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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 144: April 1989

part 4/5

TSR Previews: First up, completely unsurprisingly, is the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook. Kicking down the door, making gaming more accessable. They've been talking about this since 85, can it live up to the hype?

AD&D is also getting a pair of modules. The forgotten realms is proving highly multimedia, with FRC2: Curse of the azure bonds. Play the module of the computer game of the book. I suspect railroading may be involved, given it's antecedents. Greyhawk also gets a rather specific module, WG9: Gargoyle. Play a gargoyle trying to get their wings back. Very curious sounding indeed. Any opinions on this one?

On the novel side, the forgotten realms finishes off the moonshae trilogy. The heroes may defeat a god, but at what cost? Meanwhile, Buck Rogers gets a whole load of short stories, in Arrival. Flint Dille personally oversees things, and I suspect Lorraine :rumble of thunder, stab of organ music: did plenty of executive meddling as well.

Marvel Super Heroes gets MT1: All this and world war II. The start of a trilogy dealing with time travel? Hmm. One of the more problematic powers when combined with gaming. That could work, or it could go very wrong. How will they keep the plot under control?


The game wizards: Spelljammer! We're finally getting proper metasettings. And lots of other stuff. Another of their short columns where they pack in a load of stuff that wouldn't fit elsewhere, along with some more promotion of upcoming stuff. The best (or worst, depending on your point of view) entries in their recent pun contest. Another load of guidelines on writing freelance for them. They do keep having to do that. And the 5 boxed sets they're planning on releasing this year. Alphatia vs Thyatis. Greyhawk city. New york, new york. Taladas. And of course, AD&D in Spaaace! Rather a random article really. But not randomness with as much style as when Gary was in charge of this kind of thing. Oh well, at least they've still got lots of cool stuff coming out. Hopefully, this'll convince a few more people to buy those things.


The role of computers:
Arkanoid is one of those horribly addictive arcade games where you have to manipulate a bouncing ball to break all the blocks. I know your kind. Danger, danger, Will Robinson! Enormous timesink approaching off the starboard bow. These kinds of games can last aaages, getting ever trickier as you try and make it to the later levels, and get frustrating as you try and rush through the earlier ones and mess them up. Must steer well clear, or I'll never finish this.

Zany golf is exactly what it sounds like, and gets a 5 star rating. With great visuals, and a number of quirky twists on the real game, including fairys that you get extra points for hitting, moving holes, and pinball courses. Ahh, the joys of being able to create things that would be near impossible in reality.

The Legend of Blacksilver sounds like it ought to involve pirates, but doesn't. Instead, it's yer basic RPG, where you explore towns and dungeons, fight monsters, and complete quests with the aim of saving the world from it's would be conqueror. It's pretty big, but thankfully, you can save in most places. As ever, do so frequently, or you'll regret it.

Battle Chess is basically just chess, with amusing animations as the pieces move around the board and kill each other. Still, it can be played two-player online, so you'll always have someone to give you a decent challenge. Exactly how long it'll hold your interest will obviously depend on how much you like playing chess anyway.

Space Harrier 3-D is also a bit gimmicky, using those red and green glasses to facilitate 3D visuals. If you can stand the eye strain, this can still be fun, and is as tricky as most games of this era. You'll probably have to do quite a bit of replaying to win it.

Wonder boy in monster land is a game I vaguely remember. Still primarily an action adventure game, with hidden shops, taverns, and monsters that require the right equipment and strategy to kill, it's closer to an rpg than the previous game in the series. Now, if only it had a save function as well. Restarting from the beginning does get tedious.

Also notable in the hints section is one of the cheats they give, revealing a silly easter egg in Bards Tale III. Ahh, they joys of in jokes. Amazing what programmers can squeeze in.
 

Armitage

Registered User
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 144: April 1989

part 4/5

Greyhawk also gets a rather specific module, WG9: Gargoyle. Play a gargoyle trying to get their wings back. Very curious sounding indeed. Any opinions on this one?
Funny you should ask. There was a thread about it on Canonfire just a few days ago.
The thread title was "Worst piece of crap on Oerth..."

canonfire said:
The Gargoyle module! Now I'm sure you all know what this poorly written piece of cow-tripe is all about, so I won't go into great detail about it. I've honestly never played it but, only skimmed through it's pages to be fair. I can say with no shame however that when I read the introduction and took note that the module is centered around two half-orc assassins named "Tom & Jerry" I felt for an instant that I was accidentally reading Castle Greyhawk by mistake (only this one wasn't funny.)....So I continued reading, the story was terrible, the creatures whom I now refer to as "[deleted sexual orientation slur]-goyles" were awful, the story arc was a travesty and the poorly made pre-generated PC's we laughable. I mean who actually has a deep burning desire to spend so much time on a vast campaign playing as a dwarf named "Hothands" of all things?!?!?

I mean the the last line in the entire story was "How did you make it to the top of gargoyle peak in the winds without your wings?" and the gargoyle king answers with " I climbed." My jaw dropped after reading that, I mean this mod should have been career suicide at TSR if you ask me, could be why they let Skip Williams loose from the staff at TSR only resigning him to editorial jobs.

But I digress (Not very much though.) The module does give some insights about the surrounding areas, but that's about all it really offers.
Now from what I've read, most GH fans do not consider gargoyle as canocial. Am I being too harsh on this one. It does "feel" like Greyhawk, but at the same time, it feels...very wrong somehow.
Gargoyles, Puppets, and Child's Play are the trifecta of hated adventures. Practically the adventure counterparts to the Rose Estes Greyhawk novels.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 144: April 1989

part 5/5

Through the looking glass: Battle recaps! We haven't had those since the Strategic Review days! Once again they're delivering goods more interesting than endless reviews in this column. In the Battle for Headquarters hill, Robert tells a tale of an assault on a space observatory, using the Battletech rules. With a complete list of the units used, a map of the area, and a description of the battle from the perspectives of both players, this is rather well done, giving me a very clear turn by turn picture of what happened, and the rules of the game. As is typical of these games, both sides had rounds when they couldn't hit anything at all. But they soon had a winner. This definitely makes an interesting diversion from our usual fare, although I suspect I would grow bored if they did it every issue. Still, if they cover battles in different systems each time, they could probably keep this going for a year or two.

Robert doesn't skimp on the reviews either. In mini's, we have some female adventurers, an Umber hulk, an Ogre Mage, a Battletech regiment, and a whole bunch of fairly well done Forgotten Realms and Star wars characters. More interestingly, we also get Warhammer Siege, a supplement for WFB, but insertable into other wargames as a minigame. Far too many wargames don't have rules for this battle style and it's complexities. Now you can try and gradually undermine your enemies walls while they pour boiling oil on your head. Your tactics don't have to be constrained so much by the system limitations. This is also pretty interesting reading. He is stretching himself quite a bit this issue.


Red Guns: Marvel Superheroes gets a little more gun pr0n this issue. In issue 105, they gave some info on military equipment, for those of you who want your characters to go up against tanks and planes. (providing they have the power to make this a fight that isn't completely one sided in either direction. ) Now, you can go up against the red menace, and kick their armies butts in the name of the You Ess Ayy! These are somewhat better organized in terms of their stats than the previous article on this topic, but still, the real fun with these looks to be in the actual play, rather than the reading. Now, if only they'd tabulated the stats. Then they'd be even quicker and easier to reference in a fight.


Dragonmirth is a bit fishy this month. Yamara's party continues to suffer worrying attrition. We get another amusing one-off comic, Bludgeons & Flagons. Silly wizards. Do your own research, don't go for forbidden lore. There's a good reason why it's forbidden. Snarf wraps things up rather too quickly, and then gives us an obituary. Way to end on a downer dude.


A superficially entertaining, but ultimately unsatisfying issue. The joke contents are rather less usable than they have been in recent years, and there's a lot of reviews that were a real slog to fill in stuff for. Come on, it's an edition change. Bring on the flamewars.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Funny you should ask. There was a thread about it on Canonfire just a few days ago.
The thread title was "Worst piece of crap on Oerth..."



Gargoyles, Puppets, and Child's Play are the trifecta of hated adventures. Practically the adventure counterparts to the Rose Estes Greyhawk novels.
Brutal. It's no wonder greyhawk died in the early 90's, if this is what they thought people wanted to buy. Forced whimsy and immaturity just makes people feel patronised.
 

Pukako

Retired User
Dragon Magazine Issue 144: April 1989

part 5/5

Through the looking glass: Battle recaps! We haven't had those since the Strategic Review days! Once again they're delivering goods more interesting than endless reviews in this column. In the Battle for Headquarters hill, Robert tells a tale of an assault on a space observatory, using the Battletech rules. With a complete list of the units used, a map of the area, and a description of the battle from the perspectives of both players, this is rather well done, giving me a very clear turn by turn picture of what happened, and the rules of the game. As is typical of these games, both sides had rounds when they couldn't hit anything at all. But they soon had a winner. This definitely makes an interesting diversion from our usual fare, although I suspect I would grow bored if they did it every issue. Still, if they cover battles in different systems each time, they could probably keep this going for a year or two.
Strange Battletech fight; each player is new, so strange tactics referred to; the combatants are also a married couple who refer to their own mechs with codenames, which was frustrating at first (Wolverine called "little death", Goliath called "big death"), but as it's turn-about commentary, you can work out which mech is which.

Also gratuitously immediately followed by a full page ad by TM Games, with what was at that time, a lot of battletech products. We would have probably killed for them back in `89.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 145: May 1989

part 1/5

108 pages. Roll playing vs Role playing? Really Roger?! That's the subject of your editorial? I suppose it wasn't quite the dead horse it is now. Anyway, the changeover continues, and this is another sign of the times, with Roger asking the freelancers to send in more role-playing stuff, and less pure crunch. Very interesting. Just how long will it take that particular pendulum to reach it's limit, and then swing the other way. I guess it'll probably be around when they start getting in financial trouble, look at the books, and figure out ones with lots of new crunch sell better. But anyway, back to the current bit of past we're going through. Our current topic is castles. We've had quite a few articles on this, plus a couple of actual castles as centrepieces in the magazine. Will they avoid the dread spectre of rehash?

In this issue:

Letters: Errata attacks again, as all our letters concern happenings in the magazine. Two of them concern the capabilities of humanoid shamans and witch doctors. You mean there's people who buy the magazines who don't also have most of the supplements? One from Vince Garcia, giving a few corrections for his Savant class article. And one goes way back, asking about the dragonlance mini's they said they would do in issue 91. Apparently, they got cancelled. So much for that idea.


Forum: Bryan A. Walker tells the story of a convention that went horribly wrong (while not naming names) People openly taking drugs and drinking in an environment which was also supposed to be child friendly was more than a little disturbing. With incidents like that, it's no wonder the hobby has image problems.

Graeme Adamson finds that the combat options in issue 127 do not bear up with his personal experience practicing with them. Same as it ever was. D&D is not a realistic game, and stuff from the magazine probably hasn't been extensively tested.

Zach Miller thinks that 1st level mages should be able to cast more spells, but at the same time doesn't want them more powerful. A tricky conundrum, which he solves by saying they should have more cantrips in independent slots. Another prophetic one then.

Michael Townsend, Dave Timmons and Bob Hempel all respond to Roger's editorial on disabilities and gaming, mostly positively. The power of fantasy can do a lot to bring people together and make a life bearable.

P. Jones is not happy about the fact that Oriental demihumans can't be multiclassed. As is often the case, he suggests his houserules on the issue.


Sage advice: How does the save against silence work (If you fail, you're stuck with it. If you succeed, it's still there, but you can just walk out. Neat way of doing it. )
What level do you need to be to make a level draining glyph (same as you would to restore it. 16th.)
Is tongues a universal or selective translator (Selective. Speaking truespeak tends to make it obvious you're a spellcaster)
Can you find a portable hole with find the path (no. It's an object, not a place. )
Can elves dispel a dust devil. No. They have specific resistance, not general magic resistance.)
How many spells can a 124th level cleric cast (enough that you really ought to retire him. )
Can an illusionist get out of the plane of shadow by casting shadow walk again. (Not unless they can find the planar boundary. Be careful, because the shadows can really bite around there. )
Are high level illusionists really that crap at casting magic-user spells (yes.)
Does alter self change your equipment ( Cosmetically!)
Does wraithform let you fly (no)
What counts as a 1st level illusion (any spell that is a 1st level illusionist spell. If it's higher up for other classes, then you can still see through it. )
Who loses con from casting permanancy (the caster)
Can massmorph turn you into things other than trees (no, but you can choose what kind of tree. No, you can't choose a carnivorous mobile tree type)
Shouldn't there be save against cause fear (no, because it's a touch spell anyway. It's the same reason you don't get saves against undead energy drain. Hohahohahohahoha.)
Colour spray has a contradiction in it's description (Yup. Don't worry. In just a couple of months 2nd ed'll be out and you'll have a whole different set of errata to spot. Won't that be fun! )
Can I breathe underwater if I polymorph into a fish (wouldn't be much use if you couldn't)
What's a small specimen. ( Talk to your girlfriend sometime. The things she says about you behind your back. Skip hates to be a bearer of bad news, but...... )
Why won't preserve work on mistletoe. (because it's a holy symbol, not a material component. If you mess with the cycles of nature, you despoil it's holiness. PETA girl mother nature goddess are not the most sensible of deities. )
How can whip disarm creatures if it doesn't work on things with an int above 3 ( You confuse clauses. A common mistake. Become a lawyer. They you can make a living out of exploiting vagueness and contradicting common sense.)
What happens if someone inside an ottilukes resilient sphere is shoved in the water (if the density of the contents of the sphere is greater than the density of water displaced, it sinks. If it's higher, it floats. This is an elementary enough bit of physics that it still works in D&D)
If you sucessfully make a magic resistance check to pass through forcecage, can you go back the other way (No. Once again, Skip finds himself feeling evil. )
I don't understand basic geometry. (This is your arm. This is the formula for calculating the distance between your shoulder and your hand based on the length of the two segments and the angle of incidence between them AFTER I BREAK IT AND TWIST IT 230 DEGREES MUTHAFUCKA! C^2 = A^2 + B^2 - 2 COS AB. Are we clear now?)
How many spells do level 30+ magic-users get. (like clerics, it really ought to be retiring time. Clear off, ya twink. )
Can you cast spells from the ethereal to the prime material (not without extra effects. Otherwise being untouchable artillery would be just too easy. )
Can dark elves see through their own darkness spells with infravision (no. It obstructs the whole visual spectrum.)
Do you have to stay still the whole time you cast a spell (Yes. Five foot steps take place before or after, not during. Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself again, aren't I. )
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 145: May 1989

part 2/5

Shadowrun! Another awesome game coming soon. Nice understated teaser advert as well. I'm guessing that they'll have more illuminating previews later.


A castle here, A castle there: Looks like the joys of random tables will continue even into the new edition. Here we expand upon the fairly basic tables in the old DMG, (after all, the new one isn't out yet) adding stuff from Unearthed arcana and Oriental adventures, and allowing you to quickly determine more details about it's construction, inhabitants, surroundings, and relationship with the rest of the world. Quick, but perfectly decent, this is yet another nice little time saver for me to pull out and use in my games.


Holding down the fort: A bit of rehash here, as they give us another events table for those of you who've settled down. If you won't go to the adventure, the adventure will come to you, with all kinds of natural and political inconveniences cropping up with tabloid filling regularity. You have to maintain the place, monsters show up and try and kill people, armies attack, assassins infiltrate, and the court in general bickers and machinates ad nauseum. A few months of this kind of stuff, and many players'll be itching to sell up and set off again. The frequency of events is rather higher than on most tables of this sort, to the degree where it would be exceedingly hard to stay on top of things, no matter how high level you are. Interesting, but not the best example of this kind of thing I've ever seen. You'll have to push yourself a bit harder to come up with a really expansive and statistically well distributed one of these that I'll really want to use in my game.


Strongholds three: A very useful article here. Arthur Collins does exactly what you'd expect from the title, and gives us three very different strongholds to insert into your game. All are logically designed to serve a purpose, and be advantageous to the people living within, rather than just some dungeon crawl. Littlefang is designed to give you a tactical stronghold in mountainous terrain, letting you control a travel route and bombard anyone who attacks with missiles while they have a tricky time even getting to the walls. Are you ready to pay the toll? Niriath Henning is a castle glamoured to appear as an elf hill. While designed to be aesthetically pleasing, with plenty of open space in the courtyard, it's certainly not without mundane defences either, and since it's inhabited by elves, expect lots of spell based attacks. Goldworthy castle, on the other hand, is designed as an exceedingly tough conventional fortress. Hard to get into, and easy to attack out of, it has extensive walled courtyards between the outer walls and the actual castle, so even if you penetrate the first line of defense, you're now being bombarded from all sides instead of just one. Since this is basically three half-adventures, (just give them a location, flesh out inhabitants and add plot) this is pretty handy. As they're pretty good as well, I have no hesitation about using them. He is becoming one of their more notable freelancers.


Your home is your castle: So why bother to build a castle anyway? It's incredibly expensive, takes quite a bit of maintenance, and they're frequently dank, drafty, miserable places. In case you'd forgotten, the big reason is so you can protect yourself, and possibly the local community if you're the benevolent kind of lord. (and even if you're not, you'll still want to keep anyone else from ravaging your dominion.) Anyway, this is lots of info on making your own realistic medieval castles. Just the kind of thing Katharine Kerr used to specialise in, and indeed, she gets mentioned in the bibliography. This isn't as fun as the previous article, but of course stuff that requires you to do a load of your own work to make it into something you can use in a game. Oh well, It's still pretty decent, with more well integrated illustrations. You can't use prefab stuff the whole time and be called an expert game master.


Bazaar of the Bizarre: 16 new items which are suited to this month's theme for your enjoyment here. Some of them, of course, are cursed; using their resemblance to other items to make a sucker out of you, and ruin your home. Still, the abilities to create teleportation portals so you can get around conveniently, keep your house lit for long periods of time at low cost, ward it from enemies, summon an army, and ensure that you always have a decent water supply are certainly not to be sneezed at. They also include two new spells, Balliant's Stonestrength and Stonesplit. If you want to have a siege, knowing these would be damn handy, whichever side you're on. A pretty good collection, with several items that have a whole bunch of inventive exploits you can pull. If you've made it to high enough level to settle down, giving your players some of these will definitely be appreciated. A pretty good finisher to the themed section.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Strongholds three: A very useful article here. Arthur Collins does exactly what you'd expect from the title, and gives us three very different strongholds to insert into your game. All are logically designed to serve a purpose, and be advantageous to the people living within, rather than just some dungeon crawl. Littlefang is designed to give you a tactical stronghold in mountainous terrain, letting you control a travel route and bombard anyone who attacks with missiles while they have a tricky time even getting to the walls. Are you ready to pay the toll? Niriath Henning is a castle glamoured to appear as an elf hill. While designed to be aesthetically pleasing, with plenty of open space in the courtyard, it's certainly not without mundane defences either, and since it's inhabited by elves, expect lots of spell based attacks. Goldworthy castle, on the other hand, is designed as an exceedingly tough conventional fortress. Hard to get into, and easy to attack out of, it has extensive walled courtyards between the outer walls and the actual castle, so even if you penetrate the first line of defense, you're now being bombarded from all sides instead of just one. Since this is basically three half-adventures, (just give them a location, flesh out inhabitants and add plot) this is pretty handy. As they're pretty good as well, I have no hesitation about using them. He is becoming one of their more notable freelancers.
I really liked this article. Littlefang or even Goldworthy would be a good fit with the Keep on the Borderlands. Stick the fortress on the path leading up to the town, and the chokepoint is well guarded.

Niriath Henning is the most evocative, though. I quickly got tired of the elves live in trees concept, and this explains why elves don't have castles.... They do, actually. Common humans just can't see them.

Instead of a permanent illusion, another alternative is mirage arcane, which implies the lord or lady, or a chief retainer, is at least 11th level. This could make for dramatic reports from witnesses, if the caster lost their temper and the spell fell for an instant, before being recast.

Put a few gates to an Otherworld, and it's a staging point for invasion or infiltration. The wild hunt might issue forth from its gates. Since mirage arcane requires a caster to have seen whatever mirage is being created, an otherworldly elf might create a hill that's subtly off by human standards. Strange vines and creepers, blood-red flowers nobody's ever seen, a strange hint of phosphorescence, an almost numinous quality, plants sprouting out of season -- further adding to the mystique.

An abandoned castle is also a great plot hook. Even without the permanent illusion hallucinatory terrain would mothball the edifice indefinitely, lasting until touched by an intelligent hand. Imagine the fuss caused when a castle suddenly appears on the outskirts of a town's territory, where hunters strayed or children played.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 145: May 1989

part 3/5

The role of computers: Wizardry V decides to leave out the playing the villain gimmick they used in IV, and return to good old party play. It gets a typically detailed review, as befits an established and popular RPG. The stats are spelled out, the classes and races detailed, and plenty of advice is given on how to play the game. They have developed things quite substantially in terms of gameplay sophistication. The main complaint, as is often the case, is the complex and annoying copy protection scheme. Oh, woe. I'm sure people like you can figure out how to crack it, even if you don't say so in your reviews.

Gold rush! gives you a rather different roleplaying experience. Get from new york to callifornia by whatever means, and seek your fortune. All kinds of hazards await you at each stage of the journey, plus there's the additional subplot of finding out what happened to your brother. The whole shebang is designed to be educational as well as fun, with lots of historically accurate details.

Star Wars is a conversion of the old arcade game for several platforms. Unfortunately, this is still the era where the arcade version rules supreme. Technological limitations, combined with the fact that the game is rather old now, means the visuals aren't the best. One to skip unless you're a particular fan of the franchise, or shoot-em-ups in general.

Also notable is the number of complaints they've got about the Dungeon Masters assistant. Too many disk swaps are needed. I guess that's a problem when you only have 64k of memory. Wasn't that one of the programs they outsourced? Tut tut. Shoddy work. This will not do. Good to see the magazine pointing out flaws in products the company has a personal stake in again.


TSR Previews: AD&D transitions another of it's campaign worlds to the new edition. The forgotten realms kicks off the Avatar adventures with FRE1: Shadowdale. Prepare to become a pawn in the machinations of desperate gods who've lost (most of) their power. Mmm. I can smell the railroading from here.

D&D, meanwhile is not having an edition change, but is still keeping up with the conversions by making it's new rules compatible with AD&D 2nd ed in GAZ12: Golden Khan of Ethengar. If you wanna play a horseman in basic or advanced, there's some new crunch for you mixed with the setting stuff.

Top Secret gets futuristic in TSAC7: F.R.E.E.America. Chicago 1999. A sprawling city-hive filled with corruption, can your agents make a difference? So they're trying to get into cyberpunk as well, are they? Very interesting.

Novelwise, we see the start of the Dragonlance preludes trilogy. See what Sturm and Kitiara got up too before the big war. Enjoy the fanservice, and watch carefully for any continuity errors. If you'd prefer something standalone, we have The Jewels of elvish by Nancy Varian Berberick. Said jewels get stolen, and as they're the only thing that can avert an impending disaster, you can guess how the rest of the story goes.

Tom Wham delivers another of his fun boardgames, The Great Khan Game. Connected to the forgotten realms, really, that doesn't matter much. Just enjoy playing it. Or you could play Maxi Bourse instead. Translated from french, this is a games of stock market shenanigans. Someone's shooting for monopolies crown. But it is still going strong, while I've never heard of this before, so I shall assume they failed.
 
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