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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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Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
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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.
Yes, inspirational speeches given by a professional actor (Churchill often being a little slurred by that point of the day).
 

(un)reason

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

part 6/6


Dragonmirth mocks the new edition's omissions. The dwarf in yamara's party cracks under the pressure and wants to go back to the old school. The twilight empire shows how outmatched fantasy humans are against a real one, even if he's never done anything like this before. :rolleyes:


Through the looking glass: Robert throws in some more general advice about holding your gaming group together before going on to the reviews. Frequently these changes have a definite yearly cycle, since so many gamers are still in school or university, and change their patterns every autumn, that's when you are both most likely to lose members, and get the most benefit from advertising for new ones. Flyers and notes in all the nearby noticeboards is the way to go. As ever, the importance of promotion to success in an endeavour is not to be underestimated. Which reminds me, it's been a while since I spun this thread off to another site. I really ought to try that again.

Anyway, reviews. Apparently, 15mm scale is moving up in the world, making fighting bigger battles an easier thing logistically, as you can represent areas 66% bigger on your game table of choice. This seems worthy of note. Other than that, business as usual. Space marines, giant crabs, undead, griffins, artillery, tanks, flamethrowers, multiheaded dragons, giants, western saloons. A pretty wide selection of stuff is still being produced to set up your adventures. Now, the tricky part will likely be finding it in your local shop.


The hollow world! We get to see just how weird mystara really is compared to earth. Ahh, those wacky immortals. Always pushing the envelope. They certainly keep themselves busier than gods that were born to deitydom.


In addition, we have another of their fun little experiments. Trading cards! Another way to get money from you. A whole bunch of the big Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance characters get very abbreviated descriptions indeed on one side, and recycled artwork on the other. (Alias and Olive Ruskettle in particular look as dubious as ever) Another step down the slippery slope that leads to trading card games like M:tG and spellfire. This is definitely one noting. It can be used usefully, and it exposed me to characters I'd never heard of back in the day, but it may have been another poor step in the long run. What did you make of them?


A fairly substantial improvement from the last few issues, with an excellent themed section, and plenty of other cool stuff, including several intriguing new developments. Seems like their attempts to try all sorts of things has resulted in more hits than misses this time round. I hope they're keeping track of what works, and making sure they don't repeat the ones that don't. That's the way to improve your batting average. Keep looking, those classic and innovative articles are out there. Just gotta round 'em up, lasso them and bring them home. Or is the western method too dated these days? Always pushing on to new frontiers. I guess I'd better follow.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Actually, Shelley ran recordings for some of the speeches that were used as rehearsals, and the story is that sometimes the BBC used the wrong disc (like when they aired 'live' speeches by Churchill when he was actually at the Arcadia conference).

Churchill also loved to swipe nice sounding phrases from people, whether from Donne or Goebbels (although Goebbels swiped the Iron Curtain line from Princess Elisabeth of Belgium, who said it in 1914).
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 1/6


116 pages. Another month, another attempt to liven things up for their long term readers. In fact, this is explicitly the special topic of the issue. How very telling. Have Roger & co found something new to stoke their interests, or will the advice they give be pretty familiar to experienced trope connoisseurs such as myself. Another chunky issue is here for the taking, and I'm certainly not quitting at this stage.


In this issue:


Letters: A letter wondering why quite a few of their articles are still using 1st ed stats and formats. They have a huuuuuge backlogged slush pile, and getting out a magazine each month being their top priority means they have less time than they'd like to do something about it.

A letter asking where all the various new classes the magazine's published over the years are. Roger is nice enough to alphabetize the answer, but does not include the new one in this issue, for some reason. Oh well, it gives me another chance to double check my list of allowed classes for my own game.

A letter expressing approval at the idea of monsters being given different names in different regions, but with the caveats that they should fit the overall linguistic construction of the area. No dispute there.


Editorial: Black Bart returns, as I thought he would. Last seen in issue 48, it looks like he's appeared in more than one campaign, with more than one set of stats. I guess it's like the John Smith of adventurer names. I am Black Bart! Fear my rugged good looks and dark backstory! You and every other badass wannabe. :p Anyway, this is another of Roger's editorials where he talks about his actual play experiences. The story of a romance that took place in his game, including the NPC's death, the amusing brooding that happened as a result of that, and the rather dramatic way he brought her back so they could kill things and take their stuff across the dimensions happily ever after. The perfect melding of hack-and-slash and drama. Actually, it does look like he was pretty heavily of the gonzo monty haul school, but they had fun anyway. Anyway, this is a reminder that romance is a tricky but rewarding subject to put into your game, and actually, given it's importance in nearly every entertainment medium, it's surprising there's not more of it in roleplaying. Whether that's a factor in it never attaining wider commercial success I'm not sure, but it does seem very probable. And since V:tM'll come from nowhere to become no 2 in a very short period of time, and attract a rather larger proportion of female players, it does seem probable that this could have been handled a lot better by TSR. Once again, we are reminded how things could have been different, and possibly better, if people had made different decisions during TSR's early days.


Inside information: So getting adventures from shady characters in taverns is growing stale. There are many other ways you can find out about cool adventures and monsters to slay, even if the adventures don't come to you. And this reminds you of quite a few of them. Libraries, marketplaces, rumours, songs, divinations, etc etc. I'm sure you've seen stories using all of these. but it's easy to forget in the moment. So this is one that's very useful to novice GM's, and mildly so as a reminder to experienced ones. There may only be 30-odd stories in the world, but that's still a lot more variety than getting stuck doing one over and over again, as many writers do. And the RPG's out there at the moment tap into a surprisingly small subset of that group. Yup, there's definitely still room for refinement and diversification in gaming, and they're still trying to push for it.


Romance and adventure: Looks like Roger isn't alone in wanting to see a little more romance in people's games. And there's plenty of GM's who might want to try it, but are afraid that it might go horribly wrong. Oh come on, it's not like you're really asking someone out. Like they've been saying in the forum, an invaluable part of roleplaying is getting to do something safely that would be difficult or impossible in reality. Course, if you try this on your players, you should really expect the unexpected. They'll ignore or spurn the obvious romantic interests, and develop odd obsessions over minor characters you mentioned offhand. Heavyhanded manipulation or actual mind control will likely backfire spectacularly. Similarly, there's that horribly irritating fact that overenthusiastic pursuit will likely scare them off. On the other hand, a little competition can work wonders. And on top of all this, you have to make sure that you don't spend too much screentime on one player's issues over everyone else. When you describe it like that, I can see why a lot of DM's would be put off. So lots of advice and warnings here, most pretty solid. I think this definitely counts as a sign of the times. People are growing up, craving romance, serious commitments to epic character arcs and worlds. Can we satisfy those urges, or will we be left frustrated or heartbroken, returning to the dungeon to smash away the angst. Guess that probably varies from campaign to campaign.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 2/6


It's sort of like a wand: Ahh, yes, the endless need for new stuff. If you use the same old monsters and items, players will rapidly grow blase and know exactly what to do in response. So encourage the DM's to male up new ones, including ones that look like other ones to surprise and annoy metagamers. I know we've seen this one before. Over a hundred issues ago in fact. And unlike that one, this is purely advice, rather than any mechanical tools to help with the problem of new confusing combinations to bamboozle the PC's with. Not very fresh, I'm afraid. So much for livening up the game.


The classics campaign: So, having spent three articles trying to spice up your campaign by adding new stuff, they try a different tack. Returning to the old classic modules. As with last years's review of the old SR issues, a sign nostalgia is growing as a concern. But nostalgia quickly gives way to pragmatism, with the primary focus of this article being how the modules might be affected by the rules changes since then. Lots of new classes, spells, magic items, all of which could disrupt their carefully designed screwage inflicting meatgrinders. ;) And many monsters have changed as well in the new edition, so that has to be taken into account too. Course, IMO, putting things in combinations they were never intended to handle and seeing what results is half the fun, and an important part of SCIENCE!!!! experiments. But customising all the old NPC's with new spells and kits is also kinda fun if you have the time to do it. And trying to figure out how to fit these old adventures into your world is also fun, if sometimes tricky. Since I'm already pretty much doing this, I quite approve.


Roleplaying reviews: Glorantha: Genertela, crucible of the hero wars sees Runequest return to it's roots, and make a new fan in the process. A snazzy boxed set giving us a fairly detailed overview of the northern continent, it's full of IC information, helping you get inside the heads of characters from various regions and the religions they follow.

Time of the dragon takes us to Taladas, where things are quite different from the high fantasy heroics and villainy of Ansalon. Minotaurs are the closest thing to a dominant race, kender aren't whimsical twats, clerics with actual magic are exceedingly rare indeed, and the whole thing tries for a gritty postapocalyptic vibe, with reasonable success. It all sounds pretty cool from the review. Course, it doesn't entirely escape the persistent irritations of Krynn's writing in general, with gnomes in particular having plenty of whimsy still. Still, at least it doesn't get strangled by endless novels filling in every detail of it's history, so you have more room for your own characters to make their mark. And the presentation is full of all the cool stuff we've come to expect from our boxed sets. Wahoo indeed.


The voyage of the princess ark must be proving popular, for it expands in size quite a bit this issue. Once again, they make an enormous (and rather topical) revelation about the nature of their world. It's hollow! How about that folks! ;) Not that it's easy to discover, as the immortals have put a pretty good security system on it. Lightbending so the holes in the poles aren't immediately obvious. Antimagic around the polar regions that'll play hell with attempts to get there. (which is a big driver of the drama in this installment, as Haldemar has to deal with his untrustworthy new Rakasta companions without his regular supply of blasty effects.) And your standard frozen polar blizzard that'll discourage any ordinary people from settling anywhere near. They nearly don't make it, with only the amazing stroke of luck that they meet and befriend a gargantuan sloth capable of pulling their ship keeping it from being stranded on the ice floes. What are the odds? This really is the kind of plot twist that would stretch my sense of incredulity beyond it's limits if I didn't know about it in advance. Where's your foreshadowing, man?

Actually, that's a very good question, as Bruce starts responding to mail about the series. He reveals that the series is only written a few months in advance, and your letters can change the course of their exploration. Will they stay in the hollow world, return to the known world or head off into space, and see what other planets are to be found in the D&D universe? You have the power! Or not, as the case may be. Still, it's pleasing for me to discover it wasn't all plotted out in advance. Lets see what else we can discover from the letters and his replies to them.

A letter pointing out that at the time of Haldemar's writing, Karemekos hadn't been founded yet. Silly Bruce, messing up his history.
A letter expressing frustration that nearly all the articles in the magazine are AD&D focussed. This one thing a month isn't nearly enough. Bruce quite agrees with you there, as does the editor.
A rant from someone deeply annoyed that the map from the master set has been retconned, as well as the fact that Haldemar is biased against Thyatians. Quite reasonable complaints. Remember, you don't have to use any of the stuff in here if you don't want too.
A basic question on what the next gazetteers are to be. This is answered efficiently.
A letter complaining that the battlesystem rules don't cover the D&D game. We'll get round to it.
Why is the area where the Cestian gobblers grow uninhabited. Um, because they grow there. People generally aren't fond of being eaten, y'know.
Will we see any more Blackmoor modules. The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Ae the knights of the white drakes the same thing as the knights of the air? They're a specific company in the larger army.
The scales in some of the maps make no sense. Ahh, once again, we have to deal with errata. Worldbuilding is a tricky business.
How can there be advanced civilizations elsewhere on mystara which don't know about the known world? Because the immortals treat the world like their own private zoo. Each country is it's own little enclosure, and the way they interact is being constantly messed with. Like the sims, the planet's development only makes sense when you factor in the constant adjustments from above.
What are the names of the halfling clans? Buy polyhedron to find out.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 3/6


The role of computers: Dragonstrike takes us to Ansalon to ride dragons, flight sim stylee. They do seem to be covering a rather wider set of genres with their krynnish games. Beat-em-up, army based wargame, and now this, while the Realms is stuck with fairly standard conversions of AD&D rules. Wonder what drove that decision. In any case, while it's almost as complicated to control as actual flight sims, they still thoroughly enjoyed it. You get to fight draconians, other dragons, various flying AD&D beasties, and eventually a suitably massive draconic avatar of Takhisis. Ahh, the joys of taking centre stage.

Mechwarrior is a game of 3D mecha combat with a strong RPG element and a plotline about trying to avenge your uncle and clear your name. The elements of buying the right upgrades for your mech, choosing your missions, and haggling over their price play as much of a role as the tactical asskicking. As is often the case, they give lots of hints about this one, to help you through the adventure.

Budokan is a game of martial arts combat. It doesn't look as sophisticated as SFII, but things are certainly headed in that direction, as you have to master annoying key sequences to unleash various martial art maneuvers. Build up your ki bar and go to town on your enemies. That definitely sounds familiar, and it's curious to realise they haven't covered this genre before in these columns. To extend the sign of the times metaphor, the graffiti is definitely on the bridge.


The marvel-phile: Another pair of leftover characters who couldn't fit into this year's big update. Dakota North, the hotshot private detective with enough martial arts expertise to hold her own in superheroic circles. And Stick, the straightfoward yet cryptically named blind sensei who trained Daredevil. Obviously pretty minor characters if they can't find the space to include them in an encyclopedia now pushing 1500 pages. I suppose given it's popularity, trying to consume and catalog everything in the marvel universe would be even more confusing and exhausting than my efforts on this magazine. I should be grateful for small mercies. Still, this does feel rather like formulaic filler.


Fiction: Shadow play by John P Buentello. A somewhat different bit of rules lawyering to last month, but rules lawyering nonetheless. Outwitting enslaved supernatural beasties when they have substantially more power than you is a pretty staple part of heroism. Course, yeah, diminishing returns, and this is neither as clever or funny as last time. On the other hand, it's protagonist actually becomes a better person as a result of the adventure, if you like that kind of thing. But on the whole, I'm not particularly enthused by this one. Another bit of filler in my nilla.


The role of books: Games end by Kevin J Anderson sees the mediocre reviews turn into an outright slating, as the physics fail to hang together consistently, and the characters act in ways that make no sense. Way to prove the point about their unreality.

Black trillium by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May and Andre Norton should appeal to likers of any of their writing. Well crafted, it does still have a bit of fiction by numbers to it. Still, it should keep them in money for a little longer.

The queen's head by Edward Maston is an elizabethan murder mystery. It does try and tie in events to the big historical ones too much, but the character building is pretty good.

Horselords by David Cook kicks off the Horde trilogy of novels. It's a surprisingly magic light affair, immersing you in their culture and getting you up to speed quickly. Once again, his enthusiasm does a lot of the work, keeping it interesting even if it's not actually that D&Dish.

Ironhelm by Douglas Niles, on the other hand, doesn't immerse you in the fantasy american invasion, taking a fast-cut approach to show events across the continent. You'll have to figure out the big picture made by the plot threads yourself. Still, it differs from reality more than Zeb's attempt, with the interesting new magic systems. Overall, it's obvious that the Realms are building up and diversifying nicely.

Phules company by Robert Asprin is an amusing story centering around a sci-fi Red-piss legion. With plenty of humour, swashbuckling, worldbuilding and a setup that's near perfect for adventurer types, the reviewer can definitely see the value in this one for gamers.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 4/6


Scouting for new options: Once again we are confronted by just how much stuff intended for 1st edition they have lying around, and possibly are still receiving from people who aren't keeping up with current events. Curious how all the new classes are for the old version. I guess we have the complete books out, and kits more than adequately serve for minor tweaks like this in 2nd ed. I wonder why no-one's submitting them to the magazine.

Anyway, the Scout. This is a useful little one, because although it doesn't differ from the regular thief too much mechanically, (and even shares their unlimited advancement for all policy) they take pains to point out that they're more likely to be team players with an adventuring party, rather than backstabbing them and robbing them blind. This is very handy if you have players who can't get the idea of reskinning. Say goodbye to backstabbing, pickpocketing, and reading languages, and say hello to tightrope walking, tumbling, tracking, surprise boosting and several useful detection abilities that'll help prevent DM screwage. I think that counts as a pretty good tradeoff. And indeed, the fact that it reappeared in 3.5, and was pretty well liked then too seems a pretty good sign that plenty of people liked the idea and implementation. And since the writing is nice and clear as well, I think this is definitely one for the using. Combine with bandit, Armstrong bounty hunter, huntsman and beastmaster for a nice selection of wilderness focussed classes to fill up your party.


Forum: Another month focussed on feeding the persecution complexes of people here. Yes, they really are out to get you. Hit back, don't turn it into a circle-jerk of misery porn. Bullies never stopped because you capitulate to them.

Tony Pace tells another story of how one jackass and his hangers-on got D&D banned in an entire school. And the punishment hurt other people more than him, because of course he just ignored the punishments and kept doing whatever. Funny how that works.

Paul Cardwell sends out a call to get organized and fight back against the oppressors! Now that's what I like to see. Hard facts, names, places, faces, battle plans. Now, the tricky part is getting other people to join in. Don't let apathy kill your gaming.

Robert W. Heym points out that if you crunch the numbers, it looks like a substantially smaller proportion of D&D players commit suicide than the general population. Course this is the nature of statistics. You can do all kinds of tricks with them so they seem to support either side. It's all a bit of a pain unless you're a mathematician yourself and can look at the raw data and figure out your own conclusions.

Michael Shigetani has become a fundamentalist christian, but still plays D&D, and doesn't think there's anything satanic about it. Still, he's had to fight his case against his new friends, and thinks that roleplayers ought to be at least as organized as their opponents if they want to survive.

Lenny Valure contributes his personal, um, lack of experience with anything satanic about D&D. The plural of anecdote is not data.

Dayle Johnson reminds us that preaching to the choir is pointless. If you want to tackle gaming's popularity issues, you've got to put ads and articles in unconnected places, where people who are not already involved will read it. I do believe I have also said this in the past.

Craig H. Barrett agrees with Roger's recent editorials, and thinks that if anything, he was being too nice about the motives of D&D's detractors. They're doing it as much because D&D is an easy target as it is an object of genuine hate. You don't see people trying to ban cars, despite them definitely killing more people in a day than D&D manages in a year. Well, you do, but hardly anyone takes them seriously, because the benefits are too obvious and omnipresent compared to the drawbacks.

Jason Aljets has no particular suggestions, but is just angry about all this crap. D&D is not a cause of mental problems! Etc etc.

C. P. Bates wants to see hard evidence of the benefits or otherwise of gaming. Solid facts would be rather useful for challenging ignorance and paranoia. Maybe. Earlier views dispute this.

Geri Balyard thinks that the value of RPG's is in teaching us to deal with dangerous situations intelligently without actually being exposed to danger. And as an addiction, it's much less harmful than drugs. Also, harder to score in a hurry, especially if you start neglecting your friends.

Dan Pryor also points out the valuable things gaming teaches us. Heroism, the value of co-operation, tactics and bravery, the things you gain by being virtuous (if playing some kind of class with a moral code) etc etc. The irony is that it's not just bad things that draw the ire of reactionaries. Look what happened to jesus for preaching peace and love. Very good points.
 

Quasar

Feeling kinda smurfy
Validated User
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.
I did really love book 1. Though I don't know if I read any subsequent volumes. I certainly don't have them in my library.
 
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