Dragon Warriors is so cool that no one has body odour, and everyone walks around with their arms in the air. At least, that’s what the book covers would have you believe. So it must be true, right?
This bears repeating, in bold: paperback book gaming! Back in 1985 Corgi Books did something with Dragon Warriors that D&D still hasn’t managed to do, to this day.They got a real, honest-to-goodness role-playing game onto the Fantasy section of every bookshelf on the planet, right next to David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey and every other fantasy author worth their salt. This meant that here in the UK in 1985, pretty much every single fantasy fan owned a copy of these books, whether they knew what Dungeons & Dragons was at the time or not. Go to any long-term fantasy fan’s bookcase in the UK, and the chances are that you’ll find at least a copy of Book One there.
Putting this into a more modern context – in my local bookstore, the D&D section is in the oversized books aisle, under the manga and graphic novels. The fantasy novels are in the paperback fiction section, several aisles away and never the twain shall meet. Over by the D&D shelf you’ll see the D&D geeks; in the fantasy aisle there’s the students, goth chics, housewives, businessmen and….. well, everyone else – all potential role-playing gamers if only the role-playing games were there!!!! In 1985, they were, and it was called Dragon Warriors. And boy, did it sell!
Picture this: a copy of D&D that contains a few races (Human, Elf, Dwarf maybe) and a couple of classes (Fighter, Cleric, Rogue) in a paperback book that contains all the rules you need to get started with D&D. Throw in a handful of Monsters and an intro scenario – and watch those students, goth chics, housewives and businessmen start to take an interest in the hobby. That’s got to be a Good Thing, right?
Of course, this begs the question of why we’re playing D&D now and not Dragon Warriors if it’s so damned good and was so well marketed. One word: distribution. Each book became progressively more difficult to get hold of (and in some countries, downright impossible) until eventually the whole thing died an ignoble and sadly undeserved death. Like all good death things though, it’s coming back! As David reminded me in the comments Magnum Opus Press is producing a new edition.
Of course, if you want to get in on the act right now, the original is available for free download. Happy Dragon Warriors Week!