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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
Validated User
Dragon Issue 95: March 1985

part 4/4

Starquestions goes back to gamma world. It's becoming quite the regular stop for them as well.
Will you reprint old articles if we demand them ( Mmmmmmaybe. If you ask very nicely. )
What do you use for hit dice when attacking on matrix II (constitution)
How much damage do mini-missiles really do (10d10. Doesn't sound very mini to me.)
How do you penetrate powered armour with a club. (Lots of Clubs! The problem with ablative armour is that it ablates. )
Can you cut peoples limbs off with a vibroblade (No. Abstraction strikes again! Once they're dead, you can mutilate them any way you like. )
Do radiated eyes have a weapon class (nope. Zappy lasers are very good at hitting.)
Does having con 16+ let you attack as a 16 HD creature (quite possibly)
How many attacks can you do in a turn (1. No more. Ancillary actions may be performed as well. NPC's may break that rule.)
Where is the apocalypse base (Very good question. Keep asking and we may do a module on it.)
Can we have a list of how the new edition has changed from the old (no. You've gotta buy the new edition, so there. )
Are there prisons in gamma world (Sure. Don't expect the criterea for being put in them to be fair or sane. You get caught, you deal with the consequences of the local law, whatever it may be. )
Are there more cryptic alliances (Sure. Introduce any you want. )
I don't have an LGS. (Mail order our stuff. Aaaaanywhere iiiinnn the WOOOOORRRRRRLLLLDD!!!!!)
Is radiation damage applied immediately. (At the end of the appropriate interval. It'd be intolerably tedious to roll for background radiation every minute. )
Are there any gamma world posters (sorry.)
How much status do you get for killing things (the enemy's total hit points, divided by the number of combatants on your side. )
Should the players be allowed to look at the rules during the game. (That is entirely the GM's decision. You can be as nice, or as strict as the players will tolerate. )
When do we find out what happened to the rest of the solar system. (Again, keep begging and buying our stuff, and we may tell you ............ eventually. If you can't wait, just make it up yourself. )
Where can I find a starship. (In space. They're too big to land, and any functioning ones are already well off this dump. )
Are there gamma world articles in ARES and polyhedron issues (yes. Pick them up while they're available.)
Will we ever get Advanced Gamma world, organized like AD&D. (No.)
Who fought in the social wars (Everyone. No-one was spared. Not even Switzerland. )

Antimissiles and roundshot: Another familiar system gets more attention. Traveller gets some intriguing new weapons to tip the odds in space combat. Mines. Tractor beams. Antimissile clusters. A definite emphasis on the defensive side of your ship's arsenal. Stuff that shows up in plenty of Sci-fi movies and books, and I'm vaguely surprised isn't detailed already. Spot a gap, fill that gap, soon people can't imagine being without you, that's the way to progress, as I've said before. And this article neatly avoids the threat of power creep as well. But what would you expect from the author of something as inventive and meta-aware as Everybody eats everybody on sunday's planet. Once again, he gets my approval.

The marvel-phile: Iron man! Now there's a character who's evolved in powers quite a lot over the years. Because he has two operators, plus a whole array of special powers developed as needed over the years, this is too big to fit in a single issue, with more to come next time. To start off, we get the unenhanced stats for Tony Stark and Rhodey. Pretty much what you'd expect. Then we get the suit, and a whole page of the special powers it's had over the years. This is a definite case where you need reassignable floating power points rather than a laundry list. Some poor cut-and-pasting is visible in this article, which definitely doesn't interface that well with the usual style of these articles. Gadgeteers are a problem in many supers games, and it seems this is no exception. How awkward and disappointing.

The dolphins of known space: Larry Niven! Ringworld! It's been quite a while since we saw anything on this. But now we have an official licenced game, hopefully we'll be seeing some more in the near future.
Now, dolphins. While intelligent, they're a definite problem to integrate into standard games, cause y'know, the whole no arms or legs thing. Fortunately, Known space is a pretty racially progressive place, (We'll skip the flamewars about it's sexual progressiveness for now) and they have plenty of gadgetry to help them integrate. All of which is nicely statted up for the BRP system. And they do have some cool special abilities that make up for it, such as sonar and exceptional swimming ability. You can make this into the kind of problem that's fun to get around, rather than the type that'll ruin the game. A pleasing article, both from a fluff and crunch perspective. And since it's BRP, that means you can play dolphins in Runequest as well. Looks like Greg's request is already paying dividends.

Wormy also comments on taxes and economics. Snarfquest again triumphs by sheer luck. Dragonmirth is as puntacular as ever.

Looks like D&D's history is chugging along nicely. With UA imminent, and the forgotten realms given a considerable profile raise, we get some more foreshadowing of the big changes that will happen in the next few years. The rest of the issue's pretty interesting as well. Ed continues to shine. Katharine shows signs of burning out, there's plenty of stuff for other systems. Looks like their strong run is continuing, but there are hints that may change at any time. What will the next dramatic left turn be? Lets hope we won't have to wait too long to see.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985

part 1/4

100 pages. Welcome to another april fools issue. They may have neglected it last year, but this time they're really going to town on the ridiculousness. Pray if they slap you round the face with a fish, it'll be a haddock, not a spiny puffer fish or a giant eel or a mudkip. No-one really lieks mudkips. Not even with pasta. DUCK CITY!

In this issue:

Talisman, the magical quest game. How cute. I vaguely remember this.

Letters: A letter asking if you could cut costs by feeding your soldiers nothing but iron rations. Sure, but they wouldn't be happy about it, and they still wouldn't be able to carry enough to feed them more than a few weeks, especially with all their other stuff. You can't escape logistics that easily.
A question about the jumping rules in issue 93. Unclear math in an example? Say it aint so.
An odd question about attacking while being grappled by the eye of the deep. Of all the things to quibble about.
A letter asking how hard the Urisk is to spot. Pretty darn tricky, as long as it stays still.
Someone pointing out a pronunciation inconsistency. They say to use the dictionary version. Even writers disagree at times.
And finally, as it's april, we have four joke letters. You know, these would be funnier if they weren't immediately obvious as joke letters. You ought to use the real ones. You should know by now they'll be more ridiculous than anything you can come up with.

PENDARGON!! (squee!) Ahem, I mean dragon. One of the most idiosyncratically awesome games ever gets its first edition. Honor, Passion, romance and getting old and dying in the reign of King Arthur. Man, we're not even to the first feature and we've already seen two interesting new adverts. This is promising.

The forum: David Miller has his own thoughts on alignment, leaning towards subjectivity and being true to your own standards being more important than some universal rules of morality. A perfectly valid way to do things, but not one that will end this debate.
Joseph M Dornbierer takes up the rest of the forum, with a huge amount of commentary on all sorts of articles and the way they change the rules. What is really official if even Gary doesn't use the rules as written, what additions and streamlinings are good for the game, and does anyone actually play them as written, because I've never seen a game where every rule is strictly applied. Even if they were, many of the results would be ridiculous in real world terms. This is seriously problematic. Once again we see that many people back then had problems with the rules, and extensive house-ruling was common. What are we to do with this turbulent playerbase?

From the sorceror's scroll: More demihuman level limit increases. God, people just won't let up on this one, will they? Having already granted some pretty hefty raises, now Gary opens up various previously forbidden classes. Most significant of these is that elves can now become rangers. Their gods have finally decided that this newfangled wilderness handling skillset the humans have come up with is so appropriate to elves that they'll grant their persistent prayers and let them have it. See what determined union action gets you? Druids also get considerably opened ranks. We also get some tedious organizational stuff, as they turn paladins into a sub-class of cavalier, and elaborate on the dual classing options available to characters. We also get some amusing contrition from Gary as he receives a lecture in etiquette from a FLGS employee, and reminds us to be polite when requesting stuff they don't have. (also, don't steal kids, as if you needed to be told) And in another of his random left turns, he recommends the Black Company books by Glen Cook as being excellent inspiration for gaming. Another amusing demonstration of his stream of conciousness writing style, in which rules are changed at his whim. Just business as usual around here then.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Letters: A letter asking if you could cut costs by feeding your soldiers nothing but iron rations. Sure, but they wouldn't be happy about it, and they still wouldn't be able to carry enough to feed them more than a few weeks, especially with all their other stuff. You can't escape logistics that easily.
You can if you feed them dwarfbread. Not only will they forage heavily, they'll show great enthusiasm for defeating the enemy and looting the commissary wagons.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985

part 2/4

Daredevils, the game of 1930's adventurers. Well well, another one. So many people trying to do pulp and flopping in the 80's. So much for that plan.

What good PC's are made of: Katharine Kerr continues to preach the cause of proper characterization with increasing stridency. Careful attention to historical detail, check. A definite preference for the gritty over high fantasy. Check. Give your character a proper background. Check. Race, nationality and religion should mean more than a single word on a sheet. She is becoming predictable. All these elements have appeared in her previous articles in various combinations. Fortunately, this is her last appearance for quite a long time. I suspect she was getting as sick of having to think of stuff to write here regularly as I am of reading it. Such a shame to see a writer flag and quit. Still, she went on to bigger and better things, so gamings loss is fictions gain. You'll have to look elsewhere if you want to see the rest of her story.

The ecology of the gulguthra: A rather fitting name, don't you think. If you or I had to eat shit, I think we'd make a noise somewhat approximating the taxonomic name of the otyugh family. This is as much a story of forgotten realms politics as it is the monster in question. Not that it neglects them, going into considerable detail on their physiology and mating habits (which are as gross as you might expect) tactics and relationships with other creatures. Ed seems to have pretty much locked down this series for the moment, with the impression given that he can knock off these in an afternoon by now. They're definitely developing in a way I'm not sure I approve of, with forgotten realms creeping into the generic stuff so much. You'll have to remember that this stuff isn't canon, and you can alter their ecologies for your own world if you choose. Don't let them hem your imagination in without even realizing it. And don't think you have to have an ancient superpowerful wizard imparting wisdom to your players at every opportunity. There are better ways to get your infodumps.

Coming attractions: A bit small this month, but with a nice scroll backdrop. Our main feature is Castle Arcania, a one-on-one adventure gamebook. Sounds interesting. Anyone remember these things?
Indiana Jones gets the Judges survival pack, and module IJ4, The Golden Goddess. Rules expansions, and an adventure directly tied into the first movie. Lets get our payback.
Marvel Superheroes gets MH6: Thunder over Jotenheim. A solo adventure for the mighty Thor. Who dares!
Endless Quest gets it's 27th book, Lair of the Lich. Recover your fathers secret spells from the dread liches catacomb before they're used to cause devastation.
D&D gets X9: The savage coast. What lies to the west of the Known World? One of the most fun bits of world you'll ever explore, and one we'll revisit quite a few times in greater depth. If you finish that, you can go straight into module CM4: The earthshaker. The Known World is at threat as a great danger awakes. Head back from your domains in Norwald to defeat it. We also get Dragons of Winter Night, part two of the Dragonlance Chronicles. The heroes split up. Well, since Tolkien did it, it's virtually obligatory to have the forking subplot. Otherwise it's not properly epic.

Off the shelf gets its title back: The bishop's Heir by Katharine Kurtz gets a rather mixed review. While for any normal author this would be great, for her it's slightly subpar, with the antagonists never really developed enough. Wait for the paperback if you like her stuff.
Moonheart by Charles De Lint on the other hand, gets a truly fanboyish response. Originality, characterisation, worldbuilding, style, all get top marks from this reviewer. It spans multiple genres and is pretty cool.
Brisingamen by Diana L Paxton takes an ancient norse macguffin and places it in the hands of a student in san francisco. Can you guess what happens next? Plot! Thankfully it's an interesting and well researched plot, which manages to feel real despite the supernatural elements.
The fire sword by Adrienne Martine-Barnes causes the reviewer much frustration. Something's not quite right with it, but he can't quite pinpoint it, and so kept reading and feeling unsatisfied, like scratching at an itch making it worse. He encourages you not to start. An interesting way to condemn a novel, and not one I remember seeing before.
The vulcan academy murders by Jean Lorrah is, as should be obvious, a star trek novel. While not that great as a murder mystery, with a bit of idiot balling taking place, it's a good source of more setting details for your own star trek games, with lots of stuff on Vulcan culture. And for all the reviewers distaste for Star Trek Fiction, is what D&D is doing with it's dragonlance novels any better?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985

part 3/4

The handy art of forgery: A new special skill for assassins? Cool, I guess. It seems like a reasonable ability for them to have, so why not. As is common in 1st edition, it's odds of success are determined by a fixed % roll with a few basic modifiers. And you don't really give anything up to gain this new power, which is still a definite issue. A good idea that is flawed by the overall level of game design technology at this point. What are you gonna do.

Books to games? Perhaps!: Yeah, stealing settings seems like a good way to save time and get lots of cool stuff. However, it has definite problems. Gary is already aware of this, and has made his feelings on doing so very clear. But it's certainly not a terrible idea. You just have to pick your setting carefully, and make sure it has enough room for stories beyond the original one. Changing things to deal with spoileriffic players, setting it far in the past or future, hybridizing the settings and themes of several different books, all help. We get conversion and plot examples for Gor (!) Barsoom, and Middle earth settings. A pretty solid article that should help you if you're considering this course of action.

PBM update - news and views: Mike Gray is back, following up on his previous examination of the play by mail scene. Rick Loomis' attempts to regulate the hobby seem to be working, and the hobby as a whole is chugging along nicely. So he gives us reviews of 5 new games. Battle of the gods, World of velgor, Illuminati, Capitol, and Quest for the great jewels. All get crisp and fairly positive reviews that go into a decent amount of detail on their workings. Another good example of the diversity of stuff they're covering in this period, and it's interesting to see how this related field fares compared to RPG's. See you again next year, I hope.

Nogard: The ultimate high level Adventure to end all adventures! The most epic, exciting adventure ever. You will not believe how awesome this one is. April Fool.

The what's new dragon. Aww, isn't it cute. We get D&D stats for this little terror. Growf growf. We also get stats for the quazar dragon, a planet eating monstrosity for when your players have got too big for their boots. Neither are really legal, so don't worry too much. If they show up, you're screwed whatever you do. Your best hope is to amuse the DM enough that they don't utterly humiliate you with them.

The meanest of monsters: Two more spoof monsters, the Killer DM, and the sleep inducing DM. Once again, be very afraid, because there's no way you can win a fight with these guys. Soft Barbara Streissand music, booga booga booga. What worse fate could you face. There's no Robert Smith to save you this time. Also notable for introducing the scariest critical damage system evar. April fool.

It takes all kinds: Enraged Glaciers and Ghouls finally gets round to publishing race descriptions. Humans, Kobolds, Fairies, Goblins, Biters and Bogies. None are exactly what you would expect, as they put a unique spin on each race. An extensive matrix describes their relationships with one-another, but they have no actual stats. Maybe next year. April fool.

Rules to lose by: Ever wondered what the most underpowered class ever was. Look no further. Welcome to the hopeless character class. Even regular commoners could kick this guys ass, if he didn't kick it for them by accident first. Technically legal, but you'd have to be mad to play one. A hundred, of them, naruto style, on the other hand, could be fun. April Fool. As with everything else, you'll have to make of it what you will.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985

part 4/4

Getting in over your head: Dragonquest gets another article, this time devoted to underwater adventures. A new character class devoted to them is introduced, which will certainly change the playstyle a bit. Some rather complex crunch is introduced, with detailed examination of visibility, buoyancy, and fatigue while swimming. Curious. Not really sure what to make of this, or how it integrates with the existing rules. In any case, the writer certainly seems to have different priorities when handling swimming than most game writers. Goes to show what different people see when tackling a problem.

Palladium compresses little adverts for every book so far into one page.

Fiction: Inglafs dream by Ama Darr Rogan. Meta once again creeps into our fiction as characters start to become aware of their nonexistance. Only this time they don't get to do anything about it. Which makes this rather less interesting than several of our previous contributions. Ho hum. No cool new twist on the familiar idea this time. Maybe next time. It's not as if it's an uncommon occurance around here.

These are the voyages of the Ginny's delight: This month's special feature belongs to the ARES section. The Ginny's delight is a tramp trader, nominally set in the star trek universe, but easily adaptable to other space games. With full stats and deck plans, this is a nice help for anyone who wants to run a game with a firefly-esque independent group of PC's traveling the universe and getting in and out of wacky hijinks. Once again, they know what'll be useful, and give it to us without bogging down in unneccecary detail.

Why is this mutant smiling?: Because Gamma world gets a whole load of new mutations. More cool powers for him, in other words. 32 of them. Of course, in fine old skool tradition, you don't get to choose them, just roll them randomly, which makes the more egregious combinations unlikely, but utterly unbalanced when they do show up. Hey ho. Another so-so list of things to steal and convert for whatever game. If you saw the random demon construction and other lists, you've probably seen most of these before. Kudos for the camel hump though. A useful trick that usually gets forgotten there.

Not quite the marvel-phile: Howard the duck! Frog-man! Mailman! More awesome characters from the marvel universe get to strut their stuff on the gaming stage! April fool. An entirely legal and properly derived from the source material (which lets face it, has enough gonzo elements to keep them going for years) april fool, but an april fool nonetheless. Still, if you want to use them in your games, you can, with their blessing. I approve. These kind of things shouldn't just be swept under the rug, and april fools articles ought to be game useful. You can have mad and comical elements to your game, and not detract from the overall drama of the situation, as D&D, runequest and exalted have all demonstrated time and time again. The most risible people are those who take themselves seriously all the time.

The real marvel-phile continues it's talk about iron man, with three of the alternate suits statted up this time. Tony's lite suit, plus the space and stealth suits. The laundry list problem that plagued last issue is less of an issue (fnar), as the crunch is divided up between the various suits. We also get a very good synopsis of how Tony and co have fared over the years, with drink and financial problems playing a big part. His continuity certainly hasn't been static, and it looks like more changes are about to take places soon, as they keep up with soon to be released comics. Will we have to see him again in a few years to incorporate all the updates? We shall see.

The coming of the S'sessu: Zeb Cook gives us a new race for Star Frontiers. The S'sessu, amoral worm creatures that seem suspiciously similar to the Sathar. Don't trust them further than you can kick their asses, because they'll betray you as soon as a better offer comes along. Not a terrible addition to the stable of species, as it puts an interesting slant on the aliens as humans in funny suits trope by having two similar but apparently unconnected nonhumanoid races in the same game. I find myself approving more than I expected I would. Hey ho.

Wormy has no words this month, but some bloody impressive visuals. Trampier has certainly developed his skills quite a bit since he started working on this. Snarf breaks his poor little robot companions mind as he defeats the duck-dragon. My sanity would be squeaking too in his position.

Paranoia and MERP ads once again occupy the backmost pages.

Lots of fun stuff in this issue. Their comic output has been well above average this year, both in amusingness and game usefulness. The regular stuff, on the other hand has been pretty average, with some good stuff, and some bad stuff. So overall, a pretty decent issue. Will we see flamewars as a result of the jokes? Will next year be more or less zany? Only one way to find out. To the Causality violator! Crank dat supersoaker, Dr Netchurch! We're gonna wind 'em up fo sho!
 

DrewID

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 96: April 1985

part 3/4

Books to games? Perhaps!: Yeah, stealing settings seems like a good way to save time and get lots of cool stuff. However, it has definite problems. Gary is already aware of this, and has made his feelings on doing so very clear. But it's certainly not a terrible idea. You just have to pick your setting carefully, and make sure it has enough room for stories beyond the original one. Changing things to deal with spoileriffic players, setting it far in the past or future, hybridizing the settings and themes of several different books, all help. We get conversion and plot examples for Gor (!) Barsoom, and Middle earth settings. A pretty solid article that should help you if you're considering this course of action.
When the author started "logically" describing a path for turning each unique world into a standard D&D world, I just thought "What's the point of that?"

DrewID
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 97: May 1985

part 1/4

100 pages. Silver dragons are such sluts. Seems like they'll mate with anything with a halfway decent personality or artistic skills, regardless of species. What's all that about then. When the cosmic entities who set the standards for good and evil said that love overcoming all boundaries, differences and difficulties was a great example of good behaviour, did they really mean that principle to be applied like this? Probably not, but it makes for entertaining stories, so I'm certainly not complaining. What other stories will be inspired by the contents of this issue? Good question. Too much rambling preamble keeps solid facts intangible.

In this issue:

Letters: Kim gets the first "letter" in, an apology for messing up the demihuman level raises article. That's gonna annoy a lot of overeager players. Unearthed arcana'd better be edited better than this.
A letter from Arthur Collins' mum complaining about a mistake in one of his recent articles. Kim says that that mistake was his fault, not ours. (although we really should have spotted it and fixed it. ) But really, your mum writing in to complain? What are you, 6? How amusingly absurd. Haven't seen that around here before.
Some more errors, this time in the forgotten realms adventure. This one is their fault. They meddled with ed's perfect work, and then failed to take the proper interconnectedness of things into account! Fools!
A letter asking how far a cockatrices stoning power spreads. One discrete unit, called a lifeform. Simple as that. Bloody rules lawyers, trying to make simple solutions complicated.
A question on ability score limits and magic items. Once again, they phrased things poorly. When they said maximum scores, they meant permanent ratings, not further temporary enhancements on top of that.
Three letters on the Treasure Trove, asking for more detail on various items.
A letter asking why apes have a such low chance of being found in their lair. Because normally they don't keep lairs, ya dummy. Does the word nomadic mean anything to you?
A letter full of rapidfire questions, which get equally terse replies. Someone's getting in the april fools spirit.

The forum: J R Smith disagrees strongly with Gary's statement that Tolkien's world is not suited to D&D gaming, and D&D is not substantially indebted to it. Apparently lots of other people agree with him, in even more heated terms that are not publishable in a family friendly magazine. How very amusing. Goes to show what happens when you talk down to your audience.
David Finlayson thinks debating about good and evil is pointless, yet still has extensive contributions on the debate. That's like saying I don't mean to cause offense just before saying something incredibly rude. Rather disingenous really.
David C Rathbun has some optional rules about handedness, of all things. The kind of thing that feels like it ought to have been an article but wasn't long enough. Once again, experience gained from the SCA is cited. Not sure if I approve of that or not, but it's definitely interesting.

From the sorceror's scroll: This month, Gary goes into how deities get their power. Worship! Seems a sensible start. However, it then gets rather awkward, applying linear math to what should be an exponential progression, and reminding us that D&D alignment was bloody weird, goes all the way up, and wasn't all that well thought out. I'm really very iffy on this one. It reads like something that was dashed off late at night, and then published without proper editing. You need to join the dots up, otherwise the world won't work properly.

Sticks, stones, and bones: Did a thief steal your stuff. A rust monster eat it. Or a fireball backfire and melt your weapons. You'll need to improvise something fast if you want to get out of the dungeon alive. Fortunately, there are plenty of objects that make good improvised weapons, particularly if you've just killed something. Yes, it's demeaning when you're used to shiny magical swords, but a heroes true worth is in his spirit and ingenuity, not material things. Stephen Inniss delivers another of his great examinations of an aspect of the game you may have overlooked. From basic household objects, to industrial devices, so many things can be turned to the task of delivering Pain! Another thing that can be great fun, but has since fallen out of favour amongst the official designers, due to the emphasis on balance and having an expected array of equipment to go with your level. Household objects? We can't be bothered to put costs and descriptions for those anymore. Another article that makes it clear we're still a long way from home. But that doesn't mean we can't use this stuff in our games. If you power down the PC's a bit by removing their stuff, it makes battles genuinely nerve-wracking, and slows down the rush through the upper levels that you can see in 3rd and 4th. Just don't do it all the time.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 97: May 1985

part 2/4

A tale of three talents: Some rather impressive pictures of a miniature castle. Designed by Arthur Collins, built out of sheet metal by Dennis Kauth, and photographed by Mike Sitkiewicz, this is a pretty cool bit of design, well displayed. See what having a proper photographer on the team can do. Keep it up.

Crom's Blood! It's Conan the roleplaying game! Out now! Supplements coming soon! Adverts are amusing. Definitely a step up from getting D&D supplements.

Only train when you gain: Ahh, one of our perrenial topics. How do you handle training in the game. Should it be easy or hard. Expensive or not. How possible is it to innovate and develop in the field without help from anyone else. Let's see what this writer has to say about it. He definitely doesn't seem happy about the current assumptions. Unless you're pretty generous with your treasure, you may well wind up wasting a load of time grinding to get the money to advance after you have the XP. This doesn't seem right. Instead, lets save the training for when you actually gain new powers, rather than just improving the current ones. Seems a bit of a long-winded way to say it, but it's a sensible thing to say. Bit meh, really.

The ecology of the gorgon: Another petrifying monster gets special attention. Well, would you ignore it if it was wandering around your neighbourhood? As ever, Elminster draws upon his huge network of sources to present the information to Ed. As with the cockatrice, he decides to make their petrification a voluntary action. (which I vaguely disapprove of as it makes it entirely a combat power, and removes the inherent tragedy that the other route provides for. ) That sylistic disagreement aside, it's as well written and thought out as ever. Particularly amusing is the gorgons relationship with rust monsters, who will eat their skin (gross) given half the chance. And isn't fun stuff like that what ecology is about. Not just what a creature does, but it's relationship to other creatures. Once again, he's turning in pretty sterling work.

For a fuller background: Paul Crabaugh again contributes this month's dragonquest article. Some random rolls produce stupid results. This needs fixing. Lets revise the social class tables, and add a new variable. Nothing wrong with that, and the way it's written is laced with dry humour. A little fun makes an efficient article go down even more smoothly. As long as you don't mind some characters starting out with definite advantages compared to others from random rolls, you should enjoy this.

Pages from the mages IV: God, Elminster appearances really are increasing in frequency of late. I guess Ed's realized that quite a few people like him, and is starting to play to the crowd. Before long, his antics'll be overshadowing the game information that he imparts. We're also seeing the same place names turn up repeatedly on a regular basis now, as he develops the Realms in his own mind as well as ours. This installment's pages are Bowengles book, The spellbook of Daimos, The book of Num the mad, and Briels book of shadows. Between them, we have nine new spells, plus a recepie for making homunculi, and his usual array of amusing histories, offhand comments about people and places, and other things that can provide enough plot hooks for months of gaming. It may not all tie together, but that's the nature of a real world. There's bits all over the place, some of which connect, some of which don't, many of which seem to make no sense. You can't tie it all up into a neat package aimed purely at gamability without losing something.

The only good captive: Oh, now this is a topic rich in ideas, that D&D really doesn't support at all. Lew Pulsipher floats the idea of keeping captives more, instead of just killing your enemies. It often allows you to get more financial benefits than just killing them and taking their stuff, allows PC's to lose without spoiling the game as much, and opens up tons of interesting roleplaying possibilities. You could be stripped of your stuff and sold into slavery (hey, a chance to use the earlier article on improvised weapons), held for ritual sacrifice, tortured, and forced to spend time with people you wouldn't normally give the time of day to. All cool stuff, that even Lew's advice probably can't make work against the rules of the game, and built up player expectations. Maybe we should consider moving to another one for a while, enjoy the change.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 97: May 1985

part 3/4

Blueprint for a big game: Jim Dutton, the head of the new AD&D PbM game, talks about the creation of the structure for it. This is the kind of thing that causes substantial logistical hassles. You have to structure your world building in a very different way to tabletop, and build up a lot more before you start, because winging it when you have hundreds of parties wandering around a continent is a recepie for disaster. While this gives you lots of advice in how to build your own game in an organized fashion, it doesn't actually reveal that much about the setting of the PbM game (spoilers, blah blah), and the way it's written is rather dull. Someone is rather better at technical writing than fun fluff details. Anyway, did anyone play this back in the day? What was it like? Just how much did they have to change the rules to make the week-long turn cycles work.

Reviews: Element masters is a rather curious sounding RPG. Each character is the chosen of one of the four elements, and must master element magic if they are to save the world. Looks like a rather crunchy game, with a long skill list, hit location system where each body part tracks damage separately, lots of weird monsters and implied setting detail, and good examples of play. As long as you don't object to the focussed premise and high crunch level, this looks like quite a good game which can support a decent length campaign.
Starstone is a generic RPG module. As with other system free modules around this time, it has to make up for it's lack of crunch by having stronger characterization setting and relationship details than similar D&D modules. It's main flaws are in making the plot solid enough that the PC's want to stick around to solve it, and it refers to an as yet unwritten other module, which everyone knows is an irritating sales ploy. Despite these, the reviewer still recommends it.
Bandit gangs and Caravans is the 10th thieves guild supplement. It gets a rather less enthusiastic review. The law of diminishing returns has set in, and the combination of copypasta, and reduced size compared to previous books is making the reviewer irritable. Which is a shame, because there is some salvagable stuff in there, such as the mass combat system. Judges Guild needs to shake up their format to freshen things up again.

Authentic agencies, part I: Merle fills us in on the real life secret agencies. CIA, NSA, FBI, ATS, and the rest of the alphabet soup, with a strong emphasis on american agencies. Man, there really are a lot of them, probably all working at cross-purposes, and not sharing information properly. You could build a lot of intrigue out of these lot, even without inventing more fictional agencies. Obviously, there isn't a huge amount of data, because they're, y'know, secret agencies. But it's certainly a start. And I'm sure you could look up some more. This raises the case for playing historical spy games, as you can get the declassified stuff from 30 years ago, and find out what was really going on. So the article may be dry, but it's inspired some cool ideas in my head, which makes it ok.

Fiction: Catacomb by Henry Melton. A rather meta tale of adventuring within a MMORPG text adventure game. (very interesting in itself from a historical perspective. How common was computer networking back then? ) And they already have gold farmers. How prophetic. The anachronism of it being text based aside, this really does feel like it could have been set today. The human drama side of the writing is pretty solid too. It's not quite a full-on classic, but I'm really rather impressed by this. Sometimes, they manage to get things spot-on. Have some kudos, if you're still around.
 
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