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

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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 116: December 1986

part 1/5

111 pages. We're pink! The magazine now looks almost exactly like it did when I started reading! Nostalgia city! However, I assure you that I will not let matters of presentation bias me as to the quality of the articles. For some reason, they've decided to go with the aquatic theme this christmas. Nothing wrong with getting a little wet now and then. As long as the boring bits get glossed over. We don't want it to end up like the wind waker, do we? (well, there are worse things to base your games off) Lets see if this issue is a mighty battleship, or a waterlogged little rowing boat.

in this issue:

Letters: One letter about giving individual hit locations their own hit points. Roger gives an alternative method that doesn't require so much bookkeeping, but still adds a load of extra prepwork beforehand. Meh.
Two letters that think that as D&D is now starting to decline in popularity, the magazine ought to start devoting a greater proportion of it's space to other games systems. Not a bad idea. Roger gives the response that that's not what our survey repliers thought. We mustn't forget our core demographic. Oh, compromise, compromise. At least they aren't taking the route certain modern cable channels do and almost completely abandoning their original theme.

Forum: Craig Sessions tells the tragic tale of a girl who couldn't get anyone to join her game, just because she was a girl. How dumb are these people?! Was open sexism still that common in the 80's? Even if it was, you'd think at least a few would say yes simply because they want to score with her, as this is high school. Madness.:shakes head: It's as bad as the girl bassist in my class who was always complaining about exactly the same thing with respects to finding a band. Do they not understand basic principles of visual appeal and audience identification. Oh well. Their loss.
Dan Thompson thinks that save or instantly die poison is lame. High level characters shouldn't go out like that! Keep whining, little star, and eventually your wish will come true.
Alan D Long thinks that D&D ought to be targeted towards older people as well. There's a big untapped market with tons of disposable income just waiting for you. You could definitely be marketing the game better to increase your fanbase.
Niel Brandt gives a load of supplemental material for the mariner. This is pretty cool stuff, and still doesn't make them anywhere near as powerful as primary spellcasters, so I'd allow it.
Archie Li thinks that using humour in D&D should be done carefully, otherwise player suspension of disbelief may be destroyed. It's one thing to have IC jokes, but when they're built into the rules, it's just silly.
Chris Sanyk thinks that using batteries as a limiter for your high tech items is a good idea, but may run into source emulation problems. What makes a good show and what makes a good game are not the same things, you know.
James A Yates is in favour of nonweapon proficiencies, and feels that the longlived nonhuman races ought to have more. A perfectly reasonable statement that opens up a whole can of worms when it comes to game design, and still results in the odd flamewar today. Let the battle commence.
John Goldie is confusticated about the adjudication of illusions. Which considering they have a whole class devoted to them, is a big problem. Someone oughta do an article on it. Careful what you wish for. Both times they sent out a call like that, they wound up with a whole bunch of stuff, much of it contradictory. A special like that, with several different alternatives on how to handle illusions, would send the canonwankers into a frenzy of frustrated fapping. :D

To go with the dungeoneers survival guide, we now have the wilderness survival guide as well. Isn't that great news. At least Kim's departure didn't result in him pulling the work he'd already done. The company has enough problems on it's plate at the moment.


Sorcerer Supreme
Validated User
Is this the same Patricia Kennealy who was famously involved with Jim Morrison? Wikipedia tells me it is!
That's officially the weirdest thing I've ever read on rpg.net.

Yeah, I played in two modules. It was my first time not playing D&D and I was excited to get into some spy action, but the first one was a dungeon crawl with guns, where we attacked an underground bunker. The next module was one where we parachuted on to a hijacked cruise ship, which was a floating dungeon with guns. I might be underrating the modules as I will admit the guy running them was not a good GM, but they certainly seems pretty bad.
There are so many problems in RPGs (especially early ones) that try to capture genres but are built on rules systems essentially inspired by D&D's mentality. I think it's why Indie RPGs have experimented so heavily with alternate mechanics for other genres.


Retired User
PBS' The Triumph of Life mentions Noctiluca. One species is food for a shrimp but gains revenge after being eaten. It glows and, since the shrimp is transparent, draws the cuttlefish that eat the shrimp.
Fun fact - Many fish have evolved black gastrointestinal lining in response to this issue.

(So when the giant fish swallows you whole, your party may not be able to see your Continual Light to know where you are.)


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 116: December 1986

part 2/5

High seas: Sailing! In the real world, a huge number of our most renowned explorers and adventurers have been famed for their ocean voyages. It's full of hazards, both environmental and from creatures and people, and you get to see all sorts of cool stuff. It's also a perfect justification for episodic troupe play, with a large cast of characters, but only some of them taking part in each individual adventure, because someone has to stay back and take care of the ship and supplies while you explore the insides of the isle of dread, or whatever; while the fact that each adventure is on a different island, or is simply separated by several hundred miles of coastal sailing means you don't have to worry so much about your actions in one place having repercussions everywhere else. (at least, not straight away ;) ) A very promising topic indeed. And our first article sets off to cover the details of sailing a ship, with a long and well integrated set of fluff and crunch. Lots of statistics, how you fought with them, how many crew members they needed, how much they could carry, maintenance, fighting giant sea monsters, this is a solidly researched, comprehensive stuff that richly deserves the pole position. It does skirt on the edge of dullness at times, and the crunch'll probably take a few readings to fully digest, but it still looks like pretty useful stuff. Another of the things everyone should try at least once, seafaring adventures are a great way to visit new lands, kill their inhabitants and take their stuff, while skimming over the months of dull wilderness travel needed to get there. And you can even do bottleneck politics on the way. Now, if only the magazine were telling us that, instead of leaving it up to me to virtually construct my own little article out of tangents. :p

Children of the deep: At last. A PC writeup for aquatic elves. It's about time. Like most demihumans of this era, they don't get that great class abilities. But they do have fairly good innate powers, and some restrictions on their ability to function on land, so it balances out. Crossbreeds between normal and aquatic elves, on the other hand, are a bit twinked, (plus what is my place in the world angst, yay :rolleyes: ) with most of the advantages of both parents. Aquatic half-elves are also pretty good. If you have any seafaring or water adventures in your game, they will really leave everyone else in the dust unless they have some serious magic to compensate with. Another thing that can cause problems in a mixed party, and would be nerfed to bits in 4E. Consider carefully before allowing. It could be fun, but could also be an almighty pain in the ass to design adventures for.

The ecology of the minotaur: Hmm. Another new writer applies a different approach to the ecology series this month. We see the in game writer of the article captured by the creature he is studying, and having to survive by their wits and curry favour with the creature, instead of seeing them as just some scientific specimen to be hunted, examined and possibly dissected. This is an approach that would be used quite a few times during my reading, sometimes with the writer escaping, and sometimes with them being presumed dead, but somehow having managed to hide or send their writings for future discovery. This is a development I approve of. The actual ecological bit, I find rather less enthralling, for it takes a monster that has rather interesting mythological origins, and turns them into just another generic primitive humanoid race, fighting, raiding and mating with harems of female minotaurs. Damn you, family friendly policy! (Although they still have no trouble with the idea of hags being all female and producing offspring by mating with human males by force and trickery, but I guess the great rape double standard strikes again.) The ecological footnotes are rather halfhearted this month as well, not really adding much to them mechanically. Still an interesting entry, but overall subpar, given the series' general high standards.


Making the Legend
Validated User
That's officially the weirdest thing I've ever read on rpg.net.
Artistic types do tend to hang around the same places. I'm sure she's been busy doing her own stuff, and is as sick of being asked about Jim as Marrianne Faithful is of being asked about that stupid mars bar in the hoo ha thing. After all, it was over 40 years ago.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 116: December 1986

part 3/5

The dragon's bestiary is back! Bumped off for Gary's featured creatures in issue 62, and then replaced by the Creature Catalogs, they've resurrected it due to public demand. Because the public hunger for new monsters is insatiable, but you don't want to give them too many at once, and then none for ages. This collection of monsters are all following the aquatic theme. So lets take a look at them.

Brain coral is exactly what is sounds like. Psychic Coral that physically resembles an load of lobes spread across the sea floor. Not that much they can do with that intelligence on their own, so they are likely to probe your mind and take over your body. I can see the entertainment possibilities in this.

Sea centaurs are to tritons and hippocampi what regular centaurs are to humans and horses. Which means they're rather smarter and more powerful, but still not as smart as their related species. (why are tritons and sahuguin so damn clever? What do they actually do with all that supposed intelligence? ) No great surprises here.

Giant carnivorous clams may not sound dangerous, but if your stuck inside them, you're in big trouble. And they have a surprising number of tricks to help them do this. Tentacles, paralyzing neurotoxin clouds, maneuvering jets. They're not just some sessile particle filterer you can ignore when not pearl diving.

Giant groupers will lurk in an underwater alcove, suck you in if you get too close, and swallow you whole. Better have something sharp to cut your way out with, and make Wormy proud.

Morana are really vicious eel/pirahna hybrids. Be thankful they don't come in large groups, because then the party would be in trouble.

Giant porcupine fish inflate themselves to look extra threatening. Considering they have save or die poison all over, you'd think they could be a little more secure in their masculinity. :p

Electric rays do exactly what they say on the tin, unleashing an electric charge to stun prey. And you, if you threaten them. Not a good idea to rub these guy's belly.

Sawfishes and sharks, like hammerheads, are an example of nature imitating tools. Or maybe vice versa. In any case, they look funny, but don't laugh when they chop you up and eat you.

Giant sea anemone will grapple you with their tentacles, and grip you with thousands of spines. That's really going to be a bugger to escape from. Another example of just how weird real undersea creatures look.

Sea titans are another aquatic relation of a well known land thing. Relations of poseidon, (if you're using a pseudoearth mythology) they are bigger and stronger than regular titans, but nowhere near as smart or magically powerful. They're still no pushovers, especially as they usually have various sea monstery friends. Even if you beat them, that may be just the beginning of your troubles, given how vindictive gods can be. Approach with caution, for even if they're friendly, their moods can turn on a dime.

Undines already appeared in the D&D companion set, you idiot. Someone needs to maintain better editorial control. Unless this is another case of them doing it deliberately to differentiate the two IP's. Anyway, these are sneaky little faeish bastards who enjoy drowning sailors. As if we didn't have enough of those.

Weed giants are larger, less subtle relations of Kelpies. They'll tangle you up, and use your corpse as fertilizer. You'll have to do a lot of hacking to get to their vulnerable areas. Beware dark water. You never know what lurks just beneath the surface. (cue jaws theme)

Hello? your majesty?: This article is only peripherally connected to the sea theme, but is still an invaluable topic they haven't got round to covering before. Communicating over long distances before the modern era was a slow, and often exhausting and inconvenient business. Here's plenty of examples of how it was handled in different real world eras, plus some more speculation on how you could use magic to speed this process in place of technology in a fantasy world. With an extensive bibliography, this is a good example that there are still tons of things for them to still do, they just need to hunt them down. Lets hope they don't wind up rehashing this one like they have so many others. Definitely one to mine for ideas when worldbuilding.

High seas in 3D: This month's centerpiece is another build it yourself effort. Cut out the cardboard pieces and build your own ship. How very appropriate for the nautical issue. Exactly what kind of ship it is is a bit vague, and of course size will depend on the scale of the miniatures you use with it, but this is another cool little centrepiece that I can definitely see the uses for. Dennis Kauth is definitely pulling his weight around here these days. Good luck putting it together. (they advise making photocopies so you can practice to get it right, which definitely implies a few of the staff members struggled with this one. ) As ever, any stories of how you actually used this in actual play would be very welcome.


Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Not sure why two different games having a monster with the same name is an issue. The Dragon's Bestiary is AD&D. The Companion Set is BECMI D&D. There are many similarities, but most of the later BECMI monsters are very different from their AD&D counterparts (compare the beholders, for instance, or the incorporeal undead). The only real similarity is both undines are made of water.
Hello? your majesty?: This article is only peripherally connected to the sea theme, but is still an invaluable topic they haven't got round to covering before. Communicating over long distances before the modern era was a slow, and often exhausting and inconvenient business. Here's plenty of examples of how it was handled in different real world eras, plus some more speculation on how you could use magic to speed this process in place of technology in a fantasy world. With an extensive bibliography, this is a good example that there are still tons of things for them to still do, they just need to hunt them down. Lets hope they don't wind up rehashing this one like they have so many others. Definitely one to mine for ideas when worldbuilding.
An excellent well-researched article, albeit on a peripheral topic. Funny how those come up. I haven't read the article since it was published, but I was thinking about it just yesterday in the spell abuse thread. Horse-post, foot-post, sail, messenger pigeons and so forth are the kind of systemless background details that add a lot of flavor to a setting.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 116: December 1986

part 4/5

Rogue stones and gemjumping: Elminster reveal to Ed another of his little secrets for living a long, exciting and twinky life without dying horribly. Gemjumping allows you to enchant a special stone so you can teleport to it later without all that awkward rigamarole of verbal, somatic and material components that someone can disrupt. Just the thing for when you're captured, tied up, or caught off guard. If you're extra clever, you can give it to someone, and use it as a way to get into places you haven't explored without the awkward risk of misfiring teleporting offers. A short article, but another demonstration of both how cool his writing is, and how he can wind up being seen as twinky. Even if individual items are balanced for their level (after all, this is basically just a slight variant on word of recall.), he knows so many tricks and synergies that his characters will legitimately trounce any regular character of the same level. This is why wizards and priests should go into the spell and item design business as soon as they're high enough level. It gives them a huge advantage over people who just use whatever they can research from old grimoires and take from things they've killed.

By tooth and claw: Ha. Someone thinks real animals aren't scary enough in D&D? The game where a 1st level character has a less than even shot at beating a housecat. Where any animal with a claw/claw/bite routine can take on a party of similar numbers and HD and trounce them unless the spellcasters spot them and get off their artillery spells before they can close. Where a whole load of creatures have save or die poison on every bite. I regard your statement with amusement. The problem is merely because D&D PC's scale so massively as they level up, and most creatures remain static, so what is a near impossible challenge at 1st level is a cakewalk by 10. You want a skill based system like Runequest or Storyteller mate, where even after years of play, you're still not even twice as powerful in terms of total stats. So yeah, this is another realism in gaming article, that has some sound tactical advice, (even normal animals are smart enough to pull tricks like ambushes and learn how to deal with traps.) but is mostly a waste of time built on a premise that's pretty dubious anyway. I've certainly always used plenty of natural animals in amongst the weird stuff in my games. Yawn.

High ones, Ancient ones: Looks like they're continuing to push the boundaries of covered games, with this article for Elfquest. Actually, they have covered these before, way back in issue 66, but that was adapting the characters to AD&D. Now they have their own BRP based system to play with. Here we get stats for the High ones, which seem to be your stereotypical physically weak, but mentally powerful ancient race/alien types. Their disadvantages probably don't balance out their powers, but since both are pretty hefty, they probably won't overshadow everyone else all the time. An interesting article that gives me plenty of insights into the setting of a world I've never really got into, but am tempted to do so now. By that criteria, I think we can safely say this article is a good one.

The role of computers is starting to ease into the swing of things, having received plenty of mail by now. So a few ground rules need to be set, as they make clear what they are not going to do. (so don't send us whining mail about that. ) Ho hum. You can only do so much. So you've gotta try and please the largest audience. Anyway, this month's main review is of Dragonfire II. A tremendously customizable game, this allows you to build characters, monsters, places, and even run battles. It can be used to handle the mathematical bits for all sorts of roleplaying games, with a minimum of effort. Just the sort of thing they ought to be letting us know about in this column. Anyone use this back in the day? Seems like it would be even more useful these days, with the massive increase in memory sizes and portability of laptops.
Our other review is a more conventional computer game. Bards Tale. Train up your team to fight Mangar the dark. An integral part of this is keeping your Bard well sozzled so he can sing songs to buff the rest of the party ;) Even the city streets are incredibly dangerous. But if you already have experienced characters from Wizardry or Ultima III, you can convert them over. It is a bit grindy, with big fights you can't run away from, and you have to get all the way back to the adventurers guild each time to save and level up. So you need to be a careful tactician to advance far. This is not a game that mollycoddles you, but the reviewers have no objection to that.


Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
(why are tritons and sahuguin so damn clever? What do they actually do with all that supposed intelligence? )
That is answered, for sahuagen, in Sea Devils and Dragon 239 (esp the latter). They do have technology and use it to great effect.
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