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

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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 135: July 1988

part 1/5

108 pages. Bwuh. Rather amusing cover this month. Did that creature just stumble of the fairy, or is it a person who just got transformed into a walrus headed fluke tailed furry thing in a typical attack of mischievousness? Not important. More important is Roger reiterating D&D's international popularity, with stats on the number of people who read Dragon, and send in letters and articles from Canada, UK, Australia, and other english speaking countries. A broadly spread fanbase is the basis for a stable, long-lasting career. And strong distribution and promotion is a crucial part of that. So if you have the money, go on international promotional trips. If you do it right, it'll more than pay for itself in the long run. I will not be insular. Insularity is the slow death that leads to moribund echo chambers. I will step outside my comfort zone, acclimatize myself to new experiences, and incorporate the good ones into my daily life. Or something. Back to the grind.

In this issue:

Letters: A whole ton of quickfire responses for the cover of issue 133. Very amusing.

A letter asking how much the OD&D rules are worth. Depends which printing, and who you're selling them too. Name your price and see if anyone'll pay it. If not, you may want to drop it a little.

Forum: Dain A. Miller thinks wizards should be able to wear basic padded armour. Even that would increase their survivability at 1st level quite a bit. This is why so many of them wind up being dex & con monkeys, despite it having little to do with being better at their class abilities.

David Carl Argall still thinks that if anything, magic-users are too powerful, and need to be reduced in power at higher levels. Flatten that curve!

Kenneth Arromdee has some more comments on the magic-user debate. His own solution to increase survivability without changing any rules is dual classed 1st level fighter/magic-users. Better be using a good rolling method to get the scores for that reliably :p

Brian Habing, Randy Smith,Wayne Strailton and Eric Krein all have quite a bit to say on the dimensions of magic-user spellbooks. These of all things shouldn't be standardised. Have you ever seen real researchers notes. Homogeneity is not their strong point.

Theresa Mac Donnelly has some very inventive uses for the simulacrum spell. Like shapechanging, the possibilities are endless given a little time to prepare, and knowledge of the right creatures to copy. I very much approve of these ideas.

Amit Izhar also has another clever application for the larcenous wizard. Spider climb makes a great pilfering device. Palm objects without using any fingers at all, due to the stickiness.

Steve Allen thinks that RPG's shouldn't just be about fun. What about developing your analytical thinking, your acting skills, your ability to work with others well? You'll have more fun if what you're playing has a little sophistication. Contentious statement. I am interested in debating that theory.

Brett Barnsdale thinks that saving for disbelief on illusions is a subjective pain in the butt. Just let them know it's an illusion when they touch it and go through it, and leave them guessing until then.

S.D. Anderson is also talking about illusion saves. Damn these vague rules, provoking so much controversy!

Rick J Federle has a house rule to determine how much XP a thief should get for thieving. A pretty simple one. No objections here.

Thomas Cook debates our recent DC Heroes article. Interesting. Wasn't expecting that. Will he get any responses? Since he works for the actual company, I am skeptical.

Space 1889! Steampunk kicks off! Nice.

The queen galadriel collectors doll?! Looks like a modded barbie to me :p Do you really want to shell $56 on that? Bleh.

The ecology of the cave fisher: Back to the fairly realistic creatures. After all, there are real world spiders that hunt by snaring things with dangled strands instead of webs. Give arthropods functioning lungs and the other bits and pieces needed to scale up, and you'd see things like this in a few million years, no trouble. Not that you'd really want too, for being strung up for hours or days before actually getting eaten is not a nice way to go. One of the more lethal ecologies, we not only see two waves of adventurers die, but also an amusing postscript in which the innkeeper takes advantage of their foolishness. It may be a game for us, but it isn't for them. Definitely another entertaining little ecology here. Don't get smug just because your opponents don't have inhuman intelligence and a load of magical abilities.

The dragon's bestiary: Tibbits are nekocreatures, mischievous little feline shapeshifters with a quirky set of magical powers. With planar connections, the ability to form bonds with spellcasters, and pretty good thief abilities, they're quite capable of being highly tricky to deal with, especially in groups. One to be intensely annoying with, muahahaha!

Through the looking glass: A new miniatures column. It's been a while since they tried one of these. And once again, they're trying out a new name, rather than resurrecting one of the three they've tried before. I wonder if this one'll stick for any length of time. No actual content in this one, merely an outline of what they'd like to see in future issues. Obviously, it's future success is up to the freelancers. Yet again the magazine fills in one of the last few steps to become the one I knew when I started reading. Quite pleasing, really.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 135: July 1988

part 2/5

Give them enough rope!: Another little article engaging in some realistic analysis. With lots of Runequest references. Curious. As usual, the various RPG's differ substantially from reality and each other in their treatment of rope. Something that could be dull very easily, but Robert Plamodon's inventive set of uses for it, laced with dry humour, manage to redeem it. Another one to look at when stuck in an awkward situation with basic equipment and short of ideas on how to get out. MacGuyver would be proud.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: More arrows this month. 33 different types of magical arrow, many of which have lots of subcategories as well. Be generous with them and in letting players find out what they do, for as usual, these are one-shot devices. Even the cheap (non cursed) ones cost 120 gp each. Still, definitely enough here for months of amusing treasure deliveries as they more than double the basic stuff from the core books. My favourites in this selection are the arrow of clairvoyance (perfect ninja weapon) The arrow of multiplicity (great visuals there) The arrow of roping, and the arrow of pursuit. Plenty of interesting stuff for players here. Definitely more than enough here for a good themed badguy as well. Another neat article in this series.

When game masters go bad: Another serious article with a humorous edge here. So many ways that the GM can mess things up. So little time to list them all. Adversarial GM'ing, messing up the rules, lack of enthusiasm, insufficient preparation, favouritism, formulaic design, railroading and overeliance on things turning out a particular way. Actually, that's not such a huge list. This is another case where most of the stuff mentioned is pretty familiar, so it's mostly a matter of how well the writer phrases it this time that determines if I like it or not. And this time it's pretty good, with some very amusing illustrations. Whoever came up with using the old image of the man eating his own face was a twisted genius. Credit to both the Roger's, much as they hate being lumped together. :p

The game Wizards: Jim Ward is buzzing away at several things at once as usual. Most important is the new Greyhawk corebook. Lots of suggestions have been sent in, and he's sorted through them and is incorporating the best ideas. Along with the usual endless demand for new monsters and spells, a lot of people also want a system for properly developing 0 level characters without them going into a class. So we'll give it to them. I suspect some of them would actually like to get rid of classes altogether, and make D&D skill based, but they ain't getting that. He also plots a pun-filled dungeon, and forgotten realms miniatures. Looks like someone's trying to keep the spirit of mischief that was more prevalent in the early years of the hobby alive. Now, can they keep moving forward while doing so?

The Mix-&-Match Module: Zany crossovers! Now there's something that's declined quite a bit over the years. Definitely a case of appropriate juxtaposition putting it next to Jim's piece. But actually, this isn't that zany or gonzo, being advice on how to convert modules from one genre or system to another. This is particularly useful when playing non D&D games, since D&D probably has more modules to convert than all the other RPG's out there put together. You can also steal ideas from books, movies, TV, etc, and as long as you alter it enough, no-one need be any the wiser. Learn enough techniques like this, and you never need worry about writer's block again! Now all you need to do is figure out how to live with the guilt of knowing you're nothing but a hack. I suggest large quantities of alcohol. 9 out of 10 fleet street journalists recommend it! And they write even more than I do on a daily basis, so they should know. I seem to have become sidetracked again, because this is actually a pretty dull article. Hopefully I won't have to use it.

Palladium starts trumpeting the universality of their system. Now you can go from genre to genre with the same characters, and have equally screwy and unbalanced adventures in all of them. Next thing you know they'll make a setting explicitly designed for gonzo crossovers ;)

Heroes are made - Like this!: Following on neatly again, talking of converting from one system to another, here's the usual proper characterisation and backstory advice, converted to the superhero genre. To build a character, you need to figure out their connections with the world, both as a person, and as a superhero. Are they part of a team, what are their likes and dislikes, how have they taken gaining powers, etc etc. Once again, this is pretty familiar material, that fails to shake off the boredom. Let's keep going, shall we.

Philip jose farmer's The Dungeon! I love this series, even if it does suffer some tonal problems with the shifting of authors from book to book. A great inspiration for planar gaming in general. Go buy it now.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 135: July 1988

part 3/5

Sage advice takes a break from D&D for a little Star Frontiers menage au frottage. They may only get one chance to do this, so this is another mammoth session. Not that this is a problem for Skip! Aaahh! He'll answer every one of us! (guitar riff)

What happens when you fire on a stationary vehicle (lots of the table's results become inapplicable. Oh noes!)

Is vehicle damage cumulative (Hmm. What would the real world do? Yes! )

What happens when a pedestrian gets hit (say hello to mah friend PAIN!)

Do grenades bounce at point blank range (yes. You will be hurt as well, remember. )

Do sathar ignore environmental crap (mostly.)

Where is starmist (off the map. We'll have to make a bigger one.)

Why don't lasers work well underwater ( The level of scattering is waay worse than in air. It's range of usefulness as a weapon would be rather short. )

What are the odds of jumping from one moving vehicle to another ( Agility check. DM should probably assign penalties. )

What are the modifiers for exchanging fire between two parallel vehicles (cover and attacker movement)

How elastic are dralasites (oooh. Not enough to fly, but they are pretty damn flexible. Skip knows what you're thinking next, laydees, and would love to watch.)

Do vehicle's weapons get a bonus to hit (not really)

Can hover vehicles fly high (nope. They're like ghosts. They go whir, hum hum, AAAAARRGH MY FOOT! Or something.)

What's a track-mobile ( Sarah Palin is so not topical anymore. Let's skip this one)

How much protection does armour give a vehicle ( Quite a bit. Otherwise why bother)

How does a telescopic scope affect shooting (reduced range penalties, whichever way you want to slice things. )

How do you break a hold (use your melee score. It's a melee attack, innit)

Do you need to check for every jetcopter you fly (nah. Too much effort)

Can you try again after failing a skill check (ahh, this old chessnut again. Yeah, if you have the time, and failing doesn't mess things up. )

Do GSY's have sub-units ( I think we'll skip overcomplicating this stuff.)

Can you climb ANY length of rope with only 2 rolls? ( As ever, common sense needs to be applied. )

Ammo has no encumbrance. My players want to carry infinite amounts of it ( And this ruins your game how? Embrace the cinematicness dude! )

How much does anasthetic cost (50 cr for 10 doses. )

How far can you move and attack (aaalll the way. This aint 3rd edition D&D)

Can you buy a skill up more than one level at once (no. You can only learn so
fast. )

How do you use MA subskills (Instinctively! Keep training! It won't be instinctive if you don't work at it. )

Can you use a heavy weapon if you can carry it (no, they need to be mounted for the proper support. Otherwise you'll look rather silly )

How much does a tripod cost and weigh. ( Cost, 50 cr. Weight, 15kg. Making all the laydees gasp at the size of your L4zor. Priceless)

Can I photocopy the character sheet (only for personal use. Otherwise sueage may ensue)

Are the off-handed and two weapon penalties cumulative (yes. Double attacks need a hefty balancing factor. )

Why are groundcars faster over water ( because they have to be lighter to float)

How do you determine a robot's strength ( Watch him pumping iron with his iron pumps )

Do you need special equipment to deactivate a robot (of course. Otherwise the technicians'd be out of a job)

Can you get over 6th level in a skill (Only if you buy Zebulon's guide, the new supplement. Available in all good hobby shops now :teeth ting: )

When will another volume of zebulon's guide come out (Never. You ungratefull swine didn't buy enough copies to make it worth our while. )

Can I use gamma world equipment in star frontiers (If you like. Conversions aren't hard. )

What do you roll to hit if you don't have any combat skills (the 0 table. Fnar)

Why do the humma have two entries on the movement chart (because they're like kangaroos, so they normally bounce along. But if the ceiling's low, they have to move more normally or hit their head. This obviously slows them down a bit )

Do you have any chance of suceeding at something you have no skill in (there's always a chance. Not a good one, but there you go. )

Are dex modifiers applied before or after rolling (Before. In many games this wouldn't matter, but it seems here it does. Intriguing)

How do you teach a robot to drive. ( At great expense. )

Where is the throwing skill (What, are you still playing the basic game? You'll have to go Advanced to do complicated things like that. N00B)

How far do explosives bounce (depends how long they're set for. )

Do mentalist disciplines require an unobstructed line of sight (no. Fear the psychics, for your head may explode at any time )

Do solar optics save you from floodlights (not quickly enough. Needs some more R&D)

Can a single maxiprog do everything ( Nah. We're still working off 80's computer limitations. We don't realise that in 20 years they'll be better than the stuff in our current sci-fi. )

What's a random locator indicator ( The thing that lets computers work without running through their entire memory every time you want to find something. Verrrah verrah handy)

How many programs can a computer use simultaneously (never enough. Never enough)

Do type E scanners really weigh 1000 kilograms (oh yes. Some things just aint portable. )

Can a spy eye be controlled manually (Yes. It helps with the protagonisation if you play a reactive part in your espionage )

Can you keep doing damage with pyrokinesis (Yes. It's like cooking a pizza. They go from underdone to charred really quick if you don't pay attention. Once someone's properly heated up, even more damage comes readlily. Muahahahahaha!)

How much can you change your density (As much as you have the time for. It'll take aaaages to become a black hole and destroy the world though, and someone may foil you in the meantime. )

What's the range of a grenade launcher (D. It stands for Don't give away trade secrets)

What are parabatteries (They have little wings, and they bounce along the floor. Jump on them to turn them into regular batteries.)

What skill is used to fire micromissiles (oops. We'd better invent one pronto. )

How much is a minigrenade launcher ( If it saves your life, what does it really matter. )


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 135: July 1988

part 4/5

Virgin games centre advertises in Dragon. Another depressing reminder of how much more mainstream the hobby was in that era. You bought your gaming products in the regular toy stores along with the computer games and mainstream albums, not some shitty little niche of a shitty little comic book store with a tiny selection. (no offense, forbidden planet, traveling man, and all the rest.) If we didn't have the internet, we'd never find most of the books we want. Also, WFT kind of name is Zavvi? It's no wonder you're suffering these days.

TSR Previews: D&D is still mainly gazetteering lately, with The Northern Reaches. A viking raider culture is a perfect place for adventurers to come from. Including a 3D village? Interesting.

AD&D gets DL15: The mists of Krynn. Lots of miniadventures, set all over Ansalon, including plenty of familiar faces. This world aint dying any time soon.

Marvel superheroes goes from E to M in another 256 page handbook. The frequency which each letter shows up in the alphabet is exceedingly uneven.

Top Secret gets TS3: Orion Rising. Lots more details on the good guy bureaus. Just what you need to figure out what missions to give your players.

On the books front, we have Sniper! Adventure gamebook 6: Libyan Strike, Greyhawk adventure 6: The name of the game, and Starsong, a novel by Dan Parkinson. Busy busy busy.

And finally in boardgames, we get the I think you think I think game. Doublethink your way to victory. I'm sure I've seen something similar as a facebook app, which says a lot about how boardgames have been superceded even more than RPG's by computers.

Fiction: Karl and the ogre by Paul J McAuley. Fittingly for an issue which has already had several bits on crossing over genres and converting from one to another, here's a reminder that the boundary between fantasy and sci-fi is easily crossed, and there are many fantasy series set in a time after the fall of modern civilisation, when the magic has come back, for whatever reason. This is one of those, and a somewhat disconcerting one too. The big danger of transhumanism is if you create massively superior people, what they will do to normal people in return. Will they oppress them, look after them for their own good, or simply kill them all so everyone can be superior. And if their minds are that far ahead of ours, will we be able to tell the difference between benevolence and tyranny? A nicely thought-provoking little piece.

Up close and personal: Top secret actually gets an S.I specific article at last. A little piece on unarmed combat in the game, what exactly the various moves do. Now you have a little more support for your cinematic moves, instead of letting the fight degenerate into a slugfest because no-one wants to go through the hassle of figuring out how to do more complex stuff. This is a good example of how the universal resolution tables make these kind of things easy to understand, and make it easy to include fun special effects for drastic failures and successes. This certainly makes it look both fun and fast moving. So I think thats a success then.

Role-playing reviews: This month's theme is stuff with visual aids. Pictures, miniatures, cutouts, sometimes even full-on constructible castles, these can definitely spice up your game. Ken is a fan of having toys like this, and talks about their upside, problems, and his judging criteria. He also mentions those great bugbears of gridded minis combat, scale and diagonal movement. The square root of 2 is not a rational number, and trying to reconcile this with simple rules causes quite a bit of hassle, while going hex has it's own problems when you want to move in a straight line. Just use a ruler. Another unexpected digression here. This is definitely a promising start.

The halls of the dwarven kings is a pretty boxed set devoted to an underground scenario. Build up the abandoned dwarven halls, and have your players explore them. (they're actually too big for you to build the entire thing with the pieces provided, but since they shouldn't know what's coming that just means you'll have to build up and remove stuff on the fly) The whole thing is tremendously detailed, and includes stats "compatible with" D&D and Runequest, and easily convertable to other systems. This is several steps above most generic adventures both visually and mechanically.

Blood on the streets is a warhammer supplement which allows you to build your own villages. The different houses are all nicely english and individualised, and fit together nicely. They also tie together into a small collection of villages, with a whole load of NPC's and adventure hooks. Again, it wouldn't be hard to use the pieces in some other game.

Citi-Block is a sci-fi variant on the same theme. This is officially for warhammer 40k and Judge Dredd (goes to show how closely related they are in terms of urban construction and philosophy) and obviously wouldn't be of much use in a shiny happy future like star trek. It's probably the most flawed of these three products, but you can still get plenty of use out of it if you put the effort in.

Lots more mini-reviews here. Most notable is the his review of Castle Greyhawk, which gets quite a good review. They've taken the old skool dungeon design style, and sent it up in amusing fashion while also lampshading some of it's tropes. And since he cut his teeth on that playstyle, he rather likes this. Hmm.


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Blood on the streets is a warhammer supplement which allows you to build your own villages. The different houses are all nicely english and individualised, and fit together nicely. They also tie together into a small collection of villages, with a whole load of NPC's and adventure hooks. Again, it wouldn't be hard to use the pieces in some other game.
My younger brother owned this, and the buildings did look pretty good once you put them together. We didn't play Warhammer, but a few of the buildings did show up in our games of Fantasy Warriors (Grenadier's fantasy combat game) back in the day.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 135: July 1988

part 5/5

The role of books: The light fantastic by Terry Pratchett is another thing that reminds us how far we've come. At this point in time, the discworld was still a relatively sketchy creation, and the humour far broader and less nuanced than it has since become. It still manages to have some moments with genuine cleverness and pathos. Ya gotta have the talent before you can develop the finesse.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fun story, told through the old victorian narrative method of exchanging letters between the characters. (which is how the story was built up IRL as well) This works very well, conveying the sense of a larger world out there, while maintaining subjectivity.

The demon hand by Rose Estes is her third greyhawk novel. It gets a rather negative review. The characters are unsympathetic, the tone is too distant, and the villain is dumb, while outshining established characters by author fiat. Not a pleasing way to treat the first AD&D world.

The crystal shard by R.A Salvadore is the first story in the drizzt series, although at the moment it's actually Wulfgar the barbarian who is the primary protagonist. As this is long before the effects of flanderisation and crank-em-out syndrome have come into force, this is probably actually a bit better than later books in the series. It's definitely a lot better than the greyhawk novel preceding it.

The legacy of Lehr by Katherine Kurtz is an entertaining Sci-fi mystery. A series of murders are taking place on a luxury spaceliner, and obviously this racks up the tension between the various people and aliens on board. It manages to be a success in both of it's genres, and in creating interesting, well fleshed out characters that drive the plot along.

Of chiefs and champions by Robert Adams gets a considerably more negative review than most of his books have here. Neither the plotting or characterization make much sense to the reviewer, and the marketing seems out of sync with the contents. Has he lost his spark?

We also get another interesting rebuttal to reader's letters, as he explains why he gives some books full reviews while others go in the short and sweet section, and gives the usual YMMV disclaimer. Definitely a well above average one here in terms of both books covered, and the finesse with which they are reviewed.

The role of computers: Alternate reality: The city is an RPG where you generate a character, and the wander around a sandbox developing them. Get a job, join a guild, kill monsters. You get an unusually high amount of freedom here to determine your alignment by the actions you take, and not fight everyone. Weather & time of day are tracked and make real differences, and the whole thing has plenty of depth. The question then becomes what you actually do with this character.

Alternate reality: The dungeon solves some of the problems of the last installment, but presents some of it's own. By far the most egregious is a badly designed interface that requires very frequent disk swapping. The characters are also rather weak for the challenges they face. This ruins the fun of a series with lots of potential.

Airborne ranger is a game where you play a military commando behind enemy lines. You need to balance action with resource management, as you make supply drops before starting the mission, and finding and utilizing them is important to your success. Stealth is also crucial, so you definitely need to use your brain to finish this one.

Power! is an arcade game in which you control a hovercraft, and have to negotiate your way through a load of obstacles to defeat the enemy. Seems fairly standard shoot em up fare.

Decisive battles of the american civil war, volume 1, is not only a massive tactical wargame, it also includes programs that enable you to design your own scenarios. Not too hard to learn, considering it's complexity, it's also well researched and seems to emulate the battles represented decently.

Tetris gets instantly hailed as a hopelessly addictive game. Woo. I'm sure you all know this one, and it's theme tune too, so I shall say no more, apart from reporting that it only gets 4 and a half stars, rather than the full 5. Oh well. They can't predict that it'd still be around long after other things from this era have faded into obscurity. I wonder how they'll react to the rise of handheld games as well.

TNK III is an arcade game where you control a tank. The usual blasting and collecting of power-ups ensues. Not brilliant, but worth the price.

The daily planet gaming supplement celebrates it's first anniversary, after putting adverts in here every month. How consistent of them.

Just how big is this bomb?: DC Heroes gets explosive. How does a grenade translate to their exponential scale? How about a nuke? Supernova? What could superman survive? As with the Top Secret article, this is a simply explained little piece that makes the prospect of playing with cosmic sized powers that can devastate worlds seem fun and not mechanically onerous at all. Which means you have more time to get playing and worry about the story implications. Another pretty decent article.

Dragonmirth turns expectations around in more ways than one. Snarfquest has made new friends after all. Now, if they could only get rid of them.

Part 4 of the enemy within series, Behind the throne. This series continues to build nicely as well.

Another pretty good issue, with a new development, and lots of high quality articles. They seem to be gradually improving their overall quality again through this year. Is this going to be reflected in sales, or are they still going down. Just how much will the magazine change when the new edition finally hits. Guess I'll find out in a few months.
Last edited:

Kakita Kojiro

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The demon hand by Rose Estes is her third greyhawk novel. It gets a rather negative review. The characters are unsympathetic, the tone is too distant, and the villain is dumb, while outshining established characters by author fiat. Not a pleasing way to treat the first AD&D world.
Rose Estes is not a pleasing way to treat any world. Including the real-world.

psst. That's "The Crystal Shard", not crystal hand.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 136: August 1988

part 1/5

108 pages. Back to the worldbuilding again, with another special on urban adventures. Whether the players are in charge, or just stopping by, certainly plenty of fun to be had there. The more the merrier, and all that. Speaking of the more the merrier, convention season is upon us again, and as we've found repeatedly this year, the runners of Gen Con and Origins really want to work together to make both big conventions the best they can be. What next, Sega and Nintendo working together? ;) History chugs onwards, and it looks like there's going to be plenty more stuff to report on in the next few months.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter asking what rolling method you use for berserkers. Much the same as for barbarians.

Another pointed question on how you deal with arrows that stick in people. It is a bit awkward, they have to admit. That's the fun.

A complaint that they don't cover Spectrum or Amstrad computers. Another reminder that there were a good dozen or so different companies competing for dominance in the computer world then, and their popularity varied quite widely from country to country. Thank god that's over, and even PC and Mac grow increasingly cross-compatible these days.

A letter asking what happened to Wormy. It's gone, we're afraid. That's the end of that story.

A letter praising Perception, and asking if that's the 8th ability score, what is the 7th? Someone's either a D&D player only, or hasn't been keeping up with recent supplements. Not that there's anything wrong with ignoring Comeliness. I do it all the time. :p

Forum: Aaron Goldblatt has another suggestion for the scaling of illusion saving throws. Unfortunately, it runs into the DM fiat problem as soon as you try and emulate objects. Needs moar guidelines.

Tim Merritt is another writer who appears here to rebutt responses to his articles. He stands by most of his opinions. Yes some of the changes are a bit kludgy, but they're better for making a fun game than standardisation would be.

Steve Marsh thinks that the random origins table for DC heroes in issue 132 was a little too divergent in potential power levels, especially when there are cascading open-ended results on the table. Allowing characters that different is like allowing 1st and 25th level characters to play in the same D&D adventure. A little more fairness is needed.

David Carl Argall points out just how many equal opponents you need to beat to go up a level. It's a wonder anyone ever gets to 2nd level, really. Even experienced soldiers and serial killers don't normally manage that kind of death count. This is why having xp for treasure and other noncombat goals is important.

Ron L Newsome is full of praise for Fritz Lieber, and the new Lankhmar D&D supplement. They make an excellent setting for adventuring in, particularly when house-ruled a little.

John H Chang has a few pointers on the berserker class, as derived from the real world. Yeah, like that ever helps.

Eric Liss continues the debate about Scud and Allycia the cavalier. Don't forget the list of powers cavaliers get. Their badassery more than compensates for their code of honour.

Alexander Thomas Greene expresses his disdain for people trying to play a spellcaster as mobile artillery in Runequest. You shouldn't be bending the system to make this viable, you should be learning how to use magic cleverly from behind the scenes. Same as it ever was.

Building blocks, city style: Random Tables! Always good to see a few of those around. Not that we haven't had them already, but it's good to have ones focused on earth, rather than mars. And they're prepared enough to give us info on both western and eastern style settlements. This is primarily useful for when you have the basics of a city fleshed out and mapped, but haven't got the time or inclination to fill in the details of every building on every street. Apart from a few amusing statistical quirks (it's much easier to find a bordello in a port city, hello sailor and all that.) this is the kind of thing that looks like it would be more interesting in play than it is to read. Nothing wrong with a few labour saving devices when you have as much to get through as I do.

A nightmare on elm street, the game. I quite approve.

Blood Bowl gets a pretty double page spread, with lots of properly painted minis. The cheerleaders for the various races are particularly amusing.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 136: August 1988

part 2/5

The long arm of the law: Thieves guilds seem to be virtually ubiquitous in D&D settings. Almost to the point where you wonder about their illegality, and the attempts the authorities make to catch them. Are they really so entrenched in the setting as to be impossible to fight? Good question. And obviously, in a properly fleshed out world, one that should vary from place to place. This article is very focussed on applying the alignment model to communities. Which is a good place to start, but a bad way to finish, since that's only 2 axes with three divisions. There's still room for huge amounts of variation within each alignment, especially once you take technology and historical relations with neighbors into account. But that's for you to develop. Another article that only really takes you a part of the way there, with most of it's info being pretty commonsensical. And since the law frequently has some aspects that seem nonsensical unless you know the specific events of the country involved, that's not very realistic, is it.

Empire builder is back. And still using the same recommendation from Gary in issue 65. Couldn't they get a more up to date review?

Taking care of business: The merchant class, as detailed ages ago in Leomund's (what happened to Len, did he quit when Gary was forced out as well?) tiny hut, gets a revised version. Which is nice. It keeps the players from killing everyone and taking their stuff when they shouldn't. They still have the same idiosyncratic spell learning ability, but their powers are better defined and laid out in general. Since they now also have decent combat capabilities, can earn XP from regular adventuring, and get yet another idiosyncratic way of breaking the usual multi/dual classing rules, they actually approach viability as a PC type. If you've maxed out your first class, switching to them seems a pretty good choice. This definitely goes on the list of classes I'll allow in my campaign.

A room for the Knight: Given the number of adventures that start in taverns, and the amount of traveling you have to do in the course of them, a little more info on the places you eat and sleep while in town seems a good topic to cover here. When you add in rogues, rumourmongers, barroom brawls, and all that fun stuff, you can turn them into an adventure in their own right. But for a third time this issue, this is more about giving you the basics, so you can get those sorted out quickly and efficiently, and move on to customising stuff for your own campaign. So they show us roughly how 1 to 4 star inns vary in quality and price, and what you can get there. Once again, the most amusing part of this is in analyzing the quirks of the tables presented. Which in the cosmic scale of things, isn't really that amusing overall.

Fifty ways to foil your players: Muahaha. What a very adversarial title. This seems promising. The title is, as is often the case, a bit misleading, as they use it in it's definition as a noun rather than a verb. So here's 50 character types that serve to amuse and inconvenience the PC's in such a manner that you're not expected to kill them, and doing so would probably make things worse. A strong streak of sadistic humour runs through this article, but they recognize that this is the kind of meal best served in moderation, for if you tip them into outright enemies, D&D characters will not hesitate to go into slaughter mode and damn the repercussions. This is definitely one that'll help you come up with random NPC's quickly, and makes for entertaining reading as well. From these seeds can spring characters that'll give you years of fun gaming. Sow them well.

Mertwig's maze by Tom Wham. I guess he's still working for them, although none of his games have appeared in here for a while. I was wondering. I suspect he's one of the people who aren't taking the new corporate culture in the company well.

Fiction: The curse of the magus by Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier. People never react well to the concept that something they take for granted is going to be stripped away. Look at the modern issue of fossil fuels. Despite it seeming pretty likely that they'll become scarce enough to be uneconomical to mine for everyday use within our lifetime, people and governments drag their feet on changing to more sustainable power sources until they absolutely have too, and this may seriously bite us in the ass. This has echoes of that theme, but frames it in a rather more personal context, that of the day to day trials and reminiscences of an archmage exiled and stripped of his powers for predicting and trying to prepare people for the depletion of magic. Being right is a bitter satisfaction in that position. Still, at least he manages to go out with a bang. As this manages to be both visually evocative, and philosophically thought provoking, I think this definitely counts as another win for this department.

Arcane Lore: Rather a tedious lore session this month, as they give us Recharge. Now not just any high level spellcaster can make and reload wands and staves, you need to do some more special research, and pay some more money on material components. How very tiresome, and not worthy of further comment. Next!
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