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[Let's read] Dragon magazine - Part two: Gimme some Moore

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Welcome to the first anniversary of this thread. While the time certainly hasn't flown by, this is a great demonstration of just what you can do if you decide to cut out the passive entertainment, and just devote yourself to something several hours a day. I hope you've enjoyed it so far, and I hope you'll stick around for the rest of this ride, since it looks like we'll be going a good few years yet.

So this seems like an auspicious time to syndicate again, this time on therpgsite. So if you're a new reader feeling daunted by the idea of reading the entirety of this thread in one go, want another chance to comment on an earlier issue as it goes by, or simply want to call me a retarded gay nazi swine without getting banned, now's your chance. ;) Hopefully we'll once again see some new perspectives on the history of our hobby. Stay well, everybody.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 110: June 1986

part 2/5

Mekton. The game of giant killer robots! It's taken this long for someone to realize that transformers fans are a good crowd to target for gaming? Tch Tch. How do you expect to make money if you can't spot a gap in the market.

For better or norse part 1: Ahh, the norse pantheon. Second only to the greeks in the popularity of their legends. See what being a fractious bunch who are basically just humans writ large gets you. They've already got plenty of airtime in D&D, with quite a few magical items based off them in the core rules, (hammer, gauntlets and girdle for the win) and a whole chapter in Deities and Demigods. But since they have whole sagas about them, there are people who want more. Unlike with the centaur papers, they've decided not to combine these two articles into one, despite them having some overlapping stuff. After all, there is no Canon beyond what you choose to include in your game.
This first article gives us stats for the Vanir. Not quite as famous as the Aesir, (probably because they aren't as loud and violent ) they're still an interesting bunch, and including them opens up more avenues for godly politics, with multiple factions competing for worship in the same area. We have a mixture of gods, demigods, and monsters which may not be gods, but are still mean enough to present a challenge to them. Angur-boda. Edger. Gerda. Grid. Gullveig. Hati Hrodvitnsson. Skoll. Hermod. Mimir. Nidhogg. Njord. Ran. The Tempests. Utgard-loki. Vafthrudnir. Volundr. (whew) This nearly doubles the size of the pantheon. Which is pretty useful, if you're playing a game in an appropriate milieu. And if you want to be god-slayers, this is one of the more appropriate pantheons, given the number of horrible monsters they have around them. Another fairly decent article.

For better or norse part 2: A rather different and more focussed article makes up our second norse offering. Where the first one was largely crunch, this one has more extensive essays on a few specific deities. Niord (curse you, inconsistent translations! ) shows up again, with different stats, and Frey, Freya and Loki get expanded on from their D&DG entries. Loki in particular gets altered quite a bit, as the writer disagrees with the official interpretation of his personality. Ahh, the annoyance of drawing from a mythos that is inconsistent in itself. How very tiresome.

All about Elminster: He's been telling us stories for nearly 5 years now, this mysterious sage. He spins tales of beasts and magic, spells, trickery, swords, shields and rings, histories and possible futures. But all things must change. He can't stay mysterious forever when so many people are curious about him. And so the 10th anniversary of the magazine is where Ed finally chooses to give us concrete details about the teller behind them. And this is one instance where the results are probably bigger than most suspected beforehand. A 26th level magic-user, with 3 18's in his attributes, and nothing below 12, he possesses vast magical and psionic powers, and travels universes with ease. He talks with the undead, sleeps with goddesses, and has developed some of the most twinky tricks you've ever encountered to keep his ass safe. But he still maintains a quiet little home in the Realms, and doesn't meddle in politics there openly, leaving that to others. We also get a bunch of new spells, and huge amounts of detail about the history and other big players in the realms. This really opens up the lid of the stew he's been cooking over the years, and it smells delicious. After this kind of showing, how can they not give Ed the chance to publish his world properly. People must be clamoring for more. Unless they're the sort who think there's too much mary-sue cheese in this mix, which is understandable. But as you can probably tell, I don't. At least not yet. When will it become too overcooked for me? We shall see.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
All about Elminster: He's been telling us stories for nearly 5 years now, this mysterious sage. He spins tales of beasts and magic, spells, trickery, swords, shields and rings, histories and possible futures. But all things must change. He can't stay mysterious forever when so many people are curious about him. And so the 10th anniversary of the magazine is where Ed finally chooses to give us concrete details about the teller behind them. And this is one instance where the results are probably bigger than most suspected beforehand. A 26th level magic-user, with 3 18's in his attributes, and nothing below 12, he possesses vast magical and psionic powers, and travels universes with ease. He talks with the undead, sleeps with goddesses, and has developed some of the most twinky tricks you've ever encountered to keep his ass safe. But he still maintains a quiet little home in the Realms, and doesn't meddle in politics there openly, leaving that to others. We also get a bunch of new spells, and huge amounts of detail about the history and other big players in the realms. This really opens up the lid of the stew he's been cooking over the years, and it smells delicious. After this kind of showing, how can they not give Ed the chance to publish his world properly. People must be clamoring for more. Unless they're the sort who think there's too much mary-sue cheese in this mix, which is understandable. But as you can probably tell, I don't. At least not yet. When will it become too overcooked for me? We shall see.
Alternately:

Elminster: Old human; sage (CL 6); AC 9; MV 120'; HD 8d4; hp 22; THAC0 17; #AT 1; D 1d4+2; SA spells; S 9, I 19, W 18, D 12, C 11, Ch 11; AL CG; XP 1045. Ring of protection +1, scroll of affect normal fires, dagger +2, bag of holding (500 pound capacity). Major field: supernatural & unusual (dweomercraeft; heraldry, signs & sigils; planes [astral, elemental & ethereal]; planes [outer]), minor fields: demi-humankind, humankind. Spellbook: find familiar; ESP, fool's gold, darkness 15' radius; fly, invisibility 10' radius, suggestion.

Exceptional possessions. Old, unkempt appearance. Sane. Tends to be suspicious/cautious, but perceptive. Has a solitary/secretive personality, even tempered disposition, and ponderous intellect. Soft-hearted by nature, but covetous. Deceitful, normal amount of bravery, energetic. Not especially thrifty, but lusty and iconclastic. Collects books and scrolls.

Haven't done a 1E statblock in ages, so there are certainly errors. Rolled stats randomly a couple times (sages use custom rules for rolling stats), chose the most appropriate (not entirely feeble, higher Int than Wis, etc), and modified for age. Fields of expertise were hand selected, and he has the max possible. Spells randomly rolled, and gave him max ability there, too. Will have no more than 1 spell prepared per level per day (ESP and suggestion seem appropriate). Hand chose from the lists of personality facts and traits. Used the rules for creating a party to equip him, allowing a roll for miscellaneous items (and rerolling the trident of warning). A Mary Sue, but still within the rules.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 110: June 1986

part 3/5

The role of computers: As they said earlier, Dragon is opening up to review computer games again. How very pleasing. In the time they've been absent, computers have crashed, come back, developed massively, and are now far more common than ever before. Consoles are also just starting to make inroads into america. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and jabber on about stuff that falls outside this column.
Straight away, they recognize that if you just want to read computer game reviews, there are other magazines that specialize entirely in that, and can review far more games every month, probably in more depth. So to justify their place in Dragon magazine, they need to remember they're writing this as roleplayers, for roleplayers. A laudable statement. Let's hope they stick to it.
Their first big review is Wizardry. Wait a minute, I hear you say. Didn't this get reviewed in this magazine back in 1982 in issue 65? Why, yes it did! Don't worry. Not only is this a new set of reviewers offering a new perspective on things, it's also a new version of the game, on a different platform, with considerable improvements in the graphics, (although the specs are still pretty risible compared to modern computers. ) a massively improved save game feature, (saving mid adventure? Unheard of! ) use of the new Windows format of displaying multiple things at once, and lots of other awesomeness that will soon become common practice in programming design. It manages to improve on a game that they already have a nostalgic attachment too.
We also get 9 capsule synopses of other computer RPG's at the end, rounding off this column nicely. This is another case where it'll probably take them a few issues to really find their feet and strike a good balance of reviews, chatter and guides. Still, the magazine has taken another step outwards in the topics it covers, and towards the format it had when I started reading. Overall, this is a very pleasing addition to their roster.

Dragon damage revisited: Leonard Carpenter returns to follow up on last year's article on dragon attacks and how they scale with age. I know more about how the 1st ed system quirks now, so this doesn't provoke the bemusement it did last time. We have new expanded scaling charts for the 5 Gem dragons from issue 37, the 8 oriental dragons from the Fiend folio and Oriental Adventures, plus the Cloud, Mist and Shadow dragons from the MMII. We also get some design notes to help you adapt this kind of thing for your own campaign. After all, one size doesn't fit all. Maybe you want different dragons to the generic D&D ones. I'm generally happy to see follow-up articles going into more depth, particularly when it's an idea I approved of in the first place. I do vaguely wonder why this wasn't put at the front with the other dragon article. Eh, not important. I'd enjoy it just as much if it was right at the back.

The house in the frozen lands: Looks like we're getting one of our last modules before Dungeon starts up and takes that job over. And they spill out a bit, going to 17 pages on this one. Curiously, it feels a lot like the Top Secret module set in the antarctic, with the same formula of troubles getting to the remote frozen location that's been taken over, and then dealing with enemies that are superficially polite, but really just want to get rid of you, and will kill you if you probe their secrets. Thankfully, there is no threat of nuclear apocalypse if you fail, but there is still the potential for wider political ramifications if you play this one right and tie it into your campaign. The maps are pretty good as well, (although the only toilet has a water weird in it, which may be a problem. :D ) A pretty solid adventure that could take up a good few sessions and play out in several different ways. Ok, It's no baba yaga or city beyond the gate, but it's still pretty decent. Once again, it looks like they've been saving their good stuff for the important issues.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 110: June 1986

part 4/5

TSR Previews is still the wrong way around.
AD&D is getting the dungeoneers survival guide. Further evidence of the acceleration of the supplement treadmill, this is lots of advice for your dungeon explorers and builders. Here we go again, into the breach.
Terrible swift sword and Barbarossa are finally out ...... or are they? Oh, the annoyance. We also have a whole bunch of goofy stuff. The Paramount Movie and Broadway stageshow board games. The Honeymooners. What is this? More attempts for them to tap completely unrelated markets, I guess.
Marvel super-heroes is going Advanced. More crunch, more maps, and a whole bunch of gimmicky crap in the box. If that's not enough little pieces to get lost, you can get the 4th set of miniatures, with a definite X-men theme to it.
Endless quest gets book 33: Knight of illusion. Seems pretty self-explanatory. Damn Illusionists. Proper wizards just blast you and have done with it. But no, you have to be given a chance and wind up facilitating your own demise in ironically amusing fashion.

Fiction: The wizard's boy by Nancy Varian Berberick. Oh, inscrutable wizards. What pains in the ass you are. Always concealing your motives and goals from the people you work with. Things'd be a lot simpler if you just explained upfront what you're up too (at least, the nontechnical aspects. ) then we could help you achieve your objectives more efficiently. Still, I suppose when looking for an apprentice, if you let them know what you want, power-hungry people who would abuse the knowledge would fake it. If you remain inscrutable, things may take a little longer to plot out, but you know they're real when you see them. Yeah, this is one of those tales of a young boy growing up into a powerful wizard, and not having a particularly easy time of it. Not the most original idea, but again, not badly done either, with pretty decent characterization and magic. Guess we're finally slipping back into the filler material then.

Knowledge is power: Seems like every new RPG that comes along these days has some kind of skill system, especially the ones that eschew classes and levels for a more ad hoc advancement where you only develop what you practice or choose to spend XP on. Games such as D&D and Gamma world are starting to seem rather outdated as a result of this. Just knowing what their players know or can describe them doing can result in huge imbalances in character effectiveness, even if they have the same stats. D&D has recently had a basic nonweapon proficiency system introduced in Oriental adventures, and in a few months that'll be rolled out for the regular classes in the Wilderness survival guide. But Gamma world is currently rather short on supplements. So here's a basic system for it. A very basic system indeed, as the skills are purely binary, most of their capabilities granted are handled narratively, and he neglects to give XP costs for learning new ones. Like the secondary skills in the original AD&D book, these rules are so vague as to be virtually useless. Frankly, you might as well just keep on using fiat, because you'll have to anyway if you try and incorporate this.

The marvel-phile: Having mostly been presenting minor heroes I've never heard of recently, Jeff decides to bring another big gun out for this issue. Ghost rider. The kind of name you'd have to be a fool not to use. And one of marvel's few legacy characters, (I wonder why DC wound up with more) where the person with the name changes, but the name remains in use, because it's a valuable bit of intellectual property. ( I have to wonder when we'll see a return of Shadowman, since that's another name that's too obvious for them to leave undefended for some other company to grab.) This is one case where the powers and style of the people possessing the name have varied wildly. Even what they ride varies, with one being a biker, and the others being horsemen. This is important, as it shows how you can progress the continuity of the universe without losing touch with the iconic bits. It's like monarchy. The person may change, even the family, but the state continues. The cycle of life and death goes on. All is well with the world. Or something. Another pretty pleasing contribution from Jeff. Lets hope he can keep that up when they transition to the Advanced game next month.
 

Putraack

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 110: June 1986

For better or norse part 1: Ahh, the norse pantheon. ...
This first article gives us stats for the Vanir. ... And if you want to be god-slayers, this is one of the more appropriate pantheons, given the number of horrible monsters they have around them. Another fairly decent article. .
A brush with fame-- I hung out with the author at college, back in '86-87. Sad to day, he'd retired from D&D by then, but I roped him into a few short campaigns of Twilight:2k.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 110: June 1986

part 5/5

Going for a swim?: Looks like we have another case where the writer is filling in rules that you would think should be obvious. Star frontiers has no rules for swimming. I guess when you're in space most of the time, the idea doesn't come up. Fortunately, the gear needed to survive in space and underwater has quite a few similarities, only you don't need to carry your own oxygen supplies. Anyway, no great surprises here, as we get rules for movement, underwater combat, and the bends. The quirks of the various alien races are dealt with, as are those of equipment. One of those articles that falls under the solid but dull category.

Piece of the action: Hmm. Introducing the mafia to Paranoia games as a secret society? That's actually a pretty good idea. After all, using a bad italian accent for your character, having secret agendas conveyed by coded doubletalk, and wielding odd weapons is entirely within the spirit of the game, especially as most commonly played back then. Will you be loyal to the Family, make a profit for them, and work your way up the ranks, or will they be as prone to "retiring for health reasons" as the other members of your troubleshooting team? Either way, I find this quite an entertaining little article, that's useful in itself, and also reminds us that nearly any real-world organization or ideology can be converted to a paranoia one with hilarious results. It may require you to reduce the randomness of character generation, particularly if it's a player who came up with a cool idea for a society, but that's hardly a gamebreaker. This isn't WHFRP, after all. ;)

Dragonmirth mocks polearms. Not hard to do. Snarf's little leech thing saves the day. Wormy features a very impressive giant showdown indeed.

Get subscriptions at a bargain price as a 10th anniversary gift! How generous of them. Not as generous as a lifetime subscription, but they wouldn't be so dumb as to offer them anymore.

Looks like Ed is the real star of this show, delivering a one-two punch that comes close to his classic work on the nine hells. Even if he stopped here, he'd already have more than won a place in the D&D halls of fame. But no, next decade is going to bring even bigger things for him, as his world becomes the biggest, most fleshed out campaign world in the entire AD&D multiverse. And this issue has several hints on how that's going to happen. The rest of the issue is considerably better than most of their recent offerings as well, with more big articles, stuff looking back on old things and building upon them, and stuff looking forward and trying out new ideas. I'm definitely coming to prefer the issues with several big articles that link into gaming's overall history to the ones with tons of tiny shallow unconnected bits and pieces. And I'm guessing at this point, plenty of other people will feel likewise, or we wouldn't see the rise in metaplot we do over the next decade. After all, it's not an inherently bad idea, it's just that like any idea, it can be done wrong. And if you link everything up, then one part being fouled up causes problems for everywhere else, while if you have independent replaceable bits with multiple redundancy in your design, you can keep the bits that work and ditch the ones that don't. But I digress. This is about gaming, not mechanical engineering, even if the lessons from one field can be transferred to another. Unless you guys actually want me to go off on tangental discussions and rants when they occur to me. Because that's certainly an option. ;)
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
The marvel-phile: Having mostly been presenting minor heroes I've never heard of recently, Jeff decides to bring another big gun out for this issue. Ghost rider. The kind of name you'd have to be a fool not to use. And one of marvel's few legacy characters, (I wonder why DC wound up with more) where the person with the name changes, but the name remains in use, because it's a valuable bit of intellectual property. ( I have to wonder when we'll see a return of Shadowman, since that's another name that's too obvious for them to leave undefended for some other company to grab.) This is one case where the powers and style of the people possessing the name have varied wildly. Even what they ride varies, with one being a biker, and the others being horsemen. This is important, as it shows how you can progress the continuity of the universe without losing touch with the iconic bits. It's like monarchy. The person may change, even the family, but the state continues. The cycle of life and death goes on. All is well with the world. Or something. Another pretty pleasing contribution from Jeff. Lets hope he can keep that up when they transition to the Advanced game next month.
It isn't just horses. I remember hearing about at least one elephant rider in recent years.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 111: July 1986

part 1/5

108 pages. Another month, and they continue their drive to regroup and reorganize their staff. Roger Moore has left the Ares section to become the head editor at Dungeon magazine. Meanwhile, they are encouraging their artists to make more money by reprinting cover art as posters. More money for the same amount of work. Hopefully this will mean they'll be amenable to reprinting the art in later D&D books :p

In this issue:

Letters: A letter asking if dust of appearance disrupts a displacer beast's displacement. The answer is a very definite yes.
A letter about sexism. Two actually. The first involves the barbarian cleric and if women can become one, due to it's exclusive use of masculine pronouns. The other is from a female reader who would prefer more equal opportunity cheesecake. Ahh, the perennial sexism problem. Still a long way to go to equality. Any time now we'll be getting another women in gaming article. Ho hum.

The forum: David M Axler has a bunch of quibbles about the weather article from issue 108. Everyone's an expert. It's almost as bad as the stats for gods arguments.
Andy Price talks about talks about the nature of magic. If the gods are really infinitely powerful, granting spells should be no problem for them, regardless of where in the universe they are. I think that's where the flaw in your logic is. You have read the current god rules for D&D.
Jaldhar Uyas thinks that locals aren't all yokels was a dumb and unsubtle article. There are better ways to encourage investment in the world than making every third NPC 15th level. Is that a strawman I see here? You exaggerate the position of your opponent.
Scott Paul Maykrantz thinks UA sucks and will not be buying it or allowing stuff from it in his games. From everything he's seen, the new additions are a bunch of crap. Take that, T$R! Charming.

Good stuff, for a spell: Hmm. Magical items that allow you to spontaneously convert your memorized spells into spell energy, which when channeled through the item, produces some other spell. What a novel idea. This is an exceedingly prescient article, presenting a whole different way of balancing your characters capabilities by making sure their items are linked to their own powers, rather than working constantly, a fixed number of times a day, or running out after a while. As a direct ancestor of both 3e cleric's spontaneous conversion, and weapons of legend, this is definitely one for the files. As the writer himself says, this idea is like inventing the wheel, once you've done it, you can apply it to all sorts of situations, and are amazed no-one thought of it before. And so design technology takes another step towards the present day. A pretty damn good way to start the issue.

Welcome to Malachi: They get hinted at occasionally, but you don't get to see inside them as often as I'd like. Other people's campaigns are a ripe source of articles, as they can be much more specific and take a definite stand on topics that a generic article is likely to end up sitting on the fence over. But only Ed has managed to go from articles sent in independently to a fully detailed published campaign world, and he's a massive outlier. Well it's a tricky route to take. Let me tell you about my campaign world is only one step up from let me tell you about my character. It takes a special kind of storyteller to keep tales like that interesting for long.
Anyway, this is an example of what you can do to a city when spellcasters are common, and fully integrated into the infrastructure of the world. Clerics take the lead, revolutionizing health and living standards, while magic-users provide all kinds of expensive (but hopefully long-lasting) luxury items. Spell component vendors make a tidy profit selling to both, and adventurers can make good money by offloading all those monster pieces to them. This is the kind of conceptualizing I am strongly in favour of, interlocking the rules and setting to create a world that runs off it's own internal logic, and develops and reacts accordingly. The writer has developed this place through several years of actual play, and has lots more data on it to send to the magazine if it's readers are interested. (hint hint) This is a pretty nice article, full of fun ideas and tips for you to steal and adapt to your own game. This is the kind of thing I'd definitely like to see more of in the magazine.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
It isn't just horses. I remember hearing about at least one elephant rider in recent years.
Just checked out the wikipedia pages on this. Oy gevalt. They now have their own ghost rider lantern corps equivalent. Seems about typical for a property that doesn't maintain a consistent editorial hand, but gets revived in a new form whenever someone can make a cool sounding proposal to the company heads.
 
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