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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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Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Here is the part of the editorial that is based on Gamma World

James M. Ward (TSR’s GAMMA WORLD® game): I was in a GAMMA WORLD game that Jim Ward ran a few years ago. It scared me to death. Jim has a habit of rolling huge numbers of dice of damage at the snap of a laser, and his campaign was full of amusing things such as Cthulhu-size lake monsters and deathray satellites that diced up ground targets with impunity. But his most famous creation was the subtly named Death Machine, a nice little military relic of the Social Wars of the game’s background.

What’s a Death Machine, some of you may ask. Here’s a story: A few years ago, when I was in the Army, I told everyone in my gaming group to each pick his or her favorite deity from the AD&D® game, and prepare to role-play that deity in a special scenario I had developed. The next hour was spent in feverish excitement as a large assortment of gods and supermonsters met on a deserted plain and awaited their opponents. Suddenly a huge space-time warp opened up in front of the incredible assembly . . . and out of the alien warp came three brand-new, fully armed, fully powered Death Machines on random programming.

Two gods died in the first 10 seconds of combat, each taking over 700 hp of damage. A third god died before the minute-long fight was over, and two other gods (including Demogorgon) fled the battlefield in utter panic. All the rest of the deities were pounded with atomic missiles, lasers, bombs, rockets, shells, bullets, force fields, and death rays. Thor bent the nose of one Death Machine with Mjolnir but took a nuke in return. If I had not used random attacks, all of the gods would have died in 30 seconds, no sweat. It was wonderful.

None of the PCs in any GAMMA WORLD games we had thereafter ever stayed within sighting distance of a Death Machine. However, I understand that Jim has run GAMMA WORLD campaigns in the past in which whole fleets of Death Machines would fly off into the wilderness and be completely destroyed by mutant strains of crab grass. Properly run, a good GAMMA WORLD game should cause Fear with a capital F in any pitiful, barbaric mutant who dares poke his head out of his cave. Thank you, Jim.
It is one of my inspirations for making Mutant Future critters. Another is an editorial that is soon coming up- the one with Cthulhu sized lake monsters.


Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Now, what can you do with a thousand lead pieces?
Sounds like the basis of one of their 101 Uses... articles.

Maybe we should start a thread just for that. But in TTO or D20?


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 156: April 1990

part 3/6

Fiction: Confusing sequel to a story you haven't read by Adam Troy Castro. Another joke piece here. When the stuff in the slush pile gets mixed up, all kinds of weird stuff can happen. Only the almightly pen of the editor can ensure everything appears on the page as it should, and there are no incomprehensible plot leaps, or annoying people ending sentences with propositions. A nicely meta bit of fiction, that once again seems to be hitting the right buttons for my sense of humour. It may be easier to do things badly but amusingly, and oddly, that can often sell better precisely because it is lampoonable. Don't be ashamed of the cheese in your collection.

The marvel-phile: Yet more goofiness here as well, as they tackle some more of the Marvel universes' many amusing and incompetent villains. Another collection of incompetent villains for hire, the Crazy Gang have an alice in wonderland theme, and have primarily been a source of irritation for captain Britain. Executioner, Jester, Knave, the Red Queen and Tweedledope. Just beat the crap out of them and shove them in jail. Problem solved. A pretty standard entry here. No great flashes of wit in their description either. Dale doesn't seem quite as good at making this entertaining as Jeff.

Wrestling with style: Another brief and unpretentious article here, expanding the martial arts rules to cover non oriental fighting styles. Boxing, two variants on Pankraton, and Wrestling, and a little on where these fighting styles are demonstrated in classical literature. It's not as if westerners had no style and finesse at all in these areas. Course, as ever, it doesn't address the fact that the MA rules in OA are a bit crap, but that doesn't seem to hurt their popularity as something to build upon. Once again, not even slightly world-rocking, but feel free to use it.

Sage advice finally leaves pole position. But it's still peachy. And illustrated! This is a step up! Some extra special april fools questions for us here.
What happens if an anti-magic shell is hit by a beholders anti-magic eye ( Magic doesn't work. Twice. Two wrongs do not make a right.)
What happens when someone's turned into water and then drunken. (Their deid sonny. Ach, noo. )
What happens if you cast spells to affect objects on a body and then raise it (oh, this could get complicated. Skip will have to filibuster until they get bored and go away. )
What happens if you get three draconians, cut off their wings, and load them on a catapult (Ok, now you're just trying to test Skip. Skip will not play your stupid games. )
What happens if you're turned into a worm, cut in two and then turned back ( You die. Simplest way to handle it. )
How much does a legless gnome weigh (Still quite a bit)
Can a dinosaur crush a sword + 6 (yes)
Can you shoot down a fireball. (No, despite how cinematic it would be. )
Can a ring of regeneration restore virginity (physically, but it won't fool the unicorns. )
We also get 7 more revisitings of previous questions, with the answers revised in light of new information. Skip ain't set in his ways. Skip is adaptable to please the laydees in every situation. )

TSR Previews goes yellow. Their budget for colour seems to be increasing these days. Anyway, On the generic side of things, we get DMGR2: The castle guide, and Monstrous compendium 5, Greyhawk. Both team efforts by the whole staff, they bring a whole bunch of old creatures into the new edition, and expand the mass system rules for sieges and all that jazz.

The Forgotten Realms sees this year's big event start. Troy Denning gives us FRA1: Storm Riders. Head east to escape the mongols, and wind up in wacky hi-jinks land. David Cook writes Horselords, the corresponding novel installment. (Both the start of a trilogy, au naturelle) Having just got over a plague of gods and reworking of it's physics, now the Realms has to deal with a barbarian invasion. Well, at least they're not trying to top themselves every year at the moment. Still, prepare for big chunks of your old setting info to be made obsolete.

D&D gets another module, tied in to it's recent boxed set. Arena of Thyatis sees some new characters learning the ropes in a relatively controlled environment. I'm guessing being captured and forced to fight in the arena is on the agenda at some point.

Marvel also gets an introductory module. MLBA1: Mutating Mutants. I don't think the nature of your character's origin stories are in any question if you use this one. :p

And finally, it seems they're still trying their luck with new boardgames now and then. Fantasy Forest sees them resurrect characters from the D&D cartoon, and use them in a game for younger players. Who will reach the magic castle first? Anyone remember this?


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 156: April 1990

part 4/6

Characterization made easy: Scott Bennie shows us how much he's grown from his bounty hunting days with another article on easy personality building. Remember, your personality is not what you own, or the numbers on your character sheet. Just answer a few basic questions to build up a fairly solid personality, pick an accent and some behavioural quirks. Just be careful not to be too stereotypical. Good guys don't have to be saints, bad guys don't have to be baby raping maniacal laughers. With pretty good targeting for adventurers and the kinds of people they're most likely to encounter, and about the right level of examples and humour, this is a pretty good example of this article type. There is a bit of rehash, but enough new spins to justify it. The general quality of this area of gaming continues to improve.

Through the looking glass: Another episode of painting advice this month rather than reviews. Shading, highlighting and definition. Doing stuff like this requires rather more precision than simply slapping a blob of paint on the area and adding a few dots for eyes. Like the last article, this is a good one for showing off their increases in sophistication, both visually and in terms of design. Casting techniques have also improved in the past 10 years, so you do have a better chance of having decent detail to build upon. The photography is excellent, showing how minor differences in pain jobs make a big difference in terms of visibility and distinctiveness. Quite a likable one here as well.

Forum: Alan Clark takes time off from his busy government minister schedule to comment on the cavalier. Yes, the individual abilities may be justifiable. But as a whole, the damn thing is way overpowered. That and the enforced attitude problem is not a hinderance as most adventurers act like that anyway. It's both lame and unnecessary.

Nicholas R Howe (Audacious) also thinks the cavalier is ill-concieved and overpowered. Quite a few of their powers would be just as suited to a regular fighter. See, this is why they got rid of them.

Timothy Sallume gives us some damn cool ideas for fantasy castles. Use magic to make living places with spectacular visuals that can only be penetrated by more magic. These fit in much better to a high fantasy game.

Darrell C Donald offers more pragmagic (sic) countermeasures against spells that make mundane defences useless. It's not that hard to deal with the low level ones without deviating too far from mundane appearances. All it takes is a little creativity.

Will Hettchen cheats on the castle issue by making a certain kind of common stone resistant to magic. Neh. Not as keen on this solution.

James Regan III demonstrates his own deranged creativity in the matter of magic protection. Wizards possessing giant black puddings. Teleport fields keyed to specific classes of object. Extraplanar precautions. Sounds pretty damn expensive. This is why you can only do this stuff at high level, and keeping it in house. I really think the DM should have thrown more obstacles in their way. Projects like this always meet unexpected obstacles.

David Howery expresses his contempt for the idea that high level characters with the tricks mentioned are easily available to anyone with a little money. These guys should be rare. Looks like this little conflict is going to run for a bit.

R. L. Brown talks about his efforts to make computers useful for gaming. Needs moar memory. Keep buying hard drives, so their sizes can keep increasing exponentially.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 156: April 1990

part 5/6

Role-playing reviews: Ken once again helps us decide if his reviews are useful by talking about his criteria before getting on to the actual reviews. Which as ever, is fairly nice to see. It not only shows he takes the time to sit down and codify his though processes, it also helps us figure out if we're on the same level as him. I don't think I'm quite there yet, but then, I've only been doing this for 18 months, while he's been going a good 8 years now. Anyway. This month, he returns to the idea of cities. What makes a good description of one for gamers? Stuff useful for getting into adventures, mainly. Floor plans, personages with stats and defined goals, overarching tensions and potential conflicts. Seems fairly obvious, really. Lets see how the new crop have done.

Minas Trith gets a mostly positive review with a bunch of little nitpicks. It might not be totally faithful to tolkien's tone and design, but it does seem to be quite gameable, with a good mix of high and low fantasy. Mind the whitewashed ghetto through.

Tredroy is a city book for GURPS Fantasy. While the visual presentation isn't very appealing, on a closer read, he's fairly positive about the writing. It focusses well on stuff that's useful for adventurers, and isn't too cliched in it's design. Looks like they can do settings as well as solid rules.

Warhammer city expands on Middenheim. It gets a rather middling review. While initially impressive looking and full of mood establishing flavour, it seems the editing is rather poor, and the information is less substantial than would first seem. He also isn't too keen on Warhammer's tendency towards puns. It's not as grim as they pretend it is, you know.

The city of Greyhawk sees Ken play the company shill, giving it top marks in all areas. It's just what the AD&D system needs, and full of nostalgic references. Oh, if only it had been released 10 years ago! :p Ok then. Still, it is a boxed set where the others are single books, so the greater detail and visual stuff isn't surprising. There are still plenty of people in the company that love greyhawk and want to see it succeed, in the face of the more crap products.

City system gets a rather less impressive review, trying to do too much with too small a page count, and being dependent on the previous Waterdeep supplement. Seems like Ken would prefer his cities too small to technically be called cities in the real world, rather than trying to actually do things on the multimillion population scale. Still, once again, the production values are great, and the various bits and pieces are easily recycled for using in your own city layouts. Just don't expect it to be useful without any work.

Cities of mystery also falls for the pretty visuals & high production values, but lackluster writing and poor examples, which contradict the worldbuilding advice that they give you in the same book. Once again, it's mainly useful for the pieces, which makes it especially unattractive to me, unlikely to be able to get hold of a hardcopy. TSR is churning out quite a bit of marginal crap at this time.

Also notable is a minireview of GURPS Riverworld, which is also pretty positive. Riverworld has always seemed like a brilliant world for gaming in, particularly one-on-one play, and apparently this does it justice. I find myself tempted. Quite an interesting set of reviews, overall.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 156: April 1990

part 6/6

The role of computers:
Champions of Krynn gets a 5 star rating, filling the reviewers with sadistic pleasure as they use Kender to taunt the enemies, getting them to perform tactically unwise actions. It uses lots of other dragonlance stuff integrally as well, including the moon phases, Knights of solamnia, gods, etc. As Jim Ward noted earlier this issue, it's bloody hard right from the start, so optimization will be rewarded. Most of this turns into advice on how to play the game, and I suspect we may see more of that in future issues. Sounds like the designers know what they're doing.

Harpoon is a naval simulator, and also gets 5 stars. Very simulationist, with lots of freedom in how you act, and the potential for supplements with new scenarios and stuff, it seems well suited for lovers of those Tom Clancy novels.

Populous: The promised lands is an add-on to the ironically popular game. A whole bunch of new cultural options, including wild west and lego. Once again, they have great fun, giving it 5 stars. They are in a good mood today.

Risk: The world conquest game is a 4th 5 starer in a row. It's pretty faithful to the board game, only faster and easier to keep track of, of course. Little comment needed.

Tiger Road is a fairly decent conversion of the arcade game. They give a whole load of play advice in this review as well. Interesting trend. I wonder why.

Manhunter 2: San francisco gets unrated because the mac port sucks. Stick to the PC version. Blah.

The voyage of the princess ark: Our charming commander once again proves himself to be both devious and a master of understatement. Nearly sunk by a massive storm, captured by the heldanic knights, treated to the classic villainous monologue, contingency triggered time stopping his way out of there. Stealing the body of a god, hiding it on another plane, and then using it as a negotiating chip to escape from the treacherous knights and rescue the rest of the crew. All in a few casual diary lines. One has to wonder if he's exaggerating here. After all, this is a diary entry, and he's certainly not an omniscient narrator. Could he be embelishing his deeds for posterity to paint himself in a better light? Very good question. Maybe we'll get some clues later on, but for now, he's our only source of info.
This month's crunch is of course info on the heldanic knights, who are an excelent example of how chaotic=evil is a common association in BD&D land, with a strong organization and loyalty to it demonstrated despite their alignment. They also seem able to cast cleric spells while not adhering to the usual weapon restrictions clerics have to deal with. I guess that differentiating priests of different gods was well established in AD&D, so it's not that surprising. But it will probably result in players either complaining, or wanting to play one. Maybe not the smartest move on Bruce's part.

The ecology of the behir: What do you get if you cross a blue dragon with a centipede? No, it's not a joke, because the answer is something like this. Whether that's how they really came about, (we know dragons are omnisexual pervs.) wizardly experimentation strikes again, or it's merely a co-incidence is not revealed. That they have variants for other climates that do not directly correspond to other dragon colours is a mild negative to this theory. The providing of detailed stats for their various stages of growth seems to be on the up, as they do so for the 3rd time in 4 ecologies, and once again, they talk about training the creature. (futile task, really. Stick to things smaller than people.) Anyway, this is one with fairly average fiction, but pretty good footnotes, giving us plenty of detail about their lifecycle and little mechanical extras for you to slot into your game. Noncontroversial and useful. No problem with that.

Dragonmirth has several different types of release this month. Ralph gets evil in Yamara.

The twilight empire: A new comic, it seems. Yamara's been all on her ownsome for too long. We get thrown in in media res, and the protagonist is seriously off-guard. Ends after a cliffhanger. What is going to happen here. Will the comic stick around long enough for the plot to get anywhere? We shall see. The artwork is pretty damn good, in any case.

A rather better issue than the last few. With plenty of stuff that's actually funny, and some pretty good articles unconnected to the theme as well, this managed to satisfy me. The upper management may be trying to push them to promote the companies products at every point possible, but there's still plenty of writers who's primary goal is making our games better. And as long as that's the case, there'll still be some worthwhile issues for me to delve into. Onto the next one.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 157: May 1990

part 1/6

116 pages. Another thing that I knew was coming and dreaded comes to pass. Buck Rogers gets an RPG. Which means the TSR staff are obliged to put him on the cover and give him a special issue with lots of articles devoted to him. Curse you, Lorrane Williams :shakes fist: This could get ugly. Are you ready to face it with me?

In this issue:

Letters: A letter from the new owners of the Timemaster game, letting everyone know it's back if you want to buy it.

Another person asking for help playing paladins properly. It's not hard, you know. The more restrictions they put, the easier your choices become.

A letter pointing out that there are several better magazines for those of you who want to learn how to sculpt and paint better miniatures. It's only a tiny part of Dragon's remit, but a big part of some companies livelihoods.

A letter from someone pissed off at the attempt to pass norkers off as ogres. It's not quite as obvious as the goblin/kobold switchup in Dragon Mountain and the Monster Manual, but still, lazy art recycling is lazy art recycling. Your disdain is entirely justified.

Dragonstrike. The first ever dragon combat simulator? Looks like a reskinned flying sim to me. You'll have to do better than that to impress me.

Into the 25th century: Hmm. Looks like Kim Mohan is back on board. Now that is interesting. What happened to working for Gary? New Infinities folds, and he comes crawling back. Anyway, this sees him selling the new game, both it's setting and system. It's pretty similar to AD&D, so don't worry too much about that. There's plenty of room to adventure in, with plot hooks ready to go; lots of cool gadgetry, spaceship combat, pretty maps, cards containing iconic info, a GM screen, the works. It even has dice, so n00bs lured in by the name can get straight to playing. It all sounds pretty comprehensive, when you put it like that. But then, putting all those shinies in the boxed set costs lots of money, so that'll bump up the losses the company makes from all those unsold products. They're certainly pushing this one harder than they did Top Secret or Star Frontiers. Did our evil overmistress give the core a print run to match? In any case, this would be an interesting development even if I didn't know the context behind it. As I do, it stands out a little more against the D&D heavy backdrop of the current magazine.

Buck is back!: A second, shorter promotional piece, focussing on all the other multimedia products Buck is going to appear in in the near future. A series of comics. A computer game. Another trilogy of novels. And a whole load of supplements for the RPG. If you were a Buck fanatic, this would eat up a big chunk of your disposable income. There is a bit of an overlap with the last one, but this is a pretty short, no-nonsense piece that doesn't really give me any hooks to actively hate on. Ho hum. A rather unthrilling start indeed. On we go, let's see if they've got anything else to say apart from "We've got cool stuff coming out! Buy it!"

Chamber of the sci-mutant priestess? Now there's a name straight out of the pulp random title generator. And the protagonist of the game is called Raven? And a mutant monkey thing is carrying a scantily clad girl on the cover? To the clichemobile!

Buck Rogers flies solo: Ed Greenwood joins in to deliver the only article in this special that actually gives us anything we can actually use, rather than just being promotion. This is for the boardgame, and reminds me of the optional rules stuff he did for Divine Right, a good decade ago now. Basically just a set of behaviours for the enemy players if you want to play a solo game, this seems to have his usual combination of clever quirkiness, and plenty of options to allow you to boost your replay value. You'll probably win, but the big question is how well, with the margins he gives between resounding victory and failure fairly narrow. Hopefully that means he's playtested this a few times and has a good idea how it turns out. As with much of the non D&D stuff, I'm forced to ask the floor if this actually worked, but this is still easily the most interesting and useful part of this rather drab themed section. They really did struggle to get up enough stuff to really justify calling it that.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 157: May 1990

part 2/6

For the greater good: The Star Wars rpg also gets an article this month. That's nice. A bit more sci-fi would be welcome in here. Carl Sargent delivers the equivalent of some new spells, new force powers, which are always a popular option for those craving more crunchy toys to play with. Control Damage, when combined with refined Life Sense, allows a Jedi to inflict only the harm they need too, and no more. Not killing enemies but still winning a fight requires more skill than just slaughtering everyone by dirty tricks, but of course, they want you to play heroes in this game, and punish those who don't mechanically. So this not only adds a particular kind of cinematics to your game, but also makes it easier for you to stay on the light side while still having cool and dramatic battles. That's very handy indeed, as well as a particularly well thought out bit of figuring how to get a thematic result while working within the existing system. He can definitely have some kudos for this.

Sage advice: I need some elaborations on the nature of simaclulara (They're not properly alive, but they're real enough to figure out they're incomplete and wish they were a real boy. There's certainly a moral quandary involved in creating them)

Is magical elven chain less penalising to thieves (no)

Do you lose your dex bonus when spellcasting. (recycled question. The answer's still no )

Will an int boosting ioun stone help you learn spells. What happens if you learn too many spells then lose it ( Yes, and you get to keep them through the grandfather clause. Join the ranks of the overpowered ancient PC's. )

What level are ranger's followers (not strong enough to survive a high level dungeon with him. )

Can thieves use shields (No. We may have relaxed some stuff in 2nd ed, but that aint one of them. )

Do you lose spells that are disrupted during casting from your memory ( yes indeed. This is why the spellcasters stay behind the meat shields )

What counts as income for paladin's tithing. (The stuff you just got, not the stuff you already have. Remember, for paladins, that's a minimum. Holding onto wealth you don't have a good use for will always get you in trouble. )

Can the shield spell be boosted by other magical effects (No, it's another of those either/or situations)

Can you teleport onto moving places like ships and cloud castles. (yes, but there are many many ways this could go wrong. You may choose to be sadistic)

Can aging raise your ability scores above 18. ( Yes. This is another reason why human wizards can kick elven wizards ass. So much for logic.)

What's the point of writing a scroll into your spellbook rather than memorising it from the scroll (So you can use it more than once. The relationship between scroll writings and spellbook writings is one of those annoying little rules quirks that seems designed just to catch people like you out. )

How much water is created by transmute water to dust. (up to 10' cube per level. You'd better hope you have enough dust. )

Can you choose which colour to fire when casting rainbow (fnarr. Yes. )

Is magic resistance affected by caster level (Not anymore. Now 90% always means 90%, and you're gonna have trouble with Balors and mind flayers even above 20th level. Better get practicing your spamming techniques)

Forum: Alex Iwanow reminds you not to engage in age prejudice, even if they are being little plonkers. If you treat them right, they'll learn from their mistakes and grow into good gamers, if you don't, they may well leave the hobby and bad-mouth the weirdos playing it among their friends. And that would not be good for it's future, would it now?

Amber McKinney, meanwhile, kicks off another round of the never ending sexism complaints. They'll catch a cold in those bikinis and get hacked to pieces, even if they are made of fur and chainmail. Here we go again. Just give them some sensible armour already. It's not as if they'll actually be any less attractive. As cultural comparison shows, even if you cover them up completely, the smallest glimpses of eyes or ankle is enough to get male juices flowing, while people can get blase to total nakedness if that's the norm.

Rocky L Sharier has some fairly detailed thoughts on channeling your xp into getting extra nonweapon proficiency slots. How about making easier ones easier to learn? That's already pretty much the case, only not very finely graded, isn't it. Oh, and charging % of your next level costs produces some seriously wonky results. Yeah, you aren't fixing this intractable little mechanics issue that easily. Keep floating ideas, maybe someone'll come up with one that works.

Robert S. Morris, Jr also solved the satan-paranoid parents problem by playing D&D with them. Personal contact is the bane of prejudice. Well, unless it's actually justified, because they are stealing your jobs, nicking stuff from your garden, sleeping with your women, selling drugs to your kids and playing music too loud at 3am or something. :p Then things get a little messier. But these rarely apply to roleplaying groups.

Robert K. Hackett thinks that allowing your character to have all the skills you to is a very dumb and incredibly unbalancing idea. Probably right, as subsequent game design has moved ever further from that principle, towards things like social combat and extended abstracted skill challenges.

Benson Syphrit replies to two letters. Humanoids can indeed be fun and challenging at any level, especially if you use the stuff from GAZ10. And chaotic and evil characters can work fine as long as you don't forget the pragmatism. They won't sacrifice their life for the greater evil, because that shouldn't be how evil works. Otherwise, as Aslan says, you may be doing things in the name of Tash, but the veneration goes to me.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 157: May 1990

part 3/6

Forgotten Realms starts the empires trilogy, the tie-in novels to the Horde invasion expansion. Will you explore the newly revealed lands, or will they come to you, raping (oh wait, we don't do that in 2nd edition) and pillaging their way through your country and campaign with their metaplot developments.

Where there is one Sumotori...... There's bound to be another: In the grand tradition of the bounty hunter, we have two competing versions of the same class in quick succession. Sumo wrestler as a PC? A rather silly idea, but they are oriental, look badass, and have a recent TV series bringing people's attention to them over here. So Stuart Wieck and Len Carpenter follow in Brian Blume's illustrious footsteps. This could definitely be fun to watch.

Stuart's version are highly specialised grappling based fighters. Like Monks, they do have some fairly effective MA based effects, but this probably won't keep them up with fighters in the wider world, since they can't use armour or weapons. They are serious tanks, and the combination of high HP & No of attacks, and so-so AC means they make a good way to draw fire if backed up with a healer. While comical, they wouldn't be completely useless, and their skill at grappling and bonus xp gained from winning fights means they might work in an urban game where a lot of the time you want to capture rather than kill.

Len's sumo warriors have many similar points, but are rather weaker (unless you take literally the typo which gives them 211 attacks per round, which I assume is meant to read 2/1), requiring more XP per level, getting smaller HD, less flexibility, and having a hard level cap of 8. Unsurprisingly, Len makes a stronger case for keeping them as NPC's. However, they do gain rather more miscellaneous powers scattered through their description, which may well add up to greater effectiveness than you'd think. It still wouldn't be completely predetermined in conflict between the two schools, but you would have to do some fudging, as the systems for battle are also somewhat different. Still, overall, lower basic power and more complication in remembering all their features adds up to a less elegant and desirable class than Stuart's version. On the other hand, since they're both underpowered really, perhaps combining the best features of both would result in a competitive adventuring class. Hmm. Was anyone zany enough to try these guys out in their campaign back in the day?

The voyage of the princess ark: A rather interesting genre change this month, as the ark ventures into the vulture peninsula. This, it turns out, was actually accurately named by the old map. Not only is it infested with vultures, but it's also the home of a race of vulture headed men cursed with eternal reincarnation retaining all their memories. And like way too many vampires, they spend a lot of time moping about their immortal existence as eternally shunned carrion feeders when they really should be doing cool stuff with their endless lives and quite considerable magical powers. As they're near impossible to get rid of permanently, they make great recurring adversaries. Definitely an interesting entry, showing how varied mystara can be. It's filled to the brim with odd places for you to adventure in and solve the problems of, and can do comedy, tragedy, horror and high fantasy. Which will their wanderings result in next time?

The best of dragon games! A compilation of six of the most popular games from the magazines history. Is there nothing they can't compile these days? Computer programs, maybe. It's been years since we saw one of those in here, and they messed them up most times they tried them.

The ecology of the Wemic: Ahh, cat-people. Always a popular choice. As are stereotyped noble savage cultures. And with this ecology, you get two stereotypes for the price of one, if not more! Just the thing for those of you out there who enjoy playing cat people and acting out their feline behavioural traits. One does not have to look far to see that the roleplaying and mad cat lady demographics have a reasonable degree of crossover. (there are still people who'll rant about the crap deals the Bastet got in the NWoD and refuse to play it because of that :p ) Like the Satyr one, this is interesting, and sometimes amusing, but not entirely pleasing, largely due to the degree of fanservice pandering involved. It's also hampered by one of their more annoying cases of page-chopping formatting, with bits scrunched between adverts and inside other articles. Part of D&D's downfall over this decade will be the rise of other games that cater better to certain kinds of players and luring them away. Hmm.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 157: May 1990

part 4/6

Editorial: Still more commentary on the removal of the fiends from 2nd edition in here. Roger puts his 2 cents in, making it pretty clear where he stands on their removal while not actually contradicting company line in any way. There are a whole bunch of good reasons why they are useful to have in the game, both from a mechanical and flavour point of view. There's also a reminder that the old books are hardly obsolete, and the canon police aren't going to break down your doors if you keep using them. As with the Buck Rogers stuff, there are big chunks of the company that are rolling their eyes at some of the recent decisions, and working behind the scenes to undermine them. It's all a bit awkward, really. It'll be interesting to see just how this progresses, both in terms of this issue, and the larger company politics.

The dungeon alone: A second article on solo play in the same magazine? How curious. Well, actually this is mainly for one-on-one play, but it's not that big a difference. Weirdly, the idea of having a single player play multiple characters (By far the easiest solution, and one I use regularly) doesn't occur to this writer, and the rest of this article consists of ways you can turn down the difficulty level to give them a chance of surviving. Poison and paralysis obviously need serious moderating. Bend the rules on death and unconsciousness liberally. Give them better chances than normal to run away. Govern monster replenishment conservatively. Basically, be a complete wimp, and let them win even if they're playing dumb. He also seems to assume that you'll be playing fairly linear adventures, and if they make a "wrong" choice, you should blatantly have it just not work, or figure out how to get them back on track as soon as possible. While there are some cool ideas to steal, overall, I find this a moderately objectionable article, encouraging you to break the rules to achieve your ends, and make sure that the players win, rather than being a properly neutral moderator. Plus there are more satisfying ways of handling solo play, as they've shown in the past, and this is another sign of the gradual dilution of the game's deadliness over the editions. Bleh.

Next stop - Eveningstar: Ohh, shiny. More Realms bonus features. Ed's overwritten as usual, and we get the benefits. Say hello to the village of eveningstar. Not a hugely important place in the scheme of things, but notable for FLYING CATS!!!!! FANGIRL SQUEE!!!!!! EPIC KYOOT!!!!! I do apologize. I just got a sudden unexpected nostalgia overdose. As I remember, this place does get into the updated second edition boxed set, and the flying cats become Tressym, which went on to play a fairly substantial part in my own youthful gaming. It's somewhat bigger than it's appearance there as well, filling in several details that were left unclear in the later version, and with a whole bunch of plot hooks and descriptive details that can make it a suitable adventuring location for both low and higher level parties. They can deal with wolves and local humanoids, or they might wind up rubbing shoulders with King Azoun and seeing what monsters live in the ruins of the Zhentarim base. (I'm betting there's a Deepspawn involved, given the ease they replenish with. ) This is definitely a welcome appearance of something I wasn't expecting to see again, but am very pleased to have discovered. See you again soon, hopefully.

Keep the heroes flying: Our Marvel article this month is another on proper world and plot building. Learn the plots that the comics use. Tailor adventures to your heroes and their backstories and personalities. A cast of recurring NPC's that aren't heroes or villains is important. A romantic interest is particularly useful as a driver for adventures. Turning friend against friend always makes for a fun fight. If struggling, temporarily remove their powers. All seems fairly familiar from years of the ARES section and the similar advice for other genres. Yawn. My mind, it is already expanded enough to not even notice this going in.

Through the looking glass: Robert continues to keep this more interesting than the other review columns by mixing up elements as usual. Once again, he has to explain his methodology. He can't review stuff that hasn't been submitted, and there's no point reviewing stuff that isn't available to most people. Similarly, given the magazine's international audience, mentioning specific shops would be bad business. Being a pro is hard. On the plus side, he's been reviewing enough that he can recommend figures for a whole range of monsters. Many of them are even officially licensed. :p

On the reviews side of things, the big one is Blue Max, a wargame of WW1 dogfighting. Modeling 3D movement and a whole bunch of maneuvers, it is as much about player skill as equipment stats and luck, and seems both pretty fun, and very open to expansions. Still trying to keep wargaming alive, I see.

On the actual minis side, we see that Shadowrun has taken off quickly and effectively, and have already licensed out their minis rights to grenadier. But D&D is still holding on tight to the market too, with new models for the Dragonlance line. There's probably room enough for both in this town, but it's not going to be a completely harmonious co-existence. More fun little snippets of history leaking through here.
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