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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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Cycle Fish Messenger Boy
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Seems like the reviewer didn't understand the product very well, and likely never actually used it to help create an adventure, which was the entire point. Yes, there are forms, but they are to help you organize your notes and ideas. There are also a lot of random generation tables for plot points and what not, all of the "use them if you want to, ignore them if you don't" variety.
I'll agree. This supplement is one of my all-time favorites. I kept a copy handy when I was working at Interplay and showed it off to new designers.


Social Justice Ninja
Validated User
Seems like the reviewer didn't understand the product very well, and likely never actually used it to help create an adventure, which was the entire point. Yes, there are forms, but they are to help you organize your notes and ideas. There are also a lot of random generation tables for plot points and what not, all of the "use them if you want to, ignore them if you don't" variety.
I'll agree. This supplement is one of my all-time favorites. I kept a copy handy when I was working at Interplay and showed it off to new designers.
Indeed. Aaron Allston is a great author, and looking back, the DM Design Kit transformed my GMing style. At the time, introducing moral quandries and facing PCs with conundrums like 2 NPCs that didn't get along... those just weren't things I thought of at the time.

Perhaps most importantly, the random tables were full of great adventure elements and seeds. I didn't always roll, bit they did encourage me to mix things up, and gave me some good fodder to do so with.

Honestly, I never really used the forms. But if you look at some of my old gaming notebooks, you'll see lists like (actual handwritten list from a notebook I just grabbed):


Thwart Monstrous Plan
Retrieve Item

Cosmopolitan City
On the Sea

...Legendary Forest
...Lost City

Allies & Neutrals:
...Ingenue in Distress
...Hero Worshipper
...Villain Ally

Villain: The Corruptor

...The Inquisitor
...Single Minded Soldier

...ABC Quest

Climax: Prevented deed

Monster Encounter:
...Nocturnal Predator
...King Beast

Char Encounter: Seducer

Traps/Death Traps: Colleseum

Time Limit
Lying Rumors: Weretigers
Respect Quandry

That's some good grist, there. :cool:
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Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991

part 1/6

124 pages. A surprisingly non cheesecaky cover from Clyde Caldwell this time. Goes to show, doesn't it, you spend years fantasising about and drawing unrealistic looking and dressing women, but still settle for a perfectly normal one in real life. And even when you draw her, you still wind up showing substantially less skin than usual. Not that this is some great triumph of feminism. There's still plenty more ludicrous cheesecake covers to come. Also plenty more rehash too, as they make the underdark their theme for the third time. (see issues 131 & 152) Will we discover something new on this trip downstairs. It is a big place, after all. There should be some more nooks and crannies to scrape out of this barrel.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter saying they need more basic D&D articles. They've agreed with that for ages. WHY AREN'T YOU SENDING THEM IN!!! Poor Bruce is being driven to exhaustion trying to cover this stuff largely unaided.

A letter asking if they've heard of the SCA. Sure. They've heard of them since back in 1979. Course, they don't talk about them much, because for some reason, TSR doesn't do any LARP games, and isn't that keen on covering other people's either. What is with that.

An apology from a convention that got abruptly cancelled. Nasty business, very frustrating for all concerned. This is another area that the internet has helped substantially, as it allows you to easily send messages that'll get to all your clientele straight away at minimal cost. Course, you're still losing tons of money from their loss of custom, but that can't be helped, and they're more likely to come back if you do apologise promptly and with good grace.

Editorial: Oh god. Robin hood, prince of thieves. (everything I do) I'd forgotten that was released around this time. And then stayed at number 1 for, like, evar. I will always love you, love is all around, my heart will go on, spaceman. God, the 90's had some sucky music become huge due to tie-ins. But anyway, this is Dale once again demonstrating how players will not play along with ideas that work in the movies, partly because they are not stupid and genre blind, and partly because the rules frequently encourage and reward behaviour that is at odds with narrative convention. So do not railroad your players, or create scenes that don't work unless they take a specific course of action, for this will result in annoyance for both you and them. Even most of the licensed RPG's don't really encourage play that fits the source on a mechanical level. (MERP, I'm looking at you) And making rules that don't just define the physics of the game universe, but also the dramatic conventions hasn't become a generally known and accepted idea. Many even actively discourage playing like the movies by giving you characters dramatically weaker than the stars and setting the difficulties appropriate to them, plus writing adventures that encourage a different mode of play (This time it's star wars d6 and it's Traveller lite tendencies that'll get a good glaring) So don't try and jam a square peg in a round hole. There's lots of new players that make that mistake, and some have even gone on to become game designers. Quite valuable advice, really.

Seeing the sights in skullport: The Realms' fourth wall continues to be fairly porous, with Laeral making another visit to the TSR offices. Undermountain came out a few months ago, and it looks like they've got some leftover material again. If you want to spend extended amounts of time down there, you need a homebase, somewhere you can get food and don't have to kill everything on sight. Fortunately, since this is one of the biggest and most raided dungeon complexes on the planet, other people have already had the same idea, and set up Skullport, a classic example of a literal seedy underbelly to a city. If you want drugs, slaves, poisons, zombies, and enforced blind eye neutrality to any killing that may take place in the tunnels, this is very much the place to go. With a full map, plenty of interesting NPC's, and Ed's usual way with history and worldbuilding, this is another of his highly specific ideas that could nevertheless be stripped out and put into your campaign without too much trouble. Would you like to make a home around there? Not a good place to raise your kids, but at least rent is cheap. Watch out for the floating skulls the place gets it's name from, and other subtle dangers. Tons of fun to be had here, in other words.


RPGnet Member
Validated User
The cover of 172 is one of my favorites, actually. This is also roughly the point where I started buying Dragon. I may have an issue or two from before this, but this is an issue I actually remember - that editorial, for instance.


Making the Legend
Validated User
I'll agree. This supplement is one of my all-time favorites. I kept a copy handy when I was working at Interplay and showed it off to new designers.
I suspect the effect of working on several different products at once, and dashing these reviews off as fast as possible.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991

part 2/6

The dragon's bestiary: Biclops are two-headed Cyclops. A bit goofy, but that's what you get when cyclopses and ettins interbreed. They might not have depth perception problems, but neither of their parents are very smart, so they won't be developing missile weapons any time soon. They shouldn't be hard for tactically inclined players to deal with.

Averx, on the other hand, are another small trickery-prone humanoid. Only a lot tougher, smarter and more magically capable than Kobolds, mites or jermalaine. If played with the full intelligence their stats imply, they could easily humiliate name level adventurers and take their stuff. Muahaha, etc.

Cushion fungus are one of those things that demonstrate why it's a good idea to dungeon delve in large groups. Threats like this, which will only kill the party if everyone succumbs to their sweet velvety lure and goes to sleep in them have their danger reduced exponentially the more people there are around making saving throws, as you can rescue the others easily enough. Another decent enough bit of screwage.

The ecology of the Galeb duhr: Seems like dramatic stories are returning to this series. Also seems like for all dwarves connection to the earth, there are dozens of monsters even more linked with it, some to the point of dying if the link is broken. Such as the Galeb Duhr. Fortunately, as long as you don't mess up their landscape, you're unlikely to even know they're here, and if you're careful, you can co-exist with them. Another ecology that takes pains to point out that these guys work best if you use your head, with powers designed to make use of the environment, softening up and trapping the enemies rather than fighting them directly. It also includes a new spell to allow PC's to emulate one of the new abilities they're granted here. Which when all added together, makes this a well above average ecology. It's good to cover plenty of bases, and making it good for PC's, allies and enemies fits that bill.

Role-playing reviews: More superheroes stuff this month. Both Marvel and DC seem to be rolling out the supplements. This may or may not be a good thing. Let's see what Allen Varney thinks this month.

Marvel superheroes basic set revised gets a rather negative review, being less fun to read than the old edition, and also concentrating too much on fighting over storytelling. It's not a great help in creating stories that work like the comics, and the layout doesn't appeal to him either. Like the new D&D basic set, it doesn't look like this is going to be bringing in lots of new players. Ouch. He's not in a good mood today. This should be fun.

The uncanny x-men campaign set gets a dismissive few lines. It's nearly pure stats, hardly any characterisation info at all. Obviously only useful if you're already a comics buff.

As do the Justice league sourcebook, The new titans sourcebook and the Swamp thing sourcebook. Churned out formulaic drek! Virtually impossible to review! I've felt like that sometimes. No sugarcoating here. Not quite as entertaining as Spawn of Fashan, but this is one of the most vicious review sections ever done here. What's brought this on?

The watchman sourcebook, on the other hand gets a good result, as it tries to emulate the format of it's source material, with reasonable success. This obviously took more effort than a simple cut and paste job. Alan Moore would still probably not approve though.

Kingdom of champions shows he's deliberately saved the best until last. Phil Masters doesn't churn out licenced property crap, but a well thought out supplement about the UK for the HERO system. Full of both real detail and cool invented stuff, it goes well beyond the call of duty. And so another writer comes to the attention of many.

We also get some interesting mini-reviews. The Tome of Magic gets drooled over, with Allen accurately realising this is going to be a mainstay of many people's gaming for years to come.
Rick Swan's Complete guide to Roleplaying gets his awe for it's incredible comprehensiveness. Someone even more immersed in gaming than me? Gobsmacking! But can he keep up with all the new releases? ;) The challenge is on! Since Rick will also review for Dragon in the future, I find that very amusing.
And we also discover that OGRE was Allen's gateway drug into roleplaying. We are learning a surprising amount about him. Before we know it, he'll feel like another one of the family.

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991The dragon's bestiary: Biclops are two-headed Cyclops. A bit goofy, but that's what you get when cyclopses and ettins interbreed. They might not have depth perception problems, but neither of their parents are very smart, so they won't be developing missile weapons any time soon.
Bad vision + beer goggles = biclops.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991

part 3/6

TSR previews: Spelljammer reveals the details of the eponymous spaceship the setting is named after, the biggest and baddest vessel in the known spheres. A boxed set with over 200 pages of info, this is a pretty prize for anyone who can find it and master it.

The Forgotten Realms continues to show you how to have fun in Maztica, as the heroes venture into an active volcano. Better bring your asbestos undies.

Dragonlance continues to be mostly novels with the second book in the meetings sextet, Wanderlust. Tasslehoff first meets Flint and Tanis. Comedic misunderstanding ensue, as ever where Kender are involved.

Ravenloft also gets it's first novel, Vampire of the mists. A crossover with the Forgotten Realms, Jandar Sunstar is sucked in, and like everyone else there, suffers for our art. Muahahaha!!!!!

This month's generic AD&D products are the Skirmishsystem Mini's rules. For when the Battlesystem is too big and clunky. :p We also have the second batch of collectors cards. Look at the pictures and figure out where you've seen the artwork before. Neither really grabs me.

D&D goes back to the surface for the first time in quite a while, to cover GAZ14: Atruaghin clans. See the native american inspired cultures, kill them and take their stuff. Who said D&D wasn't realistic?. ;)

And finally, buck rogers gets gadgeteering, in the Technical Compendium. Tons of equipment and rules for computer AI's as PC's. Only if they can download themselves into giant mecha and go smash stuff thanks.

Fiction: the lay of Droone by William B Crump. How to face death in style, the dwarven way. Live your life well, build great things. Know and love your surroundings, and work carefully to shape them over the years. Tweak the noses of those intransigent eves, who don't take the quality of the things they surround themselves with so seriously. When danger comes calling, face it bravely, and use all the resources you've built up against it, and don't hesitate to sacrifice yourself if it means taking more of them down with you. I think this story definitely has some stuff you can draw on for your own characterisations, as well as making quite touching reading. Another positive and quite mature (in the good way) delivery from the fiction department.

The voyage of the princess ark: The story builds directly from the last issue, as Haldemar traces the source of the political unrest to Hule, which seems to be trying to manipulate it's way to power in all the savage coast states. How very suspicious. This time the boot is on the other foot, as Haldemar gets to knock out and tie up several of his enemies, and throw a wrench in the plans of the rest of them. Things might not be going all his way, but at least he's got some ideas of what to do. Much more interesting than seeing him get taken down like an idiot, despite his massive power, again.

This time we also get to see the true power of cinnibar. Less carefully balanced than it would later be in red steel, here the amount of power and risk you take on are very much up to you. (if you can afford it) You can gain over a dozen special powers and centuries of lifespan, albeit at the cost of your health, and possibly even your humanity. Fortunately for the rest of the world, contaminated people can't venture beyond the savage coast for long without losing all their powers, (while still suffering all the side-effects) allowing the rest of the known world to continue on their merry way, with the various countries keeping their own tech levels and milieus. This is rather interesting in the ramifications on the area. People of any class can have substantial amounts of spell-like abilities, which may or may not be well suited to their class, since they are determined randomly. This encourages inventiveness and cinematics. I highly enjoyed Red Steel, and it's good to see the world leading up to it from a different perspective.

Also notable this month is that Bruce starts to teaser us about the wrath of the immortals boxed set. Some people think mystara has become stale, and it's time for a big metaplot event that changes a load of stuff around. Ooookay. If you say so. How will this affect Haldemar & co. More being tossed around by fate like ragdolls? I guess we'll probably find out soon enough.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991

part 4/6

Forum: Andrew M Curtis finds the players want to kill every NPC, even the ones that are friendly and want to join the party. Sounds like you might need a little aversion therapy. If word gets out you have a tendency to kill your employers and employees, you may find discovering more adventures gets increasingly tricky. Perhaps a prison adventure would be fun.

Lyle Wiederman travels back in time from 2114 ( ;) ) and reveals that the same old gaming debates are still going on then. In particular, Kender and thieves are proving particularly intractable and irritating. The solution, as often seems to be the case, is fudge, and making sure you go beyond the RAW in the ways you manipulate the game situation.

Anjuan Simmons Points out that there are plenty of examples of nonevil thieves in literature. They have good reasons for what they do, and definitely aren't all backstabbing bastards who'll steal from their friends as well as their foes. PC's who play them like that are seriously missing the point.

Graham Ross also gives us reasons why thieves ought to work with others. A lone wolf will have no-one to train them or help pull complex heists, and is likely to be caught or die. They might not trust each other, but they have to learn to work together for maximum profit. And they certainly shouldn't admit they're thieves to potential marks. Utilise your brain.

Scott Wilbur thought he could have a PC and DM at the same time, but couldn't resist abusing his OOC knowledge. Now he doesn't do that anymore. Live and learn. I can't help feeling that it was probably the being caught that did it, not guilt.

Eric Durfee, on the other hand is still juggling godhood and characters with limited power and knowledge and having fun. It isn't impossible, by any stretch of the imagination.

Christian Stoudt has also reached a compromise on the PC/DM hybridisation front by temporarily passing his characters to other players while in the DM's seat. This of course requires a certain degree of trust amongst the team. But after he killed off his own character once to prove the point everyone else settled down. Remember, characters aren't hard to replace. Friends are.

Des Garrett is another person who's wrestled with the DMPC problem. Looks like this one's really hit a nerve with the readership, and is going to run and run like the sexism and satanic complaints. He has lot's of solutions to suggest though. Hopefully we should come to some kind of consensus eventually.

The role of computers: Darkspyre gets a surprisingly mediocre review for a leading product, seeming too generic, and also running too slowly on their computer. This is going to be a problem all through the 90's. Unless you have the disposable income to spend several thousand a year on upgrading, you're going to be out of date in no time.

Robosport does rather better, giving you a nice little game of competitive violence for one or two players. You can record your games, and replay them at various speeds, which does take up quite a bit of memory, but sounds cool. With turn by turn games, it can be tricky to get a real feel for the flow going.

Warlords also gets a good result. Fight up to 8 enemies for control of the kingdom. The old RISK scenario then, albeit with rather more complex rules. Raise your armies, secure supernatural assistance, and build up defences to protect your holdings. Strategilicious.

Shadow Dancer is the third in Sega's Shinobi series. You (and your little dog) engage in the usual ninja style awesomeness that builds on on the last two nicely. Rescue hostages, squash enemy ninja, I don't think I've actually played this one, but would be able to pick it up pretty quick.

Y's books I &II Show us what you can do with CD's as your loading medium. Animated cutscenes ahoy! Massive step ups in music quality! Soon, you'll be taking this for granted, just like all the previous advances.

Zombie Nation is another mediocre review to finish things off. Formulaic shoot-em-up. Not worth the time of anyone but addicts.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 172: August 1991

part 5/6

Into the spirit of things: A little runequest stuff this month. (featuring a recycling of that vampire pic from the expert set yet again, where it seems rather inappropriate. ) Although quite a few of them are necromantically focussed, actually. Feigning death, zombie creation, turning yourself in to an undead creature, possessing someone else's body, those all seem like pretty standard D&D conversions. But there are a few new ones, like erasing spells from others minds, synergistic spellcasting, selective invisibility, and permanent removal of ability scores. Actually seems like a pretty powerful set overall, and allowing them in your game will have significant consequences. Just the thing for a bit of hidden lore they'll want to spend a few sessions chase down. Possibly a bit twinky, but that's the risk you take with magazine articles. Nice to see the variety, as ever.

Shining Armor: Top Secret continues on directly from last issue. Last time, you got advice and weapons for fighting tanks. This time it's for playing as the crew of one. \m/ This is actually pretty tricky, as there is more to it than just rolling in and killing everything. Even something as big and obvious as a tank can be hidden, and there are lots of logistical issues to consider when owning one. Not to mention how unpleasant it actually is in one, and the limited visuals you have. I do hope that cameras and computers have reduced that issue quite a bit in the intervening decades. Anyway, enjoy the stats for 15 APCs, 24 full size tanks, 4 tank destroyers, and 4 other light armoured vehicles. Another dense little article, full of crunch, that doesn't hesitate to draw on supplements and previous magazine articles, this'll be damn useful to a few people, and a bit of a pain for everyone else. It is interesting to see them continuing to do very niche stuff like this, and I wonder what the current level of pressure is to drop it. Oh well, a good half a decade more to enjoy yet.

Completing the complete fighter: Kits! At bleedin' last! It's been two years since 2nd ed arrived, and only a couple months less since kits started rolling out in the supplements. You'd think they'd have published some before now. Still, better late than never, particularly when they're the class that most needs customising. Throw open the floodgates, come in, come in!

Assassins demonstrate their new commitment to equal opportunities killing for hire, with a fighter variant. (after all, thieves already have a kit in their splatbook. ) Unsurprisingly, they get moderate stealth and backstabbing abilities, with their only drawback being the illegality of their profession. (which in some places isn't a drawback at all) So they're pretty par with swashbucklers for twinkiness, likely to lead an entertaining life and outshine your average fighter handily.

Nomads slot in perfectly to the recent Horde stuff. Extra badass at attacking from horseback, but slightly disadvantaged off it, they seem fairly balanced. No objections here.

Northmen are another one that gets solid benefits for merely social penalties. Still, two bonus nonweapon proficiencies are hardly game-breaking, are they. You really never do have enough of them, as I've said so many times.

So it's two fairly solid kits and one slightly overpowered one. Not a terrible haul. Looks like the magazine is finally getting into the groove of the 2nd edition. Still a long way to go before they overtake the number of 1st ed classes, but hopefully they'll get there. 9 more years to go, and kits do generally come in larger batches. Guess I'll have to keep going and count them up at the end.

Playing the crowd: Ooh. Social combat. Wasn't expecting that. Rules for getting the attention of a mob and bending them to your will. Very much a case of May the most Charismatic man Win, as you would expect, but facts also play a part. Having patsies in the crowd will definitely help, for the mob is stupid and fickle. Don't expect them to stick around and risk their lives if the going gets tough. And if you succeed, expect people to remember you and possibly spread distorted stories of your exploits. Woo. All seems pretty simple to implement, and has potential to give you considerable amounts of fun. This is one that may not be that big, but more than makes up for it in adventurousness. Two thumbs up.

Ashes to ashes? Looks like Vampire already has a supplement. Guess they got off the bat running as well. Was this a home run?
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