Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My "Golden Age" of Dragon Magazine

Everyone has their “Golden Age” when it comes to Dragon magazine and in reality it's no different then say White Dwarf. A lot of one's views will be dependent on just where you entered gaming. As I've discussed on this blog and on sites like Dragonsfoot before, I was a late comer to 1st Edition AD&D in the terms of its product run. I started gaming in 1982, but for years my friends and I really mixed and matched stuff together as we explored the game, in other words like a lot of kids I suspect we freely mixed and matched 1st Edition and Basic and never thought twice about doing so.
So with that in mind I really didn't start reading Dragon on a consistent basis until well after many 1st edition gamers would consider Dragon to be on the decline. To me this is puzzling because around #105 things started to get really good, again from my perspective.
The run from about issue #80 till around #170 fits my style of gaming perfectly: detailing out first edition stuff (albeit late 1st) that I can easily insert into my 2nd edition games with little or no fuss. To me there is little I have to change, it fits like a glove.
In a looser order here are probably my top ten all time favorite Dragon magazine issues:
1. #134- Dragons. This issue is the be-all, end-all when it comes to dragons and anything dragon related. It's a great reference for amping up 1st edition dragons and good dragon tactics in general. The cover is pretty cool too, a bit weird now, but still cool.

2. #125- Chivalry. Back in the day I was a huge fan of cavaliers and played them a lot, not for any power-gaming reasons, but more for stomping foes into the dust in the name of king and country! Being the first book I bought with my own cash (aka Unearthed Arcana probably had something to do with it). In terms of iconic images there aren't many more then a knight on horseback, lance leveled. I think I wore out my copy back in the day reading, and rereading this thing. Even the other articles not dealing with knights are damn cool. As far as cover, look at that! A  historical based Arthur, how cool is that? Couple this issue with  #118 (see below), the Arthurian characters from the Deities and Demigods (Legends and Lore) from 1st edition and you well on your way to an Arthurian themed campaign.

3. #127- Call to Arms. This is just as good as #125 in my book. There is so much meat in this you need a fork and knife. Single-class fighters are probably my second favorite class after fighter/mage. When you look at the options and idea starters this gives the DM and players you can couple this with #125 and #119 for everything one would need for a strong feudal style campaign akin to the Hundred Years War or a least a mythological one.
Again the cover on this is epic. I think I drew that cover multiple times as a early teen. There is so much going on. I especially love the one orc saying basically “Ok lets go at this one last time"!

4. #136- Urban Adventures. Damn this cover rocks too, see a pattern here? Urban adventures are a very under utilized part of the game in my opinion and often an area where newer players simply see as a “store” to exchange stuff for stuff they want from “shop-keepers”. What #136 does is give the DM a great host of options and the article “50 ways to foil your players" in a gem of an article in my opinion.
If that were not enough there is a great golem article, a very good Star Frontiers one and host of others. In short you can't go wrong with the options this issue gives you.

5. #138 Dreadful Tidings. This one gets special mention for two reasons: a wide selection of alternative undead types which I've used for years (Hungry Dead anyone?) and the article on the plague. The rest of it is a bit skimpy but the two articles more then make up for it.The cover isn't bad and has a good deal going on but for some reason it doesn't register with me.

6. #160- The City Never Sleeps. Tie this in with #136 and you've got everything you need for down and dirty city creation and defenses in a magical world. Thieves guild articles, and others fill out the special section nicely. I especially like the maps of the Inn of the Last Call.
For issue #160 the cover is ok, not my favorite, but ok. The real meat in this one is the articles.

7. #123- Arcane Arts. This cover sets the tone and is a great tool to use for the magically inclined characters of the campaign world. The special section has three outstanding articles and the Arcane Lore section with fire related spells is fantastic. Of special note is the idea of the "Arcane College", a great tool for DMs to use when PC mages get to higher levels. 
Legends and Lore has oriental heroes and the Marvel-Phile section has some of the heralds of Galactus.
 8. #118- Competitions and Tournaments. Tie into #125 and Arthurian Britain (legendary not quasi-historical) and away we go. Ever wonder about how to stage a tourney? Wonder no more, follow the pointers in this section and you're well on the way to a good framework for a fair, festival, what have you. Also consider the article “The Fairest of the Fairs” #137 in conjunction with this issue for further idea kick-starters.

Some folks will not like this issue as it contains the infamous article heralding the coming of second edition by Zeb Cook; who makes the cut in terms of classes and who doesn't... I'll leave it at that to cut down on the rancor.Personally I think Zeb did a great job and the grogs can go stuff it.

This cover is awesome and the last of the great chess series that ran for years by the artist Denis Beauvais.
9. #116- Maritime Adventures. Long before “Of Ships and the Sea” I used this issue to great effect as it covers everything needed for ships and sailing in a fantasy setting. As I got older I still liked the idea behind it, but I've never liked the the idea of SoL akin to HMS Victory in a world of high medieval tech. To me a cog or at most a caravel represents the levels of seaborne tech for most worlds. And for me a caravel would be on the hogh side of maritime technology.
The cover is what it is: a picture of a red dragon mini with some smoke effects added. Nice, but not great. 
    The whole issue is great by my estimation and there really isn't a bad article in it. 
    10. #106. This was tough as I'm tempted to pick the likes of #115, #145, #148, #167 or #178. I give the nod to #106 solely based on the strength of the article “A Plethora of Paladins” The illrigger alone is so cool you can't go wrong with it and the class has featured in my 2nd games. In fact it was the illrigger that made me reevaluate kits and dump them pretty much from my 2nd edition games entirely. I find most of the NPC classes work just fine in 2nd and you can easily use them with the likes of “Sages and Specialists” which are more akin to NPC classes in presentation anyways.
     The cover... while not a "chain mail bikini" it's starting to get close...
Honorable mention/Runner up status goes to the likes of #99 (for the expanded sword system and troop tables) #102 (Anti-Ranger), #119 (Druids) and #124 (Airborne Adventuring). The cover of #119 is especially awesome! #126 is another favorite of mine especially for the cover.
These issues for me were the “sweet spot” of gaming articles an heavily influenced my gaming and my perception of the game. It probably also explains why to some degree 2nd edition became such a non-issue to me; my group and I were already mix and matching for years the various gaming systems. When 2nd came out we continued to do so. ­