Tags: dragon warriors

Old School: Dragon Warriors - The One True Young Adult RPG (1985)

In response to Mash’s comment in Morgue’s Maelstrom post here: http://community.livejournal.com/gametime/54912.html, and the fact that we are moving through the mid 1980s in the chronological order of the posts, I would like to raise Dragon Warriors as a game that got it right. Not just one thing but pretty much everything.



Dragon Warriors came out in 1985 and it was on the surface a D&D clone. However, it was much more than that. It was IMO the pinnacle of RPGs for young teenagers in terms of it rules, marketing, structure and presentation.

Dragon Warriors came out during the boom that was Fighting Fantasy. It was the size of a novel and sat of the shelf right next to those books, along with Lone Wolf and other series that were doing well at the time. Though Dragon Warriors is a single RPG, it managed to successfully split itself into 6 books to meet the size requirements to tap into the fantasy gamebook market. Though it didn’t really break into the US market, a remarkable amount of people around this time in the UK, Australia and New Zealand were introduced to this hobby through Dragon Warriors.

So, what did it get right? Well first it had a simple and versatile rule set. Though still bound by the legacy of D&D, the rules of Dragon Warriors were fun to use and were directed to the intended style of play. This was reinforced by a plethora of compelling adventures that sold the setting, even though it wasn’t published later until book 6. My commentary on the golden age of adventure writing through this period applies very readily to Dragon Warriors and at a young age, the books saw much more use than many other RPGs on my shelf as a result.

In addition, the books were also presented in a manner that showed understanding of the audience. They weren’t just a reference manual but an entertaining read. The example of play contained a picture of a typical RPG group right next to a picture of the player characters in the same pose. The combat example was done as a cartoon (Go Sir Balor!) showing the results of the dice graphically.

So, though old school shows many signs of age, there are many RPGs in it that I think stand the test of time. Dragon Warriors is one of them. One thing that Old School RPGing got right was a true young adult RPG that taps directly into the boom of young adult fantasy novels. The fact that we don’t have this is a shame.

Even though Dragon Warriors is seeing print again, it clearly caters for the nostalgic audience more than filling this role. New School step up!