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

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

part 4/6

Fiction: Swordfish and saucery by Deborah Millitello. One of our occasional contributors manages to get another piece published. It's a rather clever little story too, both in terms of the IC plotting and the deliberate expectation shifting wordplay. Rereading it, you can see all kinds of little details which are actually significant. One to draw upon if you want to write mysteries where the answer is in plain sight, but the players still probably won't get it until it's too late. Looks like the fiction department here is as strong and varied as ever.

Role-playing reviews decides to have another round of covering various game's magic systems. Ever popular, and often quite complex, it's no surprise that supplements creating new ones and expanding on existing ones continue to come thick and fast. As with last time, before starting on the reviews, Ken talks a bit about the magic systems in various games. They have a history as long as roleplaying itself, and they continue to evolve. What interesting ideas have they come up with in the last couple of years?

Elemental companion is a Rolemaster supplement. Unsurprisingly, this creates a variant upon the D&D elemental plane principle, and then details the spellcasters who draw their powers direct from the various elemental planes. Since they have lots of overarching effects that are applied to each element, this makes the spell system quite flexible and good for applying creatively. They also detail a whole bunch of monsters, and rules for creating hybrids of terrestrial and elemental creatures. Seems likely 3e was influenced by ideas like this. Unsurprisingly, the rules are rather more complex and table heavy than D&D, with their distinct approach to horrible ironic deaths fully present. Good luck playing one character long enough to get those awesome 50th level spells.

The complete wizards handbook gets a fairly positive review. The new crunch is great, just what the doctor ordered. The roleplaying advice is less praised, with ken finding it a bit wishy-washy, and some bits feel like filler to pad out the page count. No great disagreements with you there. It's the crunch we remember and keep coming back too, because it's the stuff our characters are actually using again and again.

Aysle is a worldbook for TORG, and it's associated magic system. The high fantasy genre region, it's a torus shaped world which has it's day/night cycle controlled by the sun bobbing up and down in the middle. This makes mapping pretty interesting. Everyone has at least basic spellcasting capabilities, which their economy revolves around. There is objective good and evil, and big chunks of advanced tech don't work. As with all the other realities in TORG, it's got people from it who are trying to take over the world, and impose their axioms of reality on ours, which makes for extra fun culture clashes. This makes for a great backdrop for spectacular plane spanning battles, but the worldbuilding rarely goes beyond that backdrop level. If you want to tone down the cinematicness and delve into the logical ramifications of their magic system on the development of societies there, you'll have to do it yourself.

Dark Conspiracy. More modern day horror gaming coming out at around the same time as the WoD and Chill. Must have been something in the water.

In harms way - at home!: A second superheroic article this month presents a rather interesting idea. Danger Rooms. A place where you can hone your skills against the most inventive traps and hazards your buds can come up with, with little danger of permanent death. Not an uncommon idea in the superheroic realm, and martial arts and fantasy stuff are also known to feature them, so it's a pretty widely applicable idea. This is one that will take a bit of design effort, but you can have tons of fun with it, involving the whole party in it's construction and testing. The way this article encourages you to do it is to have each tile on the floor with a separate hazard, which does look like it'll take quite a bit of work thinking up ideas (or stealing them from the comics. ) Fortunately, there are some random generation tables here, which should help you with the filler. So this is a very useful article if you're playing FASERIP, and mildly so if you aren't. Not a bad result, really.


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

part 5/6

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Ed Greenwood turns his mind to ends more useful than last month, with another collection of quirky magical items. Back in issue 74 he gave us seven swords, now he gives us a dozen daggers. (so what we need are nine clubs with nails in, eight bohemian ear spoons, six spears a-stabbing, FIVE FAUCHARD-FORKS! Four flails lashing, three tridents twirling, and possibly a partridge in a pear tree. Can you guess when I wrote this bit :p) Since these collections from him are generally pretty good, I'm quite optimistic about this. Let's see what cool tricks he's come up with this time.

Blades of banishing dispel wards by cutting through them. Just the thing for a fighter who distrusts most magic and doesn't have a wizard on the team.

Chill Blades not only hurt, they make you frostbitten and appropriately clumsy. This'll make fighting enemies with tons of hit points and big damage outputs a lot easier, as you can really wear them down.

Dagger of defiance make it near impossible to get rid of you magically. Another good antiscrewage one for a fighter expecting trouble.

Daggers of doomwarding give you a second chance in a pinch. Another thing that could be just what the doctor ordered. After all, what price your life in a world where save or die effects aren't uncommon.

Dragonfangs let you shoot (not very impressive) lightning bolts and kill dragons more easily. These ones are probably more appropriate for wizards who'd like an extra blasty effect for if they run out.

Fang Daggers have snakes heads and are poisonous. They're still not as nasty as most save-or-die monsters, but certainly not terrible. Once again we're seeing that new powers and creatures introduced here are actually frequently less terrifying than the old ones.

Grimwald's Dagger is another sadistic creation from the mage who brought you the healing screwing greymantle. (see issue 92) It makes horrible noises and causes you to suffer from uncontrollable laughter. I think we're definitely getting a good idea of his personality and approach to combat.

Invisible blades are pretty self explanatory. They're completely silent too. Just the thing for an assassin. Watch you don't cut yourself trying to find it again.

Jump Daggers let you go all wuxia, adding an awesome cinematic edge to your combat. They have another special use that's even cooler, and would never be allowed in later editions. Someone taking proper advantage of this would be very good at winning fights without anyone getting hurt.

Rust blades are made from rust monster antennae, and their special effect should be pretty obvious. Now anyone can screw you over and ruin all your stuff in combat. Muahahahaha!!!!!!

Speaking Daggers allow you to incorporate the worst aspects of mobile phones into your combat, repeating a prerecorded message every time they hit something. They can be both incredibly irritating, and used inventively as a secret way to deliver messages. Just the thing to give a villain with a fondness for Xanatos Gambits. Deedoloo dedoloo deduldumdedee. Genius.

Spider fangs let you generate webs, and pass through other people's. Another one that's good for dealing with people without directly fighting them.

So this is a fun collection, full of items that aren't generally obscenely powerful (People obviously prefer their unique named weapons a bit bigger and more impressive looking), but strongly useful, and which reward clever thinking and encourage playful action scenes. Looks like he's very much back on form.

Forum is interestingly multicultural this month.
Scott A Steinmetz talks about his convention experiences, and gives some advice on picking con games to join in on. Generally, the more choice, the better your chance of finding something you like, so big conventions have an edge. Don't be afraid to haggle, it's direct dealing, not a shop. And remember, it's not actually that hard to get involved as a GM or other volunteer either. The harder you go for it, the more fun you're likely to have.

Fabio Luis De Paoli speaks out in favour of letting evil characters indulge the full range of villainy if you allow them in your game. Otherwise it's just a bit wishy-washy. People need to remember it's only a game, and doing vile things to each other within it shouldn't spoil RL friendships.

Dan Howarth rebutts Toby Myers on the computer debate thing. They seem to be talking past one-another. Perils of written communication.

Kristian Teglbjaerg encourages you to build your character as an individual, with a proper backstory and such, rather than just part of a party to fill a role. Solo play can be a fun way of getting to really know your character. Ahh yes, another thing that has risen and then fallen again in D&D land, with 4e in particular encouraging you to build and play your characters as a team.


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

part 6/6

Sage advice is back to 2 1/2 pages. Nice to see Skip benefiting from the extra page count.

What climates is Survival appropriate for (Any terrestrial ones. For underwater or extraplanar, you'll need something else)

Do you need to spend a slot to be literate (yes. Note that magical notation is not a part of standard writing, and comes free with class training. Wizards can still be generally illiterate.)

How much does a kayak cost. Do you need a proficiency to use it (Hee. You said Kayak. Hyuk hyuk Ryuk ZOMG death note people! )

Do you need a skill for everything? You don't get enough slots! ( Yeah, these rules don't hold up without a decent degree of fiat and common sense to keep them lubricated. This is a strength, not a weakness! Anyone who says otherwise is a filthy rules lawyer, more interested in breaking the game than making it work! We don't want your kind around here. )

Can I backstab and apply specialization bonuses. (No. You can't combine abilities from different classes in the same action. It's one or the other. You aren't some filthy 0 level piecemeal character. You're a proud follower in the line of an archetypical skill set and you ought to act like it! )

Can you stack mirror image spells (sure, as long as they're additive, not multiplacative, why not. )

I still have questions about magic jar ( We shall have to do something about that spell. Whatever Skip says, it never seems to satisfy them. Why are they so damn attached to their souls and interested in what happens to them if you do various stuff anyway? )

How do you use flame arrow (All at once, with great brutality. But really, did you ever take this in place of the standard fireball? )

What happens to submerged creatures when you cast mud to rock ( Trappage. You'd better scramble fast, try and get out while it solidifies)

Do walls of iron fall over ( Quite easily, apparently. You may want to look at a more eco (and by eco we mean people, for being crushed to death is a very definite environmental hazard) friendly building option. )

Are undead, constructs and other technically nonalive monsters affected by polymorphing (yes, unless their descriptions say otherwise)

Do bags of holding generate air when closed (nope. It'll get stuffy soon if you try hiding there. )

Why do potions of heroism only work on warriors and 0 level characters (because otherwise they'd be multi-classed, and the calculations would be too bloody complicated. )

What are ranger's prime requisites ( Rather a lot. You ain't getting that XP bonus on method I matey)

How do | do ability checks for monsters (don't. Just roll a die and apply common sense. )

How high is a wall of sand (Ridiculously, skyscrapingly high. Um. Has Skip got the length and height mixed up? )

Doesn't 12+12=24 (only when there's nothing else in the equation. Pay attention. )

Dragonmirth offers an interesting solution to D&D economic problems. Yamara has to try and keep her husband under control, and not the other way around. Twilight empire finds an excuse to get the male characters in /skirts/ Kilts. :D

Through the looking glass: Like Ken before him, Robert opens up his reviewing techniques to us, for the sake of transparency and dealing with attempts at corruption. It's a small community, and it's amazing how petty people can be. Still, this shows it's easier to judge minis for objective technical quality and usefulness than it is books, where the value is in the ideas more than it is the object. A model either has flash lines and indistinct details or it doesn't. (although I know that you can get bad batches of a decent figure, just as I've sometimes got books with chunks of pages duplicated or upside down.) And if assembly is required, everyone appreciates instructions that don't look like they were translated from japanese to english by someone from india. Basically, the whole thing reads like a big "back off, buster!" to whichever company was trying to corrupt him into giving them higher marks, pointing out that no amount of bluster will change the fact that their minis have a certain degree of shoddy construction, and the rest of the magazine will back him up on this stance. Which is pretty cool, really. Anyone know which company that actually was? We certainly don't see this stuff in the magazine the way we did in the 70's.

After all that drama, the minis reviews are a bit of a letdown really. A bunch of battleships celebrating the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Bismark. It had a lifespan greater than the Titanic, but it too went down without really fulfilling it's potential. (which is probably a good thing in this case. ) Now you can get models of the various participants in these battles and reenact them. A wizard, an elf knight, and a bunch of cyberpunk samurai return us to fantasy terrains, with barbarians and dwarves providing the muscle for a fairly complete party. Business as usual, with everything getting between 4 and 5 stars. Can't see any companies complaining about that, ironically.

Another issue with quite a bit of stuff that's fun, quite a bit of stuff that's useful, and several things that are thought-provoking too. The tension and controversy that marked last year's output seems to be diminishing again, or at least becoming more manageable for them, which leaves them free to actually produce stuff that we both can and want to apply practically. The result is certainly quite nice for me, even if the themed sections are still very hit and miss. If they keep this showing up, their 15th birthday is going to be a good one. I hope they've got some nice presents for this big number.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 1/6

124 pages. Hel-lo funky fifteen!!! How DO you feel?! Looks like they feel pretty good about themselves actually. A spectacular battle of good vs evil on the cover, a ribbon proclaiming it's their 15th anniversary, and that there's a game inside. It might not be quite as big a number as 5, 10, 20, or 25, but they seem to be making just as much effort. Get ready for power, finesse, and possibly barrel-scraping if we're unlucky. On your marks, get set, LET'S UNWRAP THOSE PRESENTS!

In this issue:

Letters: A letter from Allen Varney about the nonexistance of his game company. He's quite happy being a freelancer, although thank you very much whoever organised this prank, because it's given his profile a nice little boost. Do I smell the twisty hand of reverse psychology at work here?

A letter giving some more info about Dwight L. Moody. How very fascinating.

A letter pointing out that they reused a Dragonmirth gag in issues 149 and 165. It's a hard life, being an editor. If you don't spot the problem, your readership probably will.

Another letter pointing a whole bunch of interesting things about the history of D&D and the magazine. Like Roger has said before, independent invention happens, and the game is big enough that it's near impossible for one mortal to keep track of it.

Another letter from someone craving some sweet AD&D style intarweb gaming on their mac. Roger is only mildly helpful this time. It's still an unstable realm out there, plus there are copyright issues to consider. We can't go giving publicity to unlicenced games, even if they aren't for profit.

Editorial: Another 5 years have passed since they gave the magazine it's last big shake-up, and only slightly less since Roger became chief editor. This means that once again, it's time to look around, see what needs changing around to keep as much of the audience satisfied as possible. As with last time, it looks like a frustrating business, with the fanbase pulling in all directions. More AD&D stuff. More stuff for other games. More/less humour. More/less official rules and new crunch. And if you go all the way in the direction that has the majority, then you lose up to half your readership, and oh boy are you in trouble if that happens a few times on different axes. Plus the content of the magazine is still heavily influenced by what the freelancers send in. So once again, he's in a no-win situation, and has chosen to try and please all of the people enough of the time that they keep buying the magazine. Send in Stuff! The more you do, the greater the proportion of you we can reject, thus ensuring higher quality material in the magazine and greater choice of subjects! :p This all seems pretty familiar, although getting to find out Roger's personal preferences (many of which aren't surprising considering what he contributed in his writing days. ) is nice. Carry on as you are. That'll do you nicely for a good few years yet.

From hatchling to immortal guardian: Bruce Heard once again tries to push regular D&D to a more prominent place in the magazine singlehandedly. And in the process illustrates just how odd his ideas can be. It's not all anthropomorphic animals and direct rip-offs of real world cultures in the Known World. It's also cosmic beings who are intimately tied to the land and impact on the lives of everything there in blatant, large-scale ways that people don't realise the cause of, because we simply aren't conditioned to think in that way. So this creates a fairly complex life cycle and system for advancing through the size categories that looks like it'd be an almightily headache to play through, and which probably won't integrate with the known world's existing history. It all seems like the kind of stuff that'd be rather tricky to use in actual play, unless you were actually playing the dragons as PC's. Aside from the dragon souls and pocket dragons, which are adaptable to other ends, this does feel like a bit of a white elephant, pretty, detailed, lovingly crafted and not very useful to me. :sigh:


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 2/6

Crossing dragons with everything: Now this, on the other hand is easily recognisable as part of a long thread that gradually got a larger part in D&D as the years went by. They haven't got to the point where draconic hybrids become playable, or templates let you combine them with anything with minimal effort, but it's only a few years away. Greg Detwiler does his part to advance the idea here, with some rough guidelines and sample creations.

Mantidrakes look curiously similar to Arcanine from Pokemon, but let's not hold that against them. Since they can fly (clumsily) and have two quite effective ranged attacks, they can be pretty effective against unprepared adventurers. Strafing is one of those combat manoeuvres I don't remember seeing used that much in comparison to it's appearances in films.

Dracimera take an already draconic creature, and make it all the weirder, with two heads up front, and one where the tail should be. This means they get a lot of attacks all round with widely varying damages, and it's rather hard to backstab them. Should also make for an interesting fight.

Wyvern Drakes are also not very surprising, since wyverns are relations of dragons anyway. Once again, they give you the chance to combine the iconic breath weapon and immunities with the tactics of a somewhat weaker creature, so you don't have to deal with the vast array of mental and magical powers full dragons have, just a tough straight-up fight with flight, instadeath poison and almost as lethal breath weapons. Seems like that's a very definite axis of conflict amongst writers. The big smashy lizard vs cosmically connected wise creature of the ages battle is a tricky one, and in a game like D&D you need to cater to both ends.
On the whole this is another vaguely unsatisfying article, as the sample monsters aren't hugely interesting, and it lacks the rigour of later attempts at this.

The dragon's bestiary: We've certainly had no shortage of new dragon species over the years. But for their 15th anniversary they try something a little more ambitious, setting up a new draconic family in an attempt to get them into common use like the Gem Dragons. So say hello to the Ferrous Dragons. Now, there are actually only 3 naturally magnetic metals, but that doesn't stop them from stealing from the rest of the transition metals to make up the full 5. So this does seem like slightly shaky ground, especially as they don't have a particular theme binding them together like alignment or the celestial bureaucracy. Still, they've pulled together things with even less of a foundation before, so let's test this pudding the hard way.

Nickel dragons have a pretty critical typo in their statblock that means while they're intended to be the weakest, they're actually the toughest. Dear oh dear. That aside, like white dragons, they fill a dim but mobile niche, able to breathe underwater, swim, fly and assume gaseous form. They'll surprise you, pounce on you, and gobble you up.

Tungsten dragons are the nice guys of this extended family, complete with the lack of initiative that means they don't accomplish a huge amount in the wider world. They're also prone to being a bit intolerant. Seems a bit Pooterish, if he could make you spontaneously combust by glaring disapprovingly.

Cobalt dragons are as colourful and toxic as their namesake, with powers that encourage trickery and striking from a distance using the terrain to their advantage. They're a good rival for green dragons, in another example of evil not being even slightly monolithic.

Chromium dragons are also pretty nasty, their cruelty matching their shininess and capacity for complex chemical reactions. Their control over ice makes them another one very able to exploit their natural terrain to their advantage. Like all the previous ones, they have a natural rival, in this case silver dragons. Seems like the writer is setting these up for interesting conflicts.

Iron dragons are the bosses, of course. As neutrals, they can be friend or foe to your party, and as shapeshifters, they can get all over the place. They seem quite friendly to humans as a whole, which means one could serve as a mentor or employer to the party. They also get lots of rock controlling powers, curiously enough. Seems like all the ferrous dragons will have better designed lairs than the average dragon.

Gruaghlothor is their onomatopoeicly named ruler. He's a good deal more badass than Sardior was, keeping up with the 2nd ed upgrade, but not godly like bahamut and tiamat. This means he's a beatable adversary for high level parties if you can avoid being splatted by his breath weapon. He maintains their fairly solid set of design principles, with attention to lairs and rivalries paid. This has definitely been an article I've warmed too along the way, and looks like it could make a decent addition to a game, especially if you have lots of dragon NPC's that aren't immediately for the killing.


Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
They revised the ferrous dragons in one of the last print issues. My players deeply disliked that.

Gauging solely by the number of cheetos that came my way after the iron dragon strafed them.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 3/6

We get our first teaser for dark sun, although it doesn't reveal it's name. But the imagery is familiar enough. Great place to adventure in, but you wouldn't want to live there.

Forum: Joey Kostura talks some more about various anime, concentrating on ones that are easily adaptable to gaming such as Megazone and Bubblegum Crisis. They do seem to be in the gradual word of mouth stage still, but every appearance like this gets the snowball rolling a little faster.

Paul Astle shows us how to ruin the life of a character who's become too powerful, and constantly shows off that power. Having to fight at the drop of a hat whenever some punk thinks he can challenge you gets rather tiresome, and you can't stay in full battle gear all the time. Sooner or later they're going to slip, unless they're just purely focussed killing machines. But then, some PC's are.

Duane VanderPol also replies to Robert Rogers' letter with some more technical suggestions about how to nerf powered armour in the Star Wars RPG. All the fiddly costs and rolls and forms, it's enough to drive you mad and make you give up. At least, that's the hope.

S. D. Anderson gives us a third set of tools to deal with overpowered power armour. If all else fails, make them fight a radioactive opponent. Then even if they win, they HAVE to dump the armour or slowly die from radiation poisoning. Man, people are mean.

Ben Ehrets has yet another suggestion. Corrosives. Rust monsters aren't just for D&D, they're for life. Actually, they'd fit right in in the Mos Eisley cantina, wouldn't they.

Michael R Federow brings in the arms race idea. You get more powerful, your enemies should get more powerful at approximately the same rate. Now that's just common sense. We can't be having with that here.

Dave Ewing completes the star wars depowering by telling the GM to tailor adventures to his PC's weak points. After all this, if Mr Rogers can't solve his problems, then he's obviously not very bright. Funny to think that this topic has made the forum the least D&D-centric it's ever been. Even the satanic controversy never managed that.

The voyage of the princess ark: The Ark moves westward along the coast, and reaches the divinarchy of Yavdlom. Bruce is increasingly giving us stories from many different points of view, as the various characters split up and do their own thing. This of course allows them to get in trouble that they could easily have handled if they stuck together, but we have to challenge them somehow. Haldemar gets paralyzed and tied up again, and is framed for the murder of the great prophet. Fortunately, the fact that most of the clerics there have prophetic powers means this doesn't stick, and he gets rescued and released pretty soon. I think a little vengeance is in order. After all, they can't sit around waiting for their enemies to strike next. They're not the kind of people who fatalistically accept whatever their destiny is going to be.

This month's crunch is more stuff on Yavdlom, and how it is governed. They read the destiny of people, and give them an importance commensurate with the amount of important stuff they are going to do in their life. Which may produce recursive results, as by giving them that power, they make them more able to fulfil that destiny. Still, it's a perfectly reasonable idea in a world where magic is common, and it does get around the problem of indolent hereditary nobles. It does run into problems where PC's are involved, which is where the typical cryptic non-interference clause comes in. Still, it's nice to see more experiments with strange forms of government. That's one thing that fantasy is very good for, that also has potential for useful applications in reality.

Fiction: a wing of wyverns by M C Sumner. Bringing D&D monsters and modern technology together is another thing that can be done in many ways. Here, it's used to tell an eco-parable about endangered species and the havoc that we unintentionally wreak on the environment. Somehow it's harder to stay concerned about the welfare of creatures that are able to eat you up with ease, even if they are rare and valuable. Even people who agree in principle with the idea that every species is sacred are likely to say "Not in my back yard" to a family of hungry little dragons. And both the PETA girl and the hard-nosed pragmatist in this story wind up coming to understand the other's viewpoint a little more. It's all a little moral of the dayish. And I'm not very keen on those, so on reflection, it's thumbs down time, despite there being several cool elements in it.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 4/6

Chill once again beats white wolf to the punch with a lycanthropes sourcebook. Still, it's not who gets there first that really counts, it's who gets there best.

The role of computers: King's Quest V demonstrates that it's about time computers moved to CD's as their primary game distribution method, as putting a 12 mb game over 10 floppy disks sounds rather like torture to me, from both a coder and loader PoV. Still, all this data is reflected in the visuals, which do look pretty good for their time. Seems like a fairly standard point and click adventure game, in hindsight. Computer games have many more joys to show us in the future, as they grow ever more sophisticated.

Rise of the Dragon is another adventure game, this time a cyberpunk one where you play a hard-bitten PI who was kicked off the force for being a loose cannon. With action, talky bits, and movie-esque narrative devices, it appeals to them, and gets 5 stars.

Space: 1889 sees another RPG property converted to computer game form. It's certainly not just D&D that's jumping on that bandwagon. The sound is a bit crap, but the storyline isn't bad. The big problem is telling all the NPC's apart, which does slow down investigations quite a bit. So be prepared for frustrating situations where you have everything but one piece of the puzzle, and have to grind for that.

Dragon kings: Nothing to do with dark sun, I'm afraid. Still, another boardgame as the magazine's centrepiece rarely goes amiss, especially since it's both a C. C. Stoll one and in theme with the issue. Unfortunately, as with the last one, they forget to include the board in the scanning, making it once again useless to me. Seems like whoever scanned the archive is becoming less and less meticulous about peripherals and proper indexing and searchability as they go on. Which is understandable since they had to do 257 of them and the later issues are a lot bigger, but still damn annoying from a reader viewpoint. All the more so when the rules seem pretty good, giving you a decent terrain for up to 4 clans of dragons to have a real battle royale, sustaining and recovering from horrible wounds. If anyone still has this lying around in their collection, I'd strongly appreciate being able to get my hands on a scan of the board & pieces. Until then, I leave this case open.

TSR Previews: The Forgotten Realms sees Ed doing a little rehash, a little new material in Drow of the Underdark. Browsing my copy of this is a very different experience now I see just how much of this stuff appeared in bits in this magazine, some of it a good decade ago now. We also see the start of this year's trilogy. Last year, they did mongols. This time it's off to Anauroch for some desert nomady fun in The Parched Sea, part one of the harpers trilogy. Troy Denning continues to produce both game and novel material prolifically.

Spelljammer is also mixing the two sides of publishing. Nigel Findley creates SJR4: Practical planetology. Lots of ideas on how to create your own world. Sounds fairly invaluable, if something like an extended version of an article here. It also gets it's first novel. Beyond the moons, part 1 of the cloakmaster cycle by David Cook. As is often the case, a normal guy from a normal planet (well, Krynn :p) is thrown into very weird situations. Just the way to sucker new people in.

Lankhmar is still getting a decent amount of attention as well. LNR2: Tales of Lankhmar has 7 more mini-adventures. Seems that's their preferred format for this world, paralleling the original short stories.

And finally, D&D gets a new introductory module for those who recently picked up the new basic set to grab. DDA3: Eye of Traladar. Just how easy and dumbed down will this one be?

The marvel-phile: They're Baaaaaaack. Not that surprising really, in a comic universe. The grim reaper has probably fitted a revolving door where heaven's gates used to be. Still, they don't always escape unscathed. Cameron Hodge, for example, has gone from a normal person with some unsavoury beliefs to an indestructible insane disembodied head with a cyborg body. (who is likely to be even more insane next time, after his method of ambulation was destroyed again, and he got buried. ) Speaking of the Grim Reaper, the Marvel version of him is back, stronger than ever, courtesy of Nekra, and equally reduced in sanity. Well, villains don't get buds offering up inspirational speeches to snap them out of their traumas. A good reminder that while comics may get a lot of flak for their frequent use of the reset button, there are some changes that stick, and these are generally the cool ones. Getting rid of the ones that prove unpopular is probably good for their long-term commercial survival. It's also a good demonstration how comic book changes are rarely as linear as character advancement in RPG's, with some substantial respecing taking place, and powers as often gained as lost. Seems like they've got lots of interesting stuff to report on for a while.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 5/6

Stand up and be counted!: Or here's your opportunity to vote for this year's Gamers Choice awards. Act fast, for you have less than a month to get them in. Interestingly, they're purely write-in, rather than having a shortlist of nominees and letting you tick boxes. That should produce interesting results, if probably skewed heavily towards TSR stuff. I wonder if they'll post them up in here afterwards. We'll see in a few months time.

Role-playing reviews: Off to revisit Ars Magica this month. Another game that's been selling quite nicely and building up the supplements over the last couple of years. And they are still trying to give the rest of the hobby at least basic attention. Ken certainly seems rather fond of it, so this should provide a decent bit of exposition and promotion for me.

The order of hermes provides lots of background expansion for the 13 houses. It also introduces the concept of Twilight, which we'll be seeing again in another RPG about wizards by White Wolf. They're a bunch of morally ambiguous power hungry bastards who are always scheming and betraying each other for personal benefit, which also seems very familiar now, but is a refreshing change to Ken after years of games which have the PC's presented as heroic even if they aren't particularly in practice. No more heroes anymore. Seems like everyone's singing that tune lately.

The Tempest is an adventure path for the game that may or may not draw upon the shakespeare play of the same name. It's low on maps, random encounters, and all that solid stuff, and high on plot, NPC characterisations, little clues that pay off down the line, and the kind of adventure arcs that are tricky to pull off without at least a little railroading. Good luck.

Covenants of course is useful for both players and DM's. You want to put together a team that's more than just a bunch of disparate power-seekers, this does the job, giving both mechanical assistance, advice and examples. The strength of the fiction is praised, which is no surprise. They know what they want to encourage in their players and are putting in the effort to make it so. Once again plenty of elements that will become incredibly popular in the WoD are already present and invoking nostalgia.

The Saga pack is the least interesting of the bunch, basically being just a GM's screen and a bunch of pregen Grog stats for those of you who chew through them like 1st level characters in the tomb of horrors. One for completists mainly.

The pitfalls of game mastering: Ahh, another of these. Just the thing for anyone who's just started picking up the magazine. A point by point guide to what NOT to do when DM'ing. Which in a way is easier to figure out and implement than what TO do. Let's run through the list. Neither too generous or too stingy with the challenges and rewards be. Cut the cliches. What's my motivation, maaan? Let the player's choices be meaningful (this gets reiterated in a whole bunch of ways, discouraging railroading, deus ex machinas, cheating, and taking it for granted that they'll make a particular choice. Keep the world consistent and developing, not just some static backdrop for the players. (again, covered from a whole bunch of different angles, including reminding you not to make your NPC's know everything you do, give enough detail for the players to work from, and the players valid choices.) Don't allow the players to metagame, and keep the 4th wall fairly solid in general. IC Goofy humour is also a game killer. Learn the rules, but don't let them rule you. Don't play favourites among your players. Just because you're god of the game, does not mean you can lord it over the players IRL. About 2/3rds of these are mistakes I never even considered making, right from when I started playing. Still, the others are, and if I'd started reading the magazine an issue earlier, then my first few years of gaming might have been somewhat different. So it is a fairly valuable contribution, that's written in a way that makes it's advice easier to follow. (although I still often struggle to find the time and inspiration to do enough worldbuilding, even if I don't make the other mistakes any more) I can't hate on this one, even if much of it is rehashed.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 170: June 1991

part 6/6

Sage advice is really short again.
Can you stay in a maze spell longer than you have too. Can I abuse it in other ways ( Probably not. That would be too much hassle for us. )

Can innate shapechanging powers be dispelled (as long as you ain't in a true form)

Will anti-magic shell counter magic resistance (Ok, Skip has completely flipped from the pressure. Why would being resistant to magic prevent you from going inside something else that's resistant to magic. Two nos do not make a yes in this matter. )

What affects the calculation of the damage a fire shield inflicts (Nowt but the actual damage they do to you. Simple as that. )

Why can't globes of invulnerability move with the caster ( Because we say they can't. Nuh uh. We make the rules. You can't break them, or we'll take our toys and go home. )

Can you disrupt innate spell-like abilities ( no)

Can you attract an air envelope while on a planet (Oh, god, emergent physics strikes again. D&D is getting less and less realistic. Best say no for sanities sake. Oh, wait! Flurble Gibber flurble. How'd ya like some of that jello crate, mofo? )

Novel ideas: This month, they do for the forgotten realms what they did for Dragonlance a couple of months ago. The Maztica and Dark elf trilogies are drawing to a close, and in their place comes a new focus upon the Harpers, who are getting an extended ongoing novel series spanning the whole of the Realms. Troy Denning, Elaine Cunningham and Jean Rabe contribute the first three instalments. Meanwhile, R. A. Salvadore is taking a break from writing about Drizzt to produce the Cleric Quintet. One big difference between Krynn and Toril is that not everything ties together into one big story. It's a bigger world, with more loose threads winding all over the place and snarling up on things. Exactly why that proves more popular in the long run I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with greater variety of stories allowing it to appeal to a wider demographic. Or maybe it's due to better writers. In any case, lots of people are busily colouring in Ed's sketches. It's a good time for them. And this bit of promotion helps ensure that continues to be the case.

Dragonmirth has more knight-eating jokes. They're getting a bit stale, really. Yamara uses up another wish. Much courtly intrigue is had in twilight empire.

Through the looking glass: Baby dragons! So kyoot! Don't you just want to take one home and turn it into your familiar? The creators of this month's first mini have done their job well. The rest of this column is devoted to draconic figures as well. Which I'm vaguely surprised they've never done before, but this column wasn't around for their 10th birthday, was it. So here's 9 more figures for you to fight with, or simply put on display. (well, dragon fights aren't that common in most games.) Two of them have a riders, one has a master, and one is fighting an angel. Two of them are from Julie Guthrie, who it seems has gone from winning awards to actually making a living at this stuff. One of them has a lot of heads. All get marks between 4 and 5 stars, showing that he's either cherry picking the good ones for the celebrations, or deliberately being over-gentle with his reviews again. Come on, give us some good slatings, something we can get worked up about. You call yourself a reviewer?

Yet another mixed bag, with both stuff that I like, and stuff that I'm not very keen on. Since there's slightly less useful stuff than dull stuff & promotion, it's probably another solid 5/10er. If the scanners had remembered the board, it might be a 6. Course, it's the next issue I'm really interested in. I haven't looked at it since I started this thread. How will it stand up to my new viewpoint? Will nostalgia influence my opinions. Guess we'll see tomorrow. Don't touch that dial folks.
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