Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dragon by Dragon - October 1976

Three issues into The Dragon and we have our first sci-fi cover! What lies within? Well - not much sci-fi ...

First up we have an editorial by Tim Kask about fantasy. He brings up at least one good point - your ability to imagine something is predicated on your past experience. To my mind, that means get out there and experience as much as possible, even if it is just through art. The more you have seen, the more you will see and can imagine. Tim then goes on to remark that fiction, in future, will be better laid out (people complained), but that The Dragon will still feature fiction.

Next, Gary Gygax asks "Does Anyone Remember War of the Empires?" If he was asking me, the answer would be "I've never even heard of War of the Empires, Gary, tell me more." The game was a very early sci-fi wargame (circa 1966) that seemed geared to postal play, pitting Terran commanders against one another working for either the Greatest Empire or the League of Worlds. He goes on to tell the tale of its demise (twice) and the difficulty in running such a game. These days, it would probably be a snap. Alas.

The next page has a sweet illustration in an advert for Starweb, a PBM sci-fi game.

Dig it!

The next article is one of my favorites, for no other reason than it defies belief these days. Len Lakofka explains how one can play ... a female!!!

What can the ladies do in D&D? They can be fighters, magic-users, thieves and clerics. They can do just as well as men in magic and can surpass them as thieves, but they are behind men in all ways in terms of fighting ... though they have "attributes their male counterparts do not!" (God, it hurts a little writing this). Elven female clerics can rise to especially high levels. Because, you know ... elven females are just really good clerics. I guess.

For attributes, women roll 1d8+1d6 for Strength, 3d6 for Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity and Constitution (and any woman with a 13-14 in Strength adds +1 to her Con score) and roll 2d10 to determine Beauty (not Charisma). Beauty is apparently important to thieves, fighters and magic-users if its exceptional (15+), but may not be used by clerics if they are lawful or neutral.

He then goes through all the level titles and XP requirements for women (which are different from men) - and honestly, I do dig the level titles, which feature Battle Maiden, Shield Maiden, Heroine, Valkyrie and War Lady for fighters, Superioress and Matriarch for clerics, Witch (in place of Wizard) for magic-users, and a few cringe-inducing titles for thieves (wench, hag, jade, succubus, adventuress, soothsayer, gypsy and sibyl).

Female adventurers have slightly different stats than their male counterparts - most especially in that high-level thieves and fighters who are particularly beautiful learn to cast some spells - which mostly boil down to charming and seducing men and tarot reading.

Simply put, this is one hell of a sexist article, entertaining only in the context of how far gaming has come since then.

"Garrison Ernst" continues with another part of "The Search for the Gnome Cache". You know, I did enjoy his Gord the Rogue material - I'll have to read through these one of these days.

Brad Stock and Brian Lane present some nice birth tables for D&D - 30% chance of commoner, 55% chance of merchant class, 10% gentleman and 10% noble, then you roll for sibling rank and then more rolls to determine you "sub-class" and initial money, monthly allowance from family (a neat idea) for first year of adventuring or until 3rd level, whichever comes first) and starting skills. A very wealthy noble, for example, starts with 400 gp, a monthly allowance of 60 gp and four skills from group 1, three from groups 2 and 3. He might, thus, end up with the following skills: woodsman, miner, jeweler, sailor, mason, normal merchant, scribe, artist, adventurer (3rd level fighter) and Don Juan. Not sure if it really makes sense for nobles to have so many skills.

There are several other tables for nobles and some for rolling one's race randomly, including "half-goblin/half-orc", "half-elf" and the infamous and lawsuit-inspiring "hobbit".

Page 17 has a Fineous Fingers comic strip ... I think this might be the first one in The Dragon. We also see the first letters page "Out on a Limb", which in retrospect really isn't a play on dragons or fantasy. Garry F. Spiegle writes maybe the best line concerning Gnome Cache - "the writing was so good about a subject so terrible". Scott Rosenberg was pissed that they wouldn't let him Xerox tables for GM's and sell them (at cost). Lewis Pulsipher doesn't like all the ads and illustrations (waste of space) and writes a critque of that "Three Kindreds of the Eldar" article that's about two or three times longer than the original article, made even longer by a response from Larry Smith who, believe it or not, disagrees with Lewis. The exchange reminds me of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's answer to the question, "What material was Han Solo frozen in?" - A: "Who gives a shit?"

Next: "A Plethora of Obscure Sub-Classes", including the Healer by C. Hettlestad, the Scribe by David Mumper and the Samurai by Mike Childers (modified by Jeff Kay).

Larry Smith offers a "New View of Dwarves", with some sweet level titles for dwarf fighters (dwarf - warrior - spearman - dwarf hero - swordbearer - axewielder - champion - dwarf lord - dwarf king) and the revelation that there are only 7 dwarf families ;) and thus 7 dwarf kings, the tribe of Durin being the most prestigious. They have some rules for dwarf clerics and thieves, and my favorite two lines:

Dwarves as Magicians, Assassins, Monks, Paladins, Illusionists, Rangers or Sages.

The above is not allowed.

We round it out with John Pickens' Berserker, Gordon Davidson's Idiot and Charles Carner, William Cannon and Pete Simon's Jester.

The issue ends with a table of "Combat Modifications for Dexterity" by Steve Cline, with percentile ranges for high dexterity. These include modifiers for melee attacks, ranged attacks, damage and defense.


  1. Beauty (not Charisma)
    Ouch. Ow, ow ow. And then it just keeps going. Not Len's crowning moment.
    Also, Don Juan skill? I'm starting to get a sense of those long winter nights in Lake Geneva. It's a funny thing - I've been falling in love with my own obscure interpretation of DnD all over again, which just like first time around is drifting ever farther away from the source material.

    OTOH I am seriously intrigued by the Idiot class. That suits my current anti-power-gaming mood.

  2. It's a very clever article, just sexist as well.


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