Today I'm very pleased to take on the art of Dragon Magazine #121! Why, you might ask? Well, because it has a fantastic Jim Holloway cover, his 6th to that point for Dragon, and it features samurai!
This particular issue was released in May 1987, art directed by Roger Raupp, and edited by Roger E. Moore.
The cover, as mentioned above, was done by artist Jim Holloway who in 1987 was really hitting the sweet spot of his art career. His work to that point seemed to lead him to a certain mastery of craft that could not only be felt here on this issue of Dragon but also in his new work for FASA's Battletech during the same period. There is no doubt that Holloway's best work in gaming fell between the 1987 and 1990, which isn't to say he slipped after that, just that the industry decided to 'go in a different direction'. Always sad in my opinion, but that seems to be life. Also, Holloway seems particularly interested in the subject matter as he is of Japanese descent, and if you look at his Oriental Adventures work, you can see a certain care to it not found in everything else he does. Jim also does a nice interior b/w illustration of a siege wall that makes me smile as well.
Inside the issue, the artwork isn't particularly interesting, with a scattered group of black and white illustrations that didn't have any real depth and the bulk of visual reference was actually in pictures of old Japanese castles.
Articles include works on Japanese names, Lotus Blossoms, Castles, the Geisya NPC class, and the Genin single class Ninja. There is also a nice short story, Love and Ale by Nick O'Donohoe, featuring the Dragonlance universe that would be a good add to any Dragonlance scholars out there.
And last but certainly not lease, this issue does feature one of the coolest 'adds' that Dragon ever produced, the cut out for Sun Dragon Castle, which if you actually took the time to build it is a supremely cool paper construct.
In all, Dragon #121 is a perfect addition to the TSR Oriental Adventures setting, although I'm not really sure how many people actually played it.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]