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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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Making the Legend
Validated User
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.
Every world ought to have a few world changing events in it's history if it's been around for a decent length of time. (although probably not as many in a short space of time as Toril or Krynn got :p ) It's having them happen right now that's the tricky thing to manage.


Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Every world ought to have a few world changing events in it's history if it's been around for a decent length of time. (although probably not as many in a short space of time as Toril or Krynn got :p ) It's having them happen right now that's the tricky thing to manage.
I don't like stagnant worlds.

I tend to look at things happening at several levels. There's the level the PCs interact with on a routine basis. The adventures obviously, but also most of the NPC interactions, like the corrupt tax collector or the princess whose motivations aren't entirely on the up and up. Then there's the big backdrop stuff. The things that will happen, regardless. The PCs may interact with them, but generally in a peripheral, reactive sense. (Though once they reach very high levels, even these kind of events can be just another adventure.)

But the backdrop events are still important, because they establish the context in which all the routine activity takes place. On the more dramatic side, this can be a Reign of Terror-like revolution, a faltering dynasty like the Romanofs in the era of Rasputin, a war like the 30 years war, or a big natural disaster like the New Madrid earthquake in the 19th century. This also includes small and mid-size stuff, but we're talking about changing the world scale at the moment.

Fantasy takes huge leaps into.the improbable or impossible. But people are still people, and the world still more or less operates like the world we know. History, natural science, myths and legends -- these are great sources for material. For inspiration, yes, but more importantly because they ground what happens in the fantasy setting with what actually has happened in our world. The great leaps of fancy we take seem less absurd when the rest of the world behaves the way we expect it to behave.


Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Every world ought to have a few world changing events in it's history if it's been around for a decent length of time.
Mayfair's Apocalypse boxset is the absolute best product on this subject. It covers everything from modern plague (ie not fantasy) to "the world will end no matter what" disasters. The sections on population migration and mixing of parts of the world yet described always bring new ideas to me when I read them.

As for the article, it is one that I post whenever someone asks about the best of Dragon along with the Ecology of the Dungeon in 211, Color of Magic in 200 and the Laws of Spell Design in 242.


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

part 5/5

Role-playing reviews is doing horror again. No surprise at all there.
GURPS Horror shows yet again how solidly designed and flexible the GURPS system is. With three sample settings, and plenty of elements, it can certainly be used to build a horror game, but the utilitarian writing means you'll have to add your own atmosphere to actually make games scary. Seems fairly par for the course for them.

Beyond the supernatural, on the other hand, has plenty of atmosphere, but not very well designed rules. Ken makes it pretty clear that you'll have to tinker with this one a bit, but the setting is quite cool, offering a consistent explanation for all kinds of supernatural weirdness in the same game. The GMing advice and sample adventures are also not the best, but there are more than enough cool elements for you to create a good game from. Looks like palladium are the same as they ever were then.

Cthulhu Now, on the gripping hand, gets an unreservedly positive review. Both system and setting work together to update the mythos hunting to the modern day. (or at least, the late 80's :p ) With lots of odd little real world details, and several excellent adventures, it keeps things scary and challenging even with the extra equipment.

S. Petersen's field guide to cthulhu monsters also gets plenty of praise. The sly humour that pervades the book goes down a treat with Ken, and the illustrations are generally of high quality. Once again, they merge the IC and OOC perspectives to entertaining ends.

TSR Previews: Not a very impressive list of releases this month. Most of the attention is on last month's products, including one they missed last time. Prince of Thieves is the 18th AD&D adventure gamebook. You steal so much, how are you supposed to figure out what's made someone REALLY mad. Time for a little swashbuckling derring-doo.

Anyway, this month, AD&D gets another bunch of prefab design assistance in the Dungeon master's design kit. Lots of blank sheets and advice on how to use them.

Marvel gets the second installment of it's epic guide to all the superheroes out there. E to M, 256 pages of bizarre creations. I wonder how much errata that'll need.

The rest of this month's stuff is all on the literary side. Dragonlance is getting it's first trilogy reprinted in a single compiled book. 928 pages of papery goodness. Wouldn't like to read that in the bath. Agent 13 also gets a new format, with his original story turned into a graphic novel. Pulpilicious. Bimbos of the death sun is also being reprinted, having massively exceeded expected sales. Is a reprint really worth mentioning again?

The game wizards: A newbie takes the reins here. Scott Haring is eager to talk about his first completed project, get his name out there. Empires of the Sands might have had it's map borked in the first printing, but they're fixing that, and sending out replacement copies to people who ask for them. He also engages in some errataing and justification of his decisions. And here we run into some fairly substantial controversy, as he reveals his belief that NPC's should not be bound by the rules PC's are. Yes, quite a few of them are impossible for you to replicate. Suck it up. Hmm. This is interesting as another snapshot of where company policy is currently at. They might care about their customers, but they aren't particularly concerned with maintaining editorial control over rules minutinae. The scene is very much set for the onslaught of contradictory splatbooks the next edition will bring. Time for another crap filter upgrade.

Dragonmirth continues the cruel jests, some where the jesters get to be the butt of the joke. Yamara and co waste time talking when they should be killing. Incidentally, Barbera Ward ought to sue paper mario. Snarf strikes gold at last.

The I think you think I think boardgame? That's rather a tonguetwister. Imagine having to ask for that in a shop. No wonder I don't remember it.

A pretty strong issue, particularly in the themed section. In addition, the general quality of the presentation seems to be improving again, with more colour bits, better incorporated photography, neater layout. They're still trying hard to please us. And still succeeding at least some of the time. Question is, are they pleasing more or less people than last year? Not long until we find out again. On we go.


I'm a boat
Validated User
S. Petersen's field guide to cthulhu monsters also gets plenty of praise. The sly humour that pervades the book goes down a treat with Ken, and the illustrations are generally of high quality. Once again, they merge the IC and OOC perspectives to entertaining ends.
The S. Petersen's Field Guides (both the Cthulhu Monsters and the Dreamlands) books are excellent. The illustrations are wonderful, they are full of (as the review notes) sly humour, and are just wonderful all around.

The only complaint I'd have is that they're art-book sized as opposed to gaming-book sized, which makes them a pain to ship through the post undamaged. :(


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 139: November 1988

part 1/5

108 pages. Looks like the recent improvement in quality hasn't just been subjective to me. Sales are up again, pushing over that crucial 100,000 mark. That's nice to know. What's even nicer is that the format is vastly improved, using actual type rather than a microsized photocopy. Guess they want everyone to see the good news. Will they keep it up next year? Keep on peeling, keep on revealing. (That doesn't sound right somehow. Reeling? Maybe. Congealing? Definitely not. But I digress.)

In this issue:

Alias and that Saurial paladin. Now there's a novel for you. A textbook example of the impractical cheesecake cover too. Hee. You can't spend 15 minutes lacing up sideless leather trousers (I speak from experience here) in the dangerous wilderness when wandering monsters strike at night.

Letters: A letter asking where the map to Dragotha's lair is. They can give you a large scale reference, but you'll have to make the close up one yourself. Whether he has a simple cave or an elaborate labyrinth filled with traps is up to you.

A letter asking what happened to the info on ordering back issues. Check their mail order catalog.

A letter asking what's going to happen to psionics and the anthologies. The first will be back in a supplement after some reworking, the second will not for the forseeable future.

Some questions on the new Merchant class. No great surprises here.

Forum: Jeffrey C Weber thinks that allowing wizards to specialise in different types of magic is a rather good tool to differentiate them, and allow them a little more power, but at a cost to spells outside their speciality. Hello mr foreshadowing. How often are you going to turn up here in the next few months?

Michael Drake gives us a bunch of sample ways to differentiate clerics. I think we've established by now that this is very much in next edition, so this is not so much of a surprise.

Scott A Shepard has thoughts on the balancing of magic-users. Don't we all. Just don't sweat it too much. Obsessive tweaking ruins the fun for most people.

Amod Lele is insulted by the idea that people who play primarily for fun are "lesser" gamers than those who play it to be challenged, or create something deep and artistically meaningful. If it's not fun, the other aspects mean little.

David Moyle also thinks Steve Allen was being pretentious. You choose games full of challenges and puzzles because that is what you consider satisfying and fun. Others think otherwise.

Ed Friedlander is back yet again, reminding us too keep our campaigns from becoming too unfriendly to newcomers. Pregens definitely help in this respect, as does explaining stuff in a non patronising manner. Absolutely right, dear, : pats head: Run along now. ;)

S. D. Anderson is also back with the beats from the renegade master, pointing out how little power the people have compared to a character with a decent array of magical items. Even if they don't have +5 everything, they can still be pretty untouchable. Meanwhile, poison is way overpowered for it's cost. Both need fixing in some way. Any ideas?

Douglas Porter is also engaging in statistical analysis of capabilities, particularly those of dragons. In his opinion, they need a serious powering up. You too will get your wish answered come next edition.

Phantasy star. I guess having a computer games column in here has got the magazine enough attention that the guys in sega's marketing division have noticed them as well.

A gamers guide to DC heroes does exactly what the marvel heroes index did a few months ago. Only shorter, because there's been less attention paid to it in here. Copycats :p Definitely an article I can't think of anything interesting to say about.

Lords & Legends gives us some more entirely original (as much as anything can be) characters. This time, the theme is wizardly ones.

Aylegard, Queen of the unicorns is your typical chosen one. Now it's her job to ensure their health and safety, protect the wilderness in general, and look incredibly hot while never ever getting laid. :p Custom designed for players to hate, methinks.

Eelix is a rather blatant rip-off. A formerly dumb guy raised to supra-genius intelligence by a lab accident that he's never been able to replicate. Now where have we seen that before? He has a ton of cool magic items, and is entirely willing to make more if the characters do him a favour. Is that plot hook I hear you say?

Elayne Mystica is an outcast (due to sexism) albino from a tribe of underground humans, who was trained by elves, became an outcast a second time for developing psionic abilities, adventured for a while, got too powerful for the rest of her party, and now owns her own demiplane. The amount of Aaaangst she has over this oh so hard life is not revealed. I sense the author would love to write a whole series of novels about her escapades.

Shugar is another blatant PC, with magic items that cover for his weaknesses, and tragic elements to his backstory that in no way interfere with his badassedness. Ho hum. Can't say I've been hugely pleased by this collection.
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Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 139: November 1988
Alias and that Saurial paladin. Now there's a novel for you. A textbook example of the impractical cheesecake cover too. Hee. You can't spend 15 minutes lacing up sideless leather trousers (I speak from experience here) in the dangerous wilderness when wandering monsters strike at night.
Amusingly the costume shows up in the books. Alias wears full plate until she gets the heavily over enchanted cheesecake costume off her mother.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 139: November 1988

part 2/5

Where Wizards meet: Mage guilds. Given how tricky studying to be a spellcaster is, a tutor is obligatory. It'll be a long time before magic is ingrained enough to manifest spontaneously round these parts. So sharing the responsibility may not be as common as with thieves and clerics, but it's hardly rare. Here's another article on the idea. This is less concerned with the training of apprentices, and more with the social organization of working spellcasters. It includes a sample wizards guild, along with a map, and large quantities of setting detail. A long and elaborate article, this is a pretty good place to start from in designing your own, as it will probably need a bit of adaption to fit into an existing campaign. Pretty pleasing, as it's another good example of their improvement at building campaign worlds at this point.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Back to the spellbooks this month, as they give us some more tricks for exceedingly powerful spellcasters.

The book of black circles is a very interesting item indeed. With spells that allow you to detect magical potential in ordinary people, prevent them from advancing in magical power until they prove themselves worthy, and enforce a magical hierarchy, it is designed for a very particular kind of wizardly guild, and putting it in your game encourages a very particular kind of story. This is a strong thematic choice that may not be for every group, but is pretty cool, and definitely worth considering.

Laendar's book of metamorphoses is rather more self-explanatory. A big spellbook full of shapeshifting magic, including two new spells, it also has an awkward curse that takes place slowly, and is exceedingly hard to get rid of. This is another one that makes for dramatic stories, as the transformations it can inflict take place slowly enough that a race against time quest to cure them is a very viable option. Both of these are definitely intended for games where roleplaying is more important than pure hack-and-slash combat optimization. Overall, a very pleasing entry, that feels very much in the upcoming 2E spirit.

Speaking with the spirits: More call of cthulhu coolness here. Seances were rather popular around the turn of the last century, so of course Cthulhu by gaslight had some stuff on them written. But cutting for space happened yet again, and now their loss is the magazine's gain. Do you really want to sit in a circle and call up the dead when OOC, you know exactly what mind bending horrors lurk out there? Eh, you gotta go sometime. As this is CoC, you may not be dealing with the spirits of the dead at all, but insubstantial extradimensional horrors that'll take you over and use you for their own ends, and these get statted up for your use. As this is from an actual book, the quality of writing is pretty good, although thematically some of the elements don't mesh perfectly with the mythos setting. I suppose it depends how much of a purist you are. And it doesn't hurt to surprise people anyway in a milieu like this.

Oh look - a harmless statue!: Now there's a phrase you'll never see an experienced group of adventurers say. They're almost as bad as skeletons for coming to life at awkward moments. So here's 30 ways that you can make your animated guardians a little less obtrusive. Recessed into walls, dressed up dummys, silly poses, many of these are rather amusing. This will of course have the long term effect of making your players even more paranoid. Generally, I'm rather fond of this kind of article, and this is no exception, as it also gives you plenty of ways you can mechanically customise your monsters. Another short article that'll give you hours of fun.

Ars Magica! Now this is advancement. This is turning out to be a very good year indeed for new games.

Fiction: The visitor by Llynne Moore. Hee. Bait and switch. Always a fun way to get people to remember you, if not always particularly favourably. So it goes here, in a story which builds the drama up and up, into purple prose territory, and then deflates in in one swift rush of humour at the end, with almost as much finesse as Harry Turtledove managed in issue 113. Which is pretty amusing to me, anyway. Taking things too seriously is one of the great dangers of writing, and mocking those who take themselves too seriously one of the great pleasures. Which this manages just fine, with lots of very D&D specific tropes mentioned. Woo.

The new, Improved druid: Hmm. New druid powers? Interesting. In actual fact, this is a substantial nerf disguised as a power-up. Reducing the range of creatures you can shapeshift into? Codifying poison brewing abilities in a way that substantially reduces their power, and competely ignores the many non-damaging penalties you can inflict with chemicals. Spells which seem out of theme (druids do not manipulate undead. ) This is not a good article both in terms of mechanical and thematic design. I very strongly disapprove. One to avoid.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 139: November 1988

part 3/5

TSR previews: D&D gets GAZ9: the minrothad guilds. Want to be a merchant prince rather than a dungeoneer? Let's hope they figure out how to make another playstyle fun.

AD&D gives Kara-Tur it's own full boxed set. Zeb Cook must be very happy that he gets to keep revisiting and adding to this.

Marvel Superheroes is picking up the pace with it's third gamers handbook following hot on the heels of the second. M to R get to find out all their powers. And now we must fight.

Novelwise, as mentioned earlier, we have Azure Bonds. Alias and crew gotta do what they gotta do. Will you enjoy reading about it too? Dragonlance is still recycling material on the other hand, with our third installment of the graphic novel conversion of the first series.

And finally, on the wargaming front, the Sniper system gets the Bug Hunter game. As inspired by Predator and Starship troopers. Now that's how you don't do alien relations.

Buck Rogers has yet more upcoming products next year. They really are going to push this for everything they can, aren't they.

Hand-to-hand Against the rules: Nerf time again. They've introduced tons of new martial arts in the magazines, plus a few general revisions. But here, the writer wants to reduce the access many classes have to these powers. He also wants to save us from ourselves, by fixing the problem of classes specialising in them when it would provide markedly less benefit than specialising with a weapon. This article actually turns out to be better thought out than first impressions would indicate, if rather conservative in terms of enforcing training requirements and social divisions. Not every member of each class should have the same attitude, especially in a setting where members of one class often pretend to be members of another. A mixed bag of suggestions here, some of which I like, and others which I don't. Guess I'll just have to do the usual plunder and discard routine then.

Jetboots, don't fail me now: Star Frontiers' article this month attempts to solve that old chessnut of making exciting chase scenes when everyone of the same race moves at the same rate. And fail, because the solution used still results in a fixed movement rate for a particular individual, only now that rate varies slightly based on their attributes. So success or failure in a chase is still pretty much fixed. And they don't even take encumbrance into account. A not particularly good bit of filler.

Sage advice: Can a spellcaster memorise a lower level spell in a high level slot (No, unless they use metamagic. That would let you cast particular spells more often and mess up the game balance)

Can you be hurt by your own fireball (Oh yes. Muahahaha! Don't forget the volume of the fireball splays out if there isn't enough room for it to expand properly. Fireballs in dungeons are responsible for many adventurer casualties. )

Are there restrictions on magic-users trading spells ( Only whatever costs indivdual magic-users impose. Aren't you glad you don't have to deal with an overarching organisation imposing stupid union rules like thieves, assassins, monks, druids, etc. )

Can rangers wear plate mail (If they don't mind the stealth penalties. )

How do rangers get MU spells (from the justified ancients of mu-mu. Kick out the jams, y-all!)

What level do rangers cast spells, do they get bonus spells for high stats, can they use items for magic users once they can cast spells (Rerun questions. Change the channel luv)

How can a ranger build a stonghold if they can only own what they can carry ( If someone else technically owns it. )

Do elven rangers surprise chances stack (no, use the best.)

Can dual class fighters and rangers specialise or not ( Depends if you take material from dragon as official. Remember, Gary's stuff isn't official anymore, no matter how much he claimed it was at the time. )

What do I do with characters made before the new rules (We'll forgive you if you retcon them, just this once. )

Can you get proficiency in two weapon fighting ( We do not recommend it Keep whining and wait another 12 years)

Is specialization in swords in general or a specific type (One type. Again, you'll have to wait a bit for weapon groups to come into style. )

Can you specialize in more than one weapon (No. Bad twink. )

Does weapon specialization count as a magic bonus (no)

Why can't assassins use shields anymore (they can, just not during assassinations. Union regulations, again.)

Do you have to roll to hit when assassinating (depends if you're abstracting the process or not. The jury is still out on this one. We suspect they may choose to scrap assassins altogether rather than answer it)

Can you backstab or assassinate with missile weapons (Skip says No! kids. Other writers will subsequently contradict him. Skip sometimes wishes he could cap all those bitches asses. )

Can you backstab with two weapons (Once you've attacked once, the element of surprise is gone, so nope. )

Do you multiply strength or magical bonuses on a backstab (No, only the dice.)

Do super high level thieves get more than 5x damage on backstabs (no)

Why can't thieves use longbows ( Not stealthy enough, and not thematic)

Do you add elves chance to surprise to their move silently odds (no. use the best roll. Don't keep on.)

How far can a thief acrobat fall (oh, pointless minutinae, oh mindless tedium. whyeyeyeyey. Miaow. )

What races can become thief-acrobats (any that can become thieves. Of the base classes, that means any at all, doesn't it. How generous are we! )

Do thief-acrobats pay extra for training (Nope. Skip likes thief-acrobats. They're cool. Skip does not like assassins. They're not cool. Skip is very partisan. Boom boom muthafuckers and I'm not talking about Basil Brush here. )

Do gauntlets of ogre power give you the bonuses to your acrobat skills. (only in your arms, so it only affects your pole vaulting rating. )

Does evasion affect missile attacks (yes)

How can thief acrobats multiclass (same as regular thieves. Have you no power of inferance at all? )

Can assassins become thief-acrobats (no, as they're part of the same class group. )

What races can become cleric/thieves (originaly only half-orcs, but in our benevolence, we have opened up a whole load more in UA)

Are druid/illusionists possible (Theoretically, but there's currently no class other than humans which can be both, unless you allow winged folk (issue 51 ) in your game. And given how twinked they are, that would be a bad idea. )

Who can become magic-user/assasins (lots of elf subraces. Fear them. )

Can a dual classed cleric/fighter use edged weapons (Skip is a maverick! Skip says yes! Skip forgets how annoying gods are. This is in contradiction of previous rulings and common sense and skip may get slapped for it. )

Can you combine specialization and backstabbing (No! Only single classed characters may specialize. Not sure if specialized characters can dual class though. )

Can multiclassed fighter/mages wear plate (As long as they don't mind not being able to cast spells. Which rather defeats the point, doesn't it. )

Can barbarians and cavaliers multiclass (they have to be human, so not at the moment. This may change as more races are introduced )

How do demihumans add another class after play (They can't. Oh, woeforous fate. I have chosen my path, and now I am bound to it, unto level I max out and beyond. )

When can fighter-illusionist specialize (only if they are human, and newly adopting the fighter class)

Do multiclass casters stack levels to determine spell power (No. Note that this is far less crippling than it would be in 3rd edition, because of the exponential nature of the XP tables)

How do proficiencies work for muticlassed characters. (They get all of them, but have to spend them separately.)

Can humans become triple classed (if they have the obscene stats needed)

Can a dual classed fighter make multiple attacks. (Depends. They might be forced to forfeit all their XP for doing so if they do it at the wrong time)

Half orcs still haven't had their errata from issue 35 added to the PHB (Sigh. Well spotted. We really ought to get round to that. )

Do elves get their full surprise chance while wearing elfin chain (Nope. Even they aren't that good at armourmaking. Makes you wonder why they bother. )
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