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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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Hiding in a snowdrift
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Duuude! Take a nostalgia point, that's the first article in this series I can remember reading at the time instead of digging up later.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 3/6

The voyage of the princess ark: Sweeps week on the princess ark, as we discover that they've been catapulted 34 years into the future. Now Bruce doesn't have to worry about accidentally putting anachronisms in his stories. ;) However, this means that Haldemar, and all his crew, are now people out of time, with everyone they knew changed dramatically or dead. What's worse is that while they were gone, their enemies have been doing evil stuff in the world at large. To top it all off, the empress decides that what they have seen can never become known to the public at large, so the entire crew are now condemned to roam the world forever, like the flying dutchman, never to settle down anywhere, never able to candidly talk about what they've been through. What a miserable reward for all they've been through. Still, it means we're going to get lots more adventures from them, so it's good news for us. Will they ever find a happy ending? Will the political climate change again sometime? We'll have to keep reading to see.

On the OOC side of things, this month we finally get stats for Haldemar. He's certainly not your typical archmage, with his dandyish socialite tendencies and penchant for gambling. He's actually not that twinked, with fairly modest stats and magic items for his level. Talasar, on the other hand, has considerably more innate talent, despite being lower level. This is also a good example of how alignment means surprisingly little, with personal bonds between the crew transcending it. Another interesting thing to note about the way Bruce handles D&D. So what kind of wringer will his evil mind put the characters through next year? I look forward to seeing.

The role of computers: Another interesting sign of the times this month, as they talk about sound cards. While manipulating recorded audio still involves an expensive custom rig just for basic 4 track facilities, and most effects need to be tediously rendered on, computer's ability to sequence and create digital audio on the fly is improving quite a bit. We're currently progressing past the age where you only had 4 basic waveforms to work with to try and represent everything in the game, and into the age of General MIDI soundbanks. 16 channels full of cheesy sounds that often differ significantly from module to module. Not an age I remember with fondness. If chiptunes are just becoming the cool underground thing, I hope that doesn't mean general MIDI sounds will be the next in line for a kitschy retro revival. Still, like the things that give us clues to the state of the internet back then, this is very nice for me to see. If they actually come through with their hints and review some music sequencing software, I'll be all over that action.

Megatraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy brings the RPG to the computer with a level of success similar to the Azure bonds game, creating a huge universe full of things to do and people to kill. As befits the original game, just generating a good set of characters and running them through the careers system can involve hours of mucking around, which they seem to enjoy. Their main gripe, as is often the case, is that save points are annoyingly far apart. You'll just have to suck up the extra challenge that causes.

Flood is an arcade game where you have to collect stuff, avoid enemies, and escape, while water slowly rises. (and of course, you have no swimming ability at all) Now that definitely sounds familiar. Rainbow island should be along pretty soon, shouldn't it.

Bloody Wolf is a top down shoot-em-up, where you explore and kill terrorists to rescue the president. Another one that sounds pretty familiar, it seems like most of the big genres are present and correct now. Just a matter of the weird little discoveries and developments to come.

The Animation studio is a drawing product produced by Disney. At $179, this is obviously a pro level product rather than a game, and quite possibly is a variant on the software they're currently using to facilitate their movies. It does have several neat tricks to help you produce smooth animations and a whole bunch of preloaded disney characters for you to modify. Now that's something that'll definitely ratchet up people's temptations to pirate.

Bad Blood and The dark heart of Uukrul get slated due to bugginess issues. Not only are they continuing to push complaints against companies releasing shoddy material, they're making a new section to focus on this. I guess we should be glad that we don't see stuff like this too often in modern reviews, because it means the complaints have worked. (plus, there's downloading patches now. ) Still, this little subplot of history continues to amuse.


Registered User
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Megatraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy brings the RPG to the computer with a level of success similar to the Azure bonds game, creating a huge universe full of things to do and people to kill. As befits the original game, just generating a good set of characters and running them through the careers system can involve hours of mucking around, which they seem to enjoy. Their main gripe, as is often the case, is that save points are annoyingly far apart. You'll just have to suck up the extra challenge that causes.
I was just discussing this game with my younger brother about a week ago. There were parts of the game that were fun, but the man-to-man combat system was horrible because it was all real time, but you could only control one of the six members of your party at once. So, while all the computer-controlled NPCs were shooting you, all but one of your guys just stood there and got shot while one guy had to do everything. Terrible, terrible design decision right there. Space combat was fun, though.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 4/6

Pages from the mages, part VI: It's been over 5 years since Ed published one of these. What a welcome returnee. Once again, 4 new spellbooks, each of them as filled with both flavour and nifty new spells as ever. Just like new classes, new spells are a perennial favourite of players and GM's. Just the thing to keep people happy for christmas.

The book of Shangalar the Black is, unsurprisingly, a nice bit of necromancy courtesy of one of your paranoid liches. Two offensive spells based on manipulating bone, and two defensive spells, which are essentially just conversions of cleric's undead elimination toolkits. Not nearly as fun as the hordes of crawling claws power he hints at in the fluff description though. Guess you'll have to do that one manually.

The Glandar's Grimoire also has some fairly effective necromantic capabilities, including one spell that's exceedingly scary and will cause PC's a lot of annoyance if put up against it. Vampiric touch eat your heart out.

The Tome of the Wyvernwater Circle is a druidic tome, lost when they were attacked by expansionistic beholders. It's new spells are relatively straightforward offensive, defensive and warding ones, using nature in practical ways to kick butt (although mold touch is a bit underpowered for it's level. )

The Hand of Helm is a spellbook by clerics of said god. It's also pretty heavily inclined towards direct offence, defence and buffing effects, as befits the god's aggressive nature. Ed does seem to be a bit lower than normal on the whimsy this year. Still, I guess that means players are more likely to grab these spells and put them into regular rotation. Whether that's a good thing or not s definitely a matter of opinion.

Role-playing reviews: New classes may be popular, but new races are almost as much so. They also fill the craving of players for crunch, and allow for interesting new roleplaying challenges as well. I'm certainly guilty of having my decision to buy a book based on if it has new splats to add to the game, particularly where White Wolf are involved. That trend still hasn't reached it's zenith, but it's definitely well on the path. And as usual, some are good, and some are bad. Which of this recent batch will win Jim's approval?

Trollpak is of course an updated version of the classic Runequest supplement, originally reviewed in issue 67. Since it was so popular first time round, this time it's been split into 4 expanded products for maximum milking of profit from their fanbase. Still, the production values have been improved, and they retain their interesting history and characterisation from the original. It's certainly not a waste of money, especially if you're a newer Runequest player.

Troll gods adds some of the other stuff from the original Trollpak, plus a bunch of new deities. Much of this is straight rehash, however, making it not particularly great value for money if you have the related products already. One mainly for completists then.

PC1 Tall tales of the wee folk does for the fae what Orcs of Thar did for goblinoids, opening up both an area and it's inhabitants. This of course involves things with a wide range of HD and special powers, which can be tricky to balance. There are a few mechanical issues, but a little fudge solves those quickly enough. Adding these guys as PC's or antagonists can spice up your D&D games quite adequately.

PC2 Top Ballista moves things into decidedly goofy territory, a flying city filled with techno-gnomes and a bunch of other weird creatures, most of which can also fly. Along with the gnomes, things such as Pegataurs, sphinxes and harpies are made available as PC's. Unfortunately, the slapdash and often rather wonky attempts to balance them continue, with some creatures virtually crippled by their XP progressions. The adventures show a similar degree of mechanical issues, and the whole thing shows signs of not having been taken very seriously. Bleah.

GURPS fantasy folk gets a relatively ambivalent review. It's the usual generic stuff, designed to help you build your world rather than put any distinctive spins on the creature. This means it has the usual high quality mechanics with more than a hint of dullness. Don't know why they bother reviewing these when they nearly always say the same thing.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 5/6

The mechanics of the iron cobra: Another ecology by any other name here, as we cover a creature which makes the word inappropriate. One of the more sophisticated, if not the most powerful of constructs, iron cobra's powers of detection, and ability to be programmed with relatively complex orders makes them more desirable servants than smelly brainless or treacherous undead, and they're cheap enough to mass produce. For the first time in a while, we have a strong showing on both the fiction and the footnotes fronts. Plus, since this is a 1st ed monster that hasn't been officially updated yet, the writer is kind enough to reprint the actual stats here as well. How very nice of them. That really puts the cherry on this sweet little christmas cake.

What has he got in his pocketses anyway?: Ed Greenwood finds the time to deliver a second article for us this christmas. This is actually a rehash of one from issue 104 (they even reuse exactly the same artwork, which is a bit cheeky. Ed decides to go for fewer options, but greater detail on each one than the pervious iteration. The spirit of sadistic fun is still there though, with many of these results showing his sheer genius at coming up with twists on the usual plot ideas and odd items. Many could provide several sessions of adventure if deployed well. Looks like he's still very much got it, despite his workload keeping him from checking in here more often.

TSR Previews: An even lighter set of releases coming next month. Post christmas slump or something. The Forgotten realms continues to bounce from east to west with great enthusiasm. FROA1: Ninja wars sees Kara-Tur integrate further into the Realms, and Ninjas worm their way into all sorts of organizations. Who's really in control? Meanwhile, Crusade, by James Lowder sees the Horde trilogy come to an end in the novel department as well. King Azoun gets to kick ass and suffer indignities and compromises. They're really having fun with this world.

Greyhawk sees WGA4: Vecna Lives! Heeee's baaaaack! And he wants his hand, eye, and dominion over the whole fucking Oerth! Hmm. Someone really ought to do some foiling before we spend an eternity as undead slaves. Watch out for the railroaded prelude extraordinare.

D&D continues filling in it's alternate setting, in HWA2: Nightrage. See the Nithians, and find their feathered serpent. What other strangeness will we encounter along the way?


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 164: December 1990

part 6/6

Novel ideas: Looks like these guys are in theme this month, as they decide to talk about the Horde series of novels. Zeb Cook, Troy Denning, and James Lowder have all been immersing themselves in Oriental culture, to varying degrees and levels of ease. As usual, we get some interesting behind the scenes info. Zeb really isn't a natural fiction writer, despite having tons of info to draw upon. Troy on the other hand, does seem to be, producing more work in an hour than I usually manage in a day. But even he had to hone his craft and get over his insecurities about the quality of his ideas. Another article that helps to hammer in what a production treadmill TSR has become, with deadlines mapped out well in advance, and writers put under considerable stress to achieve them. If you want to work for them, you've got to jump on board the running train and hang on like hell until you find your balance, then keep going until you burn out. Not a very tempting option, really.

Dragonmirth reveals how you get lawn gnomes. Replica artifacts become fashion statements in yamara. The characters fight in miserable weather in twilight empire.

Through the looking glass: Ooh. Another very interesting topical event from the realms beyond gaming in here as well. The great attempt to ban lead from miniatures (and lots of other stuff as well, but that's not important :p.) Robert is not happy about this at all, and encourages you to stand up, organize, and complain vocally. This is a spurious ban, and one that will do huge amounts of damage to the hobby for minute environmental benefits. How very alarming. I seem to recall this one dragging out for years before ending with a whimper, and it should be another interesting little subplot to track month-by-month.

The usual bunch of reviews for figures of all sizes are here as well. Witches, sorceresses, anti-paladins, chimera, firbolg, to fill your general fantasy cravings. Blue Ardua from Talislanta for those of you who want something more specific. Jabba the Hut and his entourage, if you're feeling a little sci-fi. The HMS Victory, if you want to go historical. And some more textured terrain for if you want to represent the hassles your miniatures are going through to get to the battle. Until the ban actually takes place, they aren't going to let it spoil their fun.

With diversions into psychology, composition and law this issue, this has been an unusually wide ranging and interesting collection, even if the themed section isn't that great. The writers are full of cool ideas, even if some of them are rather goofy, and not all are very mechanically rigorous. But even so, there's plenty of usable stuff to pick out this time round. I think this is a fairly positive end to the year. Let's see if next year can top it.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 1/6

116 pages. For a 4th issue in a row, they do a special topic that they've done previously. Albeit in this case, the previous is a little further back than the last few, as underwater adventuring last got a special in issue 48, where it was kinda overshadowed by the april fools silliness anyway. I think this is a sufficient gap that revisiting isn't too egregious. Let's hope they've got some good material to fill this in with.

In this issue:

Letters: A rather amusing letter about Roger's distrust of letting his kids practice martial arts. When he said practice MA, he really meant flailing about hyperactively and jumping on the bed. No artistry and very little martialness is employed at all. Tee hee. This sounds very familiar. I was doing that kinda stuff around this time as well.

Another letter asking for another index. It's been on the internet for some time, responds Roger. Do not hesitate to download it.

A letter promoting the Gen Con art show. It's not just games and miniatures that have tons of stuff on them happening there. Gotta keep building things up, diversifying and spreading, so we can make money from the greatest number of people.

Editorial: Bah. Some people are never satisfied. The soviet union has just broken up, bringing an end to the paranoia of nuclear apocalypse. We're closer to global peace than ever before in history. But we've still got quite a way to go, and it is the nature of many people to always look at the negatives and cry doom. Really, if we can avoid ecological disaster, and survive the potential collapse of civilisation when we exhaust the fossil fuel supply, things don't look too bad for the next few million years. Eventually an asteroid will hit, or the sun will burn out, and we'd better hope we've got the hang of space travel before then, but really, we would be a lot happier if we didn't keep making problems for ourselves beyond the real inevitable ones. On the other hand, without that urge to fantasize about potential problems when we don't have enough pressing real ones, we probably wouldn't have gaming as we know it. Human nature is weird. If only there was something we could do. Fraid I'll have to leave the transhumanist propaganda for another time.

Anchors & Arrows: Another out-of date article kicks things off. You know, the 2nd ed battlesystem has been out for over a year now, you really could have converted this one over. It's not as if 2nd ed is less friendly to the idea of naval battles. But they still think 5 pages of add-ons to the old mass combat system is a good way to start things, for some reason. I must confess to a degree of bemusement at that choice. Still, our regular forumite Thomas M. Kane attacks the idea with gusto, with rules for movement, artillery, boarding, ramming, fires on board and weather. Some of them are a bit vague, but I think that on the whole, this is useful stuff. It may be rather a niche market, but if it won't merit a whole supplement, then the magazine is the best place for it. I do question it's getting first place though. If they can't produce something more relevant to the wider population, they may be in trouble.

The dragon's bestiary: Giant archerfish shoot you into the water, just like their real world counterparts do to bugs. Just the thing to use as a random encounter for overconfident players on a boating trip. Staying out of the water will not protect you.

Giant damselfish turn the tables on fishers by using bait that looks like a drowning person, encouraging you to jump in and become dinner. Once again, compassion is rewarded by screwage by sadistic DM's. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Just kill everything and get the xp. That policy never really goes out of style. Not a brilliantly inventive pair, but another good reminder that reality is full of cool ideas ready for the conversion. These should be easy to slip in any time your players run across a river.

Undersea priests: Hmm. This is much more like it. The logistical problems underwater spellcasters experience, and the adaptations to the regular spell lists and paraphernalia that need to be made to accommodate this. Holy water is replaced by holy silt. Spells are written on seashells and bits of carved bone. And there's tons of reskinning that needs to be done on specific spells. A few years ago, they were trying to force all the monsters to fit the humancentric mold if they wanted any class capabilities. Now they've started down the path that'll lead us to using your own body as a spellbook via tattoos, Staves replacing books, Dragons becoming invaluable sources of unique magical lore, and all manner of boundary stretching experimentations with the nature and form of magic. One size does not fit all, and there's a lot of changes you can make, many developed due to necessity. With a decent number of new spells as well, this is very handy for DM's, and quite possibly for players as well. If your campaign spends any extended period underwater, you'll want to pick up some of these tricks. Looks like this issue is picking up pace.
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Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 2/6

The role of books: In the net of dreams by Wm Mark Simmons looks like another holodeck gone wrong story, as people get trapped in a computer game. (heavily based upon D&D) It's not perfect technically, but the reviewer finds it a lot more fun than Kevin Anderson's similar efforts.

Fire on the border by Kevin O'Donnel Jr takes us to the 24th century, to deal with some rather awkward politics, with the fate of planets in the balance. The destruction of worlds is handled with a bit more seriousness than, say, the Hitchhikers guide, and it all seems pretty positive, even if it doesn't quite manage to capture the galactic scope it sets up. Thousands of worlds is a tricky thing to manage, isn't it.

The black throne by Roger Zelazny & Fred Saberhagen draws upon the works of Edgar Allen Poe to make a rather strange bit of sci-fi. Maybe it's a bit pastichey, but it's a lot more interesting than another straight fantasy story.

Voyage of the star wolf by David Gerrold also gets a less than perfect review due to it's use of in-jokes and name-dropping from other sci-fi series. That caveat aside, it is a pretty entertaining bit of sci-fi, mixing drama and humour pretty well as the characters respond to the strange things that happen. Sounds pretty familiar.

Most ancient song by Casey Flynn gets picked apart by the pedant in the reviewer for being a butchering of mythology. This does not mean it's a bad book, merely that it triggers his personal buttons. Ahh, yes, often interesting when that happens.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay is a shakespearian flavoured bit of fantasy. While not written in iambic pentameter like another novel reviewed in here, it still has both story, character-building and symbolism in spades. If you're looking for a world to base your game off, you could do a lot worse.

Scorpio rising by Alex McDonough is much more episodic than most of the books reviewed, with the uncontrolled time travel device serving as a good way to keep things focussed on the current plot. This makes for a refreshing change for him after multi-volume doorstops with cliffhangers at the end of each one.

TSR Previews: Well, you didn't hold out long. First out the gate this month is MC8: outer planes appendix. Welcome back to our unpronouncably renamed summon cascading pains in the ass. Please don't overuse them. Also in the generic side, we have PHBR5: The complete psionics handbook. We've filled in the core 4. Now lets introduce a new class, and a seriously reworked system for their powers. Issue 78 gets a little more vindication.

For the first time in a while, the forgotten realms gets nothing this month. Instead, it's spelljammer that gets a double bill of sourcebooks. SJR2: Realmspace, and SJR3: Dungeon master reference screen. Oops. Looks like I spoke too soon. Welcome to crossover central. See yet more areas surrounding the ones we know well, albeit rather larger areas covered more sketchily. Oh, and Elminster's hidden moonbase. He just gets more and more cheesy, doesn't he.

Dragonlance starts a new year with another trilogy. 3 3 3. This is why they wound up mocking this stuff in planescape. Anyway, it's another historical one. See the rise and fall of the silvanesti nation, in Firstborn. Even with their enormous lifespans, elves still have squabbles over inheritance. Weak.

Our evil overmistress tells the staff to stop abbreviating the XXVc game. It's Buck Rogers, damnit! :roll of thunder: You will respect my authority and pay the licencing money into my coffers! 25CS1: Deimos mandate! 25CREF1: Character record sheets! You will pay for the official ones of these as well, not use some scrawled bits of paper! Ahahahahaha!!!

Another wargame for you this month. A line in the sand is a game of middle eastern conflict over oil. How very topical. Who will control the resources that power civilization itself?!

And unsurprisingly, another standalone book is put at the end. Jeff Swycaffer continues to be a quirky contributor, with Web of Futures. A man is plucked from his normal life by a strange alien to be a cosmic saviour. As is often the case, he seems completely unsuited to the job, and therein lies the fun.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 3/6

Forum: Carol McGarril has found romance crops up quite naturally in her games, without the GM needing to contrive things. Well, lucky you. The rest of us do not have that luxury and have to really work at these things.

Jason Williams voices his skepticism at some of the tactics deployed in The Enemy at the Gates. Once again the conflicts over exactly how much magic to have in game become an issue.

S. D. Anderson has rather harsher words to say about the same article, picking apart flaws in the rules, and pointing out that D&D magic very much favours the attacker. All it takes is one strategically placed fireball to cause mass devastation, and you can't have wizards ready to dispel everywhere in the city.

Dirk Waters shows that the idea of reskinning thieves as scouts has been had by more than one group independently. And yeah, this solves them quite a few problems. Funny how big a difference a name change can make.

John Stanton Jr has a scattershot collection of gripes and solutions, which I do not find particularly helpful.

Bonnie Patterson has a DM who preserves her kender character in the face of recklessness and dickery. The other players may well want to murder them as a result of this, but the game is made more fun. Is this really something you want to tell everyone? :p

Robert T. Wahl grumbles about a player who quit because she didn't get any cool new items in the last adventure. He then goes into his own craptacular monty haul experiences. Huge rewards without effort just turn the game into a joke.

Ron Dippel faced the awkward problem of a player who dominated the game to such an extent that the other players tried to kill him, and failed because he was just that twinked. Now that takes a special variety of annoying player to pull off. I suppose that's actually a good benchmark for proving you're a master of mathematical twinkery, since a DM can always beat the players if they really want too.

Michael Repka finds that DM's who also have PC's in the same campaign are cheating bastards who use their inside knowledge to twink out horrifically. This is definitely a problem, but he can't get them to stop. No gaming is better than bad gaming, you know.

Rick Maffei points out a few of the many ways magic items can be taken away from players if they're becoming a problem. Don't think you have to completely reset the game just because things are getting a little out of hand.

Chill gets revamped. You're still not gonna be able to compete when the world of darkness comes a-knockin.

The voyage of the princess ark: The princess ark sets off again, once again heading southwest, but not as far this time. They end up in Thothia, Mystara's egypt analogue, where surprise surprise, they face a greater mummy, (technically, a lich, but it's how they present themselves that matters.) who is pissed off at their appropriation of his magic. They win, but the bad guy gets away again, adding to the growing list of people with a serious vendetta against them. Haldemar remains pretty unfazed by this, being more interested in the ramifications for the Ark. Is it really intelligent? Just how would it be upgraded if they use their new discoveries on it. Unfortunately, no time to fix that right now, as it's cliffhanger time again. Gotta keep the story dramatic. :rolleyes:

This month's crunch is stats for several more of our regulars. Myojo, the rakasta samurai. Raman, the chief engineer, and his amazing portable magical library. And Lady Abovombe, the ambassador from Cestia who's had a rather tough time of the last 34 years, but has had her youth restored thanks to Haldemar's magic. We see once again that the Ark has a wide range of different level characters adventuring on the same team, and they have a complicated relationship map between them. Goes to show just what you can do with a party, and still keep it functional. You don't have to use the 4 or 5 characters of roughly equal power model if you don't want to.

We also have lots more letters. The usual collection of questions and quibbles. Most notable here is that Bruce reveals that the Rules Cyclopedia is coming. No longer will you have to look up rules between 5 different boxed sets. Plus, it has a whole bunch of extras the originals lack. This is good news. They've certainly kicked this year off well. Lets hope they can keep the momentum up.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 4/6

Rifts is already Palladium's best selling line ever, despite only being out a year. So of course they will get the lions share of the supplements from now on. Expect delays.

The role of computers: Railroad Tycoon is a computer conversion of the old game Gary was rather fond of. The reviewers rather like it too, finding it a nice way to eat up huge amounts of time, building an empire, setting up a neatly running schedule in which the trains don't crash into one-another, and adding all sorts of extras to your stations, while competing with other companies. Increasing memory sizes really are doing wonders for the depth of simulation games.

Brainblasters is a pair of fun puzzle games, a shoot-em up, and a sequence puzzle. Both get their approval, making this good value for money.

Imperium is another large scale strategy game. Conquer the galaxy! Live to 1,000! War, economics, diplomacy, you can once again spend aaages trying to finish this one. The graphics and sound aren't perfect, and also tend to overtax their machine. Still, that probably won't be a problem if you emulate it these days.

Starflight 2: Trade routes of the cloud nebula also takes you into space, to deal with an alien invasion. This also involves substantial crew management, planet colonisation, and similar resource control tactical details. This is somewhat hampered by the fact that you can only do one thing at a time, which can be a serious issue that you have to work around tactically. As a result, it gets a mediocre score.

Ishdo: The way of Stones is a conversion of an old chinese puzzle game. Like shangai or chess, it's the kind of game you can spend a lifetime mastering strategies for, and they enjoy both the game, and it's visual representation here, with plenty of options and computer tutorial stuff, plus some good old fashioned koans thrown in for extra verisimilitude. Nothing like pretension to liven your day up, as oscar wilde would say.

Armor Alley and Stratego are the proud recipients of the buggies award this month. A memory eater that refuses to play nice with other programs running at the same time, and a game that crashes if you click on the wrong combat option. Not very impressive ways of messing up, really, but still dealbreakers for them.

The denizens of the lower planes are back in the MC outer planes appendix. (geekiest rapper name evar) Renamed of course. Because we don't do the D words anymore. So instead, we'll use ones no-one can agree how to pronounce.

Fiction: The curse maker by Laurell K Hamilton. Well well, it's another writer who has since gone on to, er, bigger things. A pretty good story here too, involving another hero with an evil sentient weapon, trying to keep themselves from going to the dark side under rather strong provocation and save their party member from death by politics. The various characters are established quickly and effectively, and the magic is handled with style. It all adds up to a quite satisfying package. Of course, given the current company policies, there are no 24 inch were-schlongs involved. She'll have to go to white wolf to sell those stories. :p Another interesting historical footnote here.

Role-playing reviews goes back to the superheroic genre. Currently, it's pretty healthy, with both Marvel and DC having solidly selling RPG's. This month DC gets the spotlight here.

DC heroes RPG 2nd edition gets an interesting and context high review, referring back to Allen Varney's review of the 1st edition 5 years ago in The Space Gamer. Time has improved it quite a bit, with the rules being refined, and the editing improved as well. There are a few problems, not least with the rapidly changing and retconning history of the DC universe, and of course, the usual quibbles about character stats. But those certainly aren't dealbreakers, and of course provide plenty of room for supplements. Which of course sets us nicely for the rest of this column.

The batman sourcebook, 2nd ed combines a whole load of stuff on batman, his lair, villains and relationships with other heroes, an adventure, and some essays on the nature of batmanness :D Sounds like they had a bit of a struggle filling this one up. It also has some whimsical graphic design elements that Allen isn't too keen on. Batman may be pretty popular, but can a single person really hold that much attention alone?

The otherwhere quest is a solo adventure designed for a green lantern. Obviously, given the open-ended nature of their powers, it falls short somewhat, and the environment isn't that thrilling either. Mehness.

The laws of darkness, on the other hand is a fairly good high power adventure starring the new gods. It takes you on a ride through lots of familiar locations before petering out.

They also give the complete priest's handbook a short and favourable review. Lots of cool stuff within! Try it, and you can have viable all priest campaigns. Yeah, right, watch out for the newbie traps. This is why a good playtesting really helps.
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