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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 168: April 1991

part 4/6


The role of computers: Bane of the Cosmic Forge is one of those RPG's where you generate characters from a whole bunch of typical races and classes, and a few quirky ones. The general options have been expanded upon, as is standard with a continuing series, and you should save often as you quest to save the world. The visuals still aren't brilliant, and this is probably what keeps it from getting 5 stars, but it's still another solid attempt to emulate D&D style gaming.

Powermonger is another of those games where you get to play ruler, build your settlements and armies, and conquer other lands. It also has diplomacy options, and online multiplayer, giving it extra depth. Since the world are pretty big, mastering the zoom function is important. (just like using the real google maps)

The Secret of Monkey Island, like Loom, shows Lucasfilm's continued success is not a fluke, or dependent on the Star Wars name. Another cool adventure game with tons of attention to detail, and a multitude of inventive puzzles to solve, this may well have you tearing your hair out at some of the trickier puzzles.

Faces is the latest puzzle game from the creators of Tetris. This gets a rather more negative review, as it is rather more frustrating than that game, with a bad run of pieces virtually guaranteeing defeat no matter how good you are. Obviously they haven't got the right balance of skill and luck going this time.

Harpoon is a submarine wargame. It's in black and white, but that doesn't hurt it too much. Not a bad simulation at all.

Mega Man III welcomes Rush to his side, and starts the process that would gradually result in the series picking up RPG elements and growing into a multigenre franchise where many of the the supporting characters are as popular as the main one. It doesn't actually get a brilliant review in itself, curiously. Well, technically, it does have it's flaws, and fighting the bosses can be a frustrating process. (I always had to save up tons of energy tanks to get through quite a few of them.) I suppose it's another case of critical and commercial success diverging.

Highly amusingly, Curse of the Azure Bonds gets put in the buggies this month, as it's mac version crashed whenever they tried to run it in colour. This does not stop them from putting more hints for it in the clue corner. Oh, the constant hassles of upgrading and compatibility. One reason consoles continue to be popular, despite frequently being several years behind computers in terms of raw power and sophistication.


Bane of the cosmic forge also gets advertised immediately after the column. With a topless female demon, (nipples strategically obscured, of course) no less. Surprised they can get away with that, really. Guess it is sticking to the letter of their code. And what the executives don't know can't hurt them.


Sage advice claws back another 2/3rds of a page. Skip is tougher than the naysayers think. You'll see.

How much weight can you carry while flying (As much as normal. Your definition of normal may vary)

Your statement in issue 157 contradicts the DMG (Not really. It's the same difference)

How does invisibilty work. Why isn't it an alteration. (it bends light. If you used that criteria all spells would be alterations. It's already the overpowered catchall school. We won't put spells in it unless we really can't justify it being somwhere else. )

Why can't psionicists be chaotic (their minds go off on a tangent before they can actually do anything significant )

Do druids have to be completely neutral, or just one component (Completely! We will not budge on this, just as we will not budge on the paladin's lawful goodness!)

Alignment sucks! Druids have to oppose their party at every turn to preserve the balance! This makes no sense! (No, You make no sense! Preserving the cosmic balance does not involve doing one chaotic evil deed per lawful good one. The cycle of the universe can absorb minor shifts anyway. Druids just prevent permanent ascendancy by any one side. Also, don't confuse lawful pompous busybody with lawful good. Blah blah blah blah, proper way to do things, sense of perspective blah blah blah.)


Fiction: Thor goes fishing by Lois Tilton. Moderately in theme here, with a rather humorous little mythical tale. Loki's up to his usual trickery, sending Thor off to make an idiot of himself with a few well placed jibes, which he then takes full advantage of. The epic effects gods can have on the world, even without thinking about it, are played up for laughs, and the whole thing seems like good inspiration for a more lighthearted Nobilis game. Cosmic power doesn't have to mean constantly battling epic foes, maintaining a tedious policy of noninterference in the lives of mortals you could squash like bugs and worrying about the balance of the universe. It can mean doing 7 impossible things before breakfast, creating a universe in the morning, then revamping another one by siring a messiah on a nice virgin (while leaving her physically intact of course) in the evening. And that does sound like a good deal more fun. So this is another piece that's both entertaining and moderately thought provoking. Sometimes, you've just gotta cut loose.
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/6


TSR previews: First up, unsurprisingly, is the new D&D basic set. This time revised by Troy Denning. Even more than last time, when Frank Mentzer was in charge, it's designed to be newbie friendly. Have they gone too far into patronising territory? Are computer games now too big, shiny and distracting? In any case, you don't see as many people talking fondly about this version being their first experience as often as the Moldvay and Mentzer ones, despite Denning being a pretty big name. What's with that?

Marvel superheroes also gets a new basic set this month. Jeff Grubb is still the guy in charge here, and he also wants to expand their gaming base. Lure those comics fans in. Lure, lure I say! Don't just read stories about superheroes, create your own! I suppose that's one of the biggest barriers to entry. This is not a hobby for the lazy, particularly on the DM's side.

The forgotten realms heads up north to FA2: Nightmare Keep. Rick Swan takes us on a relatively traditional dungeon crawl. Treasure, guarded by monsters. What more could an adventure ask for? Do you really want to be like Drizzt, angsting over stuff as in Sojourn, the final book of his prequel trilogy.

Dragonlance is also obsessed with elves. DLS2: Tree lords lets us see the Silvanesti, and save them as well. Mind you, given what wankers they've generally been in the books, I do not find myself particularly inclined to do so.

Ravenloft gets their very own monstrous compendium. Yesss, preciouss, ssseee what horrors lie within the missstssess. Relatively few creatures here, but they get more descriptive depth than other world's ones, for extra creepiness.

On the generic AD&D side, we have HR1: Vikings. Rune magic, longboats, and all kinds of Historically Accurate stuff. You just know there's more of these on the way to cover other periods.

And Buck Roger's second trilogy comes to a close. Matrix Cubed sees the fate of the inner planets hang in the balance. So let's save them, and move onto the outer ones, already! Pretty obvious, really.


Novel ideas: In another case of related stuff being close together, here we have some elaboration on Dragonlance's novel schedule for the year. Doing prequels is a particular headache, especially when you're not the original author. You have to work hard to maintain continuity and characterization, and still tell an interesting story. And of course, despite being fully aware of these dangers, more than a few of the novels of the next few years will fail at one or the other. Slightly more interesting is psychoanalysing Krynn's approach to relationships. The tendency for drama and polarized divisions of good and evil means that relationships are simultaneously highly valued, and prone to tensions breaking them up for reasons that would seem stupid to most objective observers. And the good guys wind up enemies of other good guys over petty issues, just like the bad guys. I suppose healthy relationships are an enemy of the conditions that produce good stories. Still, it does differ very dramatically from my personal experiences in both gaming and reality, so I guess it's another reason dragonlance has never really resonated with me. I guess it's good to quantify things like that, rather than leaving it to gut reactions.


Chessex realize that it makes more sense to put the number on a D4 on the top rather than the bottom of each side. Such an obvious refinement, and now tons of companies do it. Now that's progress.


The marvel-phile: Some fairly substantial changes to the usual format here this month. This is where they start using this column as a regular airing ground for changes in existing characters. I'm vaguely surprised that this was only implemented so close to when I started reading, as it felt like a regular feature then. Course, for this first one, they need to do a whole ton of catching up, trying to fill us in on most of the big events of the last couple of years. Entire superteams have been disbanded, or killed and brought back to life. Quite a few villains are also dead - for now. Ghost rider has a new host, The human torch & rogue have lost their powers, Hawkeye is a cyborg, some more old WWII characters have been released from suspension chambers, Dr Druid has hair, :) and the hulk is temporarily in control of himself. Looks like they've now got an active metaplot busy with regular worldshaking events and more averted apocalypses than healthy balanced breakfasts. The next few years are going to be interesting times for them, and it looks like we'll get quite a bit more second hand news than we have been.

As with most features where they break or change format, this is rather more interesting than a standard entry, and in this case is also rather funny. As I've said before, you don't even have to try to see the funny side of comic worlds, especially when everything that happened is deconstructed and put together in one place like this. Get the image macros ready, and let's hope the hologram covers show up when scanned.


Look sharp!: Hmm. For some reason they've decided to put a crossword in. That's a turnup for the books. Since Roger's also put a questionnaire in his editorial, I wonder if this'll become a regular occurrence. Well, they are a nice part of many people's everyday newspaper reading, and good mental exercise to boot, so it's not beyond the bounds of probability. Still, I have enough on my plate reviewing all this stuff. I don't feel the desire to solve it as well. I'm sure there are interesting insights to be derived from studying newspaper crosswords across the decades and analyzing them statistically, but I really don't have time for that.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
TSR previews: First up, unsurprisingly, is the new D&D basic set. This time revised by Troy Denning. Even more than last time, when Frank Mentzer was in charge, it's designed to be newbie friendly. Have they gone too far into patronising territory? Are computer games now too big, shiny and distracting? In any case, you don't see as many people talking fondly about this version being their first experience as often as the Moldvay and Mentzer ones, despite Denning being a pretty big name. What's with that?
Maybe the game is just no longer attracting as many new players. The early to mid 1980s seem to be the peak of D&D's popularity, and Moldvay and Mentzer were there for the big wave.

Have you been keeping an eye on the subscription numbers that Dragon publishes yearly? That might be an interesting metric.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Have you been keeping an eye on the subscription numbers that Dragon publishes yearly? That might be an interesting metric.
Yup. Subscriptions actually seem to be going up at this point, even though overall sales are slightly down from their 84-85 zenith. They aren't attracting the same kind of new readership, but still have a pretty solid sales base around the 100,000 mark. The question becomes why this one didn't draw people in like the old versions.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Yup. Subscriptions actually seem to be going up at this point, even though overall sales are slightly down from their 84-85 zenith. They aren't attracting the same kind of new readership, but still have a pretty solid sales base around the 100,000 mark. The question becomes why this one didn't draw people in like the old versions.
That actually explains it... the Basic Set is an introductory product, for new gamers. The relevant number is the number of new gamers, not the total number. Even if it's increasing, it's probably increasing at a fairly sedate pace compared to the jump from 1983 to 1984.

Edit: And I don't think a box set is responsible for the overall popularity of D&D. It's the other way around -- Moldvay and Mentzer rode the wave of popularity; they didn't cause it. In the 1990s, media attention died down and the market was saturated.
 
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(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 168: April 1991

part 6/6


Vampire! Man's darkest fear walks the earth! Now that's a good teaser. Soon the swine will stalk the land, bringing the dreaded plagues of narrativism and goth girls with them. Are you ready to become the monster? I find it interesting that the distributor, Esdevium, gets higher billing than White Wolf, the company making the game. What's all that about?


Treasures more real: Following on from last month, we have another article that points out how broken D&D's economics are, and how much customizing stuff can add to the interest of your game. Where do all those thousands of GP monsters have come from? What is it's history? What condition is it in? Figuring that out for every item found would be a difficult and tedious process. What's a good solution for this? Random Tables! Say hello to another largely unconnected subsystem. Y-y-y-yawn. Using this will require quite a bit of rerouting of your campaign, especially if you try it midway through. And you'll still have to think up the specifics, even if this provides the generalities. So laudable intentions, but inadequate execution. Another bit of filler to make up the page count.


Harpers bold: Ed Greenwood contributes a couple of twinked out Harpers this month. Jhastar Belnold and Talantra Bowgentle. Neither has a single ability score below 15, and both have met big names in the Realms history and engaged in heroics that have brought them a modest degree of notoriety of their own. Their magical item collections are rather boring and practical though, and they have ridiculously little money for characters of their level. They definitely feel like something that was whipped up to tell a story rather than actually generated through rolling dice and built up through actual play. He encourages you to have them show up randomly in the wilderness and /steal the thunder from/ help out your group. This showcases one of the worst aspects of the Realms, that it can be so chock-a-bloc with powerful good guys that there just doesn't seem to be room for your adventurers to make any difference. This does not make for very pleasing reading, and is one of the worst things he's ever contributed to the magazine, even more annoying than spellfire. I wash my hands of this.


Why spy?: Espionage stuff has definitely been on the decline in here over the past couple of years. They haven't released any books for Top Secret for nearly a year now, and it doesn't look like any are on the schedule either. It's decade long run is winding down. And that people are forgetting about this is reinforced by an article aimed heavily at the newcomer, trying very hard to get more people to try out this fun little genre. It's actually a pretty good one, as well as being a full 7 pages long, taking you through the conventions of the genre and giving lots of advice helpful to both GM and players. Still, it doesn't change that all of this has been said before in the magazine, albeit not as well in many cases. If I'd started reading the magazine a few issues earlier, I would have loved this. But now, it stands as a stark reminder of the hard balancing act between providing material aimed at newbies and long time readers that they have to do. A problem that's only going to get worse for both me and them.


2 sided dice, courtesy of the US mint? Someone's taking the piss here. I really don't think your currency needs advertising.


Ironically, Chill is also releasing a vampire sourcebook at the very same time. I find this amusing.

Dragonmirth has more bloody jesters. Even an edition change can't shake them off. Yamara still hasn't realized her powers. Twilight empire has a total baba yaga rip-off.


Through the looking glass: Having fulfilled his ridiculous quotient for the year last month, Robert keeps things serious this time. The lead bill is currently on hold due to the USA's current military ventures, so let's take advantage of this fact and get buying and painting. Responsibly of course, for we are a family friendly magazine. This month's minis are: A whole bunch of dwarves. A dragon holding a crystal ball. A rather drunk leprechaun (which leads Robert to once again stress to our young audience that Drinking Is Wrong in classic 80's cartoon conclusion stylee :p ) A rather neat set of hex blocks that look good for constructing impromptu maps. And a bunch of officially licensed Drow. With everything getting between 4 and 5 stars, there's no great dirt dishing or other interesting stuff going on here, humorous asides apart.


War law. Mass combat for rolemaster. It's a snappy name. I'll bet the contents aren't nearly so cool and easy to understand though.


Another flawed but fascinating issue, with plenty of useful stuff, and a whole bunch of important historical markers which also trip my personal nostalgia buttons. V:tM, Mega man, the new Princess Ark, and plenty of familiar bits of goofy yet usable humour. The place really feels like home. Before long I'll have surpassed my original class levels with my new one, and be able to draw upon the powers of both classes freely. Pretty awesome, eh? I can't wait to get through these next few issues.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 169: May 1991

part 1/6


124 pages. At last, the magazine has reached it's greatest regular size. We've now reached the era where they were producing the greatest amount of official D&D material each month, both here and in terms of general supplements. (Whether this was a golden age or a golden shower is very much a matter of opinion, but we are unlikely to ever see them produce this much again.) While there are a few specials that are even larger, this is the size it maintains throughout the majority of the decade, before starting to shrink again. At last, the issues won't keep taking longer and longer to get through. Whew. Funny to think that I'm now regularly going through ones bigger than the one that caused so much surprise, way back in 1980. I guess it's like a frog in boiling water. Turn the heat up gradually, and it doesn't realize just how bad things are for it. Or more positively, it's like gradually moving up through weight classes by bodybuilding. You've got to warm up properly, prepare and practice. Which curiously, is also the theme of the issue. That's a new one on me, but an idea I could see yielding some valuable material. As long as the result isn't characters buffing themselves up tediously before each battle, and having to keep track of all the changes to their stats. Let's see what we can see see see.

In this issue:


Letters: A letter asking for more DM'ing advice. The stuff in the books just isn't enough. You've come to the right place. Roger can point out dozens of articles in the magazine's history that help with this, and intends to publish more in the future. Good luck collecting them all though.

A letter from someone who's recently picked up a disability about the article they did on that. Once again, Roger is pretty helpful, proving that he knows the history of the magazine inside out, in even greater depth than I do. Well, 10 years compared to 2, it'd be more worrying if he didn't. However, this does have the side effect of reminding me how little attention they've given to race and sexuality and how they relate to gaming. You'd think they'd have found the space for at least one article in in 16 years. No wonder roleplaying has wound up such a whitebread hobby.

A letter from someone having trouble keeping all the various characters and organizations in the Forgotten Realms straight. It's not easy, and it's only going to get harder. Good luck.


Editorial: Or let's see just how much of a dick Roger can be when he puts his mind too it, as he reveals the answers to last month's questionnaire. Which shouldn't surprise anyone who's played his adventures, such as Baba Yaga's hut and The Twofold Talisman. There are millions of ways you can do this job wrong, and every sentence is a minefield, just waiting to blow your foot off if you make a wrong step. Part of this is due to the persistent exceptionalism is the english language, much is due to the bloating of supplements (including changes made due to enshrining of previous editorial errors), part is due to legal issues of copyright, TSR's family friendly policy, etc, and sometimes there is no right answer, so you'll have to make the choice, and then try and get other people to stick to it. Is it any wonder he's a little mad by now. Good thing the other editors have got his back. (or is that sniggering at him behind his back :p ) This all feels a bit meanspirited, like he's saying I'm the editor of Dragon Magazine, and you're not, so don't get uppity when I make a few mistakes. Entertaining, but certainly not likable.


New weapons for old: Or welcome to the arms race. In real life, weapons varied quite substantially from century to century, as people constantly looked for an edge, and took advantage of new construction technologies. Here's some ideas that seem based upon those principles. Crossbows with more than one shaft, swords designed to pierce armour, hypersharpened swords that do extra damage for the first few hits, triple balled morningstars (these are particularly twinky, with a huge dps average, especially if you have a strength bonus) there is a certain degree of power creep here compared with core weapons. Since many of them do DX+1 damage, this also means they're less likely to whiff over long campaigns. Think carefully about allowing these ones, especially if you don't track the speed factors, space required and weapon vs armor tables that provide an element of rebalancing.


Creative casting: Ah yes, this old chessnut. Looks like the arms race is taking place here as well. Turning spells to uses other than those their designers intended is a tradition as old as the first gaming group. It's been incorporated into a few articles, and somewhat more forum letters, but hasn't got it's own article before. This is the kind of thing I delight in both as a DM and a player. It serves to remind us that a magic-user can usurp a thief's job with very little effort, continual light is actually one of the most awesome spells in the game, monster summoning is useful for so much more than combat, especially when you can pick the creature, and anything created can be sold, even if it's existence is only temporary. A couple of these look like they're really pushing the limits of the rules, and some DM's would disallow those interpretations, and quite a few more would be nerfed deliberately so these tricks definitely won't work in 3rd ed. (and even fewer in 3.5 and 4e. ) Still, mustn't let the spoilsports get us down. There's always a few loopholes somewhere in a ruleset. It's up to you to find them and abuse them, or possibly fix them if you're that way inclined. And that kind of arms race can be almost as fun as the IC action.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 169: May 1991

part 1/6


Learn something new every day: More new nonweapon proficiencies. Even more than spells, they're easy to think up, as you just look around and draw direct from reality, little adaption needed. Although as mentioned before, you don't have nearly enough slots to buy even the ones essential to your concept if you have a complex job. Still, here's 10 more skills, that will eat up a total of 17 slots. Alchemy, Astronomy, Botany, Calligraphy, Cartography, Diplomacy, Geology, Orienteering, Street Fighting, and Street Sense. Not particularly bad on their own (apart from street fighting, which really should be a weapon proficiency, putting it in nonweapon stuff causes the same issue as Palladium's boxing skill in terms of giving advantages to people who powergame for combat potential over everything else. ) they once again rub in the fact that you just don't have enough skills in AD&D. Which means unlike new spells and items, who's appearance is frequently treated with glee, these will be far less likely to come in handy in your own games. Slightly dispiriting, really.


The strategy of tactics: Ahh, now this is one that is pretty influential, and becomes standard next edition, as well as having equivalents in tons of other games. Unlike two previous articles that have introduced a bunch of special tricks that you need to buy to use well, this gives 4 basic tactics anyone can use. Fighting defensively, forgoing attack entirely for full defense, and attacking with two degrees of extra recklessness that increase your chances of hitting and being hit. A small addition that adds quite a bit to your feeling of choice in combat, without unbalancing things in particular, and lets player skill play a slightly larger part in determining the outcome of battles. This is one I strongly approve of. Every game where combat is a major part should involve a decent degree of valid choices in your combat options. Just trading blows back and forth until someone falls gets old all too soon. Incorporating something like this into your games is definitely one I recommend.


TSR previews: The tome of magic! New spheres, Quest spells, Wild mages and elementalists. And shitloads of magic items and spells. Just the thing to have all your spellcasters salivating over the cool new stuff they can do. Future products reference this one a lot, so like Legends and Lore, get ready to have to buy it and treat it as a de facto corebook to keep up with the joneses.

Far less essential are the TSR collectors cards. Buy tons of packs and trade the duplicates with your friends to get a full set. Gotta catch 'em all! Bleah. Keep it away.

For those of you who couldn't be bothered with getting every novel and module last year, FR12: Horde campaign gives you the big picture, plus more info on their lifestyles and environment in general. You probably want the boxed set first to make sense of this though.

Spelljammer has an interesting premise this month. SJ4: Under the dark fist. An entire crystal sphere has fallen to the forces of evil, and they're planing to do some major exporting of their primary produce. High level adventurers are needed to foil them before they flood the universe with cut price mass produced evil overlords driving the home grown ones out of business. Or something. ;)

Marvel Superheroes are still in an X-menish mood with MSL1: X-terminate. It's those stupid great death robot squads, isn't it. Never build intelligent death robots. It's just asking for trouble.

And finally, Buck Rogers gives us his third module. 25CS3: A matter of Gravitol. Well, artificial gravity is pretty critical to every sci-fi series, simply due to the prohibitive cost of filming zero gee regularly. So in a logical universe, controlling the resources responsible for it would be a very profitable business. This doesn't sound too bad, actually. I must be getting used to these guys.


The voyage of the princess ark: Haldemar starts to realize the more awkward side of his awesome new ship. Now she has a personality, and isn't afraid to show it, often being stroppy and gainsaying his commands. On the other hand, this probably also saves his life. When he winds up being captured again, this time by the Rajah of Jaibul, she senses this and homes in on him even though the crew don't know what do do.

Seems like we have an obvious india analogue in this month's travelogue section. Sind has a jungle section, some deserty badlands, and mountains in the north. This is next to the eastern europe analogue, for no apparent reason. Ahh, Mystara, where Immortal meddling means nations are just placed on the map like Sims houses, with weather and sociopolitics forced into unnatural shapes by the constant meddling from above. It's still considerably more realistic than ravenloft, where the things in charge barely even pretend there's an underlying world beyond the psychodrama prisons made for their amusement. Still, as long as it's a fun adventure, what does it matter if the world-building's a little sketchy.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 169: May 1991

part 3/6


The role of books: D'shai by Joel Rosenberg creates a world where everyone has some form of magic, except of course the unfortunate protagonist. This would be cause for enough angst in itself, but he also has to deal with being accused of murder as well. As with his previous books, it's real elements are well researched, and the fantasy elements are quite distinctive. He's as popular as ever around here.

The adept by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris gets a rather negative review, apparently lacking the best qualities of both writers. Might as well have not collaborated at all then.

Goblin moon by Teresa Edgerton is a very theatrically written swashbuckling tale. With highly dramatic, easily visualised scenes, and highly active characters, it sounds like a fun one.

Indiana jones and the peril at delphi by Rob MacGregor is another one that fails to take advantage of it's potential, as the writer seems to consciously reject pulp tropes without putting anything better in their place. Formulas are formulas for a reason, even if you personally don't like them.

The dagger and the cross by Judith Tarr manages to combine a whole bunch of elements without them getting short shrift. Set in Jerusalem during the crusades, it shows the other side of the conflicts covered in her previous book, while still managing to work as a standalone novel.

A book dragon by Donn Kushner is a pretty illustrated book about a dragon who has a book written about him, and then guards that book. Meta, eh? The illustrations demonstrate a similar sense of humour. It's probably a bit too slight a story to stand without the illustrations, but hopefully that won't become an issue.

The last unicorn by Peter S Beagle has also recently got an illustrated edition. This is not such a success, however, with the style of the drawings actively clashing with that of the writing. Not that it ruins the story, which is good enough on it's own, but it certainly doesn't add to it the way the previous one does.


The marvel-phile: Ghost Rider is back, with a new host! The cycle of life (and IP maintenance) continues. This of course means we get to go through the whole fun of doing the introductory and discovery stories again, only differently, as befits the personality of the new rider. They also introduce a new character who's never going to stick as a proprietary name, simply called Ghost. (which frankly, is right down there with Shadow as a supervillain name. And at least a hedgehog is better company than Patrick Suayzee) It's stuff like this that makes me appreciate the article about supers name in Aberrant more.

Also of note here are two issues that Dale raises. The first is a mechanical one. What exactly does being more invisible or intangible mean anyway? Actually a fairly simple and elegant solution to this. It only matters when it comes to conflicting powers rolling off against each other. Another small but significant bit of design technology that'll come into common use over the next decade. The other is a philosophical one on the nature of heroism, when applied to badass antiheroes who are almost as much a monster as the things they fight. Which is rather spoiled by a little editing error which means he says the opposite of what he intends to say. Still, the overall point is valid, and is very applicable to the media of the decade, as we see the rise of grimdark and everything that goes with it. So this might not be as funny as some of Jeff's old installments, but it is quite thought provoking. You can definitely use these as pointers to shape your own game.


The role of computers: The Lord of the Rings, vol 1 sees another game company pull out the stops to take advantage of the potential megasales. It makes sure that while the areas are familiar from the map, you get plenty of freedom to visit them out of order and find your own solution to the dangers besetting you. It may in fact be a little too big and slow, with lots of walking needed to get places, but it does capture the hobbit style of adventuring nicely.

Elvira is also an adventure game, albeit rather different. Explore a massive mansion and clear out all the monsters for our expansively cleavaged host. Combat, exploration, and lots of figuring out what items need to be combined with other ones to make potions & stuff to solve puzzles. Oh, and blood and guts. Yay for avoiding bowdlerisation.

Eye of Horus gets a rather poor review, as they simply found it boring. That's no good at all for a game.

Archipelegos fares somewhat better, even if it does have a plot that seems rather captain planet. Save the world by destroying the toxic obelisks and the viral trees and necromancers protecting them. Oh, if only it were that easy. POLLUTION DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!

The Secret missions expansion disc for Wing Commander does rather nicely for itself, building on the original with harder new missions and a nice storyline linking them together. Nothing like a bit of continuity to hold things together.

Shadow of the beast I & II both get 5 stars. The first is a well done action game, while the second builds on that to add adventure game elements like cutscenes, talking to people and buying stuff.

Blazing Lazers is another arcade shoot-em-up where you fly a ship through space, kill aliens, and collect power-ups. They think it's a pretty good example of it's type.

Command H.Q. gets our buggies award this time, for it's badly designed copy protection. Once again, they make cheating seem the more attractive option, thus hurting their own cause.
 
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