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

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T. Foster

Retired User
Dragon Issue 103: November 1985
From the sorceror's scroll: Now UA is out, it's time for your esteemed writers here at TSR to start seriously considering a second edition. Of course, it will take us several years to figure out exactly what to change and how, and write it up properly, based upon the feedback of our gentle readers, so do not worry. Your views will be crucial in its shaping, and you will receive plenty of warning as to its release, so you can prepare your campaigns accordingly. Let me elucidate as too the current plans. Assassins go byebye (my oh my). Bards become an ordinary class again. Mystic, savant and jester to be introduced as new official classes. Classes from UA and OA to be put in the players handbook. Deities to be more powerful and less firmly defined. More difference between clerics based upon god worshipped. Legends & Lore to be considered one of the corebooks. Now, how do we do this without making the books too damn big for casual players? As ever, this is very interesting, particularly when you compare it with what actually happened. Some of this came to pass, some didn't, and some retained the basic intention, but the details got changed along the way. Definitely one for the historical perspective files and citing in flame wars and wikipedia. Also interesting to note that the 2nd edition would probably have been out a year or two sooner, had the crisis of leadership not happened. The massive gaps between the early editions may not have been entirely intentional.

Arcana update, part 1: Errata, errata. Serve it up on a platter. Use it to make the next printing better. Yes, not only was it flimsily made, UA was an exceedingly errata-ridden book, and it seems that TSR's Loyal Readers wasted no time in sending letters to the company pointing this out, with various degrees of added vitriol. So we have four pages of various clarifications and corrections. Somewhere between amusing and tiresome to read in retrospect, this was of course Serious Business at the time. Question is, is this extra publicity for the book a good or bad thing? I'm betting bad. It'd certainly weaken my trust in a company, finding out they'd produced shoddy goods. As ever, the opinions of anyone who was there at the time on this matter would be very welcome.
Although we only realized it in retrospect, these are actually Gary's last articles before his ouster -- after these we get a couple years of ominous silence, followed by a (per Gary, heavily redacted) "farewell" column in #122 (June 1987), and then nothing at all until the WotC era where he was brought back for a reminiscence column that ran for several years -- from #267 (Jan 2000) to #320 (June 2004), with a few gaps.


I'm a boat
Validated User
Assassins go byebye (my oh my).
It's interesting to note that Gygax was talking about removing the assassin from his proposed 2nd ed., given that the removal of it is one of the things that some critics of the 2nd ed. we got like to pillory Cook (and TSR in general) for.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 103: November 1985

part 2/4

All about krynn's gnomes: Great. Tinker gnomes. Comedy relief race number three of Dragonlance. Stop talking when I am, the rest of us can't speak and listen at the same time. (now that is a useful special power. Screw mining, super accurate throwing and infravision, I want to be able to talk constantly and parallel process multiple conversations in my head at the same time.) These guys are actually reasonably cool, differing from humanity in such a way that doesn't prevent them from each having individual personalities, and being far more distinctive than generic gnomes. But the comic relief incompetence elements are laid on pretty thick. Still, if I had to choose between the three so far, I'd take these guys. Unfortunately, it seems that my earlier hope that we'd also get articles on the non comedy relief races is not to be granted, as this is the last in the series. Once more, their editorial direction seems to be slipping away from me, as they fail to cover stuff that seems obvious. This is most annoying. I wanted to like dragonlance back in the day, I really did, but they just kept making mistakes like this. So frustrating.

A samurai riding a foo dog attacking a ninja. That's .... certainly an iconic, if stereotyped image to advertise oriental adventures with. Is there such a thing as being too obvious in your adverts? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say yes.

Queen victoria and the holy grail module for call of cthulhu?? Okay. How'd they manage to make a title as pulpy as that properly horrific? Sounds like a right cheesefest.

A dozen domestic dogs: Having given us wild canines last issue, Stephen Innis now turns his attention to tame breeds. Thankfully, he doesn't try and give individual stats to every one, instead giving us a nice matrix of size and role that should handle everything from toy poodle to rotweiler, plus some more specific notes on dogs bred and trained to fill a function. This is an oasis of calm compared to the last few articles, being completely disconnected to the larger arc of D&D's history. And steve is as reliable as ever in producing stuff that is both mechanically sound and properly researched. The magazine would be a worse product without him.

DC heroes! Well, I guess marvel have had an RPG out for a while. I'm not surprised DC want a piece of the pie as well. That's a lot of tm's for one page. Who will win the battle for your playing time?

The role of books: The silver Crown by Joel Rosenberg is part three of the Guardians of the flame series. This certainly isn't the end of it though, as our protagonists find changing a fantasy world rather more complicated than you'd think. The writer certainly seems to be keeping up with recent progressions in gaming technology. Where will the story take them next. Will they ever get home. Will it be exactly when they left and no-one will ever know about the things they did. Shouldn't be hard to find out.
The song/flight of Mavin manyshaped by Sheri S Tepper are parts one and two of (what else) a trilogy, set in her True Game world. Thankfully, it's not some overegged piece where the world is in danger all the time, and has good plotting and dialogue. Her world is being built up quite nicely.
The secret country by Pamela C Dean takes a different tack to the regular people transported to fantasy land trope, with a bunch of kids dealing with fairytale logic in the Secret Country. They may not deal with it in the same way as Joels protagonists, but give them a few books, and they'll be hard-bitten adventurers too.
Bridge of birds by Barry Hughart is a fantasy novel set in 7th century china. Written as the memoirs of the protagonist, it manages to engage in both adventure and world-building while staying in character, building up a detailed and well-researched world. It gets thoroughly recommended for those of you who've just bought Oriental Adventures, and want fiction to help inspire a game.
Dragons of spring dawning by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman gets a rather extensive review, also looking at the trilogy as a whole. It builds up to a nice climax, and the reviewer certainly seems to think it's a suitable attempt to match tolkien's epic scope without slavishly imitating the details. Well, it was pretty popular at the time. I shouldn't be too surprised.
Magic in Ikthar, edited by Andre Norton and Robert Adams attempts to do for wizardry what the thieves world series did for rogues. Unfortunately, the shared worldbuilding aspect isn't strong enough, so the stories don't fit together that well. This is why you need editorial control. No matter how good the writers are, if they don't communicate, the result will be less than the sum of it's parts.
The Gadget factor by Sandy Landsman is your typical tale of teenage geniuses getting themselves into trouble by inventing a time machine. Amazing that I can be unsurprised by a trope that specific. Still, it's fast-paced, fun, and the computer stuff is handled in a coherent way, so it should be good fun for younger readers, who can identify with the protagonists.


Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
A dozen domestic dogs: Having given us wild canines last issue, Stephen Innis now turns his attention to tame breeds.
I wish he went a bit farther and did breeds for non-humans (and even non-humanoids). It will be more than 100 issues before we see domestic animals for elves and dwarves and it is only in the last 5 of the print issues that has dogs and birds domesticated by monsters (beholders, dragons and such).


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 103: November 1985

part 3/4

The centaur papers: Or, we got two good ecology of submissions, so we decided to merge them into an extra long and comprehensive one. At 12 pages long, this is virtually a full special feature. It goes into quite a bit of detail on the oddities of their internal system, diet, ecology and culture, doesn't forget that they are chaotic, and the original greek centaurs were a bunch of marauding drunkards, and treads the fine line between bowdlerisation of the myth and being too gross with aplomb. (yay for castration as a punishment for crime) They are also given PC stats, which is nice, (although they're nowhere near as capable in this area as they were in 2nd edition) and one would certainly make a decent addition to a party as long as they weren't faced with too many confined spaces. All in all, a very good article, that you'd never know was stitched together from two writers. Which means plenty of credit has to be given to Kim's editing as well. Not often you get to say that. Poor editors. The writers take the credit while they take the blame. Many shout-outs to Kim for making the magazine as good as it was, while I'm thinking of the subject.

The actual centerpiece of this issue is considerably less impressive. Another couple of pages of UA errata, designed so you can cut the bits out and stick them over the errors in the original book. Which is an interesting gimmick. Unfortunately, even the errata has errata, as the multi-classing table isn't properly formatted and suffers line drift. Well, at least they're trying. Shame this'll just be cementing peoples opinion of their editing skills. (in complete contradiction to what I said last article, but that just makes it all the more amusing, that they can be producing works of such widely varying quality in the same pages. ) What is going on over there. This issue is going up and down like, er, no, I won't complete this metaphor. Family friendly magazine, and all that.

Coming attractions changes its name to TSR Previews, and makes it absolutely clear that there will be no third party stuff here. Boo. They also don't have quite enough new stuff to fill the entire page this month, so they recycle some of last month's synopses. This is not particularly pleasing to me either. Sigh. Lets just see what the new stuff is.
D&D gets X10: Red arrow, black shield. As mentioned earlier, this combines roleplaying of troop gathering with Battlesystem and War machine stats for the actual conflict. Not your standard module.
AD&D gets Baltrons beacon. A sneaky one where you have to get hold of the macguffin before Baltron returns to his tower. Looks like another one where straight combat is not the solution.
One-on-one game books gives us book 4, Challenge of the druids grove. Druid vs Wizard! Who will gain ultimate power?! Muahaha.
Conan gets CN3: Conan triumphant. Based on the new book by Robert Jordan, this looks pastichealicious. Powerful barbarians, evil wizards, and hack-and-slash adventure. No pretensions to high art here.
Also notable is that there's a couple more cancellations. The SPI stuff gets the shaft, and has been delayed until next year. Take that, red-headed step-children.

Profiles: Oooh. a new feature. Time to put the spotlight on the writers behind the games. They could definitely fill a few years with this stuff. Unsurprisingly, our first one is of the head of the company, Gary Gygax. He really is working ridiculously hard these days, getting up at 5 in the morning to get the creative part of his job done before anyone else even comes in. He is of course, one of the founders of the company, although lots of credit is given to Donald Kaye in helping it find it's feet in those early years, which is nice of him. Of course, the current conflicts of personality the company is going through are completely ignored, and the whole thing is presented in an upbeat, the future is going to be even bigger and better manner. Bloody whitewashes. Still, this again has good advice for any a budding creative. If you have an idea, start doing it now. If you wait until you're ready, you never will be. Don't give up, even when things get hard, and everyone is messing you around. Once again, he is an inspiration to us all. How will they follow this up? Guess after starting at the top, they'll have to do an Orson Welles and work their way down.

Fiction: The wages of stress by Christopher Gilbert. Ha. A story set in 2007. As usual, they overestimate the rate of technological advancement. Although curiously, this stuff probably is within our current capabilities to create and implement. And given how big business compensation culture has become, and how unpleasantly omnipresent vehicle monitoring has become, something like it could still be tried. ( To go off topic, if the government tries to push implanting RFID chips in people under some pretense, I strongly reccomend opposing them in any way you can. They already do it to homeless people in some states, and it's a step towards big brother dystopia I would really rather not see come into common practice.) This does a good job of handling the speculative side of sci-fi, without neglecting the human drama, or getting bogged down in technical details. One of their strongest pieces in a while, along with the MMORPG one in issue 97, this shows just how well they can hit points that still have emotional resonance and cultural significance a few decades later. Discovering gems like this makes all the work of doing this worthwhile.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 103: November 1985

part 4/4

ARES log: A rather amusing editorial this month, as they loudly proclaim their accessability to foreign writers. We have lots of people in canada, and more than a few from the UK. Don't be shy. Send stuff in. Hee. Misconceptions like this are such a hassle.

Of nobbles and men: A rather strange little article here. Do you want to know more about Nobbles, the hornless rhinoesque grazing creatures that people on Tarsus herd. Can't say I ever did. Still, as the western genre shows, cowboy is an entirely valid adventuring choice, when you're trying to make a living in a wild and dangerous land, lots of things will be there to keep your life interesting. And the nobbles are rather more challenging creatures to herd than cows. This is surprisingly pleasing, as it does open up an adventuring style they haven't mentioned here before, which could well be transplanted to other genres and systems. Fancy giving your D&D characters a thousand cows and an assignment to transport them a thousand miles? I find this rather tempting.

Starquestions is doing gamma world again. No great surprises here then.:
How fast can a vibroblade cut through duralloy ( pretty quickly. Not much resistance there. )
How do you design adventures for high level characters (Politics and new frontiers. Both ways to up the stakes and challenge level by increasing the scope. )
Why are the symbols for craters and radiation the same (because that's where the nukes hit. Make sense?)
What do you use the range ruler for. (Moving your minis around the table and shooting stuff. )
Why are grenades and fungicide resolved differently when they're both burst attacks (ease of play)
Why can flying NPC's not go as fast as flying mutant PC's. ( It's not quite like that. It's just that the writers of the mutation and monster sections didn't co-ordinate. )
Where do the gamma world modules take place (all over north america. )
What city is sanjo (San Jose. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. )

The saurians: Star frontiers gets a new race. Lizard people? Oh, what an original idea [/sarcasm] Seems like they show up in any remotely kitchen sinkish universe. So we have stats that a primarily intended for NPC's, but are more than detailed enough for player use as well. No real surprises or original spin on the idea here. Such is the nature of cliche.

Tanks again!: Looks like this issue's theme of errata is continuing into the Ares section, with an article in issue 99 getting a follow-up. A single page article of corrections, clarifications and extensions, this is another one that is probably useful, but still not very interesting to read. Another article that feels like filler in quick succession. How disappointing.

A super-powered seminar!: Ahh, this is more interesting. Stuff from a seminar in which the creators of the various superhero RPG's around at the time got together and answered questions. Jeff Dee & Jack Herman representing villains and vigilantes. Ray Greer for the HERO system. Greg Gorden for DC heroes, and of course, Jeff Grubb handling the marvel side of the equation. How they were developed, the problems they encountered, and what's coming next for them. One of those reminders that the world of RPG's is a small place, and the sci-fi and superhero genres even more so. Everyone knows each other, even if they only really meet up at cons. Guess it's like actors and awards shows. This has been pretty enlightening for me, and apparently, them as well. See what a little communication gets you. It helps you combine all the best ideas from everyone.

The marvel-phile: Jeff also gets help from the official chronicler of the Marvel universe history this month. Guess this is another plus point of going to conventions, as well as a good indicator of his positive relationship with the game's parent company. If they had to go through an extensive niggly approvals process for every little bit of writing, these articles wouldn't be nearly as reliable as they are. Anyway, this month's detailed characters are Armadillo, Count Nefaria, and Hyperion. Only the newest and best (and in one case, already dead) for our magazine. We see how Marvel is currently riffing off DC with the Squadron Supreme series. We see how they must be running out of animals to steal superpowers from. Another solid entry in a series that could probably run forever, given the rate they create new characters for the comics.

Irving tries to figure out how to land safely in wormy. Snarf becomes absurdly suggestible. Both dragonmirth jokes this month feature actual dragons.

This has been rather an up and down issue. When it's good, it's good. When it's not, it's very boring indeed. Overall, this is a definite step downwards, yet again, from their issue 100 high. Lets hope they've saved up some special features for christmas, because otherwise next month is going to full-on suck. And I would rather prefer it didn't.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 104: December 1985

part 1/4

104 pages. Well, it looks like the meteoric rise is over. We get another look at their sales figures this month, and they're pretty much the same as last year, just a few thousand less. The magazine has reached it's commercial zenth, and now it's time for the long slow decline. We also have yet another D&D controversy to help that on its way. Ahh, the joys of misrepresentation. Anything can be done wrong. And a lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got it's boots on. We ought to know by now that most games are just harmless fun, not some unhealthy obsession. (says the guy who's spent several hours nearly every day for a year reading and writing about D&D, ahahahahaha! gibber!) So lets not stress too much. We can't change the past, all we can do is learn from it. So lets keep on learning. Looks like we have a thief special this month, with three articles devoted to them. Been a while since we had something like that. Still, I'm sure we will again.

In this issue:

Letters: We get a letter from the UK, pointing out the anachronisms in the city beyond the gate. I am not surprised at all. The author of the module replies that he based it heavily on reading the Borribles series, ( Hee, although I have to say I liked those books as well.) and he knew the police didn't have guns, but he put them in anyway so they could still be a challenge to the PC's. He also didn't do his research about decimalization, despite it being 15 years ago now. Dear oh dear. Shoulda run it past a real english person beforehand. This would be rather less likely to happen these days. Ahh, the joys of the internet. And that's our lot for now.

The forum: Richard W Emerich turns up for a third time, this time to chime up in favor of allowing PC's to pay to have magic items recharged. After all, once they're into the teen levels, and have the power to do this kind of thing, they also ought to have the money to get other people to do the tedious bits of maintaining the adventurer lifestyle for them. You should never miss an opportunity to streamline your magical capabilities, for it will save you much time and irritation.
Mark Deseck takes the time to introduce us to two new weapons, the sword-breaker, a real life example of a screwage counterweapon, and the pilium, a javelin designed to stick in shields so you can use it to make them useless. See the evil tactics you can do even without magic.
William Bond Jr thinks that no-one is perfect. Even paladins wind up doing neutral stuff sometimes. Don't judge them too harshly.
John maxstadt contributes a fairly long piece, spread over three pages in different parts of the magazine. Ahh, the horrors of formatting without whitespace with the old technology. Still, at least they try, unlike 4e. Anyway, he makes the case that if anything is going to kill D&D, it's oversophistication. Something that still might turn out to be true. He also has lots of contributions on the morality in fantasy debate.
Nick Jamilla talks about media misrepresentation, and the crap that TV people go through to get good stories. They've got problems and pressures of their own. Is it any wonder that things turn out slanted. This is why you shouldn't believe what you see on the TV. Everyone's got an angle and a reason why they're doing something. Remember to read between the lines.

The well-rounded thief: Ahh, the thief who steals from their own party. Not a problem I've had to deal with, but obviously common enough back then that it needed addressing. So here's a look at some of the more common motivations for your characters that don't involve them being a complete sociopath with no regard for anything apart from personal enrichment. Maybe they want revenge. Maybe they want to look cool. Maybe it's just a job, and they're as loyal to the gang as anyone else, because no-one likes a snitch or turncoat. Maybe they followed their parent/elder sibling into the profession, and just want to make them proud. This definitely falls into the category of roleplaying advice that I've heard plenty of times before. Break out of the stereotypes, and play an individual, etc, etc. They obviously think it's still interesting enough to put in pole position. Can't say I agree.

Race is ahead of class: The roleplaying advice continues, with this examination of how the average thief of a demihuman race will differ from a human one. Info gathering elves, technically inclined dwarves, mischevious gnomes, thuggish half-orcs, home comfort loving halflings lured away by curiosity. Once again, there's no great surprises here, if you're already familiar with the basics of the races. Whether your character adheres to those tendencies or not, is of course, up to you. Once again, this is pretty solid, but superceded by later works that went into greater detail. This is the problem with starting off later and then going back to things. It doesn't have the impact it had to first time viewers.


Sorcerer Supreme
Validated User
A super-powered seminar!: Ahh, this is more interesting. Stuff from a seminar in which the creators of the various superhero RPG's around at the time got together and answered questions. Jeff Dee & Jack Herman representing villains and vigilantes. Ray Greer for the HERO system. Greg Gorden for DC heroes, and of course, Jeff Grubb handling the marvel side of the equation. How they were developed, the problems they encountered, and what's coming next for them. One of those reminders that the world of RPG's is a small place, and the sci-fi and superhero genres even more so. Everyone knows each other, even if they only really meet up at cons. Guess it's like actors and awards shows. This has been pretty enlightening for me, and apparently, them as well. See what a little communication gets you. It helps you combine all the best ideas from everyone.
Kind of amazing in retrospect: all four of those games were very cool in their own ways.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 104: December 1985

part 2/4

Was it worth the risk?: And finally, we get some new crunch to finish off the themed section. If your thief wants to supplement their income by doing a little pickpocketing while in town, roll on this random table to see just who's pocket you pick. This of course has quite substantial dangers. During the daytime, you have an 18% chance of getting someone with significant class levels, or a disguised monster, that is capable of being a serious problem if they catch you. At night, this goes up to a whopping 35%, with demons and undead roaming the city streets. This is why thieves guilds are essential in D&D. Without that backup, 1st level characters trying their luck at larceny wouldn't survive their first day. Even the dungeon is safer than this. I find this very amusing. The table for what you get if you do make a successful lift is equally amusing. (yay for rubik's cubes) It's amazing what crap people keep in their pockets, most of which isn't very valuable. In general, this is a rather old skool article, which is best suited to mischievious and sadistic DM's running high fantasy games. It certainly makes an entertaining read, and would probably make for interesting (if rather lethal) games as well. The players won't be getting cocky anytime soon if they see you break out this one.

Oriental opens new vistas: They've been promoting it heavily for several months now. Just in case you hadn't noticed, here's a piece by David Cook, essentially giving a synopsis of what's in it. 8 new classes, tons of new weapons, martial arts, spells, monsters, plus the campaign world (or at least continent) of Kara-tur. Buy it, and you'll have tons of new stuff to play with, both as players and GM's. And you don't even need to stop your regular game to do so. Traveling, picking up new characters and dual-classing will allow gajin to experience the joys of the lands of the east as their players do. While if you do want to play a native, we have tons of everyday setting stuff to help you build a well characterized and integrated character. While obviously a pure shill piece, this is a good shill piece, that makes what they're selling seem desirable. I am rather tempted to pick it up second hand so I can make a more informed commentary. After all, it was rather popular.
(addendum: Since writing this, I have done so, as you will have seen if you've been reading along. And I have rather enjoyed reading it. While still a bit clunky in several ways (ninjas breaking the usual multiclassing rules, weapon and nonweapon proficiencies coming from the same pool, the honor system, the general balance of the classes. ) it is a very engaging book to read, and is effectively an alternate players handbook in a lot of ways. (including big chunks of reprinted spells) It definitely goes on the list of stuff I want to try out. )

Three challenges in one: A second, shorter promotional piece follows. As they've said several times before, Module X10 involves the standard D&D rules, the War machine from the Companion set, and the new Battlesystem rules. This really pushes the boundaries of what you can do in a roleplaying game. No longer do you need to fudge things when armies become involved. Instead, you can scale inwards or outwards as needed, to create a truly epic overall game where you can command nations. Use the War machine to quickly build up your countries, and their armies. In short, this becomes much more than just a bit of promotion, as it really challenges you to step up your game, take it in new, bigger directions, and makes it seem like a fun and achievable prospect. A single campaign can go from dungeon crawling, to wilderness exploration, to diplomacy, to comedy, to domain management, to personal introspection and relationship drama, to war, to other worlds, and even to godhood, while still retaining continuity. Do you have what it takes to pull that off? Or are you just going to pick one milieu and stick with it. If you do, don't be surprised if I get bored and leave you behind. This is much more successful as a mind broadener than the preceding OA piece.

Meeting of the minds: Another 1 pager here. Do you wish you got more psionic monsters in your random encounters? Roll here then. Be very afraid, because your chance of encountering a demon lord, primus, slaad lord or similar unique monstrosity that terrifies even 20th level characters is better than 1 in a thousand. man what. They put creatures like that on the random encounter tables back then? What happens if you kill them, then the DM gets that result again? This is definitely another attack of serious old skool design I'd be rather wary of using in actual play, for though it might be entertaining, lots of horrible deaths would result. This is why they started designing CR appropriate encounters and all that goes with it.

Leomund's tiny hut: It's been quite a while since we heard from Len. What's brought him back into the fray? Specialization, and its effect on game balance. Cue annoying average damage per round calculations. Yes, it makes fighters more powerful. That was the point. They're still seriously limited in options that can change the whole course of a battle compared to spellcasters. And if you determine the treasure your players get randomly, the benefits will balance out in the long run because chances are, they won't get magic weapons of types they know how to use as often, making the theoretical twinky synergies unlikely. Yet Len still wants to nerf weapon specialization further, making it harder to learn, and less beneficial if you do get it. Once again, I find myself at odds with his design choices. You need to be giving them more options, not reducing their power.

The ecology of the ochre jelly: Now there's a monster you don't see much anymore. Which is curious, as they're one of the least screwage inflicting of the oozes and their relations, like slimes, molds, and puddings. Elminster delivers a rather clever tale of turning the quirks of the monster to your advantage, and using it to devastate your enemies. Gotta love that division power. Which is a kind of story we haven't seen here before. I strongly approve, as this is the kind of stuff it's great fun to see your players try, and hopefully reading this will inspire them to do likewise. Drama, realms lore, some rather well researched physiological descriptions, character ingenuity. Once again Ed has pushed his own limits and come up with a new trick to keep me interested. How very pleasing. He's continued to surprise way long after most writers become predictable. And hopefully will continue to do so.
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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 104: December 1985

part 3/4

Assessing, not guessing: Hmm. Looks like we're getting a third article introducing a new subsystem this month. This is an interesting trend. This time, it's one for when characters try and figure out how much something is worth. After all, it's unrealistic for them to automatically know what it's value is. For that matter, it's unrealistic for gems and other valuable items to have a fixed value in the first place, but enough about D&D's monolithic price fixing cartels, and their desperate need for a union-breaker. Anyway, this is another efficient and easy to use article that reminds us that independent subsystems aren't neccacerily a bad thing, as they can be tailored to the needs of the matter at hand more precisely, it's just that learning them and keeping track of them becomes more fiddly when there are hundreds of different parts. Still a fun read, though.

Sudden dawn: It's been getting articles every month for over a year. Now the Marvel superheroes game gets it's first module. As it's christmas, it's a full 16 pager. Venture to 1944, either using the pregenerated characters, or by concocting a reason for your regulars to go back in time, to save New york city from nazi ubermensch and a vampire with a nuclear bomb. It's a bit of a railroad, with a bunch of cool scenes, but very little opportunity to manipulate the plot. It's certainly an interesting experiment, and would make a decent pick-up game, but I can't see myself using it as written with a regular group. They'd refuse to cut the scene where it says and go off to investigate and mess it all up. A bit of a disappointment, really, despite the strong presentation. It'd make a good actual comic book story, but as we've found, what makes a good story and a good game are very different things.

Spy's advice: What happens to an agent who quits and sets up their own agency. (Watch your back, especially if you found out important secrets before leaving. )
I want my agent to use heavy weaponry. Pretty please. ( You'd better have a better justification than that.)
I want my agent to use lasers. (Tough. This is a modern day game, so they do not exist, so they have no stats. Doesn't matter how highly cleared you are. Can't have something that doesn't exist.)
If you shoot a car, how do you determine where you hit. (see page 38, and use common sense. Hitting what locations would produce these results?)
I want more info on uzi's. (zzzzzzzzz. Oh, alright.)
At what point does an object go from being really hard to conceal to impossible. (good question. )
How hard is it to shoot two guns at once. (depends how many shots you do with each. Recoil adds up quite dramatically.)
If you kill someone with a full burst, can you retroactively not shoot the extra shots (no. Chaos of melee and all that.)
Does increasing your charm also increase your deception (yes)
What guns did the use on the man from U.N.C.L.E (Walther P-38's)
Can you use fortune and fame points to escape excecutions and explosions. (people certainly survive them in the movies against impossible odds, so yes)
Can assault rifles be scoped. (yes. Most guns can. It helps with some more than others though. )

Profiles: Looks like this is gonna continue for a while. We get two profiles this month. Harold Johnson is the director of game design. This means you don't see his name as often as you do the writers, but he's a critical part of the organization, running from one department to another, getting them to all co-ordinate on a project. He also wrote C1, and is responsible for the hiring of lots of TSR's famous names like Jeff Grubb and Tracey Hickman. Obviously it'd be a different company without him.
David "zeb" Cook is a rather more famous name, having been responsible for designing lots of cool stuff of various kinds, from big stuff like Oriental Adventures and Star frontiers, to little games like Escape from new york. His favourite word is Wahoo!, and he subscribes to the philosophy that the person who dies with the most toys wins. Ok then, I suppose that's a pretty good philosophy for a game designer. He seems to be quite the prankster in general, really livening up the TSR offices. Unless that's just what they want you to think. ;) Still, he's designed plenty of classic stuff, so he must be doing something right.
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