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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
Dragon Issue 116: December 1986

part 5/5

TSR Previews: Not a lot of stuff coming up next month. AD&D gets H2: The mines of bloodstone. Following on from H1, this aims to prove that AD&D can do epic high level adventures too. Right on the other end of the scale, we have N4: Treasure hunt, for 0 level characters. Can you survive in a battle between goblins and orcs using only your wits? Good luck, you'll need it. Somewhere in the middle, we have DA2: Temple of the frog. Go back in time, both in and out of the game, to see this redone, expanded adventure from the very second supplement for OD&D. Not a brilliant name, but a lot scarier and more complex than it seems.

The marvel-phile: Jeff continues to mix the silly with the serious with aplomb. Because lets face it, the marvel universe has far too many silly characters to only do one a year for april. We get Crossfire, who is deadly serious, despite having a very silly outfit (posing pouch for vampire hunting strippers, hee) and will turn heroes against each other given half a chance. We also get another amusingly themed supervillain team, the Death Throws. Ringleader, Oddball, Tenpin, Bombshell and Knickknack. All specialize in throwing objects related to their name. Beyond parody, isn't it? Jeff is fully aware of that, and loving it, taking time to hone his faux editorial banter along the way. He's becoming almost as entertaining a writer as Ed. Will he keep his promise to bring us the Marauders next month? Does Roger ever really get to recline of a sofa with his workload? All will be revealed soon enough.

Skyrealms of jorune! Another fascinating new game starting soon. Will we see articles for this one?

Dr who?: Oh, this is nice. Another game we've seen around for quite a while actually gets an article dedicated to it. And we just had some Dr Who reviews last month. Curious that it's appearances in the magazine should be on the up just as the tv series is about to go into terminal decline.
Anyway, here we get to see stats for all 6 currently extant incarnations of the Doctor. Which they ought to have in the game anyway, but apparently these ones are corrected :sigh: Errata, errata, do you really matter? Anyway, this gives us a good idea of what they system looks like, apparently a fairly simple attribute and ability based one with a scale of 1 to 6. If you're interested in the show, you may well be tempted by this, but mechanically, nothing here seems particularly groundbreaking. Eh, as long as it does the job, and provides for fun games, it doesn't matter if it's complex or simple. And since the Doctor is probably at the upper end of the system's power level, it should be even simpler for regular PC's.

Aim and burn: Flamethrowers! Like their low tech D&D variant, throwing vials of flaming oil, these are highly effective weapons that are far too often ignored. What could be more fun than watching your enemies scream as you melt their face, while you laugh maniacally? For some reason, this article introduces them to the Traveller system. We get several models, rules for the special effects they have on things and creatures hit by them, plus a load of implied setting about the manufacturers to better integrate them into the setting. In another case of retro-future anachronisms that we wouldn't see in games today, we also have stats for asbestos spray, which you obviously use to counter fire attacks. We shall assume that they've found a way to keep you from getting cancer if you spray it all over your body. :p Definitely an article I enjoyed more than I really should ;)

Snarfquest continues to build up tension for the final showdown. Dragonmirth features the wrath of god. Wormy sets up that old classic, a pit trap.

Quite a good issue, overall. Both the themed bits and the general articles have an above average number of good articles, keeping this one fairly pleasurable to read. And even the ones I'm not so keen on, the minotaur and animal ones, are annoying in ways I could actively disagree with, rather than simply being boring. This is pretty pleasing. It's nice to end the year on an up note, after having found the average quality to be a good deal lower than the previous three years. Hopefully Roger'll avoid getting bored and burnt out in turn for quite a while, and the magazine'll sustain that over the next year. We might have slowed down, but I'm not stopping 'til this is over, one way or another. There's still way too much to see for that.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

part 1/5

108 pages. Roger has to confront the problem facing anyone who gets a regular job. You don't have the time to do all the creative stuff you used too. And as he used to be the second most prolific contributer to the magazine, that does suck a bit. Thankfully, these days there are more than enough writers willing and able to step up. The contents page is absolutely jam packed this time. Also, in response to their complaints, we actually have a female adventurer who may not be perfectly dressed for a swamp, but at least looks as though she's had the crap beaten out of her a few times in the past. And given their current situation, this may happen again sometime soon. Will this provoke complaints in itself. The line between equality and misogyny is easily crossed. Neh. Cant please everyone. The important question is, will this issue please me?

In this issue:

Letters: We get a letter asking why the cthulhu mythos has been removed from the god book. Legal crap, my dear. We ain't getting them back any time soon either. Nor will you be seeing the Melnibonean stuff again in this system any time soon. Until the great d20 comes and unifies us, we must remain apart.
A letter asking if they're going to do any more dragonquest stuff. Once again, the answer is no. We're going where the money is, and it aint there.
A rules question about adjudicating attacks on an army with multiple troop types. Fairly simple division. It may slow things down, but still far less than rolling for everyone individually.
A letter saying that presenting sample characters and their histories would be cool. Roger replies that Polyhedron already does this. Subscribe now! Gotta collect 'em all! You know, we really could have a reading thread for that as well. Anyone with the resources and insanity to try out there?
A letter about if something is available in canada. Yes, but it's gonna cost you more, what with currency conversion and shipping and crap. Oh, the woes of being north of the border and a cultural backwater.

Forum: Mark W McClennan may be 14, but he was not sniggering at the cover of issue 114. He also doesn't think that it's going to draw many new people into the hobby either. At the moment, the controversy is more on the satanic implications than the artwork. He seems to have a pretty level head on the matter.
David F Godwin is a forum regular, and he makes a more highbrow argument, pontificating about the difference between nakedness as Art, and as titillation. Entirely different, fnaw. Yeah, right.
Dan Tejes looks at this topic from a more sociological point of view. If both the writers and readers of fantasy are primarily male, then of course what is produced will primarily appeal to them. That's a rather chicken and egg argument. But maybe they could be appealing better to women.
Marc Andressen Is another of our young readers, and is somewhat embarrassed about the idea of his parents seeing some of the magazine's covers. Nor would he prefer the problem solved by more equal opportunity eye candy. Hrmm.
Carl Forhan also subscribes to the view that some things are more acceptable when done for the sake of Art. The magazine's policy doesn't need that much changing.
At this point Roger butts in again to say that he's shutting down debate on this subject. It grows most tiresome to him. Please do not deluge us endlessly with letters when there are other topics we could also be tackling. We don't want a rehash of the dwarven beards debacle.
Russell Taylor goes back to that old topic of the planes, and the mathematics involved in sets of infinity. They can explain quite easily how one infinity can be accessable from another but not other ones. Funny how a good grounding in the way the universe works can help you better conceive of how other universes might function differently.
Jeff Neely tackles another old topic, PvP. His group's characters argue and compete all the time, but they still have fun. Your group can too.
Mae Tanner thinks that grey on black is a bad thing in a magazine, because it makes it really hard for her to read it. I do have to say it's not the most attractive colour scheme, and I'm glad my eyes don't have problems like that.
Stephen Iicata points out just how much stuff you need for an expedition in the real world. This is why you have pack animals and vehicles if at all possible. Encumbrance is a bitch. Don't forget it.
David Sisk is yet another repeat debater. This time, he tackles the statement that stirrups are an essential part of mounted warfare. They might be helpful, but a good saddle is if anything an even bigger factor in safe riding. Your article does not match up to my 16 years of actual experience! Yes, but have you tried fighting actual battles riding bareback? Yes, I'll bet the other writer hasn't either. :p Ahh, the joys of realism debates. Never forget that you can actually do some pretty awesome stuff in reality with a little practice.
S.D Anderson dislikes the hit location system because it assumes all hit point damage is actual damage rather than exhaustion and depletion of narrative immunity. Once again, Gamism Vs Simulationism rages through the magazine, with articles trying to influence the implied structure of the game.
Patrick Goodman is fed up with people trying to put realism in fantasy, and thinks 2nd ed cleaning up the system and sweeping away the bad bits from the supplements can't come soon enough. Everything should be much better organized. Another perfectly reasonable desire that may not be satisfied by events to come.

The elements of mystery: Hmm. A topic we've seen before, but only once, from a rather different perspective. I think we can work with this. Robert Plamadon reminds us that they players shouldn't know everything about the setting, and it can be good for the roleplaying if they don't know everything about the game rules either. Rumours are an important part of making an exciting campaign with genuine choices, letting you hint at what adventures are out there, but not giving away the plot. You do not have to stick with the rules for monsters, and even variant classes and spells from other land could be introduced. If your players have misconceptions about the setting, don't correct them OOC, let their ignorance drive the plot by making amusing mistakes happen. Similarly, if they can't remember all the details of their adventures, use it to your advantage. Drama is born of conflict and misunderstandings. Much of the usual rules are not fixed for your game and roleplaying is important advice. Not a bad article, but probably doesn't deserve pole position. I guess they need to push their anti one true way munchikining powergamer agenda.

What are the odds?: You've used this title before as well. That's not good. Another case of a familiar subject updated to reflect new developments. In this case the use of really twinky ability generation methods in UA has people curious just what the chances of rolling a particular ability score with a certain amount of dice using Xd6 keep best 3. At really high numbers you have a better than 50% chance of getting 16-18. Which very much takes the specialness out of getting a roll that good. Oh well. A lot of the time, you don't want to be normal. And if there wasn't a big chunk of the playerbase who didn't want that, I doubt they would have put this stuff in the new books. Another reminder that for all the accusations of power creep in 3e and 4e, 1e had some very definite escalations of power in it's later supplements. Still, statistics are always fun. A nice crunchy counterpart to the very fluffy previous article.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

part 2/5

Feuds and feudalism: So your players have reached name level and have set up a domain, and now you're struggling for plot ideas. Or maybe they haven't, but want to go into that sphere anyway. What do you do? If you're struggling for ideas, it's probably because you never really defined who the various rulers around are, their respective resources, and their opinions of one another. A Lord needs servants, and by ingratiating yourself, you can get to be a local knight or some equivalent. And then it's politics all the way. You've got to keep your boss happy, and keep your underlings reasonably happy, but more importantly productive, keep track of who likes and hates who, who wants what, and what they're willing to do to get it, and then choose what side to be on. It may take a bit of effort to set up, but once you set up a soap opera like this, it runs indefinitely with very little further effort. All you need to do is make things react logically and introduce new players every now and then to shake things up and replace people killed. And before you know it, you've got a full on game of generational power politics. Woo. You make it seem so simple. It's all about relationships. Another fairly solid bit of roleplaying advice.

Condensed combat: A load more tables here as they continue their new trend of compiling stuff from multiple books, and putting it all in one place for your playing convenience. Or it least, it would be convenient, if it didn't have some obvious errors. I know accurate copying it hard, but really, what are editors for? If you're gonna be crunchy, you need to be precise. Fail.

Dungeoneers shopping guide: The onslaught of short crunchy articles continues, with a couple of pages of new equipment. If ever there was something inexperienced GM's dread, it's players asking for something which logically should be possible, but isn't detailed in the book. And someone is bound to want to buy something that isn't in the book, and you'll have to fudge prices. Well, now at least you can eat someone else's fudge instead of cooking up your own in a hurry and risking making a charred indigestible mess that upsets your campaign later on. Still, since this is hardly the most comprehensive add-on, I suspect there are still plenty of things that annoying players can ask for that aren't covered anywhere. Thoroughly mehsome.

Adventure Trivia!: Hmm. A set of questions about lots of AD&D trivia. It's been a few years since we had one of those. This is rather trickier than the last one I remember, with lots of questions with answers that are idiosyncratically 1st ed, rather than remaining the same from edition to edition. Plenty of questions are drawn from supplements, plus a few from modules, and even issues of this magazine. You'd have to be a real completeist to get them all. A timely reminder that even as versed in all things D&D as I am now, it would still be possible to attain yet another level of mastery of the rules and settings. Oh, for a photographic memory, so it wouldn't also take another quantum leap in the amount of time spent studying and playing the game to do so.

A touch of genius: So, what's the biggest dump stat in AD&D. Many would say charisma. Quite a few more would say comeliness, post UA. Vince Garcia, on the other hand, thinks that for non magic-users, it's intelligence you can skimp on without it harming your character. After all, you can still play them cleverly. Aside from strict GM'ing and creating situations where intelligence checks are needed, what can we do about this? Vince's solution is to make intelligence factor into training times and saves against illusion spells. The second of those isn't a bad idea, but since training times and costs are generally ignored anyway, I am very leery of the first one. Forcing dumb characters to spend more money, and take more downtime between adventures would annoy everyone, especially if there were also other time related constraints in the game, and everyone else is raring to get back to the dungeoneering and worldsaving. There may be plenty of real world examples of incompetent people in businesses who massively increase the annoyance factor and inefficiency of work for everyone else, yet somehow don't get fired; but in adventuring, people like that will find themselves replaced, terminally if necessary. Like making wizards weak at first, but game dominating later on, this is a form of balance that is very much not conductive to a good game. Oh well. 50% isn't a terrible score.

Sage advice returns, having also taken a three year break. Penny Petticord takes the reins to reign over and rein in the uncertainties in the rules created by Unearthed Arcana material. Yes, it has been over a year and it's still a big deal. Yet more evidence of how much slower paced things were back then. Anyway, to the questions.
Can name level cavaliers build strongholds and collect taxes. (yes. Use the same rules as for normal fighters, but double the money they get, because of their noble connections. The salary of virtue bleeds the serfs dry paying for it. )
Can you save the magic liquid from the Rainbow spell by decanting it (no. This is basic anti-weasel economics. Changing the location of something does not change what it is. )
When is Withdraw negated by other using spells. Does this ruin the other spell? ( When you actually apply it to the other person, not when you cast it. No, the negation of withdraw does not ruin the other spell. )
Can you use the illusionist rainbow spell as material component for the cleric rainbow spell ( ow, my head. Someone get the boys down in spell R&D a theasaurus. I'm sure Gary has several to spare. Anyway, the answer is yes. Super synergy strategy ahoy!)
What is the material component for phantom steed. ( A small silver horseshoe. I really ought to give a price for these, as that sounds like it'd need to be custom made, but I won't. )
You said in the DMG there's no such thing as magical elfin chain, but there is in UA. You contradict yourselves! ( That is for the same reason that we also raised the demihuman level limits in UA. Because you lot kept whinging and whinging and whinging at us for the past 6 years! You've got what you wanted. I hope you're happy now. )
How much should elfin chain cost to buy new( shitloads. We recommend at least 5 times the book price, with a waiting list of over a decade. Double that for members of another race. You're not going to follow this advice, are you? I thought not. Bloody munchkins. )
Since non-evil assassins are now legal, how do you introduce them to the game? ( We at sage advice towers still recommend that you do not. If you do so, we recommend the GM places extra obstacles in their way when it comes to training )
Do you get strength bonuses to damage on thrown weapons (yes. Some things are too obvious to forbid. )
Do high level bards gain hierophant druid powers (No. We designed the bard before we did druid levels above 14. By a strict reading of the PHB, they should, but that would be horrendously broken, so it's time for a bit of backpedaling. )
Can a cavalier use a crossbow. ( if he doesn't mind being looked down upon as unknightly by all his cavalier friends.)
If elfin chain is so fine, why does it still hinder your thieving abilities. (It may be lighter and more flexible than regular armour, but it's not better than no armour at all. It's not some magic cure-all. )
What is the armour class of a weapon when trying to disarm it. (you use the armour class of the wielder. Yes, even the bonuses granted by armour. Yes, this isn't particularly realistic. Do you have a problem with this?)
Do you lose all your spells if you change class with a hat of difference (yes. And then you need to rest to memorise spells available to your new one. Quick changes will not be helpful. )
How often can you change classes with a hat of difference (as often as you like, to any class you meet the requirements for. Note that this may play havoc with you experience gaining process, as it is split amongst so many classes. )
Do gray elves get both the race and subrace ability modifiers (yes. This is also the case for all other subraces. )
Can you cast spells while within an ottilukes resilient sphere. (yes. Yes, this includes dispelling. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

part 3/5

The ecology of the ankheg: Another monster that originated in the magazine returns triumphant, to cause devastation to farmers everywhere. Another of those creatures that is just about plausible enough to work in a proper ecology, this adapts plenty of tricks from real life bugs to create a pretty detailed lifecycle for the creature, full of exploitable points that canny adventurers can use to avoid becoming dinner. The fiction also takes a different tack yet again, as while there may be a pontificating sage, he certainly doesn't have the assurance or detachment of most of his ilk. Interestingly, once again the fiction and the gaming parts of the article are handled by different people. What's with that? Also contains a valuable lesson for adventurers. When you get to the domain management stage, if you don't do some actual managing, beware peasant unrest. Being a ruler has responsibilities. Another pretty good article in this series, full of stuff that would make it into the 2nd ed writeup of the creature.

Hounds of space and darkness: Stephen Innis returns like a dog to his vomit, to cover a topic he's examined twice before. Having handled real world tame dogs and wild canids in pretty decent detail, he now gives us three flavours of fantastic dog. Gith dogs are found among both the githyanki and githzerai, and were created by applying the same techniques to normal dogs that the illithids used on humans to make the gith in the first place, proving that the abused becomes the abuser in fantasy worlds as well. Lets hope they don't turn on their masters in turn, because they're pretty ferocious, and highly resistant to mental control, making them well suited to pounce on mind flayers in a pack, ignoring their primary attacks and ripping them to shreds. They're a pretty good addition to their tactical arsenal, that I'm vaguely surprised I've never seen before. We also get the Xotzcoyotl, or cave dogs, which can be found living with all sorts of underground creatures, in various breeds. With superlative hearing and smell, it's pretty much a waste of time trying invisibility around them. While not very pretty (unless you find hairless bats cute. ) they too can make a loyal companion for an adventurer, helping you deal with hazards even demihumans would be hard pressed to detect until it's too late. A welcome return for one of our regular writers. He's producing content as well researched and solidly designed as ever.

Fun without fighting: Speaking of regulars, here's Scott Bennie again, with another quick reminder that there are plenty of plots you can have without combat, and your personal badassedness and degree of social respect and influence are not always related. Romance, children, business, honour, social climbing. All are valid goals you can have a lot of fun striving for. While not bad at all, this is the third bit of basic roleplaying advice in one issue. I'm feeling a bit tired of that by now, especially as we're not even halfway through yet. I hope there were some more recently started readers that are getting more out of this stuff than I am, because they have been pushing it strongly since 1983, and I think I have it pretty well internalized by now. Course, that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be able to put it into practice, and actually run games any better, but we can certainly hope.

The forgotten characters: So hirelings are starting to go out of fashion these days. With the influx of new more badass characters from UA and OA, there's less need for adventurers to travel in large bands with massive supply trains of animals, squires and support troops if they want a decent chance of taking out a monster lair. But we're still a long way from the unaccompanied 4 and 5 person parties of 3 & 4e, and they want to make sure their current love of proper characterization is extended to every part of the game. This means thinking up names, personalities and backstories for your henchmen and hirelings. What's their motivation, likes and dislikes, ambitions beyond following the PC's around, etc etc. Just build it up organically, rather than engaging in tons of work making personalities for people who may die on the first adventure. More ideas to mine, that could be turned to fun or tedium oh so easily. Which will it be?

By magic Masked: Another Elminster article covering a themed set of magic items, in this case m-m-m-m-MASKS! (the mighty power that will save the day. Ahh, the joys of the 80's :D ) Anyway, once again, we're getting a big batch of stuff from the ruins of Myth Drannor. (What's the betting that when FR becomes a full setting, that'll be one of the first places to get a supplement dedicated to it.) The horned mask gives you lots of cool perception related powers. The veil mask keeps your mind from being read. The winged mask lets you fly. The Skull mask protects you from undead special abilities, but also pisses them off, so they attack you first. Better make sure a Defender is wearing it then. The mask of magic lets you see magical energies. The fanged mask lets you chomp on your enemies. The mirror mask reflects gaze attacks back. The mask of silence lets you prevent other creatures from making any sound, perfect for assassins. And the mask of winds is basically just a gasmask, protecting you from nasty poisonous gasses and the like. Not a very inspired collection this month. Very few of them have the quirky additional effects we've come to know and love from Ed, and the setting and historical chatter has been almost completely cut to focus on their mechanical properties. You'd barely know it was him at all. Which isn't very pleasing, even if they're still entirely usable. What's up with that? Hopefully he'll get back on form soon.

Bazaar of the bizarre is back as well! This is pleasing. Looks like they're reviving a lot of the old names. Are they back for good, or will they flip-flop on this. Either way, we get to appreciate their abilities at alliteration. :p Anyway, we get another themed article in quick succession, this time focussed on magical rings. 23 of them, from a whole bunch of different authors. (although there's no big names on the list) I wonder how long some of them have been sitting in the slush pile until they thought they had enough to make a full compilation. While a mixed bag, there are more interesting ones here than in the last article, with funny stuff like the ring of animal magnetism, annoying stuff like the ring of annulment, quirky stuff like the rings of limited telepathy and distraction, and setting tied stuff with inherent plot hooks like the rings of Lolth and Crius. Overall, this is pretty pleasing, and yet more fodder for my random item tables. This should keep them getting repetitive for a few months more.

More power to you: Having given us tons of system light roleplaying advice articles, it now seems that we're getting an onslaught of short sharp chunks of crunch. 5 new skills, 6 new powers, and a new limitation for Champions. Weather control, super flexibility, enhanced senses, greater flexibility, and the great old story device of not being fully in control of your powers. All abilities that have well known comic antecedents, and richly deserve a place in the book. Once again we are reminded just how much development and playtesting it took to produce a system that fills in most of these gaps, and just how big a book you need to cover all this in one place. Most of these are deserving of a more permanent home in the next edition, whenever that may come.

Tanks for the memories: Hmm. An article for car wars? Now that's something that's been around for ages, and never got any attention here. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since TSR & SJG have recently started collaborating on the gameline. Anyway, tanks are also something that doesn't get a huge amount of attention, probably because modern games aren't very big in general. Anyway, tanks are far bigger and more heavily armoured than all but the most insanely rigged hod rod, but nowhere near as fast or maneuverable. If you want to beat them, you'd better be able to attack them from range and make sure they can't target on you to shoot you back. They're also exceedingly expensive. Whether it be fighting them or building one yourself, this is another thing that seems like it should add a little spice to your game.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
What is the third hound?
Um. The cave hound. The githyanki and 'zerai each have a different flavour of gith hound, bred to handle conditions on their native plane, and match their own personal preledictions. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
How do masks remind you of the 80s?

(Keep up the good work. I disagree with about half your opinions, but life would get boring if everyone always agreed.)
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
I had to look up the intro on YouTube, as while I remembered the toys I don't think I ever saw the cartoon.

I am, however, reminded as to why it's not a good idea to go back and rewatch old '80s cartoons. Man, have they not aged well.
 
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