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

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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 122: June 1987

part 5/5

The enemy within! Shadows over Bogenhafen. The first supplement for warhammer fantasy. Oh yeah. They're gonna sink your boat, bitches. Feel the grit.

The marvel-phile: A quick venturing into the realms of hyperpower again this month, with stats for the High Evolutionary. A medieval scientist who turned himself into an immortal advanced being, he created a duplicate of the earth, engaged in all kinds of god-playing, then went mad and committed suicide by hulk when he didn't get the respect he felt he deserved from other cosmic races. Sounds like a bit of a dick, really. As this is just a cut statblock from the corebook, this is another bit of filler that won't be of use to most groups, since high power adversaries like this can be a problem. Seems like we're getting quite a bit of that this issue.

A big book of little heroes: A single book review is separated from the crowd this month. Heroes for wargames by Stuart Parkinson is a rather strangely written book. Part introduction to wargaming and roleplaying, part coffee table book of pretty minis and guide to painting them, part collectors guide, it doesn't seem at all sure what it wants to be. It's also very britishly written, throwing off the reviewer with it's idiosyncrasies of spelling and punctuation. :)facepalm: None of you have problems with my englishness, do you?) This is a problematic review of what is probably a problematic book, and if it tried to tie into the specifics of what was just coming out then, probably has not aged well. Definitely not one I want to chase down.

The role of computers: As they said 2 months ago, this month's main review is the massive Might and Magic, an epic RPG. It seems fairly typical for games of it's time. Create a party from the usual selection of races and classes, generate their ability scores, equip them, and explore a world with the intent of saving it. However, the devil is in the details, and there's certainly plenty of those. (as ever, they advise to go back and save often, for losing several hours work sucks) Even after playing for three months, they're only a third of the way through it, and still eager to push on and discover what tricks and secrets the rest of it contains. Oh what a shame for them, for they have to constantly move on and try new games as part of their job. Still, they'll continue playing it just for pleasure, and stealing cool bits for their own rpg'ing. If I were inclined to download ROM's, I would definitely be tempted by this review. Also notable is their talking about many manufacturers not converting their games to the Atari because it's the most pirated system. Same as it ever was :D.

The ultimate addenda: Errata, errata. Don't try and spread it on your bread without butter. Or it'll stick in your throat, make you choke and splutter. And if you're dead, the rules won't matter. Yup, it's this time again. Advanced Marvel Superheroes has stuff missing, and stuff that needs fixing, and it's up to this humble scribe to go back to it and fix this. 9 new powers, plus some definition of terms that are mentioned in the book, but not explained. So many superheroes. There's always going to be something you failed to design for. Yet another not very exciting article.

Hmm. Leaves from The inn of the last home. Aka cooking and singsongs with Tika and Caramon. This smells like the kind of thing that gives fluff a bad name, and does nothing to make the game more fun to play. Am I wrong?

Dragonmirth features the scariest gruumsh evar. The Snarfquest crew gets cabin fever as they travel through space. Wormy's standoff turns into another incredibly dramatic battle.

One of the worst issues in a long time, if not ever, for several reasons. Obviously, there's the official announcement of Gary's departure, treated in a decidedly shoddy way, but there's also a painful amount of articles that are rehashed, overly shallow, poorly organized, leftovers from other recent issue's themes, and just plain dull. It feels like a dumping ground for a whole load of the crap they've been building up over the past year. Not pleasant reading, with a few exceptions. Lets hope they've cleared out their blockage, and they'll be back to their reliable selves next issue. It's been a new era for a while, but this really marks the ending of the old ways, and the beginning of a new regime in a way that's hard to miss. This is gonna result in flamewars.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 123: July 1987

part 1/5

108 pages. Ooh, shirtlessness. A little cheesecake for our female readers this time round. See what you get if you turn the flames up a bit. They also continue their drive to have more themed issues, with wizards getting another bite at the apple. Will this give us a nice selection of roleplaying advice and spells? Or does forbidden knowledge lurk within these eldrich pages, waiting to destroy your gameworld with it's twinkedness? Guess you'll just have to watch me, as I turn the pages and read the contents, see if this degenerates into the incoherent scrawls of a madman.

In this issue:

Letters: Another request for big prints of the magazine's covers. It's all up to the individual artists, really. But they are happy to facilitate this process.
A letter complaining that nearly all the articles in the magazine are for AD&D rather than regular D&D. This sucks. Roger quite agrees. Send them in! Not that it matters much, given how cross-compatible the games are.
A letter from someone afraid that the start of the forgotten realms means oerth and krynn won't get any more stuff. Roger assures them that that is not the case. And even if it was, you don't have to play nothing but modules. Surely the worlds are now fleshed out enough for you to build your own adventures in them?

Forum is rather large again this month. The flames about sexism and oriental stuff rage intensely, often combined. Double the nerdrage, double the fun!
Nathan Perkins points out that everyone taking the min-max choices results in parties with exploitable weaknesses. And even with double specialization, fighters still aren't really balanced with wizards. So if your players are munchkins, don't be afraid to play rough in response.
Eric Krein does some analysis of wizard's spellbooks, in a piece that's almost big enough to be turned into an actual article. Cost, capacity, size and durability, they ought to be awkward choices, not no-brainers. This needs some fixing.
Alan Ristow tells us that Banded mail is not a real type of armour. It never existed! Banish it from your games! Ahh, the joys of the Historical Accuracy crew. Really, it's no great loss, is it?
Steven Van Veen is entirely in favour of people videoing their games, and has some sadistic ideas for dealing with people who keep messing around during the game, slowing everyone else up. I like the cut of your jib.
Tommy Sronce points out that D&D is intentionally unrealistic in many ways. By trying to make it more so, you make it less fun. Go play runequest or something if you want characters who develop in a realistic fashion.
Leung Chi Kong thinks that ships in the D&D world would evolve quite differently, with spells and no gunpowder altering the tactical considerations considerably. Modern ship designs would not make a good example. Yet another case where we really need a full article to help fit things to the physics of the game universe.
Uriah Blatherwick is not happy with the onslaught of new rules in recent books and articles. The writers ought to do more optional stuff, rather than forcing us to change our game. Or at least make it more clear that the new rules are optional. Another case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Adam Dray reminds us that a good person is hardly good if they take the selfish path and sell out their friends whenever the going gets tough. If they do, then they're just a neutral person who likes to think of themselves as good, not the real deal, and shouldn't keep their special powers if they're a paladin or ranger.
T Fujiwara viciously attacks Jeff Klein's statement that women warriors have no place in an oriental campaign, with extensive mythological and historical citations. And even if that were not the case, D&D is supposed to be about exceptional heroes. If you can't do a little bucking of societies expectations, you're hardly a hero, are you?
Derek Ho also disagrees about the female samurai thing, pointing out the story of Fa Mook Lan (aka Mulan. Ahh, disney disney disney. Completely mutilating classic tales since 1932) Genderbending is another perfectly valid way of becoming a hero.
Pat Pitcavage is also against sexism. Use your imagination, people. Is it really that hard to come up with good reasons why there would be female warriors in a fantasy game?
Richard Silva returns to the forum, also presenting examples of famous female martial artists and their exploits. If anything, oriental cultures were less sexist in medieval periods than western ones. How will Jeff come back from this roasting?
Jeremy Sacco rails against the stereotyping of 14 year old boys as crude, sex-obsessed hack and slashers. You protest against discrimination against women by stereotyping and putting down another group. Charming. I find this very amusing indeed.
D Laslie Millitello is amazed such a big deal is made about people's gender, both in and out of the game. She's always been playing in a pretty mixed group, and the gender stereotypes definitely do not apply to them. Some people have all the luck.
Michael Estus is annoyed that no-one ever discusses Top Secret in the forum. Ok then. Perfectly reasonable. What would you like us to say about it?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 123: July 1987

part 2/5

Call of cthulhu advertises the miskatonic university graduation kit, arkham horror, Cthulhu by gaslight, and lots of other classic products. This is amusing.

Music of the forgotten realms: Oh great. Music and poetry from fantasy worlds. Now there's a topic that ha produced quite a few abominations against taste and sanity over the years. Remember folks, just because you can make it rhyme, that does not make it good. Thankfully, Ed doesn't show us his poetry, (Put it away. No-one wants to see it.) and instead talks about the actual instruments used in the Realms to create their music. Which is actually a pretty interesting topic, informing us indirectly about cultures and technology in the realms. After all, music is heavily shaped by the materials and equipment you have to make it with. From signaling gongs to primitive organs, they have distinctive variants on earthly instruments that he obviously put quite a bit of effort into developing. Once again, he's tackled a challenging subject and come up smelling of roses, having put the research in and then thought about how his world's countries would handle these things. I very strongly approve. It's a bit odd to have an unconnected article before the themed stuff, but I can see why they gave this one pole position.

The mystic College: So your wizard has reached name level. Quite an achievement, since they have the highest XP costs and are weak at lower ones. Wouldn't it be nice to give back to the community, start a school for aspiring young wizards, so they don't have to go through the same degree of crap you did. Much nicer than building a tower, and then filling the area beneath it with monsters that you rule over and experiment on like a cruel and whimsical god, striking dread into the hearts of peasant communities for miles around. May be we can actually advance the culture a bit this way, make the average peasant a little less superstitious and hidebound by ensuring at least a few of their kids get a proper education. So yeah, lotsa advice on taking this route, how much it costs, and the benefits you can get from doing so. Political, financial, and personal, they can be quite substantial if you are willing to put the effort in. We get another system for advancing 0 level characters to 1st level spellcasters, which eats up substantial time and xp in typical fashion. (Far quicker to go adventuring, make it up that way.) Still, at least it's now an option in a non fiaty way, which is better than before. While not fully integrated with the existing game management systems, this is full of solid mechanical and roleplaying advice for players who want to take a few years out from active adventuring, and try their hand at a little sim game, see how they do. It may never be useful to your group, but it's nice to know it's there. Pretty cool special feature, overall.

No guts, No Galaxy! Renegade legion. Now that's an eye catching advert, that makes it pretty clear what the game is about, even though I've never heard of it before. Nice.

Fire for effect: Ha. It's a realism in D&D article. You ought to consider the consequences using area of effect blasty spells on the surroundings. We've had this one before, but not in as much scientific detail, as Richard W Emerich, one of our more frequent forumites, graduates to doing a full article. So here's lots of pontification about the effect of heat, cold, electricity on various items, and just how much they'll really ruin your day if you get caught in them. Not too long, but with lots of footnotes and a good bibliography, this certainly looks pretty well researched. As they've managed to surpass previous attempts, I'm not too bothered about the rehash. Lets hope it doesn't wind up spawning a load of forum flamewars from other realism pedants in turn.

Arcane lore: Hmm. Looks like they've finally realized what a rich ground for freelance expansions new spells are, and have decided to actively solicit for them. That's nice. Hopefully we'll be seeing this column regularly in later issues. Interestingly, this is not only in theme with the general issues topic, but also the previous article's, as we get a whole load of fire themed spells. Elementalists are always popular, so that's a solid, if not particularly inspired way to kick things off. Flare is yer basic real world tech analogue. Smokescreen is one of the less popular transformers. Enchanted torch is a higher level than continual light, but less useful in most instances, which is a bit crap. Mellix's fire mouth is a variant on magic mouth that proves words may never hurt you, but breath can. Fallion's Fabulous fireball removes most of the tactical disadvantages of regular fireballs. Just the thing for the discerning mage with companions who still haven't mastered basic tactics 4 levels later, the twonks. Fire Phantoms takes the opposite tack, providing weedy elementals for those who don't yet have the skill for the real thing. Avissar's flaming weapon makes a weapon into a flame tongue, and I'm not sure if it's good or rubbish because the duration is left out. At that level you can make permanent magic items easily enough anyway, so it'd better be pretty long. Hellfire makes your life an endless burning torment until you die. Charming. We also get some fluff tying them all together, and a new artifact as well. This definitely shows the influence of Ed Greenwood's writings on magical books, which is not a bad thing. Lets hope it doesn't descend into formulaic variations on the same old themes too much over it's run.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 123: July 1987

part 3/5

Lords & Legends: Ur characters, we are wanting them. As was suggested a few months ago in a letter, sample characters are another rich ground for freelance submissions. So send them in! We can't do this without you! Interesting development. Will they be as horrendously twinked as the stuff from Giants in the earth? Signs so far do not look promising, with not a single below average stat between them. Yoshitsune, Benkei, Hsu Hsun, Myamoto Musashi, the current upsurge in oriental material continues, and most of them have some special ability that ordinary PC's can't get. This annoyed me first time round, and it looks like it's going to be bugging me again. Le sigh. Not a pleasing development.

Gamers around the world: Ooh. We finally have an article that isn't remotely rehashed. A guide on how to write letters when trying to contact people through the world gamers guide. After all, making first contacts with strangers is one of the most nerve wracking things to do for a huge number of people. Making a tit of yourself, or the fear of doing so, can be huge problems, because if you get off on the wrong foot a potential relationship is ruined before it even gets a chance. So we have a whole bunch of advice on proper letter writing procedure. What to put in, what to leave out, and roughly what order to do it in. Formal letter writing was already an art in decline in those days, and of course, the internet has hastened that process, so this does feel a little anachronistic. But the basic principles are still sound, and well worth reiterating. Whether you're looking for a new group to join nearby, trying to set up a play-by-mail game, or simply exchanging correspondence with someone who interested you, this is some valuable advice that will hopefully encourage quite a few people to make that scary first step into communicating with people across the world. Memorable and very much appreciated.

The ecology of the giant leech: What is this, gross-out season? Okay, leeches aren't as icky as rot grubs, but they still have quite a substantial squick factor. Another amusing tale, as an orc and a half-orc plot against one-another in the swamps. Who will wind up becoming dinner? Brains will win over brawn in a situation like this. Plenty of tricks nicked from real world biology in what is pretty good as a bit of fiction, but not hugely imaginative in making the conversion from little real world creature to giant fantasy creature. So overall, a fairly average entry. Moral lesson, a little real world biology info, a little encounter advice, all wrapped up in time for tea, another perfectly serviceable way to fill a couple of pages.

Time flies: You can NOT have a proper campaign unless strict timekeeping records are taken! So said Gary! ;) Yeah. timekeeping can be a tricky business. So here's 5 pages of tables that you can photocopy, and use to help you with this. Going all the way from turns to years, you can tick off time as it passes, and make little notes as to what happened in each interval. While it may need to be adapted to your own campaign, as it chooses symmetry over realism, this is another invaluable bit of advice that they haven't given us before, and is pretty much unconnected to specific systems. Like the writing in advice, this is also applicable to subjects far beyond roleplaying, and a refreshing change from their usual fare. This is a direction I could definitely appreciate for a while, as it gives me plenty of stuff to steal for other games.

Just making time: We continue on from the last article, as is often their way. Now this is also very useful. Roger talks about making a calendar and astrological setup for your own world, and reveals that of the various D&D worlds. Toril and Krynn match earth's precisely, at 365.25 days a year. Oerth has a rather neater calendar of of 364, while Mystara is a fast one, with years only 336 days long. All except krynn have satellites fairly similar to earth's moon. Another slightly depressing reminder of how much more adventurous they could have been with the cosmologies and layouts of their worlds, but still interesting reading. Remember folks, you can do much better than this, because you don't have to worry about homogenising things for a large audience who may not be paying attention. Don't be afraid to experiment with your world design, and make things non symmetrical. It'll spice things up quite considerably. Colours, shapes, orbital periods, rotation times, cosmological influence. I look forward to making you lose track of them and have to look it up. ;)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 123: July 1987

part 4/5

Sage advice: What's the point of leather barding if horses have a natural AC of 7 (Good point. Methinks a little revised table is in order. Now everything's shiny again.)
How much damage does a catapult do (See the master set. Skip don't put out unless you pay, babe. I don't care if you got the chance to use them way before 26th level.)
What's the difference between light and heavy crossbows. (range, rate of fire, cost, weight. What isn't different.)
Do you lose initiative when using a bastard sword one handed (not unless you spend several minutes flipping through the rulebook to check this.)
What is a war hammer, +3 Boomerang (I think this is another case of well duh. It's +3 to hit and damage, and if you throw it, it automatically comes back. Gives your dwarven fighter a whole new set of cool descriptions to their moves. )
How much damage does a lance do (1d10, but only on horseback. They're big awkward things. There is such a thing as being impractically well hung.)
What's a javelin (like a spear, but with a longer throwing range. Thin pointy things come in many shapes and sizes. I could make another peenar joke but I won't)
The Combat charts contradict the separate listings (oops, our bad again)
What are the split numbers on the water movement charts ( for boats that have both oars and sails)
How much food do you find when foraging. (an abstract number measured in meals per day. We can not be bothered to deal with the vagaries in human taste and appetite. )
What is storm giant's special damage (calling lightning. You've been reading wormy, haven't you? Yeah, it's like that. )
How does a roc save (at Beaklays bank. )
What happens if a lightning bolt hits a solid object ( The DM can choose if it bounces straight back, or billiard style. Either way, hilarity may ensue, and other members of your party be hurt.
Isn't invisible stalker overpowered (Oh no. It is emminently subvertable. Summoned creatures are pains in the ass to keep under control. )

Fiction: Palimpsest by Tais Teng. Hmm. Another twist on a few familiar topics in this month's fiction. Seemingly incomprehensible fae, 4th wall breaking stories, post apocalypse, and philosophical musing on the foolishness of humanity, willing to cut off their own hand just to spite their arm. Put together in such a way that you expect it to take one plot twist, and then it does a different one at the end, yet if you go back and reread, it all makes sense in light of that revelation, this is another pretty interesting piece that'll hopefully get your mind working to create similar twists in your own games. They are pulling a lot of surprises out of their hat this issue. Just when you think it's going to be predictable and formulaic, they throw you a curveball. Whee!

The whole-earth Ecology: The Star frontiers article this month is another one on building realistic creatures. Why are they the way they are? How common are they? What do they eat. How do they survive. What is their relationship with other creatures in the same region. Are they physically plausible. This last one is much more important in sci-fi than fantasy, for the degree of pure handwavium that the genre can tolerate is not as great. Not nearly as big or imaginative as Lew Pulspher's article on the same subject back in issue 59, this is a return to the same old rehash, slightly reflavoured for a different game. Another one that would be perfectly reasonable for a more recent reader, but doesn't really throw any new ideas or tricks into the mix for me to use. Like many a critic, novelty seems to becoming increasingly paramount in my equations of if I enjoy an article. After all, anyone can practice doing the same thing over and over again, and get better at it, but no matter how many new ideas you come up with, it never ceases being really hard coming up with more.

The marvel-phile: Jeff gets back to some long unfinished business, with three more of the heralds of galactus. (see issue 92 for the first three) Air-walker, Firelord, and Destroyer. (but not Aunt May ;) :( ) More cosmic level characters who had decidedly short tenures before being destroyed or retiring. A planet eating force of nature just can't keep good help these days. Who will he try and recruit next, what amusing themes will their powers have, and how will they cope with their heavy burden? Another bit of contractual obligation filler before he carries out his next diabolical plan, a list of the people killed off by Scourge. I look forward to it.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 123: July 1987

part 5/5

The role of books: The king of satan's eyes by Geoffrey Marsh is a very pulpy tale of a suit designer who winds up in all kinds of adventures around the world. With very tight, if somewhat formulaic plotting, it would make a good bit of inspiration for the more cinematic kind of Top Secret game.
With a single spell by Lawrence Watt-Evans is a story of the adventures of a young wizard who does indeed, start off with only one spell, and has to make the most of it. Seems like a typical heroes journey, going from small to large in a neatly plotted manner. Now, what will he do next? Can't get too formulaic.
Bimbos of the death sun by Sharyn McCrumb, on the other hand, isn't formulaic at all. Murder mystery? Character study of the nature of geek conventions? Fantasy? Very good question. In any case, it seems to work, despite the individual parts not being entirely satisfying on their own. It richly deserves it's memorability.
Arrows of the queen by Mercedes Lackey is the start of another trilogy. Looks like it's gonna need it, as it hints at several big plot points, and then leaves them completely unexplored. The reviewer still enjoys it though, as it's another one which does it's formulas right.
To the haunted mountains by Ru Emerson is a well described wilderness adventure, told in an interesting style that manages to be both distant and highly personal. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but as a regular reviewer, Mr Bunnel also enjoys his novelties.
Winter of magic's return by Pamela F Service is a tale of magic returning to a postapocalyptic world. Stealing liberally from arthurian myth, a reincarnated merlin must find his way to avalon, and release Arthur so he may be king again. While aimed at the young adult market, it has enough clever references that older people can appreciate as well.
Unicorn and dragon by Lynn Abbey does not get a very good review. The plot is confusing and cluttered, and the characters don't seem to have understandable motivations beyond what the story demands, and the format of the book is a bit odd. An experiment that doesn't really work, but is still mineable for historical detail.

Paranoia takes out a full colour three page spread advertising both the new edition, and all the old adventures. Orcbusters, Yellow clearance black box blues, send in the clones. This is a nice selection.

Operation Zondraker: So we come to the end of this four part Top Secret epic just as the new edition comes out. Out with the old, in with the new. Not that it matters much here, as this installment is pretty system free, giving us a bunch of example missions using the alternate future history they've spent time building up. They really ought to have multiplied this stuff out, and made it into a full-blown sourcebook, because there is a lot more they could have said on this subject, and fleshing out the missions with maps, character stats and the like would have been an entirely reasonable thing to do. Guess like some of the forum entries which are almost articles, there's a nebulous ground where a piece doesn't quite fit into either format comfortably, and it's not quite worth it to pad it out to reach the next weight category. Still an interesting experiment, and much better reading than the attacks of rehash. Lets hope that they have a few more epic articles planned for the near future.

Top secret SI is finally out. Buy it now. Yet more well co-ordinated advert positioning.

Profiles: Warren Spector is our only, and final profilee, as they retire this regular column, presumably because they've been doing this nearly 2 years now and are running out of people to cover, plus they just introduced two new intended regulars and need to clear out space. Anyway, he's our newest editor, having been poached from Steve Jackson games, where he edited The Space Gamer, and played a big part in the creation of Toon. He takes a David Bowie influenced method of recounting his history, emphasizing the sheer randomness of how his life has turned out. An amusing framing device that makes this a pretty strong finisher to this series, covering someone who's actually better known for their non D&D work. Will it return? Good question. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing it brought back later on. But if you weren't there at the time, you'll have to wait until I get there to discover exactly when with me.

TSR previews: Something goes very wrong here, as most of the things they said would be coming out next month last month are missing. The only things mentioned as coming out are the Forgotten Realms Boxed set, and Top Secret SI. I know both are pretty big deals, but that's no reason to forget everything else. Someone in editing seriously dropped the ball here. How very curious. Tut tut Roger.

Larry has to take a break from snarfquest, but there is some rather amusing filler art. Dragonmirth gets cloned. Irving doesn't believe Wormy is in danger.

One of those issue with quite high highs, and low lows. The editorial sloppiness continues, and there's quite a bit of rehash, but still several quite cool bits and genuine surprises. It's certainly not perfect, but still considerably better than the last issue. Still it's looking touch and go, as the continuing introduction of new columns and removal of old one mean it could improve rapidly, or decline again in the next issue. Can't really predict that at the moment, given the unpredictability of recent fluctuations. Guess I'll just have to look and see.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 124: August 1987

part 1/5

108 pages Hmm. As part of their drive to improve their services, they're considering setting up a BBs. Or in other words, thanks to their recently acquired computer game columnists, they're aware of what passes for the internet at the moment, and are considering getting on board. That would be forward-thinking of them. I wonder if they'll follow through on that. Our theme this month is Aerial adventuring. Something we've had the odd article on, but never a whole special feature, so hopefully there won't be too much rehash. Not a bad start. Lets see what else is new and shiny in the world of dragon publishing.

In this issue:

Letters: Another letter from people interested in breaking the world record for playing continuously. Roger tells them that we don't do that any more, due to the health hazards. Oh, for the halcyon days of 1980, when people played 100 hours at a a time. :p
A letter suggesting some more regular columns. Hmm. As ever, we'll certainly consider these ideas.
Another of our regular questions. Someone wants to become a writer for the magazine, and wonders how you do it. The usual response follows. Get the writers pack, read the guidelines, and then practice practice practice, making sure you listen to constructive criticism along the way. No surprises here.

Forum: Rad Jorgensen is one of the many people who thinks that the game is actually less fun when you incorporate the new stuff from Unearthed Arcana. The characters are more powerful, which means they have to fight higher level monsters, and get gold and XP more quickly, which means you don't get to enjoy the early stages of the game. Lest we forget, many people like the bit where one good hit can kill you, and you need to be cautious if you want to survive.
Kim Eastland pops in to do a shill piece on gamma world and it's supplements. If you want more material to come out, buy the existing stuff! If it isn't profitable, we can't produce it. :rolleyes: This is even worse than Frank Mentzer's dragon thing. At least he offered a debatable point for people to run with along with his shilling.
Brock Sides suggests that magic items ought to be given power levels, so dumb DM's can know approximately what level they should start giving them to their characters at. Rather a good idea, really.
Uriah Blatherwick shows up for a second month in a row. This time he makes the point that there is no one true way of running games. It's all about what's fun for both players and DM. And since variety is the spice of life, one group can and should experiment with multiple playstyles to keep things fresh. A viewpoint I very much agree with.
Clark Timmins reminds us not to sweat the small, everyday stuff when roleplaying.
Daniel S Huffman wants to play the beastmaster as a PC, but doesn't want them to overshadow other PC's. So he suggests a whole bunch of nerfs for them to bring things back under control. Woo. Nerfs. :deadpan: I'll keep these in mind for if I ever get to try the class.
Dan Fejes is another returning forumite. He points out that he wasn't being sexist when he said that the proportion of female players, and female lead characters in fantasy books, is not very high. It's the truth. Go to any bookshop, do a random sampling, prove it for yourself. Don't shoot the messenger, maaaan. Provable statistics will not shield you from the flames, especially where sexual and racial identity is involved. Even something as simple as " A larger proportion of people of non caucasian descent are lactose intolerant" can spawn hundred post flamewars.
Pam Parisi is also against sexism in fantasy on the grounds of it's escapism, damnitt. Let us play really badass women and don't worry about it. Seems a rather popular viewpoint.

Role-playing reviews returns, due to popular demand. There's lots of games out now, many of them diverging quite substantially from D&D, and it would be a foolish company which ignored them and the ideas they have to offer. They start off with a look over the current big competitors. Runequest is currently in decline, due to 3rd edition taking a number of dumb design and setting choices. fantasy Hero and GURPS are perfectly decent systems, but you'll have to do most of the world building yourself, as they don't have much of a supplement base. Harn has a well developed world, but a woeful lack of adventures. Pendragon is kickass at what it does, but has a very narrow focus that may not be for everyone. MERP is fairly good, but a bit too crunchy to really keep many of the inexperienced gamers it's big license attracts. All of which leaves things open for another system to move in and become number two. Which is where our review really starts in earnest.
Warhammer fantasy roleplay is of course the attempt of Games Workshop to compete with TSR in fairly generic fantasy. Classes are replaced by careers, combat has an exceedingly brutal critical hits chart, magic is relatively limited, and the setting is well developed, with an interesting mix of grimness and humour. It already has it's first module series, the enemy within, in full flow. For someone who dislikes how characters increase exponentially in power in a few levels in D&D, it seems a pretty good choice for your fantasy gaming. Another interesting development. While still partisan, and presenting the D&D system as the best all around game, they are acknowledging that other games do certain things better. This definitely helps me get a better idea of what things were currently like in the world of roleplaying as a whole. Good to see them looking outwards a little more again.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 124: August 1987

part 2/5

Sage advice: How big or small can you get using polymorph self ( DM's choice, but remember they can't exceed the hit dice limit)
How many times a day can hellhounds breathe fire (as often as the random roll lets them. It's like 4th ed, only nonstandardised.)
Can't completely dicing a troll stop it from regenerating (No. Even if it's put miles in the negative, it can still come back if you don't kill it with fire. Trolls are bastards to get rid of.)
Will remove curse make a magic item useful. (if it was cursed in the first place. If it was designed specifically to screw you over, it still will. Ha ha. )
How do you keep a sword with a different alignment? ( don't touch it with your skin or try and fight with it. I recommend selling it on as soon as possible. )
How far can you abuse geas and quest. (Moderately. Not as far as you think. )
Can you remove Quests and Geases with dispel or remove curse (no. You need the specific counterspell. They are specifically designed to be a right nuisance to deal with. )
How do you build a stronghold ( The costs and construction times are right there on page 23. Beyond that, you'll have to design the details yourself. Reading the evil overlord list before you do would be a good idea, even if you think you're a good guy. )
How much does it cost to build a wall (page 23, again. Pay attention, people.)
Why was the method of calculating will scores changed (because Frank Mentzer thought making the battle purely mental would be a better idea. Yes, this screws over fighters. Intelligent swords are a pain in the ass. Live with it. Or write to him to complain, not me. Oh, wait, he doesn't work here anymore. )
Is the sling range listing right (Yes. We claim Historical Accuracy. Do you doubt our claims? )
Why do galleys suck at riding out storms (because their sides hang low, and they waggle too and fro. You'll have to get a giant to put your ship over it's shoulder like a regimental soldier if you want to avoid sinking. )
Why are saving throws and thief abilities worse in Mentzer ed than Moldvay (Because Moldvay was a more of a twink. You remember Giants in the earth, don't you? Seriously though, it's so high level characters still have room to advance. 36th level is a long way, and we have to ration out your bonuses more carefully correspondingly.)

Sailors on the sea of air: Airships! Another cool fantasy topic we haven't seen stuff on in Aaaaages. A cool idea, with plenty of fictional sources for you to draw on for inspiration, multiple methods by which they could be constructed, and plenty of ways in which they can be used to drive the plot. Ed agrees with me, and is quite willing to insert them into the forgotten realms. Indeed, he would later go on to create an entire nation of mages that make heavy use of skyships to travel around and trade with the rest of the world. But at the moment, it's the thayvians that have their hands on a mysterious bit of ancient magitech. He's a lot more specific than he used to be about realmslore, mentioning many familiar faces and places, and filling in a fairly substantial detail in the history of the Seven Sisters. (Mary sue metaplot off the starboard bow sir! Shall we open fire? ) He's also quite detailed about the construction and functioning of his sample ships, making sure that they aren't too powerful, but players would have a decent chance of creating and maintaining one, and could also salvage their components and turn the various effects on them to imaginative ends. So this is both a flavourful and very gamable contribution from the master, well suited to kick off this special with.

On a wing and a prayer: Of course, skyships are big, expensive, much coveted and frequently a bugger to maintain. You're unlikely to be able to justify giving a group possession of one (as opposed to riding on someone else's) until name level or so. But there are other methods. Such as Gliders. These can function even without any magical intervention, but a little levitation spell can hugely increase your flying range and maneuverability. They might be fragile and require quite a bit of training, but they're accessible to low level characters, and can be quite useful in some adventures, while giving the DM plenty of easy excuses that keep players from using them all the time. (Ahh, the joys of the weather) Definitely an idea worth considering, both for players and their adversaries (Goblins and Kobolds using makeshift gliders to drop stuff on attacking parties seems curiously appropriate, somehow. ) and the writer manages to strike a nice balance between the cool stuff and the realistic inconveniences. Once again, a highly enjoyable contribution.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 124: August 1987

part 3/5

Flying the Friendly(?) Skies: And unsurprisingly, we have our third common method of getting airborne. Flying mounts are another thing that requires substantial upkeep, and if they cause trouble to the game having them killed or stolen is entirely an option. But although this article assumes them as the default method of getting up there, this is really more concerned with the fun you have once you've made the grade, and are now soaring through the stratosphere. Wind, clouds, and other weather issues become very important considerations, as does maneuverability in combat. This obviously requires some tables, lists of penalties, and other such inconveniencing rules. While less interesting than the previous two, someone's got to do the dirty work, and at least it's kept pretty short and efficient, rather than bogging down in endless frequently recalculated modifiers. Roger's editorial hand ensures that the other articles are referenced, but not overlapped with, and the whole thing doesn't look like it'd be much more time consuming for a DM than designing a regular dungeon adventure. They seem to have made this topic work.

The wings of eagles: And we finish off our themed section with a new PC race. Aarakocra have been around for a few years now, and as flying creatures which don't have huge amounts of HD and special abilities, plus some special disadvantages, they're about as close to a balanced flying race as you're gonna get. With not particularly brilliant class abilities, they'll be quite effective at low level, then fall behind, as other characters get the ability to fly as well via spells, only without the claustrophobia and hollow bones. So it's a typical AD&D balance by campaign, rather than by encounter. If you want to make them work, you'll need to adapt the game around them to a certain extent. Much the same as they would later appear in the complete book of humanoids, this is another example of their current upsurge in new classes and races. As with UA and the forgotten realms, the magazine is probing the way, looking for good routes for future books to follow. Another interesting, if not completely satisfying article.

Kicks and sticks: Speaking of new classes, Oriental Adventures continues to get new goodies this month. The Escrimador, practitioner of a variant set of martial arts designed to function with primarily wooden weapons in a hot jungle environment analogous to the real world Philipines. Since OA focusses strongly on china and japan in the main books, this is a pretty cool add on, giving you a chance to introduce an interesting new NPC when they venture afield, and possibly then having one join the party. Cultural Homogeny does get tiresome. (Hegemony of homogeny? Now there's a tongue twister for you) Somewhere between a monk and a conventional fighter in terms of abilities, they get plenty of tricks to help them kick butt with, which they'll need, because their weapons and armour aren't the greatest. Not sure if they're balanced overall, they seem quite strong, but as we know, monks look good on paper but are actually problematic in both 1st and 3rd ed. Guess it's another one to test out, find out the fun way.

Front-end Alignments: Hee. Looks like we have an april fools article that got away, or was simply too good to be forced to wait until next year. People have often referred to games players as having various joke alignments. But this writer has taken it upon himself to codify most of the commonly recurring ones, and then submit this stuff to the magazine. And it got accepted too. How very droll. Lawful Bored, Lawful Liar, Lawful Serious, Lawful Goody-goody, Lawful Ignored, Lawful Idiot. Neutral Absent, Neutral Confused, Neutral Puppet, Neutral Self-centred, Neutral Montyhaul, Neutral Dietosser, Neutral Wound-wailer. Chaotic Crybaby, Chaotic Stupid, Chaotic Diehard, Chaotic Hotshot, Chaotic Everywhere and Chaotic Suicidal. 19 personality stereotypes, mostly negative, arranged into a rough diagram of related types. (and how to deal with them.) This is amusing, useful, and has me seriously tempted to adapt it to use as a new outer-planar cosmology and/or pantheon. Muahaha and all that. Definitely a classic article, even if only a few of these alignments are really famous in modern day forum discussions. Still relevant though, as after all, it isn't tied to the old system.

Arcane Lore: Another mage gets their personal spellbook rifled through, and the unique spells that they spent years developing laid out for all to see. This month, it's the mage Odeen. Not quite an archmage, he still developed at least 5 new spells that your players can hunt down. Odeens magic cloud is a versatile little bag of tricks that can be used for offense, defense, utility or entertainment. Odeen's impenetrable lock is a more powerful magical warding for your doors and chests. Welcome to the arms race, because Knock just won't cut it against this baby. Odeen's magic tailor lets you customize your clothes quickly. Odeen's secret word is another advanced warding spell. Dispel this one rather than using the password, and it'll erase the stuff it was hiding. How evil. Odeen's sounding stick is yer basic dowsing rod spell, adapted for the special needs of adventurers. One of these'll massively increase your odds of clearing out the dungeon and getting all the treasure. So no blatant blasty spells, but lots of stuff that adventurers will find exceedingly handy nonetheless. While there is a bit of power creep here, making higher level variants of existing spells is a perfectly reasonable thing that would happen in a real world, so I don't have a problem with that this time.
 
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Pukako

Retired User
Well done, keep up the good work, only 200+ to go... (just in case you're feeling a little tired of it, there's some gentle encouragement).:D

Just out of curiosity, did anyone use the spells from the Arcane Lore spellbooks? How? Using the nice shiny background to insert them in epic quests, just stealing useful spells without context, or some other way?
 
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