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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
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Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 1/6


124 pages. Oooooooooh. It's october again, gentle readers. Won't you come on in to my humble thread. :steeples fingers: Don't worry about the door slamming itself behind you, it's just a draft. Maybe I ought to get that looked at, before our bodies start to shiver. So, Dark Sun got a special last month, now it's Ravenloft's turn, with our regular horror theme now officially sponsored by Strahd von Zaroviches patent 2 in 1 fang polish & bloodstain remover. Good for clothes, carpets, curtains and coffins. Use after every meal to ensure you have no trouble getting your next one :teeth ting: But I digress. Roll the projector! We have articles to view! What mere mortal could resist that?


In this issue:


Letters: A letter from someone wanting to contact one of the other writers for the magazine. Roger does what he usually does, and agrees to forward any letters, assuming they're not bombs or acid.

A letter asking about shadow dragons. They're hardly the most obscure of monsters. You just need a few more supplements.

A couple of tedious corrections, suitably erratad.

An index to all the ecology articles they've done so far, just as they did with all the classes a year ago, along with a request to send more in, for they seem to have a bit of a shortage at the moment. They're still popular reading, but they can't satisfy demand without a supplier. Go on, guv, gi's a fix.


Editorial: Roger talks about the aftermath of convention season here, just as he has every october since he became head editor. As usual, it was exhausting but fun, with more stuff going on than any single mere mortal could take in. Rare and OOP stuff is sold, sometimes for silly prices. Shiny new stuff is unleashed upon us, sometimes for free. White wolf make their first big impact on the gaming industry. And for yet another year, it was bigger than ever. Just how long will he be able to boast that? The usual array of amusing little personal tidbits and historical pointers here.


Are you having bad thoughts?: Another entirely official bit of writing kicks us off this month. Ravenloft screws over a whole range of spells to keep you from solving your problems and getting out too easily. Did you think you could get around that issue by using psionics instead? Fool! They will not let you escape, and if you use powers that are tinged with darkness, you will feel the same corruptive effects. So here's a couple of pages spelling out both the general restrictions and specific changes to your powers if you venture into the demiplane of dread. This was reprinted practically verbatim in the revised edition of the core boxed set, so I can't really work up any enthusiasm about it, other than a mild surprise that this was another bit of writing that appeared in here before getting put in a book. Learn something new every day, I guess.


Sage advice is even smaller than ever this issue.

Can a wand of negation deal with spells and already existing magical effects (no, it's very specific in it's use. Only get it out if you know you'll need it for an adventure.)

Can you drape a portable hole over your back to protect from backstabbing (ow, mah brains. Better say no to this one, otherwise who knows where it'll end. Hmm, what excuse can skip give? Skip knows! Skip'll say that people are not objects. That'll keep em happy )

What happens if you hide inside a portable hole when an enemy casts reverse time. (inventive. If you remember to shut the opening, it might just work. )

Can you use a carpet of flying underwater (Slowly.)

Can gauntlets of dexterity raise your score over 18 (Probably)

I've been thinking about weapon sizes. (What a co-incidence, so is Skip. Maybe we should get together, plan a rules revision. Skip likes that idea very much. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 2/6


Out of the mists: Another collection of scary monsters, also with the official ravenloft seal of approval. Dr Van Richten may have catalogued these ones, but that certainly doesn't make them less dangerous. And just because they're from Ravenloft, doesn't mean you can't use them elsewhere as well. Let's face it, in actual modules, the demiplane of dread is considerably more porous than Athas. But anyway, let's see if they're any good.

Shadow asps are yet another magical way of guarding a tomb from any interlopers. Their poison slowly turns you into a Shadow as well, so although they're pretty weedy, they can become an escalating problem to a party. A swarm of these coming at a party will provoke a suitable degree of terror similar to swarms of spiders or centipedes IRL.

Fenhounds are actually good guys, in that they only savage people who've made powers checks. Course, since even good people can wind up making them, especially if they're also spellcasters, and they have no appeals court, a party may well find themselves having their own recurring baskerville situation to deal with.

Psionic liches are scary mofos, just like their wizardly counterparts, with the typical array of powers, and probably minions, long reaching plans, elaborate lairs, etc etc. They're one that would go on to official use and several appearances in supplements. As with regular liches, finding out where the hell their phylactery is is crucial, for revenge served cold is not very tasty actually.

Looks like this has been a pretty nice collection really, with stuff suitable for a wide range of situations, not just more boring straight-up fights. Do you want body horror or psychological stuff, little minions or big big bads, because both are provided for.


Cry Wolf: A few more monsters to scare your players with. Wolves certainly haven't been neglected in the magazine over the years, with both the regular and were varieties getting plenty of mentions. And they do have a long association with horror stories. Let's see if there's any new ideas to be had here.

Dread wolves are animated undead with a nasty rotting bite and regeneration. Their creator can see through their eyes, which means they can be rather useful for espionage as well as killing stuff.

Vampiric wolves take the already close relationship between the two creatures and blur it a little further. They vill drink your bluuud, and turn on their leader if they show weakness. Now that's definitely exploitable in a plot sense. They should be popular amongst not-too-bright evil overlords.

Stone wolves, on the other hand, are loyal, don't require any upkeep or toilet breaks, and can disguise themselves as ordinary statuary. (not that experienced adventurers will let their guard down around that. ) So it looks like all 3 of these are designed to be minions to some other vaguely horror themed big bad. I suppose wolves rarely do get the same kind of central importance in big plotlines as vampires and mages. Overall, this is pretty useful, but not particularly impressive. Guess that adds out to an average themed section then.


The marvel-phile: Steven Schend delves into the history books to give us another obscure villain who hasn't been covered yet, probably because he hasn't appeared in comics for over a decade either. Equinox! Heat and cold powers in one mentally unstable package! A bit gimmicky, but there doesn't seem to be any great reason why he's vanished when some other D-listers haven't. And he's less likely to be countered and ignored by a team effortlessly like a one-trick pony, so he could have a use. But no, this isn't anything particularly special.


Bugged about something?: Ahh, yes, giant insects. They've certainly played a substantial part in my low-level D&Ding, especially in places with lots of random encounters. This is a quick little realism in gaming article that looks like it was put in as a filler one, to fit around the number of adverts they have. Greg Detwiler does a decent job of reminding us just how badass real insects are, with their proportionate strength, various spiffy senses, ridiculous toughness, social organisation, etc etc. A bit insubstantial really, but the artwork's good. Meh.


The game wizards: I may have made quite a few Gotta collect 'em all quips in my time doing this, and there are more to come, but here they really are literally asking for it. Their trading card series has proven quite a decent seller, and so they fully intend to print new ones each year until it ceases to profit them. This is full of the kind of data that collectables geeks will love. Limited editions, the variations in their looks based on number and run, size of print runs, the kind of thing that makes you look smart if you can quote it to your friends. I actually find myself quite liking this article, unexpectedly, probably because I am a statistics geek. And the economics of collectibles is an interesting and potentially profitable area of study. Anyone know what these cards go for these days?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 3/6


The voyage of the princess ark: Once again, Raman takes centre stage this month, being lured away by a ghostly creature that hungers for cinnabryl. Guess it's Haldemar's turn to play rescuer this time round. At least, once he escapes from another annoying political plot, probably from the Huleans. Oh, if only we could meteor swarm them at the first sign of trouble instead of having to be diplomatic.

Crunchwise, we have stats for the aforementioned errant spirits, who are produced as a result of people extending their lifespans unnaturally with cinnabryl. We also have info on the northenmost 4 of the savage baronies, their relationships with each other, and the looming spectre of Hule's expansion. To survive around here, they have indeed become pretty tough places, full of passionate and stubborn warriors. A rich ground for adventure, both personal and political.

Letterswise, we have lots of annoying nit-picking this month. Yes, time has passed since these areas were first detailed in all those out of print modules. Yes, the gazetteers aren't very standardized. Yes, keeping intelligent flying mounts in your army is bloody tricky, and you need to ensure they're well treated and given the respect they deserve. No, none of these are setting breaking. Chill out, dudes.


Novel ideas: Athas's promotion continues, in an article that probably ought to have been last month, but for their bimonthly schedule. This is another one that's telling me stuff I know already, that Athas has a nice 5-book series kicking things off, courtesy of Troy Denning, and they intend dramatic things to happen in the novels and change the setting on a regular basis. It also calls attention to the way they're consciously trying to avoid or subvert as many of the usual D&D setting tropes as possible. Maybe too many at once, actually. We've been through this with Tekumel & Jorune, where too many alien elements keep people from getting into things. Athas is probably less experimental than either of those, but it is relatively low on literary and historical antecedents. And it didn't really enjoy the same kind of success as Dragonlance or Ravenloft. On the other hand, it did last quite a few years, and was one of the first worlds to be revisited in 4e, so it's hard to call it a failure either. Guess like morality in Athas, it's more complicated than that. This is definitely worth more debate. I look forward to the next time this topic comes up.


Fiction: The blue eyed thief by Bob Liddil. We hear a lot about cycles of abuse. Sins inflicted on people are in turn emulated and performed on others, be out of vengeance, need, or simple habit. You hear far less about cycles of redemption, people paying good deeds forward. Still, that's what this one is about. A young street-thief turned into a honest (well, almost) merchant by a little generosity and cleverly applied compassion, and then returning the favour a generation later. The kind of heroism that you can actually manage in the real world, if you're something like a teacher or homeless shelter volunteer. Don't think it'll be easy, or that some won't reject your help and continue being locked in their own self-destructive patterns, but you can make a difference. It may be a tiny one against the overall tapestry of the world, but you can make a difference. And this, in it's own small way, is a good reminder of that. So I think it does it's job quite nicely.


The role of computers: Quest for glory II: Trial by Fire combines a review with an interview with the makers of the game. Interesting. They talk about their design philosophy, and some of the technical details of it's creation. They've gone to plenty of effort to make this a fun adventure game that you'll have plenty of challenge completing, but hopefully won't get stuck on, and can improve your skills along with your character's. And they intend to release still better looking versions in the near future. Yay for ever increasing monitor resolutions.

Cybergenic Ranger: Secret of the seventh planet looks and sounds good, but is slow and boooooooring to play. Remember your design priorities, programmers. Fun must always be primary, otherwise all else becomes irrelevant.

F29 Retaliator is a flight simulator, but one that sacrifices realism for fun, making the planes rather easier to pilot than their real counterparts. Which is a good thing, really, since the amount of training to get an actual pilots licence is quite substantial.

Sonic the Hedgehog sees them instantly spot that this was created by sega as a conscious attempt at making a marketable mascot. Not that the game is bad at all. (although I always preferred Sonic 3. The series didn't really get going until he had a proper cast of supporting characters.) The high speed bits impress them, the non-linear level design still holds up today, (if anything, it's more so than many of the later games, especially once the series went 3D) and the rotating bonus levels are really cool for the era. Mario now has serious competition, and their battles will be good for the profiles of both sides. Let the lines be drawn, and the fanboys of both sides rage.

They also re-review a whole bunch of old games that have been recently released for new systems. Gunboat, Harpoon, Railroad Tycoon, and Wizardry: Bane of the cosmic forge. Most manage to improve on the previous versions in some way. Wizardry in particular is massively improved on it's original incarnation.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 4/6


Dark Sun occupies the centre pages with a full colour photographed advert, including a fake weird creature skull. Any idea what monster that's supposed to belong too?


The possibilities are endless: Oooh. A TORG article. Spike Y Jones suggests changing around a few of the default setting assumptions and seeing the potential for fun adventures that result. All it takes is for the initial blitzkrieg of the probability wars to have gone a little better or worse and the political landscape will look rather different. Similarly, giving the characters roles other than Storm Knights who awakened to their power in a recent crisis will alter the way the game goes quite a bit. This makes me think of Exalted quite a bit, where the default character choice is both the most powerful, and the least integrated into the world, and subsequent splats introduced very different ways of playing in the same world, each with their own distinctive social structures. It also makes me wonder about the choice of making a game have multiple settings, or one default one that it takes quite a bit of work to convert away from. Is the ultimate victory of the AD&D line over the BD&D one because it had a whole bunch of settings and encouraged you to make your own, while the BD&D one became increasingly locked into the known world as the line went on? Is that also part of the reason why games such as Exalted, TORG and Rifts never managed to unseat D&D in overall popularity and versatility? Was the introduction of the Infinite Worlds meta-setting tying everything together part of the reason why GURPS 4th ed has only had a tiny fraction of the books 3rd ed managed? Was the increasing degrees of crossover between the various AD&D settings part of what caused TSR's downfall? Now there's a big intractable question for us to chew over. So I guess this is a pretty good article, both giving coverage to a new game, and providing me with plenty of thoughts on how to change play that are applicable to other games. Spike is proving to be one of the better contributors of this era.


Forum: Martyn Agass thinks that characters need a decent amount of customisability so their skills can accurately reflect their personality and goals. Spellcasters are decently provided for, as a rogues these days, but warriors still suck in this respect. Kits just don't seem to be enough for him.

Jason Dunn has a fairly lengthy contribution, covering several topics, and mentioning quite a few previous writers. The result feels like whislestop tour through his GM'ing philosophy. Anything is possible. Don't kill too often, but don't let players believe they're invulnerable.

Robert W. Heym is annoyed that TSR are devoting so much time and page count to their own game worlds, rather than giving more generic advice. Just go back a decade or forward a couple and your wish will be granted. :p

Salvadore Giraldi, on the other hand, finds preprepared campaign worlds a huge help. Even the big ones hardly cover every bit of the world, and it does make it easier for players to become attached to the world and impressed by the famous NPC's. So many people don't have the time to make complete games. The trick is to design campaign worlds so they assist your own creativity rather than stifle it.

Shawn A. Chesak holds an opinion somewhere between the previous two forumites. Yes, the proportion of generic stuff to specific worlds is probably too low at the moment, but that doesn't mean they should cut out the campaigns entirely. They do serve a valuable role for novice players.

Sandy Green speaks up in support of young people gaming, and Paladins and Demons playing a part in the game. Learning about morality in a non-preachy manner is important.


Amber! By Erik Wujik. The first big diceless system! Once again with the progress.


Defeating more with less: Or return of the Tuckers Kobolds part 3, Endor holocaust. Greg Detwiler shows us once again how enemies played smart are far more likely to live long and prosper. Basic tactics like taking cover and using missile fire massively increase your effectiveness, as real world armies demonstrate on a daily basis. Stealth, traps, hit-and-run attacks, stealing stuff, clever use of spellcasters, this all seems pretty familiar, albeit presented pretty well, and with plenty of detail. Still, it doesn't have enough new ideas to really stoke my interest. Seen this stuff before, will likely see it again. One for the new readers then.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 5/6


TSR Previews: D&D continues it's revamp with the rules cyclopedia. The new basic set may not have made much impact, but this certainly did, even amongst people who have all the old boxed sets. (after all, if you've been playing regularly for 6 years, they're probably getting a bit ratty. ) Even now, it has enough devotees to jack the ebay prices up quite substantially. It also continues to fill out the hollow world, in HWR2: Kingdom of Nithia. Another once great culture preserved from the surface world. What strange stuff do they have for the salvaging?

The Forgotten realms is still concerned with Maztica in FMA2: Endless armies. Foil a horde of giant ants using the battlesystem rules? That's a new one for the system. Let's hope it handles it and produces a fun adventure, because that definitely seems like a cool change of pace. Back in the Realms themselves. R. A. Salvadore tries to escape the endless Drizzt trilogies with um, a quintet about a cleric instead. Who's idea was that, and did they come up with the plot and realize it would take 5 books to tell, or decided to do a quintet first, and then churn out crap until the page count was filled? Meet Cadderly in Canticle. Times are about to get very interesting for him.

Dragonlance isn't so diverse, with elves elves elves taking centre stage in both modules and novels. DLS4: Wild elves does what it says on the tin. Scott Bennie tries to make their trials and travails interesting to adventurers. Meanwhile, Paul Thompson and Tonya Carter complete The Qualinesti, the final book in the elven nations trilogy. They do like their boy/girl teams for writing Dragonlance stuff, don't they. I guess they're trying to replicate the magic formula of the original series or something.

Ravenloft takes us to a blasted fantasy egypt, to face the deadly touch of the mummy darklord in RA3: Touch of death. Water shortages, mirages, jackals, vultures and undead. Thoroughly miserable place.

And finally, on the generic side, the complete series kicks off again with PHBR6: The complete dwarves handbook. An arsenal of cool kits and other stuff to really fill them out. Certain players will be rubbing their hands together.


Bazaar of the Bizarre: Ioun Stones! Another thing introduced in the earliest days of the magazine gets revisited in greater depth, with lots of new variants. Like Mind flayers, this is a very welcome returning topic. Like the card deck one from issue 148, this is essentially an ecology article, giving us some ideas of where they could come from, and how they got made. Be it the middle of a star, or the border between the plane of earth & positive energy, it takes quite substantial amounts of energy and pressure. A smart wizard might be able to custom make them, but they also show up naturally, which is pretty awesome really. And not only is this a decent enough ecology, but it also casually throws in 28 new varieties of stone to put in your treasure piles. So it's both good reading and damn useful in actual play, providing you with treasure and plot hooks aplenty to keep your game well fuelled with adventure.


The dragon's bestiary continues directly on from the previous article, introducing a whole load of new creatures for the Quasielemental plane of Mineral. As with the paraelemental plane of ice (see issue 129) these guys have a strong crystaline theme, mostly being formed out of sharp geometric shapes, and aren't very keen on gross fleshy interlopers. (which will now be even more frequent since they now know there's not just vast quantities of gems, but Ioun stones to be mined round these parts) This looks pretty spiffy.

Glomus float around and use their many spikes to deal with anyone who disrupts their inscrutable cogitation. They reform if you don't smash them thoroughly enough, so be wary.

Shard also demonstrate that even weak planar monsters are pretty scary for mid level adventurers. They might be only flying crystals, but they're both sharp and dazzling. And they often appear in large numbers. They can certainly turn an invading party into bloody ribbons.

Spined shards are even more unpleasant than their single crystaled relations. With multiple attacks, blasty effects and an anti-magic field, they have a bit in common with beholders actually, even if they look quite different. Well, Tasmanian devils aren't less scary because they're very different from wolves.

Chamerol are enormous tentacled rock-tree things that grow right on the positive energy border. This means they have no shortage of fuel to grow to truly ridiculous sizes and spread their roots through the tough rock beneath them. Wonder what the things that parasitise their innards look like?

Energy pods look like more substantial relatives of xag-ya, feeding of both energy and minerals. Watch out for the explosive effects when you damage them.

Trilling chrysmal look like those biology textbook pictures of viruses, with a hexagonal body and spidery legs on one end. They're pretty cute, but have powerful offence and spell reflection abilities. Be glad they won't be laying their eggs in you.

Crystalle is a nicely old skool elemental ruler, with plenty of magic abilities, and a haul of ioun stones that'll make even archmages jealous. He's certainly not unbeatable, but with all his equipment, money and servants, it'll be a big ugly adventure to get to take his stuff.

Combined with the previous article, this adds up to a rather idiosyncratic special feature that does quite a bit to fill in another obscure corner of the planes. Something they don't do nearly enough of, and that I'm pretty fond of, so I'm definitely giving this set high marks. It's a big strange universe out there, and if our game can reflect at least a small fraction of those environments and the theoretical creatures adapted to them, it'll be a lot more interesting than another delve into our own tedious minds.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 174: October 1991

part 6/6


Dragonmirth makes several social faux-pas. Yamara tries to help joe with romance advice. Twilight empire finishes the fight, and wonders if they can fit in some more fanservice before getting back to the plot.


Through the looking glass: A different set of current events are focussed upon her this month. The Gulf War is pretty much over, and now people are looking for minis to recreate the fun of blowing Saddam's shit up on their own table. Hmm. Very interesting, if in slightly poor taste. I guess it's not disrespecting the memory of those who died if hardly anyone (on our side :p :( ) did. But more on that next month, as it looks like this bit of potential controversy is merely a teaser.

The rest of the column scrupulously avoids this topic and concentrates on fantastical & sci-fi stuff. A cheesecake female warrior with some proportional deficiencies. A sea elf dressed in stuff that also looks a bit impractical for swimming in. A doomgarde unit. (somehow it seems less scary with a french accent. ) Something which is either a mutated snake, or a very big reptile that we're only seeing the head and upper arms of. A whole bunch of adorable tiny mechs with even tinier pieces that will be a bit tricky to assemble and easily broken. A rather large-beaked owlbear. A rather eyeless looking displacer beast. A mangy, short-legged catoblepas. A whole bunch of minis from sculpting doyen Julie Guthrie. And a nuyen & scoop hungry news team from shadowrun. Quite a few of these get scathing remarks about their quality. Looks like he's got his groove back after that nasty ratings fixing business. Long may he continue his semi-detached reporting.


Synibarr gets an advert! Awesome! The advert does a perfect job of revealing what happened in it, and the gonzo characters you can play. Are you sold on it? \m/


Another issue that really drives home some of the many ways the hobby is spreading out around this time. Conventions are still growing in attendance and popularity, existing settings are developing nicely, and people are trying out a whole bunch of cool new ideas that'll go on to make their own mark in the next few years. Of course, on a longer scale, there's also some more signs of their eventual downfall, as they diversify to the point of overextension and strangle games with metaplot, but every sperm holds within it an old person dying from flaws that were present all along. The important thing is that they survive long enough to inspire creative offspring of their own, with different quirks and flaws, to live and die in different memetic environments. Or something. I think we're getting into torturous metaphor territory here, so I'll move on before I tie my own tongue in knots.
 

Capellan

Member
RPGnet Member
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I got years of play out of the rules cyclopedia: it's a wonderful book.

I did not, alas, get years of play out of my Hollow World boxed set, despite my thinking it was an awesome setting. Hmmm, maybe I should set my next campaign there ...
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 175: November 1991

part 1/6


124 pages. As hinted a while ago in the letters page, some people want more stuff showing us how to create and run our own campaigns. Looks like the freelancers were listening, for such is this month's topic. Power to the people, and all that. Keep that approach up, and you'll rarely want for the topics you desire, and can reduce rehash quite considerably. That gives us a positive beginning to this issue. Let's kick the proceedings off then.

In this issue:


Letters: A letter advertising the beginning of the Sci-fi channel. High hopes. We've got hiiigh hopes. You mean the one that recently renamed itself Syfy, to much derision, while also cutting down on the amount of actual sci-fi it shows, just like MTV, and has churned out more than it's fair share of crap TV movies. Oops there goes another crappy cable tv channel.

A letter about setting up pen-pal stuff. They stopped doing that ages ago because they had too many people writing in to handle. It's all a bit of a pain, but they'll do what they can.

Another person asking about the record for longest continuous gaming session. Roger gives the same slightly exasperated reply he made last time. Can't recommend it mate. 'Elf an' safety regulations, innit. Sigh.

Another very rehashed question. What does TSR stand for. These days, not a lot. :p


Editorial: Giant Space Hamsters! Oh Roger, what have you wrought? Forever now will spelljammer be inextricably linked with them. 20 years later, people will still snigger when you mention their name. But they do have plenty of supporters, as this outpouring of reader responses shows. In prose, in bullet points, even in verse, they show their love and the many things they use them for. It's enough to make me want to grow more heads and limbs just so I can perform multiple simultaneous facepalms. They just can't resist putting big globs of goofy into their products these days. When exactly will it end? Guess I'll just have to hold on a few years more.


Inventing the "instant" Adventure: So they want to give us more help constructing our own campaigns. Hrmm. How do we go about that? Let's ask one of our experienced freelancers, like, oh, :draws name out of a hat: Arthur Collins. Arthur, how do you create adventures on the fly when your players go in an unexpected direction.
Well, Roger, I'm glad you asked. The easiest way is to have lots of ideas prepared that you can easily insert. And the best way to do that is to Kismif.
Kismif? What's that. Is it some king of acronym, or are you just making up words?
Why yes Roger. It stands for Keep It Simple, Make It Fun. A very important maxim you should all take to heart. I've written a little song to help you remember it.

Keep it simple, make it fun
Then it works for everyone
Keep it simple, make it fun
That's the way games should be run

You can have a million things
going on at once
The subtleties get lost
and people wander off

Keep it simple, make it fun
give the people what they want
Keep it simple, make it fun
Then it works for everyone!

Um, Thank you Arthur. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Why yes Roger. I've got six easy lessons and 24 ideas that are just spiffing at getting things moving again quickly and easily. And they can be yours for the small small price of $3.50! Would you like a preview?
I believe so, Arthur, since I'm the one who'll actually be selling it as part of the magazine.
Well, of course. Don't roll on a table, just pick stuff off a menu. Don't tell them why, when their speculations will be more fun than what you come up with. Don't rush, use the time one encounter takes up to think of the next one. And there's tons of ideas you can steal from other media, as ever. Would you like to know more?
I think that's enough to get their interest, Arthur. Looks like you've done a great job. Here's your pay.
Thank you, Roger. Until next time then.
Yes, until next time.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 175: November 1991

part 2/6


The perils of prehistory: Back to dinosaur land again. Now there's a pretty well covered topic. Another area where they have to struggle to find new things to say. Still, once again, they manage it, eschewing the statistics, which are already well provided for if you own issues from a few years ago, instead talking about the problems integrating time-travel into fantasy campaigns. Here we run into a very interesting issue. The assumption that evolution works in a way remotely similar to reality, and the gods and planes are created by human belief, rather than the other way around is a rather large one to make, and opens up a lot of cosmological questions that you can have fun answering, which may well then open up more questions. So this is one that gives you tools to radically reshape your campaign via going back and changing things, and the different ways things could go if you try it. Your imagination may be the limit, but a few pointers are definitely helpful in an arena this big. So it looks like Greg Detwiler is once again proving his worth as one of our regular freelancers. This is one area where each action can have consequences, and you can just let the players drive the story, getting into more and more tangles until they don't know what to do. Fun business. I quite approve.


Creative campaigns, a new recipe: Last month they made it very clear how Dark Sun differs from normal fantasy campaigns. Now they encourage you to make similarly radical changes to your own D&D games. Be it adding unusual new elements, or removing common ones, both can be neat ideas. Change the magic system. Integrate magic into people's everyday lives. Invent wacky new pseudophysics explanations for magic. Wait, we've seen these before. As is often the case, the last article in their themed section is the least interesting and groundbreaking. Guess they needed some filler to make up the numbers. Business as usual then.


The marvel-phile: 3-D man? Oh dear god, someone actually created a character based on those crappy red and green glasses. Once again, the cheese factor is burning out my brain. Needs. more. grimdark. :pants: It's not your fault, I know, it's the material you have to work with. But it does make me wonder how much crap there is in the bottom of the barrel for them to dig out and cover here. Dear oh dear.

They also cover another colour themed character: Blue Shield. This is considerably less silly, with the interesting way he started off as a gadget based hero, and then became able to use his powers without it. Heroic osmosis does seem to to be quite common in comic book universes, particularly where martial artists are involved. But once again, this doesn't have much new to offer me. Filler filler filler.


TSR Previews: Greyhawk has always been a war torn world in it's backstory. Now, get ready for this to really intrude on the metaplot in the Greyhawk Wars boxed set. You get a complete board game to play this out yourself, but of course, there is an official outcome of this war, and all the future supplements will reflect these changes and timeline advancement. Will you follow along their railroad, or branch off into alternate history?

The forgotten realms gets a game book and a novel this month, as seems to be standard for them by now. FR13: Anauroch takes you to the great northern desert, and the many destroyed empires and other adventure opportunities that lie within. Make sure you bring a cleric with food creating powers if you want to tackle these adventures. The red wizards are also being pains in the ass in Red Magic by Jean Rabe, the final book in the harpers trilogy. Guess who has to foil their actions. Go on, you'll never get it.

Spelljammer sees SJS1: Goblins return. You failed to take them seriously? Oh boy. They're a lot scarier when they have tons of cobbled together spaceships with various deranged weaponry. Another war situation that's too big for a single group to solve, but you can still play your part, and be annoyed at any metaplot mucking around.

Ravenloft also mucks around with other people's creations, as Lord Soth gets drawn into there without his original writer's consent in Knight of the Black rose. Will James Lowder manage to remain faithful to his original voice and characterization?

D&D is still splitting it's time between reaffirming the basics, and exploring the hollow world. This time, DDA4: The Dymrak dread attempts to show newbies a little more of the known world. Blah.

Marvel superheroes gets a double helping this time round. MU7: the Gamers handbook gives us our third yearly update to the vast roster of characters we have to choose from. And MSL4: Stygian knight sees the cosmic control rod used in an attempt to, well, once again the name says it all. Foiling time! You know, if you'd just listened to Annihlus and given him his rod back, this whole mess would have been short circuited. How hard would it be to get off the railroad and do this one differently?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 175: November 1991

part 3/6


The voyage of the princess ark: As the Ark heads south along the Savage coast, they find themselves invited to a formal ball in Saragon. An excellent chance for Haldemar to get some dance practice in, and a chance to show events from lady Abovombe's point of view as well. Of course, things can't go smoothly for them, and they find themselves in the middle of palace intrigue, with spies, assassins and gnoll ninjas ( :D) turning the evening into a combination of farce and grand guignol. An unusually funny episode, as we get to see romance (sorta, oh woe for the bowdlerising company policy. ) peer bonding, (over fried gnoll) and overdramatic death scenes. Bruce is obviously experimenting with what he can do in this series, and this is a definite hit. It really ought to be a TV series, because I can visualize this episode clearly now, and it would be really rather amusing.

Our OOC section fills us in on another 4 of the Savage baronies. Almarron, the deeply unstable new dictatorship. Gargona, the switzerland of the savage baronies with it's policy of neutrality and encouraging artists. Guadalante, aka cowboy country. And the aforementioned Saragon, with it's wizardly ruler, magical artefact shielding it's borders, and general magic-heaviness. Once again we see how we've gone from sorta medieval stuff to sorta colonial americas. The letters touch on this point as well, with some people vaguely dissatisfied at how far they've drifted from the low-magic, feudal style of play. They have to differentiate their three generic fantasy settings somehow, and Mystara got to be the one with really common magic that's fully integrated into everyday life. Go to Greyhawk if you want gritty, and leave us to enjoy our weird, and often rather amusing adventures around here.


Fiction: Uktena's quest by Kit Wesler. Oooh. Native american stuff. And a timely reminder that now Vampire: the Masquerade is out, Werewolf: The Apocalypse will be following in quick succession. Get ready for descriptive names based on animals and achievements, often rather silly, to become a lot more common in the near future. Anyway, this combines the "young boy sets out to prove himself" and "Kill the dragon" plot seeds and puts them into a native american milieu. It uses the same method of killing said big monster as The Hobbit, features irritating and enigmatic little fairy creatures and is otherwise deconstructable to the point of absolute predictability. I really can't say I'm impressed by this one at all. Such is the nature of formulaic filler.


The role of computers shakes up it's format some more, putting a whole bunch of preamble before the reviews. Upgrades, protcol, news and requests. Oh, and recursive joke acromyns. It does feel a touch niggly, as they try and solve some little problems, but are still doing basically the same things. I can't work up much enthusiasm about this.

Castles is a typical top-down sim game where you build your settlement and engage in violence with rival settlements. You can play it as regular medieval kingdoms or add on fantasy elements. While no sim city beater, it's not bad either. This genre isn't going away any time soon.

Dragon Crystal is a roguelike adventure for the Game Gear. Make your way through 30 randomly generated levels, find food, defeat monsters, and raise a baby dragon from an egg. It's easy and simple enough to be fun to start, but hard to complete, as a good game should be.

Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective is of course a puzzle-centric rpg game where you have to solve crimes with the finesse of the fictional detective. It's one of the first games to use actual video cutscenes using real actors, so even if the picture quality is a bit grainy, it definitely stands out. The clue hunting process is pretty interesting sounding as well. Good to see someone really taking advantage of the massive memory increase moving from floppies to CD's grants you.

The clue corner is tiny this month. However, we do have another substantial conversions collection. The faery tale Adventure, King's Bounty & Might and Magic all get new versions on the Genesis. This generally entails a certain amount of simplification, due to the lack of a keyboard, but also improvements in the graphics and sound. Consoles are rapidly overtaking computers in terms of fun for your time and money ratio, and it's a long time before they'll start turning into multimedia centres themselves, bringing the streams back together again. Growing pains aplenty in this industry to come.
 
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