Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Dragon Magazine's Banner Year...

1982; it was a banner year for AD&D, and a banner year for yours truly, both thanks to Dragon Magazine. Not only did its awesome Out on a Limb feature connect me to the wider roleplaying community (a thing beyond price), the magazine, an organ of TSR Hobbies, fostered D&D in new and exciting ways. Indeed, it marked the transition from a quaint, mostly wargaming phenomenon to the mainstream sensation it would soon become... 

With this in mind, and because I'm feeling nostalgic, here's a rundown of each monthly instalment from that year. I'm sure everyone knows where they can download these issues online (if not, ask someone), assuming you don't own the CDs. If so, read 'em again to appreciate my all-too-brief survey of each issue's historical importance:

Issue 57 (January, 1982): A slow start as far as long-term impacts; but I'd vote for Bloom's Play a Villain and Moore's Dungeons Aren't for Men Only opinion pieces (from Dragon's superlative Up on a Soapbox feature) as indicative of the hobby's maturation.

Issue 58 (February, 1982): It gets better. The Dwarven Point of view helped codify the dwarven race and its assorted deities, who persist into the latest edition.

Issue 59 (March, 1982): And here it got real. We see the first official mention of (magic-user) cantrips and the excellent Halfling Point of View feature, with more undeniable impacts to D&Ds emergent mythology. This issue nicely previewed AD&D's Unearthed Arcana.

Issue 60 (April, 1982): The Elven Point of View did for our pointy eared friends what the other demi-human features did for their kind. True springtime in D&D land...

Issue 61 (May, 1982): And the fun continued with The Gnomish Point of View, illusionist cantrips, and exotic weaponry. In short, a treasure trove of content, with Wormy's intensifying adventures rounding out what might easily be one of the year's standout offerings. 

Issue 62 (June, 1982): Ok, so the Larry Elmore cover signaled a seismic shift going forward, with The Half-Orcish Point of View rounding out the player races quite nicely.

Issue 63 (July, 1982): Readers were treated to a preview of the Barbarian class (more presaging Unearthed Arcana, a thing Gary hinted at with the sublety of a heart attack), while The Humanoid Point of View offered a useful perspective on D&D's best villains...

Issue 64 (August, 1982): Whew! Readers got a break from all that great content; but an excellent Assassin's Guild article by Elizabeth Cerritelli and Lynda Bisson highlighted the role of women, already growing in the hobby, as game content designers of note. 

Issue 65 (September, 1982): Another quiet issue; but Gygax offered a guest editorial speaking to the convention scene, signalling the growth of the hobby, and suggested some new character classes and a few ideas for customization, which admitted the changing expectations of a fanbase wanting more than mere wargaming figures. Good stuff.    

Issue 66 (October, 1982): This one debated giving clerics edged weapons, presaging future editions in this regard. Impact-wise, this was an important, if subdued, advance.

Issue 67 (November, 1982): Gygax's influence is strong here, with new magic user spells, Greyhawk creatures, and deities. This is Gary's issue through and through, and it really spoke to the growth of the pastime and its collective content. Given what would eventually happen, this was Gygax at the height of his powers - and control over the D&D game.

Issue 68 (December, 1982): Another quiet issue; but there's more interior color (already a growing trend), signalling a growing budget and general mainstreaming of the hobby. I'll admit to having mixed feelings here; but the scene had to grow, and history had spoken.

Of course, each issue was loaded with other important content. I'm just singling out what seems (to my admittedly biased eye) to be the most historically significant events from 1982's assembled pages. Everything Dragon related is historical at this point; but I'd like to think I saw firsthand a major shift in the hobby over the course of that year. A move towards greater cohesion, maturity, and incusiveness. For those who remember, it was a banner year...