Issue 88 of Dragon was released in August 1984, which puts it outside what I generally consider the Golden Age. The cover art, as you can see, is by Jim Holloway. I'll admit to having an inexplicable soft spot for his work -- probably having to do with fond memories of Paranoia -- but I think it's fair to say that that the presence of his artwork is a pretty good indicator that you're looking at an artifact from a period outside the period I regard as the hobby's apex, but perhaps only barely. Call it the Silver Age.
One of the fascinating things about the Silver Age -- indeed of many Silver Ages -- is that it was heavily focused on commenting upon and embellishing the works of the Golden Age. This is very evident in the pages of Dragon from the period, which, if looked at today, would no doubt seem unduly obsessed with minutiae, such as a "realistic" method of calculating a character's height and weight based on his ability scores or determining how far a character could jump up or across based on the same. "Realism" was a watchword of the Silver Age. Indeed, I recall an exhaustive review of the then-new Rolemaster series which reviewed the game primarily on the basis of how realistic it was.
This concern about realism is why issue 88 could, for example, boast not one but two different articles on the physics of falling damage (and a further article on the subject by Gygax himself a few issues later). To some, arguing over whether falling 40 feet causes 4d6 damage or 10d6 damage might seem like needless nitpicking and, on some level, it is. What it really is, in my opinion, is two things. First, it's a consequence of the maturity of D&D. The game had been out for 10 years by this point and was so firmly established in its essentials that all that was left to do was gild the lily, so to speak. In short, there's a hint of decadence even amidst the enormous creativity of the Silver Age (and there was a lot of creativity, as I'll discuss in a future post).
The second thing that the obsession with realism indicates is how unquestioned Gygaxian naturalism had become in the game. Most gamers at the time simply accepted that the rules of the game were intended to simulate a reality, albeit a fantastic one. Consequently, the more closely the rules modeled that reality, the "better" they were, which is why you see lots of arguing back and forth over the best way to do so. There were, to my recollection anyway, comparatively few voices arguing that D&D shouldn't be as realistic as possible within the constraints of the magical world it portrays. This is something even the Hickman Revolution didn't seek to overthrow, as it was a largely unquestioned pillar of what D&D -- what a roleplaying game -- was supposed to be (superhero games are something of an exception and, I think, one of the primary gateways through which non-simulationist approaches gained greater popularity).
Naturalism thus reached its height during the Silver Age and, on reflection, I realize that, coming to the hobby as I did during the late Golden Age, I didn't see the transition between the two ages as clearly as I do now. Moreover, the dominance of naturalism was not a foregone conclusion during the Golden Age. One need only look at things like Arduin or even Blackmoor to find plenty of examples of non-naturalistic approaches to gaming during the early days. But naturalism is what Gygax, through TSR, raised to the level of dogma and it's what informed my own contnued conception of what D&D is and how it ought to be played. It's clearer to me now that this approach wasn't the only one, even within D&D, prior to the end of the Silver Age. However, it was the favored one and, for good or for ill, it's (until recently anyway) been a core part of the way the game has been played and published. It's certainly my preferred style, which probably explains my general dislike for more "wahoo" approaches.
I'll be returning to this and related topics in future posts. There's a lot of history to mine here and I would like more time to do so.