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

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Making the Legend
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Indiana Jones discovered Velociraptors?! :cool: Is it just me, or would that quite possibly have made a better film than Crystal Skull. ;) :p


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 167: March 1991

part 4/6

The voyage of the princess ark: It's psychodrama time as Haldmar finishes his incantation, and upgrades the Ark. He meets Berylith, the spirit of the dragon that would be bonded to the Ark, and journeys through the dimension of nightmares with her. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew have to fend off spectral hounds. Once again, it ends on a cliffhanger as the Ark's magic is complete, but it still needs to restructure itself. What will it's new form look like?

We also get another 4 of the ark's crewmen statted up this month. Ashari Sunlil, a navigator. Ramissur Zumrulim, a boltman. Tarias of Arogansana, a midshipman. And Leo of Le Nerviens, an irritating gnome. (Do they give tax breaks for having a comic relief sidekick in Mystara?) They haven't played particularly important parts in the story so far, but maybe they will now.

Not a very interesting installment this month, despite the dramatics. Hopefully it'll pick up again, as this feels a bit formulaic. Such is the problem with episodic pulp produced to a deadline. Sometimes the magic just isn't going to be there.

The role of computers: Tunnels & Trolls shows that other RPG's are getting computer conversions as well. The sound and visuals aren't that great, but it still gets a 5 star rating. They give us a review full of hints, revealing in the process that it has quite a bit of depth in terms of character generation and roleplaying, with knowing languages playing an important part of the game. It looks like another game where you can pull a whole bunch of system exploits to get the most out of your characters. I wonder if we'll be seeing this one further spoiled in the clues system.

Bettletech: The Crescent Hawks Revenge also lets the conversions flow, even though it draws more upon the wargame side than the RPG add-ons. You can control a whole squad, and adjust the speed to allow yourself time to give all the orders needed. Once again, it seems pretty decent, if not as open ended as the T&T game.

Hard Nova is another big, openended adventure, this time a sci-fi one where you have a whole bunch of playstyles, going from ship flying to indoor puzzles and shooting, with a good bit of roleplaying thrown in. Another one where you have plenty of choices on how to play the game, and actually get some control on what you say to people.

Stellar 7 is somewhat less complex, but still a good bit of sci-fi fun. Pilot a hyperadvanced tank, and blow stuff to bits. Now with massively improved 3D graphics. Well, not brilliant, but they're getting there.

We also get to enjoy the Beastie Awards for the last year, maybe a little late. No great board-sweepers this time round, with different winners for each game system, and no overlaps in genre categorizations either. Unsurprisingly, Ultima VI and Might of Magic II score high, along with other RPG's. Nothing particularly leaps out at me here.

Sage advice: Does being immune to nonmagical attacks make you immune to falling (No. The earth is an infinite HD monster, and can therefore hurt things requiring up to +4 to hit. )

Can a vorpal weapon sever a thing that's too tall for you to reach the neck of (Recycled question. Skip is going through hard times right now. Skip does not need this. It's the sagely equivalent of being parked outside someone's house all day watching for signs that their wife is being unfaithful)

Can I Charm a shambling mound and then use lightning bolts to give it hundreds of extra HD ( Yes, but the charm will wear off. And given it's new saving throws, you'll have a very hard time recharming it. Better be prepared for a quick exit.)

Do specialist wizards lose their speciality if they suffer ability drain (once again, no! God, this sucks )

Can conjurers cast evocations and lesser divinations ( And this is why skip is in the doghouse. Skip has failed to consider the implications of preventing wizards from using lesser divinations. So Skip is going to make a stupid ruling that Skip will later have to retract. )

How can I find a gaming club (Noticeboards. Also, recruit your friends. It's the best way to grow the hobby. Use the new D&D Basic set. :teeth ting: )

Fiction: Dragon's blood by Bryan Haught. One of the shortest pieces we've had in a while, this is one of those ones that is basically just a lead-up to a punchline. A bit insubstantial really, this is amusing the first time, but doesn't really hold up to repeated reading. Given the way it's formatted, this definitely feels like a filler piece picked out of the slush pile because they had a couple of pages not quite filled at crunch time. Mehness.


Red-eyed dust bunny
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Indiana Jones discovered Velociraptors?! :cool: Is it just me, or would that quite possibly have made a better film than Crystal Skull. ;) :p
Only one problem. Spielberg aside, Velociraptor is the size of a chicken. Even had feathers. Indiana Jones and the Cretaceous Cockfight might not be a megahit.

There's an interesting link here that says the connection between Andrews and Indiana Jones was probably indirect (a direct connection has never been confirmed by Lucas). Andrews wrote tons of popular magazine articles and appeared on the cover of Time, which influenced the pulp writers of his era (the article even name drops Edgar Rice Burroughs), which in turn influenced Lucas.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 167: March 1991

part 5/6

Just give me money!: Here we go again, with the deconstruction of the D&D currency system. This time with extra historical info. Weights are ridiculous, training costs exorbitant, and the whole thing is a bit of a headache. Dividing everything by 10 for everyday purposes has quite substantial benefits in practical terms. And of course, there's all the usual issues with protectionism, moneychangers, taxes, supply and demand causing fluctuations in value, it's all competent, aware of the previous articles and builds upon them, and very very tiresome. The kind of thing I really am not keen on dealing with in reality, and so will probably not bother to use unless I get an economics wonk as a player who actively pursues this stuff and makes it a plot issue. We will have to continue suspending our disbelief so the system doesn't come crashing down around us. (hey, maybe it's not so different from real economics after all)

Milestones and free miles: Oooh. A competition. Shiny. To go to england and attend a convention? Of no use to me, even if this wasn't years out of date. Another piece that's barely a footnote on the massive boot of history.

The marvel-phile: Connecting with the last article, we have some English characters detailed here. Malcom Knight and Thomas Fogg. In typical supers fashion, a scientific accident resulted in them gaining superpowers that just happened to be puns on their names and appropriate to their personalities. One's an ambiguous character who sticks by his own code, while the other is just a slippery slimeball. The idea of supervillains with a scouse accent is somewhat amusing, if a little hard to take seriously. It's very much another average day in the office here as well.

Forum is rather short this month: Russell Speir quibbles about the damage ratings of crossbows. They ought to do considerably more than longbows. Not particularly interesting.

Bradley Wadle takes up most of the forum, with a rather detailed piece about how incredibly unfair energy draining undead are. It needs to be removed or seriously fixed, so it doesn't mess people up semipermanently even if you win the combat. It is rather a problem, isn't it. It does have to be noted that even the official designers are gradually coming round to that point of view, with most new monsters, even ones that are supposed to be more fearsome like shadow dragons, only draining stuff temporarily and/or allowing saving throws to avoid the effect. Course, it'll still take 18 years and two big reboots before the people who hold this view can completely purge all the existing sadism from the system. Plenty more time for me to relish it until then.

Lords of the warring states: Or giants in the earth visits the orient again. They do have the advantage of a bureaucracy that stretches back thousands of years recording stuff in rather great detail than some folk stories. So let's head back to the warring states, to see what people make good characters. Lu Pu-Wei, a rogue with a heart who went out with style. Impenetrable Ordinance, who virtually epitomises the batshit insane emperor with his vanity projects and searches for immortality. Li Ssu, who by restricting weapons and clamping down on independent thought, probably contributed to the development of martial arts, as well as generally contributing to the civic good. Ching K'o, who tried to assassinate the emperor, failed, but still became a folk hero. And Sun Pin, the dishonoured general who still fought with tactics and style. There are a few illegal bits, as ever, but this is a lot more interestingly presented than most of these columns. Oddly enough, I have no objection to this one.

The game wizards: As they mentioned earlier, Undermountain is one of their big releases this month. It could have been a lot bigger, since it has been worked on and played in since 1975, when Ed first discovered roleplaying, but TSR do have fairly strict product sizes these days. As is often the case, Ed is joined by a character from the Realms to aid in exposition, (this time Laeral, because Elminster is off boning the Simbul :p ) The reason it remains a deadly dungeon even after all these years is largely thanks to Halaster's persistent efforts at restocking monsters, and designing ever more sadistic traps. (I suspect deepspawn may also be involved. ) He really is providing a tremendously valuable service to aspiring adventurers everywhere, especially since the creatures in there cause surprisingly little bother in Waterdeep itself. As usual, Ed manages to make this far more entertaining than most writers, and somewhat more useful as well, with some advice on how to best use his product. Big chunks of it are left open for you to develop further, but they've provided tools for you to randomly generate stuff for them quickly. It's a great place to incorporate spells and devices from this magazine. And even if you aren't playing in the realms, you can steal a level here, an encounter idea there, and get years of use out of this stuff. It also reinforces another maxim. The best adventures are ones that have been honed through years of actual play, and the best designers are ones who still find the time to play, because if you don't, you may produce stuff that looks pretty, and is mathematically neat, but if you don't learn what's actually fun for the players and works smoothly for DM from personal experience, then it simply won't have that magic. Ravenloft, the Tomb of Horrors, the Temple of Elemental Evil, Ptolus. All went through years of play and development before reaching the form they did in their final mass market release and are better for it. So this is not only a good advert, but useful and interesting in itself. That is very much the way to do it.


Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 167: March 1991

part 6/6

The role of books: Never deal with a dragon by Robert N Charette takes us into the world of shadowrun, full of darkness, mystery, and obscenely powerful dragons machinating to advance their agenda. Looks like they've got off to a strong start in this department.

Deryni magic by Katherine Kurtz gets a somewhat negative review for it's odd approach to deconstructing her own novels. There's surprisingly little behind the scenes information, and far too much verbatim quoting from the books. Not hugely insightful.

Heart of valor by L J Smith takes the typical young adult formula of kids learning about magic while also facing mundane problems and combines it with a road trip story. This turns out to be pretty fun, and also full of decent worldbuilding & metaphysics.

The road west by Gary Wright combines adventuring with serious Aaaaangst and psychological study as a serious brooding loner badass tries to get his groove back. Sounds like almost a parody of the stuff that makes Drizzt popular ;)

The shadow gate by Margaret Bail seems to break all the rules of good writing, and yet the reviewer still found himself carrying on reading. So it's like the worst form of literary junk food. Just be thankfull it isn't inexplicably selling millions.

The forge of virtue by Lynn Abbey is a novel based upon the Ultima series. Like far too much gaming fiction, it reads like writing to a formula and making up page count. Even less worth it than the last one.

Lifeline by Kevin J Anderson & Doug Beason gets a surprisingly good review, as a bit of hard sci-fi with serious questions about economics and ecology. A newly established moonbase is cut off from earth, and has to survive on it's wits and experimental technology. His novels do seem to be quite a mixed bag in terms of popularity.

Dragonmirth has more cynicism and naivette. Yamara has to figure out what to do with her worshippers. It's bad form to let them worship at someone else's church. Twilight empire focusses on the bad guy's camp this time.

Through the looking glass: Robert gets ahead of himself a little, and does some reporting that would probably be more thematic for the april issue. Among the more standard wargames out there, there's also stuff involving toy dinosaurs, (as we saw last issue) stuffed animals, legos, blobs of clay, and whatever else may be lying around your house. And this can actually be more fun too. It's certainly more newbie friendly. And since wargames are a decade or two ahead of RPG's in their product cycle of commercial decline, and the people of this era rather want to change that fact, this isn't that surprising. We'll see this topic revisited a few times in the future.

Anyway, in the actual minis reviews we have: A whole bunch of Talislanta stuff, Gnomekin, a trapsmith, and an engineer. Star wars continues it's strong efforts at encompassing all media with a set of rebel troopers. Stan Johansen Miniatures have a bunch of heavy weaponry for your sci-fi soldiers to equip. I. C. E. are also in a sci-fi mood with two space cruisers. Ral Partha is a little more present, with a set of modern day soldiers. While GHQ give Robert another chance to talk about his interest in historical ships, with minis of the LeSuperbe and the HMS Bellona. Very much business as usual here.

They came from outer space! Spelljammer gets it's own monstrous compendium appendix.

With a strong start, a tedious saggy middle, and a fairly good ending, this is a reasonable issue, with enough useful stuff to justify returning to it again. Seems like they're trying to increase the amount of crunch in the articles again, ensure that we have mechanical support for the various directions we are given to take the game in. Not a bad thing really. Steer the good ship Dragon on to ever more familiar terrain, Roger. Good luck.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 168: April 1991

part 1/6

116 pages. Another april, another dose of wackiness. No more keeping it to alternating years, Roger's got the material, and he fully intends to make sure we get it too. With this, birthday issues always being dragon themed, and october ones getting the horror stuff, that means he only has to think up different themes for 9 issues a year. So trust nothing anyone says, check every cushion before you sit down, and do not sniff flowers, or accept when someone tries to high-five you under any circumstances. You might just get out with your dignity intact. You can trust me of course. Let's go con some sucker out of their money with a rigged card game. ;)

In this issue:

Buy the new D&D basic game! The first in 8 years, and the best version yet! Get lots more newbies into playing. Pwease! Pwetty pwease! They just have to preach to the choir, don't they. Couldn't you at least make it mockable like Khellek & co.

Letters: Roger continues his now semi-annual tradition of posting dumb letters from readers pretty much as they were recieved. Substantial amounts of entertainment for minimal effort. All you need to do is lay them out properly. A relationship question that seems unlikely to end well. Goddamn bad boys :mutter mutter: A custody battle over a baby orc, of all things. A question on what to do with the body of a dead dragon. You ought to know by now that the sky (and the ingenuity of your magic-user) is the limit in this matter. A truly demented letter about using psychic force to attend a space academy for years in half an hour of real time. And a dumb letter involving people who don't have a clue what they're doing. They sure do know how to pick them.

Editorial: So you've been criticizing Roger's editing, saying it's not as good as Kim's used to be. Here, he pulls out all the sadistic stops to show us just how hard editing D&D is, especially now there are hundreds of products out, many of which introduce new creatures, classes and rules that aren't particularly consistent. A whole bunch of questions, most of which are trick ones, and many which require encyclopedic knowledge of the history of D&D publications. It ends with a fakeout, to be concluded next issue. Looks like Roger is bringing his particular brand of whimsy to this section as well. It rather makes me want to pick his brains with a bohemian ear spoon. It's certainly different, anyway. As ever, shaking off the boredom has definite value.

How to role-play in one easy lesson: Or Let's get Wacky!!! :p Roll on the random name generation table! (I'll take a consonant please Carol ) Play up the demihuman stereotypes! Stab all the other players in the back! Procrastinate and irritate! Metagame at every opportunity! Yup, it's a typical not very useful april fools article to kick things off with. Like the cheating articles of '89, this is more useful as a primer to what NOT to do. I think you can hop, skip and kangaroo jump (or possibly wombat trundle) over this one without regrets.

Merty's manual of magical Merchandise: MMMM. Another lovely collection of humorous items with uncertain usefulness, all tied together with an overarching creation story, and all awesomely abusing alliteration. I remember these from the magical item compendium a few years later, and must confess to a certain degree of amusement. They stuck in my mind quite effectively, as all have their uses, but most have their dangers as well. Let the buyer beware. Muahahahaha.

Merty's Marvelous Marbles let you pull all manner of pranks, and then call them back quickly and conveniently. They will backfire occasionally, but that's a small price to pay for years of fun.

Merty's Mystic Mustard is so hot it lets you breathe fire. And can give you terminal heartburn if you're not careful. Very cartoonish.

Merty's Magnificent Mattress puts you to sleep magically. This does have it's drawback. If there's no-one to wake you, you'll sleep forever. Good thing adventurers usually come in parties, eh?

Merty's Multiplanar Mushrooms let you go ethereal if you eat one. They have an obvious drawback, and a subtly hidden one. Buy in bulk for maximum benefit. (if you have the money)

Merty's Mysterious Mug is perfect for pranksters, but has few practical purposes. A good example of the how to lose friends and influence people principle.

Merty's Masterful Mufflers actually do their job reliably. No sound will get through when wearing them. Now you just need to learn sign language and watch out for monsters sneaking up on you.

Merty's Munificent Matches go fwoosh when lit in quite an alarming fashion. Watch you don't drop them and burn yourself. Not really very magical, is it.

Merty's mmm-mmmm! Muskmelons give you a reusable source of convenient food. Your henchman will be thrilled at how much less he has to carry. Still, don't be surprised if living off nothing but fruit gives you the runs.

Merty's Miraculous Mistmaker does exactly what it says on the tin. Remember, mist obscures vision for everyone, and lots of monsters are better at dealing with blindness than you.

Merty's Mud Masque lets you disguise yourself by covering yourself with it. This is not as useful as it seems, largely due to it's limitations and short duration.

Merty's Masculine Macho-Musk is a rather counterproductive product, that may be handy in combat, but will not help you get the girls like you think it will. How many spam e-mails have I got about pheromone perfume that'll supposedly make you irresistible. Use the character as a decoy in the chamber of the sci-mutant priestess. :p

Merty's Musical Menagerie will give you the musical instruments you need, if you're lucky. Finding the right one can be a frustrating experience though. Wearing gloves may help with this.

Merty's Magical Markers let you put invisible signals around a dungeon to aid in navigation. Don't lose the decoder ring, otherwise they'll be pretty pointless.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 168: April 1991

part 2/6

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Looks like we have a surplus of suspicious magical items this year, with a second article doing much the same as the last one, only with less style. They must have got a job lot off the back of a lorry, quite possibly courtesy of Bargle & co.

Mirrors of Sophistication give any woman perfect hair - for a dwarf! Now that's just plain mean, like those girdles of gender changing. Beware your hair indeed. Still, at least this one wears off eventually.

Rings of Ice do what they do, albeit a little too well. If you're not actually in serious hot water, keep it in your pocket.

Elixir of additional weaponry is also pretty damn handy - for Drow. Anyone else may have some serious issues with growing additional evil arms.

Elixir of reduction is like a potion of diminution, only permanent and not affecting your stuff. This is obviously a serious issue if you're not expecting it, for there are many creatures that would enjoy eating a tiny naked man lost in a dungeon. All those clothes can stick in your teeth and be a right pain if you don't have hands.

Scroll of Transmutation are another joke which works by playing with expectations. Like rust monsters and energy draining undead, this one will provoke massive amounts of terror in adventurers for all the wrong reasons.

The Orb of distant viewing is probably the dumbest and most meta of all this collection. All it shows are I love Lucy reruns. I am not amused in the slightest. Still, that aside, these two collections have once again improved on the last two years, in that most of the items feel like they could actually have been created by people for a reason, rather than just because the gods of the setting want to watch and laugh as the people who find them suffer. They could be incorporated into a serious game and not ruin it automatically.

Forum: Andrew Cairns gives an interesting motivational speech about what D&D can be, the stories it can tell, the lessons it can impart. If you do it right, it shows the players that working together and learning to understand people is an important part of life. If done wrong, it teaches that casual racism and killing is a quick path to profit. Hmm. Well, its certainly a way of thinking about it. Since the trend over time has definitely been to making other races playable and comprehensible, I think that your worries aren't substantiated.

Joseph Dineen contributes his own opinion on the impact spellcasters have on warfare, using not just D&D, but WHFRP and Palladium as well. So he suggests some tactics he thinks would work for a city equipped with a decent number of mages in their guards, and expecting likewise from any attackers. I guess WHFB is one of the better systems for trying things like that.

Jules Jones gives a whole bunch of (unofficial) rules clarifications, which look handy for curbing some of the excesses of twinks. (although ducks really shouldn't be able to hover :p ) Now, if we could only do something about the orientophillia. They're already more powerful than regular characters, you don't need to give them more options.

Scott M McDowell talks about his rather messed up gaming circle and his attempts to get them under control. They seem to be improving, but it's a slow process. Still, it makes for good stories when they pull ridiculous crap.

Jasen Cooper extolls the badassedness of dragons. Blah blah, tactics, excellent senses, should be nearly impossible to defeat. Yeah, we know, we get told so nearly every year. Are the upgrades they got in the edition change not enough for you?

On a similar note, Matt Bonnan wants dinosaurs given the credit they deserve. Our knowledge of them continues to advance, and the idea that they were all stupid, sluggish and ungainly looks increasingly tenuous. They never stopped being cool even so, you know. I suspect this means we'll be seeing another article or two on them in the near future. Issue 112's attempt at definitiveness could satisfy the public appetite for only so long.

Saddam Hussein and George Bush get lampooned in Mid-East Peace. I think that's something we can all get behind.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 168: April 1991

part 3/6

Role-playing reviews skips the roleplaying bit, and just does reviews, under the pretext of giving us something to do when the DM cancels abruptly. If you can't play the regular game, but a load of people are already there, you need a quick pick-me-up. A bit cheeky, but a very valid consideration.

Dungeon! is TSR's own attempt at stripping down D&D to a competitive multiplayer boardgame. It was actually made right back in the 70's, and got a few mentions in the early magazine before slipping into obscurity. It's been rereleased, but Ken doesn't seem overly enthused about the whole thing. While not bad, it's a bit too simplistic for him, and doesn't have much replay value. There are better competitors around these days.

The great khan game is rather more sophisticated, with Tom Wham's particular sense of humour and naming tendencies strongly noticable. It's probably not for novice players, but the rules do support plenty of depth once unraveled. This shows up the difference between organic and calculated design processes.

Heroquest is of course the game that brought Games Workshop's grim world where chaos is rising to the mainstream market. It's another good example of how to make games visually appealing and incredibly easy to learn without being patronising, and rake in the cash in response. It is a bit simple for Ken, with it's limited advancement options and rather weak enemies, but I guess that's what the Advanced version is for. Still, if you want a gateway drug for young relatives, this very much fits the bill. It also has quite a few supplements, jacking up the challenge and adding new minis. I have quite a few fond memories of this.

Space crusade has quite a few parallels with Heroquest, but is a more sophisticated game, with the blip system and mission objectives adding quite a lot of tactical consideration and replayability to the game. Like Heroquest, it get gets plenty of support in White Dwarf magazine, has great visual presentation, and plays a substantial part in making Games Workshop the juggernaut it has become.

Dungeonquest is a conversion of a swedish game. The theme seems pretty familiar. Get in, get the treasure from the dragon and get out alive. With randomly generated dungeons, it's good for solitaire play, and nicely brutal. He actually prefers it to the more mass market games.

Arkham horror attempts to do for Call of Cthuhu what Dungeon does for D&D. It gets critically acclaimed by ken, but doesn't seem to be able to match these others for commercial success, having just gone out of print. Which is a bit lame, but such is life. Good luck finding it on ebay.

Got all the 7 monstrous compendia released so far? Send off this form to get a rebate. Isn't that nice of us.

The voyage of the princess ark: The Ark finishes reconfiguring itself this month. However, it takes a whole week of IC time to do it, in which Haldemar and co think they've lost her. So they set off on foot through the jungle, and once again get themselves in deep trouble with the natives. All's well that ends well though, as Berylith saves them. Now if Haldemar can just get over the shock, everything'll be cool again.

The majority of this article is taken up by the new deck plans of the Ark, and their description. And it is both odd in several respects, and very impressive indeed, with a detached levitating section, magical elevators and teleportation circles, personal gravity to allow for spectacular acrobatics without everything inside getting bashed around, cloaking, plenty of weaponry and security measures, all wrapped inside a pretty aesthetically pleasing package. Or in other words, DROOL!! WANT!!! This is the kind of thing that will make you the envy of other adventuring groups, and a quite possibly a target for enemies, but hey, at high levels, you need lots of XP to advance, and suitable dungeons are not always easy to find. Let them challenge you. Then you get to blow them out of the sky in a spectacular arial dogfight, bombard their armies on the ground, root out their infiltrators and assassins, and generally prove just how awesome this thing is. Rock.

committed hero

nude lamia mech
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Arkham horror attempts to do for Call of Cthuhu what Dungeon does for D&D. It gets critically acclaimed by ken, but doesn't seem to be able to match these others for commercial success, having just gone out of print. Which is a bit lame, but such is life. Good luck finding it on ebay.
A new edition with several supplements is currently in print.
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