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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 Magazine Issue 137: September 1988

part 5/5

The role of books: Invitation to camelot, edited by Parke Godwin, and Arabesques, edited by Susan schwartz are both um, shared setting books. Yeah that's the ticket. :p One uses an arthurian background, and the other an arabian nights one. Both are pretty decent, although Arabesques probably wins in terms of depth and scope.

Resurection inc by Kevin J Anderson is a nice bit of hard sci-fi. Two thought provoking technological advances, and their moral implications are examined. It wouldn't be easy to adapt for a game though.

Tales of robin hood by Clayton Emery doesn't hang together very well, trying to mix gritty realism with a mishmash of mythology. If you try doing more than one thing at once, you've got to integrate them.

The year of the ransom by Poul Anderson is a highly complex Time Patrol tale. While not for inexperienced readers, the interesting plot, told from multiple viewpoints, is worth the effort to unravel. Read the earlier books in the series first to see if you like it.

Shrine of the desert mage by Stephen Goldin is another interesting bit of arabian nightsesque storytelling. This is doubly the case because the actual protagonist is also a storyteller, resulting in a cleverly multilayered story full of magic, genies, and interesting tidbits you can steal for your own games.


TSR Previews: AD&D is getting lots of stuff this month. First up is Greyhawk Adventures, which has either been delayed or double-dipped again. They need to be more careful with that. Secondly, we have FR5: The savage frontier. Venture to the lands surrounding waterdeep, and do a little pacifying. How else is a city all on it's ownsome surrounded by wilderness to survive? Waterdeep itself isn't neglected either, with the City System. They are filling up the Realms fast.

Curiously, Ed Greenwood himself is actually more busy in the Known world, with GAZ8: The five shires. How will he flesh them out and differentiate them from tolkien hobbits?

Top Secret is also reaping the fruits of it's labours this month. TSAC5: Commando gives you back your realistic modern day action, while also upgrading the military hardware allowed. TSAC2, on the other hand is the Agent 13 Sourcebook, providing you with all your pulp gaming needs. Odd that it should be released out of order. Were there delays on the writing side, or due to licencing crap?

Speaking of Agent 13 and top secret, we have another Double Agent novel out this month as well. GLITCH!/The Hard Sell gives us a couple more rollicking spy capers.
Dragonlance is also getting another novel. Stormblade. The mines of Thorbardin fall into chaos as the dwarves fight over who should weild the lost blade. But first they have to find it. Finders keepers and all that.

And finally, we have a third, unconnected novel. St John the Pursuer: Vampire in Moscow. Another fairly self-explanatory synopsis follows. There's a vampire loose in moscow. Guess who winds up having to stop it.


The role of computers: Ultima V: Warriors of destiny is yet another game in this highly popular series. And the reviewers certainly think it lives up to those standards, while not being too dependent on being an established player. The graphics have improved considerably, and it retains the same depth of play and complex morality as the last few. Another one to bash your brain up against for months trying to solve all the puzzles.

Oids also gets 5 stars, being a highly addictive combination of several arcade game styles. Space and ground travel are both used as you try and foil the alien invaders. It even includes a level editor, so once you finish it, you can design fun new stuff for your friends.

Out Run is rather less impressive, being yer basic racing game where you have to do each bit of the course before the time limit runs out, and it gets extended if you do. You do get to choose both your route, and the music, so it doesn't get too repetitive too soon. Probably more impressive in the arcade where you're using an actual steering wheel.

Ebonstar is another space game. You race round a black hole, and have to knock your rivals in while surviving yourself. Seems most fun when played multiplayer.

The universal military simulator is another heavily customisable game, allowing you to set up scenarios from past and future. While it has some crashing issues on certain platforms, it has tons of depth in both unit and landscape detail.

Intellitype is a typing tutor program. Wait, come back! It's not actually that tedious! They are being rather generous with their 5 star marks this month. Hmm.


Snarfquest gets a-racing. Dragonmirth is absent.


A slick but tiresome issue here. With the table fetish in the articles, and the tendency towards self-promotion in even the supposedly objective bits of the magazine, it all feels very corporate, very powerpoint, flow charts, mobile phones, and sales targets. An excellent example of the fact that good content is just as important as presentation, if not more so when the eventual goal is having fun. Lets hope horror is a bit more conductive to exciting articles than the wilderness.
 

Pukako

Retired User
Dragon Magazine Issue 137: September 1988

Waterdeep itself isn't neglected either, with the City System. They are filling up the Realms fast.
Strangely enough, picked this up at a second hand bookstore in the weekend - $9 NZ, which is apparently the price of a large coffee in London or NY. And aside from the box being a little squashed, it's almost unused

It's 10 very large detailed, colour-coded maps of the city (to lay them together on the floor I'd have to move the furniture out of the living room), and a 32 page booklet of random encounters, pick-pocket charts and other randomness, which is very nice

So this will be the main city of my next campaign, just because of the detail and it being almost flavourless, with most background information apparently in The North, which this set encourages you to buy at some point...
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 138: October 1988

part 1/5

108 pages. Another bit of rather good artwork on this month's cover. This comes at a price though. Roger Raupp has finally decided he can't take the pressure of TSR's new corporate structure anymore and departed. So another of the old guard is bumped of, and his immediate subordinate Lori Svikel moves up to take his place. Hmm. Meanwhile, in the editorial, the hard work setting up this year's convention has finally paid off, and our remaining Roger talks about the madness that he enjoyed there. There's still plenty of fun going on at the ground level, whatever's going on in the company. And hopefully he's brought some of that back with him.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter about indexing. It's been more than 2 years since the last one, and some people are compulsive about that kinda thing. Roger says they're certainly thinking about it. But it is a lot of work.

Some errata. You know the drill by now.

Two letters filled with more amusing last words. See, your characters dying can still make for a fun game.


Sky galleons of mars. Part of the space: 1889 series. Sounds pretty cool.


Forum: Brian Estes has a suggestion for speeding up mecha combat in Star Frontiers. It shouldn't be vastly more hassle than regular combat. Quite agree with you there.

Joseph Goldlust also wants thieves to get XP from actually, y'know, thieving. He suggests giving the challenges they overcome levels equivalent to monsters, and calculating from that. This is particularly easy to figure out when picking pockets.

Mark Crane rebutts the people who distrust paintball, and stereotype ninjas. Interesting combination there. Hee.

S. D. Anderson has some comments on the new roman gods from issue 13, with a particular focus on Eris. Why should a spreader of discord have a problem with demons? Good question.

Jeffrey M Carey thinks that as RPG demographics are settling down, companies ought to concentrate more on getting as much money as possible out of established gamers, particularly older ones with disposable incomes, with lots of supplements designed to be as universally applicable as possible. I find this very amusing.

A Patrick Connery is another of the people that thinks magic-users being weak at first, then becoming more powerful is entirely acceptable. Gary knew what he was doing. It does not ruin the game.

Sean Jump thinks that evil PC's should get more equal screentime, with classes and adventures designed for them. There's plenty of fun to be had being bad, don't be such spoilsports.

Tim Emrick gives us some advice on making fold-up buildings, including a rudimentary house in the letter. Very interesting indeed.

Eric Burns has a bunch of suggestions to power up low level magic-users. You know, even with a d12, you can get 1 or 2 hp, and be painfully fragile throughout 1st level.


Through the looking glass: Great. Actual crafting tips. It's been way too long since this magazine carried any of those. This is a definite step upwards. This is all about skeletons. Which is fitting, I guess. And they do require techniques a little different to painting people. Put a black base coat on before adding lighter colours. Pay lots of attention to the ribs. Lots of thin layers is the way to go, making sure each is properly dried before moving on to the next one. Drybrushing is hard on brushes so use a different one to the other bits. Remember, these are undead. Make their stuff look well worn. Interesting and very specific bits of advice. I quite enjoyed this. Combined with the fact that the photographic quality has improved quite considerably since they last did this, with lots of full colour photos, and this looks pretty promising. How long will it take this to settle into a comfortable pattern and start boring me? All things must rise and fall. We shall see.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Joseph Goldlust also wants thieves to get XP from actually, y'know, thieving. He suggests giving the challenges they overcome levels equivalent to monsters, and calculating from that. This is particularly easy to figure out when picking pockets.
So a guy with the name of "Goldlust" wants to pump up thieves, eh? You missed an opportunity to make a joke here. :D
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
So a guy with the name of "Goldlust" wants to pump up thieves, eh? You missed an opportunity to make a joke here. :D
The only one that sprang to mind when I was writing that one was a rather poor taste jewish joke. My internal censor went awooga, and I decided not to include it. :eek:
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 138: October 1988

part 2/5

Sage advice gets in with the theme, as it so often does:

Are undead affected by web (If they only have a body)

Can you talk to undead (yes, but they still instinctively loathe everything living and want to kill you, eat you or turn you into one of them, probably not in that order. Squick prejudice cuts both ways. )

What creatures become undead. (Anything with a suitable body or soul. Lets keep it on the down low for now, but you'll be seeing lots of weird undead in later books. )

What happens to the connection to the negative plane when an undead is shifted to an outer plane. (Nothing. They're now off being an abomination against life somewhere else. Annoyed outsiders may come knocking on your door to bring back the trash if you make a habit of this. )

Can undead be affected by psionic attack (probably, as long as they have minds )

Can undead be psionic (sure, why not.)

Are undead affected by blasty spells (Mostly. Anything not forbidden is allowed.)

How do skeletons see without any eyes. (This is a mystery man was not meant to know. However they do it, they manage perfectly well. )

Can paladins keep ghouls at bay with their holier than thou aura. (yup)

What does powerless in sunlight really mean. (they can't attack, move things, or do anything other than cower or float away. Poor ghosty creatures. )

Can you turn a banshee (you can in BD&D, but not in AD&D, weirdly enough. )

What is a lesser vampire ( The enslaved minion that you'll become if you don't watch out. )

Can a staked vampire drain levels (No. Be thankful for this.)

The GDQ modules and the monster manual contradict each other on the subject of holy symbols and vampires (No they don't. This is what happens when vampires break their own rules. There is a reason they normally recoil from holy symbols )

How do spells affect nilbogs (opposite world is upsideown. No saves, no limits. Be very afraid)

Where are the stats for amphisbaena ( Snake! Snake!)

Can you get lycanthropy from being clawed (No. )
Isn't 2+2 a bit much for small Scorpions (They're still 3-4 foot long and toughly armoured. How's that for nightmare fuel. )

How much bigger are higher HD green slimes (3 square foot per HD. Better bring the toilet duck along )

Are spell attacks delivered by touch normal weapons (Hell no! What is your DM smoking. Skip says don't do drugs, kids! Or you'll end up like this poor guy, unable to make the most elementary logic work.)

How good is succubi and alu-fiends shapechanging (pretty good. And by good, we of course mean Totally Hawt. Skip would say no, but that is because Skip is totally awesome and can have any woman he wants anyway. Hey kids, become a sage and you can be totally awesome too. Learn the Elminster patented dirty old man seduction method(tm). Guaranted to work on all women from barmaids to greater godesses or your money back.)

Can I bribe a time elemental to take me back to kill my enemies before they're old enough to be a threat ( With what? What could you possibly offer them that they couldn't travel back and take before you found it if they wanted it. Even if you do convince them, Skip does not reccommend letting it be that easy. Remember, the universe is a big place, and even a well intentioned time elemental may struggle to find the right place and time.)

Need more info on barghests. Description insufficient ( Question recieved. Processing information. Delivering information. Another satisfied customer. Backup answertron for when skip has bunked off early deactivating itself. )


The black book and the hunters: Call of cthulhu gets another article full of forbidden mind imperiling lore. Shub-Niggurath has a lot of offspring, and summoning them is as viable as dealing with any other monstrosity from another realm. Like pages from the mages, this follows the formula of presenting an IC grimoire, which is also described IC by a character, and then giving us the stats for the new spells contained within. Which is still a pretty entertaining way of doing things, especially when the narrator hasn't completely mastered the powers on offer, and isn't sure if they really want too either. They can sell us a few more of these in my reckoning.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 138: October 1988

part 3/5

The ungrateful dead: Tom Moldvay gives us another installment of undead reexaminations. Stepping away from the vampires he covered last time, he goes back to basics, with a whole load of variants for skeletons, zombies and ghouls. They certainly aren't lacking in folklorish antecedents, and you can have considerable amounts of fun varying the powers of familiar looking creatures.

Bloody bones are the skeletons of evil people who lurk and engage in sneaky criminal behaviour. This means fighting them is going to be a very different experience to regular skeletons.

Skeleros are skeletons who used to be skilled fighters, and have retained a bit of their old skill. Not hugely interesting, as they have exactly the same niche, just to higher level characters.

Dry Bones are exactly the same as they appear in the mario games. :p You knock them down, and they keep on getting back up. They might seem weedy at first, but there is a definite creeping horror factor involved here. Like phoenix spiders, these make me go muahaha and itch to use them in my game.

Gem Eyes are the generic knockoff versions of eyes of fear and flame. They get different spell-like abilities to unleash on you depending on what specific stones are set in their eyes. One of those monsters you could run an interesting adventure using nothing but different variants of, plus a boss.

Shock Bones are skeletons with a permanent electrical charge. Anyone attacking them with metal weapons automatically gets a nasty shock. How very castlevania. Just another way to screw over unsuspecting players.

Walking dead are zombies that lose limbs as you damage them, becoming less and less effective. Just like in the movies. It amuses me that zombies could wind up suffering more from wound penalties than living creatures in D&D.

Hungry dead are of course zombies that eat braaaaiiiiiinssss. If you don't hit the right body part, they just keep coming. You've seen these in tons of movies as well, so I don't need to say any more.

Collossi are massive constructs made of tons of dead bodies mulched and pasted together. Just the thing for if you want to get kaijuey. The smell must be terrible.

Le Grand Zombie is another name for zombie lords. These have completely different stats to their 2nd ed version, and were probably developed independently. They are probably a bit too scary for most parties, with truly excessive spellcasting abilities, they're more like zombie emperors than lords. Ease up a bit there mate.

Ghula are ghouls as drawn from arabian myth. Many of them are capable of passing for human, and have some magical ability. Like zombie lords, although they would appear again in Al-Qadim, the stats are obviously not the same.

Baka are an excellent example of cult membership continuing beyond the grave. Eating flesh even before they died, now they're back, and badder than ever.

Gelloudes are greek creatures, related to lamias or harpies, who's preferred prey is babies. If they can't get babies, they'll de-age you in the process of draining your life force. Interesting, and ingeniously scary, that puts a different spin on fighting level draining monsters.

Spirit-Ghouls are people who've been possessed. Statistically, they're pretty similar to regular ghouls, but of course with these guys there's the possibility of curing them, which adds extra complications and moral dilemmas to fighting them. Damn good idea.

Black Annis is of course the inspiration for one of the types of Hag. But D&D has never been shy about having multiple monsters for the same niche so she can be an undead creature that hunts the wilds as well. And since she's pretty scary, it'll take some serious work to put her down.

Wendigo, of course is even scarier, with it's near godike powers, and ability to drive you to cannibalism. If it weren't such a short-sighted creature, it could enslave entire civilizations and turn them into monstrous hives of depravity. Hmm. This is definitely worth further consideration.

Callicantzari, on the other hand are almost as limited as vampires by their own stupidity and quirky weaknesses. This means even smart peasants have a chance against them, despite their strength. They seem perfectly designed to make scenarios like an 80's cartoon, with the scheming leader who rages at the comical incompetence of their underlings, and is defeated but not killed regularly, as they retreat whenever their latest scheme is foiled even if they could probably defeat the heroes singlehandedly in a fight. A very entertaining way to finish off what has been an excellent article overall.


Methods to your madness: Call of Cthulhu has been fairly popular for a good few years now. It's made having your character gradually go insane be considered a fun playstyle. So lets transfer the idea over to D&D. There are plenty of mad things that happen in the game that it would make sense to have some lasting impact on your mental health. You can play this in a serious, tragic way, or a comical one, and this article touches on both styles. Similarly, it could be fun to play, or it could seriously mess up your game if a player uses it as an excuse to go fishmalky. Still, I think this article handles it decently, if a little shallowly. This could definitely have benefited from being a bit longer, particularly as it advocates making sure that mental illness in D&D isn't too similar to reality. Oh well. They're still maintaining the run of good articles this issue.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 138: October 1988

part 4/5

The end of the world: A slightly hyperbolic title. This isn't about inflicting a full-on apocalypse, but the kind of thing which "merely" wipes out around half of the population like the plague, and how it would impact on your campaign. There's plenty of room for adventures before, during and in the aftermath of this, and it's a good way to shake up a game that's getting dull. The players may not be able to save everyone, but they can certainly make a substantial difference on a local scale. Keep them guessing as to if they'll be infected, if they are, if they'll die, and play up all the dramas that sweep a community when people start dying and there's no apparent control over it. A very specific article, concentrating on the specifics of the historical plagues rather than extrapolating to a fantasy world, with all the ways magic affects society incorporated. Still, I'm having no trouble working outwards and thinking of variants on this idea, so hopefully you won't either. This is certainly a form of horror they haven't tackled before, so even though it's not perfect, it definitely has my interest. This has easily been the second best themed issue under Roger's run so far. Lets see if the nonthemed bits can also bring the awesome.


Putting fire into firepower: Top Secret gets another way out of date article, with info on lasers for the old edition. Despite being invented only a couple of decades ago, they're already ubiquitous in sci-fi settings. They don't actually make that brilliant weapons, due to atmospheric attenuation and lack of collateral damage making them fairly inefficient in terms of cost/damage ratio. And indeed, this article tries not to stray too far from reality, forging you to wear a ghostbusters sized power pack to operate one portably, and featuring lots of crunchy details about charging times, the difference based on the type of gas used in the canister, and rather high chances of malfunction. This manages to make something inherently awesome dull, and is definitely intended for those who prefer the older more gritty game style. How very tiresome.


TMNT goes transdimensional. As with the australian sourcebook, this seems entirely appropriate to the source material.


Fiction: Between lightning and thunder by Nancy Varian Berberick. A rather melancholy story, combining the sadness of a declining race, the horrors of war, and the rather more banal horrors of bullying into a seamless whole, and saying that sometimes there may be no good answers, but you should still try and go on living, because suicide is an even worse choice. Hey ho. Not sure if I like this one, as it has good goals, but approaches them in a slightly after-school special kinda way. Still, it's an interesting one, that isn't all flashy heroics, so that counts for quite a bit. I think that I approve, overall.


The role of computers: Star command is a sci-fi roleplaying game. Like the more common fantasy ones, you build a team of characters from a selection of classes, and then do some asskicking, which is both ship based and hand-to hand in this case, and level up your characters and ships. It's more than big enough to accommodate months of play. They both recommend this, and give you quite a bit of play advice.

Questron II is a 3D adventure. It gets a rather short and vague review that assumes you are already familiar with the first game in the series.

Bards tale III balances familiar locations with drastic changes to the world, as you need to beat the new big bad before he completely mucks things up. There are plenty of new character classes, but you can also use your old ones from previous games. While it does what it does well, the reviewers have recently been spoiled by games where you can negotiate with your enemies, and the pure combat gets tiresome to them. Ho hum.

Power at sea is another one that gets repetitive after a while. A naval simulator where you control a fleet of ships, there's only so much you can do tactically, particularly where landings are involved. Not that they actively dislike it, but it doesn't have huge amounts of replayability.

Shanghai is a computerised version of Mah-jong. No great surprises here, but like chess, this is a game you can spend a lifetime mastering, particularly when playing two player. Combined with the good graphics and ease of learning, they give it 5 stars.

Wooden ships and iron men, on the other hand, should have stayed a boardgame, getting a snarkily negative review. Just don't buy it.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The end of the world: A slightly hyperbolic title. This isn't about inflicting a full-on apocalypse, but the kind of thing which "merely" wipes out around half of the population like the plague, and how it would impact on your campaign. There's plenty of room for adventures before, during and in the aftermath of this, and it's a good way to shake up a game that's getting dull. The players may not be able to save everyone, but they can certainly make a substantial difference on a local scale. Keep them guessing as to if they'll be infected, if they are, if they'll die, and play up all the dramas that sweep a community when people start dying and there's no apparent control over it. A very specific article, concentrating on the specifics of the historical plagues rather than extrapolating to a fantasy world, with all the ways magic affects society incorporated. Still, I'm having no trouble working outwards and thinking of variants on this idea, so hopefully you won't either. This is certainly a form of horror they haven't tackled before, so even though it's not perfect, it definitely has my interest. This has easily been the second best themed issue under Roger's run so far. Lets see if the nonthemed bits can also bring the awesome.
I don't always agree with your assessments, but we're definitely on the same page here. That's one of the best articles of the era. Probably at least partially to blame for my tendency to build world-changing events into the background of campaigns.
 
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