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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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BigJackBrass

Two Separate Gorillas
Validated User
Mercenaries, spies and private eyes. That's quite a cool name for a game. And it sounds like it has more scope than top secret or gangbusters. Anyone remember this one?
Certainly. Indeed, it's still in print and available.

MSPE (or MS&PE, depending on who's abbreviating it) remains one of the most elegant and enjoyable games on the market. There's a remarkable amount of excellent advice in it for such a slim volume, particularly the section on mysteries, and the system is a doddle to run. It even includes crossover suggestions for Tunnels & Trolls :)
 

JohnBiles

Registered User
Validated User
I ran only a single MSPE game, but it was a ton of fun, ranging from one of the PCs getting stuck with her head and shoulders in one car and her feet in another one with the PCs and villians playing tug-of-war with her while racing at 120 MPH down a French highway to disguising a Lotus as a food cart to being surprised by a Terrorist stage magician pulling a Mac-10 out of her hat to a fistfight on top of an eighteen wheeler hauling beer illegally through dry counties in the US South.

Though we had even more fun with the James Bond RPG, which = ROCKTASTIC.


Top Secret, on the other hand, led to the Great Sprechenhaltenstelle Exploding Shop Massacre and the World's Deadliest Hobo.
 

castiglione

Registered User
Validated User
When I played Sprechenhaltenstelle, I think we wandered around the city for a while before getting bored and randomly murdering people.

I'm not sure if it was bad referee'ing or because there was no plot that brought on this spasm of homocidal behavior on our parts.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
When I played Sprechenhaltenstelle, I think we wandered around the city for a while before getting bored and randomly murdering people.

I'm not sure if it was bad referee'ing or because there was no plot that brought on this spasm of homocidal behavior on our parts.
From some of the designer's notes about his campaigns, this sounds pretty close to some of the missions he ran.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 74: June 1983

part 2/4

Landragons: Ahh, this is more like it. Three new dragon types, with a common theme running through them, and a load of implied setting stuff attached (the ubiquitous nebulous sages strike again!) Wingless compact dragons which are closer to being standard apex predators than the magically mighty supra-intelligent all rounders that make up the standard selection. And their breath weapons are pretty interesting as well. With plenty of info on their tactics, life cycle and ecology, this is a solid article that'll give you foes to challenge your players at a wide range of levels.

The electrum dragon: And a 4th dragon, unconnected to the previous three. This is not the product of gold and silver dragons mating, (although it probably ought to be) but a brand new metallic dragon species. They are a bit poncey, and not very considerate parents, but as we know, even good dragons aren't saints. This certainly isn't Ed's best contribution ever.

Seven swords: On the other hand, this is certainly a contender, if you go by the number of people who remember it fondly. Hello again, Elminster. Having been extensively regailed with stories of this world's magical swords, he condescends to reveal a little about the realms' most famous magical weapons in return. Adjatha, Albruin, Ilbratha, Namara, Shazzelim, Susk and Taragarth. Each has interesting powers beyond just being good at kicking butt, from monumental to quirky; and a history that spans many locations and multiple adventurers lives. Obviously, Ed is leading by example, and hopes to inspire other people to write stuff in the same vein, because at this stage, it'd still be a bit tricky to use them direct, given that our info on the realms is still in the form of tidbits with not enough joined up info to see the world beneath. Course, you could just nick the powers but replace or ignore the fluff. So it's useful even if you're lazy. Don't be lazy folks. Put in the effort to make your own world and make Ed proud.

The ecology of the bulette: Now why doesn't it surprise me that these are another of the first monsters to be ecologicaly examined. We see the return of the guild of naturalists, and their attempts to understand the creatures of the world around them. While a fun story, this one doesn't reveal that much about their general place in the world. Still, if not brilliant, it's a solid addition to their latest new series.

Tracing THRUSH's nest: A villainous organization for your top secret games. Formed from the ashes of professor Moiarty's criminal network, the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (man, that is a terrible acronym. ) is let by a supercomputer and has it's own flying mobile city. That's ..... Pretty far out, man. Introducing that would definitely raise a few eyebrows in all but the most gonzo game. I'm really not sure what to make of this.

In trouble? Say UNCLE: Ahh. Now it all makes sense. It's all the fault of 60's tv. Man, they came up with some utter tosh for their backstories. Most rpg settings seem like models of logical design and consistency by comparison. This does what you'd expect, compiling the hints from the shows to build up a setting for your PC's to use. If they're ON DRUGS! No, sorry, I cant suspend my disbelief long enough to take this seriously as a workable setting. It's like 60's batman. The holes and stylistic weirdness are just too big and obvious for me to deal with. You'll have to get someone else to try it.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
When I played Sprechenhaltenstelle, I think we wandered around the city for a while before getting bored and randomly murdering people.

I'm not sure if it was bad referee'ing or because there was no plot that brought on this spasm of homocidal behavior on our parts.
Spasms of homicidal behavior is basically what happened when I played this game with my cousin, Brian. We skipped all the stuff that wasn't shooting or punching people, except for the car chases. Gotta love the car chases. I cringe at the memories of those days, but I was in junior high, I believe, so I plead insanity.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
So another month has passed, and I've started doing new issues again. So I think now would be a good time to start putting my foot on the gas again. So I'm going to relegate my little actual play to tridaily, and put this one back up to 2/3rds of the time. Hopefully soon it'll be back to the full daily chug for a while. So without further exposition, lets get on with it.


Dragon Issue 74: June 1983

part 3/4

Spying on the spies: The writer of the previous two articles gives their designers notes, revealing the extrapolations and decisions they had to make to build the organizations into remotely consistent creations to use in your game. Which even they admit did take quite a bit of work, given the amount of contradictory material in the TV show and comics. Lets hope someone got some use from this stuff, because I can't see myself doing so, and they did put quite a bit of work into it.

The vicarious participator: Ahh joy. A roleplaying vs rollplaying piece. Lew tries to spread the idea of compromise between the people who just want to stomp shit and the persona building obsessives. Because we're all in the same hobby, and fighting over this stuff is just stupid. He also draws the distinction between those people who really want to create fictional characters with their own likes, dislikes and personalities, and those who basically play themselves if they were a whatever in the game. Neither is really wrong, and the line between can be quite blurred. And now you know about it, you can figure out where you fall on this scale and consciously choose to change it. Not his best work, and he's trying too hard to be noncontroversial IMO, but still a solid piece of writing with some insights into the roleplaying condition that don't seem obvious and stale. He always has a good spin on things that would be dull in lesser hands.

It's the combat computer: This months special feature is a cut-out wheel which is supposed to help you with your calculations. Not a bad idea. But make sure you cut it out correctly, otherwise it won't work. Notable also for being the first appearance of Tracy Hickman (unless I missed an earlier one) in the magazine. Another name we'll see going on to bigger and better (well, bigger anyway :p ) things. Another decent entry to add to their list of helpful creations.

What do you get when you cross a dungeon master with a computer: And here's another spin on the same subject. This provides you with a quick way of generating new characters. (at least, once you've entered the program into your computer ;) ) as befits the expansion in computers capacities, this is rather longer than earlier programs, with several interesting little subtleties which reflect the authors biases. Obviously, you won't be able to get any use out of it now, (unless you can point us towards a retro code environment emulator) but It's nice to see them putting some of this stuff in the magazine again. And if it doesn't do what you want, you can rewrite it yourself, which is more than we can say for the modern crop of digital aids.

A player character and his money: A second article from Lew this month. He attempts to restore some sanity to the economic situation in your game. A difficult task, as this is D&D, but hey, you gotta try. Remember, characters have to spend money just to live. And any place with lots of adventurers will suffer high inflation. (an excellent reason for you to keep heading for farther off continents or even extraplanar instead of settling down. You get higher level challenges, and don't ruin your home's economy and devalue your money there.) He tackles the other things that can eat up your funds; taxes, followers, building projects, equipment, influence etc. Unless they're being deliberately miserly, there are plenty of ways to keep them from being able to live off their current funds for the rest of their lives without them hating you for it. And several that will make you hate them, from thievery to being transported to another world without their stuff, or where it's not valued. Once again he's both full of ideas, and a catalyst for ideas in my head. Which is pretty nice, really.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 74: June 1983

part 4/4

Reviews: Star Frontiers is the only review this month, but is a bumper sized one. This is one of those reviews that winds up feeling more like a promotional piece than an objective assessment. That's the problem with reviewing games by the same company that's printing the reviews. Even if your enthusiasm is entirely genuine, your opinion still doesn't carry the weight of someone not in the employ of the creators. That said, it still goes into a good deal of detail on the specifics of the mechanics and contents, so it should still be useful in determining if you want to buy it or not.

Off the shelf: D'arc tangent no 1 by Freff & phil foglio is a comic with quite a bit of depth to it. About the search to discover why some races choose violence over empathy, it manages humour, detail and character development. Unfortunately, a quick search reveals that this is the only issue that ever got published, so the story is incomplete. Doesn't that just suck.
Prelude to chaos by Edward Llewellyn is a romance set against the collapse of civilization. Eventually, anyway, as both it's protagonists are hard-headed independent types. Big questions are raised, moral ambiguities presented,
The three legged hootch dancer by Mike Resnick is a story of an interstellar traveling circus, and the fun and trials they face along the way. This is primarily a humorous book, which is unusual for sci-fi.
The walls of air by Barbara Hambly is another story that transports earth natives to a fantasy world, and has them wind up saving it. But the characters and world are well built enough that you care about them anyway.
Orion shall rise by Poul Anderson is a postapocalyptic tale that spans an entire generation, and their attempts to regain power. We get to see how backroom politics and conflicts have very real effects on the world around. And some eco-crap. Not that that's a bad thing, as good sci-fi should throw a lens on real world issues.
The mists of avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a retelling of arthurian legend from the PoV of Morgan de fay. Intrigue, lust, incest, battle and magic ensue, as you might expect. The druidic side gets considerably better press than the christian one. I don't need to sell this one to you, as it is fairly well known.

What's new is in code this month, going with the spy theme. Wormy faces the wizard.

Not quite as good as last issue, this is still full of many memorable moments and several things that would go on to be significant later. They may have built up a bit of history, but they can still add on a lot more before it starts to collapse under it's own weight and needs rebooting. So lets add a few more pieces to this jenga tower, see what shapes it makes next as it builds up to it's full height.
 
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