Dragon Reflections #69

Dragon Publishing released Dragon #69 in January 1983

Dragon Publishing released Dragon #69 in January 1983. It is 103 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have runes, the thief-acrobat, and a complete board game!


In a brief editorial, Kim Mohan defends Dragon's editorial independence, which has come under fire since publishing several recent "opinionated" articles by Gary Gygax. Mohan says giving Gygax such a platform is justified because of his prominent position in the roleplaying industry.

This month's special attraction is a war game called Arrakhar's Wand by C.C. Stoll. One player controls a good wizard seeking to retrieve a wand stolen by an evil sorcerer, who the other player controls. The wizard is allied with dwarves, elves, and barbarians, while the sorcerer is allied with demons, orcs, and ghouls. It is a conventional hex-based wargame with cardstock chits and a Combat Results Table. Nothing special, but good value since it was included as a freebie. Stoll would later create several other board games for Dragon.

There is a special section on runes. The first article, by Phil Taterczynski and Roger Raupp, is a general introduction to runes, explaining their origin, characteristics, and varieties. It suggests they can be used in RPGs for coded messages, inscriptions on weapons and armor, or as a substitute for material components in spell casting. It's a solid piece, though I wish they'd taken a more imaginative approach to rune magic. Raupp was an artist whose work later appeared in many games.

In "Runestones," Ed Greenwood introduces the Dwarvish script of Dethek via a conversation with Elminster. It's a nice article that sows some adventure seeds along the way. Wrapping up this section, "Be Quest" is a short piece of fiction by Atanielle Annyn Noël about a young man with a unique skill--he is the only one in his household who can read runes. Noël went on to write several books, including The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth.

We have another piece of fiction, "Everybody Eats Everybody on Sunday's Planet" by Jeff Swycaffer. It's a comedic story about a fugitive who seeks to dominate an alien species but comes under its influence instead. Swycaffer wrote numerous articles for Dragon and later published many science fiction novels and short stories.

Ed Greenwood is back with another instalment of "Pages from the Mages," introducing several more spell books, including the famous Magister. "Castles by Carroll" by Mike Carroll presents Wawel Castle in Poland. And "Weapon Statistics" by Merle Rasmussen clarifies and corrects some weapon rules in the Top Secret game.

In "Charting the Classes," Roger E. Moore discusses whether the AD&D classes are balanced. Based on a mathematical analysis, he makes several suggestions, such as slowing druid progression and increasing monk hit points.

Moore has another article, this one called "Caped Crusaders and Masked Marvels." In it, he discusses the unique characteristics of superhero RPGs, such as the near immortality of the characters and their ethical constraints.

Finally, in "Ready for Anything!" Lewis Pulsipher suggests a slew of handy items that characters should carry when adventuring. It includes obvious suggestions such as crowbars, candles, and chalk but also has some unusual ideas, such as squirt guns made of wineskins and freshly killed rats! I always enjoy articles on this topic, and this one is excellent.

On to the regular offerings! In "From the Sorcerer's Scroll," Gary Gygax presents a new class, the thief-acrobat. This concept was popular with readers, and he included the class in Unearthed Arcana and featured it in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. In a postscript, Gygax notes that TSR plans to employ an additional 160 people over the coming year, including designers, developers, editors, and many other positions.

Continuing with Gygax, he shares statistics for Istus and Obad-Hai in "Deities & Demigods of Greyhawk." And his "Featured Creatures" column describes the brain-like ustilagor and the fungoid zygon.

Len Lakofka returns with "Leomund's Tiny Hut" and presents a new NPC class, the Entertainer. It includes three subclasses, the Juggler, the Acrobat, and the Troubadour. The class looks too weak to appeal to players, but I could see it being used for a henchman.

"Dragon's Augury" includes two game reviews this month.

United Nations by Yaquinto Publications offers players a chance to experience international politics. Players become superpowers vying for world control, with gameplay based on bluffing, feinting, and strategy. The game is simple, engaging, and thought-provoking, incorporating recognizable elements of the UN's operations. Reviewer Tony Watson notes, "United Nations is a mechanically simple, yet surprisingly challenging game... just the ticket for three or four aspiring world dictators."

Jasmine: The Battle for the Mid-Realm by Jasmine Publications is a fantasy card game based on a comic strip by Darlene, who is most famous for the original Greyhawk maps. Each player represents a warring faction with unique strengths, aiming to collect magical items and control the last standing castle. Reviewer Merle Rasmussen concludes, "The game may be a bit much for beginning fantasy gamers, but strategists will love it... [it] incorporates a few old ideas with many new ones to create a fresh approach in card gaming."

Finally, Lewis Pulsipher brings us the next part of his "The Role of Books" column, looking at texts that will help budding world-builders.

Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Frances Gies is a comprehensive, informative resource for understanding 13th-century urban life. Life in a Medieval Castle, by the same authors, focuses on feudalism and the rural existence outside city walls.

Pulsipher also recommends a series of juvenile books by David Macaulay, beginning with Castle, which offers a visually rich journey into the construction and operation of a typical medieval fortress. Next up, City details the establishment of a Roman settlement, highlighting surprising elements like the presence of snack bars. Finally, Pyramid demystifies the Egyptian marvels, emphasizing that "ingenuity and immense amounts of hard work" could indeed create such astonishing structures.

This month's cover was by Clyde Caldwell. Other artists include Jim Holloway, Roger Raupp, Larry Elmore, Mike Carroll, Phil Foglio, Jeff Easley, Dave Trampier, and Timothy Truman.

And that's a wrap! There was lots of good content in this issue, with my favorite article being Pulsipher's "Ready for Anything!" Next month, we have tournament tips, firearms, and a new AD&D adventure!

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M.T. Black

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