• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

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

So, how am I doing so far?

  • Total voters


Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Dinosaurs get another feature on them. This is one of those things that turns up again and again. They're really trying to go for a definitive take this time, with an epic 18 page article that hopefully will keep people satisfied at least until the next edition comes around. Taking a quite scientific approach to the subject this time, instead of listing tons of discrete species, they decide to give one set of basic stats for each genera, and then show you how to scale things up and down for a whole bunch of variants to challenge groups of various power levels with. Aetosaurs, Anklyosaurs, Carnosaurs, Ceratopsians, Giant sea turtles, Coelurosaurs, Crocodilians, Cynodonts, Deinonychusaurs, Dicynodont, Ichthyosaurs, Labyrinthodonts, Moasaurs, Nothosaurs, Ornithomimosaurs, Ormothpods, Phytosaurs, Placodonts, Pleiosaurs, Pliosaurs, Prosauropods, Proterosucians, Pseudosucians, Pterosaurs, Rhynchosaurs, Sauropods, Scelidosaurs and Stegosaurs. Whew. That ought to keep you going for quite some time, especially if you remember to include lots of variants on each body type as actually existed back then. It includes plenty of advice on how to run a game where dinosaurs feature, either tangentally, or playing a big part, along with lost world areas full of flora from their era as well. A very comprehensive article, that is both well researched, and keeps one eye firmly on making sure you produce a playable game with this stuff instead of getting bogged down in historical detail. While not quite as good as most of the planar articles in sheer epicness and imagination, it's just as good in terms of opening up a milieu further for play, and is in very much the same spirit. Which Is something I do like. Other eras and areas of the world can be almost as alien as other universes, and you can have fantastic adventures while barely traveling in a conventional sense. A very solid article indeed.
I could quibble with a lot of details (over half those "dinosaur" categories aren't) and whew it's dated (though putting feathers on the coelurosaurs more than a decade before the Yixian finds was rather forward-thinking), but yeah... very neat. Statting out specific animals is easier, but not as flexible. Or as fun. Those proto-templates were like toys to play with. The article even attempted to cover the entire Mesozoic, including the therapsids and archosaurs that dominated the land until the true dinosaurs appeared in the middle of the Triassic, the sauropterygians and ichthyosaurs in the seas, and the winged pterosaurs.

Inniss did a good job. Looking back, he picked a good reference. Lambert's A Field Guide to Dinosaurs was probably the best single volume on the subject available until the first edition of The Dinosauria appeared in 1990.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 112: August 1986

part 2/5

Battletech! Pilot your own mech! Hello to another fun game.

Revenge of the nobodies: Now here's a good demonstration of their desire to tackle more quirky topics. Commoners may seem innocuous, but you ignore them at your peril, for they provide much of the infrastructure that you depend on, regardless of level, (unless you're a live off nature type like druids and rangers) and slaughtering them will not benefit you in the long run, even if you have the power. So we have lots of demonstrations of how and why the peasants might become revolting. Many of them are incredibly funny, while also making a twisted kind of sense when you apply proper logic and knowledge of human nature to the fantastic elements of the setting. I can certainly picture tedious 'elf and safety people trying to force all the halflings to wear shoes, and the resulting backlash; and we've already had one examination of the support industry spell components can build up last issue. Disrupting parts of the setting that people have previously taken for granted is always interesting, if sometimes rather frustrating, and it does make a good learning experience. A deserved classic, that I fully intend to steal from when I get the chance.

The role of computers: Hmm. For their second column, the Lesser's tackle one of the great old games of yore. Rogue. A game that's so distinctive, it has an entire subgenre named after it. Create a character, and then venture into a randomly generated (and exceedingly brutal) dungeon. Explore and fight your way down to the bottom level to find the macguffin. Most games would stop there. But no, you then have to fight your way back up again, facing even tougher enemies along the way. You can save the game and stop for a rest, but if you die, it automatically wipes your slot, and you have to start from 1st level, in an all new dungeon where your previous knowledge of the routes and object positioning is useless. It's a very direct analogue of your old skool dungeoncrawling experience, encouraging extreme caution and clever tactical use of items rather than running in swinging if you want to survive and win. With it's tremendous challenge and huge amount of replayability, it, and games based off it such as nethack, still enjoy a small but highly devoted fanbase today. This is a topic I'm very pleased to see them cover, as while it may not actually involve roleplaying, it's a very close relation of RPG's, and has plenty of relevance to gamers. It's a great example of how both computer games and RPG's have become far more forgiving over the years, with way less permanent death and having to start from the beginning if you lose. If they keep up with this kind of stuff, then I'm definitely going to enjoy their new direction.

Cloaked in magic: Not everything has changed around here, however. Yes, its another one of those articles where Elminster elaborates on a particular class of magical items, giving us a whole load of interesting variants to play with. After all, why mess with a winning formula? So here's 9 cloaks, all of which are pretty damn handy.
The cloak of battle traps your opponent's weapons, allowing you to cut them down unopposed.
The cloak of comfort protects you from the weather, and even magical heat and cold based attacks.
The Cloak of fangs is a single use device which allows you to suicide in style, taking out everyone around you.
The cloak of many colors is the inspiration for a terrible terrible musical. :p
The cloak of reflection reflects certain spells, ruining attackers days.
The cloak of stars allows you to unleash powerful spells stored in it's threads, but unpredictably, as it's hard to tell which star corresponds to which power.
The cloak of survival isn't as impressive as the ring of the same name, but as it never runs out of charges, that's not such a terrible deal. 10 minutes survival in space is still a lot better than nothing.
The cloak of symbiotic protection is one of Ed's delightfully quirky creations. It may be a living organism itself, and in return for a slight drain on your HP, it also protects you from fungal infestations, disease, and most critically, the various oozes, slimes and molds that can so ruin your day without a proper battle in old skool dungeons. This may be a nuisance, or incredibly useful, depending on your DM.
The cloak of the shield allows you to generate a protective wall of force around you. It can also be used actively as a telekinetic object, and definitely rewards inventiveness.
While these aren't as powerful as say, his magical swords, Ed has once again managed to produce items that are a cut above the rest in terms of both descriptive detail, and inventiveness of powers. As ever, it'll be a real choice as to which one to wear if you have several, as they are all useful, albeit in different situations. Better spoiled for choice than having an obvious optimal one that makes any other build look stupid from a metagame perspective though.

Armor, piece by piece: And the run of really cool articles comes to an end, with a little one which introduces a rather complicated new system for hit locations, and the amount different types of armour protect you on different parts of your body. While not a terrible idea, implementing this will add 2 extra rolls to every single attack in combat. I really have no desire for the amount of slowdown that would cause. Very much a filler article.


Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
So we have lots of demonstrations of how and why the peasants might become revolting.
General Jinjur's Army: "We're revolting!"
The Doorkeeper of OZ: "Well, you sure don't look it."

Sorry, I had to.:D


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 112: August 1986

part 3/5

TSR previews is the wrong way round again. Get your act together! Anyway, next month sees the release of the compiled version of the GDQ module series. Follow on from T1-4 and A1-4 to make the ultimate AD&D adventure path, taking you from 1st level to the mid-teens, and challenging a god. Woo. What will they do for an encore? I'll tell you one thing, it won't be I9: Day of Al'Akbar. You'll already be way too high level for the tale of this legendary artifact.
On the fiction side, Dragonlance finishes it's second trilogy, with Test of the Twins. Looks like going to the abyss is currently the cool thing for big heroes to do. Question is, how will they get out? We shall see.
Marvel super heroes gets a pair of gamebooks from our husband and wife team. Jeff Grubb gives us The amazing spider-man in City in Darkness, while Kate Novak delivers Captain America in Rockets Red Glare. Talk about keeping it in the family.
Zeb Cook continues to push Oriental Adventures with a one-on-one gamebook set there. Warlords features the battle between the usurper of the throne, and it's rightful heir. Who will triumph in your game?
Gamma world gets it's first module in ages. GW6: Alpha factor. The start of an epic series in which you quest to restore civilization. Will it all get published, or will the game peter out again before they get it done? Don't try and make an epic if you don't have the budget.
And finally, we have a very intriguing development. Steve Jackson (the american one) is collaborating with TSR to bring you Battle Road, a solo Car Wars gamebook. I never expected that. Was it any good? Did it help expand their fanbase?

The ultimate article index is this month's centerpiece, the last time they would attempt to fit in details on everything they've done. As it eats up 20 pages of extra small type, you can understand why. There comes a point where you can't keep looking back, and holding on to everything you've ever done; but have to move on, and this definitely seems like theirs. This is also the perfect time for me to look over the first 10 and a bit years of the magazine, and reminisce about the bits that most caught my attention. (well, given how few articles this issue has by comparison with their recent ones, this'd be a rather short review if I didn't. )

A is for alignment. We've seen it go from the three categories, to 5, to 9, with a couple of odd and amusing variants, plus a whole load of articles and flamewars over the years. It's form is one of the things that makes D&D unique, and separates it from both reality and most fiction. There are plenty of different ways it can be used, but just as often, people have decided it wasn't worth the hassle and pretty much ignored it in their games. That's the advantage and drawback of vaguely defined, sweeping systems. Everyone will see something different in their own image.

B is for Boot Hill. One of their first other games, this got a moderate amount of coverage in early issues, but like so many things, wound up fading away unheralded as the sales couldn't compete with D&D. It really should have come out a decade or two earlier, as Westerns were already in decline by the late 70's. At least they tried. It's not their fault D&D outsold everything else they did by several factors.

C is for Campaigns. One of the big ways in which D&D has already evolved during the course of the magazine is a much greater emphasis on building a detailed world. People like Katharine Kerr and Lew Pulsipher have driven this cause forward over the last few years, with advice both interesting and dull on building people and places, and weaving them into a coherent universe. We've also had stuff on proper DM'ing, including rather too much on how to depower or reset a game that's got out of hand. This is one topic that isn't going away any time.

D is of course for Dragon. Every year we get at least one article on them. Some are good, some are bad, and some are mediocre. But the important thing is that the namesake of both the game and the magazine remains one of their most fleshed out monsters, with tons of variants usable in all sorts of rules, suitable for any campaign. From rampaging monster to sage to urbane loan shark to embodiment of the land, they can do all sorts of things. Like alignment, without them, you aren't really playing D&D.

E is for Ed Greenwood and Elminster. By a big margin both their most prolific and capable all round writer. By coincidence, It's also for Ecology. Fitting, really, as he's produced some of our most kick-ass ecologies, and Elminster has participated in some of them. Long may he contribute to the magazine.

F is for From the Sorcerer's scroll. Gary's regular column in which he pontificated on whatever came to mind. New rules, news, reviews, vitriol. All have been thrown in and stirred together to produce a fascinating, if not always palatable stew for us to consume. He always had a rather different writing style to everyone else, but somehow it worked. Genius, madness, or both? Whichever, he created an entire new genre of games and took it to multimillion sale success within a decade, so he must have ben doing something right. And his contributions to the magazine allowed us to see his ideas raw, as he came up with them. Do you only want to see people's ideas once they've gone through layers of redrafting, editing, polishing and committee input? You're missing out on a lot if you do.

G is for Gods. One of the biggest sources of new crunch and fluff has been articles on deities. From the seemingly endless followups to G:DG&H introducing new real world pantheons, to Len's Suel pantheon stuff which also developed the idea of cleric powers being differentiated by the god they serve. The cosmic beings of your universe are an important part of it, especially when 1/4 of your PC's are supposed to get their powers from serving one. Not defining them properly will result in a shallow setting.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 112: August 1986

part 4/5

Ultimate article A-Z continued:

H is for Hell. One of this magazine's and Ed Greenwood's shining moments are the three epic articles he did on the nine hells. Between them, we have nearly 50 pages of creatures, places and ideas, all brilliantly constructed and evocatively written. Not strictly judeo-christian, but still drawing heavily on that mythos, this is a great place to adventure. You can play it as the ultimate hack and slash dungeon, world spanning conspiracy horror, or dangerous high stakes political negotiations. Whichever way, it's awesome with an extra helping of awesomesauce on top.

I is for Imagination. As in use your own, goddamnit! The number of letters they have to deal with from people quibbling over the official ruling on stupid details must drive them mad. Canon is not important. The game is yours to twist and add to as you see fit. If you want prepackaged entertainment to simply consume, go to another hobby.

J is for Jesters. The mascot and ringleader for their yearly dose of april mischief. Because having a sense of humour is important. The real world is full of ridiculous things, (look down your own trousers if you doubt me for a second. ) and if you're all serious, all the time, people wind up ignoring you. By injecting strange and sometimes silly elements into an overall serious product, you massively increase it's appeal, making it more likely to be paid attention too, and eventually taken seriously, ironically. They might have very different writing styles, but one of the reasons both Gary and Ed are so successful is because they are often rather witty and amusing, and sometimes silly.

K is for Kender. An excellent demonstration of my previous point. Dragonlance's cheese factor has always been a bit too high for me to digest. ( Although I did try back in the day. To my eternal shame, I made my highest set of stats ever rolled legitimately with method I a Kender Ranger/Bard. I still have the character sheet.) but plenty of people have eaten it up, and the world still has a decent fanbase. Honorable mention also goes to the Kzinti, who've also got a surprising amount of airtime in the magazine. I have no objection at all to Larry Niven's stuff showing up here, so those were welcome cameos.

L is for Leonard Lakofka and Leomund's tiny hut. Of all the regular contributors to the magazine, he's been the one I've disagreed with most frequently and consistently. He has managed to produce some cool stuff, such as the elemental planes stuff, incremental saves, and of course, Carnivorous flying squirrels :D, but on the whole, I haven't enjoyed reading stuff written by him. What does this say about me? What does this say about him? Damned if I can figure it out.

M is for module. We've seen plenty of them in the magazine, but that's a thing of the past. Still, we have more than enough to take you from starting level to early teens and still have some choices of route. And that's not even counting the non D&D ones. I look forward to trying some of them out. Honorable mention also goes to Minarian Legends. Divine Right became the wargame that got the most consistent coverage in the magazine, with both rules variants, and a richly detailed setting built up for it over a couple of years. It really would be a great candidate for a revival or licensing as a setting to other media.

N is for Nerf. Putting stuff back in pandoras box once you've taken them out is always a tricky business. In another marvelously appropriate coincidence it's also for ninja. One of the classes introduced in the magazine that most needed a little nerfing. The mysterious orient is always a good excuse for people to sneak in a little power creep.

O is for Oriental, in another incidence of one thought leading appropriately to the next. The love of eastern stuff did not start with anime, or even kung fu movies. Forget not Fu Manchu and the many pulp stores that featured mysterious characters from the east, and all the, erm, fun our ancestors got up to and wrote about in colonial times. While we have seen a few articles, this is a rich seam for mining that they can still do a lot more on in this magazine.

P is for Psionics. While generally neglected, it does hold the distinction of getting the themed issue with the most articles devoted to it's topic. Honorable mention also goes to polearms, which have got less attention than the flak they get would credit. Sure Gary was interested in them, but there's plenty of things that he was interested in more. Just because other games neglect them, does not make D&D weird.

Q is for Quasi-elemental planes. One of the very interesting things for me has been seeing how the planes have gradually evolved and built up over the years in the magazine. Along with alignment, this is where the normally fairly vague pseudomedieval setting of AD&D becomes very specific and unique. And while huge swathes of the multiverse still only have a few pages on them, this continues to change and evolve as the years pass. They've already produced several classic articles on the planes, and I look forward to seeing what future issues bring on this matter.

R is for Rehash. We've already had several takes on quite a few topics, and it seems likely that the proportion of reappearing ideas will only increase. So it goes. All stories are from around 7 plots and a dozen character archetypes. Most music is made up of just 12 notes. It's all in how you combine them, and in what order. Boredom is in the mind of the beholder.

S is for Sage advice. While it has yet to reach it's glory days when Skip will reign for what seemed like an eternity, it's already been pretty entertaining reading. I've missed it since it went on hiatus in issue 79. When will it be back? Good question. I'm certainly awaiting that eagerly, so I can get my snark on again.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 112: August 1986

part 5/5

Ultimate article A-Z continued:

T is for Traveller. The non TSR owned RPG that's somehow managed to get the most coverage in the magazine, including a couple of specials focussed on it. Interesting how much it pioneered both rules technology, and things like splatbooks that are common products these days. Another game that richly deserves more credit in the history of the magazine, and gaming in general.

U is for Unearthed Arcana. Another case where we got to see a book gradually built up in pieces in the magazine. (and then erratad afterwards in it as well.) A commercial success, but critically very divisive. I suspect we may see further repercussions from it's release in the magazine.

V is for Vampires. They get everywhere, and D&D is no exception, with the biggest selling module ever being a vampire one, and plenty of weird vampire variants showing up in the magazine. Since ravenloft will go on to become a full setting campaign, and making october issues horror focussed becomes more common later, I expect we'll see plenty more. Honorable mention also goes to Valley elves. Of all Gary's more ill-thought out creations, these are probably the most effortlessly mockable, as the filk showed.

W is for witch. Born from a mysterious article that is still uncredited as far as I know, it has since undergone a couple of revisions in the magazine plus appearing in a best of, thanks to demand. It's the closest they've come to putting a different slant on spellcasting. It's also for Wargaming, and it's checkered history in the magazine. Originally, the magazine was formed as part of their efforts to deliberately separate RPG's and wargames, then after Little Wars was merged, they made regular appearances from 79-81, before disappearing again. They tried to get them back in with the Battlesystem, but that failed. Will they try again before giving up for good? Guess there's only one way to find out.

X is for Xochiyaoyotl. This is devoted to all the unpronounceable and ridiculous names that people have come up with over the years. Be they from other cultures, based off bad puns, or simply made up by stringing random syllables together, there's been no shortage of these in the magazine. Much amusement can be derived by mocking them. As I've said before, this may not be entirely a bad thing. It keeps people thinking about your work more than if all the facts were there, understood and accepted without comment.

Y is for Yefar's Magic Mirrors. This is really an opportunity for me to praise all the wonderfully quirky magic items that they've put in the magazine over the years. It's also a commentary on the way certain writers slip stuff from their own personal campaigns into general articles. Ed Greenwood is once again the biggest offender, but plenty of other people have tried it with varying levels of success. As with monsters and modules, there are probably enough to outfit an entire party over a campaign, but it would be a rather odd D&D campaign.

Z is for Zethra. Notable primarily for being one of Ed's few misteps so far, they've obviously stuck in my mind for precisely that reason. This is another case where we don't really have much to choose from, so that's the best I can come up with for this letter.

Dire invasion: Enough reminiscing. Onward. As Kim promised, though the Ares section is gone, they're still putting the stuff that would have gone in it in about the same place. Jeff is busy this month, so he cedes the Marvel contribution to William Tracey, who has decided to tackle Rom and the spaceknights of Galador. Earth was being infiltrated by yet another shapeshifting alien race, and it fell to him to deal with them, having been sworn to combat them wherever they may rear their ugly heads. (as if the skrulls weren't bad enough. What happens when the Dire wraiths try and infiltrate the Skrulls and vice versa. Nothing would ever get done with all the quadruple crosses and scooby doo reveals. Anyway, we get stats for Rom, Both Starshines, Cindy Adams, The Dire wraiths, Rocketeers, Hell hounds, and Hybrid. We also get character generation alterations for those of you who want to play a spaceknight yourself. Which is rather more player-useful material than Jeff usually gives us. Nice to see different people putting their own spin on this gameline. One person doing everything is not the way to make a well-rounded universe.

For a fistful of credits: Our final article this month is a star frontiers one. It suffers from the problem of being incompatible with their latest supplement, which is a bit embarrassing. Still, as with UA, not everyone wants to update their campaigns to take account of every new supplement, and they still want crunch. So here's a whole bunch of new equipment to upgrade your characters with, if you have the money. This is pretty useful stuff, so there may be a certain amount of power creep involved. As ever, I am faced with the problem that I can't judge the precise details of the crunch for games I don't have, only steal the underlying ideas. Still, they are pretty good ideas,so that elevates this article from the dull, to the realms of so-so. Still not the best way to finish off the issue, though.

Dragonmirth has plenty of actual dragons in it. Snarf gets to meet a spaceman, and humorous misunderstandings are had yet again. Wormy reveals the dark side of wargaming, and just why it is illegal.

Now this is an amazing issue. As both a closer to the old era, and an introduction to a new one, it succeeds spectacularly, with a real change of tone, overall, from recent issues. It has a whole load of classic articles, and reminds me of lots of the old ones as well. I'm not entirely convinced by their new goals as stated, but if they can keep this up, then they should continue to entertain until their next editorial shift. Lets hope they can get the good articles they need to power the machine with.


Registered User
Validated User
And finally, we have a very intriguing development. Steve Jackson (the american one) is collaborating with TSR to bring you Battle Road, a solo Car Wars gamebook. I never expected that. Was it any good? Did it help expand their fanbase?
The book was alright, if you enjoy the minorly post-apocalyptic nature of the Car Wars game world. The combat system was nothing like normal Car Wars, but how could it be, with no tactical maneuvering of counters on maps? I don't know that it did much to expand the fanbase, but I enjoyed the series. There were at least four books, and maybe more. I liked them enough to buy all of the ones I found in my local Waldenbooks, but Car Wars was one of my two "entry drugs" into the whole adventure gaming hobby, so I have always had a huge soft spot for it.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 113: September 1986

part 1/5

111 pages. Kim would like to apologize for any slipshod editing in recent, and the next few issues. He has a good excuse this time, as he's been splitting his attention, to do his first proper hardback book for AD&D. The wilderness survival guide. He's learned more about the open air while sitting in front of a computer screen than any man should. You ought to watch out. You'll burn yourself out, doing double shifts like that. Anyway, back to the new Dragon. Lets see if they can maintain the momentum of their reboot.

In this issue:

Letters: Only one letter this month, asking about the viability of Ranger/thieves when they have conflicting alignment requirements. Roger Moore takes the role of justifier this issue, with a very long answer. One of the pleasures of being editor is being able to actively alter the articles sent in, not just fixing up things like spelling and cutting for size, but also changing the rules and adding new bits based upon what he would like to see in the magazine. Yes, this may sometimes annoy the original author, but that's something he's willing to live with. Strong editorial control is good for a gameline. Otherwise, we end up with an inconsistent kitchen sink. And those spill all over the place when you try and do the washing in them ;) Another interesting, and possibly controversial look at the mindset of the people behind the scenes.

The forum gets it's rules and code of conduct revised this month. Please try and keep entries to 250 words or less, you must remember to include your name and address, stick to one topic per letter, no personal attacks, be polite, we reserve the right to edit letters. How very tiresome. Guess they were getting too many people sending in vitriol unprintable in a family friendly magazine. Once again, I am very glad for the rise of the internet. There, you don't usually get censored until after people have had a chance to see what you have to say. Anyway, back to the pontification.

Bruce Lowekamp thinks that Len Lakofka's system for animal aging doesn't really add up. The idea isn't bad, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Isn't that what I've been saying quite regularly?

Ralph Sizer returns to further clarify Locals aren't all yokels, and discredit the strawman attacks against him. Given the nature of the D&D system, there have to be a decent amount of high level characters around for the society to work as it does. If you don't include that level of realism and internal consistency, you're just creating problems for yourself along the line.

Mike Johnson gives us a load of clarifications about how underwater diving works. Seems like that happens whenever they cover a real world topic in anything less than exhaustive detail. Yawn.

Danny Kretzer is very much in support of Unearthed Arcana. It's not just new races and classes, it's tons of spells, weapons and items as well. There's something for everyone. Even if you already have most of this stuff from the magazine, it's more than worth it so you don't have to drag all those issues to the group and find the right pages in the right one all the time. You ought to reconsider about not buying it, Scott Maykrantz.

Jeff Klein thinks that the limitations on the D&D spellcasting system are perfectly sensical in terms of what the various attributes represent in the world. People should stop trying to pick them apart and just get on with enjoying the game.

Thomas Kane is not in favour of a world where magic is commonly used in a technological fashion to transform society. If things are too comfortable, where's the motivation to adventure? Every solution creates new problems, my dear. There are plot hooks aplenty to be found in magitech worlds.

Corey Ehmke is suffering from a dreadful case of badwrongfun. His players are playing monty haul games and enjoying them more than they are his. You've got to help me, before I lose them all and can't GM at all! See, this is the problem. Fun is the most important aspect of a game, not depth, craft, consistency or fairness. If it's not fun, all the effort you put into the other aspects is pointless. Harsh truth of the entertainment industry, as homemade youtube videos so aptly demonstrate.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 113: September 1986

part 2/5

Welcome to hades: Yay! Another bumper sized planar article. It's been way too long since we had one of those. This presents a quite different view of the place to that used in planescape, focussing almost entirely on the greek portion of the plane. It is a pretty miserable place, full of suffering souls and fiendish creatures on their own inscrutable and often pointless tasks. But is certainly isn't the grey, all crushing nightmare of depression that it would later turn into. Anthraxus is still in charge of the daemons, who still live here full time. Healing magic simply doesn't work. Once again, a huge chunk of the article is devoted to spell by spell listings of their changes (they really have got to change that, they just don't have the space, especially now UA is out.) All in all, the place is both less playable, and less distinctive than it would later become. While not as annoying to me as the Gladsheim article ( because there's not as much crap railroading DM admonitions), this once again suffers from the problem of making an entire universe seem tiny and focussed around just a few characters and locations. This is another definite disappointment compared to the great ideas of the earlier ones on the astral and hells. What is up with that? This is no good at all.

A capital idea: Setting up a business. Not the most obvious route for an adventurer. There are several ways you can keep this fun. You can treat this as something they do between adventures, leaving the day to day operations in the hands of someone else, and letting a few rolls determine how it grows or shrinks. You can handle it like domain management, and the systems probably ought to be compatible, as they are doing similar things over similar timescales. Or you can handle it the two-fisted way, hunting down contracts and big scoops personally, going out and prospecting for new sources of revenue, and generally doing for your profession what indiana jones does for archaeology. Any of those can be fun. What probably will not be fun is determining expenditures and income on a day to day basis by calculating the population of the neighboring region, and what proportion are likely to be interested in your product, cost of buying wholesale, pay for workers, optimum price for selling to get profit without driving them away to cheaper rivals, etc etc. And unfortunately, this article suggests doing exactly that. Epic fail. Not the kind of thing I want anywhere near my escapism, thank you very much.

The role of books: The norby chronicles by Janet and Isaac Asimov is a set of tales about a very special robot, and the troubles he gets himself into. It puts a lighter slant on Asimovs famous robot stories, oriented towards younger readers, without sacrificing the underlying philosophical points his other books make. Hopefully it'll havedrawn in some new readers who go on to sample the rest of his marvelous canon.
The curse of the giant hogweed by Charlotte MacLeod takes a character more used to mundane mysteries into a fantasy world, and trying to maintain his logical attitude in the face of witches, shapeshifted creatures, and of course, giant hogweed. It maintains a sense of humour without making the characters seem ridiculous.
Dreadnought! by Diane Carey is a star trek novel about the aforementioned class of ships, hinted at in the technical manuals, but never shown on screen. It shows a general strong respect for the canon of the series, and tying everything together, while maintaining a fast paced plot. In general, the reviewer is pretty positive about it.
Heroes in hell by Janet Morris et all is an attempt to jump on the shared world bandwagon that currently seems to be on the up. However, without a strong setting bible and editorial control, it fails to create a consistent world between the stories. And without that, what really is the point? Even big name writers produce less than the sum of their parts if not properly co-ordinated.
The duchess of kneedeep by Atanielle Annyn Noel is a playful and punful tale of marital strife that manages to put plenty of depth and drama into the plot without resorting to violence every other chapter. She even manages to slip in reference to another Dragon alumnus. I find myself rather tempted.
The hounds of the morrigan by Pat O'Shea is a book I loved as a kid. It steals liberally from celtic myth to create an incredibly detailed and surprisingly contemporary book that you don't need to have read the original legends to enjoy. Like Tolkien's opus, this was produced over a huge timescale, and comes strongly recommended.
The dream palace by Brynne Stephens tries to push the amount of depth in the choose your own adventure genre. Of course, you have to make sacrifices, and rather than making the book huge, they decided to reduce the number of viable paths you can take to get to the end. The level of commercialism in the competition at the end is also a bit galling.

The tales people tell: Y'know, the real world manages to have weird enough folklore without any proven supernatural stuff. Why shouldn't fantasy worlds have outlandish legends that aren't true. It might irritate players when they've trekked through the wilderness for months seeking a plot hook, and they find out
Spoiler: Show
the black pearl is just a big pearl, no magic powers at all
but it'll make the world more real. An excellent idea, but of course one that requires lots of prep time, or the willingness to steal and adapt from existing sources. Guess you'll have to choose if you're willing to put that kind of effort in for something that would cause player walkouts with the wrong group. And make sure that the journey is a fun part of the game as much achieving as the objectives. So this is an article I'm divided on, liking the idea, but knowing many people wouldn't. Oh well. Can't please everyone.

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Dreadnought! by Diane Carey is a star trek novel about the aforementioned class of ships, hinted at in the technical manuals, but never shown on screen. It shows a general strong respect for the canon of the series, and tying everything together, while maintaining a fast paced plot. In general, the reviewer is pretty positive about it.
Sequel to "Battlestations!" Good writing, but both also an exemplar of Mary Sueness in the genre that started Mary Sue off; probably best avoided.

Duchess of Kneedeep, however, was funny and a quick read. Well worth picking up if you find a copy. I suspect it has lots of in-jokes that I didn't catch, too.
Top Bottom