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Dragon Reflections #76

Dragon Publishing released Dragon #76 in August 1983. It is 100 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the ecology of the beholder, more on the Nine Hells, and the Dragon magazine index!

Dragon Publishing released Dragon #76 in August 1983. It is 100 pages long and has a cover price of $3.00. In this issue, we have the ecology of the beholder, more on the Nine Hells, and the Dragon magazine index!

Drmg076_Page_001.jpg


This month's special attraction is the Dragon magazine index, which lists every article from issues #1 through #74 as well as the 7 issues of The Strategic Review, the small publication that preceded Dragon. The articles are divided into categories such as Magic Items (New), Alignment, and Dungeon Mastering (Theory and Method). Unfortunately, there is no index by author name, but what they've presented is very useful.

Ed Greenwood and Roger E. Moore combine to bring us "The Ecology of the Beholder." It contains valuable information on the habitat, diet, behavior, and abilities of these feared creatures. It also describes potential strategies a party might use against them and clarifies several related rules. It's a quality article.

Greenwood also brings us "The Nine Hells Part II," which describes the layers of Malbolge, Maladomini, Caina, and Nessus and also supplies statistics and descriptions for another 20 high-ranking devils. There are some wonderful descriptions, such as:
Nothing grows in Malbolge. It is a plane of craggy, tumbled black stone and ash, filled with stinking vapors, smoke, fire pits, and huge caves and caverns. The air is always hot and choking... Malbolge is a noisy place, populated by tormented lemures, malebranche, and occasional spined and styx devils, all of whom suffer at the hands of the cruel Baalzebul.
"Saved by the cavalry!" describes the US Army in the 1870's and explains how you can integrate it into your Boot Hill game. It is reminiscent of the background articles that Dragon carried in earlier days when it was catering to war gamers. The author, Carl Smith, was an editor at TSR and later worked for Pacesetter.

"Page advice: How to get published" is subtitled "Questions and answers from the TSR Acquisitions Department." It answers such questions as "What is the best way to approach TSR with a game or module?" and "What product types would you like to see more of?" There is no byline, but Jon Pickens, who ran the Acquisitions Department, is the most likely author.

Let's move on to the regular offerings! In "Leomund's Tiny Hut," Len Lakofka describes a new class called "The Death Master." It is essentially a necromancer; it gains experience by robbing graves and can animate skeletons and zombies from a low level. Len insists this is an "NPC only" class, but I'm sure many players utilized it.

"Sage Advice" returns after a couple of issues absence, and presents several pages of Q&A. The following caught my eye because I know how often it confused people:
Q. What does the inch sign (") mean in reference to distances and length?
A. When discussing height or small items, it means inches. When discussing spell ranges, missile ranges, and spell areas of effect indoors, it means 1" = 10 feet. When discussing spell ranges and missile ranges outdoors, it means 1" = 10 yards (30 feet); however, areas of effect for spells are always measured in tens of feet, never tens of yards.
Chris Henderson is back with one of my favorite columns, "Off the Shelf," reviewing all the latest fantasy and science fiction books.
  • Messenger of Destiny by D.M. Grant is a comprehensive and lovingly compiled bibliography of Talbot Mundy's work, offering insights for fans and critics alike. A Field Guide to Dinosaurs by The Diagram Group is an informative guidebook focusing on facts over artwork. Invasion: Earth by Harry Harrison is a gripping tale of interstellar conflict and Earth's struggle for survival, though marred by a weak conclusion.
  • Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy is a light, fantasy love story about two unlikely characters on a quest that is as much about self-discovery as adventure. Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster is a comedic epic fantasy that struggles to offer any substance beyond its humor. Set of Wheels by Robert Thurston is an adventurous and introspective look at a bleak future through the eyes of a protagonist with one simple desire: a hot car.
  • Transformer by M.A. Foster is a thought-provoking continuation of The Morphodite, exploring deep themes of identity and transformation. Finally, Against Infinity by Gregory Benford is a top-notch novel set on Ganymede, mixing hard science with political theory.
We also have an abundance of game reviews!
  • Gangbusters by TSR offers an engaging roleplaying experience set in the prohibition era, focused on the clash between law enforcers and criminals. The boxed set includes a detailed rule book, vibrant maps, and several playing accessories. The gameplay promotes dramatic action, with streamlined rules featuring unique aspects like luck rolls and the Presence attribute for persuasion and loyalty. Reviewer Ken Rolston considers it "...a worthwhile purchase both as an example of a well-written game system and as a new setting for roleplaying."
  • Borderlands by Eon Products is a stand-out strategy game. Players vie to control territories and resources on an unnamed mythical continent. The game's strength lies in its strategic depth, requiring players to master resource management, territorial control, and negotiation without relying heavily on luck. It is expensive, but reviewer Tony Watson notes, "...if one measures value by how often a game is played and how much it is enjoyed, then Borderlands is a good buy."
  • Cities by Midkemia Press is a comprehensive 72-page fantasy game aid designed to enhance urban adventures in any RPG campaign. It's exceptional value, offering extensive guides for creating believable villages, towns, and cities alongside a detailed catalog of urban encounters. Ken Rolston states that "...nothing about FRP town gaming (that I can think of) has been omitted" and recommends that "all campaign gamemasters examine Midkemia's products."
  • Judge Dredd by Games Workshop Ltd. is a crime-fighting board game set in the futuristic Mega-City One, based on the British comic strip. Acting as Judges, players move across sectors to solve crimes and arrest perpetrators, with gameplay involving strategic card use and dice rolls. Reviewer Michael Gray does not like the reliance on luck and says, "Judge Dredd is fun, but other games are fun and have more going for them as well."
  • Federation Space by Task Force Games is a strategic counterpart to the tactical game Starfleet Battles, offering a broader view of warfare and fleet management in the Star Trek universe. The game is accessible, boasting easy-to-learn mechanics and engaging scenarios. It features high-quality components, including a visually striking map and detailed counters. Ken Rolston notes that the game "has much to recommend itself."
  • Dragonmaster by Milton Bradley is a card game that was poorly reviewed in issue #73. One of the game's designers, Michael Gray, responds to the criticisms point-by-point. He concludes, "Just as one should not judge a book (or a game) by its cover, neither should one judge a game (or book) by one review."
Clyde Caldwell painted this month's cover. Interior artists include Phil Foglio, Roger Raupp, Mary Hanson-Roberts, Jeff Easley, Dave Trampier, Edward B. Wagner, and Larry Elmore.

And that's a wrap! This issue has some stand-out articles, with the beholder ecology being my favorite. In the next issue, we have tarot cards, unicorns, and a complete board game!
 

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Hussar

Legend
I recently got back into reading a bunch of old stuff - some of it guilty pleasures like Robert Adams' Horseclans books (wow, I really need to read with my brain turned off) and to my joy, I found that the box I got actually has Tea with a Black Dragon and the next one, Twisting the Rope. I am so happy.
 

fuindordm

Adventurer
For anyone who liked Tea With a Black Dragon, McAvoy wrote two really good, non-traditional, haunting, fantasy trilogies:
  • Damiano - a monk summons an angel to teach him about music
  • Lens of the World - an orphan raised in a military academy meets a philosopher/scientist and becomes something unique
McAvoy reminds me of Peter Beagle in some ways... her stories are steeped in a nebulous but magical mood but the focus is never on the fantasy elements.
 

I recently got back into reading a bunch of old stuff - some of it guilty pleasures like Robert Adams' Horseclans books (wow, I really need to read with my brain turned off) and to my joy, I found that the box I got actually has Tea with a Black Dragon and the next one, Twisting the Rope. I am so happy.
Yeah, that's the best approach to Horseclans when re-reading it as an adult. I'm still boggled that it got a GURPS book way back when, but I don't think the series had lapsed into having half of each book copy-pasted from earlier volumes at that point. Arguably not as embarrassing as my own shameful weakness for the Casca novels. :)
That's a good enough recommendation for me - I've added it to my kindle queue. It helps that it is short (I mostly read books under 200 pages at the moment). Looking at wiki, it seems that R.A. MacAvoy has returned to writing recently after a long absence.
I'd certainly second that rec, MacAvoy's got a pleasant writing style and (like many writers from 30+ years ago) knows how to be concise without feeling rushed. Something of a dying art these days, although that's as much on the editors as the authors.

Hadn't realized it was health problems that ended her writing way back when, glad she's finally gotten it under control enough to resume. She doesn't seem to have done much since 2018 (which is also the most recent post on her own site) but she is in her mid-70s at this point. Anything new is a welcome addition to her regrettably small bibliography.
 

ValamirCleaver

Ein Jäger aus Kurpfalz
This month's special attraction is the Dragon magazine index[...] The articles are divided into categories such as Magic Items (New), Alignment, and Dungeon Mastering (Theory and Method). Unfortunately, there is no index by author name, but what they've presented is very useful.
The DragonDex is a very through online index that covers every print Dragon issue, #1-359, Annuals 1996-2001, & The Strategic Review #1-7. There also subpages for indices by authors & various categories.
 

The DragonDex is a very through online index that covers every print Dragon issue, #1-359, Annuals 1996-2001, & The Strategic Review #1-7. There also subpages for indices by authors & various categories.
Thanks for that. I've been looking for that solo rules article for GDW's Asteroid in the wrong magazines for years now and there it is in issue 98. I knew I'd seen it somewhere back in the day...
 


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