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

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I'm a boat
Validated User
The broken covenant of Calebais is an ARS Magica game.
AFAIK the only supplemental product released for 1st edition Ars Magica, aside from the convention-only Bats of Mercille.

It's also the last AM review until #170, which looks at a number of the later Lion Rampant products for the 2nd edition. (The line got a relatively low amount of coverage in Dragon's reviews, despite the large number of books released for it. Not entirely surprising, I suppose, as it was aimed at a different market than the typical Dragon subscriber.)


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 150: October 1989

part 5/5

The role of computers: Populous! Simulating godly machinations since 1989. Now there's a game for you. Empower your followers, get more worshippers, kick the butt of the other gods followers and take over the world. Can be played against the computer, or online against a real person. Muahaha. A direct ancestor of Black and White, this is one I remember. They give it a five star review too. Now that's why God would actually hate RPG's if he were real and anything like the old testament god. Puny mortals pretending to have my station? Hubris! Smite them!

Axe of Rage is an arcade fighter/platformer. Take the role of a male or female barbarian, and hack and slash your way through all sorts of beasties real and fantastical. Enjoy the gore, and collect items so you can hack and slash even better. Sounds rather familiar, really.

Hidden Agenda is a game of political management in a fictional south american country. Pick your ministers, and try and balance the interests of the ridiculous number of power blocs to stay popular, while dealing with unexpected crises. Tricky, but probably a lot easier than real politics, especially if you read the guidebook.

Gauntlet's mac version only allows for two players at a time, not the 4 player dungeon-crawling extravaganza certain other platforms support. Still, most of the other elements seem to be in place, including the endlessly respawning monsters. We're really getting into familiar territory now.

Interestingly, they start a new section, Dragon Bytes, featuring mini reviews sent in by Joe Q Public. Well, they've been doing it in the clue corner for a while. And it does mean less work for them.

Trust and betrayal, the legacy of Sibot is another very different game of diplomacy and second guessing your opponents. You play a psychic, and have to use various mental powers with rock-paper-scissors relationships to one-another to beat them. The talks before the battle, where you try and figure out their capabilities and preferred tactics are a crucial part of the game. Sounds like poker players would do well with this one.

Barbarian gets a rather sketchy review. Sure you've got to kill the monsters and save the kingdom, but is it top down? side scroller? first person? Arcade, roleplaying? I am not feeling very informed. Makes me wonder if this little experiment is worth it and going to catch on.

Darkest secrets: Top Secret's article this month is about the idea of PC's having hidden advantages and flaws. One of those things that has become fairly well known since then, with BESM being probably their most notable user. But this is the first time I've seen them in the magazine, so it's another fairly innovative bit of design tech at this point. And the idea of getting greater power in exchange for enabling some interesting plot surprises along the line can seem like a win-win situation for many people. So this is a rather cool article, in an issue that is proving to be full of good ideas, pushing things forward. And Roger sneaks in another amusing reference to the fact he has the same name as a certain film star. If they keep this up, this issue will well live up to it's big number.

A final frontier of our own: An article for star trek as well? We haven't seen this many non D&D articles in a single issue since the ARES section ended. This is a rather long one too, bringing the usual campaign building advice to the rather specific future and tropes of the Star Trek universe and narrative conventions. You don't want to end up like some of the so-called official books, which mangle the characterizations and don't follow the tone. :p You need a strong ensemble, but you also need an actual chain of command, with the other PC's (usually) deferring to the person playing the captain. Unlike the shows, you can have your characters not being the big people in charge, at least at first, and advancing through the ranks as the campaign progresses. You can also change the ship as well, upgrading as they become more experienced, or giving them a tricky mission using something smaller to shake them from complacency. Advice on handling death (ah, the redshirts and officers distinction. ) the various races, the prime directive, roleplaying in the star trek universe, and lots of other stuff is examined in plenty of depth, and several examples from the writer's own campaign as well, which earns him a few extra marks. One of the freshest and most in depth articles of this sort in a long time. Once again, a very pleasing read.

Unspeakable secrets made easy: Dean Shomshak gets a second CoC article published in the same issue. He is doing well for himself and the game. This is about the proper application of eldritch sanity imperiling texts in your game. If you make up a new one every session, then players don't have a chance to develop the proper dread of them, because they can't even keep track of them. Far better to have a few new ones, plus the old familiars that the players can really get their dread on over, and dole them out conservatively. It keeps the players from getting jaded, and their characters from going mad too quickly. He also gives his own examples, quite possibly from his own campaign. Yet another solid birdie, this is a good reminder that pacing is crucial to a campaign. You can't be all shiny, top volume and full speed the whole time or people will get fatigued and bored, and quit. The music industry is learning it to their chagrin, and gaming needs to remember it too.

Dragonmirth mocks flumphs. Well, all the cool kids are doing it. Poor flumphs. Yamara takes on a commission from some decidedly mysterious and dubious patrons, to retrieve a decidedly dubious looking device.

Although not as big a step outwards in scope or spectacular in terms of celebrations as issue 100, this has managed to be a very good issue, with both the classic D&D articles, and the far greater than normal number of non D&D ones. After a year that has been very short on both of those, this has been nicely refreshing. Chances are, like that issue, it'll be an outlier rather than an indicator of future directions, but it was still fun. Let's press onward. Issue 200 is waiting, and I know that's an even more spectacular one than this. The big question is just how long and rocky the road between will be.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 151: November 1989

part 1/5

108 pages. Looks like we have yet another oriental special this month. Even though they haven't updated it to the new edition, it's still a popular topic, with a huge slush pile of articles for them to mine. They're still far from scraping the barrel on this one, although depending on how many of their submissions are badly written and incredibly twinked, Roger might be sick of reading them. Still, that doesn't compare with how sick he is of the ZOMG D&D is satanic and causes serial killers/suicides hoopla. His editorial is devoted to that business yet again, this time in response to a kid who was obsessed with a Stephen King book and did this. :facepalm: Some people will go nuts regardless of their cultural surroundings. All they do is influence the directions their neuroses and aggressions go in. Let it die, people. Yawn.

In this issue:

Grenadier resorts to serious cheesecake to sell their wares.

Letters: A letter asking them to go twice monthly. Hey, didn't I have that idea too. Roger responds to that concept with terror. He's already spent some time editing two magazines at once, and has no desire to repeat the experience. That treads too close to those recent memories of 60 hour a week workdays. You know, you could cut the size of each issue in half. Then you'd only have to fill the same amount each month, maybe less if you formatted it right.

A letter full of questions about where stuff has gone. The daily planet gaming supplement was an advert. The world gamers guide was a victim of it's own success. The Dragon magazine best of's were probably canned because upper management :rumble of thunder: don't want to pay any more royalties to certain people who were forced out in 1986, and shall remain unmentioned as much as possible. Similarly, reprinting the Fineous treasury would involve giving money to people no longer in favour with the company.

Another letter suggesting that people use BBS's for roleplaying. Roger has no objection to the idea, as long as people don't charge to play anything derived from TSR properties. He points out that Steve Jackson Games are even more progressive on this front, with their own official Illuminati boards. He may have change his tune sometime in the near future.

Forum: John Wommer tells his own fun tale of playing evil characters. Or rather, how he put them off the idea by sending them to a parallel world where evil (including dark counterparts of the PC's ) was in the ascedant, and good characters were rare outlaws who really had to struggle to survive. That more than satisfied their transgressive urges.

Toby Myers has his own contributions on the endless alignment debate, albeit not very good ones. There are plenty of personality traits not connected with morality you know, and even true neutral characters can exhibit complex combinations of them. Don't get all compartmental on us.

Steve Williams shows how you can get a gaming group together without having to interact directly with people. Flyers and adverts on shop boards! Still far more useful when thinking locally than the internet.

A nameless letter (didn't they say they wouldn't publish those? ) gives some rather lengthy information on the history of castles in reality, and their problems in keeping people with magic powers out. There is a very good reason why they aren't built anymore, and they quite possibly wouldn't exist in the same form in fantasy games. Rather a persistent problem, isn't it.

Michael Hents, Eric M Paulson and Gregory H Graham get a combined letter, expressing their contempt for wimpy AD&D players, their overpowered characters, and their stuff must be done by the book attitude. Still, it looks like the new edition is more friendly to you changing the rules to make the game your own, like the old D&D rules. They phrase it in a rather amusing manner too. This is definite flamebait. Aligning AD&D 2nd ed and Basic D&D vs AD&D 1st edition? Muahaha. I look forward to seeing if this gets responses.

Joseph D'Amico is on the other side of the D&D vs AD&D debate. AD&D is far more logical and has far more options, so it's the better game. Hnah. What do you say to that?

Robert Morrison, on the other hand prefers D&D, going into considerable detail on how the weapon mastery system in the Master set is both more flavourful and better balanced than AD&D weapon specialisation. And it encourages roleplaying more as well. Oh, the controversy.

Alan Grimes thinks that computer RPG's aren't true roleplaying games, and will never replace the thrill of actual interaction with real people around a table, and a DM who can just make stuff up in response to your trying something not covered by the rules. Let's hope the day never comes when they supplant tabletop gaming completely.

Jason Dunn agrees with this in fewer words, although he does admit also enjoying Pool of Radiance. You can't play a computer in the car. Yes, but many people can't read in the car either, because nausea quickly results. I'm afraid I have to ooze envy at you.

Thomas M Kane thinks that a D&D group is no more tricky to organize than, say, a football team. If we can keep spreading the word, it has an entirely reasonable chance of becoming a commonly known and accepted pastime in a few decades.

Derek K Lechman also thinks it's the human factor that makes RPG's genuinely satisfying. Plus it's a lot cheaper than buying a new computer game each time you finish one. Looks like people are pretty much in agreement here. But how many of them will have drifted away from RPG's in 20 years time, while computers still play a huge part in their lives. It's easy to be cynical when you have the aid of hindsight.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 151: November 1989

part 2/5

Sage advice goes back to tackle oriental adventures stuff again. Guess there's still plenty of people confused about it's rules.

What do birth ranks mean (mo money mo prestige mo problems)

What do the birthright tables mean (depends how many siblings you have )

How often do you encounter animal generals (only when it's plot relevant. Random generation has no place when dealing with creatures like this. )

Can samurai become daimyos ( If they're badass enough. )

Can oriental characters be psionic (oh yes)

How much are gems worth in oriental games (no change)

Why aren't there oriental adventures character sheets (what's wrong with the regular ones. They all work in the same way.)

How many slots does calligraphy cost (2)

How many proficiencies do monks and yakuza get (like everyone else, never enough )

Can you use the wu jen's spell learning method elsewhere (er, it's the same as regular wizards anyway, you dumbass. Didn't you notice you were already using it )

Do oriental characters have to train like western ones (You've asked this one before.)

Why aren't battle axes two handed (because we say they aren't)

Can gajin characters learn oriental languages. (Yes. Note that Skip does not approve of you using the G word. Skip won't cap yo ass this time, but there'd better not be a next time. And don't even think of using the N word. )

How many martial arts styles can you learn (as many as you have the slots for. Remember, specialization gets you more badass moves than dabbling though. )

Why is kara-tur's calendar missing two weeks (Oops. we forgot that the forgotten realms year is different to earth's. Awooga awooga! Emergency Retcon! Emergency Retcon! There. All better. Now let us never speak of this again. )

What's the random encounter table for dungeons (A different one for each dungeon. See our great hordes of modules for plenty of examples. If you make your own dungeon, part of the fun is making up your own.)

Can gajin (BANG! Don't say you weren't warned, bitches. Skip is not in a merciful mood today.)

What level can wu jen research spells (Any level. Note this does not let them gain spells more powerful than they have. )

I still don't understand the difference between style sequences and power groups ( Still? Skip sighs. )

Can ninja use all their other classes powers (yes)

Are chain and scale mail metallic armours (are you blind? Have you no sense of touch? Yes. )

What maneuvers can you use with a new MA style (your choice. Try not to mix them up too much)

How long are turns, rounds and segments in the orient (same as ever. We may have messed up the calendar, but we're not going to change these. It's still the same basic game. )

I don't understand the proficiency rules (Yeah yeah. Just ignore them )

How much damage do needles do (Not much, especially in D&D. This is why you poison them. )

What domain do samurai get at name level (none automatically. They have to go to the effort of building it themselves. Still, they probably have an easier time than bushi or kensai.)

How much does oriental equipment weigh (same as western stuff. Did Skip not say last time that everything not specifically said to be different is the same. Don't make Skip say it again.)

I lose an ancestral weapon, do I have to die trying to get it back or commit suicide. (no, but your honor score won't be happy. Social pressure's a bitch.)

Is weapon catch made against AC10 like Leap (no, as it's opposed by an enemies skill.)

Is there a honor penalty simply for revealing that you are a ninja (no)

What's up with page 50. (inverted formatting. Barely worth mentioning. )

Are lajatang two-handed (yes)

What's the conversion rate between west and east (Unpredictable! You'll have to roll and hope. Haggling never hurts.)

How much can fit in a sword's secret compartment. (Several teaspoons worth. If it's a really big weapon you might be able to manage as much as a beer can. :waggles eyebrows: )

What are the rules for oriental characters two weapon fighting (Same as it ever was. We're wicked and we're lazy.)

Can you spend slots on two weapon fighting (no. Once again, stop badgering me with your twinkedness)

Do ninja get XP bonuses for high dex (No, that's a boner. Maybe the joker put it in to catch out batman. Having fewer levels than you think you do can be a shock, after all.)

What happens when a high level ninja knows all ninja weapons (they can learn any other weapon. Ninja are versatile. )

What are the stats for badgers.( Use the stats for racoon dog. Do not use the stats for aurumvorax. )

What's the initiative bonus for knowing iaijutsu (That power doesn't work like that. Do you even read the descriptions at all.)

The RPGA takes command of ravens bluff, making it into a living city. Buy it now, play a part.

Our statement of ownership this year show's it's been a very stable year. Circulation has increased by just over 2,000, creeping up to 106 thousand. However, the number of subscriptions has increased by over a thousand, while the number of newsstand copies has declined slightly recently. Curious fluctuation there. Guess more people have decided they definitely want it reliably every month. Probably a good sign.

The ecology of the kappa: Our latest oriental special continues with a themed ecology. Kappa are decidedly odd little buggers that have appeared in the magazine once before, long before OA came out. They may not be that big, but they can really mess your day up. They're another creature that while intelligent, seems completely incapable of applying that intelligence constructively. They may be able to learn to speak and write multiple human languages fluently with a fraction of the exposure people need, but all they do with that ability is harass, trick, steal and kill (all very politely, though. ) What are you to do with them, since they refuse to become productive members of society. Guess it keeps the adventurers in work. The ecologies have definitely gone downhill in both quality and frequency this year, and this shows no sign of reversing that trend. Where's the drama, wheres the society, wheres the rules interpretations, where's the new perspectives? Bored now.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 151: November 1989

part 3/5

Soldiers of the law: Freeze, scum! Law enforcement is just as important in oriental lands as western ones, despite the lawful alignment restrictions of many classes. Far too many samurai, monks, kensai and sohei put their own personal codes of honor above the law of the land. And for Yakuza, that is pretty much a given, and entirely to be expected. Whatever force is responsible for judging who is what alignment obviously has no objection to this state of affairs, or they'd all be losing their powers a lot more than they do. But enough of the metaphysics. This is about how they deal with the consequences of this on the ground level. Often, they don't manage too, with yakuza gangs becoming the de facto law enforcement in less salubrious areas, settling disputes with ruthless efficiency. Where the ruler does have a tight grip on the population, they have to balance the need for non lethal enforcement of the law with ruthless effectiveness to deal with the more powerful characters wandering around. This article is useful for both DM's dealing with players, and for setting up a campaign where the PC's are the law enforcement themselves. Full of quickly set up encounters, this looks like quite a helpful one, giving you stats, new honor awards, and new ways of applying familiar classes. I look forward to an opportunity to test it.

Earn those heirlooms: Hmm. Someone thinks that some OA characters getting cool stuff as an inheritance at random is unfair, and makes them overpowered compared to both western characters and the rest of their party? Well duh, that was entirely the intention. You did see the bit at the front encouraging you to use twinked new ability generation methods when playing oriental characters, and compare the descriptions and powers of the oriental classes with their western counterparts. Fairness was not a particularly high point on the agenda, while randomness was. But some people are obsessed with bringing balance to a system, even when it's such a big task as to be pretty futile. So it is here, with a system to nerf the inheritance rules. A not particularly great one, using unneeded mathematical steps that could have been handled more elegantly by simply setting the numbers differently instead of having to do extra steps of addition and division. Worra loada point missing crap. No desire to use this one at all.

TSR Previews: Buck Rogers' first trilogy draws to a close, with Armaggeddon off Vesta. It ends dramatically, of course. But the bigger question is if we'll see another one.

Both our AD&D products are Dragonlance ones this month. Well, FR was over represented last time. Guess it just turned out that way. DLE3: Dragon Keep finishes their new series of modules, where you save the good dragons of Krynn. Nowhere near as epic as last time. Bigger, and even less directional is Time of the Dragon, the new boxed set. A whole new continent for you to play in, that will be relatively free of metaplot meddling.

Top secret also completes a trilogy this month, TSE3: Web Wars. This is what happens when you set your schedules at the start of the year. Will the villains have a secret escape route ready so they can scheme to defeat Orion another day?

D&D tries to cater for that tricky second adventure market with B12: Queen's Harvest. Head from Thyatis to Karimeikos and gradually take the training wheels off.

Marvel Superheroes gives us MU5, the fifth part of the gamers handbook. Less than half the size of the first four, this brings you up to date. You'll have to do all the alphabetical insertion to the main binder yourself though.

And we also have one independent book as well. Too, too solid flesh by Nick O'Donohue. Shakespearian sci-fi murder mystery? Sounds interesting and a bit meta.

The dragon's bestiary: Wang-liang are our sole submission here this month, albeit a rather long and detailed one. Closely related to ogre magi, they're another vaguely demonic looking creature, with a huge grudge against humanity because they know our greater breeding rate is going to push them to extinction eventually. By many standards, they're not bad creatures, with plenty of honour and a commendable lack of greed, but of course, shapeshifting and tricking people with the intent of making their lives a misery is not good for the alignment. This is one of those contributions where the writer seems a little too attached to their creation, giving you lots of warnings on how not to use them, and how awesome their elders are. I do find this a little tiresome. But then, I'm an honourless human dog, so what would I know. Let's kill 'em all! To arms! Don't forget the invisibility penetrating glasses! :p

The ecology of the Yuan-ti: After a year that's been fairly light on ecologies, here we have a double whammy. This is promising. Rather a far-reaching ecology here, as they give them a life cycle that is an enormous great plot hook to adventurers. Unfortunately, it's also the kind of hook that'll turn them into one adventure ponies, as a thousand year cycle sounds cool when it's in a book, and you can be sure it's the protagonists that get to do the acts of big heroics, but is problematic in an actual sustained campaign world. And indeed, while the Histachi would make it into the next edition, quite a bit of the other stuff here would be ignored in favour of allowing the yuan-ti to mate directly with humans to keep up diversity in their bloodlines. Once again, I'm not very keen on this one, and despite being in the oriental section, it doesn't seem connected to that theme either. What is going on here? How did one of the strongest and most consistently entertaining parts of the magazine turn into a liability like this? Most bemusing.

The beastie knows best: Welcome, one and all, to the second annual beastie awards! This year, we keep it in house, with the big winner being the Pool of Radiance Computer game! If you haven't got it already, we recommend the Apple version in particular. Second in our esteem is Ultima V. Despite being well over a year old now, it's still garnering considerable amounts of votes. Will it and it's successors continue to get critical and commercial acclaim? Dungeon Master also wins awards for the second year in a row, and Tetris, Sim City, Gold rush, and lots of other familiar names from last year's reviews get their just deserts. Not a huge amount of commentary I can do on this one, so I'll leave it at that. If you can think of anything that was unjustly passed over, I'd be interested in hearing about it.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 151: November 1989

part 4/5

Role-playing reviews: Last month Ken decided to review a load of adventures from systems not particularly noted for them. This month, Jim is doing much the same thing, albeit with less preamble. Co-incidence or planned, I wonder?

Something rotten in Kislev is of course for WHFRP. Three linked adventures, in which the characters have to deal with undead, and the fact that they may be a lesser evil needed to hold off the forces of chaos. The adventures are a rich ground for tricky roleplaying, and the visual presentation is pretty good too. Plenty of scope for misinformation, moral greys, etc, here.

Tournament of dreams is a pair of pendragon adventures. A fae tournament where the virtues of the characters are tested, and an adventure of questing and single combat, it seems admirably tailored to the themes and rules of the game.

Harkwood is a GURPS fantasy adventure. Set in a relatively low magic region, it's also designed primarily for fighters of the mounted armoured sort, with a tournament and plenty of intrigue taking place. To foil players who read ahead, it gives you 6 different villains to choose, so they'll still have to figure out who's really behind things. Once again, the visuals and setting-building are pretty good, and in general it's a very flexible adventure which the players can take all kinds of tacks to solve.

Lords of darkness, on the other hand, gets a rather mediocre review. Many of the adventures are poorly labeled in terms of suggested levels, and others are so sketchy as to not really be much of a help. The attempt to make undead more scary is heavy handed and poorly integrated. It does have some good points, but it's definitely the weakest of this month's selection.

The role of books: The outlaws of sherwood by Robin McKinley manages to put it's own distinctive spin on the Robin Hood legends. Not particularly historically accurate, it still tells an interesting story of a group of people becoming lifetimes in their own legends, or something.

Catastrophe's spell by Mayer Alan Brenner makes the common mistake of trying to cram too much into a single book. Shoulda given each of the main characters and plotlines their own book, then you'd be getting critically acclaimed and filing a whole shelf on the bookstores. :p

The scholars of night by John M Ford combines spycraft with stagecraft, with moderate success. While there are a few flaws, on the whole it manages to be a distinctive and fairly satisfying delivery. Just go back and reread it, so you can spot the references you missed first time round.

Shadow games by Glen Cook gets a rather tangental review, as he talks about why his books might be of high quality, but he finds them thoroughly unpleasant reading. Military brutality for it's own sake, and a world where it seems unlikely things will ever get better is not to his tastes.

A dirge for sabis by C J Cherryh and Leslie Fish also gets a mixed review. The attempts to fuse magic and technology don't really work here, partially due to the design of the magic system, and partially due to the writers throwing too much stuff in the mix. Meharoonie.

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner manages to take the swashbuckling adventure tropes, and tell a story in a rather different style than is usual to the genre, with lots of depth and clever use of language. While there may not be overt supernatural elements, this is not a drawback.

Gameplay by Kevin J Anderson, gets a pretty negative review. From the confusion of the last installment in the series, the reviewer's opinion turns to annoyance as the rules of the universe are revealed to be so far from the usual gaming setup as to break his suspension of disbelief. Unless the final book makes some fairly substantial changes, it's not going to hold any drama for him.

The role of computers is fairly light on reviews this month, mostly comprised of previews and reader submitted stuff. They've been busy counting the votes for the awards or something. They're also eagerly looking forwards to 16, 32 bit and beyond systems becoming the norm. (They also announce the release of the Sega Genesis, woo.) Better graphics and more power are always good. Not gonna argue with you there. The problem, as ever, comes when the programmers try to use more power than the system has. And as we've found, that's still an issue decades later, with gigabytes of RAM to draw upon. Gotta live within your means. But anyway.

Silpheed is a 3D arcade shoot-em-up. You need to both master dogfighting in space, and figure out which upgrades to get between missions to enable you to cope with the final showdown. The reviewers are still struggling with this one and give it 5 stars.

Thud Ridge is a flight simulator game where you bomb the crap out of vietnam. It gets a fairly mediocre review, with a relatively simple control scheme, and another irritating copy protection scheme. I don't think we want to be reminded of this little bit of history.

Strider is the NES version, which is rather different from the arcade game, with it's ability to tackle the levels in non-linear fashion and puzzles involving one way tubes and finding items. This combination of action and puzzles appeals to the reviewers, and if it was longer, they would have given it a 5 star mark. Guess they're just getting too good for these games.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 151: November 1989

part 5/5

West end games gives us a decidedly pretentious teaser. Revolutionising the definition of RPG's? I'll believe it when I see it.

Through the looking glass: Robert takes the time to promote his other job, being vice president of the Historical Miniature Gaming Society, and their recent conventions. Minis are still pretty popular, and there's several new games of note this year. Limeys and Slimeys? Sounds amusing.

More formally, he gives Tactica a fairly harsh slating, giving it 1+1/2 stars. Shiny presentation masks absolutely terrible editing and rules assumptions. It might work if given a complete reworking and new edition, but for now, you really don't want to bother with this one.

On the other hand, Featherstone's complete Wargaming gets 5 stars. One of the great old men of wargaming provides his wisdom on wargaming and real history in an accessable manner. You can find out quite a lot about the hobby from this, and it even includes a game inside of it's own.

The rest of the column is fairly standard minis reviews. A Tank. A bunch of magic-users, both human and elf. A set of dwarves, and their natural enemy, an orc with a spear. Once again, the photo quality is not particularly great, with way too much black making details tricky to discern. So the usual mix of interesting and dull bits here.

At close quarters: Top Secret's article this time is a bunch of optional rules for those of you who would prefer a bit more realism in your games. Curiously, these actually make the game more cinematic. Quick drawing rules. Using guns at HtH range. Multiple action rules. Letting you use luck points to succeed at actions. They have a rather idiosyncratic idea of "reality rules" Well, anything the players can do, the enemies can too. If you use these little optional rules, you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. They did mention them in the previews. Nice to see the magazine catering to the toolkit approach. Let's hope it won't be a year before it does so again.

Paranoia has metaplot as well in the crash course manual. The computer is dead? Happiness is no longer mandatory? Hit the reset button quick! And never mention this again. ;)

The gamers choice: Another set of awards here. Voted for primarily by Polyhedron readers (damnitt, we still don't have a thread for that magazine), and administered by the RPGA, we saw our evil overlord :Organ music, wolves howl: step into the spotlight to present them this year. Mertwig's maze, Macho women with guns, GURPS 3rd ed, Cyberpunk, and Rocky & Bullwinkle do well for themselves. Buck Rogers ties for best sci-fi strategy game with Merchants of venus, which can be interpreted as good or bad, when you consider the vastly greater amounts of promotion it got. Polyhedron itself wins best gaming magazine, which seems mildly iffy. And Pool of Radiance proves popular with this crowd as well. Oh, if only the awards were being run by people not connected with the companies, so we could be a little more sure of their impartiality. Once again, not sure what to make of this. Any opinions?

Son of the ultimate addenda: Errata, errata, you keep sending in letters about it. Once more, unto the breach, as we try and fill some more little rules holes in the Marvel superheroes system.

What happens if someone with Internal Limbo captures someone else with internal limbo (If you put someone's b hole in your a hole, it gets rather tricky to find anything inside there. Just the way to escape that dick Sarda.)

Can you combine super leaping with atomic gain? (yes, but not very well. Square-Cube law strikes again! It's much better if you shrink instead.)

What happens if you have hyper speed without travel powers. (you go faster, but don't get any further without getting tired. Pretty lame, really. )

What happens if you combine hyper speed and hyper running. (You go very fast indeed. )

What are the stats of an energy doppelganger (Generally the same as the copied person. Such is the nature of being an imitation)

Yamara has yet more communication problems in the course of her adventures. Dragonmirth is very ironic indeed.

A bit of a clunker of an issue, really. The Oriental theme does seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel rather, the ecologies are unexpectedly weak, and apart from the awards, the rest of the issue is pretty much business as usual, with little to distinguish it. Hungover from the big celebrations, or something. Let's hope they've recovered in time for another blowout at christmas.


I'm a boat
Validated User
Paranoia has metaplot as well in the crash course manual. The computer is dead? Happiness is no longer mandatory? Hit the reset button quick! And never mention this again. ;)
The almost-reset button is a year away: 1990's Death, Lies and VidTape. Unfortunately it only brings the Computer back; it doesn't undo all the meta-plot stuff, so there are still several more years referencing it before 5th ed. does the complete reset. (Now that last one I shall never mention again. :) )
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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 152: December 1989

part 1/5

116 pages. So we come to the end of the decade a very different magazine than we started it. The name has changed, twice, the staff has pretty much had a complete turnover, and the format and readership have had similarly sweeping changes. But they're still the biggest magazine in the roleplaying sphere, devoted primarily to providing cool stuff for D&D players. And whatever else they may do, that involves going into dungeons, killing things, and taking their stuff. So what better way to celebrate and reaffirm that core principle than with another underdark special. The first was one of their most successful themed issues ever. Can they repeat that, or will diminishing returns set in as it did for oriental stuff last month. Either way, let's resolve this cadence and start on the next symphony.

In this issue:

Virgin games centres give us a double page christmas spread. Damnitt. Stop rubbing it in. I want to be mainstream again.

Letters: Another letter from another person even more stupidly badass than Waldorf. Cower, puny mortals!!!!! Roger grows weary of this, but with so much public response, you've gotta do something.

A letter from someone who actually used the Outrages from the mages joke spells in their game. This has proved to be of much amusement, and the odd moment where the spells actually turn out useful. This pretty much assures their future in the next few april fools issues.

A letter mostly in praise of P N Elrod's familiars article, with a couple of little terminology quibbles. Research, research research. No amount is ever enough to satisfy everyone.

A question about when the various colours and other types of dragons appeared in the magazine. In many cases, it was quite a while ago. But we're still not going to publish any more under the same or near identical names. Find new barrels to scrape.

Forum: Toby Myers thinks that if a game doesn't cover a particular thing brilliantly, steal a subsystem or set of modifiers from another game that does it better. He's done it repeatedly to great success. Long live frankengames!

James R Collier thinks that while magic might replace the big developments, technology still has it's place in D&D worlds, especially for things that you have to do in large quantity. Magic is crap at mass production.

Jason Dunn tells a fairly dramatic story of a powerful mage who thought he could take on a whole cavern full of humanoids. While he made it, it was a close call. A combination of action economy and the odd magic item means low level characters can deal with a much smaller quantity of powerful ones with a little tactics.

Daniel J Stephans II thinks that the nerfing of the cavalier in issue 148 was a terrible idea. All their abilities make perfect sense for the concept! Not even slightly surprised to see one of these.

Jeff Cliber thinks much the same thing. Down with homogenisation and the removal of awesomeness in characters! Is anyone going to stand up for the Barbarian as well?

Alex Martin is not amused by all the controversy surrounding D&D, and thinks that the way to fix that is to talk openly about what you do, while also being a normal, well adjusted person. Easy for you to say. Not so easy for all of us to do.

Dan Humphries is not amused about the idea of allowing evil characters because it's likely to cause the problems outlined in the last letter. Overhearing conversations results in awkward misunderstandings, and then things escalate. Better not to pretend to be mass-mudering treacherous psychopaths. ;)

Michael J Natale, on the other hand, thinks there is nothing wrong with exploring the darker side of things in gaming. Do writers become psychopaths for writing villains. Do actors go mad trying to portray them? I seem to remember people using these same counterarguments against Katherine Kerr back in 1985. How little things have changed.


Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
The decade ends in twelve months. The issues that crop up when your calendar doesn't have a year zero.
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