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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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Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
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.

Ah, more information that would be more useful helping you to navigate an extended family reunion than with your players and what they'll put up with.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

part 4/5

Roughing it: This month's Top Secret support is another sideways transferral from another recent release. AD&D recently got the wilderness survival guide, so why not convert some stuff over. After all, the life of a secret agent is not all witty reparte and pristine underground hideouts. Forests, mountains, swamps, deserts, arctic landscapes, ocean voyages, all present their own challenges, and get corresponding rules. Training to handle this may be expensive ( $10,000! Just how much money do secret agents have? I suspect the same bureaucratic inflation that can make a spanner or lightbulb cost $50. ) but it can save your life. Once again, they're making the game feel more complete and comprehensive, which is nice.

The marvel-phile: As Jeff promised last month, here are the Marauders. Another incidence of the increase in brutal villains who actually kill people, these guys have caused much devastation recently and are mostly still at large. Scalphunter, Arclight. Harpoon, Scrambler, Riptide, Vertigo, Sabertooth, Malice, Blockbuster and Prism. Many of them I've never heard of, three are already dead (for now) and one would become Wolverine's iconic rival, and is still in regular use today. Another case where we get to see the coalface that would be distilled to make up the cartoons and movies. Not every story can be a classic, and deservedly so, but you can still learn something from them. And so it is with this month's installment of this column.

Even the bad get better: Stewart Wieck! One of the future founders of White Wolf gets an article published in the magazine! Now this is definitely one for the footnotes. The actual article isn't that impressive, being basically a single page article on how to advance your villains in a non fiaty way in Villains and Vigilantes. Whether you wind up using it for your PC's (playing the monster? surely not! ;) ) or just for your NPC's (save it for the big ones, because otherwise it'd be too much bookkeeping) this is a pretty cool idea, that shows you how to make characters behave in genre by controlling what they are rewarded for doing. (once again, it's notable in that in a mere couple of years, people are already a lot more open to the idea of killing in comics. Poor FASERIP.) Don't be afraid to houserule it for your game is you want to support different stuff. As ever, I am left curious if we'll see him in here again before he goes off and starts his own club, and becomes too important and busy for that.

Gamma III: So gamma world is getting it's third edition. And unlike their policy with D&D, they have made some quite substantial changes to the ruleset. A leaf has been taken from FASERIP's book, resolving everything using a single table, with odds of success largely based on your ability scores. Ahh, the joys of fashion. Of course this means you'll have to engage in a bit of conversion work to use characters from your old games with the new rules. It seems that in general they have tried to simplify things quite a bit, making it both quicker and easier to play, and more suited to long term campaigns. Seems both ambitious and laudable. But as we know all to well, such sentiments do not always translate into commercial success. Will we see several more years of good coverage before it dies out, horrible flamewars from a divided fanbase, or an embarrassing flop. This is definitely another interesting thread of history I look forward to following further.

OA3, the spirit warrior strikes gets a very pretty full colour ad.

The role of books: Windmasters bane by Tom Deitz gets a pretty positive review. It manages to combine celtic fantasy with a solid grounding in modern day ohio, with only the protagonist able to see both sides of the equation. Sounds like a good bit of reading for changeling players.
The architect of sleep by Steven R Boyett is the story of a man transferred to a parallel world inhabited by giant telepathic raccoons. (Run with us, etc etc.) This actually produces a surprisingly serious and well developed world, with extensive attention paid to history and sociological details. Only trouble is, there's so much worldbuilding to do that not as much plot happens as it could. Maybe the next in the series will get straight to the action.
The last knight of albion by Peter Hanratty thoroughly confuses the reviewer. It may appear superficially to be a tale of post arthurian britain, in which Percivale is tracking down sir Mordred. But there are all manner of anachronisms, presented in way which makes him think that the writer is trying to make some kind of political allegory. In the end, unsure of what's going on, and not that keen on the distant writing style, he is cautiously negative.
A multitude of monsters by Craig Shaw Gardner is a rather funny tale of a group of monsters attempting to form a union, and find a wizard to act as a spokesman. Plenty of stuff occurs that is both fun to read, and could be easily stolen to put in your game. The reviewer looks forward to reading future books in this series.
The troll's grindstone by Elizabeth Boyer is the 5th book in another series. In this case, experience has indeed honed her skill, making her characterization and plotting stronger than the previous ones, and her supporting characters memorable and nuanced. Remember, even if you aren't that good at something, the more you try, the better you'll get.
Her majesty's wizard and The warlock is missing are two new books from Christopher Stasheff. They get a mixed review, as the reviewer is starting to find him predictable, but is still enjoying his work nonetheless. He needs to develop or he'll get stuck in a rut.
The game of fox and lion by Robert R Chase is a sci-fi story of big business intrigue, as genetically enhanced constructs scheme against their creators. Plenty of Xanatos gambiting takes place. Can you figure out who's really manipulating who before it's revealed?
Silverglass by J F Rivkin is a rousing tale of adventure, politics, sorcery and bed-hopping, (all presented in the best possible taste) with just enough of an undercurrent of weirdness and philosophy to keep the reviewer off-balance. This time, he cautiously recommends it, but still isn't absolutely certain if he should. Is this kind of weirdness going to appeal to ordinary people or not?
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
The Gamma World article is highly ironic since there will never be any creatures in 3e format in the Dragon. All of them are 2e with a mention of how easy it is to convert to 3e. And after that, they never had an article with creatures for 4th or 5th edition.

Its like they wanted the game to fail. And yet it has 6.5 editions and, with Metamorphosis Alpha and Omega World, there has been 11 editions in that universe.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
I'm more curious whether any of the future articles mentioning Gamma World 3 will mention its less than stellar editing or the availability of the Rules Supplement booklet that you could request for free from TSR. (Which solved many, though by no means all, of the rules omissions and errors.)
 

Tom McCambley

Excellent.
Validated User
I'm more curious whether any of the future articles mentioning Gamma World 3 will mention its less than stellar editing or the availability of the Rules Supplement booklet that you could request for free from TSR. (Which solved many, though by no means all, of the rules omissions and errors.)
From what I can remember, they do not. :(

Hmmm as a request to (un)reason, could you give me a head's up when the first ad for Cyborg Commandos shows up in the magazine? I've been trying to remember when it first cropped up, and the best I could do was '88 or '89. I know it has to be soon, as Kim Mohan was working on it after he, Mentzer, and Gary were gone from TSR.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
Roughing it: This month's Top Secret support is another sideways transferral from another recent release. AD&D recently got the wilderness survival guide, so why not convert some stuff over. After all, the life of a secret agent is not all witty reparte and pristine underground hideouts. Forests, mountains, swamps, deserts, arctic landscapes, ocean voyages, all present their own challenges, and get corresponding rules. Training to handle this may be expensive ( $10,000! Just how much money do secret agents have? I suspect the same bureaucratic inflation that can make a spanner or lightbulb cost $50. ) but it can save your life. Once again, they're making the game feel more complete and comprehensive, which is nice.
Agents got paid for successful missions on top of receiving experience points.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

part 5/5

Profiles: A pair of alliterative profiles this month, for some reason. Clyde Caldwell is another of our most notable artists, responsible for lots of covers in the past few years, plus a couple of cases of authorial insertion. A well educated fella, for him, the route of least resistance somehow led to freelancing for TSR, and then getting a full time staff job. But it seems he would likely be doing art even if he couldn't make a proper living at it. He advises you not to go into an artistic job unless you really love what you do as well. Being a bitter failure is not cool. We also get to find out the name of the model used on the cover of issue 94 (Why am I not surprised that one was painted from life) and the recent Red Sonja module. Intriguing. I wonder if they still have the outfits :p
Penny Petticord seems rather a perfectionist. Graduating at 15 and going on to get two degrees, she managed to achieve a level of rules mastery in a week that many players never manage. She then rapidly went on to become one of the top convention GM's in the country. (while also having a day job as a rocket scientist) It's no wonder that she's been handling the rules questions for the magazine for the last few years. That kind of precision may not be as essential in roleplaying as it is in aerodynamics, but it certainly doesn't go amiss. I have mucho envy for her talents.

TSR previews: Lazer tag! Fuck yeah! I used to love playing games like that as a teenager! Our pole position product is another incredibly cool live action game. Join the official club and shoot people safely and with style. Now this is a company experiment I can get behind.
Another really weird experiment out next month is the Cheers family game. Of all the things to license. What exactly were you supposed to do with this one, and what were the rules like?
For D&D we have X12: Skarda's mirror. Marauding bandits? Surely a lower level group could handle them. On the other hand, marauding bandits with a magic mirror. Hmm. Interesting. What could lie within.
AD&D is still giving Oriental Adventures plenty of support with OA3: Ochimo, the spirit warrior. Is it an honorable wronged spirit, or a scummy tricksy one? Either way, you'd better lay it to rest.
Gamma world gets GW7: Beta Principle. Venture to a preapocalyptic amusement park and enjoy the easter eggs as the adventure from GW6 develops into a more epic story. Hmm. Combined with the new edition, is this leading to a resurgence for the property?
Finally, we have two anthologies. Amazing science fiction releases a best of covering 1926-35, it's early era. Includes stories from luminaries such as John Campbell and H P Lovecraft. Way to remind us, dude. If you want something more recent, Snarfquest has just finished it's first arc, and gets a compilation of the story so far. Now you can read it all without having to flip from one magazine to the next, spreading them all out on your bed to get a proper feel for the continuity.

The game wizards: Another format change. With Gary fully gone now (not that they've actually said so yet. ) they need a new column to communicate the intentions of the company top brass. Of course, the new very top brass (Roll of thunder, stab of organ music) is not inclined to dirty her hands by communicating directly with the hoi polloi that buy the products, so that means Michael Dobson, Jeff Grubb, "Zeb" Cook, Doug Niles and Jim Ward all contribute their own scuttlebutt.
Mike handles the personnel news. Tracey Hickman and Margaret Weis are back from computer game land, and ready to rock our settings again. Warren Spector has been poached from Steve Jackson games to work as a new editor. (and top secret is getting a new edition, which is also his first project. ) Jim Ward has also returned to the fold after freelancing for a bit, and Harold Johnson has shifted positions. The usual round of reshuffles then. You can check out any time, but you can never leave.
Jeff reports on his progress through the writing of the Manual of the Planes. He's trying to keep the sense of wonder and infinite scope the planes should have and not explain them too much. If he gets a good response, he'll do a column containing stuff cut from it for size, or thought up afterwards to supplement the material in there. I think this project is in good hands.
Zeb is of course in charge of writing the second edition of AD&D. Send letters in saying what you want! Lots of them! We can't revise it for the better unless we have an idea of what you consider better. Nice to see them still listening to their fanbase.
Doug Niles is also hard at work on the new top secret edition. Now with a greater emphasis on actual investigation rather than commando raids. Last word in State of the art? Ha. You can always make more improvements.
Jim Ward is most vague of all, with a heavily redacted statement that reveals very little, but hopefully will stoke interest in whatever he's up too.
Well, I guess they're never really going to be able to replace Gary, but they're certainly trying to maintain an air of fun in these missives, with jokes, hints and asides aplenty. Maybe with the superstar writer/CEO gone, the game'll feel like more of a team effort. Maybe it'll give them more chance to establish their individual personalities. Maybe it'll suck. In any case, it seems pretty likely that the vitriol count will be way down compared to the old days. Lets hope they continue to give me something worth talking about in future installments.

Oh noes! Havoc Con III has been canceled. However, Dundracon, Orcon, Folie-con and King Kon :rolleyes: are still going ahead. Once again their names cause me amusement.

Snarf slays the dragon and gets a happy ending. Until next month anyway, when they start a new storyline. Dragonmirth gets newstandalicious. Wormy has a plan to deal with the giants.

Although not longer in actual length than their other recent issues, they really seem to be getting the hang of packing more into each one. With tons of small articles, and relatively few adverts, this really did feel like a mammoth issue, and has produced a mammoth sized review in response. Some of the articles are good, some are bad, and some are merely meh, as is standard by this point, but in this one, I definitely preferred the more crunchy articles. Also interesting is the fact that in some ways they seem to be regressing, reverting to formats not seen since 1981. Guess they meant it literally when they said they were going to try and recapture the spirit of the old issues. All in all, the range of stuff covered here has been so broad that I can't really say if overall it was good or bad. I think I'll return a mildly positive one, as they are definitely still developing and doing new things, even if it is mixed in with lots of routine crap. And once again I am left wondering just how much bigger my reviews will get before this journey is over. The magazine is still going to get bigger, and if it stays this efficient, then each one could wind up going to pages more. This is actually pretty scary. One article at a time. Just keep telling yourself that. One article at a time. That's the way to get through this.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Ah, more information that would be more useful helping you to navigate an extended family reunion than with your players and what they'll put up with.
:p I am very thankful I don't have a family like that.
Hmmm as a request to (un)reason, could you give me a head's up when the first ad for Cyborg Commandos shows up in the magazine? I've been trying to remember when it first cropped up, and the best I could do was '88 or '89. I know it has to be soon, as Kim Mohan was working on it after he, Mentzer, and Gary were gone from TSR.
Of course.
Agents got paid for successful missions on top of receiving experience points.
I know that. I was just wondering what their pay scale was like. Is $10,000 a serious chunk of their income, or could they blow it casually like a millionaire playboy in a casino?

Also, I'd just like to note that since Enworld has now caught up with this thread, I've decided to syndicate for a third time, on Dragonsfoot. As ever, it'll be interesting seeing how it gets treated in a different board culture.
 
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