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[Lets read] Dragon magazine - From the beginning

What can I say, I just like polls :)


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 78: October 1983

part 2/4

Sage advice: When do you check for psionic powers (when first created, and if your appropriate ability scores change)
Can you lose psionic powers if you suffer ability drain (yes)
How do you quickly assess if NPC's have psionics (roll D%. On a 00, they have psionics)
Which races can have psionics (humans, dwarves and halflings definitely can. Elves possibly can, depending which rules version you use. gnomes and half-orcs definitely can't)
Can a wish spell make you immune to psionic attacks (one wish will make you immune to one attack mode. You'd need 5 to become immune to them all.)
If you're surprised, can you still put up defense modes (yes)
Why aren't psionic attacks and defenses by high level creatures more powerful (for the same reason that regular weapons do the same amount of damage regardless of the wielders level. Not everything scales with level.)
Can you cast spells and use psionics at the same time ( You can have a thought shield up and cast spells as well, but otherwise no. They both require too much concentration to be compatible.)
Do successful psionic attacks disrupt spells. (only if they do real damage, or fully penetrate your shielding)
Can you raise a character killed by psychic crush (yes, but they lose all their psionic powers permanently. If they were an integral part of your character concept, it sucks to be you.)
Doesn't the players handbook say that thought shield is the only defense against psychic crush? (no, it says that's the only defense you can use while also using psychic crush. Read it more carefully.)
What does it mean when it says thought shield can be kept up at all times (exactly that. It's the only one you can use while fighting, spellcasting or otherwise being active. )
What happens to the points transferred back and forth in psionic operations. (they're expended. You'll have to recover them with rest as normal. )
What does page 77 mean. (if an attack reduces you to 0 psionic points, you start taking real hit point damage instead. Brain go splodey. )
Can psionic creatures sense other psionic creatures (only if they're actually using their powers at the time. If they're mentally shielded, not even then.)
If you switch classes, do you lose powers forbidden to your new class (yes, very much so.)
Can animal telepathy communicate with humans (no. They do not count as animals for the purposes of this power.)
Does cell adjustment let you know exactly how many hit points a character has (that depends on if you want the metagame and physics to be that closely connected. We'll leave this one to you.)
Can energy control negate any spell, even wishes. ((if you have the appropriate amount of power points to spend)
Does the table on page 60 apply to psionic invisibility (no. They're invisible because you're being mind controlled to ignore them, so no matter how good your other senses are, you won't pick up the clues.)
Can you attack someone and remain psionically invisible (no)
Can you use mollecular agitation through scrying (no. Line of sight means your actual, unenhanced sight)
Can you levitate yourself with telekinesis (no. That would make the other power redundant. )
Do magical protective items affect saves vs psionics (only if they boost all your saves, or specifically say so)
Do you gain XP just for using a power (getoutahere ya powergrubbing varmint. )
Do you gain XP for killing a creature with psionic blast (only if it was a threat, as with any other fight. Rigged games don't count. )

Ravenloft! What a way to mark this haloween. This is certainly one a lot of people remember fondly, and of course went on to get several remakes and be the centre of an entire campaign world. Let the gothic horror commence.

Overhauling the system: Back to the prose. Lets see what their suggestions for fixing this poorly designed and integrated subsystem are. 1: Proper progression, instead of starting almost as badass as you're ever going to be. An excelent idea. 2: use it or lose it. Not such a good idea. It conflicts with the general D&D design philosophy, and is way too likely to cause player/DM conflict. 3: Prevent low level characters from knowing the extents of their powers. Another not so good method that only works with novice players. Hmm. That's not a very good strike rate. Methinks this designer has a lot to learn about what makes for good game design. Not recommended, for annoying arguments may result.
 

Lord Mhoram

Registered User
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Overhauling the system: Back to the prose. Lets see what their suggestions for fixing this poorly designed and integrated subsystem are. 1: Proper progression, instead of starting almost as badass as you're ever going to be. An excelent idea. 2: use it or lose it. Not such a good idea. It conflicts with the general D&D design philosophy, and is way too likely to cause player/DM conflict. 3: Prevent low level characters from knowing the extents of their powers. Another not so good method that only works with novice players. Hmm. That's not a very good strike rate. Methinks this designer has a lot to learn about what makes for good game design. Not recommended, for annoying arguments may result.
What makes that one even more funny, is that the author misread the rules on Psionic Power Points. When Arthur Collins (the other major Psi guy in the issue) uses the correct rules, Schroek "calls" him on it, and the editors reply "No You are wrong". Arthur responds too. Then Schroek comes back sheepishly with a "Well the system is confusing anyway".

That exchange in the letters always amused me. Almost as much as the Gor alignment one.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 78: October 1983

part 3/4

And now, the psionicist: Hmm. Now this is very interesting. We now have a class specifically devoted to psionics. And it has the same name that the 2nd ed version would. That automatically makes this a pretty influential article. Lets see what they changed in the meantime. These do have quite a few weird 1st editionisms, such as different hit dice at different levels, level titles (which overlap with other classes thanks to insufficiently sized theasauri) and basic details such as armor/weapons/money are different. Despite adding a bunch of extra powers, they still have a rather limited selection compared to the spellcasting classes. If the ability to access the ones they know in any order as long as they have the points to spend will balance that out I'm not sure. Given that even 2nd edition psionics was horribly breakable, I suspect that these guys may also be if you select your powers right. (Yes, I am aware of the contradictions there. Could they be simultaneously under and overpowered? Possibly. :D ) Still, even if it needs a few rounds of playtesting and fine-tuning, this is a pretty neat article, that opens up new character avenues nicely. And since AD&D classes were never that well balanced anyway, what does it matter if they're unbalanced as long as they have niche protection. Another cool thing to add to the massive list of things I want to try out.

The Deryni: Ooh, a conversion with official author sanction. It's been rather too long since we saw one of those. And since we got a FUDGE deryni game recently, that probably means she's actually a gamer herself and not just licensing it out for the money. Anyway, lets look at the actual merits of the article. As you might expect, they do run into the problem of trying to fit them into the D&D rules framework, but they take away options as much as they grant them, which means they aren't as annoying as some other contributions we've seen :cough:gypsies:cough: Overall, this is a pretty decent article, and they don't have to mutilate them too much to get them to work with D&D. I wonder if we'll see them again in here.

Heroes and villains of the deryni: Arthur Collins' final contribution this month allows him to put all the ingredients he's introduced so far into a nice package as he details characters from the books. Which is nice, as normally, you don't get to see the optional rules in these issues actually applied. We get 8 characters, most of which are multiclass psionicists. There is the usual tendency towards massive attribute bloat that we see in most of these articles. You ought to know by now I disapprove of that unless it really does accurately reflect the characters all-round capabilities as shown in the novel (in which case it's the author who'll get the mild disapproval if their writing isn't good enough to justify the characters all-round brilliance ) so I shall simply shrug and sigh at this. Giants in the earth may be gone, but it's influence is still seen, making people think creating characters with stats like this is normal behaviour. So I have decidedly mixed feelings about the final results.

Citadel by the sea: A 16 page module for low level characters. It does have some fairly specific character requirements, due to the mission and setting, and requires quite a bit of roleplaying. But once you get past that it's a regular, if pretty large dungeoncrawl. Like keep on the borderlands, this is one you can approach in a number of ways, and if you fail to clear it out first time (likely, unless you have a big, well henched party) they should react and adapt to your encroachment. So another useful little piece of kit that you can drop in easily enough to your games. They strike a decent balance between putting roleplaying stuff in and allowing the players plenty of freedom in how to solve the problem.

Figure feature: Lots of different monsters this month. Mermen, demons, trolls, hydra, dragons, plus a couple of mounted humans. But at least they're evil humans, so you can kill them without feeling guilty as well.

Be thy die ill-wrought?: Standard deviation. One of the more useful pieces of statistical math. In this case it's used to test if a die really is loaded, or your mind is just seeing patterns where there are none. For those of you who can't wrap your brains around the math involved, they also include a BASIC program which can do the heavy lifting for you. Its always nice when they put in something that'll expand people's general knowledge. I haven't done these kind of maths since I left school, and it's nice to be reminded of them.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The Deryni: Ooh, a conversion with official author sanction. It's been rather too long since we saw one of those. And since we got a FUDGE deryni game recently, that probably means she's actually a gamer herself and not just licensing it out for the money.
No she's apparently not, though in addition to this article and the Fudge version, there's also a chapter in the Witches Role Aids supplement (the old AD&D-compatible line from Mayfair). She was apparently receptive because a number of her fans were gamers. See here for a brief description by the author of Fudge Deryni.

Pat
 
Last edited:

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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No she's apparently not, though in addition to this article and the Fudge version, there's also a chapter in the Witches Role Aids supplement (the old AD&D-compatible line from Mayfair). She was apparently receptive because a number of her fans were gamers. See here for a brief description by the author of Fudge Derynii.

Pat
Interesting. As ever, thanks for the source. These things really do help me get a better picture.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 78: October 1983

part 4/4

The ecology of the mind flayer: Looks like they're getting in on the psionic theme as well, with the story of the ilithids, as told by a githyanki. And as they should know, you don't fuck with them unprepared, and you don't rely on magic to get them. Use psionics liberally, watch your companions for signs of being taken over, and generally make sure you have lots of failsafes and backup plans. Because they'll definitely learn from your mistakes and get revenge if you fail. The drama is strong in this one, as the protagonists learn just how scary it is dealing with someone who's reading your mind the whole time. Still, better they learn that now than in pitched battle where the enemy counters their every tactic and then eats their brains. Also interesting to note is that mind flayers don't have a god yet. Illsenine and whats-his-name who got killed by Orcus are still just motes in some writers mind. Also missing is the whole implantation schtick. In fact, details on their reproductive cycle are completely missing. On the other hand, they do get plenty of info which would be useful in actual encounters, such as the type of creatures that they associate with, and how they build their cities. Not a perfect article, but still an exceedingly entertaining one. Monsters like this are why you should treat dungeoneering as a carefully planned military mission. When you're going into a city filled with thousands of high power monsters, you've got to be prepared.

Spells can be psionic too: Kim finishes off the psionic stuff with some dull comparison between spells and powers that do roughly the same thing. While it does reveal some little details about the D&D universe metaphysics, this definitely has the feel of a filler article. I'm really not in the mood for this kind of piece by piece examination at the moment, and I think we can safely skip this one. The last of 8 articles in a theme is rarely that good.

Pop the clutch and roll: Chases! A situation full of drama that the vast majority of RPG's handle very badly indeed, with their flat movement rates, and awkward integration of attack and movement options. Vehicle chases are particularly problematic. Lets see what this set of rules for Top Secret is like, and if they work.
Hmm. Recording maneuvers for each turn in secret, then revealing them simultaneously. That's a pretty good way of going about it, as it allows both luck and skill to play a part in catching or losing your opponent. Obviously, there is a certain amount of crunch involved as you compare options, but at only 5 pages, I think you can handle it. And it's good that they're not neglecting their other games as well.

The thrill of the hunt: Dragonquest also gets an article this month. Rules for hunting food. Now there's a good idea. Unless you're in another plane of existance or something similarly problematic, you shouldn't have to rely entirely on food you packed beforehand. A simple and effective little table is provided allowing you to determine your odds of success in various environments. Obviously this does increase the power of the characters a little, but as it also takes up plenty of time and XP to develop and use, I think it balances out. Time spent hunting is not spent completing your primary quest. But if you die of starvation, you're not going to complete anything. I quite approve. It adds realism without getting in the way.

What's new sets us some puzzles. Wormy engages in some recounting. Snarfquest solves the predicament by mad luck.

Well, that was a rather harder issue to get through than I expected. Goes to show. First impressions from looking at the table of contents are not always accurate. Not that it's a bad one in terms of writing or design, but the degree of hard-to-digest crunch is definitely quite high in this one, making it less enjoyable that the last few. I guess it's good exercise for my brain, reading this much this fast. No pain, no gain. I wonder how much'll actually have been retained once it's all over. Maybe | should take a test. Eh. Long way to go. No time for angst. We can save that for the 90's. ;)
 

DrewID

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Dragon Issue 78: October 1983

part 4/4

What's new sets us some puzzles.
For those easily puzzled, the Foglio's included the answers to the puzzles as a bonus in their weekly posting of the history of What's New. The two puzzle pages are http://www.airshipentertainment.com/growfcomic.php?date=20080413 and http://www.airshipentertainment.com/growfcomic.php?date=20080420, and the answers are http://www.airshipentertainment.com/growfcomic.php?date=20080421.

DrewID
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Well, that was a rather harder issue to get through than I expected. Goes to show. First impressions from looking at the table of contents are not always accurate. Not that it's a bad one in terms of writing or design, but the degree of hard-to-digest crunch is definitely quite high in this one, making it less enjoyable that the last few. I guess it's good exercise for my brain, reading this much this fast. No pain, no gain. I wonder how much'll actually have been retained once it's all over. Maybe | should take a test. Eh. Long way to go. No time for angst. We can save that for the 90's. ;)
That was definitely an issue that required re-reading. The mind flayer article was the most atmospheric, but the rest was a heavy dose of crunch and options building on an obscure, poorly integrated, and already-difficult set of rules.

For those who didn't look, the puzzles DrewID linked to are quite good :).
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 79: November 1983

part 1/4

84 pages. Another step towards computers being integral to their operations is made here. On the plus side, this means nicer layout. On the negative side, as they've only just adopted it, only part of this magazine uses the changes so far. You don't get breaks to retool when the dreaded deadline beast needs regular feeding. I'm so glad at this point that I'm posting stuff considerably slower than I can do it, so I do get time to buffer and take breaks. Lets see if they can finish this year off in style.

In this issue:

Out on a limb: A fairly long letter criticizing Len's anti evil characters stuff in issue 76. Kim rebutts this, saying that as ever, you can use this stuff the way you want, but we strongly recommend you do it our way. After all, we're the professionals. We know what makes a fun game better than you do. We particularly know what makes up AD&D. By real world standards, a bunch of heavily armed guys independent of and political body who went around killing things and taking their stuff would be regarded as dangerous criminals. But that's irrelevant. There are standards of Good and Evil in D&D, and you should play characters that fit those of Good.
A short letter supporting Len, saying they're sick of evil characters ruining their games.
A letter pointing out they screwed up yet another computer program. Never let literary editors do a technical editors job.
Praise for the nine hells article and asking for more planar ones. They reply that they're certainly open to the idea as long as someone sends them high quality manuscripts. They'll need to be pretty damn good to measure up to Ed's example though.
A letter asking if the combat computer is available separately. They reply that no, you'll have to buy another issue. Yah boo, razzle, etc etc.
A letter commenting on the skills that make up a good GM. Quite an interesting one, too. Well done, Jonathan Helles, if you're still out there.

The ecology of the treant: An ecology for one of the more ecologically minded monsters. This is why monsters from dungeons don't overrun the forests and rip them down. They have their own horrors that are quite capable of taking care of themselves. And if you're only facing treants, you should count yourself lucky. Better that than being schooled by some kind of trickster fae. The fiction on this one isn't particularly great, as it's rather lacking in drama. However, it does have an appendix that actually has useful game information. And a robert heinlein reference :) Overall, probably a slightly below average entry, but not terrible.

The best of the dragon, part three! They really are churning those out. I don't know. Any excuse for some easy money.

Fiction: The ordeal by Atanielle Annyn Noel. Ooh. Fiction about gaming group drama. Makes a change from the straight fantasy stuff. You see surprisingly little crossover between the fiction writers and the gaming article producers. Anyway. Pretentious twit gets a little mischievious justice, learns from the experience, everyone winds up happier at the end. There's a definite moral to this story. Plus it shows that this kind of gamer existed long before white wolf started writing games specifically targeted at the florid melodramatic prose crowd. A pretty entertaining story that quite a few people could learn from.
 

BPIJonathan

I'll be superamalgamated!
Validated User
From another thread:

I recall an issue of The Dragon (which issue? I don't know. The early-mid 80's) with a bunch of Deryni articles. Including expanding the AD&D psionics system for Deryni stuff.
Have you come across this article yet? If so, would you let me know the issue number?
 
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