Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dragon #195: A Retrospect



I bought Dragon #195 some 3-4 years after I started playing D&D. I'm assuming this was sometime in the late summer of 1993, since the issue came out in July. I think I picked it up in Waldenbooks. Up until now, I thought I had been reading Dragon for much longer. Apparently this isn't the case. This was during my summer between 8th Grade and becoming a freshman in high school, when I was 14. Looking through the magazine (now in PDF from the Dragon Magazine archive) brings back a lot of memories. I fell it's sort of a snap shot in my history as a gamer. Indeed, Dragon really opened my eyes to how big the hobby had become. 

Most of the articles didn't (and still don't) really stand out in my mind, especially the special attractions section that featured material on warriors. The advertisements, the letters, the previews, the upcoming attractions wetting my thirst for new material. I have to hand it to TSR, the advertising worked. 

Sometime after I bought the novel The Dragon's Tomb by D. J. Hendricks (and its prequel), the DragonStrike boardgame (yes, the one with the "HyperReality" movie), Van Richten's Guide to Werebeasts, and the Monstrous Manual (I was overjoyed that they put the monsters in book form instead of that stupid compendium), and yes, I eventually bought the Forgotten Realms Campaign Boxed set (I didn't know any better, I swear it). Dragon #195 mentioned all of these products. 

As for the articles, if I recall, what interested me was Carl Sergeant's summary of Greyhawk: From the Ashes.  It turned out to be somewhat of an apology to die-hard Greyhawk fans who accused Sergeant of messing around with Greyhawk. In the end, Sergeant just defaulted to, "your campaign world is your own." I actually enjoyed From the Ashes, but I hadn't been running a Greyhawk Campaign long enough to be familiar with the intricacies of the 1982 Greyhawk Boxed Set. Neither had I created a campaign that ran against what had been published in From the Ashes.

For me, however, the best article was "Up Front, In Charge: Player Leadership In Role-playing Games" by Thomas Kane. Little did I know that Kane's words would still influence me to this day. His lessons on leadership can be applied away from the gaming table, outside the hobby. Real leaders just don't declare their ideas to the group and then order people around, at least not at most gaming tables, where things are more or less democratic. Leaders need to get a consensus, generate alliances with other members of the party. The key is to avoid stirring up resentment from other players. 

There's advice for the GM, too, since he's the real leader of the group. Indeed, the article helped me out when dealing with a troublesome player who thought his second level character had every right to boss around his first level companions. "On some occasions," Kane wrote. "The GM must restrain a player who confuses leadership with being a loudmouth. Never allow forceful gamers to dictate a quiet player's actions." The GM should also avoid "teaching the party lessons."

That article was (and is) the real gem of this issue. It had great advice for a 14 year old boy who was a smart ass who thought he knew it all. Indeed, back then Dragon represented the entire hobby, not just D&D. Sure, it focused on D&D, but it reviewed and advertised non-TSR products. Whether or not this was profitable for the magazine and TSR, I really don't know. But I know for certain that Dragon #195 really opened my eyes to what the hobby offered.

For some reason, though, I didn't buy next issue until Dragon #207--a little over a year later. To this day I don't recall why--too busy with being a nerdy freshman in high school I guess. I also didn't have a car yet, so I couldn't make frequent runs to the bookstore some 20 miles away.

Even though I had been playing D&D for 3-4 years, I recall that summer being an exciting time for me as a player. Dragon #195 is a relic from that summer, and I really wish I would have kept the hard copy. 

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