.

Finally, James Thompson brings us "The Pong Papers" for the Top Secret game. Purportedly written by a master assassin, they divulge the various secrets of his craft. These look like helpful tips for players of Top Secret, who often engage in infiltration missions.

On to the regular offerings! In "From the Sorcerer's Scroll," Gygax teases several new subclasses he plans to add to AD&D: the Mystic, Cavalier, Savant, Mountebank, and Acrobat. He also plans to add a new full class called the Jester. As it happened, Gygax added only the Cavalier (as a full class) and the Acrobat (as a thief subclass) before he left TSR. Some of these other subclasses have remained a holy grail for creators, with unofficial versions appearing over the years.

In "Greyhawk's World," Rob Kuntz describes the latest political and military events in the titular world, focusing on the Spindrift Isles. Len Lakofka is back with "Leomund's Tiny Hut," discussing shield and armor quality. He presents what later editions called a "masterwork" system. Quite crunchy, which is typical Lakofka.

In "Featured Creatures," Gygax shares stats for the Baku and Phoenix. The baku, a psionic elephant-like creature, was last seen in AD&D second edition, but the phoenix has become a staple monster.

Lewis Pulsipher has a third article in the magazine! In "Up on a Soapbox," he describes two game-playing styles. The Classical player focuses on eliminating errors, minimizing risks, and making careful gains. In contrast, the Romantic player looks for opportunities for big gains, takes substantial risks, and aims for a flamboyant win.

"Dragon's Augury" reviews three computer games, two RPG adventures, and a board game. Wizardry by Sir-tech Software is "a bargain at its price and not easily beaten or solved." By contrast, Akalabeth by California Pacific is "a poor cousin in relation to Wizardry and some of the other recent roleplaying computer games." Meanwhile, Crash, Crumble, and Chomp by Automated Simulations is "satisfying" and "fun to play."

The Chamax Plague/Horde by GDW is a double adventure for Traveller. It is "made for order" for those looking for something "exciting and harrowing," and "should leave no Traveller ref dissatisfied." Finally, Empire Builder by Mayfair is "the best boardgame to come out in a long time."

This month's cover is by Clyde Caldwell, and it is a personal favorite. Other artists include Mary Hanson-Roberts, Jim Holloway, Larry Elmore, David Larson, Jeff Easley, Phil Foglio, Ray Williams, David Trampier, Paul Sonju, Edward Atwood, and Roger Raupp.

And that's a wrap! Lots of content in this one, with my favorite article being Winter's about the development of Star Frontiers. Next issue, we have thieves' cant, illusions, and ElfQuest!
 

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black







Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Akalabeth by California Pacific is "a poor cousin in relation to Wizardry and some of the other recent roleplaying computer games."
Akalabeth is effectively Ultima 0. It's Richard "Lord British" Garriott's first game and, yeah, it's an extremely crude version of what Wizardry did much better.

He abandoned the simple not-really ray-traced graphics of Akalabeth when he returned to the same world in Ultima I two years later. The series, starting with Ultima II, went on to be a giant hit and led to a franchise that includes the first big MMO, Ultima Online, which still remains online today.
 

Thanatis

Explorer
Akalabeth is effectively Ultima 0. It's Richard "Lord British" Garriott's first game and, yeah, it's an extremely crude version of what Wizardry did much better.

He abandoned the simple not-really ray-traced graphics of Akalabeth when he returned to the same world in Ultima I two years later. The series, starting with Ultima II, went on to be a giant hit and led to a franchise that includes the first big MMO, Ultima Online, which still remains online today.
I saw it on an Apple II and, looking back on that childhood memory...the nostalgia is powerful. Also, Wizardry...SO many hours. Murasama Blade!
 


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