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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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Armitage

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 117: January 1987

The role of books:
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.
We'll let you know if it ever comes out.
Twenty-three years and counting. :D
 

Lord Shark

Varoonik!
Validated User
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?
Well, *I* like it. (J. F. Rivkin is, by the way, a pen name for a pair of female authors. I'm not sure who they actually were, though.)
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I know that. I was just wondering what they 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?
A serious chunk.

Because I'm curious. From p. 18:

Payment = A x H x D x (P + B)

A -- Agent's level
H -- Human target's level
D -- Result of a 10-sided die roll
P -- Base Mission Payment
B -- $25 Bureau Bonus (if applicable)

The example is a 5th level assassin mugging a 1st level agent and rolling a 4 (5 x 1 x 4 x [$50 for a mugging + $25] = $1,500). If a mission doesn't involve a human target, H = 1.

The base mission payments range from $5 to $100 (mean/mode/median: $29/$15/$25), or 1% to 2% for blackmail and kidnapping. (Apparently, agents are just common criminals.) Investigation bureau missions range from $5 to $30 (lying by assignment to full investigation) with a mean/mode/median of $15/$15/$15, confiscation from $5 to $60 (using counterfeit money to stealing) and $27/$20/$22-23, and assassination from $15 to to $100 (extortion to assassination; both the percentage cases are also assassination) and $43/$40/$40. Experience but no payment for unassigned missions, like "harming arms bearers".

No wonder everyone always played assassins. An average random mission against an equal target at 1st level would net $138 (1 x 1 x 5.5 x [$25 + $0]), at 5th level $3,438 ($688 without a human target), and at 10th level $13,750 (or $1,375). Double if you're the right bureau. Assassins rake in the cash, with a 1st level assassin assassinating a 1st level target netting an average of $688, 5th/5th level $17,188, and 10th/10th level $68,750.

Everything rounded to the nearest buck.

I love all the weird consequences. You have to go on as many missions without a human target as you have levels to equal a single mission with a human target of your level. Thus the higher your level, the more important it is to have a human target. Blackmailing a rich opponent is the fastest way to gain levels (more than $25,000 and you earn more XP than for an ultraclean assassination), while the money is in kidnapping (2% vs. 1% for blackmail). XP is still biased toward thuggery (assassins), but not as heavily (with confiscation getting the short end of the stick).

There's also some neat stuff on the table, like a list of the information an Administrator should provide to the players in the briefing, what information to withhold, and possible complications.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
:p I am very thankful I don't have a family like that.
My family still has a feud going on over who broke whose Blue Willow serving platter 40 years ago. Makes it fairly easy to understand the politics of aristocrats.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 118: February 1987

part 1/5

110 pages. A lovely cover from Dennis Beuvais here. Now that's a scheming villain with style. I want that outfit as well. The contents look promising as well. Finally, this month's special topic is PvP! Oh joy, for I have oft dreamed of this day! Well, not quite, as actually it's about other types of competitions within the game. But it's certainly not impossible that multiple PC's would wind up competing against each other in one. And it's nice to see them avoiding the all co-operation all the time mantra that Roger has spouted before. (see issue 73) I am cautiously optimistic. Now, if they could just do something about the chaos in the office, and the reorganizations in the magazine. One thing after another, don't know if I'm coming or going. Forget my own ears if they weren't stuck on.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter asking them if they plan to do any more cardboard cutout things in the future, and if they'll publish call of cthulhu articles. The answer is yes, and if they get any good ones sent in. Can't publish what we don't have, as they've said before.
A letter complaining about a monty hauling DM. Roger gives his usual advice, that the best thing to do in this situation is to end the game and start a new one, preferably with a new DM.
Another letter asking them to cover more non TSR games (BRP is getting a lot of love. ) and maybe do miniatures reviews again. Roger is once again cautious. You gotta send that stuff in if you want us to cover it. We also intend to keep Dungeon strictly D&D for the time being. All this is subject to change due to demand.

Forum: David Carl Argall points out that due to sloppy math, it's impossible for a horse in barding to carry a fully armed and armoured knight. Encumbrance would make them collapse. Dear oh dear. How very amusing. Will they fix that next edition?
Thomas Kane thinks that if the magazine wants to grow further, the game needs to market itself better. No matter what you do to the magazine, nongamers won't read it. To aid this, the D&D and AD&D games ought to be as simple and compatible as possible. Don't keep fucking around with things. Someone else would probably prefer it if D&D was treated as a perennial rather than a supplement mill.
Paul Griffin thinks the alignment system is stupidly written. Where's the room for pragmatists who do whatever is most convenient at the time, or people who try to be good most of the time but cave and betray their friends when things get tough? This badly needs fixing.
Greg Surbeck has a problem with the xp for gold system, as it produces wildly unpredictable results that can really mess up the game, particularly where thieves are involved. What are we to do with these awkward level disparities?
Ethan Sicotte thinks that the ease with which D&D can be modified is actually a strength. If it were a more internally consistent ruleset we wouldn't be able to do that without breaking things. I find this opinion highly amusing. You can't break it if it's already broken, eh? Amazing what you can rationalize.
Chris Lincoln and Ed Friedlander give some fairly solid opinions on how illusions should work. Perception can only do so much.
Nelson E Hemstreet expresses his contempt for the chauvinists out there. They don't know what they're missing.
Dave Robinson thinks that the magazine should have a few laughs in it. Even a serious game needs the tension relieved every now and then.
Peter C Zelinski thinks that multiple weapon specialization shouldn't be allowed at 1st level, as it's too unbalancing. Only higher level slots should be applicable that way. You mean how BD&D does it then. ;)
Slyvain Robert is another writer in favour of greater differentiation of clerics via the god they serve. You know, I don't think I've seen anyone actively against that idea. It's just the implementation that can be problematic.

The fighting circle: Gladiatorial fighting is an interesting business. Amusingly enough, if you want to bypass the crappy wandering around in nasty environments and looking for traps part of adventuring, and just have lots of fights with interesting people and creatures of a similar power level, it's a very good way to go for an aspiring adventurer. You get more fame, controlled encounters, that you (or at least the house) can pace to a reasonable level, and if there are clerics around, you might even get healed up between bouts. You could actually gain levels and fame a lot faster than people wandering the world. (although you'd probably end up with below average treasure & equipment. ) Course, it's not as easy as that, and most people come to the profession as slaves, thrown in and not surviving beyond one or two fights. Even if you do get decent training, your odds of surviving the three year term are not good. This 9 page article goes into plenty of detail on the whole charming business, including historical and sociological details, and plenty of variations to make things more interesting than an endless series of white room fights. A pretty strong start that opens up another campaign style for you to try, be it as a brief diversion, or an entire plot arc. (Once again, paper mario makes good inspiration, amusingly enough ) You get to live. ;)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 118: February 1987

part 2/5

Illuminati! All these conspiracies to control the world. Who will win? Now with new friends and enemies in the expansion set.

Surely, you joust!: Fast forward a few hundred years, and gladiatorial arenas are no longer in fashion, but instead guys in heavy armour get on big horses and do their best to knock each other off with lances. Course, in D&D, you can take a short trip from Karimekos to Thyatis and do both no problem. But without rules for weapon breakage and unhorsing, it'd just be a standard fight. So here's another fairly extensive article to turn tournament fighting into it's own minigame. Cavaliers are of course the stars of the show, with their slew of riding related bonuses making them better than any other fighter at the same level, but that doesn't mean you can't at least compete. Another pretty good article, even if it does fall into the trap of creating nonunified subsystems to handle each situation, and it's obvious that the writer hasn't read either of the survival guides that roll out nonweapon proficiencies for general use. It happens, especially when an article has probably been in the slush pile for months waiting for enough other stuff on the same theme to build up.

A day at the faire: Once again we follow on fairly logically. You now have rules to fight in a tournament. But plenty of fun can be had simply as a spectator, especially if you already have an in with the upper classes and can engage in a little shopping, betting and politicking while there. Here's a fairly quick article that gives us some descriptive fluff to help you set the mood, a set of map elements for you to take and use, some sample NPC's, and half a dozen plot hooks involving them. In other words, this cuts all the crap, and gives us one thing after another that's useful in actual play with very little work. If anything, it's almost a sample adventure. Which is pretty damn awesome, actually. Even more than the last article, this really makes a good bit of tournamenting seem a fun and accessable option for a session. Very pleasing indeed.

On target: And if you're not too keen on arena fighting or jousting, there's always archery, which allows you to demonstrate your skill with rather less bloodshed, particularly on your part. And once again, we are faced with the abstractions in D&D's combat system, which while normally beneficial to our play, make running a competition like this very hard if you don't houserule. And once again ;) Leonard Carpenter is here to provide said houserules. Once again, he isn't fully integrated with previous books and articles (Completely ignoring the Archer class in a discussion on archery? Shocking. I don't care if it was 6 years ago, and you don't have a copy of that issue ;) ) but most of it makes sense on it's own terms. A solid but unexceptional way to finish off what has been overall, a very good themed section.

ARRRGH!!!: What a header :D I'm amused already. This is all about PAIN! Wound penalties are one of those things that certain people keep trying to put into the game, but so far, it's never stuck. Mainly because for most people, it's more bookkeeping for less fun. And massively escalating hit points combined with it produce odd results. But here we go again, into the AARRG, my FOOT!!!! territory. Which while it has it's superficial temptations, is nowhere near as nice as marlboro country to live. If you want to add an extra roll and a couple of extra bits of bookkeeping to every single hit, be my guest. But even though these seem pretty solid, and don't neglect the idea that some of D&D hit points are actually narrative avoidance, I still have no desire to actually use them. It also gets cut off at the end without saying where the final few lines are and I can't find them anywhere. Sloppy editing. Curse you, Roger! :shakes fist:

Nibar's keep: CC Stoll pulls an old game out of his files and finally gets it published. Not really a full-on special feature, this is a quick little game where two players summon various creatures and compete in an arena to settle disputes. They ought to sue nintendo ;) There are 9 different types of counters, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, giving you a level of emergent tactics on a similar kind of level to chess. With an optional advanced version, it should survive a few plays. This fits the theme of the issue well, and since it has a fairly generic rationale for existing in a larger setting, you could insert Nidar and his keep into an RPG campaign, and use this as a minigame who's results have effects in the larger continuity. Which I might well do, if I get the chance. Nice.
 
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Armitage

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Issue 118: February 1987

part 2/5

Surely, you joust!:
Ah yes, the article that inspired months of Forum letters arguing about how a paladin should treat a defeated opponent, despite the fact that that wasn't what the article was about.
Never has a rules example inspired as much controversy as Allycia and Scud.

ARRRGH!!!: ... It also gets cut off at the end without saying where the final few lines are and I can't find them anywhere. Sloppy editing. Curse you, Roger! :shakes fist:
Are you using the CD archive? Checking my copy, it's missing one line that is in the physical issue. It appears to be a glitch in the conversion.

The final paragraph is

And what of Loviatar? Allow the Maiden of Pain to create overwhelming pain in any wounded character for as long as she desires or until all the character’s wounds heal. Loviatar is immune to pain of any kind. and wounds from her dagger of ice NEVER heal.

The missing part is "...NEVER heal.", which was followed by an Omega to mark the end of the article.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Ah yes, the article that inspired months of Forum letters arguing about how a paladin should treat a defeated opponent, despite the fact that that wasn't what the article was about.
Never has a rules example inspired as much controversy as Allycia and Scud.



Are you using the CD archive? Checking my copy, it's missing one line that is in the physical issue. It appears to be a glitch in the conversion.

The final paragraph is

And what of Loviatar? Allow the Maiden of Pain to create overwhelming pain in any wounded character for as long as she desires or until all the character’s wounds heal. Loviatar is immune to pain of any kind. and wounds from her dagger of ice NEVER heal.

The missing part is "...NEVER heal.", which was followed by an Omega to mark the end of the article.
Ahh, so it was scanning sloppiness rather than an error from the actual time. Iiiinteresting. Thanks for noticing that. (I have spotted at least one bit which was definitely a scanning error, but we'll get too that in a few issues. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 118: February 1987

part 3/5

Fiction: Across the fog-gray sea by Lois Tilton. A delightful tale of incest, genocide, ancestral curses, and secret heirs to the throne, set in a wild, somewhat viking flavoured land somewhere in the polar regions. This is the kind of thing that shows why you shouldn't take half measures when oppressing a country, and keeping slaves of a different ethnicity is a very bad idea. They will resent you, and it will come back to bite your ass sometime in the future, often in a way you don't expect. So a surprisingly unbowdlerised little morality play here. Mature themes do not have to involve gratuitous cheesecake. I approve.

Sage advice welcomes Mike Breault onto the team. This month, most of the questions are focused on the Dungeoneers survival guide.
The proficiencies system makes no sense. The better you are, the harder it is. (yeah, we made an editing error. Reverse all the modifiers and it'll make sense. )
Does blind-fighting help you fight invisible creatures. (Yes. Are you gonna fill your valuable slots with the fluff skill choices anyway? We'll all be sniggering at you.)
Can you fire a bow while riding? ( You can only fire bow from a moving horse if you have the proficiency. That hit and run power is very much worth the investment. )
Can a loud noise disrupt the verbal component to a spell (no. Magical energy is HOP not HAP in D&D. It can hear the components and respond appropriately even if no-one else could unless you're magically silenced.)
Can you use hold person to hold a person underwater (No. It only prevents them from moving. They're still bouyant. This may not save them, of course, depending what side of them floats to the top.)
How do I make a bigger map than the blank maps allow.( Photocopy it enlarged and draw new lines between the existing ones. Or buy lots of graph paper. )
What's the cutoff point between shallow and deep descents? (15 degrees. Don't ask us about the level of resonance. I'm a rocket scientist, not a musician.)
Aren't grappling hooks too expensive. (what is this, a modern setting? Have you examined our price lists? Oh, alright, just for you, an 80% discount. I'm not going any lower, though.)
Isn't it too easy to smash a boat to bits underground (no. Crunch our numbers, I think you'll find them quite reasonable. Underground waterways are risky places. )
How do I turn my paladin into a cavalier-paladin if he doesn't fit the requirements or social restrictions. (Don't worry too much about it if you're not playing tournament rules. Gary's left now. You don't have to listen to his pontifications about the one true way to play AD&D anymore. )
Why can't a dwarf pummel a human. (Because they're too short for the basic rules. You'll have to use the expert ones. Shocking sizeism, really.)

A hero's reward: Oooh. Hero points. Narrative coolness finally arrives for D&D! You want to be able to make a choice to put some extra effort into a particular roll? Or have divine favour or the luck of heroes, making your game more cinematic. Well, now you can. In typical D&D fashion, they escalate directly with level, so normal mooks aren't much better, but big heroes are considerably more able to influence their fate. However, these ones only let you influence your own fate in terms of boosting numbers or giving enemies penalties, rather than plot twists, dramatic editing, and other cool stuff that later games would do with this concept. Still, even if it's not brilliantly implemented yet, you do usually have to go through rough versions before you get the really cool polished products. Hopefully several aspiring young game designers got their mind expanded by reading this. As ever, if you are one of those people, I'd love to hear from you.

Out of the stone age: Hee. Neanderthals. One of the monsters that appears in both basic and advanced D&D, they blur the line between human and nonhuman in a similar way to the demihuman races. Only with the additional weirdness that comes from them maybe having existed at some point in reality. Albeit not in this form, which is packed with weird D&Disms, like using rituals to advance their powers. Still, it's not often we get new PC races specifically for BD&D, so this is a welcome occurrence. Like the barbarian cleric, they balance out badassedness with high XP costs and a whole bunch of social requirements. Since their xp costs and max levels are similar to elves, I think that'll actually work out this time. In any case, this was definitely a fun little article to read. They do seem to be having a lot of those this month.
 
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