Summary of issue content by Assistant Editor:
Somebody once said that the only sure things in life are death and taxes. In the world of gaming, you can beat the reaper, but, as Phil Foglio depicts on this issue's cover, you can't shake the taxman. The painting, entitled "Close - but no cigar" and originally commissioned as a DRAGON cover, was a first-prize winner in a SF/fantasy art show at BOSKONE, an annual event in Boston that Phil described as "one of the more prestigious shows on the convention circuit."
The main attraction inside this issue is Doctor Yes, a 16-page adventure designed for use with the TOP SECRET game rules. Merle Rasmussen, the author of the original game, created this high-risk mission along with James Thompson, a crony of Merle's who helped develop and playtest the rules. Administrators will have a lot of fun putting player agents through this test. The players themselves will have...well, you'll see.
Aside from the TOP SECRET adventure, nearly everything on these 96 pages is designed to be valuable to those involved in a D&D or AD&D campaign. The article section begins with a special section on underwater adventuring, headlined by Jeff Swycaffer's overview of things that must be considered when going below the surface. A special edition of Dragon's Bestiary spotlights three aquatic adversaries, and some new magic items that work best in a watery world are described in Bazaar of the Bizarre.
On the other extreme is the Druid, a dry-land character if ever there was one. Tim Lasko offers advice to the DM on how to best employ the Druid in a campaign, plus a piece specifically for players on how to play a Druid character to best advantage in a dungeon environment.
A mule can be an adventurer's best friend, says author Robert Plamondon, if its saddlebags are stuffed with the right materials and equipment before heading down those dark stairs. His article presents a list of what every well-dressed pack animal should carry to give its owner the best chance of coming back in some fashion other than draped across its back.
Those of you who would like some fresh ideas on what sort of adventures to develop will appreciate Michael Kelly's suggestions for "instant adventures." And if you'd like to go even further, just go a little further into the magazine, where Len Lakofka offers a complicated but comprehensive system for generating a party of enemies that will be a good match for the player characters they're intended to meet.
Avalon Hill's game Russian Campaign is the subject of two articles, including Robert Barrow's suggested changes to provide the utmost in historical accuracy, and Bryan Beecher's variant on the use of airpower in the game.
Among the regularly appearing columns in this issue is a double-entry Up on a Soapbox, where Fred Zimmerman addresses the issue of how to choose a new DM and Karl Horak offers his observations on the "morality in fantasy" issue. That's followed by another installment of the Minarian Legends, where DIVINE RIGHT author Glenn Rahman describes the history of the Bilge Rat and the mercenaries of Minaria.
The two newest members of the Giants in the Earth group are Sparrowhawk and Tiana Highrider, prominent fantasy fiction characters adapted for use in an AD&D adventure. The regular offerings also include a page of Sage Advice, the second installment of our new miniature-figure review column, Figuratively Speaking, and a trio of game reviews in Dragon's Augury.
Dragon issue #48 finishes with a bang: The last seven numbered pages are full-page artwork, most of them in full color. We promised to reveal the secrets behind Mike Carroll's February puzzle painting, and we've done just that on page 88. Just prior to that is another two pages of our newest regular comic strip, Pinsom, and immediately following the puzzle page are four pages of the continuing exploits of Wormy, Jasmine and Finieous Fingers.
A final word of caution: Readers are urged to be in full control of their faculties before opening the cover to DRAGON #48 1/2. Unfortunately, whoever composed this "special" issue of the magazine was not in that condition at the time of the composing.
And that, as they say in the spy business, is all.