The greatest issue of Dragon magazine ever published: #83
It also happens to be the first issue I ever bought. I strolled into Kay Bee Toys, which had a meager selection of TSR products - and they just happened to have a stack of the latest issue of Dragon magazine. I had seen earlier issues of this magazine before. Fleeting glimpses of other kid's copies seeing just enough to be intrigued as I nervously got on the school bus, hoping for a decent seat. It took all the allowance money I could muster $3...and it was mine!
This cover was filled with rich imagination, done before Dragon covers were about pushing a particular product line or IP. Den Beauvais was one of the greatest artists to ever put paint to the D&D world. I think he was just as much an influence on me as the late, great Keith Parkinson was.
The contents of this magazine still stand up as some of the best articles to see the late magazine.
The ecology of the stirge. By this point the ecologies were a fairly regular feature, but this was the first time I'd seen or read one. To think of a simple Monster Manual entry in such rich, detailed terms changed my view of the nasty little bloodsuckers forever in my mind.
The test of the twins. Our first glimpse of the Dragonlance world. I enjoyed this story, but it was "A Stone's Throw Away" by Roger Moore in issue 85 that lured me into Dragonlance (the tale of Tasselhoff and Demogorgon).
The Dancing Hut. This is the reason #83 is the greatest. This is my favorite adventure published in any of the TSR magazines. Roger Moore brought Baba Yaga to life and made her one of the best arch-villains of all time. The map was based on a tesseract - a purely mathematical construct - which can be best understood as a polyhedron layed flat, each "side" is a room, but the sides still connect the same. Roger Moore's work in Dragon is some of the finest to grace the magazine.
How to finish fights faster. A much better unarmed combat system than the one described in the DMG (which was nearly unplayable). We tried this a few times and it worked fine, but really, unarmed combat didn't happen in our adventures all that much.
A look at AOK's. An article for Top Secret, a game I never played.
SF/gaming convention calendar. This was how I discovered that groups of D&D fans got together in conventions and played! It was years until I was finally able to go to one (Dundracon in San Ramon, CA being my first).
Good evening, Mr. Bond. A review of the 007 RPG. This review made me want to get the game, but I never saw it in stores. It intrigued me far more than Top Secret ever did.
Wormy. So great, so well drawn.
What's New? The hilarious Phil Foglio doing what he does best. This was one of the few that didn't mention Sex & D&D. Still funny though.
Snarfquest. My first exposure to our long-snouted friend, to this day this is still one of my favorite episodes. Willie "the duck" is awakened from Suthaze's spell and remembers she is Kizarvexious! As much as I like Elmore's early D&D paintings, I loved his pen & inks even more.
It's not all highlights though. There is a rather mundane article on gems with information any encyclopedia set could provide.
Thumbing through my copy I smile at all the old ads. This was when D&D was just about to hit its widest audience and there were so many hopefuls advertising their products in this mag. I see Avalon Hill promising their new gaming mag "Heroes". I've never seen a copy.
Witch Hunt. Man, Myth & Magic. Other Suns. Compleat Fantasy. Space Opera. Aftermath. Bushido. - I remember these ads but to this day I don't think I've ever seen a copy of the actual game.
To this day the magic still lingers on my copy of old #83.