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Dragon Reflections #75

In this issue, we have the ecology of the mimic, logical language lessons, and an introduction to the Nine Hells!

Dragon Publishing released Dragon #75 in July 1983. It is 100 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the ecology of the mimic, logical language lessons, and an introduction to the Nine Hells!


This month's special attraction is "Can Seapoint Be Saved?" by Bob Waldbauer, and it is the winner of the aquatic category in the 1982 Dungeon Design Competition. Seapoint is a booming trade port, but this prosperity is threatened when merchant ships begin to disappear. The town council hires the adventurers to follow the clues, which lead to a mage and his pet dragon turtle. I like the premise, and the maps are excellent, but some poor keying lets down the adventure.

"The Ecology of the Mimic" continues the series with a description of this famous monster. Ed Greenwood wrote this entry, which is the best of the lot so far. It drops the jokey tone and focuses on information that Dungeon Masters will find genuinely useful.

Greenwood has another article, "The Nine Hells Part I," and it is a recognized classic. It describes the first five levels of hell (Avernus, Dis, Minauros, Phlegethos, and Stygia) and over twenty high-ranking devils. This article certainly laid the foundation for the modern D&D conception of hell and arguably served as a template for all the outer planes. To my mind, this is Dragon magazine at its best.

"Mutants, Men(?), and Machines" is a collection of Gamma World creatures by Roger Moore. These include Hydragen, a giant snake with multiple heads; Raydium, a flying manta ray with telekinesis; Cycloptron, a human descendant with a disintegrating touch; Cyber-Netter, a sophisticated robot equipped with a web weapon; and Nitrodjinn, an energy-based nocturnal being. I found these too obvious, but they were no doubt fun at the table.

Lew Pulsipher shares several pages of advice for new DMs in "Beyond the Rule Book." He divides his tips between procedural advice and style advice. Procedural advice includes things like "Tell players how you've changed the rules" and "Don't pursue a vendetta." Style advice includes things like "Let the players gain abilities at the slowest rate which maintains their interest in the game" and "Don't allow anachronisms." It is generally solid guidance from someone who has invested many hours at the game table.

There are two articles related to language. In "All Games Need Names," Katharine Kerr discusses the importance of creating meaningful and culturally consistent names by designing partial fantasy languages. In "Even Orcish is Logical," Clyde Heaton demonstrates how decisions about phonetics, grammar, and vocabulary can reflect a fictional culture. These articles contain practical advice for serious world builders.

I don't typically mention the comics in these columns, but it's worth noting that this issue debuts Larry Elmore's long-running "SnarfQuest" strip. It is beautifully drawn and proved to be very popular with fans.

Let's move on to the regular offerings! In "From the Sorceror's Scroll," Gary Gygax provides statistics for a dozen new devils and lists many more that will appear in the upcoming Monster Manual II. This material complements Greenwood's article nicely and means this issue contained stats for nearly 40 monsters!

This month has two game reviews. Runequest Companion by Chaosium offers a mix of articles, stories, and adventures for $8.00. It provides detailed background on Glorantha's regions, races, and histories, including a detective story set in the fantasy world. Reviewer Ken Rolston states, "For Runequest players, this package is a must-buy, both for its utility and its entertainment value."

The Solomani Rim by Game Designers' Workshop is the tenth supplement for the Traveller game system. For $3.98, you get detailed subsector maps and a comprehensive history, including the rise of the Terrans and the Solomani Rim War. Reviewer Tony Watson notes, "If your Traveller campaign has somehow managed to exhaust the opportunities presented in the Spinward Marches, or a change of venue just sounds like a good idea, The Solomani Rim should prove valuable."

There are a pair of book reviews by Mike Lowery. Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters delves into the psychological aspects of RPGs, portraying them as a problematic obsession for university students. John Coyne's Hobgoblin also features RPGs and is about a student's struggles to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Neither book is sympathetic to our hobby.

Jack Crane designed this month's cover. Interior artists include Phil Foglio, Roger Raupp, Dave Trampier, and Larry Elmore.

And that's a wrap! This issue has some fantastic content, with Greenwood's article on hell being the highlight. In the next issue, we have more on the Nine Hells, the ecology of the beholder, and the Dragon magazine index!

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M.T. Black

M.T. Black

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I dig these Jack Crane covers. As a kid, I was perplexed by them, but as an adult, I love the whimsy they bring.

Ed Greenwood's Nine Hells article is great - it's also fascinating to see the early conception of the Nine Hells minus the Blood War. But in 1983, in the midst of the Satanic Panic, this was one of the many bold moves TSR made, practically courting controversy.

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