Article Header Image
400 Dragons
By Bill Slavicsek

Sounds like the title of an upcoming Drizzt novel by R.A. Salvatore, doesn’t it? Or maybe the name of a new Hong Kong action-adventure film. Or even the beginning of read-aloud text in your next D&D adventure.

"The door swings open to reveal a 10x10 room. Inside the dark chamber, you see 400 dragons. The creatures all turn their large heads to look at you. And each one is about to breathe …"


Doomkeep was the second official AD&D Masters Tournament, run at GenCon XII. From Dragon 34: “Players were grouped in 3-member teams for their trip through the dungeon. Each team was allowed to pick 3 player characters from a list of 14 characters, and each team had 3 hours of real time to adventure.

“The tournament was designed by Brian Blume of TSR Hobbies, who also acted as head referee. The dungeon was constructed from rooms or parts of rooms, submitted to Brian by those who were invited to play in the tournament.”

The adventure included the following preliminary briefing for players:

The three of you are a group of adventurous wanderers. You have journeyed to a far-off land in search of the fabled ROCK OF AGES, a mighty artifact which is rumored to confer everlasting youth, strength and health to its possessor. You have determined that it is somewhere in this vast land, but the legends place it in at least a dozen different places.

However, you are certain that the dungeons of an ancient castle, DOOMKEEP, hold vital clues to the exact location of the artifact. You are before the castle, and have decided to enter it in search of not only the information it contains, but also for the chance of obtaining valuable treasure: a thought which is near and dear to your hearts. The only entrance into the castle is a door leading to a passageway down into the ground below the walls.

You will receive a map showing the land of this portion of the world and the possible locations of the ROCK OF AGES. After the adventure is over, you will be requested to write down the place where you believe the ROCK OF AGES is located, based on the clues you have uncovered. You will not be allowed to consult with your teammates on this and you will score bonus points if you select the proper location.

Hmmm. I’ll have to save that for my next Thursday night game session.

But no, I’m not talking about a novel or a movie or a D&D encounter. I’m talking about an amazing milestone in D&D history. This month marks the 400th issue of Dragon magazine. From its humble beginnings in 1976 right through to the present day, Dragon has managed to inspire, entertain, inform, and sometimes irritate players and Dungeon Masters alike with its mix of editorials, columns, feature articles, cartoons, and other content relevant to roleplayers in general and Dungeons & Dragons fans in particular. There have been highs. There have been lows. (Sometimes in the very same issue.) From the original print format to the current online version of the magazine, Dragon has always been something of a bag of tricks. You reach in, roll the dice, and pull out anything from a bat to a rhinoceros. That’s the beauty of grab bags. And Dragon has been and continues to be the ultimate D&D grab bag. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I started buying Dragon in the late 70s, when my original D&D campaign kicked off and the Dungeon Master in me was devouring everything about the game that I could get my hands on. I remember using the special adventures that were included in the magazine in those days, before the debut of Dungeon magazine. “Doomkeep” comes to mind as one that kept my gaming group busy for a number of harrowing nights. I also have fond memories of the Winged Folk, a player character race introduced in issue #51. The inspiring art and rich story of these flying people inspired me to add them to my ongoing campaign, and they eventually wound up providing invaluable help to the adventurers after the initial clash of cultures played out (in the tradition of the best superhero team-ups of the day).

Dragon also served as a proving ground for industry hopefuls, and even in its current incarnation it provides a showcase for new talent, from artists to game designers looking to break in. Some of the best people on my staff found their way to the R&D team via one or both of the magazines, including Chris Perkins, James Wyatt, and Kim Mohan.

So, on this special occasion, let’s give a rousing shout out to everyone who ever contributed to Dragon magazine over the course of these 400 issues. Let’s celebrate fond memories and continued good reads. And let’s take a moment to thank the thirteen* individuals who directed those issues from 1976 to today, the past and present editors of Dragon: Timothy J. Kask, Jake Jaquet, Kim Mohan, Roger E. Moore, Wolfgang Baur, Pierce B. Watters, Anthony J. Bryant, Dave Gross, Jesse Decker, Chris Thomasson, Matthew Sernett, Erik Mona, Chris Youngs, and Steve Winter. Great job, guys! Here’s to the next 400 issues!

* I wrote the number thirteen and then proceeded to type out fourteen names. That’s not a mistake. One of Dragon’s esteemed editors changed his name between stints, so he appears twice on the list.

Lair Assault

A new Organized Play program debuts in September with the launch of Dungeons & Dragons Lair Assault. This in-store program turns the usually cooperative D&D experience into a competition between the Dungeon Master and the players. Make no mistake—these are killer dungeons designed to test the mettle and skill of players against a wide variety of monsters, traps, and hazards. Players must approach each Lair Assault with two objectives: build the right character for the job, and bring your A game.

In contrast to the D&D Encounters program, Lair Assault is designed for players seeking a more complex, highly tactical challenge. Groups of players might need to tackle each challenge several times to determine how to best solve it, using a combination of skill and luck. Dungeon Masters are given the tools to really make the players sweat.

Give the first entry in the program, Forge of the Dawn Titan, a try at your local game store when the program launches in September.

Check Out Legends & Lore

Have you been following the conversation going on in Mike Mearls’ Legends & Lore column? There have been some fascinating discussions happening as Mike spins out his thoughts about the past, present, and future of the D&D roleplaying game. It’s an amazing discussion, and it gets more interesting every week. See you over there!

Keep playing!

In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon online.

Follow Us
Find a place to get together with friends or gear up for adventure at a store near you
Please enter a city or zip code