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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 142: February 1989

part 4/5

The role of computers: Empire comes out on two new systems, and gets reviewed again. This concentrates on the differences, such as graphics, the new method of copy protection, and design errata. Rather a dull review really.

Ikari warriors and Karnov get converted from arcade games. This is a good reminder why arcades were big business back then, as they do suffer a bit in the change. Still, neither are bad games, so it's more stuff for your ROM'ing pleasure.

Contra gets nul points because it's copy protection scheme was stupid, and it refused to co-operate with their computer at all, so they couldn't play it. Hah. Rush'N Attack also gets a load of copy protection griping. Egads, they're doing a lot of that this issue. Odd theme to choose to focus on, if understandable if most games back then used some different idiosyncratic means of trying to prevent piracy.

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is another puzzle/Adventure game from the people who brought you maniac mansion. While not as good overall, it does have some refinements in terms of interface design. Oh, if only they could go back and apply them to the old games.

Battlehawks gets 5 stars. A simulation of WWII fighter planes, you can play from both sides, and do several tricky missions. The degree of research and realism is quite considerable. They really are rather fond of Lucasfilm at the moment.

Microsoft flight simulator version 2.0 also gets a pretty good review. People are certainly sparing no expense on making stuff like this. Course, that's easier to do when you consider how expensive the biggest games are to produce back then.

PT-109, Falcon AT, and Final Assault are also simulation games, covering Boating, yet another flight simulator, and mountain climbing, respectively. Man, this onslaught of tiny reviews is getting tiresome. This column isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Star saga 1: Beyond the boundary merges computer game and choose your own adventure book in a rather distinctive looking fashion. That sounds like a curious play experience, but the reviewers enjoy it. Certainly a change of pace.

Pharaoh's revenge gets the same marks as the last one, but a rather more negative review, as they point out that the graphics are seriously outdated. Oh, how very superficial.

Wizardry IV finally gets a review, a year after first being covered. Since they already went into plenty of detail back then, this is another brief synopsis, pointing out that this is not for newbies, and very hard indeed. Hmm.

Shufflepuck cafe is a computer game of the sport, with light sci-fi trappings. Using a mouse provides a reasonable approximation of a real paddle. It does seem like it would be more fun two-player.

Finally, we get a rather cheeky little plug, as they review the clue book for the D&D Pool of radiance game. If you're stumped, put some more into the companies coffers, and get plenty of spoilers on how to win the game. Save it for if you're really stuck.


Made-to-order clerical orders: Statistics time again! Just how common are clerics and faithful citizens in D&D worlds? The answers, as is often the case, don't quite add up. When there's dozens of gods in an area, all competing for worship, it's easy to wind up with either only one or two priests per god, or a proportion of the population being clerics that seems a bit untenable in a medieval society. (unless of course, there are enough high level ones to create food magically for all the hierarchy. ) This is one of those cases where I respect the methods of the author, while not being particularly keen on their conclusions, and is definitely an area you should customise for your own campaign, rather than taking this in slavishly. It does have a nice little map, a new spell, and lots of Realms specific examples, and isn't bad, but it's not one I can see myself using.
 

Armchair Gamer

New member
Dragon Magazine Issue 142: February 1989

part 1/5

84 pages (32 page insert missing) So second edition is just a few months away. (while the release of the books may be staggered, it certainly isn't by the length that the 1st edition ones were. ) They want to promote this quite a bit. Unfortunately, whatever twonks scanned the Archive in thought that this wasn't worth preserving for posterity. Which means I can't review it. :(
The Archive team may not have preserved it . . . but WotC did.

One free and legal PDF of the AD&D 2nd Edition Preview booklet, for your consideration.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 142: February 1989

part 5/5

Arcane lore: A whole grab bag of druid spells from various freelancers here this month.

Animal/bird call are cut down versions of the usual summoning spells. They may bring the creatures, but they don't control them. At 1st level, you'll have to use your brains and exploit their natural tendencies to make them useful.

Coalstone is another low key, but tremendously handy little trick. Like continual light cast on an object, only with the additional benefit that you can use it to burn stuff like an actual coal, having one of these in your pack is a huge benefit every evening. The kind of thing you can see becoming a commonplace utility spell in any society where magic isn't too rare.

Druidsight lets you see through the eyes of an animal and order them around. Just what you need for when you've run out of shapeshifts for the day, and need to do some inconspicuous spying. Once again, they prove that what wizards can do, druids can do sooner, and with more side benefits if you apply the powers cleverly.

Hailstone proves that there are still some things wizards are better at, being a nature based relation of magic missile, only not as accurate or damaging. Still, any blasty spells are better than none, and it isn't annoyingly context dependent like call lightning.

Sense Direction lets you know which way north is. Elementary, really. Nuff said.

Sharpleaf lets you turn easily available plant parts into dangerous weapons. Be it as melee, missile weapons, caltrops, or simply tools, they can bring the pain quite adequately.

Shatter Stone and metal lets you not only destroy the weapons of your opponents, but do so explosively, adding injury to insult. A classic of screwage that'll annoy and scare players even more than a rust monster. They are producing a lot of seriously handy powers in this installment.

Sink into earth lets you do a bit of safe underground hibernation. Very thematic.

Splinter wood is like the metal one earlier, only lower level and affecting wood. No matter what your equipment is made of, a powerful druid can ruin it. So much for technology. Go the pure magical force route or something.

Stonewood lets you make wood as hard as stone, duh. Exactly which of the shattering spells now affects it is not clarified. Since it is fairly high level, I would incline towards conservatism. Things that look like one thing and act like another are a good source of screwage and counter-screwage.

Thunderclap is also pretty self-explanatory. The ability to inflict permanent deafness as an AoE attack is not to be sneezed at at all. It may not be as damaging to your HP as fireball or call lightning, but it is a bit trickier to get rid of. If you don't have a cleric, you'd better have money to burn.

Tracking lets druids effortlessly outclass rangers at one of their specialities, just as knock and levitation lets wizards marginalise thieves. Here we go again with the power creep.

Warp stone or metal completes the symmetry of object screwage, being lower level than the shattering one, but higher level than warp wood. Even if it's not as damaging, you can pull some clever tricks by choosing the directions in which the object is warped. And possibly even express your artistic side as well. :p

Weather dome gives you a mobile AoE forcefield against unwelcome weather of all types. It's a bit expensive to use every time there's a bit of drizzle, and that'd be the kind of thing which puts you out of touch with nature if overdone, but it is rather nice to have as an option.

Wind and rain protection does pretty much the same thing, only on a single target for a much shorter duration, at lower level. The two spells were done independently by different people, and boy does it show in their design choices and overall power disparity.

This is an article exceedingly full of versatility increases, and in many cases outright power creep. Definitely a fun one to read, but also another one that reinforces the current spellcasters are way better than other classes attitude. There is very little magic can't do quicker and better. And the edition change is going to do nothing to fix this.


Dragonmirth offends those on high. Yamara starts metaplotting. Things go from bad to worse for Snarf.


Another mixed bag, with some good articles, but the reviews seem to be fluctuating in quality rather. Another fairly average one overall, it is nevertheless a reminder that the magazines used to be easier to get through, and eventually, they will become so again. But in the immediate future, the issues are only going to get bigger. It's still going to be several years before I can get this millstone off my neck, so I'd better think of new ways to keep it interesting. Onward! I may have missed the 2nd ed preview, but I can still see the real thing, which is far more important.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Heh. Funny. If the site is so labyrinthine, should we just call it a dungeon and start checking for pit traps?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 142: February 1989

Addendum: part 6/5


The Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition preview: Yay! Thanks to reader generosity, I do have access to this little bit of historical foreshadowing now. Skimming it, it's obvious that although it was included in the magazine, it wasn't designed by their layout staff. And it actually looks a bit scrappy by comparison, with it's single column type, huge margins, and skimpy use of artwork. They could definitely have condensed this down to 28, possibly even 24 pages without losing anything. But anyway. As with the astral plane article, reviews, and other big deliveries, I shall divide up my review using the headers that they use.

The cover is the only bit with any colour. On it, they display not only the three corebooks, but also the character record sheets, the Dungeon Master's screen, and the covers to volumes 2 and 3 of the monstrous compendia. Guess that shows they already have follow-ups aimed to support all segments of the game, pretty near completion and ready to roll. Are you ready for the supplement treadmill?

Introduction: Ahh, here we get our first bit of possible controversy. Wanting to clean up the rules so they're better organized and easier to learn and reference during play is one thing that they've consistently championed all through the development process. However, the other big change in approach is a new one. They consciously reject the "There is One True Way to play the Official AD&D™ Game" proclamations made by Gary in the early 1st ed days, in favour of actively encouraging you to houserule and pick which bits and pieces from the supplements you use in your campaign. They're also pretty open about the fact that this edition is going to change even more over it's lifespan, as they continue to learn and write new stuff. Actually, I do have to say that sounds more appealing to me than the idea of freezing the game in amber, I've never been a very enthusiastic chess player. But I can see why some people would take that as a personal snub, even though Gary was the personal architect of some pretty big changes to the game in UA and OA, and would probably have made more if he was still part of the company.

What we've been doing: And here they affirm that most of the changes are purely due to public demand, and the reason it's been so long between editions is because of a combination of finding there was more corrections and tweaking needed than they thought at first, and the need to make sure they properly tested all these adjustments. All pretty consistent with what we've been reading in the bulletins from the top since 1985. They seem to be pretty much on the level here, given the conservativeness of the changes, the fact that only a few that everyone agreed on got made all adds up. No objections here.

The new Players Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide: Hmm. This is probably the biggest bit of selling the new edition by crapping on the old one here. But then, given that even Gary admitted that the organization of the 1st ed PHB & DMG could do with some improvement, probably not unwarranted. They talk quite a lot about the choice between structuring it as an instruction manual and a reference book. Since basic D&D, particularly Mentzer ed, already does the step by step intro to roleplaying thing quite well, I think I agree with the reference manual choice. It is Advanced D&D still. Readers shouldn't feel patronised.

The Monstrous Compendiums: Ahh yes, the loose leaf folder approach to assembling your monster collection, as suggested by Stuart Malone way back in issue 30. I still think that could have worked, if they'd only made sure that full alphabeticality was maintained by giving each monster it's own two page spread. (With some more condensation of multiple subtypes of the same monster into a single entry.) Having fewer creatures covered with greater depth and customisability, so we don't need crap like different humanoid races for the 1/2, 1-1, 1, 1+1, 1+2, etc hp ranges, and don't have multiple creatures filling the same role; would definitely have made things more elegant. But then, which ones do you cut in a situation like that? If one person was doing it, you could probably hammer something out. But with hundreds of clamouring voices, all with their own little personal favourites they'll fight to the death to keep, you soon wind up with barely any streamlining at all, which is soon negated as yet more cruft is added to the system. So it goes.
Anyway, other notable tidbits are the fact that this time, they're leaving all the extraplanar creatures out until later. An understated hint towards certain controversies they'll have to deal with next year. And the fact that they're only introducing new monsters to make sure each letter of the alphabet has an even number of creatures amuses me somewhat. They certainly think they've planned this out well enough, even though they're making a few elementary errors.

The Big Changes: Ahh yes, updating the maximum press so that 18/00 keeps track with the accomplishments of real world strongmen. I find that rather amusing. But you still run into the limits of their tables when portraying really big or otherwise powerful creatures, instead of providing a formula for infinite extension. And their lift capacities seem stupidly small for massive creatures that weigh tons. We'll have to wait another decade for that little improvement. The rest of this bit is a demonstration of how much more attention spellcasters got back then. The considerable increase rogues get in flexibility and customizability gets only a few lines, compared to the massive bits on the new school specialisation and sphere systems. And of course, warriors actually got nerfed in the change, with the removal of double specialisation and the more twinked subclasses. If anything, they're the only ones that are even less interesting now. Roll on the complete fighters handbook. Similarly, it seems a little strange that they would only cut out a single race (half-orcs) from the corebook, especially when they're doubling it's size and adding so much. Course, they don't mention the real reason why, because mentioning rape in a positive preview would be impolitic. Still, at least THAC0 has been made official, and the combat table smoothed out so fighty sorts get benefits from leveling quicker and more evenly. That's definitely a good point. And of course, there's the elimination of sexism in the strength tables. That'll please a few people. So it's mostly good changes here, but also a few clunkers and some more that don't go nearly far enough. Which are which is of course a subject for much argument.

What's new: More than half of this section is devoted to nonweapon proficiencies. Now this is an area that IMO, they definitely didn't go far enough on, and the fact that it was treated as optional in the corebook, but a huge number of supplements and gameworlds took it as standard really put horrible stresses on the system. The tiny number of them that you got was never enough, especially after a load of supplements added their own "must-haves" for particular roles, and it's no surprise that a lot of the complete handbooks gave out lots of bonus ones with kits, and interpreted the bonus language rules to allow you to spend those slots on other skills. Once again, I am reminded that at one point in the development process, Zeb wanted to fold thief skills into the nonweapon proficiency system, and I think that could probably work if you rolled them in and divided the number of % points they get per level by 5, allowing thieves and bards to become the generalised skill monkeys as well, getting several slots per level to pick up new ones and enhance existing abilities.
One thing they have rolled properly into the skill system is the Ranger's tracking ability. While they can still do it best by far, now anyone can pick it up if they have the slots. And once again, they've tinkered with the modifiers. Actually, that probably is an improvement. As is the rest of the stuff. New equipment. Cleaned up mobility and visibility rules. The little advantages of ten years of consistent play.

Shifting gears: And finally, it's a little more fear allaying. The new system is entirely compatible with the old characters, and you don't have to ditch your old illusionists and assassins unless you really want too. You don't have to make the changes all at once, you don't have to throw out the old rulebooks. It's not a big deal. Not sure whether to feel reassured or patronized, but it definitely contrasts sharply with the aggressive conversion strategy of the 2-3 changeover, and the clean slate reboot of the 3-4e one. Goes to show, there are very different ways to go about an edition change, and it definitely affects how the customers respond.

So all in all, it's a pretty straightforward, no frills little bit of advertising. It could definitely have stood a bit more prettying up for maximum selling ability, but it more than does the job both in showcasing the good points of the change, and hinting towards the controversies and problems they'll face in the next few years, with bowdlerisation, supplement bloat, and excess options confusion. We aren't going to be surprised by the big course of history here. It's just a matter of how interesting and amusing I'll find the little details. On we go then, to see the real thing.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
What's new: More than half of this section is devoted to nonweapon proficiencies. Now this is an area that IMO, they definitely didn't go far enough on, and the fact that it was treated as optional in the corebook, but a huge number of supplements and gameworlds took it as standard really put horrible stresses on the system. The tiny number of them that you got was never enough, especially after a load of supplements added their own "must-haves" for particular roles, and it's no surprise that a lot of the complete handbooks gave out lots of bonus ones with kits, and interpreted the bonus language rules to allow you to spend those slots on other skills. Once again, I am reminded that at one point in the development process, Zeb wanted to fold thief skills into the nonweapon proficiency system, and I think that could probably work if you rolled them in and divided the number of % points they get per level by 5, allowing thieves and bards to become the generalised skill monkeys as well, getting several slots per level to pick up new ones and enhance existing abilities.
Not without changing the skill mechanic pretty dramatically. The thief skill and proficiency systems are radically different. Thief skills start very low (even in 2E, a starting character's base chance to find traps can't exceed 35%), and a high Dex only has a slight impact (an 18 increases the chance to find traps by +5%).

On the the other hand, a proficiency check is an ability check. Without big negative modifiers, the chance of success starts at 50% or so. More importantly, the difference between a Dex of 10 and a Dex 18 is huge. The equivalent of +40%, if converted to the thief skill system.

High stats are everything in the proficiency system. And given the scarcity of non-weapon proficiency slots, there's a reason almost nobody ever bothered to spend more than the minimum number of slots to get a proficiency. A 15th thief with a Dex of 10 who put every single NWP slot into Tumbling is still 2 points worse at Tumbling than a 1st level thief with a Dex of 18.

Either way, it's more of a change than they were willing to make.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
A few comments. I've cut out the most of it to leave only the bits I'm responding to.

The cover is the only bit with any colour. On it, they display not only the three corebooks, but also the character record sheets, the Dungeon Master's screen, and the covers to volumes 2 and 3 of the monstrous compendia. Guess that shows they already have follow-ups aimed to support all segments of the game, pretty near completion and ready to roll. Are you ready for the supplement treadmill?
Some of the books are quite clearly mockups, which is probably unsurprising; both the character sheets and the third Monstrous Compendium volume have different covers than what they were eventually released with.

Edit: Taking another look, I think they all might be mockups. I believe that the first two volumes of the Monstrous Compendium differed slightly on release from what's shown there. (Namely, no box around the cover illustrations.)

But I can see why some people would take that as a personal snub, even though Gary was the personal architect of some pretty big changes to the game in UA and OA, and would probably have made more if he was still part of the company.
I seem to recall that Gygax wasn't actually the author of the majority of OA, despite his name being given the prominent place on the cover. Anybody recall?

Anyway, other notable tidbits are the fact that this time, they're leaving all the extraplanar creatures out until later.
2 years later, to be precise. They won't get a full treatment until 1992's MC8: Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

Similarly, it seems a little strange that they would only cut out a single race (half-orcs) from the corebook, especially when they're doubling it's size and adding so much. Course, they don't mention the real reason why, because mentioning rape in a positive preview would be impolitic.
On the other hand, Zeb Cook's comments about 2 years ago regarding the removal of the half-orc (apparently his decision, along with the removal of assassins) suggest a different reason -- and possibly a different view of the game than some/many players:

Zeb Cook said:
The half-orc wasn't that crucial a part of the game and again tended to create more problems than opportunities. Again, not an issue of PC but of play of the game. The "create your own race/class" system was intended to let clever players reinvent the half-orc (and other interesting monster types) in ways that worked for their games.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 143: March 1989

part 1/5

108 pages. Now this is a nice cover. A dragon in the sights of a fighter jet. Do ya feel lucky? Will the missiles have any effect? It'll be interesting finding out.

In this issue:

Letters: This month's letters page is a whole host of errata and rules questions. The lifecycle of Spectators. Name changes and body changes. Tactics for dealing with Metalmasters. Attributing the wrong name to the wrong illustration. Incredulity at how crap kobolds ability scores are. All pretty inconsequential stuff in the greater scheme of things.


Forum: Ed Friedlander gives a system for speeding up the resolution of when characters are bombarded with missile weapons. These will average out the amount of damage you take per round to a substantial, but survivable amount for high level characters, making army firefights actually a reliably calculable threat to them.

Bob Tarantino things people shouldn't look down on ordinary D&D. Simplicity in mechanics is not a bad thing, as it lets you concentrate on roleplaying. And really, who uses weapon speed factors anyway?

Thomas W Gossard reminds us once again to remember to apply the logical consequences of spellcasting to our worlds, this time in matters of law enforcement.

Daniel W Howard is allowed to reply immediately to this commentary. He agrees with it in principle, but remember that any society with pretensions to human rights will likely restrict when spells can be used to expedite the legal process. (and most which are tyrannical will be wary about training ordinary guardsmen with that kind of power. ) Even in countries with security cameras everywhere, they aren't really used to their full potential. (thank god)

Timothy Koneval is also interested in magical substitutes to real technology, and the uses they could be put too in probing the physics of their universe. Even the Greeks managed some surprisingly accurate theories. Don't underestimate the supposed primitives.

K B LaBaw is not happy about the sidelining of evil characters in the new edition. There's already more stuff for good ones, and getting rid of assassins just makes that worse.

John C Tiedermann also has a good deal of fun playing the bad guy, and thinks other people shouldn't be afraid to try it either. What have you got to lose? It's only a game.

Christopher E Brogan has a separate campaign in which they play evil characters as a way of blowing off steam. Sometimes you just want to smash stuff, and damn the consequences.

Darren Hennessey also enjoys the idea of playing reversed D&D, with the players taking the role of the monsters, and trying to figure out how to deal with those damned heroes.

Stanley Bundy, on the other hand, has a real world example of what happens when evil gains the upper hand, destroying a community of players. Plus it gives fuel to the people who say D&D is satanic. We really don't need that after all the work we've done to gain acceptance.

Eric Sonnestuhl suggests that magic-users with high int should be able to memorise more spells than they can cast. That would make them more versatile without hugely increasing their power. Interesting idea. I wonder how it would turn out.

Wendell Works makes the rather prophetic suggestion of dividing magic-user spells into common, rare, and unique ones, based on how easy they are to get hold of and learn. Are you paying attention, Monte?
 
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