Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dragon Magazine #2

The second issue of Dragon Magazine has one of the worst covers I've ever looked at on any fantasy magazine. Unlike the previous issue with its avant-garde dragon and its whimsical style this cover is as plain jane and boring as one can get. The background, while nicely colored, is boring. The bleak landscape surrounding the warrior is muddled and mind-numbingly dull. Hell, even the warrior on the cover looks like he can't figure out why he would be there!

It is just such a disappointment after reading the last two issues of White Dwarf (White Dwarf #1 and White Dwarf #2) and Dragon Magazine #1 to have such an uninspiring cover for this issue of Dragon Magazine.  Those previous covers were evocative and started my mind churning with the possibilities for adventure. This one does none of that. And that's a damned shame because Thomas Canty is a fantastic artist.

Approach by Thomas Canty
Just imagine if he had used this picture for the cover instead. Already you're looking forward to reading the magazine as you've got a story being told right there; and it's a hell of a story. Large, vampiric bats hover overhead as a lone warrior makes the daunting approach to the castle where the Vampire Lord resides. 

The graves we see in the foreground could be those of his companions with the garland around the center grave being his last goodbye to a close companion. There is so much going on in this picture that it makes you wish that you knew the story. Even so, we have all had moments in gaming where we're the last man standing and the only thing left to do is finish the story in a meaningful way. That's this picture, and I wish that this was what we had gotten instead of that abysmal illustration that besmerched the cover. 

It's just a damned shame that we've gone from something great to something so bad from someone who is so good at what they do. 

Anyway, hopefully what the insides of the magazine will be far better than the outside.

Monkish Combat in the Arena of Promotion 
by John M. Seaton

I really like the idea that in order for a monk to advance in rank that they have to pass a physical confrontation with the 'master' of his level. My problem is that while this massive word problem of an article is inspiring it is also complex and finishes without an example of the idea in practice. That example would have taken this article from a neat idea into a brilliant one.

The Gnome Cache, Part Two 
by Garrison Ernst

When I read the first part of this article I found myself wondering if it would manage to hold my attention. Well, today the wheels fell of and the damned thing becoming a boring slog that I could barely keep my eyes open while reading. And the problems with the story are legion: Dunstan, the lead character, is too stupid and self-centered to live, the affected Old English syntax is beyond annoying, and the continuous cross-referencing in this issue killed what little will I had to finish the story.

Search for the Forbidden Chamber (conclusion) 
by Jake Jaquet

Unlike the Gnome Cache I was really sorry to see this short story end. Jake Jaquet wrote a funny, interesting tale that was self-aware enough to mock itself while still being funny. 

The illustrations for the story have been top notch throughout the run and I just have really enjoyed it. From the dwarf Dimwit dropping the bowling ball on Ralph's foot to the Recyclesaurus in the last issue every illustration has just been funny and well done.

I hope that Jake writes more short stories in future issues and that they're as good, if not better than this wonderful, silly story. 

Mapping the Dungeon

My god, I cannot express how much I wish that this was a practice that continued in modern issues. The fostering of a community of role-players is just one of the many responsibilities of an industry that is rolling ever closer to the grave. 
If you're reading this please bring someone new to your table . . . Teach them the love for the game that you have and teach them to pass it on
We as players need to be doing more to bring in new players, Dungeon Masters, and gamers into this hobby so that our children and grandchildren don't look back at us as funny, old men who rolled dice around a board and argued about esoteric topics for hours on end. They need to see the beauty of the game and experience the joy that a game of endless possibilities provides. It's just a damned shame that as a community this hobby is often more interested in talking about what isn't Dungeons and Dragons than in telling people why they should play the game. 

If you're reading this please bring someone new to your table. Introduce the game to a friend, a child, or a relative. Make it enjoyable and make sure to keep bringing them back. Teach them the love for the game that you have and teach them to pass it on; because in a world where we are becoming more and more disassociated from the reality of our choices a game that is based exclusively on our decisions is more important than ever.

Gen Con Update

The current GenCon, as of this issue, was GenCon IX and I really want a peak at that tournament module. Unlike other competition modules this one was published by the Judges Guild and not TSR. According to Acaeum the module was written by Bob Blake and only ever went under the title of Gen Con IX Dungeon. Has anyone seen one or have a scan of one I could have? 

Seriously this module sounds like a blast.

Hints for Dungeons and Dragons Judges, 
Part Three: the Dungeons 
by Joe Fischer

This article series continues to be one of the biggest highlights of the magazine. Time and time again I find myself jotting down notes from it as there is just too much goodness here. Joe Fischer's advice on traps is excellent more for the variety of traps he presents than for its directed advice. The Skeleton trap is fantastic and I love the ideas that such a trap holds. 

This series by Mr. Fischer is fantastic and I can not stress enough the value these articles hold even today, 36 years later.

Shadow of the Demon by Gardner Fox

I absolutely hated this story and was bored throughout. 

The Feathered Serpent by Lynn Harpold

This is the second best article in the entire magazine. Really worth reading. 

Creature Features: the Remorhaz 

I really enjoy these creature features and it is fascinating to me how much more fearsome many of these monsters were in the earlier editions. By comparison to the 3.5 version of the Remorhaz this early version is a beast beyond measure. It has less text than the 3.5 version and yet it comes across as a far better creature. Yet another example of less is more.

Oh, and the Earl Otis art is just beautiful in its simplicity. 

A New Dungeons and Dragons Class, the Alchemist by Jon Pickens

I kind of dig this new class even if it is a variant that most assuredly will be disavowed by TSR at some point in the not to distant future. It's really interesting but I haven't a clue how it would work in an adventure out in the wild dungeons that populate every Dungeons and Dragons game.

D&D Option: Weapon Damage 
by Jon Pickens

Again an interesting variant rule for the game, but I haven't made it through the Greyhawk book yet so I'm not sure if it's an improvement or if it's as fucked as the Monstermark system.

Overall Review

While I enjoyed certain articles immensely this issue has some serious problems. Almost every article is cross referenced appearing on page a, j, and z. It makes for a frustrating read and often a confusing one as well. For example, on page 26 you have two cross referenced articles and the credits for the magazine - why? Why is it that instead of simply making every article a full run through that this issue splits them all up?

It really makes the magazine a disjointed reading affair and far less enjoyable than it would otherwise have been. 

Score: 6 out of 10

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