My first issue was Dragon #193. It was a great first issue, and I spent countless hours pouring over it. I’m going to give a retro-review of the issue.
The Cover: Definitely the first thing that caught my eye. A red wyrm in a large misty cavern sprinkled with gold and 3 nervous adventurers trying to scoop up as much gold as they can before the wyrm shows up. A great picture by Raymond Van Tilburg, and one that I see today in a new light. Not only is it a great picture, but it’s also very old school. Those adventurers would rather get the gold and get out than face the wyrm! But then wouldn’t you?
Next we’ve got a 2 page ad for Dragon Mountain. Actually it’s a 1 page ad for Dragon Mountain, and a 1 page ad for Walden Books selling Dragon Mountain and the Humanoids Handbook.
2 pages of table of contents, and a page of letters. The letters range from Great Issue! to “I’m 13 and play D&D, and I’m not going to kill your cat” to “What languages is D&D translated into” and “a quick test to see if your DM is really unfair.” There is also a funny little errata about cows.
Page 5 is a neat ad for Mage: The Awakening. It wasn’t D&D, but I still thought it was cool.
Page 6 is Roger Moore’s dinosaur editorial. Page 7 is people congratulating Roger. Page 8 is an ad for home delivery of Dragon.
Page 9 is a splash page on “Unlocking the Secrets of the Underdark with an illustration of 2 adventurers in the underdark. The lady elf is picking a lock, and the wussy swordsman is swinging at a single bat that’s probably just pissed off because of their lantern. The rat in the foreground is probably hoping they kill the bat so he can eat it.
Page 10 is another full page illustration, the cover picture from the dungeoneers survival guide.
Page 11 - 14 + 16 made me fall in love with Dragon magazine. The article is Advice for fledgling dungeon-crawlers by Steven E. Schend, and it covers everything from caves and dungeons, traps to monsters, and the importance of light and 10’ poles, and it’s told from the perspective of an old adventurer by the name of Essimuth. It was a great article, and one I reread often.
Page 15 and 17 are ads for Mayfair Games’ Underground RPG. Serious dystopian RPG didn’t do much for me. Still doesn’t really.
Page 18 gives us an ad for the Amazing Engine RPG from TSR.
Pages 19-22 gives us 3 interesting golems – Brain Golem, Hammer Golem, and a Spiderstone Golem. The brain golem is created by the squid faced guys. The hammer golem is used by dwarves to assist in their mining, and the spiderstone golem is unsurprisingly used by the drow.
Page 23 was another eye opener for me – an ad for Tales from the Floating Vagabond. I’ve reproduced it below.
You should really click and see the full size ad. Eventually I got my hands on a copy of the game (though not this module) and it’s every bit as fun as this ad (and all the others I’d see) made it seem.
RPG reviews take us from page 24-32 + 38. I must admit I didn’t spend very much time here mostly because I was young and cash poor and D&D was my game.
Pages 33 + 34 are ads for Gamma World (again, D&D was my game) and a TSR book: Naked came the Susquach. Flip.
Convention listings covered pages 35-38 – none were anywhere near me, and I knew I’d never get my dad to take my to Philadelphia, NYC or Pittsburg, so… flip.
Betrayal at Krondor the computer game was the ad on page 39. I’d eventually get to play this, but I was many years away from having a computer in the house.
Dungeon Magazine ad on the next page with a cute elf girl and her furry footed Halfling companion. Did you know Halflings have the fur on the bottom of their feet? Anyway, this ad proclaims Dungeon magazine to be “Serious Fun”
The Known World Grimore expands upon the castle building info found in the Rules Cyclopedia. This article was another that I often referenced during my RC days, and manages to pack a lot of info between pages 41-44.
Boring ad on page 45.
Black and white picture of some albino ape creatures attacking a pair of adventurers in a dark cave on page 46.
Fiction on pages 47-55. In spite of enjoying reading D&D rule books, I wasn’t much of a reader when I had this. I’m sure I read the story at one point, but it seems a forgettable story by Ralph A Bundy called Bainnor’s Last Ballad.
Next we come to the computer games. Again, no computer. Flip to page 65.
We now come to another article that I referenced more than once when playing RC D&D – The Druid Gets A Life. From pages 65-69 we get an overview of the druids place in rural society and some new spells. Not having any of the AD&D books, this was all new to me.
Pages 71-73 contain an article about the D&D collectors cards. I loved this article for one reason only. The nearly naked green woman with leaves. Some sort of fairy, I didn’t care. She was hot.
The Forum covered pages 75-78, along with an ad for DC Heroes. Only 3 pages of forum letters… seems to little now, doesn’t it. Quaint.
A full color and evocative ad for Earthdawn filled page 79. Again, D&D was my game, but an interesting picture none-the-less.
Sage Advice takes us from page 85-88. I didn’t play AD&D, so a lot of it didn’t make sense.
88+89 are ads for Shadowrun. Eh.
90-93 brings us The Role of Books – aka book reviews. Flip.
Page 94 has THE WORST AD EVER. I can’t even bring myself to describe it, just look for yourself.
Even at 13 years old I was embarrassed for the people who made this ad.
The Dragons Bestiary covers pages 95-100 and discusses the Giant Nautilus, Abyss Ants, and Incarnates. BORING to my younger self, and even now I’m not impressed.
The comics section Dragonmirth fills pages 102-104. Good stuff. I once threw in a sword with an electrical plug into a game once. My players weren’t amused.
Flipping past a bunch of ads to pages 112, and we arrive at the miniatures review article. I would have loved to have more minis, but the figures from Hero Quest were all I’d have for a long time.
A few more ads and we come to the back cover, an ad for Dark Sun.
tl:dr version –3 great articles, some good art, lots of ads, and some filler. I still think it’s a great issue because of the Advice for fledgling dungeon-crawlers article. That alone would have made it worth picking up.