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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 124: August 1987

part 4/5

Packing it all away: Encumbrance. If there's one feature that really says D&D is not intended to be a cinematic game, for all the superhuman tricks higher level characters can pull, it's this one. Once you start tracking it in terms of both raw weight, and the inconvenience certain items cause beyond that, due to awkward shape and size, you're well and truly into high crunch territory. And when you make all kinds of different backpacks, and start tracking exactly which item is in which compartment, that's where I start to zone out. Looks like it's a bit of mid-issue filler after all the cool articles to make up space and mollify the realism in gaming people. Not for me, thanks. I'll wait, keep my appetite for the next serving.

The ecology of the gelatenous cube: Ed returns to his familiar stomping ground, to tell another cautionary tale where the focus is on the human drama as much as the monster. Do not mock other wizards in the halls of academia, for they bear grudges a long time, and are willing to go to quite ridiculous lengths for a dramatically appropriate revenge. A pretty short one, this does still give us two very cool illustrations, a formal name for the titular cube, and the usual bunch of mechanical clarifications. Another perfect example of his writing, if a bit formulaic.

The game wizards: More second edition talk this month, as they respond to the quite ridiculous number of letters that are still coming in, including 80 page dissertations and death threats. They're taking this quite seriously, and now have a rough timetable of 2 6 month design phases, with another 6 months of brutal playtesting by the RPGA (sign up now if you want to take part :teeth ting: ) in between. And we'll be keeping you informed every step of the way. Man, that's a lot of time for us to anticipate the new edition. But then, they do seem to be going about this in a very open and careful way, listening to feedback at each step. The days when they would become arrogant and try to give the people what we want to give them, rather than what they ask for are still quite some way away. As further evidence of this, they've just adapted to some new technology that'll enable them to give us higher production values on our modules, at lower prices. How's that for cool? And on top of that, working conditions have improved. They are pretty optimistic at the moment. I guess that's what new management and pulling out from near bankruptcy (which of course, they've never mentioned) does for you. Or is it all a front, and Lorraine ( roll of thunder, stab of organ music) has cut prices by turning things into a virtual sweatshop. :p As ever, backstage gossip is very much welcome.

Blasters & Blunderbusses: Guns. A fairly familiar topic in this magazine, spanning multiple systems. This particular one is a system free look at the legality of guns in various places and eras. From past to future, and mentioning tons of game systems, this is an interesting, if rather americacentric little article. Owning weapons is something generally restricted in most societies, because governments don't want the population to be able to fight back. But governments aren't that good at keeping up with the advance of technology, so it'll generally be a few years after something is introduced before they get around to trying to regulate it. With a decent biblography (another thing they seem to be including more frequently these days. ) this is another one that goes on the worldbuilding checklist, as weapon regulations are definitely something you should consider when creating your own game. Poor PC's. All they want to do is strut around in heavy armour and kill things. Why should that be a crime? ;)

A shot in the arm: Our Star Frontiers article this month is an adaption of recent D&D ones. Hit location systems. Combined with critical hit systems (and the two do often go together like shoes and socks. ) possibly the single most tiresome recurring thing that people try to introduce, but rarely sticks. This is no exception, adding a load of extra modifiers, an extra roll to many attacks, and a load of nasty extra consequences for being hurt. How very tiresome for me. To their credit, they give info for crits on robots and the common alien races, but it's still of no interest to me, on multiple levels. Please don't waste space doing this for Marvel, Top Secret, Traveller, and the other regulars as well in the next few months.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Packing it all away: Encumbrance. If there's one feature that really says D&D is not intended to be a cinematic game, for all the superhuman tricks higher level characters can pull, it's this one. Once you start tracking it in terms of both raw weight, and the inconvenience certain items cause beyond that, due to awkward shape and size, you're well and truly into high crunch territory. And when you make all kinds of different backpacks, and start tracking exactly which item is in which compartment, that's where I start to zone out. Looks like it's a bit of mid-issue filler after all the cool articles to make up space and mollify the realism in gaming people. Not for me, thanks. I'll wait, keep my appetite for the next serving.
I agree that over-focusing on encumbrance makes for a horribly dull game. However, it should not be completely ignored, either. In my BFRPG game, the players are learning that sending the dwarf with plate armor, who due to a middling strength is encumbered by just his armor, shield, and weapons only moves 10 feet a round, isn't working well when the plan was to have him lure out the goblins in the mine. The goblins just jog behind him whacking him with swords while he runs as hard as he can to get away. :eek:
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 124: August 1987

part 5/5

The most secret: Welcome to Top Secret, dual stat style. Or at least, if there was any crunch in this article, it would be. :p Guess we'll have to wait a few months before the freelancers catch up with the new system. Anyway, this is all about real life top secret research projects. Just the thing to outfit your agents with, or have them try to steal from or sabotage the work of other countries. As this is 20 years ago, much of this is superseded by modern tech, particularly the computer stuff, where we have better in our laptops than an entire building sized machine could do then. But of course, the general principles remain sound. And once again, we have some rather good artwork depicting this stuff. That's definitely one area the magazine is still improving in. This can be applied to both the freewheeling james bond and the meticulous info gathering kind of game, and is a good reminder that is is both dramatically appropriate and realistic for secret agents to have bleeding edge technology to help them out. (unless they're currently going through a period of budget cuts and governmental incompetance ) A pretty decent article.

OGRE celebrates 10 years with a deluxe new edition. Shiny.

The marvel-phile: Here's one of their big guns, for the first time in a while. The incredible hulk, in his new gray form, and the misadventures he's been through recently to change his stats. Plus a load of his normal human associates. Oh, and Rick Jones, teen hulk (snigger) Welcome to the nightmare that is comic book continuity. Just when you think you're free to live a normal life, marry the girl, ( or get to rule the world if you're a villainous type) everything gets reset, or even worse, and a new plot sweeps you away, forcing you to completely relearn the rules of the game. Or maybe it's all skrulls. Still, at least they have some neat new vehicles and hulkbuster body armour for your characters to steal, so this is a more PC useful entry than most of Jeff's. Overall, another entry that makes entertaining reading, but isn't particularly world shaking.

The role of computers: Black Magic is an arcade adventure game where you use the various spells you acquire to solve puzzles, avoid enemies and progress to the next screen. While initially skeptical, the reviewers are won over by the mix of action and thought required to do well, and became determined to beat the damn thing. Sounds like a recommendation to me.
Realms of Darkness is our main review, some more standard menu controlled RPG fare. Build a party from the usual fare of 8 classes fighty and arcane, equip them, and then embark upon an epic quest to retrieve the macguffin. Unusually, you can split the party. Not so unusually, you must make sure you save as often as possible. While the graphics aren't that great, it's puzzles are very tricky, and it's an epic journey that they still have a long way to go on. Another massive time sink in an era that seems full of them.
They also implement another much desired feature. Hints and solutions. Woo. Once again the magazine moves closer to being the way I remember it. Someone stuck on The bard's tale gets advice on how to get out of a horrible looping room quandary. Looks like they're on the up and expanding their scope some more. Along with the return of roleplaying reviews, this looks like another good trend.

The art of dragonlance? They really are pushing the peripheral aspects of this setting, aren't they. I suppose with so many people buying the books to read, rather than simply as gaming material, they think there's a market for it.

Dragonmirth has things going wrong again. And terrible in(n)-jokes. The Snarfquest crew fills up the 8 month space journey by becoming a rock and roll band. Wormy loses some money, but the people who stole it aren't going to get the chance to enjoy it. :evil laugh:

The Sherlock Holmes solo mysteries? Another interesting advert by I.C.E on the back cover. Ahh, the joys of using public domain properties for your own ends.

A strong issue with quite a few positive changes, plus a well above average themed section. Roger really seems to be coming into his own at the moment, taking the magazine away from Kim's era, both introducing new things, bringing back old ones, and developing a distinct editorial voice of his own, which is definitely more playful and interventionist than Kim's. Just how much more will he shake things up before it settles into a new comfortable pattern? And just how much will he be shaken up in turn by the continuing growing pains of the upcoming edition change? More interesting questions that should be answered in a few months time.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 125: September 1987

part 1/5

108 pages You dismiss Dark Dungeons? Fool! Do you not realize the power of Jack Chick! You wallow in sin every day, to the point where you no longer even notice how you desecrate the minds of innocents with your every word!!! Your soul is destined for the pit, and I only pray that you will not drag too many people in as you go!!!! Um, yeah. Roger delivers an entertaining editorial, that in hindsight dismisses a potential problem too quickly. He may come to regret that. In the meantime, this issue's special feature is Chivalry. For those of you who'd prefer characters with a little more class than the flaming oil throwing, backstabbing, sleep (both the spell, and the frequent rests) happy reprobates that manage to delve dungeons and survive. ;) Another topic that they've tackled before a few times, but never done a full-on special on. (and hopefully will leave alone for a few years after this) Lets see if they can take this to the next level like they should.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter in praise of Wormy. By amazing co-incidence, it's also his hundredth strip this issue. Pop the champagne, and prepare a special feature to celebrate our longest running comic.
A letter complaining that religion should not be proscribed in D&D. Yes, but putting real world ones in fantasy worlds without any explanation or adaption does look a bit dumb. This is a topic that's gonna provoke flames whatever you do.
A letter asking for a copy of the Fineous Treasury. Unfortunately, it's been 6 years, JD is no longer in touch with them, and it's all out of print. You'll have to search second hand places untill ebay comes out.

Forum: SD Anderson presents another simple way of making mass saving throws. Just use the averages. The simple solutions are often the most effective, especially if you just want to get on with the story.
Andy Wright plays the role of sage, to gives us some more conflicting stories about the mating habits of harpies. It's all very amusing, and a quite different use of the forum to the usual.
Edward R Friedlander calls bullshit on the creation of blisters via purely psychosomatic means. As an assistant professor of pathology, he can say with reasonable confidence that this is an urban myth. While illusions may be able to accomplish more in a fantasy game, you shouldn't confuse fantasy with the real facts.
Richard Pike-Brown is in favour of manipulation of money, and creating various currencies for your games. And screwing over players in the exchange rate doesn't hurt either. Muahahaha.
Loring A Windblad points out that most real world "barbarians" are small, tough, and canny, rather than giant thewed, oiled weightlifters. That is not optimal for hunting game and living off the land, because those overinflated muscles require a lot of extra food and sleep to maintain. A very valid point, but most players would rather stick with the Arnie as Conan stereotype.
Tom James thinks that D&D and AD&D are closer than a lot of people say. Both are flexible, and both can get pretty complex when you include a load of the optional add-ons. Compared to most other games, you are probably right.
Chuck Ambum is rather conflicted about the new Top Secret edition. In some ways, he preferred it when you had to meticulously plan out a mission, and there was tons of crunch and a small margin of error. And introducing alignment to a modern day game is just dumb. There may be some improvements, but it's still problematic.
Dennis McLaughlin is also uncomfortable about certain trends in Top Secret, namely the new addition of heavier weaponry and lunar stuff. I thought this was an espionage game, not a military one. Looks like their pursuit of bigger, louder, faster, shinier is indeed starting to alienate a chunk of the existing fanbase. Question is, will it also draw in new people to replace them, or will this send the game into decline? Since it was pretty much gone by the time I started, I have to say I'm not optimistic.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Have you been banned from posting this thread at dragonsfoot?
Yup. My opinions have proven too incendiary to their board culture. I'm currently considering if it's worth contesting that decision, and if so, how to phrase the appeal.
 

hawklord

Retired User
Yup. My opinions have proven too incendiary to their board culture. I'm currently considering if it's worth contesting that decision, and if so, how to phrase the appeal.
thats a big shame and I think it says more about them than it does you. Most people there seemed to like what you were doing but the general board on dragonfoot has a few people with real attitude problems towards any one with slightly different opinions from their selves particularly if they think the person making the said opinions is aged under fifty. I could not beleive the response you got from Tim Kask , grognard rage is never a pretty sight. However you did get some good responses from one or two people which made the thread worth reading. Keep up the good work. I think you are doing a good balancing act between honestly reviewing and being respectful of the source material.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 125: September 1987

part 2/5

The ecology of the greenhag: Nigel Findley gives us an ingenious little horror story. He does seem to specialize in those, doesn't he. Do not tell them in a wilderness where said creature is likely to be lurking, for dramatic irony is very much against you, and you'll be lucky if two of the group (one boy, one girl, of course) get out alive. Once again he also takes the opportunity to tie in several related monsters, making this one of the more genuinely ecological ecologies. He does make what some would consider a misstep by separating their lifecycle so significantly from humans, removing opportunities for foster child horror. But on it's own terms it's a success, both storywise and mechanically. Keep sending 'em in, and they'll keep publishing them.

Beyond the supernatural available this fall. Modern horror gaming takes another step towards the environment that would produce the world of darkness. Isn't that neat.

Woodlands of the realms: Ed Greenwood proves once again that he can make incredible attention to detail in seemingly unimportant matters interesting, with a whole bunch of new types of tree for his campaign setting. Many of them are tied into specific cultures, and used to make specific things referenced in earlier issues. Most of them could really exist, yet they have distinctive features that make them useful in game in a way that you couldn't do simply using stuff from reality. One of those reminders that even though it may be becoming an official world, he already has entire filing cabinets full of this stuff, much of it we'll probably never see, and he makes up new details like this purely for his own entertainment. Which is what makes it such a joy to read. It does still feel a bit odd putting other general articles before the themed section of the issue starts though. I wonder why Roger decided to make that little change? I guess he's entitled to mix things up a bit, keep us wondering.

The code of chivalry: Knightly orders. In BD&D, they already have rules for doing the whole feudal allegiance thing, complete with fairly decent mechanical benefits. Meanwhile in OA, they have rules for personal honor affected by your deeds, and the benefits and restrictions it results in. So lets play catch-up, bring these elements together for regular AD&D, and give a specific example of a knightly order. This pretty much becomes a direct ancestor of the affiliation rules from 3.5, which is very interesting to note. This is something that can both be used immediately, and taken as an example to build your own variants for other groups and classes. An idea I definitely intend to take up. So both a strong start to a themed section, and a historically significant article in terms of inspiring future design developments. Very pleasing to see.

Meanwhile, back at the fief: No surprises that in an issue about knights, we're going to see some more stuff on domain management. A topic that's always welcome in my house, as long as it doesn't start trying to get to realistic, or overdetailed, doing the metaphorical equivalent of showing you tons of holiday snaps, and expecting you to remember all the stories associated with them. I think 5 pages is a reasonable number, don't you. So we have some fairly quick rules on fief morale, resources, the money you can get from them, and natural disasters that may come along to ruin your year. Once again done in a similar format to the year stuff in oriental adventures, this should allow you to fast-forward through a decade or two in a session. Competent and useful, but not hugely interesting. It is hard to make economics fun, and this writer is no Ed Greenwood.

Prince Valiant! Coming soon! Greg Stafford attempts to take the themes he covered so well in pendragon, and then strip them down to a much more mechanically simple form. Very fitting to see an ad for that in this issue.

Armies from the ground up: Hello again, Mr economics. Back again to remind us just how much hard work maintaining an army is in reality, with food, money, transport, avoiding unrest in the ranks, and all that kraftwerk? (well, lets face it, the way you can predict this stuff is pretty much the opposite of jazz :p ) What would we do without you? This writer is very keen to encourage players to cut taxes, and generally be nice to their peasants. pointing out that the long term benefits from doing so are greater than those the fist of harsh government and high taxation will provide, especially in a world where if people don't like your policy, they can pack up and move. (such a shame this isn't sim city, and you can't whack taxes up just before they're collected each year, then cut them to nothing the rest of the time and enjoy the benefits of both worlds. ;) ) It does not spell out the benefits for creating an army of zombies, and using them to do all the mindless labour, freeing the peasants up to develop a much more substantial intellectual class, but that's not too surprising. This is pretty dull in general, actually. My mind, it is not expanded, although my play might be expedited if I follow the rules. Guess I'll just have to try them and find out.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I could not beleive the response you got from Tim Kask , grognard rage is never a pretty sight.
It was a bit weird having my vocabulary choices picked over like that. It was like he was reading it from the viewpoint of an editor again. On the other hand, that's probably as close as I'll ever get to knowing what it was like to be on the receiving end of those rants by Gary that they were so displeased to be reminded of. There is a certain amusement to be derived from that.
 
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