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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 159: July 1990

part 3/6

Sage advice seems to be shrinking at the moment. Skip is on top of his game. That or he's just not getting any interesting cases.

Do other things than trolls have limbs fly off on a natural 20 (not without magical items. Trolls are just designed for comedy purposes. They don't need to worry about their limbs detaching easily, because they can just stick them on again. )

What are the XP values for greater rakshasas (Skip isn't listening. Skip thinks you asked what their names are, not how much XP do you get for killing them. Stupid Skip. Keep this up and you'll be out of a job. )

Is the Ultimist intended for PC's or NPC's (Neither. It's a joke class. Laugh at any player who suggests actually using it )

When will we get 2nd ed psionics rules ( Next year, my dear)

How much does it cost to build a castle (Extrapolate outwards from the cost of building each segment of wall. If that's too much, and I'm sure it is, buy the castle guide :teeth ting: We've got to give you motivation to buy supplements, and power buffs are a good one. )

I want to know more about spellfire (oh, it is sooo twinked. Skip is drooling at the thought of it. Which is why it must not fall into the hand of PC's. They must never be allowed to challenge Ed's obscene NPC's and their supercool soap opera. They're the stars of the show, you just get to watch it and applaud. )

Whine whine whine I want my character to be of a class forbidden to their race (Then what's to keep humans superior. We have already made many concessions in this area. We will not let you push us further and further like the white man did to the red man, until the entire ruleset is desecrated by demihumans of every class and level. I'd rather see TSR die than let that happen. ;) So says Skip, and so says all the staff! This far and no further! Urrah, Ooog Ooog!)


To the ends of the marvel universe: Looks like these guys are in theme as well, with an article on space travel in the Marvel universe. Since they at least pretend their universe works on real physics when they aren't being mangled by whatever supercreatures or mad scientists are around, they measure travel rates in multiples of lightspeed, and the various other capabilities of their ships need translating too and from their universal resolution table. One of those short articles that does what it does. In this case, I'm a bit dubious about it, given the strongly narrative way travel actually works in the marvel universe. Oh well, gotta make compromises for gaming's sake. And making it so wormholes and stargates expedite travel enormously, cutting getting to a few specific locations down does serve as a good way of focussing player options, especially if the plot also needs them to do other things in a hurry. So no strong opinion on this one.


The role of computers: Loom proves that Lucasfilm's consistent computer game success isn't just a fluke or due to big name draw, with another high end and rather innovative adventure game. With a magic system based on music and a ton of cool details, this definitely seems tempting.

Gunboat sets you to patrolling rivers, from vietnam to panama, to kick the asses of the enemies of america. The enemies, as ever, are not as clever as the real people in the historical conflicts. But it's still a fairly fun 3D shooter, with plenty of replayability as you try and increase your grade on missions and unlock new ones.

Iron Lord is another rather different adventure game. It does have some awkward controls, but it also has rather interesting visuals and music, and a plot that allows you to raise armies by kicking ass and righting wrongs. Well, once again, it makes a change from dungeoncrawling.

Welltris sees Alexy Pajitnov attempt to bottle lightning twice with a 3D variant on his gameboy dominating classic. It probably is a better game technically speaking, but you know how these things go. Fashion is a fickle thing, and the public has already moved on. Welcome to diminishing returns territory.

Nuclear War also seems very familiar. Engage in geopolitical manipulations against AI players such as If-icky Dick and Ronny Raygun :rolleyes: and try to be the last one standing when the dust settles after the mutually assured destruction. You may have been topical back in issue 41, but now this seems a little dated. It could also do with a multiplayer option.
 

(un)reason

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

part 4/6

Fiction: The waiting woman by Peni R Griffin. Another sad one in this department this month. An interesting spin is put upon the once and future king theme, as an ordinary man falls in love with the immortal guardian of the sleeping warriors. This can of course only end in tears and heartbreak. Unless he can join them, to sleep until the final battle, and then after that, who knows. If you survive that, all the rules may change. Well, it sure beats watching yourself gradually get old and dying, that's for sure. Roll on workable suspended animation technology. Anyway, this is another one that does what it sets out to do nicely, putting a bit more romance in the magazine. Keep leading by example.


Pulling a "con" job: Convention season is upon us again, and this year they're giving us the advice on how to participate in one constructively better before rather than after. Yay. Thomas M Kane takes great pains to point out that you really really can't do this alone. You need a good name. You need a venue. You need people to run events. Big names who actually work for the various companies would be very helpful. You need booths, ticket sales organizers, stuff to show, and above all, you need attending members of joe public. Oh, and don't forget to tidy up properly afterwards if you want to use the same venue again next year. This looks like the kind of advice that would be good for organizing any kind of big event, so it's another one to place in the general life lessons category, like the one on formal letter writing. Just remember, even if you know all the tricks, it's still going to take tons of effort and more than a bit of set-up costs to make a success of things. Makes me wonder what else | could have achieved if I'd focussed all the energy I have on the magazine over the past couple of years on something else. Oh well, nearly halfway through. I'd feel even worse if I left it unfinished after getting this far. On we trudge.


The marvel-phile: The second marvel article this month is more conventional. Just another vaguely themed collection of characters they haven't found the space to stat before. Topaz and Rintrah are apprentices of Dr Strange. Both have pretty powerful, if not always fully controlled magical abilities, and obviously he feels that tutoring them would be mutually beneficial, with some justification. Even a cosmic being needs someone around to protect their back in a fight and save their ass when down. Plus there's the whole keeping you grounded, not turning into some cackling hubris infected maniac thing, which does seem to be important for powerful heroes. Once again, this seems fairly standard stuff for this column. Maybe next year they'll get to go in the gamers handbook with the big boys and girls. But for now, they're yet more bit part players in a universe teeming with them.


Rhythm warriors: Another new martial art focussed class follows on from the sumo duo. But it's not an oriental one, no siree bob. Instead, it's one specialising in Capoeira, the one that in reality was developed by African slaves in South America, and has quite a bit in common with breakdancing and hip-hop music. Like monks, they get an odd grab bag of special powers, have a limited number of top level characters that need to compete for position, and frequently operate as self-contained units. Unlike them, they aren't particularly bothered with the whole seclusion, celibacy and honour things, and like to stick around and benefit their community. So you get to kick butt, play music, dance, and engage in spectacular acrobatics. Doesn't seem like a bad gig, even if the stats are stuck back in the 1st edition. They can certainly find a place in my little homebrew, and hopefully, we'll see how they do someday.


The role of books: Redwall by Brian Jacques is the start of his series starring anthropomorphic animals. Due to it's spanning the gap between child friendly and adult reading, it manages to be popular with both, and thus assure it's consistently good sales. Well, you've got to have some furry stuff that isn't yiff-tastic, to get the next generation in. :p

Sunrunners fire by Melanie Rawn is notable for it's good depiction of a hero becoming a villain. Unfortunately, this means wading through two previous books and a bunch of interconnected subplots. One for the lovers of epic potboilers.

Wolfwalker by Tara K Harper sees our reviewer getting context heavy as people he knows succeed. Now, if only the novel would fill in it's linguistic and geographical context. This is why you need to put maps in your fantasy world's books. Other than that, he seems to like it.

Into the shadows, edited by Jordan K Weisman is a Shadowrun anthology. As usual for gaming fiction, it's a mixed bag, and it doesn't explain the lingo either, so it's probably best to have the corebook first. Still, it's pretty good as these things go, with several illustrations and lots of setting building. Good to see another game line flourishing.

Cromm by Kenneth C Flint sees our reviewer give him a second chance, and continue to not be impressed. Bland and forgettable, not even worthy of a good rant.

Dragondoom by Dennis L McKiernan sees him stretch his Tolkien pasticheing a little, so he's merely writing a story in the same kind of world instead of stealing plots wholesale. This is still not enough to recommend him to the more discriminating reader.

Bloodlist (sic) by P N Elrod sees her writing about what she does best. Vampres! In this case combined with Holmes-esque mystery. With a strangely vague historical setting that seems to steal from all through the first half of the century, it won't please any accuracy buffs. But her plotting and character building is already pretty good. See you again soon.
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/6


TSR Previews: Pole position this month is Legends and Lore, the updated deity book that'll actually give speciality clerics decent custom spell selections and unique power sets. Bout time too. It's done by half the team that did the 1st ed version as well, so they've obviously kept a tighter hand on this than the farmed out complete splatbooks.

The forgotten realms sees the Horde invasion really hit in force. It also sees Troy Denning really start making his mark as a writer. He's responsible for both FRA2: The Black courser, the second module, and Dragonwall, the second novel in the trilogy. Three books in a single month. He must have been putting in mad overtime to get that done. It also gets an updated atlas showing all the hundreds of miles of revealed lands between the Realms and Kara Tur which the horde actually come from. No wonder getting from one to the other is such a chore.

Greyhawk revisits greyhawk castle, a mere two and a half years after the last trip, in WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins. Things are very different indeed from last time. So wait, does that mean the last one was a success, or a failure? Normally when things bomb, that's it. How did this wind up getting the green light?

Dragonlance finishes converting the second novel of the original trilogy, in part 5 of the graphic novel series. They have the Dragonlances. Hopefully next time we'll actually get to see them used with decent visual representation.

Spelljammer gets it's monstrous compendium, number 7 in the list. All kinds of weird creatures you've never imagined. Oh, and giant space hamsters. They may have degoofified greyhawk castle, but there's still plenty of that floating round the office.

D&D unleashes the Hollow World boxed set. Awesome! Their world gets ever more weird and high magic. Seems like this really is the year when they put a lot of focus on adding new continents to existing worlds.

The XXVC game gets 25CR1: Mars in the 25th century. I think the name is pretty self explanatory. The other planets should be along soon. It also gets the start of it's second trilogy, First power play. With a tie in computer game coming soon, it looks like this place is going to be as multimedia as the forgotten realms. Only not as popular, obviously :p

Gangbusters gets a 2nd edition! Now there's something that died without a trace a decade ago. Let's hope it gets at least one or two articles in here this time before disappearing into obscurity again.

And finally, we have an independent sci-fi novel, Outbanker. A solar system fights to stay independent of the great corporate hegemony. I'm betting there's some humorous commentary on modern economics in there. :cool:


Down with the titanic: Once again, after an absence of 5 years, the magazine deigns to mention LARPing again. I guess that's a good sign, as we seem to be covering more non D&D stuff than they were in the recent past. Lawrence Schick is either playing the ingenue, or hasn't been reading the magazine he's contributed to regularly that closely, because he seems to have been completely unaware of the subculture's existence ........ up 'till now. Anyway, he reveals the fun you can have with all weekend events, even if everyone is a pregen, the fact that you have motivations and relationships all mapped out helps get things running fairly quickly, and the scene currently seems to be fairly light on the kind of tosspots who generate OOC drama and spoil everything for the rest of the players. Guess the issues that come from having persistent characters who advance between sessions, and lose all that if they get killed are still mostly in the future, when White Wolf joins the fray. Still, there's more than enough big events going on that you can meet people at, some of them with attendances in the hundreds. All sorts of historical eras, plus some unreal ones are covered. So it looks like they've got a healthy subculture of their own, running along largely independent of the tabletop gaming scene. Funny how that works. Does anyone know how the two compare in overall size and demographics, because there certainly seems to be enough to run big events in most cities, yet their online footprint is considerably smaller. An interesting little article, that reminds me once again there's plenty of stuff they could be covering, but aren't. Hopefully there'll be a few more little oddities to come in the next few years.
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Greyhawk revisits greyhawk castle, a mere two and a half years after the last trip, in WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins. Things are very different indeed from last time. So wait, does that mean the last one was a success, or a failure? Normally when things bomb, that's it. How did this wind up getting the green light?
Despite WG7: Castle Greyhawk being poorly received, TSR really wanted to keep Greyhawk going, as near as I could tell. (It may have helped that WG7 was meant as a comedy module, as opposed to a serious one.) There's still another 3 or so years before they finally kill the line, and given that one of the big uncovered points of the setting is the castle...

Gangbusters gets a 2nd edition! Now there's something that died without a trace a decade ago. Let's hope it gets at least one or two articles in here this time before disappearing into obscurity again.
Which they promptly screw up and label the 3rd edition on the book cover. :D
 

(un)reason

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

part 6/6


Dragonmirth puts us up against Mr Potato Head. That would actually be pretty scary. Yamara is not happy about being a toy. The twilight empire faces speciesism again.

Mutants of the yucatan by Eric Wujick. More palladium weirdness.


Through the looking glass: A rather orange installment this issue, with both the header and the photographs using it as their background. Anyway, Robert's brief this month is to cover more historical stuff. Seems the fantasy has been squeezing it out, and he wants to bring a little more gritty simulationism into the magazine or something. Yeah, this magazine is very different to how it was in the late 70's, and while they might still cover minis, they don't do much on the things they're used for. Oh well, all in the past now. Back to the reviews.

M-3 Miniatures have some futuristic hovercraft and tanks for Battletech. The stats probably need errata. Ahh, the dangers of licensed products.

GHQ give us a whole bunch of near modern military vehicles. This is accompanied by an explanation of the forces that led them to develop, and where they were used in real world conflicts. Another welcome little diversion.

C in C have a trio of WWI planes, all of which get 4 and a half stars. They're easy to assemble, and the right size for using with WWI wargames. A little more fine detail and they'd be perfect.

Grenadier returns us to the fantasy stuff, with a pegasus being ridden by a knight. Always demand for that kind of thing in wargames, even if they aren't brilliant. Up we go.

Ral Partha are a busy lot, with a bunch of orcs, a fire giant, a set of imperial guards for Renegade Legion, and a renamed D&D monster. Once again, Robert is pretty positive about all of them.


Ravenloft gets a new boxed set. Another case of the little module that could, this proved itself repeatedly, and now gets it's own complete campaign world built around it. Go on my son!


Another irritatingly whimsy heavy issue, particularly in the D&D parts of the magazine. They really do seem to be getting increasingly silly, throwing out ideas to see what sticks, and in the process letting out a whole bunch of ill-formed jokes that probably don't credit being published. Still, there is quite a bit of stuff that is usable amongst the dross this time, and they seem to be increasing their output on other games as well, which is usually welcome. Once again, I do have to wonder where they'll go next, with their current penchant for unpredictable exploration. Maybe they'll come up gold next time.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 160: August 1990

part 1/6

120 pages. Off to the city again, it seems. Must be the second most popular adventure location. Well, it sure beats trudging for months to get to the adventure location through jungle, mountain, sea, and insane natives, and then having to get all the way back to spend your ill-gotten gains.


In this issue:


Games workshop is on a recruitment drive in the US Many jobs available to you now! Become an hero, or something.


Letters: A letter from someone who's parents forbid them from playing D&D. Roger tries to be conciliatory, but of course it's not really in his hands. All he can do is point out the best arguments his compatriots have made over the years.

A letter from someone annoyed that many martial arts styles from the magazine are better than attacking with weapons, with comparable damage and far more attacks per round. Roger replies that you are free to houserule this. (but by default AD&D is ZOMG teh anime. :p So there. )

A letter of complaint about many articles assumption that the DM knows more about the rules than the players do. Most groups do rotate DM-hood and everyone has all the core rules, in their experience. Hmm. This is a problematic one. On one hand they want everyone buying as much as possible, so they can make money. On the other hand, players knowing how an adventure goes or too much about a new monster can spoil the suspension of disbelief. What is an editor to say in response to this? More non-commitality, I'm afraid.


Editorial: Roger continues to gently creak under the strain and quite possibly grow a little more insane in the membrane in response to this month's events. You say the magazine's lost it, it's no longer as good as it used to be. HOW?! What am I doing wrong?! Why won't you tell me?! I can't fix it if you don't give any details why!!!!! :breaks down sobbing: This is why it's important to be able to articulate clearly what you want. For otherwise, you will not get, as we are not mind readers. Yeah, it's been stressful times. Storm damage, serious editorial goofs, endless complaining letters, trying to get articles uploaded onto the net. Being an editor is not an easy life. Buck up. You've still got a way to go to catch up with Kim's run. You can hold on that long. Another decidedly amusing editorial here. I do have to wonder if he's exaggerating for comedic effect, or times genuinely are that stressful there. I suppose even if they are, you've got to have your gallows humour.


The enemy at the gates: Forum topics continue to graduate to full article status, with the fairly regular issue of fantasy war and defences getting a good look at. This is one of those ones where the writer examines the logical ramifications of various spells, magical items and monsters for both sides, and then starts building. With very little concern for budget, however, which is where projects like this tend to fall down when attempted in actual play. Sure, there's often the fantasy Dubai equivalent that has vast income from tapping some valuable resource, and can pay to hire the best from all over the world (and maybe beyond, as last month demonstrated) but unless there's both plentiful resources and clear and present threat, most defenses are going to be more dad's army than fort knox. Plus there's the old copy protection & piracy issue. After all, a city is meant to be inhabited. If you make things too inconvenient for legitimate users, then people'll go elsewhere, and then you definitely won't have the budget to maintain your snazzy wards, flying cavalry and truth detectors at the immigration lobby. Still, it's fun to run these theoretical constructs, even if we never use them in our game. All it takes is a few of these ideas to ruin an overconfident group's day. Like dragons with plans, a few cool tricks and precautions is better than a million xanatos gambits that they could never actually maintain, both for players and DM's.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 160: August 1990

part 2/6

The last call inn: Willie Walsh pops over from Dungeon to provides us something that isn't quite a full adventure, but certainly facilitates them. A fully mapped out inn plus a few helpful statblocks, along with quite a bit of description of what the average medieval inn was like. If the players get a little rambunctious, having a proper environment to maneuver in, fight, and run away will be a very definite help, for drawing up maps on the fly slows things down quite considerably. Like the underdark bit in issue 132, and the sample castles in issue 145, this is both more immediately useful than most of their articles, and a lot more rehash resistant, as even if they return to the same topic, different people will always put very different spins on maps and statting out stuff, and you can incorporate more than one location into your campaign easily, which is often more than can be said for optional rules. So yeah, pretty pleasing to see some more of this stuff.


The touch of the black hand: Another far more specific article than usual, complete with maps. This is definitely a welcome change, and I do wonder if it'll be the start of a trend. Thieves guilds are another thing that you could have peaceful interactions with, or it could all go wrong and you wind up breaking in for the sake of love, vengeance or retrieval, like a certain heroic duo who've made several appearances in the magazine. Interestingly, they decide to make the guild small enough that every individual is named and statted out individually. Which makes sense, given the size of the average settlement in D&D, and avoids the kind of problem we saw all too often in say, VtM, where you supposedly had this 100,000 to one ratio, and yet every settlement had a full complement of social positions including enough members of every clan that the position of primogen actually meant something, which was ridiculous. But enough about things that haven't happened yet. These guys seem to be pretty smart cookies, with the brains to know how far they can push it, robbery-wise, and about the right proportion of multiclass characters to add extra skills to the mix. They're also plugged in to the support industries, both low and high class, that keep them out of trouble. You could do a lot worse than following their example. Once again, this is both likable and well done, useful for characters over a wide range of levels and scenarios. It adds up to this being a pretty top notch themed section. I look forward to slipping these guys into my gaming experience.


Sage advice: Your ruling on Raistlin's decay-o-vision is contradicted by the novels ( You ought to know by now that novel characters are not bound by D&D rules. This doesn't even deserve justifying. )

There is a half-orc in Love and War. I thought there were no orcs on krynn ( Bloody writers. Skip must discipline them a little. Mmm. Skip is going to enjoy this. )

What are the age, weight, etc, for Krynn's PC races (See the dragonlance monstrous compendium appendix)

I don't understand basic class name abbreviations ( You see, you take the first letter of the class. There's only 8 of them, and none have the same initial. Shouldn't be that hard to remember. )

When do tinker gnomes get proficiencies, and what combat table do they use (2/3, and wizards. They aren't good at regular fighting. This is what giant steam powered mecha which explode easily (and hopefully have an ejector seat ) are for)

I still want more info about tinker gnomes (Um, why? You're not planning on playing one, are you?! )

How many draconians can you get from a single egg. Can you make chromatic draconians? (Lots. 4d12 is a good example number, and the weaker ones produce even more. Probably, but no-one's done it yet.)

Why are there mentions of monks and assassins if those classes aren't allowed on krynn. (Because there are still religious types that pray in obscure corners, and people who kill people for money. They just don't get special skill sets for doing so. You can take the appropriate kits if you really like. )

Why are there no invocation spells (because invocation and evocation are the same school. Your confusion is understandable)

Do minotaurs and irda get thief skill modifiers (nope. We were feeling lazy that day)

What are the stats for hoopak (Meh. Help you play a kender? Skip thinks not. )

How can you have knights of solamnia before they were founded. ( Writing sloppiness. Go commiserate with the House V'neef fans)

Do clerics in krynn get bonus spells for wisdom. Do clerics of the magic gods get wizard spells ( Yes. No, because they do not exist, as Skip said before. )

Where is more info on the valley of the mage (WG12. Buy now! etc etc.)

Can 0 level characters keep their powers when they learn a class (as long as they keep practicing. )

Why do 0 level characters loose stuff when they gain levels ( Because they've been doing it all wrong, and need to unlearn their bad habits to gain truly great skills. The classes are the true ways, and picking up skills piecemeal like we do in the real world is just crap in comparison. Oh if only there were still heroes such as this in this world to teach the people here the true ways. Then you would see people able to take dozens of blows and keep fighting and climb sheer walls without tools like spiders. Oh woe, for these are fallen times. )

What is a time of special need (When your god thinks so. )

What gods are venerated in Celene (Mostly Ehlonna)

Who hates goblinoids (Everyone, even other goblinoids! Can I get an Amen? Can I get a hell yeah? Now everybody scream! )

What are the racial demographics of Ulek. What race is their leader (Read closely, padawan, and all will be revealed. Remember, everyone's human unless we say otherwise. See the prejudice inherent in the system. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 160: August 1990

part 3/6


Chill. Coming soon. Rather an odd choice of colour here, but it certainly catches the eye. Hopefully that'll translate into buyer interest.


Forum: Jason Caudill is annoyed TSR don't do more to prove they aren't satanic. Saying stuff in the magazine where only converts will see it anyway is no use at all.TV adverts are exceedingly expensive, you know, and we aren't that huge a company in the overall scheme of things. What do you want from us, blood sacrifices? Or is that exactly what you don't want. :D

Paul Shuster is annoyed at Sally Jesse Raphael, and the way they slated their debate on D&D's satanicness, with no-one to defend the game. Ok, the fact that you admit watching those shows loses you several cool points. But since we're all in the negative anyway, it matters little.

Pierre Savoie is also deeply pissed off at the utter stupidity of daytime talk shows, and the way they ignore the facts whenever it gets in the way of a good bit of ratings grabbing hysteria. He's rather more constructive than the last forumite, because he provides an address for you to write and complain too. Will fighting fire with fire work?

Dennis Gill points out that roleplaying does a whole bunch of things that educators are always trying to get kids to do. Math, creative thinking, constructive socialisation, reading. Those ignorant reactionaries really ought to research before they rail.

Rob McNamee also thinks that roleplaying has substantial educational benefits. Easy now, you'll scare everyone off. :p

Norbert K Bendriss points out how much gaming has increased his vocabulary. Another good bit of evidence that gaming exercises your brain and provides sneaky education. Learning to adopt roles can do wonders for your social life.

Tim A Smith tries to protect D&D's image in a decidedly wonky fashion. Yeah, I don't think that's going to work. Highly specific denials are even more suspicious than admitting to stuff.

Scott Miller finishes up our controversy special by reminding us that it's only a game, and people will go insane regardless of their cultural surroundings.


Up, away and beyond: AD&D has tackled space in it's own idiosyncratic way recently. Now Bruce Heard tries to do the same for regular D&D, in the process separating the two properties even further. While gravity and planet shaping still works differently from reality, it does so in a different way to spelljammer. Bruce gives plenty of freedom for you to create odd shaped worlds, while following a couple of odd rules that mean players won't have it too easy, and the whole thing won't be completely lacking in cohesion. A decidedly curious article, that again shows his skill at introducing ideas that could lead to years of play and many sourcebooks of expansion in a few short pages. He really has developed quite a bit as a writer and worldbuilder, and it looks like he's hitting his stride as the director of the D&D line now. Which is another very positive development from my point of view. Funny how being largely left alone to do your own thing by upper management often produces better results than constant executive meddling.


The voyage of the princess ark returns, having missed a month in the spelljammer special. This is ironic, because this would have fitted right in there. The ark finds a trick of going beyond the atmosphere, (see the previous article) and into space! There they discover Mystara has an invisible moon inhabited by cat-people. Oookay. That definitely falls into the category of ridiculously huge setting reveal. The overall plot thickens, as his suspicions about the nature of the skyship grow, they lose a captive and a travelling companion, and gain another one. Bruce certainly isn't afraid to shake up the roster of characters in this adventure. I guess this is another thing the system supports. Easy come, easy go. If you lose a PC, you can just whip up a new one in a few minutes. And given all the races he's detailing, it can almost be an advantage to do so, letting the players unlock new character options they didn't have at the start of the game, based on where they've travelled, and who they've befriended. Yes, it may be a bit computer gamey, but it really helps give your players an incentive to explore, see what's over the next horizon.

Also notable here is how Bruce avoids the monoculture problem demihuman races frequently suffer from. Even if they have multiple nations, those can seem all too similar. The Rakasta here are not only substantially different from the ones we've seen so far, but it's made clear that there are a whole bunch of nations up here, with different customs, with enough detail given to spark your imagination further. And once again this is all sorted out within a couple of pages. There really is no excuse for not doing this unless you actively want a monoculture in your race for whatever reason.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 160: August 1990

part 4/6


The role of computers: Our reviewers run across another little problem that really needs rebutting. The old conflict of interest issue when they review games made by their employer. And of course, they strongly protest their innocence. We really think the games are that good, and so do you, unless they also fixed the awards, and what would be the point of that? I think we can probably trust them on this one. But still, it shows how much TSR is seen as a corporate entity by lots of the public by now, even if they still like and buy their products. I suppose that's only going to get worse.

Conquests of Camelot is of course an arthurian adventure game. Combining point-and-click and various arcade minigames. Thankfully, although some bits are tricky, you can save anywhere, and create multiple backups. 3D graphics are progressing rapidly, and this brings a new emphasis on making sure you have the right computer specs to handle the game. Looks like that issue is going to become the persistent problem stupid copy protection schemes were last year.

Draconian: Drakkhen is an incredibly tricky adventure, but also has a ton of depth. With a 40 page mini novel included to set up the game's plot, (which it really isn't a good idea to skip.) and monsters that are a real challenge right from the offset, requiring you to learn how to optimize your party to get anywhere, it's not for the casual gamer. Be prepared to work hard and be patient if you want to see all the cool stuff here.

Phantasy Star II gets the same epic result as it's predecessor. It builds upon the same principles nicely, with plenty of new stuff joining the old favourites, with cool new equipment, and bigger and badder opposition to match. Sega, like apple, are still a healthy gaming platform at this time.


Tired of fighting the same old dragons, Try fifth cycle. I don't remember this one, but somehow it smells of fantasy heartbreaker. Any more info will as ever be welcomed.


The ecology of the gibbering mouther: Ha. Lesson no 1. You do not fuck with the sage. Especially when said narrator is an active adventurer who got their knowledge of various monsters the hard way. We've seen that lesson before, but it remains just as amusing here. We also get some nicely evocative descriptions of the titular blasphemy against nature and sanity. This time it's the fiction that's better than the footnotes, which are merely serviceable. However it's also pretty good as a selection of plot ideas to steal an incorporate into your own game. If you are ever short of an adventure hook, blackmail the players into doing the dirty work of the city officials, put a gelatinous cube at the bottom of a pit, and set up yet more other diabolical traps. Pretty nice reading here.


Fiction:Thief on a string by Dean Edmonds. It's not just genies and demons that get trapped by wizards against their will, and forced to obey any commands they're given to the letter. Fortunately, humans are no slouches at rules lawyering either, and this kind of thing often ends badly for said wizard. So it goes here, in another entertaining little tale with nice edges of both humour and sadism. He manages to get me attached enough to the main character that the subsequent mindfucking feels pretty nasty, which isn't that easy in a short story. The fiction section really is getting in good writers lately, as the rest of the magazine struggles. But then, they probably have a larger slush pile, since they only have to find one good story per issue, not a good dozen articles, and there are more general fiction writers out there than good rules designers.


There are no generic Black Belts: Off to Top Secret land, for the first time in a while. A fairly familiar subject, though. Martial arts. How many articles have we had on them so far? I'm pretty sure at least one of the Top Secret ones has involved MA too. And this article offers a considerable power boost to their users, and the expense of some tedious pontification about training times. Special techniques, descriptions of a whole bunch of real world MA's, shouting to enhance your abilities, it's pretty obvious what target audience this article is aimed at. Guess they're still a substantial buyer demographic that needs catering too. I fail to be enthralled, on the other hand.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 160: August 1990

part 5/6


Super jobs for super talents: Rather than a marvel article this month, they choose to have a system free bit of roleplaying advice suitable for any supers game. This is another one of those ones that tries to inject a little more realism and logical consequences into your superhero gaming. Questions of human rights, international treaties governing the treatment of use of powers and treatments of captured supervillains, This kind of thing has been on the rise for some time now, and this pushes forward that agenda decently, with a bunch of speculations, adventure hooks, and sample setting details for you to draw upon. Course, another thing that's on the rise is railroading, and the writer has some very definite "proper" solutions for his scenarios, and doesn't want players with inconvenient powers short-circuiting them. This adds up to another interesting but irritating article that needs a bit of customisation to your own campaign and the players involved before you can use it. Oh, the hassle of writing for characters who actually have a little power. My media empire for someone who can do it consistently and still make fun stories.


Novel ideas: The Buck Rogers line is the subject of a little more promotion here. We see how much the upper management are actually paying attention to this one, with Lorraine, Flint and Mike Pondsmith all contributing quotes. The book series is if anything, more important than the gaming side, because that's where they're really going for the mass market penetration, to match the old comics and TV show. This is not to say they're not trying for consistent worldbuilding as well, attempting to put some hard sci-fi speculation and strong continuity into the old pulp stories. This attempt to do everything may be half the problem with the line in the first place. When management is giving out all sorts of tricky and somewhat contradictory orders at once, but not explaining how to carry them out, things become tremendously stressful for the actual writers, and it shows through in the actual products. Another interesting indicator of exactly why tensions were running high in the TSR offices around this period. What are we to make of this. It does make me wonder how things would have been different if the line had been a success, and continued rather than being cancelled a little while later. Certainly a topic worth speculating on. What effect did Buck's flopping have on Flint and Lorraine, and their approach to the company in general?


The game wizards: Ravenloft came out a couple of months ago. Might as well slip in a little more promotion. Andria Hayday tries to set the mood by telling us how it got under her skin during the writing process, alone late at night in the TSR offices with the wind whistling around the windows. Frightened? I think I might die from sheer cliche overload. The way the descriptions are done is a very definite reminder that horror has a rather larger proportion of female readers than straight fantasy. (Indeed, I suspect that's why it gets it's own section in the bookstores, while fantasy and sci-fi get lumped together for the browser to figure out what's which.) Mixing attraction and revulsion, romance and the threat of violation seems to be a formula that works, and I can understand why, even if it's not one of my personal kinks. Anyway, this is another attempt to make promotion entertaining, with mixed results. But it's given us an interesting conversational topic, so that's ok.


TSR Previews: Lankhmar takes pole position this time, unusually. LNR1: Wonders of Lankhmar. A book full of short adventures. How will they differ from the several books of generic short D&D adventures already out?

The forgotten realms, once again, is getting more products and faster than any other world. David Cook delivers The Horde boxed set, the centrepiece of this year's metaplot maneuverings. Welcome to fantasy mongolia. See the sights, meet interesting new creatures, and get killed by the long harsh miserable trek between interesting locations. R A Salvadore, on the other hand, is staying well clear of this mess. Drizzt proved the most popular character in his first trilogy, so he gets a prequel trilogy on his origins in, and escape from the dark city of menzoberanzan. Mmm. 'cesty. (Unfortunately true.) Part one is called Homeland.

Dragonlance is continuing to get more novels and other spin-offs than actual gaming products. What's with that? The Gates of Thobardin by Dan Parkinson sees the dwarves bickering again. Can someone find the legendary helm and unite them?

D&D is still in a roman mood, in DDA2: Legions of thyatis. Following directly on from DDA1, this should keep your players busy for a few more sessions.

Marvel Superheroes gives us the second module in it's gritty street level trilogy MLA2: Night Moves. Noo yoik is having gang wars? Par for the course back then. What do you expect us to do about it?

And finally, we have Battle of Britain, another fun little wargame. Another fairly self-explanatory name. Fly planes! Bomb buildings! Hide in air raid shelters! Listen to inspirational speeches. Or something like that, anyway.

Oh, and first power play apparently got delayed a month, because here it is again. Silly shippers. Never mind.
 
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