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

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 1/6

116 pages. Year 14. Yeah, the magazine is currently a sulky teenager, or something. But no matter how old you get, there's always a part of you that eagerly awaits your birthday presents. Well, it's either that or spend it moping how you grow ever closer to death's final embrace. Which doesn't really work quite the same way when you're a magazine. So as usual, we get a whole bunch of articles on dragons, and some fiction featuring one as well. Just the thing to make yourself a hero with. But remember, don't do it too well, or you'll leave nothing left for future generations, and the whole tradition will die out. Lets see what room they have for new stuff amid the old traditions.


In this issue:


Letters: A letter asking when they're going to release another best of. It has been a while, hasn't it. As with the last time they were asked, they'd like too, but for some reason upper management :Rumble of thunder, stab of organ music: doesn't seem too keen on the idea. What is up with that?

Another letter asking them why they don't go digital. Roger replies with a detailed and somewhat snarky breakdown of why it's not the great ecosaviour move this writer seems to think it would be. Besides, how would they advertise. Hmm. Actually, that is interesting. I wonder why they completely dropped the ads when Dragon went digital. It's not as if they couldn't still put some on the pages, and it would deal with the irritating whitespace issue.

A letter about how umber hulks smell. Roger trots out one of the most tired old jokes of all in response. I didn't laugh.


Forum: Ralph Sizer doesn't think there's anything evil about paladins using feints and other such sneaky tactics in combat. You're dethpicable. ;) No clath or honour at all! Such actions may not be evil, but they are chaotic. You can expect a good spanking if you use them regularly.

Brian Smarker is dubious about the idea of good clerics creating undead just to give their acolytes turning practice. Wouldn't that be like an environmentalist creating an oil spill just to teach people how harmful they are, and how to best clean them up. On the other hand, people like those PETA nuts who released a whole labfull of weasels into the wild, seriously mucking up the predator/prey balance, and dooming most of them to a quick death anyway because they didn't know how to hunt properly might try that. And clerics are frequently known for fanaticism over reason.

James S. Watson joins the realism brigade. Your articles on wars, and how soldiers were trained and organized in them were insufficiently researched! Same as it ever was.

Dennis Lee Bieber does some similar work on heraldry, pointing out some more accessable books for you to add to your collection. Another murky bit of history with customs often honoured in the breach gets picked over.

Craig H. Barrett has some pretty complicated thoughts about the alignment system, and how people should be judged along it's axes. As ever, it's tricky to separate our own cultural biases from the theoretical absolute standards of good and evil. I think there's room for some interesting articles on this matter.

Toby C Jennings is similarly interested in running the gamut of alignment in his gaming, and looking at the differences in how they interact. Once again, problems in the narrowness of various descriptions causes headaches

Toby Myers gives lots of useful advice about building your campaign world. Remember, stealing liberally and adapting is very much the way to go. Can't argue with that one, given what I'm currently doing.


The game wizards: Ha. Jim Ward returns to deal with the great wodges of nerdrage about the removal of the creatures who's name begins with D from the lower planes. The vast majority of readers want to see them back. So they've caved in, while pretending it was their idea all along, bringing them back under different names in the upcoming outer planes MC appendix. That didn't take long. Once again, the ball is in our court. Whether this will mollify the letter senders, or result in yet more annoyance from both sides of the satanic divide remains to be seen. In the meantime, he tries to distract us by waving around teasers for a few more of the shinys that they're producing in the near future. Maztica! Hollow World! New psionics rules! New horrific monsters! Think about those instead, and get to work saving up the money to pay for them. ;) Ahh, another perpetual problem creative types face. By the time a particular bit of work gets published and properly released, you're already sick of it and working on your next idea. Having to talk about old ideas endlessly with the public can sour you on them quite a bit. Still fairly stressful times trying to run the company then. The pressure from both above and below never really lets up.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 2/6


The mightiest of Dragons: Oooh. A basic D&D specific article. The princess ark has company for a change. Their rather different approach towards the Planes, and supreme masters of the species is taken advantage of here, as they create a set of places that make suitably tough challenges for Master level adventurers, and a decent bunch of neighbours if you make it to Immortal. The D&D dragon rulers may not be as filled in as Bahamut and Tiamat, but they are rather more replacable, since killing them just results in another powerful dragon taking the job. Which means if you get the hang of these places, you have a nice respawning instance to grind for XP. :D It's obvious that the writer has had to deal with players who think like that, and wants to discourage that kind of behaviour, as he taken pains to make these places extra tricky to get through, with large numbers of obscenely powerful creatures around before you get to the actual bosses. While this does fall somewhat into the old problem of making an infinite universe seem small, it lampshades it better than most of these articles. While not really big or good enough to be a classic add-on, it's still an interesting and fairly useful article, that helps give high level characters more to do. And as we know, that's always a problem, given how many adventures it takes to advance a level at that stage in the game.


A spell of conversation: An odd little article here. If you want to talk with a dragon without them constantly trying to trick, enslave or eat you, what do you do? Generally, the answer involves proving yourself sufficiently badass that they take you seriously, rather than just yawning at the puny human and then terminally testing your capabilities. If you'd like to do so without having to engage in some impolite wholesale destruction as a demonstration, take this spell to enforce the pax. Like Protection from Evil, it gives a strong incentive to both sides to play nice, and penalizes you if you try and cheat and break it. Yeah, I can see the value in this, and it seems pretty thematic narratively. This is another one I have no problem with the idea of using in a game. Just gotta hope your players think of trying that approach.


The dragon's bestiary: Gorynych are another mythological creature converted to D&D. Like hydra, they have more than one head, and can be an almighty pain in the butt, grappling you and then wishboning you apart with two of their heads. Like other creatures with no great amount of brains or magic, but lots of attacks, they seem well suited to being a good solo challenge for big mid-level groups. Pincushion them to death.

Common dragonets, like common gulls, are slightly misnamed, as they are being outcompeted by more ferocious and specialised variants. Still, they seem like a good target for taming, and their breath weapon is delightfully screwage inflicting. Beware halflings riding one of these. A good one for low level adventurers who'd like to fight dragons, but really don't have enough raw power yet. A few flocks of these'll get their level up, while teaching them valuable tactics for the future. A perfectly decent pair of new monsters.


That's not in the monstrous compendium: Another article, featuring more actual dragons. You know, you could probably have saved space by rolling them into one, which could then have been used elsewhere. But then the joke name harking back to the original introduction of the Gem dragons 10 years ago would have been lost. Still, this seems fairly positive.

Pearl dragons do have a slight mechanical problem, in that the new HD calculations for dragons give them 0HD at hatchling age. You'll have to work something out. They get tons of spells, but no spell-like abilities. Unsurprisingly, they own tons of pearls.

Jade dragons are supposed to be more powerful than emerald dragons, but actually aren't, being outperformed in terms of size and physical prowess quite handily. Whether their greater spell capability will compensate for this I am not sure, but it doesn't seem promising.

Jacinth dragons are a bit more powerful again, but still weaker than any of the standard gem dragons, with a decidedly weedy breath weapon that won't be much threat to an equivalent level party. They do get a couple of innate powers, but really as with the other two of these, the real challenge will be choosing a good set of spells and using them to tactical advantage. These guys are not for a DM who just wants to throw some prefab monsters at the players.

Overall, it's a pretty lackluster collection, that doesn't really seem that well integrated with the previous ones. A big part of this is probably due to the psionics rules not being out for 2nd edition yet, so they couldn't be used with it. And in general, the math seems a little off, as if the writer is working from 1st ed benchmarks rather than the updated ones. If they'd waited a year, they could have done a much better job on this. Now you'll have to live with them forever, including being reprinted in an official MC Appendix. Still, I suspect there'll be plenty more dragons in later years before this magazine's time is up. Mustn't let it get you down.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
I think by the time the dragons got into a MC Appendix, the 2E psionics rules were out and they updated that part. Never used them anyway, or most other dragons for that matter. Waaaay to easy to TPK.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 3/6

Also known as the orc: Once again they tackle another problem, that of the players automatically knowing what they're up against. This is amazingly simple to deal with. Simply have different people from different regions use different names for the same creature, or possibly one name for a whole class of similar looking creatures. It's realistic, it reduces the fantasy monoculture problem, and it keeps PC's on their toes, treating dungeoneering like the dangerous business it is. A whole load of existing mythological names are drawn upon, many rather awkward to pronounce, to make up these listings. A few of them also get variant stats to reflect that they are actual subraces. Course, given the nature of D&D, we're likely to see many of these names again at some point, attached to other creatures with quite different stats. But hey, that just adds to the mystery of dungeon delving, doesn't it. Now this is one I can definitely see myself drawing on quite a few times. Muahahahaha! Now get down that pit, and find out what you're up against firsthand.


The rules of the game: From an article for confounding experienced players, to one for helping newbies. Trying to convert people to your hobby cold is not a very effective way of going about things, and if you do it wrong, throwing jargon at them, having a whole bunch of people trying to explain things at cross-purposes, telling you about their character, being patronising, creepily obsessive, etc etc, then you are far more likely to drive them off. It's just a variant on acting or writing a story. Everyone knows what those are, even if many people are, er, a bit wooden when they try to do them. Remember, doing it fun comes before doing it right. It's only a game. Ironically, the best way to learn is probably by starting with a whole bunch of people who don't know what they're doing either, just like forming a band. Ironically, this article probably over-thinks the process a bit, making something that is, at it's core, very simple indeed into a process that uses a bunch of formulae. Which I really don't think I need. Of course, like dating, this is probably a case where those who've got it can be blase about their success, while those who haven't try all sorts of tricks and formulae to improve their odds to minimal success and much frustration. I think I'll get off this topic before my angstium refinery gets going and the whole thing gets derailed.


The voyage of the princess ark: Another sightseeing stop for haldemar and co. They come across a village of elf/ogre hybrids, who ride giant pelicans, and then discover that they're part of a larger country. As these guys have both pretty good physical capabilities, and like elves, are all spellcasters, it would seem a good idea to establish positive relations with them, despite their more unsavory personal habits. Ahh, the horrible compromises of politics. That's what being an ambasador for your nation entails. We also get PC stats for our new hybrid friends, which is a very nice addition indeed. Like most BD&D creatures, race=class, but they can choose if they use magic-user or druid spells, which means they can fill more than one niche in your party. Their greater baseline power than most PC races is represented by setting their starting XP at a negative, so you have to pay that off before you become a standard adult of that race. Combined with their high XP requirements, this becomes a surprisingly elegant solution to keep them in line with other characters. And all their info fits on less than a page as well. Another great example of just how quickly you could get a character up and running and into the fun in BD&D. As the series progresses, we'll be able to assemble characters from all sorts of weird races around the world. That'll certainly spice things up if you're getting tired of the same 7 basic classes.


A role-player's best friend: Another forum subject graduates to become a full article. All the ways you can use your computer to make your gaming experience better are expanded upon here. In theory, anyway. Course, in practice several ideas are missing that have since gone on to become commonplace, but many of them wouldn't even be possible with memory sizes what they were. Still, even the basic utility of easy cutting and pasting lets you organize and update your notes with several orders of magnitude less effort. And once you get the hang of databases and graphic design programs, you can do things that would be a lot more tedious than otherwise, especially when it comes to making multiple copies. Not to be sneezed at at all, this isn't a huge or particularly comprehensive article, but all the ideas within are pretty easily implemented. (although I'll confess to being driven mad trying to figure out spreadsheet programs several times.) In fact, since the vast majority of both my books and notes are now electronic, I already do most of this stuff. Guess once again it's not that the articles are bad, but that I'm already too high CR to get any XP from them. Oh well, onto the next one.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 4/6

The role of computers: Bomber sees Apple once again pioneering gaming formats. What went wrong? Anyway, this is another WWII flying sim. 3D technology is improving as the years go by, and our reviewers remain impressed by the increased amounts of detail. Find the target amongst the many buildings, bomb it to pieces, and get home safely. This is not as easy as it sounds, as you have to take the role of all the pilots, and deal with realistic varieties of damage if hit.

Breach II is a game of squad level combat. Preserve interstellar peace through strategically applied violence! Sounds about normal. Don't charge in, for that way lies swift death. Should be fairly easy for the old skoolers to remember that lesson.

War of the Lance takes you to Krynn to do a bit of overhead wargaming, as happened in module DL8 of the original series. Fight with the forces you have, while trying to persuade the various neutral countries to join your side, and direct heros to do various quests for tide turning macguffins. It's good quality, but big, clunky and sloooooow, especially on their computer. The bad guys also have a fairly big advantage if you go two player. Saving the world isn't going to be easy this time. Oh well, that'll give their clue corner plenty to do.

Time Bandit does not appear to be based on the Terry Gilliam movie, but still manages to entertain our reviewers, with it's combination of action adventure and puzzles, including some texty bits. You can have a second player join the action, competing or co-operating to clear the levels. Another one that'll take plenty of plays to clear.

Fire King is another adventure game where you need to pick a character and hunt the macguffins. It manages to compete with the 16 bit games and come off with a decent showing. Age and cunning once again holds it's own against youth and enthusiasm.

Laser Squad is another, somewhat different game of squad level combat. Here, you also have to figure out what equippment to buy for your soldiers, and complete missions where trying to destroy everything will get you killed in short order. You'll have to learn the capabilities of each of the soldiers, and try repeatedly until you know the tricks to beat each mission.

MEGA Pack is one of those little compilation packs of old games. Most of them haven't stood the test of time well, and some are rather buggy, so the average score isn't high. There'll probably be one or two you enjoy still though.


Editorial: Roger continues to tackle the ZOMG D&D is satanic!1!!!! problem from an oblique angle. A certain foursome of mutated turtles who he refuses to give the proper name of for legal reasons, while making it very clear who they are; are also getting parental backlash, which does seem tremendously dumb. Goes to show really. Kids will be attracted to shiny things and violence, no matter what you do. It's pretty intrinsic to human nature, and forbidding it just makes it more attractive to them. In most cases, these urges can be channelled into harmless or constructive ends, no problem. It ends with another attempt to encourage players to talk openly about their hobbies. Shine the light of truth on the cesspit of ignorance, and grow the healthy trees of understanding instead of the weeds of petty hatred! And remember, one day you will be the one staring in incomprehension at your kid's newest obsession, trying to figure out if you should ban it or not. Tee hee. This topic continues to entertain quite a bit.


Fiction: Ivory in the blood by Brian A Hopkins. Another birthday, another dragon hunt to go on in the fiction department as well. Now, what's the standard fee for doing this? Half your kingdom and your daughter's hand in marriage. Why is this the case? Because it's bloody hard to do. Those who've done it before in particular know that and often have no desire to go through that again, especially if it was decades ago and time has not been kind to them. Anyway, this one goes the bittersweet route. Dragons are nearly extinct, and the last one has something important he wants to say before he goes, and the magic fades. Course, if the events after the story turn out anything like reality, then it's a sad ending indeed. But you've gotta have hope. There's always a chance things'll change for the better. Methinks this one communicated it's intended mood quite nicely. Good for it.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Laser Squad is another, somewhat different game of squad level combat. Here, you also have to figure out what equippment to buy for your soldiers, and complete missions where trying to destroy everything will get you killed in short order. You'll have to learn the capabilities of each of the soldiers, and try repeatedly until you know the tricks to beat each mission.
One of my favorite computer games of all time. It could be very unforgiving of tactical mistakes, but nothing spurs learning like having your favorite soldier taking a laser to the head because you did something dumb.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 5/6

Sage advice: What are the stats for the scythe wielded by the minor death (Same as it ever was. No sense of harmony, No sense of time. Going first all the time is a property of the monster, not the weapon. )

What kind of coins come out of Bucknard's everfull purse. ( You need to give a little of what you want to receive.)

Why is chain mail better and cheaper than scale mail (because scale mail is older and inferior. We put it in for historical purposes. I know, most D&D campaigns don't have advancing technology. That's because you suck, not because we're at fault. )

Can a ring of spell storing let a nonwizard get a familiar (Hmm. Yes would be more story enabling than no. Skip'll say yes. )

Are buffs and strength bonuses counted to determine if a vorpal sword gets all head sevrery (No. Skip ain't gonna cave on the rules to save yo marraige. )

Is the limit for rogue skills 95 or 99% ( 95. You're gonna run out of places to spend points quite soon at epic levels. )

Does a girdle of dwarvenkind make you count as a dwarf for the purposes of other items (Hee. No, although Skip sees where you could get that idea, given the girdle of masculinity/femininity.)

What's the formula for fighters Xp awards (10 per HD. This is on top of regular experience, remember, otherwise you'll completely cripple them. They don't need that. )

Why are red dragons weaker than blue dragons. How do you determine their THAC0 ( Errata. And THAC0 for monsters has a simple formula, just like for PC's. You should be able to figure it out, looking at the examples.

Why are riding horses more badass than war horses ( More eratta. This is what happens when you farm out to multiple writers and don't edit. )

What's with the juvenile entries for giants XP. (More aborted experiments we didn't clean up after properly. Don't let the pro-life movement start attacking us as well. )

Do the avatar books spoil the modules (Not much. Not that it matters anyway, as it's a railroady plot module. We can't let the free will of players spoil our metaplot. )


TORG is now out, along with supplements and a tie-in novel. Guess they want to start a supplement mill of their own. Money money money.


Novel ideas: A bunch of rapid fire microinterviews this month, as once again they examine the process behind the creation of their upcoming novels. When you put a bunch of creative types in a room, and make them write on specific briefs with tight deadlines, strange things happen. Flint Fireforge's dialogue gets modeled on Yosemite Sam. Characters travel into the memories of other characters, which allows them to go back in time without worrying about contradicting other entries in the series. A whole cast of secondary supporting characters gets created, hopefully to fuel more spin-offs if they prove popular. And husband and wife teams really shine. Funny how Dragonlance in particular seems to thrive on male/female pairings in it's writers. I suppose it reinforces another lesson. While writing is stereotypically a lonely business, it really shouldn't be. Even if one person is doing most of the heavy creative work, having a set of attentive ears around to read your work to at the end of the day and be your first line of feedback massively helps you hone your storytelling abilities. An amusing read, but on the whole, this is yet more evidence that they're piling up stuff in that world with more concern over volume than quality. I think I'll leave them to it.


Role-playing reviews:
Call of cthulhu 4th ed shows that while the rules haven't changed hugely in 8 years and 3 revisions, the presentation has, and so has the sheer comprehensiveness of situations covered. BRP continues to handle the mechanical end of things quite nicely, while the writing captures the horror of the books without taking itself too seriously. After all, going mad and dying horribly is supposed to be fun, otherwise why do it? So let's suit up, put on our period appropriate hats, and go out there to enjoy the vast number of ways you can lose, see who survives the longest. After all, there's tons of adventures out there now. Let's see what Jim makes of those as well.

Masks of nyarlathotep has been reprinted as a book rather than a boxed set, with a bunch of extra illustrations. This has not hurt the product at all, and it has become one of the iconic CoC adventures. You should get it, if only to learn from it.

Cthulhu classics also draws upon and reprints a bunch of old adventures. While I'm sure they're good, that the line has already started eating it's own tail so soon worries me a little. Oh well, at least it keeps shadows of yog-soddoth in print.

The great old ones is a collection of new adventures, hooray! Hastur plays a large part in this set, which can be connected together into a larger story, but it'll take quite a bit of work. Mix them up with other adventures and you should be able to get a lengthy campaign out of this.

Gaslight takes us back another 30 years, so you can go mad in victoriana rather than between the wars. And then have kids, who can go mad in turn. As with Masks, this was originally a boxed set, but has been reprinted as a more standard book with a bit of extra stuff. You can meet and adventure with sherlock holmes, which seems a little schlocky, but hey. Plenty of fun to be had here as well.

H P Lovecraft's Dreamlands is also an ex-boxed set. Seems to be a standard policy. I guess it saves them money, given how annoying boxed sets are to produce. Anyway, it lets you venture into the realms beyond, instead of just trying to guard the earth against their depredations. Turns the thing a little closer to dark fantasy than straight horror, but hey, you can't stay disempowered forever.

S Petersen's Field guide to creatures of the dreamlands expands on the last book with more IC pseudoscholarly fun. Both the art and writing are well up to scratch. He's still more than making his mark on the RPG community.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 158: June 1990

part 6/6


Rifts! One of the great gonzo crossover games makes it's first appearance. Welcome to palladium's zenith. And yet despite advertising regularly for ages, they've never had a single article published in here. What's all that about? Would Kevin throw a fit if he didn't get to approve and rewrite everything that comes out for the line?


TSR Previews: Our complete handbooks series completes the core 4, with the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Rick Swan does a rather better job on this one than Aaron Allston did on the last one. Course, there's plenty more classes to cover still. And probably plenty more variants for the existing ones too. I wonder when they'll start putting new Kits in the magazine. We also get our 6th MC appendix. We've covered the base 3 campaign worlds, now it's back to the Realms to do Kara Tur. Expect to see plenty of familiar stuff from OA, now with artwork.

Greyhawk city is still under threat, in WGA2: Falconmaster. Can you beat the Falcon? Since this is a trilogy, I bet he's got an escape route ready, this time at least.

Krynn is going back to the prequels again, in Flint, the king. Course, the dwarves he gets to be king of are the Gully Dwarves. Oh, the indignity of it all. They also release a board game tie-in. Mage Stones is a game mentioned in the novels. Now you can play it yourself. Woo. Well, it's no more specious a tie-in than those calendars of artwork.

Finally on the AD&D front, we get our new campaign setting for this year. Ravenloft! Enter the demiplane of dread, and fight to escape the horror, the horror!!! :Claws at walls: Why would they create such a thing? Because undead sell, of course! They must continue to draw upon the selling potential of the name of their biggest module ever.

Plenty of non D&D stuff this month as well. Buck Rogers kicks off the first 25th century module, heading down to earth to stoke the fires of rebellion there. Will you get out alive?

Marvel superheroes continues to stay up to date with the changes of the comics, in MU6: Gamers handbook of the marvel universe part 6. Once again, you'll have to sort these sheets and put them in the right places in your now massive folder.

Top Secret progresses pretty fast, with TSA2: The Final Weapon. Web are stepping up their attacks, and you get to pull out the big guns in response. Finally, all those articles on military ordinance will get good use. Muahaha.

And finally, we get a rerelease of an old SPI game. WWII: European Theatre of operations. Now easier to learn! Any takers? Well, Doug Niles must still be a wargaming fan, anyway, otherwise he wouldn't have taken this on.


Dragonmirth only has one joke this month. Yamara gets plushified. The twilight empire gets romantic a little too quickly. Does infidelity count if you've lost your memory at the time?

Maztica! They really are building up toril's other lands at the moment. Shame they're all going to be marginalized in 3rd edition and then thrown off to another planet and replaced in 4th.


Through the looking glass: Ha. Robert runs up hard against Keep It Simple Stupid. The more complicated a game is, the more work it takes to get to the fun. Here he tries to give you advice on getting a campaign going, and keeping it from dying the death of grinding apathy and disorganization. Quite a bit of this is applicable to RPGs as well as wargaming, and would be good as a general article, as it covers logistical issues the previous ones on that topic have been pretty light on. Fairly useful.
The rest as usual is reviews. Star wars imperial forces are available in three sets of varying incompetance. Bet everyone'll go for the one with Darth Vader in. Battletech has a whole load of new vehicles to fight your mecha battles with. And GDW are licensing out minis for their Space:1889 line. Course, much of these are indistinguishable from victorian stuff played straight, but I suppose you don't see that much victorian stuff in minis. Business as usual here.


Another pretty decent issue, with plenty of entertaining stuff both in the articles and the soapboxing. A few clunkers don't detract from the fact that this is proving a fairly dramatic time for them, as the reactions to the edition change really filter through gaming networks and get back to them. Another reminder of how much slower things moved before the internet caught on. Course, that means the controversies are likely to take longer to die down as well, so there may be another year or so's entertainment in these themes. Will they get out the other end sane? Will I? On we go.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 159: July 1990

part 1/6

116 pages. Looks like we have a spelljammer special this time. It's been out for almost a year, and doesn't seem too unpopular. And good multi-pronged marketing is the cornerstone of sustained growth and public awareness. Let's push these products, build the profile of the brand, and maybe produce some good material while we're at it.

In this issue:


Letters: A letter asking about LARPing. Funny you should mention that. We've just done another article on it.

A letter pointing out how much paper the average gaming group uses, and asking about TSR's environmental policies. Again, they may not have done much on that in the past, but they're busy getting on this bandwagon. Expect more preachy off-topic adverts. And a gameworld tailor made as a soapbox for ecopreaching. (Dark Sun :p )

A letter full of good old fashioned scattershot questions. Roger replies with his usual combination of diplomacy and whimsy. Course, that doesn't soften the fact that Gamma world is dead again. Oh well. Sales will be sales.


Editorial: Another regular topic of letters gets Roger's attention this month. The damn morality in fantasy arguments. Here he decides to make the stand, and say, yes, you should judge them by our standards of morality. It may be a bit dodgy, and won't stop the flamewars, but it's less of a headache that way. So much for making roleplaying an immersive experience. Or is the heyday of that still to come? Anyway, this is considerably less fun than the demonic debate, and it's less likely to go away after a while as well. I do believe it's time I zoned out on this one. The forum is likely to have a load more of this as well.


Rough times on refuge: Ed Greenwood once again proves eager to try new things, and also demonstrate Spelljammer's potential as a crossover setting, taking the lead in this issue's themed section. The whimsy is high in this one, as he creates a new moon and surrounding crystal sphere for you to explore and be killed by. The Arcane feature strongly, and we actually get to see a bit of what they get up too "at home" for a change rather than endless inscrutability. Ed is as usual, the master of worldbuilding, giving us in a few pages a place with plenty of room for both wilderness adventuring and city based intrigue, and a whole bunch of sample characters and hooks. This is great fun to read, and along with the Buck Rogers stuff a couple of issues ago, reminds us just how broad his range is. The Realms is now big enough to take care of itself, which gives him more room to play around with other people's stuff. Not that they could stop him, as I suspect he comes up with all sorts of bits and pieces that wouldn't fit in with his full books. A pretty promising start.


Bazaar of the Bizarre: Our second article continues the Elminster goes into space theme. Steven Schend establishes one of his off-world contacts, and uses that as a framing device for unearthing (unspacing?) their latest collection of new toys. Nice to see them getting into character.

Atmosphere cloaks let you breathe in space temporarily. Overall, they're probably not as useful as a ring of survival, but hey, what is?

Boots of star striding let you walk on a gravity plane even if there's nothing solid to support you. Now that's only going to be useful in very limited situations.

Orbus rings are made from beholders, and let nonspellcasters use a helm, or spellcasters move one faster. Finally, a practical use for the bastards. Now, the tricky part is getting hold of some.

Cabinets of air restoration do exactly what they say on the tin. They only have limited charges, so you can't explore space forever on one. On the plus side, you can cannibalize your other items to power it, so lengthy sargasso sea scenarios become an option. Just the thing to deplete a party that's got overpowered and overconfident.

Cloaking helms let your ships imitate the Romulans. This is of course immensely useful, and immensely expensive. You could bankrupt a country for one of these. No wonder space travel is always going to be a tool of the elite.

Everfull Casks give you 5 gallons of water a day. Compared to the decanter of endless water, that's pretty pathetic. You take what you can get.

Figureheads of wonderous power go on the front of your ship and buff it. Cloaking, speed, resilience, it's easy enough to convert human scale magic items to these rules. Course, you'll need a ship first, or you'll have to sell it on. Guess it's like getting barding in a treasure hoard.

Griffons Claws are automated grappling hooks. A rather prosaic trick, but obviously useful all over the place. And with a range optimised for space battle, they should be able to handle any distance you encounter while dungeoneering.

Mage shot is a bunch of alchemical thingies that you can load into your cannon for special effects when you shoot enemy ships. Like the array of special arrows, this is always handy tactically, if expensive to restock.

Oil of fire stilling makes your ship fire retardant. Unfortunately it has a limited and unpredictable duration, and gets less useful with repeated uses. Sounds like a good Arcane scam to keep the money rolling in.

Blackjammer's Cutlass is an intelligent cutlass that makes you into a stereotypical pirate. Arr. That be little change in behaviour for most adventurers. And methinks they will respond heartily to the idea of doing a little acting like this. Now all ye need is a good ship.

The Gauntlet of Tamus once again showcases their goofy sense of humour. It goes boom when you punch things. Unfortunately, it catches you in the explosion. This does not deter the Giff, who virtually epitomize big tough dumb macho guy. What ho! Let's get out there and boff some of those bally Scro! Pillocks.

So yeah, with the combination of weaker versions of existing stuff, things that will only be useful in very limited situations, and lots of irritating whimsy, this is one of the least useful of these collections I've come across so far. Looks like the things that will be this setting's downfall are already very much present. Sigh.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 159: July 1990

part 2/6

Voidjammers: Despite space being the new big thing, they haven't forgotten about the planes. Getting to and from them is a dangerous proposition for even high level characters. But where there is a problem, there is an opportunity! And when there are thousands of worlds to draw from and service, you can have confluences of high level characters that would be ridiculous in a normal place, for every one of them would be a ruler in their own right in a smaller pond. This reads like a massively extended forum piece on someone's homebrew ideas, showing the ways in which high level spellcasters can use magic as technology and have a massive impact upon the world with a little patience, persistence, and expensive and rare material components. This is the kind of thing that may or may not be suitable for your campaign, as it is very high magic, with more than a hint of cheese involved. But it is an interesting read, and gives you a good example of how paranoid high level characters should organize their defenses to deal with annoying PC's. I think this definitely has value as something to draw upon, even if I am leery of just dropping it in prefab.


The dragon's bestiary: The magazine gets the staff's leftovers again, as they give us some stuff that got cut from the spelljammer monstrous compendium. This does seem to be another special that's mostly driven by the staff writers, rather than freelancers. Vaguely disappointing really.

Andeloids are oozes that engulf people and transform them into a composite creature in rather disconcerting and awkward fashion. You will be assimilated indeed. Depending on what creatures make them up, they can be very scary indeed. The kind of thing that'd be a template next edition.

Infernites are humanoids made from fire, who live on molten worlds. See, you don't have to go extraplanar to encounter some seriously hostile stuff. Thankfully, they'll die eventually if they come to somewhere cold, and water'll mess them right up. Their spellcasters specialize in cold based spells, which shows the designer is actually using their brain. They get tons of ecological stuff, which should be handy if you want to send players to an alien environment.

Metagolems are intelligent mechanical men with varying power levels depending on what metal they're made of. They can also power spelljamming helms, so they can show up all over the place, fulfilling their creators orders. A group of them would definitely make interesting antagonists, even if the scaling is a bit wonky. They're another one that probably needs a mechanical tune-up to move to later editions.


Forum: Dan Howarth points out that the machine is merely an assistant to gaming. The soul of it will always need to be provided by humans. That does not mean it can't be a big help. Also, don't underestimate compression algorhythms. You can fit a lot more information in a computer than you think when you reorganise for redundancy.

Erik Martella points out that liches, unlike other undead, do not go immediately batshit, and a PC who becomes one should not be forced to become an NPC. I quite agree with that, given the effort it takes to make that change. He does seem to have misread another bit of rules though. Someone else has to do the special quest to turn someone back, you silly billy.

John Patrick Wall ventures the argument that "just playing your character" shouldn't be used as a reason to disrupt everyone else's fun. I do believe that's the first time we've seen that advanced around here. Once again roleplaying technology continues to progress. Now, can we get that message out to all the twats out there?

Paul Arblaster wonders why polearms get ridiculous degrees of differentiation in D&D when beer doesn't. He knows what he'd rather see a huge appendix on the realistic medieval versions of. Generally, you don't use beer to kill people with. This is Dungeons & Dragons, not Gluttons & Gourmands. Not that couldn't be a fun game in itself.

Maribeth Hass tries to tackle the ressurection problem again. They should get a chance, but they should never take it for granted. Seems to be the popular compromise position. Yawnaroo.

David Raymond Gawarecki talks about finding validation and learning to face difficult situations through gaming. Face the mockery of real people with the same courage you face slavering orcs and soul-sucking undead in the game. I do believe there's a Dork Tower strip on this subject :p

Brian Hicks believes AD&D weapon specialisation is a better idea than D&D weapon mastery. Perfectly valid viewpoint.

Gregg Sharp talks about using real world physics in D&D, technological progress, magic as/vs technology, and his own world's approach to these matters. There is a whole bunch of "right" answers to this one, so don't sweat it too much.
 
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