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

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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 153: January 1990

part 4/5

Through the looking glass: Another bit of crafting instruction this month, as we get some tips on how to build your own dragon. Although the way he handles it, it seems easier to create dracoliches, working as he does by building the skeleton out of wire and then covering it with epoxy. The results will be pretty light for their size, and a surprisingly small base point will be all that's needed to secure a rearing or flying model. Just make sure you get the centre of gravity right, and don't sit on it, because it'll deform horribly. With three pages of full colour photography taking the sample model from skeleton to completion, this is a pretty little column, and shows that building stuff like this is surprisingly cheap as well. You make it seem surprisingly appealing. I think this counts as a success.

The voyage of the princess ark! What a way to kick off the new decade. One of the coolest series they've ever done, and one that plays a huge part in building up Mystara's setting. I'm going to enjoy this. Welcome to the journals of Prince Haldemar of Haaken. We start of with a huge and amusing statement that everything you know is wrong! The map we saw in the Master set, while geographically fairly accurate, was annotated by someone who had barely been beyond Thyatis, and just made up place names based on in-jokes and their relations and pets. Sounds like the kind of thing that could really happen. :p Academics are like that.

We then fast-forward several months, into the future. To explore beyond the known world, they've somehow managed to fix up an entire flying skyship with a crew decently equipped with all classes and plenty of magical gear. This certainly isn't your usual adventuring party. They're starting off at a level of epicness most campaigns finish before reaching. How are they going to be challenged by whatever they face if they're already this powerful?

Their first couple of months is spent exploring the coast immediately to the south of the known world, just past the inner sea and the isle of dread. Labeled as the four kingdoms, there's actually nothing but jungles and savages there. They lose quite a few men to the various threats, but collect a man eating plant, and raise one of the lost crew as a zombie servant to handle catering.

So it's immediately apparent that these guys are from the pragmatic bastard school of adventuring. They take whatever the DM throws at them, and figure out how to turn it to their advantage, even if the results look somewhat strange. And I already know that they accumulate several more bits of weird stuff before I came in to the story, so I'm very much looking forward to finding out what happened in the episodes between here and there. With proper continuity, it looks like I'm going to enjoy this even more than I did first time around.

Your best chances: Ability generation statistics again, only updated to the new edition. At least they didn't call it What are the Odds a third time. Just what is the probability of being able to join each class with each of the 6 dice rolling methods. For straight 3d6, the chances of joining the big boys like paladins and rangers is well under 1%. The others increase the probability dramatically, but even for them, your average ability scores will still be somewhere between 12 and 13, so it's best to specialise. Looks like the average 2nd edition character will actually be less twinked than one using UA rules. So much for power creep being a linear progression. In another interesting touch, the writer (our frequent forumite Ed Friedlander) also introduces a method VII, roll 18d6 and assign them to each score. A method I developed independently, and am quite fond of using myself. A pretty well presented set of statistics, and one that refutes accusations of 2nd ed being power gamey compared to 1st. Sure, you can break it more with the right kits and other stuff from supplements, but at least you'll have to work at it.

The role of computers: Their finest hour: The battle of Britain sees Lucasfilm's game division continue to excel. George must make a lot of money keeping this stuff in house. Course, in this case he can adapt the x-wing flying system, as this focusses on the airborne side of things. Learn to fly a whole bunch of different planes, with very different capabilities, and then engage in bombing runs, dogfights, and similar nerve-wracking experiences. While there is a bit of flicker and slowdown when too many things are on screen, that probably makes things easier in those hectic situations. :p And it doesn't stop them from giving it 5 stars.

Swords of Aragon combines individual roleplaying and strategic level battle as you attempt to take over the country. Normally, that's the kind of thing you have to foil, so that's a refreshing change. Assemble armies, form alliances, and complete missions. An ambitious goal, but the excecution is a little lackluster, with neither the combat system nor the resource management being particularly user friendly, and the computer blatantly doesn't have the same limitations as you. They want to like it, but overall, found it a little too frustrating.

Space Rogue combines space combat with a certain degree of roleplaying and trading. Raid ships, sell their stuff to the various factions, and try to get somewhere decent. A fairly short and favourable review.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 153: January 1990

part 5/5

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the mission: Looks like Merle is well and truly back in the saddle, with a second set of roleplaying and worldbuilding advice for Top Secret in succession. In reality, random crap happens to even the most meticulous planner, and learning how to compensate for that (and in this case figure out what is an enemy agent scheme, and what is just another case of everyday randomness and incompetance) is another thing that makes the difference between a genuinely organized and successful person and an obsessive compulsive twit who's day is completely ruined whenever things aren't just so. Most of this article is a huge list of things to throw at your players, easily adapted to any modern day campaign, and many just as suitable for your fantasy and futuristic ones. It does encourage you to pick and choose them, rather than rolling purely randomly, but that also seems relatively easy to houserule. When you're getting bored of the same old wandering monsters, incorporating these ideas'll definitely liven your players day up. Muahaha.

Awash in phlogiston: So spelljammer is out. And like anything that pushes the envelope, there are going to be people who don't get it. Some just don't like it, and our stalwart game designers can shrug and tune them out. But it's the ones that want to like it, but have rules questions that eat up your time, that can really wear you out. And you can't pawn them all off on Skip. Once again unto the breach. Yes, there was only supposed to be one neogi deathspider and mindspider. Yes, there are some more ships statted that don't have illustrations. No, there aren't any new spacefaring proficiencies ...... yet. No, there aren't phlogiston flow charts missing, we never put them in in the first place. We shall make sure these unclear bits are fixed in the next printing. Like most errata articles, this isn't very interesting. Jeff tries to slip in a few bits of humour, but they don't work nearly as well when they aren't coming from Elminster. File under regrettable necessity.

TSR Previews: Not a very long list of products this month, but a decent variety. Spelljammer gets it's first module, SJA1: Wildspace. Seems to be custom designed to get existing PC's from another campaign involved in the new shinies. You do know you can never truly go home after this.

Dragonlance gets it's turn to have a monstrous compendium focussing on it's monsters. MC4 details draconians, and all manner of other weird creatures. Some of them are probably new as well.

Greyhawk gets it's first product in a while, WG12: Valley of the mage. Just what is that damnable mage playing at? You'll have to be pretty high level to venture in a and find out. Watch out for the stubby gnomes.

The Forgotten Realms gets The Halfling's gem, by R A Salvadore. See Wulfgar, Drizzt, and the rest of their ensemble cast get into yet more trouble.

And if standalone's your thing, there's Dark Horse, by Mary Herbert. A woman dressing up as her brother and going to avenge his death? With an intelligent magic horse? Oh, the drama. Sounds a bit twee really.

Dragonmirth gets a darker and more complex background, like everything else this decade. Yamara gets a tempting offer to switch sides.

Another mixed bag of cool and dull stuff. They didn't give me what I wanted with the themed section, but it wasn't bad material, nonetheless. The princess ark stuff is of course a welcome addition to the roster, and I look forward to them developing that over the next few years. Still, this has proved once again that there's plenty of stuff well within their remit that they aren't covering. And they will have to get round to it if they want to keep the rehash at bay. Let's build and support those settings. How many articles has Dragonlance had in here since it's release? Not nearly enough. Let's keep searching, for that perfect blend. :fade-out to smooth jazz:


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 154: February 1990

108 pages War! Huh! What is it good for? Having another fighter centric themed issue without actually calling it that! :D 5 new articles about kicking ass and taking names. Could be good, could be nothing special. Still, little has changed in the overall format, so I have little to say here. Cover's nice, though.

In this issue:

Crystal power? Genuine quartz set in solid sterling silver? Rassenfrassen load of new age crap. Even grimdark is preferable to this ponciness.

Letters: A letter from someone who is very cross indeed about one of the recent letters in the forum. That kind of vulgarity should have no place in this magazine. What ARE your criteria for selecting them? Roger gives a straight answer, but I can sense his undercurrent of amusement. The point of the forum is debate, so he picks letters likely to provoke it. By that criteria, he's succeeded admirably this time.

A letter asking why Dungeon magazine doesn't run contests. Wouldn't this be better answered by them, not us? In any case, they have far more submissions than they need. They don't need to prod the wasps nest of amateurs that this kind of thing would bring in.

Sage advice does another 1st edition session. More evidence of their friendliness towards the old stuff compared with the modern staff)

Can a magically terrified creature fight back (only if it's cornered. Rats, extremis, you know the drill. )

Can lightning bolts be cast vertically or diagonally (yes. Pew pew pew pew. Just watch the angles don't bounce back, and remember your pythagoras to determine how far it goes in each direction.)

How do you handle stinking cloud. ( It's pretty gross, whether you make the save or not. )

Can you seal someone's mouth with hold portal (no. Inapplicable target.)

Do you have to check to see if dispel magic affects your own spells (no. It works automatically )

What's the area of phantasmal force (pretty damn biiiig )

What's the area of cone of cold (not so big)

Can unseen servants fly (yup. Not as fast as arial sevants, though. But at least they don't go bonkers on you. )

Can you cast spells if you're polymorphed (only if you have a suitable voice and digits )

What can keep mordenkainen's disjunction from working. (it's certainly not impossible. )

Who gets affected first in a group of sleeped creatures (caster's choice)

Does anti magic shell destroy spells (no, it only suppresses them. Very different results)

Does haste double the speed of magical locomotion (no. You really don't want to do the locomotion at double speed. It'd be horribly squeaky, for one thing. )

Isn't weird overpowered (Not really. Very subjective. Remember, it's not real. )

Does magic missile ever miss (No. If it did, this wouldn't be proper D&D. :p )

Does stoneskin protect you from Ice storm hailstones (No. It's magic. )

Can you repair a simulacrum (Not easily.)

Can you magic jar a simulacrum ( Again, not easily. )

Can you complete components of spells separately (No. You disrupt the pattern, the spell goes kaput)

Can you be multiply charmed ( Yes. Too many conflicting loyalties may cause freakout, of course.)

Just how does invisibility work exactly? ( Oh, you craaaazy rules lawyers, always thinking up angles we haven't covered. Don't worry, Skip has it all under hand )

How high can you go with levitate ( As high as the duration lets you. You only want to go half that, otherwise you'll be coming down terminally though.)

How many spells does a 1st level magic-user have (Never enough. Never enough.)

Do spells end when their casters die (Wouldn't have many magic items around if they did)

How long can you hold a touch spell ( Until you next touch someone or stop trying. Watch out, because touching your friends by mistake may ruin this friendship. )

Where are the rules for spell malfunction (they're different for every spell, so you'll have to make them up yourself. You encouraged to be as evil as you can.)

How often can you sleep (Good question. Skip doesn't want to encourage the 15 minute workday, but.......... )


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 154: February 1990

part 2/5

Editorial: Hmm. Roger decides to put his ramblings on a page of their own, rather than a sidebar with other stuff, thanks to legal being a pain in the butt. This is an interesting change, and one I know becomes standard with later editors. That's worth noting. Here, he talks about the end of the cold war, and it's impact on post-apocalyptic gaming. He notes that games covering it have got more serious in recent years, but I think that's more due to general trends than people taking the end of the world more seriously in particular. Don't worry, people will soon find other reasons to predict the end of the world. It's virtually hard-coded into us. Comes with the whole mortality gig. In the meantime, let's enjoy the increasing popularity of modern day games. Goes to show how immersed in gaming he is, if his thoughts on huge current events are how that'll impact gaming. Most amusing.

A big hairy tusked guy with a club saying Watch for us soon? What's all that about then? Ahh, the joys of cryptic teasers.

The game wizards: Oh dear. It's James Ward justifying their new family friendly policy of gamemaking. It's a game integrally based around killing things and taking their stuff. This is always going to be a bit problematic. But still, he has his orders. Devils and demons are out. Nipples are staying firmly covered at all times. Blood and guts are staying offscreen. Raping and pillaging isn't even going to be mentioned as forbidden. And they are going to resolutely pretend that D&D is a PG game in which violence is secondary to role-playing and exploration, and all the PC's are heroic. Heeeere we go. The 2nd edition changeover has been fairly sedate up till now. Most people probably hadn't even noticed that the extraplanar creatures were consciously censored. But now they do. If you thought all the letters from angry mums were tiresome, you aint seen nothing yet. Guess this is turning out to be a more significant issue than I first thought. A short article, but of course, pebbles can start an avalanche. I wonder how long it'll take for the letters and forum pages to be filled with responses to this. :rubs hands:

Forum: James R Collier has some more suggestions on how clerics ought to be further differentiated from wizards and each other. Their gods shouldn't design their power granting systems with so many abusable loopholes. Pretty much the opposite of the 4e approach.

Charles Bingham is another person who finds it easy to convert stuff between D&D and AD&D. The people trying to put one above the other are missing the point and quite a bit of fun they could have by combining the best bits.

Michael Griffith encourages you to play your evil enemies as sneaky sadistic bastards, not mindless frontal attackers. All's fair in love and D&D battles, as long as you don't break the actual game rules.

Amy M Traub tells us about her own gaming group, which features 5 kender, including a chaotic evil half kender half dark elf mage. :makes sign of the cross: It burnssess, it does. She also uses the dreadfully annoying true neutral as lawful good one day and chaotic evil the next method of balance. Seems like a textbook example of badwrongfun gaming to me. No thanks.

Jim O'Brien is finding that his local players are getting increasingly shallow and stereotyped in their roleplaying. What the devil. Aren't you supposed to get better at stuff the more you practice? Yes, I know you're getting older and have other things in your life, but that's no excuse to get lazy. Might as well not play at all if you're not going to put the effort in to do it properly.

H. K. McCoy thinks that you don't get enough nonweapon proficiency slots under the normal rules. He proposes that you should be able to get some more by paying an xp surcharge each level. I don't object to either concept.

Warrior kings and empire builders: So you want a domain? In D&D, you can get a little place of your own to rule relatively easily once you get to name level. But what if you're not content with that? It's conquerin time! |This article focusses on two of realities most successful empire builders, Julius Ceasar, and Charlemagne, their techniques and foibles. Being a conquerer requires considerable logistical and negotiation skills as well as personal badassedness. They really ought to represent that kind of thing better mechanically, because at the moment, wizards and clerics seem far better suited to being leaders of an army. Still, it's full of ideas that seem appropriate to members of any class, and indeed reality as well. (yes, I'm looking at you, George W Bush. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. ) You've got to strike a balance between accessability and not micromanaging too much. You need a strong team of assistants, but watch out for grand viziers taking over, making you nothing but a figurehead. You need to make sure you don't extend your grasp beyond what you can actually hold, with things like supply trains being crucial. All fairly familiar stuff, solidly presented. Can't get particularly worked up about this either way.

TWERPS! Take that, stupidly complex acronymic titles! :D Another amusing parody hits the adverts pages.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 154: February 1990

part 3/5

The making of a paladin: Great. More on this irritating subject. :sigh: A relatively short article that feels more like an extended forum piece, this rebutts some of the recent controversies around them, with some talk on their training, and how they differ from clerics and regular fighters. The writer takes the approach that getting into classes is not an easy business, requiring years of training from youth rather than being derivable from divine inspiration or picked up on the job. Not the best approach from a dramatic story point of view, and also one that fosters the view of Paladin as elitist asshole detached from everyday problems and compromises. Not very keen on this one, as it very much does not solve the stereotyping and characterization problems that bedevil the class. No help here. Moving swiftly on then.

All in the family: Heraldry! There's something we haven't seen covered since 1981. And since this new article draws heavily on the new proficiency system, there's vary little rehash involved. Unfortunately, this leads to a textbook case of supplements spreading slots too thin, with 8(!) needed to get all the skills involved. Not a very well considered bit of mechanics. No-one's going to bother with that. Well, not unless the guild has it's own draconian enforcement methods to keep the nobles in line and employing their services, which this certainly presents hints towards. Overall, it's an entertaining but decidedly problematic article, with lots of cool little flavour bits, but decidedly dodgy crunch meaning they may not work out well when applied to your game. Y'know, Roger, as an editor you're supposed to spot and fix issues like this. I guess the system's still new, they haven't had time to see the bugs develop yet.

John Denver says plant a tree for your tomorrow. More crap completely untargeted advertising. Go AWAY! We get enough of this from Michael Jackson. We do not need sensitive acoustic guitar playing on top of the eco crap preaching. And don't you even think about joining in, Ozzy. For the supposed prince of darkness, you don't half have a bunch of soppy preachy ballads in your back catalogue. I'm watching you. Erm. Sorry about that folks. We now return you to your scheduled reviewing.

For king and country: Hmm. Army based gaming. There's something you'd think we'd have more on than we do. We've had quite a bit of stuff on playing and managing an army from the top down, since D&D does have extensive wargaming roots, and the name level stuff presents that as a default option. We've had several editorials from Roger about gamers within the real world military. But roleplaying as a standard grunt or a special forces troop within an army? Somehow we've managed to get this far without the magazine mentioning the idea, save in relation to Top Secret, a few reviews of modern games, and as your backstory in Traveller. And it's such an easy setup to create adventures for, because you have someone actively issuing your characters with missions without the railroading complaints. This article takes a fairly gritty simulationist approach to the topic, with tables where you roll to enlist, to find out your odds of promotion, what duty you're assigned too, and what happens during a particular year. You may want to fudge these a bit to ensure the group can stay together if not playing a solo game. It also sticks closely to the medieval fighter-centric view of armies, where they don't take advantage of the awesome benefits having magical healing and artillery in your arsenal to win wars. So it's a well written article on it's own terms, with plenty of detail, that is at the same time, very poorly suited to D&D worlds and campaign gaming. There is a good campaign to be had with this idea, but you'll have to find somewhere else to draw from if you want to avoid an awkwardly disjointed experience.

The deathgate cycle, the new heptology by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They can really churn them out.

How to win wars and influence people: Thomas M. Kane gets a second article in on the theme. This is another one drawing heavily on realism issues, pointing out that logistics are usually a bigger enemy to overcome for an army than the supposed human foe. Disease, horrible terrain, disorganised command chains, morale issues, this is why zombies really revolutionise fantasy warfare. With plenty of quotations by Sun Tzu and other noted generals, they once again remind us that real battles bear very little resemblance to D&D ones, and are more commonly exercises in who can get the drop on the opponent and break their spirit rather than head on fights that end when one side is all dead. It's no wonder that adventuring party seems a far more glamorous option than army grunt. So with all the themed articles this month being at mediocre or below, this has not been a good issue so far. Let's hope the other features manage a bit better.


Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
With plenty of quotations by Sun Tzu and other noted generals, they once again remind us that real battles bear very little resemblance to D&D ones,
I do not remember where, but I read how wars in D&D should be battles between armies but rather groups of adventurers that the governments hire. Even in 1/2e high level characters can splatter armies without much trouble so they aren't worth the money to raise.


Making the Legend
Validated User
I do not remember where, but I read how wars in D&D should be battles between armies but rather groups of adventurers that the governments hire. Even in 1/2e high level characters can splatter armies without much trouble so they aren't worth the money to raise.
I'm pretty sure that was in a thread here. Let's see if I can dig it up.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 154: February 1990

part 4/5

Role-playing reviews: Genre mashing! In the infant days of roleplaying, people piled everything they could into D&D, largely due to lack of other options. However, these days, we have systems specifically designed for very particular blendings of genres, instead of just a straightforward kitchen sink. And let's face it, this isn't a bad thing at all. So Ken's chosen remit this month is to examine some of these experiments, see which ones have turned out best.

Space 1889 sees GDW put a very different spin on space opera from Traveller. Drawing heavily on the works of Jules Verne, H G Wells, and other proto pulp and sci-fi authors, it sees the british empire extending their reach to the rest of the solar system in steampunk spaceships. The combat system seems designed to facilitate swashbuckling adventures where you're far more likely to pass out and have to escape or be rescued than killed outright, and you can integrate the board game into the overall ruleset for extra airship battley fun. And the settings of mars and venus are well developed and full of adventure hooks. It all seems like good rip-roaring politically incorrect fun. Very tempting.

Shadowrun of course merges cyberpunk with D&D flavour fantasy to create a game more popular than any of the pure cyberpunk games out there. Demihuman PCs. Various monsters, including Dunkelzahn the dragon CEO and all the undead people love to tell stories with. All the cool powers you're familiar with from years of gaming, plus cyberware enhancement and netrunning minigames. It's no wonder it appeals to a broad range of people. It is however, a bit mechanically dense and clunky, with disconnected subsystems all over the place that take quite a lot of learning. Ken is a bit dubious as to if it'll be worth it. Wait 'til the next edition unless you can take the steep learning curve.

Course, it's easy to forget that AD&D has quite a lot of clunky bits bolted on itself, it's just that we're used to them from years of play. Spelljammer adds more than it's fair share of these, as thy have to figure out ways of handling gravity, air supply, ship combat and interstellar flight that are fun and not too bogged down in realism. As with Shadowrun, the familiar elements should help ease the transition to new vistas. There are several new PC and NPC races, and quite a few existing monsters get repurposed for the new environment. You can have weird and wonderful adventures in in a setting more akin to some medieval fantasist's idea of space than the real thing, or you can just replace the hollow asteroids and ruined spaceships for regular dungeons and carry on pretty much as usual. Once again, even the official designers are swinging back towards freewheeling, house rule happy fun in their gaming. Ken is positively giddy with the possibilities, and I'm pretty positive he's not just saying that to be a company shill this time. Roll on the supplements.

In another amusing footnote, we find out that cyberpunk authors are becoming aware of the RPGs based on their work just as quickly as the fantasy ones, with Walter Jon Williams providing an official conversion of his Hardwired novel for the Cyberpunk system. This comes highly recommended as well. Interesting. They don't miss a trick. D&D's new system for making faerie folk available as PCs seems to be pretty decent as well. All in all, a very positive set of reviews, with a well above selection of notable products. This has been a fun bit of reviewing.

Fiction: Raistlin and the knight of solamnia by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. (Or just Racy Hickman :rips bodice: if you go by the misspelled contents page :p ) This is a little prequel piece in which our delightfuly 'cesty little canon pairing engage in a little small scale heroism, lifting a curse and learning a few moral lessons, which, this being a prequel, they'll fail rather to take on board. Story of their world. An amusingly chaotic intro in which kender get all the dread they deserve segues into an adventure where the heroes win by brains rather than brawn and the supposed good guys are proved to be prideful jackasses, again. :shakes head: Pretty much exactly what you'd expect from these two. If you like their work, you'll like this. If not, you know what to do by now.

The role of computers: Mines of Titan is a sci-fi RPG set on Saturn's moon. A pretty open ended game, your theoretical goal is to earn enough money to leave. In the meantime, there's tons of things to do. You can gamble. You can go bounty hunting. You can talk to people and get all sorts of missions. Choose your buddies carefully, and make sure you train up before tackling the hard missions. Another way to eat up hours and hours of your life.

David Wolf: Secret agent gets a fairly negative review because it's mostly animated cut-scenes where you have no power to influence the plot at all. The bits where you do have control are ridiculously easy as well. Lame. Go rent a movie instead. This is what happens when you try and build a game around a gimmick instead of strong gameplay design.

M1 Tank platoon, on the other hand, gets 5 stars. Not only do you have to pilot a tank, you get to control a whole platoon and co-ordinate their actions against the enemy. This is one instance where you really need to read the manual, which as it's 200 pages long, means this game won't be for everyone. But with both great graphics and a huge tactical challenge with near infinite options, it's just the thing for a bunch of jaded reviewers.

Star fleet II: Krellan Commander sees you attacking the humans you were saving in the last installment. it's another enormous game, so much so that you'll need to adjust your computer's buffer settings to avoid crashes, and it'll still be sluggish unless you're on a high end machine. But once again, that doesn't mean they don't like it, just that you should think before buying.

Several other notable new games mentioned in the news section. Ghostbusters II. Double Dragon! And the second dragonlance conversion, Dragons of flame. They also seem to be getting over their griping about copy protection phase. That's a vague relief.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 154: February 1990

part 5/5

Novel ideas: Hmm. Looks like we have a second new column starting this month. The book department is one of TSR's most profitable divisions now, with it's relatively low materials costs, and mass market penetration even among non gamers. Actually, they've recently found out that they're the second biggest sellers of fantasy books in the whole country. So why not give it a little more promotion. Better than throwing good money after bad. And so the magazine becomes a little less about roleplaying, and a little more a mouthpiece for promoting whatever TSR is up to at the moment. On the plus side, I finally get to find out a bit about Jeff Swycaffer, along with Mary Herbert and Robin Bailey, as they profile the writers behind some of their recent and upcoming books. The books they've written, a little about their lives, their literary influences. It's been a few years since they last ran profiles on people, and this is fairly interesting reading, although I get the impression that they did some serious cutting to fit them all into a couple of pages. Like the mini's column, I actually rather enjoyed this as a change of pace, but am all too aware that it could soon become a waste of space. How very awkward. Guess I'll just have to keep judging them on a month by month basis.

The voyage of the princess ark: Another 5 weeks in the life of Haldemar and co this month. Due to a divination, they choose to head northeast, to see whatever is out there. This leads them to a mountainous island where they encounter trouble negotiating the landscape due to their maximum flight height, and then they nearly die when a dragon attacks. Along the way, they have to sacrifice another of the crewmembers. The plot definitely thickens. Once again we see that despite their power, there are more than enough things out there in Mystara able to challenge them. Plus the fact that they choose to save the life of the member of a rival noble house over a loyal crewman makes it even more clear what kind of "heroes" we're dealing with here. They're not going to breeze into a town, solve all the puzzles, kill the biggest evildoers, and then breeze off into the sunset with a cheering crowd behind them, leaving the world a cleaner, happier place. They're going to bounce from one scrape to another, frequently making hurried escapes from whatever they've pissed off this time. And the adventure is going to be all the more interesting and unpredictable as a result. This time round, we also get some player-centric crunch, with a spell described in the journal being statted out. Need some help with your navigation. Use this. It's good for your entire fleet of skyships. You can also reverse it, which makes for great hidden locations. If you've made it to companion level play and want to protect your domains, you should be able to see the value in this.

Dragonmirth reminds us that the reality behind monopoly is just as cutthroat and grim as that behind D&D. Yamara gets married. Wackiness ensues.

TSR previews: Dragonlance is once again our biggest export. DLA1: Dragon Dawn is the first of a trilogy of adventures set in Taladas. Good to see them once again giving their new properties plenty of push. Ansalon, on the other hand is stuck in the past. The Prequel trilogy has proven so popular that they've decided to give us another three books. This time, it's Riverwind who's history we get to see in greater detail.

D&D rolls out it's creature features fast and hard, with PC3: The sea people. Jim Bambra lets you mix merpeople, sea elves, tritons, dolphins, etc to create undersea parties that rival regular ones in racial diversity. That's unlikely to get a follow up.

Lankhmar gets revisited for a quick adventure. Nigel Findley does LNA1: Thieves of Lankhmar. Will his distinctive style translate to the old S&S milieu?

Flint Dille also seems to have been a busy bunny lately. He delivers his sister :)wolves howl, rumble of thunder:) a Buck Rogers graphic novel, and an agent 13 book, Acolytes of Darkness. Several big names are involved in their creation, including Frank Miller, Buzz Dixon, and Dan Spiegle. Very interesting indeed.

Who was that masked android?: Our token non D&D article at the end this time is a Marvel Superheroes one on secret identities, and their preservation in the face of investigation. Let's face it, if it weren't for narrative convention, and a decent supply of mindwiping and retcons, there would be far fewer supers with their disguises intact. (And it'd be another order of magnitude or two harder 20 these years later, with the huge increase in surveillance and recording technology, both government and private. ) In contrast to the recent Top Secret articles, this is a crunch heavy examination of the various factors affecting your chances of being discovered, well tied into their universal resolution scheme. The bigger your impact, both as a person, and a superhero, the greater the chances someone'll come along able to put two and two together and say, hey, if you took his glasses off, doesn't he look exactly like .......... ? Anyway, I found this another article that's both useful and likable, with it's easily determined divisions, and plenty of examples.

With a truly rubbish themed section, and several other very problematic articles, this is a bad issue overall, but in an interesting way. The Princess ark is still fascinating, and we're seeing the start of the early 2nd ed controversies, which is also fun to read about, but with lots of crap articles, and strong signs that the magazine is being interfered with in unpleasant ways by upper management, it makes for an unsatisfactory experience overall. Stressful times man. Let's hope there are some improvements ahead.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 155: March 1990

part 1/6

116 pages. After 4 years of staying stable, the page count starts to creep up again. Have paper costs decreased? Are they getting more advertising in? Are the sales going up? I don't think it's that last one. In any case, that means more stuff for me to read and review. The 90's are definitely going to take even longer to get through than the 80's. And that's not even counting the frickin insert, which is missing again. :mutter mutter mutter: Okay, that settles it. I'm easing off the gas right now, rather than waiting for the burnout to hit. I've managed daily installments for a year now without a break, I don't want to ruin that good track record. Let's see if this issue has anything that'll cheer me up.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter from a new sculpting company looking for employees. At least, it looks that way to me. Hmm.

Someone curious about the witch NPC class. Roger is quite happy to point out the last two issues they appeared in. You'll have to find them yourself, mind.

A letter from someone who's noticed some of the displacer beast illustrations have insufficient legs. Sloppy artists, again. Send them to remedial fantasy anatomy classes.

An amusing suggestion for naming your dumb rampaging fighters/barbarians. Name them after the sound their weapon makes. Roger is amused, but a touch bewildered. How very 60's Batman.

A letter from someone who really likes many of the covers, and wishes they included a little more detail about the artists and methods of production. Bah. Write to them yourself, see if they want to give away trade secrets.

Connected to this, a letter asking where the hell the arrowhead on issue 150's cover is. You'd never spot it if you don't know it's there, particularly with the scan resolution I have to investigate from.

Sage advice gets to be a fetching shade of peach this month. Not that this does anything for the readibility. But that was never a problem, anyway.

Are demons and devils dropped forever? This sucks! ( We're carefully considering all the options. We don't want to annoy anyone. So we'll work out a compromise solution that merely annoys everyone a little bit. )

Do shamans get bonus spells for high wisdom. (Only if they learned their powers, rather than getting them innate.)

Can I photocopy the monstrous compendia sheets (yes. But if you sell it, the TSR rules nazis will kick your door down with their jackboots, and exact their brutal revenge. )

Are the new dragons really THAT badass? ( Not quite. We have our reasons for making all these changes.

Will we gets stats for tiamat and bahamut (2nd ed don't stat deities. Another casualty of the bitchin brigade. )

What can dragons dig through ( Anything common in their native terrain. Dig it, baby. )

What's the age category of a random dragon. (We suggest 2d4. Otherwise horrible random deaths may result. )

Why can dragons have AC better than -10 ( Because they're over a thousand years old. When thousand years old you are, ignore rules binding lesser creatures you may.)

What is the spell detect gems (It's not a spell, it's an innate power. As to why dragons have it, that should be obvious)

What's an alignment of nil (editing error. We were considering making nonintelligent creatures unaligned rather than true neutral, making the distinction between those that consciously maintain a balance and ones that just don't give a shit about morality, but it fell through. I'm sure you're intrigued to know that little tidbit)

Do fireballs do extra damage against white dragons (wait till next edition dear. It's only 10 years. You can get way more badass, and they won't even go up an age category in the meantime. )

Why are fire giants only immune to nonmagical fire. Why doesn't dragon breath count as magical (Because we don't want to nerf wizards, and we don't mind nerfing red dragons sometimes, because they aren't PC's)

Where are my wolverines, whales and sharks ( In a minute dear. Compendia 2 and 3 will be in the shops before you know it.)

How smart are werebears (smarter than the average bear)

What's the xp for noble genies ( Really not enough. Better to be their friend than their enemy )

Shouldn't liches be limited to 10 HD (No. They're monsters now. They scoff at your mortal HD limitations. On the plus side, they don't get con modifiers anymore. Well that's interesting to consider)

Shouldn't soldiers be tougher than farmers (have you seen what farmers put up with in D&D? Random plains encounters are way meaner than random city ones. )

Why was the huecava renamed (oops. No-one'll care, especially when the new version is more intuitive to pronounce.)

How strong are korred. ( Worryingly)

How much damage do cat's rear claw rakes do (enough to kill a wizard, no trouble )

Do orcs have too many chiefs and not enough indians ( Great. More errata. Pass Skip the historical revisionist whitewash )

Can rope trick be cast sideways or down (honestly, you let them cast lightning bolts at an angle, and suddenly we get a load of copycat questions. Skip is not amused)

How many pinches of dust of disappearance do you normally find (how long is a piece of string. How big is a pinch. When is being invisible around someone sexual harassment? These are all questions with highly variable answers.)

Does a wizard raising their strength with a wish still suffer the temporary penalty (yes)

Do you get a bonus for attacking someone while they're spellcasting (no. They can still get out the way)

Can you memorize the same spell more than once simultaneously (yes, but not advisable)

I still don't get the difference between spells known and spells memorized (Skip has been more than generous with you. Skip is giving you one last chance to pull your boots up and fly straight. Otherwise Skip will do what skip does, and show you what he can really do with his sagely knowledge. )

Unearthed Arcana is different from it's source material in Dragon (Our playtesting, we had it. And we used it. Course, that's all in the past now, thanks to Lorraine :)Roll of thunder, organ music, wolves howl: ) Williams. Do not mourn for us. But be glad that we lived. )
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