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

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Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 5/6

TSR Previews gets splayed over 3 pages, as they try and fit in all their adverts at the right size and satisfy their various obligations. Bleh.

Ravenloft kicks off it's series of supplements, with RA1: Feast of goblyns. Everything's scarier with extra y's. The DM's screen is packaged with this, apropos of nothing.

Dragonlance is not only compiling and reworking it's novels, it's now doing the same to the original modules. The Dragonlance saga classics vol 1 collects DL1-4, and updates them to the new edition. Which means the dragons'll be a lot tougher, so the old level estimates might not be accurate anymore. Beware.

The Forgotten Realms is also in a dragony mood, with FOR1: Draconomicon. Now there's a book that'll sell well and get follow ups in future editions. Mmm. Supplementalicious.

Spelljammer is still building up a decent supply of modules with SJA3: Crystal Spheres. Space is biiig, and there's plenty of systems to explore with problems to solve. Here's just 4 of them.

XXVc goes to jupiter in 25A2: N.E.O in the 25th century. Legendary alien artifacts? Curious. Thought this universe was focussed on humanity's inhumanity to one-another.

Marvel Superheroes, on the other hand, gets a boxed set expanding on the X-men. One of the superhero teams the players have a decent chance of joining, it's no surprise they're pretty popular. Stats, adventures, the format as ever lets them divide things up into convenient booklets and handouts.

Sage advice is rather far back in the magazine this month.

Which modules are set in the forgotten realms (the ones with the logo on the front. Shouldn't be hard to put the generic ones in as well)

Where are the stats of the tome of the unicorn ( You shouldn't rely on indexes. Read the whole book and learn it properly like Skip does )

Where are the stats of greenstone amulets ( FR4. Well worth the expenditure, because they're self-charging when they run out)

Will unstable wands explode if broken dilibarately (oh yes. Be very careful. )

Where can I find stats for the scholar class (that's an IC social class, not an actual class. Yes, I know it gets confusing when we do things like that. We ought to theasaurize more. )

How the hell can Drizzt use two scimitars at once. (He's a pioneer! You want to imitate him (and I know many of you do) get the complete fighters handbook. Aren't we nice, letting you get the powers our twinked NPC's can use for a change. )

Will the forgotten realms get an atlas (Yup. Just a couple of months ago in fact. Another thing for you to spend money on, since you seem so keen to do so. )

Has Elminster ever been to Oerth or Krynn (well, he certainly knows spells by greyhawk mages. He's been to earth plenty and read the gamebooks, so it seems likely.)

Where is the info on the places in FR1 (get FR 4 & 5! Gotta collect em all. You'll never get all the info any other way! )

What's clear terrain. (fairly flat grasslands and similar. Blah blah common sense blah blah. )

What scale are your maps (Various, because they vary in size so much. We ought to have labeled them )

When can we get colour corrected maps (Right now! yay! )

There's a gap between the forgotten realms and kara tur maps (Yup. Get the horde boxed set to complete the picture. :teeth ting: Beware of scale mismatch retcons.)

What is toril's circumference (about the same as earth. More lazy design on our part)

How do you become a red wizard (PC's shouldn't be villains. Skip disapproves strongly of this question, as editorial policy demands he do. )

Is chult africa-esque ( No, it's a dinosaur infested caveman land. Not an earth analogue at all, no siree bob.)

Can western characters learn eastern stuff (recycled question. The answer is still yes, twit. )

Why aren't all the rooms in illefarn detailed (same reason all the rooms in undermountain aren't. A combination of size issues and wanting to allow you rom to add your own stuff. )

What's on the other side of the spine of the world mountains. Is it greyhawk (No. Make up something yourself. )

I want more info on flying ships (see issue 124 :teeth ting: God, Skip really ought to get that tinging sorted out. It's starting to get on skip's nerves.)

Where are all the libraries (What libraries? It's all private collections around here. Free access to books is a modern concept. Magic doesn't support mass production very well. )

How big and expensive are waterdeep's rental villas? (Big enough to house an adventuring party. You'll have to keep working though. Floor space in a big city is expensive. By my conversion rate, the cheapest you'll get is somewhere around $8000 a month. New york, eat your heart out.)

Stuff in the city system set is missing and/or duplicated (It wasn't me.)


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 161: September 1990

part 6/6

The ecology of the griffon: What is it about cats that turns people into cooing babytalking obsessives? I blame the brainworms ;) So many macros, so little time. This article just about keeps the fanboyism in check, but it takes only a little compression of the best bits to tip it over that edge into full on horse RPesque purple prose. (do not google if you value your SAN score) A magnificent and awe-inspiring sight, golden feathered with patterns of black washing across them, with ruby red, burning yellow, or icy blue eyes, they have an elemental feel for the ways of the sky. Suspicious and bold, yet strikingly loyal as mounts, they should be treasured by all humanity! It's all rather amusing. This is another one that's entertaining to read for all the wrong reasons, and the writer almost completely neglects to add new game information as well. Such a shame Ed's too busy to do ecologies anymore. He could pull off something like this and keep you laughing with him rather than at him.

Dragonmirth is verrry obvious this month. Yamara is returned to a fleshy state the weird way. It's out of one fight and into another, and then another in twilight empire.

Through the looking glass: Battletech is still fairly popular, and Robert has obviously been playing it quite a bit, because he's running an epic feature on modding the rules to make a full extended campaign. This will of course involve buying lots of supplements and minis, but the target audience for this probably already has those. Rules for resource management, producing new units, repairing ones damaged in previous battles, salvaging fallen stuff, this does seem designed to allow you to run an extended war where one side eventually gets the advantage, but a clear-cut winner and loser isn't decided for quite some time, especially if there are more than 2 sides with shifting alliances. Obviously this one isn't that useful to me, but it does seem another good sign in terms of covering outside systems. Like the extended articles for Top Secret and Gamma World on lunar adventuring, this is interesting reading, and may be adaptable to other systems with similar considerations and limitations. Another article that's a lot more memorable than endless minis reviews.

The draconomicon. Hey, it's an inherently cool sounding name. Is it any surprise they'll reuse it in the next edition as well.

Another issue that is very much of it's time, packed with stuff that seems quite dated now, but was cool and new at the time. They also seem to be trying to leave behind certain things, but struggling to do so. Can they shake off the satanic furor. Will they alienate longtime readers with their search for new grounds. Well, we know that, the only question is exactly how the response curve will progress. Onto the next data point.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 1/6

116 pages. Another october, and you know straight away from the cover that this is another halloween special. As the success of Ravenloft right from the first module shows, the human desire to scare itself from a position of safety is a perennial one. And so they probably have more than enough suitable articles to fill several years of this, even if they never got any more. Hopefully that means they have enough spares to reject the crap and only use the best, unlike far too many of their themed issues. I suppose I'd better get reading and writing.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter from someone pissed off about the magazine now coming in plastic wrap. They've exchanged environmental friendliness for greater durability. Oh woe for all the eco-people.

A letter pointing out two factual errors the magazine made recently. Looks like they can't do anything right.

A letter from someone finding that a vampire PC causes fairly substantial problems in AD&D. Vampire PC's? There's a turnup for the books. Roger gives us some advice that'll keep things getting too out of hand. At least vampires have substantial weaknesses to go with their powers.

Editiorial: Rogar of Mooria tells the tale of his latest adventure in convention land, looting and pillaging his way through the booths of the competing companies and the local chinese restaurants. Roleplaying may not be enjoying the same degree of corebook sales it did in the mid 80's, but the number of convention goers, and by implication established, serious players with decent amounts of disposable income is still increasing. And they're having lots of fun, between the buying and the selling and the weird attention grabbing freebies and the seminars and the adventures. Man, I ought to go to more cons. Hell, I ought to get out more in general. I have a laptop, and wifi is hardly rare. And working from coffee shop does seem to be in amongst pretentious hipsters. (which as my laptop is a mac, I suppose I fit by default) Maybe then I'd meet more interesting people.

Bazaar of the Bizarre: A horror themed pages from the mages here this month, very much in the Call of Cthulhu mold. The Book of Horrors, a typically life and sanity imperiling tome that it'll take quite a bit of effort to get a benefit from. Just the thing for your evil necromancers to own, so if they players kill them and take their stuff, the adventure is in no way over. Can you turn the evil new spells within to good ends?

Undead Control is pretty self-explanatory. If your cleric fails, then you get a second chance to end things without needless bloodshed. Course, it's not as good as that innate ability, so niche protection is preserved.

Sinuous Horrors transforms your arms into snakes. This is scary looking, but on the whole, probably a good deal less damage inflicting than a good fireball or lightning bolt, despite being higher level; plus of course, your spellcasting options are seriously restricted while you have no hands. If you use this as your primary combat method, I'm afraid I will have to seriously question your sanity :p

Vampire Mist also looks cool, but does less damage over a longer period of time than the standard wizardly offensive spells. Again, I am forced to make a mad necromancer crack and sigh disdainfully.

Crimson Scourge is also not hugely effective in combat, but in a city setting, where you can use it's contagiousness to maximum effect, it could result in huge casualties, plus paranoia above and beyond that as you strike at the heart of the community without revealing your true nature. Now that's more like it, a means of driving a whole plot. Muahahaha.

Amorphous Blob unleashes a pretty self-explanatory ravenous monstrosity capable of infinite growth, in classic horror movie tradition. Another one to release in a community and watch the terror from afar, as if you put it up directly against CR appropriate enemies without a chance to grow to it's full potential, they'll make pretty short work of it. A fitting end to an entry with cool descriptions, but somewhat underpowered crunch. This one shouldn't cause any long term problems if incorporated into your game, while allowing you to make a good mastermind villain who is still quite defeatable when you actually catch them.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 2/6

Robotech, the new generation? Has it been that long? Ok then.

The mind of the vampire: Nigel Findley, writing a horror article? No, say it aint so. ;) Another sign of the times here, as he encourages you to get inside the mind of your intelligent undead monstrosities, and play them as beings with plans, personalities, and quite possibly a degree of internal conflict about their status. Be they vampires, liches, ghosts, spectres, or even lesser undead like ghouls, the way they come to terms with their new lifestyle should vary very much depending on what they were and how they died. And as usual, he does a pretty good job of it, analyzing things both from the statistical capabilities of the various creatures, and their literary sources. They take another step towards the environment that will result in said monsters becoming the stars of the number 2 roleplaying game in the world. Yeah, this one really was pretty telegraphed in hindsight, wasn't it. Even more than those swishy antipaladins, people loooove da bloodsuckers. Bad boys, bad boys, who ya gonna call. So, um, yeah, this rocks, and is also moderately significant in the overall scheme of things. Go him.

Hammer and stake: Call of Cthulhu continues to be one of the more popular non TSR games in the magazine, with an article for including vampires in the game. Rather a step back from the unknowable inhuman monstrosities investigators normally face here. But if you can get over that bit of cognitive dissonance, this is another pretty decent bit of articlage, giving them a fairly straight writeup with both the savage lesser vamps and the more intelligent and refined greater ones catered for. It's probably be a good idea to customise their origin and capabilities if you want them to be properly chilling. But it's certainly not useless, and it's another bit of variety in the magazine, so I have no objection to this.

Out of the shadows: Tom Moldvay continues his slow progress through the entire undead listings and their mythological antecedents with three variants on the Shadow. He also fills us in on the weird editorial decisions that resulted in Shadows being undead in AD&D, but not in basic D&D. An initial decision inspired purely by DM sadism gradually acquired mythic resonance and a special place in adventurers hearts. After all, temporary strength draining isn't as mean as permanent level loss, but it's still pretty scary mid battle, especially when you know what's going to happen if you lose. Once again, he's a font of fun facts, making this a lot more interesting reading than a set of straight bestiary entries.

Skotos are evil spirits who rule rpg.net ;) They recover damage as they hurt you, which means fighting them is not simply a matter of outlasting them. Still, their craving for fresh blood can be used to lure them into making rash decisions. A good mid-level substitute for ghouls or wights.

Sluagh are undead faeries, and a lot more interesting and idiosyncratic than the Changeling version. Appearing in massive hordes, they have very high XP awards for their HD, due to their combination of instadeath attacks, and the shadowesque ability to recruit you for the cause if they kill you. If you don't have an AoE blasty spell ready to go before you get to melee then things are likely to get very nasty. An excellent choice for if you want to play a storyline where entire settlements are being destroyed, and things are getting scarier each time.

Ghost-stones are even more idiosyncratic still. Drawing upon transylvanian myth, if your shadow touches them, it gets trapped on them and they drain your life force through it. Brilliant, and one that'll be a real puzzler for players to figure out how to deal with. Your life or death will depend very much on tactical setup rather than raw power this time. These guys can definitely have places in my game. This selection isn't quite as great as last year's, but that's more a matter of quantity rather than quality. I'm very much looking forward to seeing him complete the collection over the next few years.

Sage advice: Your talk on scale and chain mail was complete rubbish! ( Do you doubt Skip! Skip is the Sage! Do not doubt Skip's word, or Skip will not only destroy you, but your reputation as well. Skip has powerful friends. You'll get what's coming to you for this. )

Did you think up the questions for your april fools issue? (No! Your insanity is more ludicrous than anything Skip could make up himself. Skip is The Sage, not some kind of jester! )

Drinking enwatered PC's simply kills them? That is so unfair! (Only if you're playing a game with regular access to 9th level spells. You might want to think about your playstyle, as that is the problem here, not the rules of the game. So says Skip! )

Ninja can so pick pockets! Oriental adventures says they can! (No they can't! Skip calls shenanigans! You're a bunch of doodyheads.)

You got the number of times dragons can breathe per day wrong (Oh man, Skip just can't win this month. Skip had better call time out before Skip gets even more humiliated. You may have won this time, but Skip will be back, just you see :shakes fist:)


Making the Legend
Validated User
Merry Christmas everybody. See you next year.

Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 3/6

Forum is still going on about the goddamned satanic furor. Still, they are increasingly focussing on the optimistic and practical

Andrew Bartmess talks about how D&D could be a tool for good or evil, depending on the DM and the kind of adventures and lessons they put the players through. This is why it's better to stay involved in your kids lives. If you let them make their own entertainment, then you don't know what they're up to, and it's much more likely to be trouble.

Robert B. Luhrman talks about the law and free speech. We have a right to play, they have a right to protest against it. And since they've tried to ban far bigger things and failed, I don't think we have much to worry about. Just keep playing.

Gord Coleman is another person who wants us to get up get up, get organized. Don't be shy, testify! Let out the rage in healthy ways, don't crack under the strain and shoot up the school.

Marian Lynn Lucas used Dragonlance, and it's moralising lessons to prove that D&D isn't satanic to her parents. Guess they have a use after all. :p And also a reminder just how many of the writers responsible for D&D were christians of one stripe or another. The two things should not be in opposition.

The voyage of the princess ark: Once again the Ark finds itself rather indisposed. Chasing their escaped captive through the hollow world, they get spotted by the Nithians, and have to put up with doing the awkwardly polite negotiation dance again. They then crash into a flying island inhabited by two rival clans of gnomes. Fortunately, the gnomes know how to make skyships (well, they couldn't get on and off their home otherwise), so they finally have a chance to get some decent repairs in. Funny how Krynn's making gnomes the mechanic race has spread to other worlds so easily. No cool new crunch this time, just some more objective gazetteer material on their new location. Once again we see how having so much cool stuff can be made into a problem as well as an opportunity, as they have devote lots of time and effort to repairing it, and when their magic doesn't work, it really messes up their plans. What other ways will bruce find to challenge them in future issues? Hopefully not too many of them will be crap.

The role of computers: Ultima IV: The false prophet is our only review this month. Since it's a well established RPG series, it is of course an big one, with plenty of hints. There are some fairly substantial improvements in graphics and gameplay as usual, although the bright colours and breadth of options means there may be some hassle keeping track of everything. They look forward to a good few months more completing it and publishing hints on it in here.

This month also marks the point when they make a conscious decision to focus more on video games as well as computers. The market continues to grow with no end in sight, and they're going where the money is. Another sign of the times I knew was coming, but wasn't sure exactly when. Guess history really is rolling along this month.

The dragon's bestiary: More inventive undead here. Spiritus anime are ghosts which animate any corpses in the vicinity, and if you kill one, they'll just hop to another one. A nice little challenge to deal with requiring the use of your brains, like the tombstone one. After all, fighting one skeleton at a time in a full graveyard will rapidly grow very tedious.

Ankou draw on a rather more obscure and specific bit of folklore as they're the undead forms of farmers who killed their families out of greed, who roam the roads and take people to Tartarus. Miserable business, really. A perfect random encounter for those wandering from one adventure to another.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 4/6

Fiction: A prayer for the dead by Deborah Millitello. Still in theme here as well. They must have no shortage of horror submissions, with Ravenloft drawing in even more writers from that field. This is a ghost story of passion, misdeeds and vengance, where an undead horror needs laying to rest, and the townsfolk are not being entirely honest about the causes. It's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but the ending is a happy one, without being saccharine. Another quite likable bit of fiction.

Novel ideas: Probably one of the trickiest, but potentially most rewarding part of the book department is figuring out what books to publish outside the established gaming fiction ones. They don't have an established name to give them guaranteed sales, but on the other hand, they don't have an established logo putting off casual browsers. So they're the ones that really need promotion if they're to recoup their costs and reach an appreciative audience. So more free adverts for other parts of the company here. :sigh: Outbanker by Timothy Madden, a sci-fi cowboy adventure. The road west by Gary Wright sees a highly trained ranger face problems both inner and outer. And The alien dark by Diana Gallagher stars cat/bear aliens looking for a new planet to call home. Okey dokey then. Once more, this is mostly promotion, with a bit of behind the scenes stuff about the writer and how they made the book. This is rapidly coming to replace Giants in the earth as the most kickable regular article in the magazine. It's neither useful nor particularly entertaining. Once again I sigh.

The marvel-phile: Oh dear god. Dracula II: Daughter of Dracula. The schlock factor, it is through the roof. The engines cannae handle it cap'n! So Marvel is working hard to shake off the remaining vestiges of the comics code, and one of these is bringing back all the vampires, making the world a little darker and bloodier. Lilith :rolleyes: the daughter of dracula, cursed with eternal life by gypsies and trying to make unlife miserable for her dad down the generations. Family, eh? Who'd have one? Cheesecake outfit, cliches galore, yup, this has a very distinctive style that it's rather hard to take seriously. Get the whips out boys, we're goin' vampire hunting, and there may be flying medusa heads involved.

The game wizards: Yet more horror stuff, as they promote Ravenloft some more. Actually, this is a pretty close rehash of one of the articles from last month, only slanted towards horror. The big thing about horror is keeping things surprising. So you've gotta switch things around, and keep them mysterious. Obfuscate details, exaggerate, never use proper names, keep throwing curveballs. Not bad advice, but yeah, oh so very done last month, only with less pretentiousness. This is the kind of thing the editors should catch and screen out. Once again this column seems to be largely a mouthpiece to drive more sales for their products, and the entertainment aspects ring a little false. Bleh. Still, at least it's better than Novel Ideas. :p


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So Marvel is working hard to shake off the remaining vestiges of the comics code, and one of these is bringing back all the vampires, making the world a little darker and bloodier. Lilith :rolleyes: the daughter of dracula, cursed with eternal life by gypsies and trying to make unlife miserable for her dad down the generations. Family, eh? Who'd have one? Cheesecake outfit, cliches galore, yup, this has a very distinctive style that it's rather hard to take seriously. Get the whips out boys, we're goin' vampire hunting, and there may be flying medusa heads involved.
To be fair, Lilith first appeared in 1974, and she's always dressed like that.



Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 5/6

TSR Previews: They already had one book on castles this year. Now they give us a boxed set on the various fantasy castles found in Oerth, Krynn and Toril. Must be another surprisingly popular topic among the designers.

The Forgotten Realms is once again getting more than anyone else. FR11: Dwarves deep sees Ed fill in more details about, oh, you know, in his inimitable style. He's another ridiculously prolific writer, because he also delivers FA1: Halls of the high king. Off to the moonshaes to fight viking marauders. As if the horde weren't enough trouble. Mongols to the east of me, Swedes on the west. Guess I'm stuck in the middle with you. Oh well, maybe I can do a little ear collecting.

Greyhawk finishes it's latest module trilogy, WGA3: Flames of the Falcon. This time, you really do get to save the city at last. Woo. Includes a fold-up mansion, presumably representing an important location in the plot.

Dragonlance finishes off it's second prequel trilogy as well. You can tell we're getting near the end of a product cycle, can't you. This time it's Tanis who reveals hidden achievements, in The Shadow Years, by Barbara and Scott Siegel. Can the pairing give the writing the same energy as Tracy and Margaret?

D&D starts to put out follow-ups for the Hollow world. HWA1: Nightwall takes you to see the preserved remains of the very first culture in the entire world. Dude. Totally excellent. [/bill and ted]

XXVc continues to show us the planets, with 25CR2: Earth in the 25th century. Will they manage to get through all 9 before poor sales see the line cancelled? Dale Henson also begins his metamorphosis into Slade. How long before he loses both his name and capitalisation in the credits?

And finally, we have Boot Hill, 3rd edition. Gangbusters was rereleased a couple of months ago. Seems like they're trying their luck with lots of old properties. Before you know it, Gamma World'll be getting another try on the merry go round. Wonder if this'll see any supplements.

Oh, and there's another product mentioned in the this month section that wasn't there last time. Sloppy as ever. Maztica may not be getting as much press as the horde, but that's still going on as well. Viperhand by Doug Niles is number 2 in the book trilogy. How long before the gaming material arrives?
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