Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - July 1979

I just drove in from Cedar City, and boy is my car tired.

Vaughn and Pfundstein - Go watch their play - it is excellent
I use that by way of an explanation for why this post is showing up now, rather than this morning. My daughter and I traveled to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to watch The Taming of the Shrew, starring Brian Vaughn as Petruchio and Melinda Pfundstein as Katherine. It was fabulous. If you get the chance, visit the festival. Now I want to do a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic in iambic pentameter. I'm not sure that's possible, but boy would it be a fun challenge.

And now that I've given some love to the USF, it's time for a review of The Dragon #27, published 36 years ago this month - time for a baby to be born, grow up, and begin yelling at kids born when 4th edition was published to get off his lawn. As he should, the grubby little beggars.

The ads the issue opens up with aren't new, but I did notice this bit:

Great artifact of the size of the hobby 36 years ago.

The first article in this issue is "Agincourt: The Destruction of French Chivalry", a game review by Tim Kask. As he writes, "Ah yes, that's a Dunnigan game." As in James Dunnigan. As an avid reader of his excellent books How to Make War and The Quick and Dirty Guide to War, this piqued my interest in the game review (I also note that Al Nofi did the historical research - I love his CIC articles at Strategy Page). Kask praises how he makes the game feel like the period, reflecting the fact that the French mostly defeated themselves at Agincourt. He finds it both a very complex game, and a very playable game.

To my delight, the review was followed by an article from Dunnigan himself - "Agincourt: Designer's Notes". One extract:

"I would say the single most difficult aspect that I had to incorporate into the design of Agincourt, were the combined arms and doctrine factors that were critical to the outcome of the battle, This is best shown by looking at the rules covering crowding and fugitives and their effect
upon morale."

I note this, because it's similar to what I try to do with Bloody Basic and articles on fantasy campaigns in NOD (and not always successfully) - how do you interject the feel of the subject you're covering without making the game needlessly complicated. It brings to my mind the idea of first principals.

Keeping the theme alive, Steve Alvin now writes "The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War". I love history - majored in it in college - and I know most war game buffs have at least some regard for it, but I wonder how popular articles like this were back in the day. I hope very. I wonder how they would play now?

Get your scissors out, because Jeff Swycaffer's article "Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone" has a full-color cutout. In the article he mentions the four elements of Greek philosophy and the elementals they inspired ... and then remarks on the twelve new types of elementals discovered by "a mad philosopher". These would be the quasi-elementals and/or para-elementals. I can never keep them straight. Swycaffer visualizes the placement of the elementals thus:

"To visualize the placement of the elementals in the scheme of reality, imagine a globe. The equator is divided into eight segments: air, cold, water, moisture, earth, heat, fire, and dry. Thus the circle is complete, with dryness adjacent to air. This is reasonable, as the alchemists of the 1200s depicted the elements in this fashion. Here water is both cold and moist, and both air
and fire are dry.

This is merely the plane of the equator, however. At the south pole, evil. Good and evil are the poles of the physical world, and no one element is more evil than good, or vice versa."

He then goes on to explain how the elements interact with good and evil - these are the qualities, which include pleasure, fertility, beginning, light, ending, darkness, pain and barren. He explains that the "elementals of good and evil" are the demons of Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III and the angels of Stephen H. Domeman that appears in The Dragon #17. He then goes on to describe, in basic terms, the elementals of qualities. For example:

"ENDING: Appears as a normal human. Closes doors (as a wizard lock), dispels good magic, and curses as an Evil High Priest."

For those who need to know, the Ending Elemental has 2 HD, movement of 9, does 1d6 damage per hit, has AC 9 (remember, this is old "lower is better" AC), and is friends with air, water and cold elementals.

"From the Sorcerer's Scroll" this month is by a guest writer - Bob Bledsaw. He created a little something called Judge's Guild, which produced some of the great little gems of the OD&D era. He covers all the things JG had done at that time for D&D - a nice little bit of horn blowing, but well deserved I think. I liked this quote:

“Ya don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and ya don’t mess around with the play balance ...”

Truer words were never spoken.

Next up is an "Out on a Limb". God, this is classic geek-fight material, and it should surprise nobody that these are the folks that invented the internet. An example, from an extremely long letter to the editor by Ray Rahman of Minnesota. The first paragraph of his letter:

"Upon reading Mark Cummings’ review of Ralph Bakshi’s film THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I became as concerned about Mr. Cummings’ ethics as he was of Mr. Bakshi’s morals. His review of the film begins dramatically with the statement: “Your film is a ripoff! Yes, rip off! I know that the expression has moral connotations, and that you haven’t done anything wrong legally; but I happen to believe that moral obligations often make demands that go beyond the demands of laws. So stay with me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll explain why your film is immoral ... Let me start by saying that I’M not an outraged purist.”


Next up is an ad for Boot Hill, a game I know little about but would love to explore. I've been hankering to do a sort of Old West Bloody Basic, but I'm waiting until Grit & Vigor is finished so I can base it on those rules.

Gary Jordan now presents a variant that might delight fans of the recent Marvel movies, "Tesseracts: A Traveller Artifact". The idea is using these not as a way to confuse mappers (as they had previously been presented to DM's), but as a boon to the players of Traveller. Really, it comes down to using matter transmitters to move folks around a ship.

Up next is a new cartoon to The Dragon called "The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar, A Starship on a Mission of Empire". I don't remember this from the era of Dragon magazines I grew up in, so I wonder how long it survived.

Gary Jordan now chimes in with another Traveller article on Star System Generation. This is a scheme for filling hex maps, filling in the presence of planets, star ports, etc.

In the Designer's Forum, "Divine Right" is covered again (it was TSR's newest game), by Glenn and Kenneth Rahman (there's that name again - can't be a coincidence, can it?).

Lance Harrop now presents "A Quick Look at Dwarves". This is a long article on how dwarf armies are organized, with an accompanying chart.

Wow - they got into it in the old days, didn't they. Still, there are lots of great ideas - the dwarven engineers, miners, masons, etc. forming divisions of the army. He adds the following at the end of the article:

On Painting Dwarves: Elite units of dwarves should have white beards (reminds me of the Graybeards units in Warhammer), dwarf armor should be shiny and a mix of metals, dwarves don't seem to have national colors ("don't seem" - well, they aren't real, so I suppose they don't) but use colors to designate individuals, and whatever you do, don't make your dwarves too gaudy.

On Dwarvish Tactics: Vanguards always drive towards the dwarf commander, dwarves love to tear into orcs, dwarf morale is very slow to break and dwarves are known to leave the field of battle after their leader is killed, but they do not rout - they just walk off slowly, carrying his body.

The Design Forum continues now with Jay Facciolo writing about "The Emerald Tablet". This is a miniatures war game published by Creative Wargames Workshop (side note - imagine how many games there are out there that have never been cloned, for good or ill). I love the name. The game was an attempt to make something that was neither too specific or vague, and which incorporated magic into the rules, rather than just overlaying magic atop ancient or medieval warfare. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the cover I found at BoardGameGeek.

It sounds like an interesting take, with each unit in the game begin given one of four orders before the game begins - attack, skirmish, hold or support (another unit). These orders can only be changed during the game by one of the figures representing the players. Interesting idea, and requires a great deal of thought before the game starts. The magic segment of the game requires quite a lot of explanation, and appears to be, if not complicated, then at least engrossing. It even comes with a bibiolography (and a bit of cheesecake)

"Giants in the Earth", one of my favorite features, comes next. I really need to do something like this myself in NOD - maybe I should let people vote on G+.

This edition includes the following literary giants:

Alan Garner's DURATHROR (13th level fighter/Dwarvish paladin)

Fritz Leiber's FAFHRD (20th level fighter/8th level thief) and THE GRAY MOUSER (18th level fighter-thief)

Edgar Rice Burrough's JOHN CARTER OF MARS (30th level fighter)

Eh - never heard of 'em.

Robert Camino writes "Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before: Expanding Imperium". This is a variant which requires two sets of the game, the boards being connected by eight jump routes which are always charted by the players (whatever that refers to). Love the art!

Great advert comes next, for Tome of Treasures, published by GRP Enterprises of Arlington, VA. The tagline got me "Plumb the depths of the Cube of Time and the Bow of Precognition. Explore the effects on hapless orcs of the Sword of Rout. Gems, jewelry, and 172 brand new, quality magic items are described ..."

Jerome Arkenberg now presents "The Mythos of Africa in Dungeons & Dragons". This is one heck of a tricky subject, as treating Africa as though it a single culture is ridiculous. The article presents many gods. For creatures, we get:

"In this category fall: witches, ghosts, were-lions, were-hyenas, and fairies. These are all the same as in the D&D Monster Manual."

 Turns out, we had all the African monsters we ever needed. I have a feeling that either the article was too long and something had to be cut, or the research was just too difficult back in the 1970's. The article also includes many heroes.

The "Dragon's Bestiary" presents the Horast, created by Mary Lynn Skirvin. Also known as a "whipper beast", a very rare creature with a whip-like tail that deals 4d6 damage. This one didn't make it into the MM, but fear not, for the article ends with this:

"By gracious arrangement with the author of AD&D, Gary Gygax, monsters appearing in this column are to be considered OFFICIAL AD&D MONSTERS."

So, if you need a monster with a whip tail, D&D has you covered. Officially.

Comic strip time. We have Finieous Fingers (their spelling, not mine), which again includes some nudity of the female variety - D&D was a game for grown-ups, after all.

No, I'm not going to show it this time. Finieous' butt from the last post will have to suffice.

In "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (the elements are all coming together, aren't they), Gygax presents the Bag of Wind. Write your own jokes, folks.

Dig the back cover, kids:

Looks like I need to up my game with NOD.

Fun issue, with plenty for D&D'ers and war gamers. Check it out if you can find a copy.


  1. Great write up.

  2. Cool series - thanks!

    And FYI, I believe the Znutar "comic" was not a new feature, but actually an advertisement for Awful Green Things from Outer Space, which was to appear in the following month's Dragon.

    1. I believe you are correct where Znutar is concerned.


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