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

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 5/6


The marvel-phile: Hmm. A whole team of female villains, none of which are actually particularly sexy? That is rather unusual. Say hello to the Femme Fatales, another recent addition to spiderman's rogues gallery. Knockout, Whiplash, Mindblast and Bloodlust. Individually they seem like one-trick ponies, with one name appropriate power each, (the usual rule of bad puns is very much in effect here) but together they're actually a pretty decent team, both in terms of tactics and personal dynamics. Since they're fairly street level, they'd make a good fight for a team of novice heroes, like many PC's. As both one showing characters I've never heard of before, and above average in-game usefulness, plus a few neat quirks, this is a well above average installment of this series, that I quite enjoyed reading. Let's see each other again some time.


Maneuvering for victory: Hmm. Two years into 2nd ed and they're still publishing quite a few articles intended for 1st edition. That does say a lot about the current editorial regime. And this is rehashed in another way, because they did something very like this in issue 127's fighter special. Only this is less advantageous than that, and incompatible with it, as while the previous one gave them extra resource slots to select special maneuvers with, this one requires you to spread your weapon proficiency slots even thinner than they already are, which does get very awkward indeed. It also allows you to spend slots to improve your ability scores, which is incredibly problematic as a resource distribution choice. This is definitely one you should approach with great caution, for several of these are rather game-changing, but you could also wind up without essentials if you get seduced by the shinies and spend all your slots on them. And we know that having a character that is over or underpowered causes problems either way. So this is a textbook example of rather dubious crunch from the magazine, that you incorporate at your peril.


Square pegs and round holes: Just 4 months after the last one, we have another article on putting modules into your campaign. This is a slightly more general one, helping you to rebuild them for an existing campaign. Ironically, of course, it's often harder to use the more recent ones in your existing campaign, because they have so much more setting detail that needs to be there if they are to work. This means you have to change things to integrate them, and quite possibly more things to get them to make sense. Even if you're playing in the Forgotten Realms or something, you may have to do some tweaking from canon if your players go to places out of order. (Dragonlance in particular is a nightmare for this. ) Course, if you're the ambitious type, you can not only convert them from different worlds, but different genres entirely. The process may actually involve more effort than just writing a whole new adventure on your own, but hey ho, It all depends how good you are at fudging and twisting existing things around. A challenging article, this does have some nice advice and statistical help, but it certainly doesn't answer all the questions you'll face when you try and convert a Call of Cthulhu adventure to D&D. Still, it should help in making sure no two experiences are alike, since no two DM's will handle the conversions and integrations in the same way, and characters from different rulesets do have radically different abilities. Another one wasn't too interesting to me, but hopefully got some people to push their boundaries, back in the day.


The game wizards: We've already mentioned it twice this issue already, but welcome back to the fiends. And hello to the blood war. Funny that such an iconic bit of D&D's setting didn't actually appear until second edition. And ironic that their temporary forbiddance has actually made them a bigger deal in people's minds. This does their reputation no harm at all, pointing out just how useful their spell-like abilities are, especially their teleportation and gating capabilities; and warning you to use caution in incorporating them into your game, make sure that even the appearance of a minor one is a big event for the players. With this kind of buildup, it's no surprise that they'll wind up one of the most common adversaries in Planescape, and make more than a few appearances in other campaign worlds. It's almost a textbook example of publicity via counteractions. Whether this was intentional or not, I'm not sure, but I'm sure upper management :rumble of thunder: doesn't mind too much as long as this makes them a good chunk of money. In any case, I doubt this will end the debates in the forum. Another fairly interesting installment in this thread of drama, as they change the rules of the game on us again.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 165: January 1991

part 6/6


Sage advice is still uncoloured and undersized. Skip is not happy.

If you have stoneskin on yourself and are struck while casting, do you still lost the spell (It's the hit, not the damage, that's important.)

Does persistent damage like melfs acid arrow prevent spellcasting. (Oh yes. You'll have to develop a counterskill that allows you to concentrate despite pain and distractions. Hey, arms race! Heeeere we go!)

How do infra and ultravision work. (we can do this simple, and just say they let you see in the dark, or we can do this complicated and talk about different visual spectra, how they react to objects, and where they are found, and go on from there. How do you wanna play it, huh? )

What happened to psionics (We wanna do it right this time, so we held off and are putting it in it's own book.)

How many attacks does a two weapon fighting specialist get (normal amount, plus 1 for the secondary hand. Now matter how good you are, you can't multitask that much.)

Does two weapon specialization stack with high dex (yes, but you can't reduce the penalties below 0. Being more accurate when fighting 2 weapon style would just be wrong. )

How many punches can you make in a round (Irrelevant. 1 minute abstracted rounds, remember. You make the same number of rolls as normal. )

What use is the 1 result on the unarmed table when 1's always miss (don't forget the shift abilities)

Can you wish for other classes abilities (Oh, this is a can of worms. Sadism is to be encouraged in this area, as otherwise game-breaking may occur)

What AC do bigbys hand spells have (0)

How does a necklace of adaption prevent you from exploding in space (magic, duh. )

Can Zagygs spell component case produce nonwizard spell components (Yes, as long as you know the spell. Handy dandy!)


Everyone is not paying attention in Dragonmirth. Yamara messes with Fea's mind. A dramatic arrival saves the day in Twilight empire


Through the looking glass: Robert kicks his own little topical crusade up a gear this month, with his reviews concentrating on all the things that'll no longer be for sale if this bill comes to pass. The Silent Death, a sci-fi space battle game using a hex board. An Amazon Queen, an Astrologer, a whole bunch of shadowrunners, tanks, mongol hordes and ogre marauders. Looks like using lead is pretty common regardless of genre. Which means it's banning will impact all kinds of peripheral markets. An interesting tack to take, celebrating life due to the probability of it being taken away. I think it definitely works, adding another layer of human interest to this little drama. It's a good thing that the people throwing up a fuss about RPG's never got the traction to try something like this. That would have made the magazine very problematic in the long run.


Spelljammer starts covering the crystal spheres of the various AD&D worlds. The Realms is first, but Krynn and Oerth'll get their turns soon. Watch them try and cross them over without diluting the themes of the individual settings. Watch the other writers ignore any developments that happen in the spelljammer books. It's all such a pain in the ass.

A fairly average issue overall. The crunch is a bit sub-par, but the stuff involving the issues surrounding gaming at this time is quite interesting. They do seem to be undergoing a substantial renaissance in terms of controversy, and this is having an interesting effect on the fanbase, increasing the degree of defensiveness in their writing. This probably isn't good for the hobby in the long run, but what are ya going to do. Things'll get worse once the controversy goes away. No publicity is bad publicity and all that. Guess I should enjoy it while it's here.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 166: February 1991

part 1/6


116 pages. Yay! A Sci-fi games special. Haven't had one of those before. Course, for quite a bit of the magazine's lifespan we didn't need one, with the ARES section providing a reliable supply of that stuff every month. And we have had a couple of traveller specific ones. But still, this is a positive step in terms of interaction with the rest of the hobby, so let's enjoy it as I experience it.


In this issue:


Letters: A letter from an Israeli reader with some language quibbles. Roger gets down in the trenches and quibbles right back at him.

Another letter quibbling over the stats of the Griffon. Roger is a bit more magnanimous with this one, but still disputes some of their conclusions.

A letter of praise for the Mind of the Vampire article, from someone who rather identifies with them. Roger responds that he's always identified more with Kaiju. :) This could definitely spawn a series of responses as other people say what monsters they feel like/would most like to be.


I was a teenage TSR game junkie: This month's editorial is another delegated to Dale. And in it we see them reaffirm their desire to recognize that there's a whole world of games companies out there producing cool stuff, and hopefully give it some support in the magazine. TSR is not the only game in town, nor do we want it to be, for that would get boring. Try them out, broaden your horizons. Dale also talks about the fact that when he was younger, he didn't do this, sticking religiously to TSR products. This actually resonates quite well with my experiences, where for quite a few years, I refused to try other RPG's, on the reasoning that D&D sold the most, so it had to be the best, so what would the point be in trying other ones. (yeah, feel free to point and laugh at younger me. I quite agree. :eek: ) This is indeed a very positive editorial, and one that bodes well for their output in the near future. Course, we do know now that eventually they'll change their minds on this issue, and become all D&D, all the time, but let's not let it get us down. The Silver age of gaming still has plenty of delights to show us, and I'd like to face at least some of them with an uncynical eye (yeah, not easy, I know.)


Wired and ready: Cyberpunk! If anything says early 90's in RPGs, it's this genre. A whole bunch of systems are putting their own spin on this idea, and hopefully one of them is desirable to you. This brings the old worldbuilding and roleplaying advice to the new milieu, helping those of you still unfamiliar to get a good idea of the genre's conventions, and those with a little more experience to hone your DM'ing to a razor edge. Just how dystopian is your world? Is it the government or the corporations that are really in charge? Are there any real heroes out there at all? Yeah, the grimdark meter is running pretty high in this one, which does make it seem amusingly dated. But there is a lot of valuable advice in here, which does help you play in the cyberpunk style, while keeping the players from getting out of hand with superpowered hi-tech combos. Keep the challenges coming, make sure things rarely go as planned, (curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal, etc etc) and of course all the usual stuff about good descriptions and planning. A fairly good example of it's type, this manages to take the general principles of good DM'ing and make them seem fresh.


Tricks of the trade: Hmm. A battletech article about modding your mechs. The writer decides to share his house rules, where he makes minor alterations to a whole bunch of the mechs, mostly to make the crunch better match the descriptions. Course, since this is mostly statistics on a game I'm not familiar with, this is one of those articles that is rather tricky to judge for quality. I think I'll have to just shrug and pass over this one.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 166: February 1991

part 2/6


A clone of your own: Or let's cross Paranoia with Car Wars. Tee hee. With some fairly long and quite amusing fiction in the form of dialogue from the commentators on an Autoduel, this definitely has more than a bit of tongue in it's cheek. Not that it isn't useful in a serious game as well, raising some serious questions about the ethics, legality and practical implications of being able to grow new bodies and copy your memory into them. They also give the process some pretty high costs, both financial and potential side-effects from the cloning process, which should keep people from getting blase about their character dying. This article really does have it all. Fun fluff. Solid crunch. Interesting asides. Humour, game usability, and transferability to other milieus. I'd go as far as saying that this is one of the best non D&D articles they've ever published. This has proven to be a very enjoyable issue so far.


TSR Previews: Having spent the last year roaming afar, the Forgotten Realms gives Waterdeep some more love in Ruins of Undermountain. Now they have a dungeon complex to rival Greyhawk castle in it's size (and unfinishedness) Do you have the patience to delve it all the way and finish Halaster's dickery once and for all? Good luck with that, he's almost as contingencied up as Elminster. If you need a diversion, we have Song of the Saurials. See Alias, Dragonbait, Olive Ruskettle, and the rest of that crew return to face the evils of Moander. That's not a bad thing, really.

Dragonlance gets an actual module for the first time in a while. DLS1: New beginnings. Come on all you novel buyers. Please come and try the actual AD&D game. It's not scary at all, honest. We'll hold your hand through the first adventure. The writing is already on the wall for this gameline.

Ravenloft has RA2: Ship of Horror. Arr. Another cursed ship stealin' people away in ye night. Taste the salty air of dispair. Will you be scared, or just annoyed by the railroading?

D&D is still down in the hollow world. HAW3: Nightstorm ends another trilogy with an epic finale featuring the immortals. Been a while since they got any modules. Just can't get the epic staff these days. Wonder how long before they lose interest in this little offshoot.

And finally, Buck Rogers is still releasing lots of stuff. XXVcS2: Sargasso of space. Pirates also seem to be very in recently. What's all that about?


FEAR, a novel of suspense by L Ron Hubbard. With an endorsement by Stephen King. Now that's really jarring to see. Bloody scientologists. They are surprisingly good at this infiltrating the cool circles business.


The role of computers: Wing Commander gets an almighty 6 out of 5, such is the reviewer's love of it. A 3D shoot-em-up with between mission roleplaying elements, visuals, sound and gameplay all work together to produce the most fun they've had in years. They don't have a single bad word to say about it. Now that is interesting. As ever, I am obliged to be suspicious. Was it really that good?

Armor Alley, on the other hand gets a conventional 5 star review. Assemble your troops to blow up an enemy base. Resource management is critical, since you have a limited budget, and need to pick the right troops for the job. Sounds like fairly standard wargame fair.

If it moves, Shoot it! also seems fairly standard. An arcade action shoot-em-up, this'll keep you busy for a bit if you've finished Gradius so many times you can do it by heart.

King's Bounty also seems like nothing special. An RPG/wargame, where you pick your character type, assemble an army, and get all the pieces of the macguffin so you can save the kingdom. There are some awkward gamist elements, and the saving system is rather slow and clunky, so it's not nearly as smooth an experience as it could be. Definitely better ways to spend your cash.

Tangled Tales: The misadventures of a wizards apprentice is a somewhat humorous adventure game, with an interesting (if sometimes frustrating) control interface. Like many adventure/puzzle games, finishing this one is mainly about finding the right items and taking them to the right places, which means it doesn't have that much replay value. Still, the puzzles are pretty tricky, and the visuals aren't bad, so it's hardly terrible.

In the clue corner, we see Curse of the Azure Bonds continue to get more hints than everything else put together. Man, the number of system bugs and tactical exploits you can pull with that are huge. I guess that probably contributes to it's continued popularity.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Now that is interesting. As ever, I am obliged to be suspicious. Was it really that good?
At the time of its release? Hell yes. I can't say how it's aged as I haven't played it in years, but I put far too much time into that thing back in the day.

King's Bounty also seems like nothing special. An RPG/wargame, where you pick your character type, assemble an army, and get all the pieces of the macguffin so you can save the kingdom.
I seem to recall hearing about a sequel to that one that was either released recently or was being worked on. Hrm... Off to Wikipedia, I think.

Yep. Two of them, even: King's Bounty: Legend (2008) and King's Bounty: Armored Princess (2009). I wonder what makes someone decide to do a sequel game almost 2 decades later?
 
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Armitage

Registered User
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Tricks of the trade: Hmm. A battletech article about modding your mechs. The writer decides to share his house rules, where he makes minor alterations to a whole bunch of the mechs, mostly to make the crunch better match the descriptions.
Something which has now been incorporated into the official rules, with the Design Quirks rules in the Strategic Operations rulebook.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
I seem to recall hearing a bout a sequel to that one that was either released recently or was being worked on. Hrm... Off to Wikipedia, I think.

Yep. Two of them, even: King's Bounty: Legend (2008) and King's Bounty: Armored Princess (2009). I wonder what makes someone decide to do a sequel game almost 2 decades later?
Quite possibly a grown-up fan of the original series wondering what's happened to the licence, investigating it, and finding it's up for grabs, so they get to work.

Something which has now been incorporated into the official rules, with the Design Quirks rules in the Strategic Operations rulebook.
Awesome. Another case of us seeing evolution in action then.
 

Cultist of Sooty

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Having spent the last year roaming afar, the Forgotten Realms gives Waterdeep some more love in Ruins of Undermountain.
This was responsible for an extended struggle in my gaming group of the time between the players and the GM. Our GM had bought Ruins of Undermountain and, while he digested it, contrived to have our PCs turn up in Waterdeep and dropped all kinds of hints about the great danger to be found within and those lucky few who strike it rich.

After a couple of weeks of this, the party were talking to a plot hook-bearing gnome in a pub, when the party cleric uttered the immortal in-character words: "This Undermountain place sounds awfully dangerous, I don't think I fancy it." The player expected to be ignored but the rest of sort of looked at each other and suddenly we all agreed. Hell no, we won't go!

For the next half dozen sessions, we strenuously resisted every effort the GM made to get us to go there, even resorting to having our PCs flee over the rooftops from some sort of press gang at one point. Eventually, the poor old GM gave up. In fairness, by that time he was no longer annoyed but was having as much fun as the rest of us with the new direction featuring the PCs as VERY reluctant adventurers.

The whole affair completely changed both that campaign and a lot of our subsequent gaming. From then on, that AD&D game was mostly an urban affair, somewhat farcical (though it always had been a bit) and largely player-driven. The PCs spent their time getting involved in clerical politics at the local temple, licensing troubles with the bards' guild, talent contests, crackpot business schemes and who knows what else.

Everything became very sandbox-y and player-driven. And a hell of a lot of fun. All because of one throwaway comment that got out of hand.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 166: February 1991

part 3/6


The game wizards: So, we have noticed that sales of our biggest product, the D&D basic set, seem to be dropping off. You know what that means? New edition time! Well, not exactly new edition, as the rules are the same, it's only the presentation that's changed. Oh, and the fact that now the basic set goes to 5th level. As they did with every new basic set before it, they try and tell us how much clearer, easier to learn, and friendlier to people who've never played before it is. This time with an emphasis on how they've used scientifically tested teaching methods in their writing to make sure the info goes in people's heads and stays there. Buy sets for all your friends and get corrupting them. The evil overmistress needs more money! A somewhat awkward reminder that their commercial zenith is now over. While they do still have tons of cool products to come, overall sales are starting a gradual decline that'll become quite an issue along the line. Depressing how quality and commercial success do not actually have that strong a correlation factor. Not that I know if this one was actually better or worse than the old Moldvay & Mentzer ones because I never bought it either. :eek: Any opinions?


The voyage of the princess ark: Haldemar gets rather messed up in this installment, as he tries to comprehend the powerful thothian enchantment from last time round. This results in his offending the people he's currently visiting, and once again avoiding death by sheer luck and chutzpah. This is why being a solitary wizard is a bad idea. If you go insane, there's no-one to tell you you've gone mad and help you, so you keep on getting madder. Probably one of the factors that contributes to liches going bonkers, above and beyond not needing to give a shit about biological matters.

This month's crunch is details on the Emerondians, and their unique plant based weaponry. Descended from space pirates, they have exceedingly light and vicious weapons, that combined with their unique fighting style, can really screw you over. You can bet the players'll want to get a hold of this after encountering it.
The letters this month are primarily concerned with the Immortals. How they interact with their clerics, their churches, each other, and people trying to become immortals. We also have some general rules questions, and stuff on recent, and older releases. Seems like Bruce is being turned into quite the sage in his own right. What a job to be saddled with.


Dino wars: Another interesting game as our centrepiece this month, courtesy of Tom Moldvay. There were certainly no shortage of plastic or rubber dinosaur toys around in this era (even if some of them were a bit crap at standing up unsupported, as I remember. ) So like Clay-o-rama, let's round a bunch of them up, put them up against soldier minis, and enjoy the carnage. The rules are actually moderately crunchy, with some twists to the turn structure that ensure there will always be plenty of casualties on both sides. While playing this will require that you have a decent box full of toys already, it does look like a pretty fun one, with a lot of variety possible depending on what units you have and how you deploy them. Unfortunately, I don't think I have the stuff needed to try this (unless it's buried somewhere up in the attic, so I guess this is one I'll just have to sigh nostalgicly about, as I think of my own days playing with toy dinosaurs. Grr. Argh.


Fiction: Rest stop by J W Donnelly. Another old formula for a story here. Alien comes down to earth, imitates humanity poorly, terror and comic misunderstandings ensue. Course, the earth in this case is a fairly typical superstitious medieval fantasy world, which only adds to the fun, as they mistake the alien for some kind of demon, and react accordingly. The rest follows on entertainingly, but fairly predictably, until it reaches the end, which really rubs the joke in. So it is a bit cheesy, but fits well with the overall tone of the issue, combining humour and sci-fi elements to good effect. I think this counts as another modest success to add to the issue's run.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Not that I know if this one was actually better or worse than the old Moldvay & Mentzer ones because I never bought it either. :eek: Any opinions?
This one was my intro to gaming, IIRC. (Though it was a friend's copy, not mine.)

Like other things, it had some things to recommend it while it had other things not to. The fact that you'd essentially be rebuying the 1-5 rules when you bought the Rules Cyclopedia was definitely a point against it, but the "Dragon Cards", which explained bits of the rules, were a rather good way of introducing the game to new players. (And, oddly enough, I recall hearing that they had been suggested by Lorraine Williams, of all people.)
 
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