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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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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.
nothing has changed there. The rants on the one true way of playing dnd from the great EGG helped sell a lot of copies of Runequest in the circles I gamed in back in the day


Making the Legend
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Dragon Issue 125: September 1987

part 3/5

Lords & Legends: Katharine Kerr contributes for the first time in a couple of years. Well, realistic medieval stuff is her speciality. They were probably begging her to return just one more time for this issue. She picks an interesting selection of partially real, partially legendary historical figures: Count William of Orange, his nephew Bertrand, and his brother-in-law Count Rainouart of Tortelose. I am immediately reminded that one of the controversies that led to her departure was a tendency towards moralizing in her writing, and once again, she makes some changes for reasons of political correctness. (Hopefully that'll mean the forum isn't swamped with angry muslim complaints for the next year. :p ) Not a hugely enjoyable article, but still interesting nonetheless. Funny to think that this PC stuff is still going to get worse, as we reach the next edition, see the cutting out of demons and devils, and all that /shit/ bowdlerisation. That's definitely going to be fun to snark about.

Glory, danger and wounds: A slightly misleading title, this is actually all about honor, and the tendency of knights to do ridiculously foolhardy things in it's pursuit. A true knight should be last to retreat, even if it costs them their lives, eschew worldly rewards for the simple joy of doing good, tolerate all kinds of crap from their liege, but fight to the death to avenge an insult from any other, and all sorts of other extreme statements. You certainly don't have to subscribe to all of them, even if you're a paladin, but choosing some of them for your character definitely gives you plot hooks to drive adventures with. So this is more well themed roleplaying advice to remind you of the many ways you can make your character's personality 3 dimensional. An example of them finding a new spin to put on a familiar topic. After all, they've got to have roleplaying advice, or this'd just be an optimization exercise followed by a hackfest. A perfectly decent way to finish off the themed section.

The best for the best: Top secret's slush pile of articles still aren't fully caught up with the new edition, in this little piece about your agents joining /prestige classes/ Elite agencies. It does have to be said that there's a certain attraction to joining clubs so secretive no-one's heard of them. You get to mix with the most skilled agents, enjoy the coolest bleeding edge tech, and get missions personally from people right at the top of the governmental food chain. But there are drawbacks as well. You're basically on your own, only get to join after having already proved your worth in a regular agency, and may even have to fake your own death and abandon all pretenses of a normal life. But then, many PC's don't bother with that between mission stuff anyway. This was really written to address two problems suffered in the author's own games, that of the PC's not feeling special enough, and at the same time, not feeling challenged enough by the enemies they were facing. Something you could probably fix without an agency change, but sometimes it's the placebo effects of a cosmetic alteration that are important. It still has plenty of advice on how to make an exiting high stakes game full of plot twists, recurring enemies, ( and inadvertent inter-player tensions, as it encourages you to recruit the characters to the new agency one by one, not letting the others know. ) So an interesting, but flawed article, with worthy goals, but not a very insightful method of implementing them.

Year of the Phoenix. The roleplaying game of amerika in 2197. Okay then. If you say so.

Clay-O-Rama: Silliness throughout the year continues this month, with an entertaining little mini's game as this issues centrepiece. Each player takes a lump of clay, and builds a creature out of it. Assign powers based on it's size, shape, no of appendages, etc. And then they fight, as is only right and proper. There is a huge amount of GM fiat inherent in these rules, and really, it's little more than an excuse to build silly creatures, tear them up, and throw pellets of clay at each other. Not that there's anything wrong with that. but introducing someone who tries to take the game seriously would spoil the fun for all concerned very quickly, unless they simply stopped playing, and ganged up to pelt the offending pedant with clay pellets from all directions. Which means it's probably not an option for me to try out. Still, even if it doesn't match up to the classic Tom Wham creations of yore, it's good to see the magazine start doing stuff like this again as well. Since issue 112, they haven't really been trying on this front at all. Hopefully next time it'll be a little more internally cohesive.

Fiction: The passing of kings by Lois Tilton: This month's fiction is also in theme, just about. It certainly fits well with the cover, anyway. They say that Arthur rests in Avalon, waiting to fight the enemies of britain, become true king again. But really, given the number of waves of invaders, and the amount things have changed since then, what are the odds that he wouldn't really want to come back anyway. Another one that raises a bunch of interesting philosophical questions about choosing your place in the world, the problems with immortality, the futility of holding grudges down generations, compromises, selling out, and all that stuff that is slightly more common in sci-fi. Not perfect, but a decent story, well chosen for the issue.

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
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Clay-O-Rama was, indeed, just an excuse to build silly creatures, tear them up, and throw pellets of clay at each other. And it was awesome for that.

However, it really shone as a gateway to introduce younger kids into those simulationist, miniatures types of games. More coherent rules might have detracted from what was, essentially, a demonstration that roleplaying could be akin to an impromptu game of "monster stomp". (... as I play with my 6yo and 3yo nephews.)

Also, Clay-O-Rama was best played with Play-Dough, with each person getting a different color. It was even better played far, far away from carpet. Srsly. :eek:


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 125: September 1987

part 4/5

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Masses of magic maps this month, 19 to be precise. For the first time since Gary's departure, we're also heading back to Greyhawk. Whether he will approve of other people making unsupervised additions to his world is rather doubtful, but at least the writer is trying to tie them into the established setting. Some of them are useful, some of them seem useful, but are actually directing you into trouble, and some are composites of several of the other types, and thus exceedingly valuable. So a mix of cool ideas, and filler, as they try and stretch out the ideas they have to make a full-sized article. Which isn't entirely satisfying, but a lot better than articles that are nothing but filler. Still, there's enough quirkiness in here that I'd probably enjoy introducing them to my game.

Plane speaking: Jeff Grubb fills us in on the positive quasielementals, with the negative ones to come soon. Radiance, steam, and mineral, (lightning has already been covered independently in MMII, apropos of nothing.) each with their own interesting little quirks. Radiance quasi-elementals shoot bolts of randomly coloured light, each with an equally corresponding energy type. Steam quasi elementals can go hot or cold at great speed, and get nearly anywhere, with flight, swimming, and the ability to flow through the tiniest cracks. Radiance quasi-elementals assume odd forms, and merge with one-another to become increasingly badass in times of peril. All of them have very high damage outputs for their overall power level. Any wizard who can figure out how to summon and control them can lay waste to their enemies. Soon, this bit of symmetry will be complete. Short, but useful and flavourful.

The game wizards: Mike Breault takes charge of this column to talk about Dragonlance. The epic quest over 14 modules is over, and now it's time to give the gameline an actual corebook, containing all the setting info and new rules needed to play in Krynn. Like the forgotten realms, this is rather a backwards way of doing things to the usual, but it seems to be working for them. Before you know it, people'll be wondering how they ever managed without a corebook. So yeah, chivalry, gods, geography, history, lots of new races and variant classes. And wackiness. Mustn't forget the wackiness. :sigh: No escaping it as long as you're playing in this world. Interesting to note that they're using this to test the concept of gods granting different powers via spheres of influence, and redefine what each alignment actually means. 2nd edition might be well over a year away, but they already have many of the design elements floating around the office. Another entry that's not completely pleasing, but is quite informative, giving me another piece of the big picture when it comes to their current status and design philosophies. They do seem to be doing their best to keep these interesting, and get us on their supplement treadmill. Better it being here than not.

The daily planet gaming supplement reveals how superman has changed after crisis on infinite earths. Buy the DC heroes Superman supplement for more information. Very fitting that they design this particular advert as a newspaper cover.

A second look at zebulons guide: Errata, Errata. Once again you shatter my faith in your editahs. As you may gather, this is lots of corrections and clarifications for our eponymous Star Frontiers supplement. One of those things you'd rather they didn't have to do at all, but having made the mistakes, it's better that they admit to them and fix them than just leave them unacknowledged, only to be discovered when they mess up people's games. Bleh blah bleh.

Ultimate crisis in ultimate city-state of the invincible overlord. With a recommendation from Gary Gygax. Good to see judges guild's properties are still around.

Cultist of Sooty

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It was even better played far, far away from carpet.
We used to play it on my friend's patio. Then we noticed that the rescued pine marten that lived in the garden was eating unattended play-doh.

His parents had a lot of rescued/hand-reared animals that had been injured. The pine marten came to them as an orphaned cub and, being hand-reared, couldn't be released back into the wild. It really liked climbing up people and standing on their head to get a good view. And standing in the back of a toy truck while someone pushed it around the patio.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 125: September 1987

part 5/5

Role-playing reviews: The grey knight is a Pendragon adventure, by our stalwart, if not regular contributor Larry DiTillio. It gets top marks, making good use of arthurian myth, and the strong cast of characters and beasties to create a strong adventure, with an interesting format (shades of nobilis in that respect) Apart from the lack of stats, forcing you to flip back to the main book, it gets top marks.
Treasure hunt is a 0 level D&D adventure. Intended to introduce new characters, and have them gradually develop class abilities based on their actions during the adventure, it takes a fairly fast and loose approach with the rules, and has good visual production values, which should also help lure in the n00bs, both players and DM's.
Phantom of the northern marches is a MERP adventure. While not brilliant, it is, in this reviewers opinion, an improvement on previous ones. Even if the production values aren't perfect, at least they're trying to make adventures that fit with middle earth. Always a problem for licensed stuff.

The role of books: The misplaced Legion and An emperor for the legion by Harry Turtledove are set in the empire of Videssos, the same world that his story in issue 113 was in. It manages to create a world both like and unlike reality, buck several fantasy conventions, and generally be a good deal of fun to read. Another series I find myself tempted to pick up.
The phoenix bells by Kathryn Grant gets a moderately negative review, with it's design, marketing, historical accuracy, and coherence of plotting getting picked apart. Whether some of this was intentional is not certain, but it does leave a lot of questions hanging.
Worldstone by Victoria Strauss also gets a negative review, with it's psionics vs technology theme not quite working, and the central macguffin and it's powers being inconsistently defined. Curious.
Seventh son by Orson Scott Card is a tale of an alternate history in which the american war of independence turned out very differently. Worryingly, it uses it's magic and story to tell an allegorical tale of his view of Americas development. Beware the bias. Still, the reviewer can't predict the future, so he can appreciate it for the well crafted story contained therein.
Once upon a murder by Robert Randial and Kevin Randle is of course one of TSR's own windwalker books. It gets a mildly positive review, with an interesting twist on the prince and the pauper theme, and some cool plot twists and wisecracks. Seems entertaining popcorn reading.
Knight life by Peter David is the rather comic tale of King Arthur and co turning up in new york, and then launching a political career. The other characters react logically in response to this, which really doesn't work faced with a mythical king. Cleverly written and with good plot twists, it makes good use of old material for new ends.
Circuit breaker by Melinda M Snodgrass is an interesting mix of sci-fi and legal drama, as a lawsuit is launched to stop people from terraforming mars just as it's about to go ahead. With intrigue, plot twists, surprisingly explicit sex scenes, and other fun, it's a good guilty pleasure for a reviewer in a family friendly magazine.

The marvel-phile: Jeff continues to update the Hulk's rogues gallery, with stats for the new Abomination, Zzzax, and Doc Samson. One came off from the gamma exposure even worse than the hulk, another considerably better, and the last one simply wouldn't exist without radiation weirdness. All of them are subject to power and status changes at the whims of the plot, not having the same degree of reset button as the main character. Very much business as usual in this department, so I can't think of anything else to say here.

The Snarfquest crew run up against robot predjudice. Dragonmirth splits the arrow and shifts the biological clock. Wormy is almost ready to start wargaming.

With quite a few big returning names, this issue tries hard, but doesn't quite make the grade, mainly due to a lack of focus. The themed section is pretty weak overall, with many of it's articles only peripherally connected to it, and there's a well above average amount of filler in general. Guess Roger's run continues to be an unpredictable ride, full of sudden ups and downs. Will next issue have the traditional horror theme? Will he have the material to make it horrific in the good way, rather than the bad way? At the moment, I really can't tell. Still, I guess that makes it more interesting for you guys than everything getting good or bad marks. Will I like YOUR favorite issue? :points finger: Keep reading to find out. We'll get there, sooner or later.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 126: October 1987

108 pages Well well. It looks like they're actually going to have a proper halloween issue this year. They've ignored it more often than not over recent years. But Roger has shown himself rather keener to do themed issues on a regular basis than Kim was. And hopefully he can figure out how to put a fresh spin on this stuff. Once again, I venture into the dark, to examine strange things, turn ancient pages, and illuminate their mysteries.

In this issue:

Star cruiser and ships of the french arm for Traveller 2300. More supplements pile up.

Letters: A letter asking about PbM games, and Dragon's coverage of them. Another thing they used to do more frequently, and has since been phased out. Roger directs the writer towards magazines devoted to the topic. They can handle it in far greater depth than we can.
A letter asking for them do do a column for more general gaming news. They shouldn't just talk about what they're up too all the time. Roger replies that if lots more people ask for it, they'll consider it. Don't get your hopes up too much.
A letter asking them if they plan to cover minis again any time. Roger once again turns things to the whims of the general public. We are but your humble entertainers, dancing as you command. Since they had one when I first started, I'm guessing that this is one request that does pan out pretty soon.
A letter asking when any more zebulon's guides will be out. Never, Roger is afraid to report. Star frontiers is no longer sufficiently profitable to give proper support too.
A request from someone wondering how much his copies of old issues would be worth. There is a book devoted to just such questions. Buy it now!
A letter asking what color various monsters are. Buy the next edition. Most of the illustrations will be in color! Sell sell sell!
And finally, someone wondering how they pick which letters to publish and reply too. Lots of tedious manual work. They don't have some secret supercomputer to pick things out for them. And if they did, they wouldn't tell us about it.

Forum: Robert Kelk is in favour of the idea of a BBs service, but also wary of the cost it would involve. Still, if SJG can do it, the industry leader really ought too as well.
Michael Sawczyn is very much in favor of setting up a system that would enable us to download old articles onto our computer, and gives some solid estimates for the cost of setting it up, and the profit they could hope to get from it. It's less than you'd think, and would be a win for everyone. At least until the pirated copies started getting shared around and outnumbered the legal downloads. Oh, if only they had been that forward thinking. A very good contribution indeed.
Bob Frager engages in some nitpicking about the nature of Akido and other martial arts. Yes, in the real world, martial arts are considerably less separated and rigid than they are as game mechanics. You can't expect them to be as complex as reality.
Len Carpenter comments on the comments to his recent articles with an exceedingly long letter that is virtually an article in itself. Clarifications, additions, and some more of his personal houserules. He's certainly not short of ideas.
Chuck Amburn is in favour of making a D&D video. It might be a bit of a logistical hassle, but it could also bring in plenty of new people. Ahh, how technology has moved on. Now, any computer with a webcam can create something passable in this respect. And it hasn't really helped. So it goes, in a world with a million distractions.
J R Porter talks about Banded mail. Even if it doesn't exist, it ought to be possible to make. Why not try it, SCA people, see how it works?
Jay Kaufman also talks about banded mail, it's history in the game, and real life. The main reason it appears in illustrations is due to lazy artists who couldn't be bothered to draw all the links in chain or ring mail properly. Throw it out. It never existed.
Anthony Speca delivers a third bit of pontification about the possibility and historical accuracy of Banded mail. Yawn.
Toby Myers reminds us that one reason humanoids can be such a problem is their willingness to try stupid things. After all, they breed fast enough that a few losses can be easily replaced, and if enough try a dumb trick on the players, it might well work by luck. They're probably the better idiot that scientists are looking for to test their devices. Sounds like he'd like Warhammer Orkyboyz.
James Allen reminds us to make carrying lots of stuff an inconvenience, just as it is in real life. Even portable holes should have their limitations. If you have too much stuff, you'll never use most of it anyway.
S Eric Pollard has a rather odd complaint. Evil characters have more options than good ones, because they don't have to worry about principles. This makes them more powerful. Hmm. That's what paladins and rangers are here to fix. Remember, that being a good guy has it's social rewards as well. It's not as simple as it first seems.
Charlie Gibbons complains about awarding full XP when PC's use devious means to take out large quantities of enemies with little danger to themselves. This isn't right. Why should they learn more just because they managed to catch twice as many in their AoE attack? Oh woe. Depends how you rationalize XP in your game universe. Unless you define it as actually absorbing the life force of your fallen foes, to boost your power, there's always going to be some fudge involved in the learning process.
Ed Friedlander shows up again, contributing some more to the neverending alignment debate. By providing some fairly broad and simple definitions of what counts as an alignment violation, and making them clear, you can reduce player complaint. Some of his other suggestions are a bit wonky, but I guess a wonky problem needs a wonky solution.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 126: October 1987

part 2/5

Role-playing Reviews: Griffin island is an updated, revised, expanded version of 1981's Griffin mountain. (see issue 58 for review) A snazzy boxed set, it boasts all kinds of cool little extras like player handouts and maps. While the reviewer isn't very keen on the overall direction the Runequest line has taken in recent years, as one of the holdouts of the original Glorantha setting, and as a work in it's own right, this is pretty cool. An interesting review where we get to see a glimpse of the changes in the hobby outside TSR. Other lines are being taken in fanbase dividing directions as well.
Undead is a Mayfair Games Role Aid for AD&D. So there are still people trying their luck at producing 3rd party stuff, despite the legal hassle involved. Anyway, it details a little kingdom of undead set in a volcanic caldera, ruled by a cabal of liches. Definitely a fun setup for a group of adventurers to come in and solve. It has pretty nice visual design as well. While a bit railroady, it does look like it can provide a fun adventure if you're willing to rip it up a bit.
We also get a load of little reviews. Particularly notable is the review of Who watches the watchmen, DC heroes tie in module. Unfortunately, it's not very good, being tied too closely to the canon plot by licensing crap. Ho hum. So it goes. Tie in's are a dicey business. Often best to not get involved.

Sage advice's questions this month are mostly on out-of game issues, rather than the rules.
Where do I find cardboard figures for my game. (Dragon tiles. Available at all good hobby stores or by mail order :teeth ting:)
I think my player is cheating. What do I do. (pay close attention to how he rolls his dice, and don't let him weasel you. If you catch him out, ensure he is properly punished. )
One of my players wants to have a baby. ( I assume you mean they want their characters to have a baby. We recommend you handle it tastefully offstage. D&D is a family brand, and that means no dwelling on the process used to create a family. ;) )
Is it ok for my paladin to marry a chaotic evil witch (probably not. The magic user bit won't be a problem, but the the other two probably will be, given many paladins are required to be celibate, and none of them can support or shield evil acts. )
What does TSR stand for (it stands for itself. It used to stand for Tactical Studies Rules, but then we went recursive. Blame Donald Kaye dying.)
Will TSR publish my module (not unless we commissioned it in the first place. We have so much stuff going on that we can't be arsed looking at unsolicited material. )
How do I stop my players from arguing. (Make rulings and stick to it. If that fails, kick 'em out. You must ensure your authoritah is respected. Arguing is a sign of disrespect. So strap on your sargeant major boots and get ready to shout. )
How do you fight a black dragon when they're made of acid (Er, no they aren't. You aren't made of air, and you breathe that. )
How long will it take you to reach 9th level. If our playtesting is a good indicator, about a year of weekly playing. )
How do I find modules M1 and 2 (Mail order! It's like the internet, only with way worse response times! )
How do you pronounce the word myrmidon (Chuffly Fanstsandleigh)
When will the next Star Frontiers supplement be out ( Never. Not enough people bought the last ones, so the line is Can-celled. So hnah. Shoulda got more friends to buy the previous ones.)
Will we ever get more details on the Old Ones (maybe. Buy more I series modules if you want us to do that. )
What happened to the D&D cartoon (It got cancelled. Don't look at us. We were never responsible for that pile of crap anyway.)
What happens if my players split the party and then metagame with info their players don't have. (Split them up IRL They can't cheat with info they don't know. )
What does D% mean (roll 2 d10's. One is the 1's and the other is the 10's)
I can't find a new campaign and my characters don't match the level of the solo adventures (Look harder. Or convert random people off the street like an evangelical preacher. You can even compete with them to damn peoples souls. Could be fun.)
How do I find a store that sells D&D stuff. (Look under hobby stores)
What is a sphere of death. (No such thing. A sphere of annihilation is a mini black hole that sucks everything it touches in. THE sphere of death is a metaphysical concept. That's yer lot.)
What does NSA mean (It means you're about to spend 24 hours without rest, making increasingly dubious moral decisions. No 15 minute workday here.)
Where can I find hexsheets (Mail order again. We get more money if you order direct. Hee.)
What's a murder hole ( Courtney Love. )
My players want to roll their own dice (This is entirely within their rights.)
How do I handle a 12 player team (military organisation. This is where having a caller really comes in handy. )
Can the DM play in their own game (not a good idea. Even if they aren't actually favouring their character, things have the potential to go very wrong)
Why aren't there Star Frontiers conversion rules in the DMG.( Because it was made afterwards. We are not fortune tellers)
How much can you improve your attributes by exercising (Zero. What you roll is what you're stuck with. Unless you're a cavalier. Are you ready to go that far?)
How thick is a 50' rope. (9/16th of an inch)
What do I do when a PC is tortured ( We recommend you don't. Once again, family friendly game and all that. )
How old is D&D (It started officially in 1974, but the proto rules were being played as early as 1970. Know your antecedents.)
What are the stats for Durandal and Excalibur ( Here you go. Enjoy the twinkedness)
How do I make a will ( Good question. Remember. The benificiaries only get what you can bring home. If it's a TPK, they're screwed)
Which part of the hex do you measure distance from (middle of one to the middle of the next. Most reliable way)
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