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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
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Dragon Magazine Issue 162: October 1990

part 6/6


Role-playing reviews is taken over by Allen Varney. He starts us off with another entertaining little snapshot from this year's Gen Con, as a new edition of a certain popular game is unleashed upon the public. Always a tense time, when one of the major writers is late, it becomes even more so. I like him already. He's got plenty of cool credits (and a few bits of dreck) for me to look forward to reporting on.

Champions is up to it's 4th edition, which is 350 pages long. It hasn't been an easy ride, but the HERO system has survived a decade and improved quite substantially over that period. Allen gives this a very context heavy review, drawing upon his insider knowledge of the game's history. It now has tons of powers, rules for adapting the overall nature of the campaign, and lots of other options. Course, it's far from unbreakable, simply due to the enormous breadth of powers covered, so GM oversight is essential. Man, that's a pretty familiar refrain.

The HERO system rulesbook cuts out the superheroic setting stuff for just the rules. This brings it down to 220 pages, still substantial, but not bulky. Just the thing for when you're traveling.

Classic enemies is their assembled and revised bestiary. Scott Bennie once again shows that stuff like histories and personal connections between NPC's add to the entertainment factor quite substantially. They even have an incompetent supervillain prison for your own game to take advantage of. Most amusing.

Mind games is a much smaller book focussing on a group of psychic villains. It's mainly fuel for adventures rather than overall advice. Their equivalent of a module, presumably.

Ninja hero sees Allen praise Aaron Allston profusely, the nepot. You want to bring oriental badassery to the HERO system, he's your guy. Ra ra ra! Give him more jobs! Hee. How very naughty.


Dragonmirth is anachronistic again. Yamara fakes the macguffin. The twilight guys have multiple escape plans. One of them's bound to work.


Through the looking glass: The advanced battletech modding is concluded this month. Last time, it was mainly add-ons, this time it's the alterations to the turn sequence that get worked upon. They do have to forbid some things to make it work, and there's a huge list of little technical modifications that look like they'll be a bit of a pain in the ass to remember. Exactly how many of them are essential, and how many of them are simply house rules for their idea of greater balance I'm not sure, but it does look like they've been busy with the playtesting and stuff. This seems like the kind of thing that won't get a huge number of users, but those that do will be very enthusiastic about it. I'm not going to begrudge them some nice stuff I can't use, as long as it also means more variety in RPG's.


Bladestorm by I.C.E and grenadier. A fantasy miniature game of swords, sorcery and battle in a dark chaotic world? Looks like they're trying to rip off warhammer. :)


A quite entertaining collection of articles this time round, along with some pretty telegraphed historical pointers. Playing vampires, video games ascending to dominance, drama, history, this is pretty interesting stuff. The fact that lots of people are doing it obviously means that they can pick the best articles for the magazine. So even if some of their editorial choices are still rather iffy, there's still lots of useful stuff here. Wonder what next month will bring us.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 1/6


122 pages. Larry Elmore once again reuses models for his cover. Even the model looks bored with this. That can't be a comfortable tree to sit in. She must have been posing for him for weeks of total time over the years. The subject is pretty reused too. Magic. Pretty vague really, you think by now they'd start livening it up by running more specific themes, such as necromancy, shapeshifting or mind control. Apparently not. Perhaps they ought to say they're planning doing a certain theme 6-12 months in advance, and would like articles on it. That'd certainly help with the maintaining variety problem. Oh well, let's see if the individual articles are any good.


In this issue:


Letters: Roger once again finds himself with too many ludicrous letters to hold on to until april. So once again he decides to give his snark and punnery muscles a major workout. Whatever keeps ya sane, dude. At least it's not Waldorf or female dwarven beards again. And once again we are strongly reminded of their bowdlerising editorial policy. Gotta keep the actual words kid friendly, even if we all know what they're talking about. Sigh. Let's hope they can slip some dirty stuff under the radar every now and then.


Editorial: Ah yes, realism in gaming. And it's cousin who is often mistaken for realism, grimdark crapsack black and grey worlds where everything sucks and you've got no hope of ever making things better. (with thanks to tvtropes) Well, it's not too far from reality. :p So Roger delegates to Dale this bit of moderate rehash, tempered with current events commentary. The difference between low and high fantasy, the change in media depictions of stuff. And of course how this impacts on the D&D morality debates. Dear god this feels like filler. They expanded the editorials to a designated size, and now they have to fill them every month. Bed, made, lie in it. Just as I have to. Still, it's another sign of the times. Welcome to the iron age. Take good care of your trenchcoat while here, because the rain falls heavy in darkened alleys.


Have you seen this duck? Runequest advertises by juxtaposing the ludicrous with the deadly serious and hoping that'll draw people in.


Back to school - Magic school: Ahh, this is one I knew they'd get round to at some point. An analysis to the various speciality wizard types, figuring out which is best, courtesy of Greg Detwiler. Abjuration is problematic, with limited utility stuff and the removal of the most versatile school. Alteration is pretty awesome, able to fill a whole load of roles even without bothering with other schools. Conjurers are pretty middle of the road, but do have to rely on others quite a bit, which has it's risks. Diviners are unglamorous, but pretty damn good actually, especially once you add a few supplements. Enchanters, like conjurers, need to rely on unreliable aid a lot, but can work around their issues. Illusionists are even more crappy, but still probably better off than they were in 1st edition, with the whole range of conjurations, alterations, etc open to them. Invokers are pretty decent, but again, have their issues, and find it a bit trickier to be team players to compensate for those. Necromancers are a bit crap until you get a decent load of supplements, especially in the low levels. He seems to have a pretty decent handle on things, not giving us any misleading advice. Remember, ironically, having two wizards specialized in opposing schools is one of the best ways to ensure you always have a wide range of spells useful for all eventualities. And that can lead to odd pairing bickering buddy movie fun. I think following this one will be beneficial to your game.


Oops! Sorry!: Spell misfires. Muahahahaha. If anything is going to fill the players with dread, it's the prospect of things not simply failing, but going wrong in ironic and interesting fashion. After all, this is something with an incredibly long literary tradition behind it, frequently involving talented but impetuous apprentices who then have to spend whole books trying to sort out their cock-ups. Course, in D&D, you can't really go that far every time a spell gets disrupted, plus you may have problems thinking of something different to happen each time. You know what's perfectly designed for solving this? Random tables! Another instance where I'm vaguely surprised they haven't done this years ago. Guess even though the technology's been around for ages, there's still only so much room in each magazine. And since this is a pretty short article, that tries to keep it's various results applicable to the large variety of spells out there via vagueness, there's probably room for another, more comprehensive variant on this some time in the future. Not a hugely interesting read, this should nevertheless add a bit of sadistic fun to your play if used judiciously.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 2/6


Hedge wizards: Hmm. Another article specializing in the uses of the new specialist wizards, this time in relation to getting a job in the community and selling your services. Given the small number of spells you have in D&D, a specialist really has a substantial advantage here, as they get to satisfy more clients a day, and concentrate on doing a few things well, instead of being dragged all over the place by people with unrealistic expectations and trying to compete directly with everyone in the business. Quite a bit of this seems to be Forgotten Realms focussed, with the new spells in particular being fully integrated with named owners and locations. As is often the case, the math in terms of the levels they're supposed to have and the money they earn is a bit wonky when you consider the amount of money peasants earn, and the amount of things you have to kill to get each level. Obviously you need to assume a pretty high magic world to use it. But it does have a nice flavour, and a whole bunch of low level spells useful for everyday use, so if your game meets that criteria, go right ahead. We'll get the hang of this spells for sale thing eventually.


Magic gone haywire: In a similar vein to the spell misfires stuff earlier, here we have a whole bunch of quirks you could add on to magic items, make them more individual than just another sword +1 or ring of invisibility. As is usual for tables like this, some are good, some are bad, and some are decidedly mixed blessings, particularly when various magic items become sentient and start talking back to you. Several evily inventive ideas mixed in with variants on a bunch of familiar ones make this another article that could be spicing up your game for years to come if used in moderation. And so we bring to a close a themed section that's actually been pretty good, and quite forward-looking. Once again they've managed to justify repeating a topic.


The role of books: Dragon's teeth by Lee Killough, Hawk and fisher by Simon Green, and Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey all try and combine mystery plots with fantasy, with varying levels of success. The one that's also a D&D novel gets the best review, curiously enough.

The interior life by Katherine Blake has two interconnected plotlines distinguished by the use of different typefaces throughout the book. Hmm. Wasn't Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man also published around this point using that device. This seems worth thinking about. Anyway, this review seems pretty positive as well, combining reality and fantasy subplots pretty well.

Elven Star by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman gets a review that focusses rather heavily on the meta aspects of the book, in particular a certain anagramatically named wizard who is probably also in Dragonlance, but for legal reasons cannot use the same name in this dimension. The reviewer has doubts about their abilities to resolve the plot in a dramatic and sensible manner.

Gossamer axe by Gael Baudino combines celtic harp music and heavy metal in another story putting it's own spin on combining modern day life with other worlds. While it does seem a little like the author is just writing about their own real life hobbies, at least that means the details are accurate, and there's plenty of distinctive elements springing from that.

Galen Sword 1: Shifter by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens looks like an attempt to start a pulp adventure franchise. The amusingly badass named eponymous hero and his various wacky sidekicks face an alien menace, with mixed success, both in terms of plot and tone. I don't think they're going to make it to 28 books.

Servant of the empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts gives us some fun fantasy politicking, showing that this is very much an option for building good plots on, and good inspiration for if your players are getting to that tricky name level region.

Another day, another dungeon by Greg Costikyan sees the noted designer play with game conventions and use them to drive the plot of this fun story rather better than, say, Kevin Anderson managed. Well, I guess Paranoia is good practice for that, whichever way round you do it.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 3/6


Forum: Robert Roger shows it's not just D&D that suffers from twinkitude, with his star wars game currently having severe balance problems due to a little too much money going round. Remember, anything players can do, NPC's can too. You just need to turn up the opposition to reflect their capabilities.

B. Night offers a load of advice for new players. Is the magazine concentrating too much on stuff for the existing fanbase and becoming too obscure. Not sure I agree with that. Also really don't agree with flaking out because you're just not in the mood. It's hard enough to get a regular group going without "advice" like that.

Matt Bogosian also offers a number pointed contribution, this one advice for good DM'ing. Clear Communication of a Consistent Creation is what they can basically be boiled down too. Oh, and variety is important.

Allan Roberts points out ways in which characters can fail a mission without dying. That is not the only punishment for losing, you know.

Jeff Barnes also thinks that while death should be a big deal, removing resurrection entirely causes more problems than it solves. It'd certainly make the death penalty more acceptable if we knew we could fix mistakes after the fact.

Ofed Ofek also considers resurrection not an issue, because the costs involved are more than sufficient to keep you from doing it casually. At low levels, it's frequently easier and more fun to just start a new character anyway.

Willis M Burge is also in favour of resurrection, at the right price. Unless they got killed through sheer stupidity, they ought to have a chance to bring their character back. Suicide by DM. Always ought to be an option.

Jay Toser points out role-models for paladins from genres other than fantasy. Westerns are particularly good for this. (Let us not forget Murlyand, a canon example of cowboy/paladin crossover from the founding players.) Oh, and he references batman as well, which always gets contentious in the morality stakes. I wonder if anyone'll bite on that bait?


The voyage of the princess ark: The Ark enjoys one of it's most dramatic plot reveals yet. They thought they'd escaped the Night Dragon months ago. Now it is revealed that they've been played for fools for a while. Does everyone apart from the ordinary humans know about the hollow world and how to get there? They manage to escape from the hollow world, thanks to the ingenuity of the gnomes, but they are very much not in control of their own destiny at this point. One humiliation follows another, until it ends on a massive cliffhanger. The GM is definitely turning this from a sandbox exploration campaign to a fiaty railroad with great viciousness. Bloody 90's. Lets hope it gets better.

This month's crunch is info on Night dragons, both lesser and greater. They're a sneaky and deeply unpleasant bunch, even more than regular dragons, personally serving the immortals of Entropy. This does mean they're vulnerable to undead turning, holy water, etc, so it's not all bad. But they're not an easy fight, with every hit they do having a good chance of putting you out the fight. One of those monsters that would be substantially nerfed in later editions.

We also have another extra load of letters, all asking for extra info on various countries. (and the moon) Bruce encourages the writers to be more proactive in filling in the gaps in the Known world. After all, he can't single-handedly build a campaign setting. Prove that basic D&D is as popular as AD&D by sending stuff in yourself. Ahh, the problems that we were going through in that era. This brings them all back.


The HERO system introduces Fantasy Hero. Ahh, the joys of generic systems. You do need to show people how to bend them to whatever end. And that means splatbooks. Yay. More money.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 4/6


The role of computers: Secret of the silver blades is another Forgotten Realms CRPG that sticks pretty close to the actual game rules. Once again, you can even bring in your characters from previous adventures. It doesn't get quite the high marks of Azure bonds, mainly due to the plot not being as good, but in terms of gameplay, it does make some improvements. Another one to help the Realms rise to eminence as THE AD&D game setting with the mass market penetration.

Centurion: Defender of rome is one of those large scale tactical wargames where you get to build an empire from the top down. It has some control issues, and the fact that you have to prepare for events blind annoys the designers, but they still think it shows promise. The screenshot they have is certainly pretty amusing.

The keys to Maramon gets a rather mediocre review for not being sufficiently role-playey. False advertising, man. :shakes head:

Dungeon Explorer is basically Gauntlet, only with up to 5 players, and a little more NPC interaction. This is a pretty good thing in the reviewer's mind, giving them an RPG'y fix without requiring days of grinding and regular saving and restarting to finish a game.

The Revenge of Shinobi sees Sega sequelize to capitalize on the ongoing popularity of ninjas. Shuriken, double jumps, a special power you can only use once per life. This sounds very familiar indeed. I strongly suspect I may have wasted a load of money in an arcade on this one summer.


Fiction: Storm Winter by M C Sumner. Yo. Y-Yo. Sentient reptile people with a dry sense of humour in da house, representing it northside. Some of us really want to rule the world, but I just want to be a captain of sail. They try sacrificing me to their cruel god, but I'll team up with a human girl. We'll avenge her father, foil necromantic slaughter, send them packing, and hide the macguffin. And that's enough bad rap-filk for quite a while. Still, this was another fairly enjoyable bit of fiction, with some rather good world-building for such a small amount of space. And it doesn't take itself too seriously either. They're keeping up the good performance in this area.


The statement of ownership is in an odd place in the middle of the magazine this year, which means I missed it the first few times I looked through. Hmm. With an average of near 109 thousand, but a last issue number of only 103, it looks like they continued their slow rise early in the year, and then started declining in the last few months. Interesting to note that the ratio of subscribers to newsstand buyers has increased quite a bit though. I wonder why. Perfectly normal fluctuations.

Buck Rogers Play by Mail game? Talk about combining an out of date property with an out of date format. More excuses for Loraine (roll of thunder, stab of organ music) to siphon money out of the company.


The marvel-phile has a lot of writers this month. This is probably because this is more leftovers from the new marvel handbook installment, and they can't remember who did which characters, or split the labor on each of them in some arcane way to make the production treadmill work faster. This time, it's a couple of cut villains, Nebulon and Solarr. A shapeshifting alien who tried to take over the world, and a mutant thug who absorbs energy from the sun, although not to ends as powerful and wide ranging as superman. Both are now dead, which may be a factor in their non-inclusion in the update. And It doesn't look like they've been brought back since either. Since I didn't find them very interesting to read about, I think they can stay in the dustbin of history where they were found. It's nice to see characters stay dead around here, ironically.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 5/6


Making law out of chaos: Where the forum leads, full articles frequently follow. In this case, it's back to the alignment debates. The out of date alignment debates, using the terms from the 1st ed books rather than the 2nd ed ones to define things, just to make this a little more tiresome, and drive home just how much crap they still have in their slush piles. Were they really getting so few decent 2nd ed articles submitted? And this is a pretty dull one that keeps the definitions fairly restrictive. There's no room for people who just don't particularly care about morality, with neutrality being the opposite of the way it ought to work. (In reality, people are far more likely to side with whoever looks like winning) Puh-lease. One of the good things about 2nd edition was that it was more clearly written than 1st ed, and allowed for more customisation of characters. While there are some cooler bits in 1st ed, this is not one you get much from holding on too. Let it go.


KIng arthur is back, and he's a mutant in palladium's new sourcebook. Hee.


Professional Monsters: Another one about giving monsters classes, this time idiosyncratic specific ones in the mold of the halfling defender. Why should humans get all the fun? So here's three examples - Centaur Cavalier, Orc Barbarian and Lizard man Druid. Curiously, along with the usual low level limits usual for 1st ed nonhumans, they are, in general, somewhat weaker than their regular equivalents. Still, they do each have a few unique bonuses along with the penalties, and I suppose it's better than not having access to the classes at all. I think I'm unlikely to see players pick these guys, even if I was getting to run games a lot more frequently than I am, so there's no need to restrict them. The humancentricism will continue for the foreseeable future.


The dragon's bestiary: Spell weavers are a classic weird screwage monster. Alien, inscrutable, and able to cast several spells at once. They've really gone to town on these guys, creating things that are pretty scary on multiple levels, and packed with loving advice on their tactics and unique equipment. One that does get into official books and adventures later, these guys definitely encourage both DM's and players to step up their tactical efficiency, for whoever snoozes loses. And pray Mariliths find them as incomprehensible as we do, for multispellcasting in their hands does not bear thinking about. As you've probably guessed, I've always been rather fond of these guys, and it's nice to discover they're another one that got their start in the magazine.


TSR Previews: A fairly small list of releases this month, but the forgotten realms is still getting a double bill. FRA3: Blood charge completes the horde trilogy of modules. Their sound and fury burns itself out, but will continue to have repercussions. R A Salvadore is still prequelising in Exile. Drizzt has been kicked out of his home, and has to figure out how to make friends among other races that hate his. AAAaaaaaaaaaangst!!!!!!

Dragonlance finishes it's second spin-off character trilogy, with Galen Benighted. The things we do for our family, eh. Not an uncommon theme, really.

Lankhmar gets LNA2: Nehwon. A magical scavenger hunt? Sounds a bit goofy. Is this in theme with the books?

Marvel superheroes finishes getting grim and gritty in MLA3: Night life. They've done cosmic, they've done gritty, they've done time travel. Where will their adventures take us next?

And finally, it's another standalone book. The Alien Dark by Diana G Gallagher. From a truly alien point of view, the ad copy says. Does it live up to that bold statement?


The Affordable Fort: A second minis-centric article this month to supplement the regular one. We haven't had cardboard castles given away with the magazine for a few years now, but that doesn't mean you can't make your own. Cardboard, glue and paints are not commodities in short supply. The space and facilities to construct, display, and move these around, on the other hand, may well be, but that depends on your situation really. With excellent photography, this is a nice little piece full of practical advice useful for complete amateurs. Which makes sense, given how infrequently they run advice like this. Still, this does make me realise that the aimed average expertise level of the readership is actually lower than 10 years ago, even though the production values are substantially increased. Slightly sobering, really.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 163: November 1990

part 6/6


Dragonmirth reminds you that a good DM is essential. Yamara reminds us that there are better ways to clear a dungeon than going in hacking and slashing. Grognards may disagree. We get an enemy introduced and a flashback in Twilight Empire.


Sage advice goes from peach to yellow. This is what happens when you expose scrolls to too much sunlight. Still, as long as it doesn't affect the legibility of the writing, it's not a problem.

Why is it so hard to change your gender back after donning a girdle ( Hee. Because Gary found it amusing, back in the day. You might as well just enjoy your new gender. A lot of people would pay a lot of money for a complete, fully functional sex change. )

How do you choose a spell's school (logic and common sense, based on what it does and how it does it. )

If a spell is of multiple schools and one is banned, can a specialist use it (Yes. This is very exploitable if you're designing custom spells. )

How do you determine a multiclassed characters ego (use the best level )

Can grease counter spider climb (Probably. )

Are immortals immune to mortal magic or not? (Not entirely. So it goes)

I'm confused by the prices in the castle guide ( Yeah, accountancy's a bitch, particularly when you don't have proper editors and leave some pages behind. Skip has had Words with the writer, and will cap him if he makes a mistake like that again.)


Through the looking glass: Back to the reviews in time for christmas. A battlemat with a forest background. A pair of odd little figurines that aren't really that great for wargaming, but still look pretty neat. A rancor pit from Star Wars, which isn't very well done. And some more generic fantasy and sci-fi miniatures. Business as usual here.


A hoard for the Horde: Another bit of cut material from a recent Realms supplement here. Why do we never see stuff like this for dragonlance or greyhawk? So Zeb overwrote this time, and here's the monsters they decided to cut. Ironically, my second hand copy of the Horde boxed set came with this pull-out included, courtesy of whoever had it before, so I've already seen this.

Dzalamus dragons are three headed grouches that'll swoop upon you and temporarily reduce your level with their breath to soften you up. Fortunately, that's their only magical trick. They'll never make a good ruler of nations like some other dragons I could mention.

Manni are humanoid crow things. Probably related to tengu somehow, only with considerably less style and magic. They're basically another thing in the goblinoid niche, only tougher and able to fly. Which can make all the difference with a little cunning. Still, I can see why they weren't considered essential.

Morin are strange ugly little burrowing things that look very similar to a creature we'll see later in Orpheus. Ahh, the joys of body shape squick. They're not hugely dangerous individually, but come in reasonable sized swarms. Whoever they pick on is in trouble. Probably the coolest of the monsters here.

Sand cats are pretty bland, and another thing that I can see why they got cut. Course, they can still kill your average 1st level character easily enough, with the whole claw/claw/bite/rake thing. That's D&D for you. Redundant monsters aplenty amongst the cool ones.


A somewhat odd progression this issue, as they go quite from forward-thinking articles to out of date and tired ones over the course of it. They also seem to be increasing the number of articles which are simply cut bits from upcoming books, which I'm really not sure if I like. Well, I suppose I'll see a hell of a lot more of that if I ever do the 4e Dragons, and much of it isn't even cut material, just sneak previews. Anyway, overall, this is a fairly average issue in terms of quality, with a fairly even mix of cool stuff and crap. They're definitely an overcommercialised juggernaut now, but they are still acting as an airing ground for quite a few cool ideas. As ever, you'll have to keep your filters ready, and don't forget to read between the lines. On we go to the season of snow.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 1/6


116 pages. From one very familiar special topic to another one, in our third oriental special issue. 121, 151, and now this, with plenty of issues in between featuring oriental articles as well. Just can't escape it, can they? Still, last issue they managed to justify their repeated subject with new ideas. Can they do so again? As ever, I live in hope.


In this issue:


Letters: A letter from people who seem to have assumed D&D = satanic = religion or something. Roger tries to explain, with much bemusement. Our sole purpose is to make money by selling stuff. Religion and philosophy do not come into it.

A letter asking where the new classes, adventures and places are. We have published quite a few of the first recently, with another one this issue. The other two are Dungeon's remit. You'll have to buy that. (PS. Death Masters, dangerous? Ahahahahaha!!!!! A wizard of equal level trounces them effortlessly. What are you on Roger? Did you ever playtest them at all? )


Editorial: Hmm. This is an idea we haven't had since 1985, from a different perspective. The concept of analysing people based on what kind of characters they most frequently play is an interesting one, but not something that works as well as armchair psychiatrists think. For a start, people frequently choose roles that actively contrast with their most common real life one, as a means of release and exploring different personas. For another, it's surprising what a few events early in a character's history can have on the way you portray them, often in ways originally unintended. And let's not get into the whole playing members of the opposite gender issue. While there are a few exceptions, such as the guy who insists on playing catgirls at every juncture, I think we can safely rubbish Katherine Kerr's theory that playing evil characters means you're a bad person in reality. Most people have a little more breadth and nuance to their personality. Just watch out for the ones that obsess on one thing, and bring it into whatever they do, even if it's inappropriate. This has been a nicely thought provoking little editorial.


Flying feet and lightning hands: We kick off our themed section rather literally, with a bunch of new MA maneuvers, including a new kick. :p Most of our articles in this vein have been on new styles combining different permutations of the existing maneuvers. Looks like Len wants to push things a little further. Just as with the core ones, there are several techniques that are obviously supernatural mixed with the physically achievable ones, showing how blurred that particular line is in D&D. Some of them are compiled from other articles in the magazine, where they were class specific abilities. A couple of them are really scary, but most aren't that impressive. So it does nothing for the overall balance of MA as an option, while setting a few more traps for the mechanically unwise player. Purchase with caution. You know how limited your slots are, and every one counts.


Things your sensei never taught you: More MA moves here, and a little advice on building your own styles containing them. MA styles shouldn't simply be bunches of random moves, but a themed collection with definite strengths and weaknesses. No great surprises here. What is slightly more surprising and irritating is that a few of the moves are pretty much the same as the last article. Since that seemed to be compiling stuff, having one immediately following it that not only makes it out of date again, but also introduces redundancy in terms of moves to buy is rather poor organization on the editing staff's part. You could have merged these first two into a single article, and both would have been rather better off for it. Wakey wakey Roger.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 2/6


Bonds of brotherhood: Ahh, the old background filling in questions. Monks are supposed to have been trained by some organization. Like clerics, this means you can get substantial world integration benefits by spelling out what organizations, gods and philosophies are out there for the PC's to follow. If you set them up so they have good reasons to go out adventuring, that helps even more. So here's a bit of advice on that, and three sample orders from the writer's home world. A good one which hunts down and shares knowledge. An evil one which controls places from behind the scenes under a humble guise. And a neutral one which tries to pacify and enlighten barbarians from the inside. All seems pretty sensible, and draws on a nice range of literary sources for inspiration. File under solid but unexceptional.


Born to defend: As they've said earlier, new classes are popular. Just the oriental ones introduced here alone nearly double your options from the main book. Doesn't matter if they're poorly balanced or thematically misconcieved, people still crave the crunch. No surprises that another new class finishes off this section then. The Piao Shih, who's job it is to escort caravans and people across the huge distances and substantial dangers of the oriental world. You can see how one of them would wind up with an adventuring party. And they do have some exceedingly valuable skills, especially since oriental characters don't have a ranger equivalent, and the closest thing, barbarians, are kinda persona non grata in polite society. They are pretty high on customizability, with many of their abilities selectable from an array of options that looks easily expandable. They do have a bit of an issue in that they only earn half experience from killing things and taking stuff outside the line of duty, but since this is also a problem Shugenja, Samurai and Sohei face, this is not an insurmountable issue. All you need to do is make sure trade is an important part of your group's activities. They're certainly a lot easier to integrate than Geisha, and they certainly don't look egregiously over or underpowered, while having plenty of distinctiveness and flavour. If your group is playing Marco Volo, having one of these come back with you seems pretty plausible. And then the paths the adventure could take just keep on forking. What ideas will they have next.


Sage advice loses it's colour for the first time in a while. Oh noes. Poor skip. Just when skip was getting used to it, they pull the plug again. Skip will have to make some arrangements to fix this.

Can magic resistance stop gaze and protection attacks (no, and maybe. )
If a staff has all it's charges used, does it still retain a bonus to hit and damage (No. It's just a useless lump of wood. )

How do clerics read scrolls if they don't have spells to do so. (Err. Somehow. )

Where can I get more info on herbs to make proper use of the herbalism proficiency (Waay back in issue 82. No, we still don't do reprints. You'll have to get hold of it yourself. )

How many slots does it take to learn everything about poisons. What can I do with that knowledge (Ask your DM. Don't think that more powerful poisons'll be cheap or easy to make, even if you have the knowhow. And remember kids, poison use is hazardous to your health and your alignment. Don't do it at home. )

What abilities do you get when polymorphed (You've asked this before. Skip can't be bothered. Skip is still pissed off about losing his colour. Skip is off to complain to the editor. Seeya later, bitches.)


Forum: S. D. Anderson points out that wizards actually stand to benefit more than fighters from adding firearms to their arsenal. They're not likely to be the ones holding back their development. It's more likely to be the clerics, quite possibly from orders by their reactionary bosses. Remember, the magic/technology divide is a pretty artificial one, and most in setting characters would likely ignore it, seeing both as perfectly normal within their normal parameters.

Toby Myers trots out the old "computer can never replace the imagination of a human" argument. I think everyone agrees with that, yet they still keep using computers. This is pretty much a non debate.

Jeannine Cochran wants demons and devils back. Good needs strong opposition to really shine. We shouldn't listen to a bunch of mothers who'd rather ban things for everyone than keep an eye on what their children have access to personally.

Kildare Bangore speaks up in promotion of anime, building on Gregg Sharp's letter. It may not have gone mainstream, but there are quite a few clubs out there, trading videos and giving people a forum to talk about these things. He also goes into a talk about the history of the giant robot genre. Guess who was originally responsible.

Patrick E. Baroco and a bunch of other kids speak up to praise D&D, and give their opinion on it's problems. They of course think that they shouldn't be banned from playing it. Quite right too. We've already seen the educational benefits roleplaying sneaks in under the guise of cool explosions and killing stuff.
 

TGryph

Dire Halfling
Validated User
Regarding my "Bonds of Brotherhood" article, I'll take that Solid but Unexceptional rating with pride. It was my second article, the first one in which I actually got to do some writing, instead of just research.

It was prompted by one of the PC's in my campaign who really wanted a detailed background for his second monk character...something to make him different from the LAST one he played ( I know...he just liked monks!).

Anyway, thanks again and keep up the good work!

TGryph
 
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