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

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

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

part 4/6


Forum gets a new, slightly more goofy looking header. Bleh. Some revamps, you just don't need.

S D Anderson weighs in on the issues of the day, as he has been doing for years. In this case it's to register his disdain about Craig Hardie's position. While creating your own campaign from scratch might have more creative integrity, a lot of us don't have the time, or do this because our primary goal is fun. That kind of worldbuilding is hard work, y'know. Plus if you're playing in a published world, it's a lot easier to transfer characters from one game to another. Good points, as usual.

Jose Pablo Zagal points out that it's the adventures that go wrong, and unexpected and amusing things wind up happening that are the most memorable. If you try and avoid that in your adventure design, then things'll get boring. And in the end, the memories are the only treasure that lasts after the game ends.

D. M. Burck thinks that the power level of the ships in the voidjammers article is more than sufficient for normal threats. And their boss kicked the ass of the lich queen. The rep he got from that is probably an important part of why others don't try it on too often.

Scot Eddy brings up the Star Wars twinking issue from a year ago again. Slow motion flamewars indeed. With more 10 options on how to deal with power armour twinks, this shows once again how easy it is for an imaginative GM to defeat any twink.

W. Norgielix brings up the issue of gunpowder in a fantasy game, and how wizards are likely to react again. Considering that a big part of their research should be finding sources of power that are less time-consuming, one would think at least some would adopt tricks like that.

Brian Dye supports including younger players into your regular campaign. It's more fun for you, and helps them learn how to do it properly quicker. It's easier to do anything if you have a good teacher.

And we also get an anonymous contribution, for the first time ever in here. Shows how long it's been since the magazine allowed any of those to get published. This is one about the validity of scale mail as an armor. Man, people are still worrying about that? Just how small a slush pile did they have to choose from those days?


Only the best will do!: Another year's conventions have flown by, and with them, awards ceremonies. Let's see what they rated highly this year at Origins. Genestealer is the only thing to get two awards, so it seems pretty diverse collection. Dungeon beats out Dragon as best magazine this year. Sandy Petersen joins the hall of fame. Ravenloft, Pendragon, Forgotten Realms, and AD&D's mini line aren't neglected. Nor are Shadowrun, Battletech, Illuminati or Wing Commander. Who's been snubbed this time? Well, V:tM was probably released after the cutoff point, so we'll see how that does next year.


Sage advice also gets a new header. This one I don't mind. Looks like they've decided to spruce things up a bit around here. It's also rather larger than It's been in a while. Happy days are here again for Skip at sage towers.

How many weapons can a spelljammer really carry. (never enough. A familiar litany, surely. Ships have to worry about encumbrance even more than people do. )

Can damage done by a deathjammer be healed (yes. )

How do spelljammer and planescape interact. (stating how everyone in a bunch of infinite universes interacts is an impossible task, frankly.)

What happens if you put a cursed item in a spelljamming furnace (Skip's not sure, but it's unlikely to be pretty)

Can you spend extra slots from inteligence on weapon proficiencies (no. Only nonweapon. Bad twink.)

Can you be a wild mage and a necromancer (no. One speciality per person only. It's hardly a specialty if you're concentrating on multiple things. )

What can you aim for with nahal's reckless dweomer (any spell you know)

How do you make a shrine ( The tools you're given in the tome of magic look entirely adequate to the job. You should be happy you don't have to rely on fiat anymore. Yes, NPC's will still be able to make better ones. So what? They always have.)

What level is a multiclassed character for purpose of enemy spells (use your highest single level)

What does magic resistance protect you from (magical effects that directly affect you. Not naturally occurring similar phenomena, and not stuff that affects the world around you, which then indirectly affects you. Basic logical principles )

Do druid/rangers exist or not? (Officially, no. Here's rules for if you insist on playing them anyway. Skip's in a good mood today. )

Do druids worship a nature related deity, or nature directly (their choice )

What can druids resist charm from (only fae/nature spirity types. Anything else, they're on their own.)

Do wizards have to have read magic (only to read scrolls)

Why are shadow monsters still in the illusion school when they're partially real (Look! Swamp gas! :Throws cannister and disappears into the smoke:)

Is wall of fug an evocation (yes. It's powers are entirely within that school's remit. You don't get to change that just because you don't like the spell)

Why can't halflings get exceptional strength. (because Reepicheep fought a duel for it and won. So no exceptional strength for halflings )

How many attacks can you get per round fighting unarmed (Recycled question.

The answer has not changed. Yes, I know many monsters get one attack per limb. You're not a monster, are you? )

How long will a simulacrum live after it's creator dies (quite a while, if it's careful)

How long does it take to make the paper for a spellbook (quite a while, unless you buy it. It's one of those things that's most economical to handle in bulk )

We seem to be missing some casting times (Dear oh dear. Skip thinks Skip'll blame Ed Greenwood this time around. Ed, It's all your fault. Make a mistake like that again and Skip'll cap you, mofo. Ahh, It's good to be back on top. )

What's with wyvern watches area (Eratta. We are serious about applying it this time round. )

If a demihuman leaves Krynn, do they keep their altered level limits (no. Blame the gods. But don't go and complain, unless you want to be smitten.)
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/6


Role-playing reviews: Horror time again, a little late. Busy magazine, people miss deadlines, not enough room, whatever excuse, here it is now, let's rock.

Dark conspiracy gets a fairly good review. It's clearly written, has great artwork, a system with simple base mechanics but lots of crunch on top of it, and a fairly well designed and versatile setting. On the other hand, it's humourless, uses complicated math, and doesn't put much emphasis on the actual horror aspect, instead just focussing on the killing stuff. So it's good for if you want to play modern dungeon delves, or know how to run horror without mechanical support, but not too great for new players.

Vampire: the masquerade gets a fairly prompt review. And oh yes, the pretentiousness is looked upon somewhat askance. The rules and presentation may be a bit rough compared to later editions, but, oh, the ideas, and the way they emphasise their themes. Artwork may not be perfect, but the way they use it to tell a story throughout the book is genius. (and one thing they really could do again these days) The way they handle the stuff you have and encourage you to play your character's personality via mechanical carrots and sticks is indeed damn innovative. The amount of advice on roleplaying and campaign construction is orders of magnitude greater than other games at this point, and the whole thing comes with plenty of prepackaged conflicts, both external and internal. What monstrous things will you wind up doing to avoid becoming a monster permanently? Oh yeah. They've arrived with a bang, as we also saw at the conventions, and soon the roleplaying landscape will be very different. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to put on The Cure's greatest hits and bounce around to Let's go to Bed.

Blood brothers is a Call of Cthulhu supplement that brings schlock horror to BRP, with a bunch of short adventures based on classic movies. This may of course piss off purists, but it is fun if you're in the right mood. One for both april and october then.


Rhyme & reason: My oh my? 15 years of a fantasy magazine and we never had an article on riddles before. That does seem like a rather surprising omission, considering their significance in the hobbit, and frequency they've shown up in other books in their reviews section, sometimes even being the centre of the entire story. Course, that may be because they're a pain in the butt which depend heavily on DM preparation, and player skill over character stats. This article uses some quite interesting formatting, with the relatively short expository bit on the top, 8 sample riddles in the middle, and the answers at the bottom, along with quite a bit of varicoloured artwork. It doesn't go into that much detail, actually, a tiny amount on the RL history of riddles, and a similarly small amount on actually using them in your game. It's all a bit insubstantial really, and doesn't help much with either constructing your own, or overcoming the problems of using them in your game. Rather an odd duck really. Still, they've done it now. There's a reasonable chance we won't see it again for another decade or so, which is fine by me.


Delivered by breath, scares heroes to death: Egads. Two riddle articles in one issue. Yeah, this is pretty scary. Shoulda put these in last month's issue and moved the ioun stone pair to here. This one has less new riddles, and more stuff on making your own and putting them into your campaign effectively. It is rather encouraging, perhaps even a little too so, demystifying the riddlecrafting process pretty well. It's really no harder than writing poetry & music, and uses a lot of the same brain areas, along with the crossword solving one. Once again, the primary problem with including them in your game isn't mentioned, (never make a situation dependent on your players making a single particular choice. ) but it's a pretty decent article taken on it's own terms. I guess with story gaming making it's big uprising, people have to make a whole bunch of new mistakes while exploring and learn from them. Oh, if only we could have hindsight without having to go through all the crap first. Best we can do is learn from the mistakes of others.
 

(un)reason

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

part 6/6


The role of books: Life on the border, edited by Terri Windling takes us back to the dungeonpunk town where folk rock is king. It obviously feels less innovative now a whole bunch of other writers have got in on the act, but it does have plenty of cool stories. Very nice to see this series continue.

Palaces & prisons by Ron Miller does not get a very good review. The plot and settig are rather shallow and don't hang together well. Looks like he should stick to being an artist for other people then.

Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham is one of our very own Forgotten Realms novels. It's one of those small scale ones which help to make the Realms into the biggest, most filled in and flexible gaming worlds out there. Everyone can contribute, including you. Just don't expect total internal consistency.

Halo by Tom Maddox is a story of a computerised satellite developing intelligence, and the ethical and practical problems that presents. This allows them to tackle serious sci-fi issues in the plot and make them accessable, which is rarely a bad thing in my book.

Vampire of the mists by Christie Golden is of course a Ravenloft novel. Like the original module, it doesn't quite work as a horror story, but it does indeed have plenty of AAAAAngst!!! and a good mix of sympatheticness and monstrousness in the characters. Guess it's not too terrible for Masquerade lovers either then.

Batman: Captured by the engines by Joe R Lansdale does pretty well, bringing the worlds greatest detective back down to street level with a strange little mystery story. It has stuff both from his perspective, and that of others, and manages to build an actual creepy atmosphere. Not often you see that in the actual comics.


Dragonmirth fails to grasp basic tactics. There is a certain amount of tabloid doctoring in Yamara. We confirm what was pretty obvious anyway. Dimensional travel is responsible for the heroes memory loss in Twilight empire.


Through the looking glass: Let's get military! Or not, as once again the real war talk only occupies a tiny amount of the column before they return to the regular reviews. We also have another amusing case of impersonation at the conventions, with people selling shoddy imitations of other companies minis. Seems like a lot of work for the money you actually get from it to me. But then again, what did that guy who impersonated Roger in 86 get from it? I suspect that they really do it for the thrill, and the money is just a justification. But then, if we were all perfectly logical, D&D would never have been created, and I wouldn't be doing this ridiculous amount of work for free. I guess I shall have to mark it down as another of the sillier little footnotes in this magazine's history.

Back to the reviews then. The HMS Intrepid gets converted to Space: 1889. A little dragon outgrows it's doghouse in adorable fashion. A good and bad guy struggle epically, frozen together forever. A team of snipers set things up for a quick kill. A nice little loghouse and barn. A japanese village for all your samurai and ninja figures to fight amongst. A large dragon that you'll have to assemble yourself. And a vampire & his ghoul minions, nominally for Shadowrun, but easily adapted, by the increasingly ubiquitous Julie Guthrie. As usual, it seems like they're going for variety in reviews to maximise the chances you'll want to buy them.


D&D rules cyclopedia! Finally, all 36 levels in a single book. Atsa gooda revisione. If only they'd put the immortals rules in there as well.


An issue where they not only show clearly how things are changing in the hobby at large, but some of the ways they've been different in the past. And the magazine seems to be making an effort to change with the times, even if some of the changes are a bit silly and not altogether desirable. Hopefully the changes will be sufficient to stave off boredom a little more. Let's finish this year, as we have the one before.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 176: December 1991

part 1/6


124 pages. Ooh. Elves vs Gnolls riding leucrotta on the cover! Does that mean we're finally going to get a themed issue on gnolls? No, it's just another half-assed double bill of elf features. After the yearly ones on dragons, they're now comfortably in second place ahead of dwarves for racial features. Still, maybe they'll be good ones, even if the topic is getting a bit overdone. Come on, give norkers their turn! ;) Or maybe one on the symbiotic relationship between mites and snyads. A special on the quasielemental plane of dust. Push yourself. Plenty of things hinted at in existing books but still unexpanded on. This is what imagination is for.


In this issue:


Letters: Only a single letter this month, a rather long and grouchy one about the lack of african based game material for D&D, topped off with the fact that what there is so far is mostly egyptian. As is often the case when people complain about the lack of variety, Roger agrees with them, pointing out the few contributions the magazine has made over the years, and begs all you freelancers out there to send stuff in! Hopefully we will get a selection at least akin to the bounty hunter submissions to make up a decent themed issue with in the near future. Once again he tries to stave off rehash by specific appeals to the readership, which is pretty neat.


Editorial: Ooh. Continuing on from the letter, Roger finally tackles race and gaming. Well, sorta. No mention is made of non-white people actually roleplaying, but he does talk about the dumbness of other races in fantasy games actually being less different than the many other cultures found in reality, especially once you start going back in time. The values and technology people have can vary widely, even without any significant biological differences, simply due to random variations and the butterfly effect. The same ought to apply to your fantasy cultures. Also, you should learn to live in harmony with people from around the world and embrace their differences in reality. (says an ex-soldier) So an important lesson, made a bit sickly by saccharine moralising. Overcome your prejudices, and learn to think outside your own cultural box, and both your gaming and real world friendships will benefit. You've probably seen this idea often enough before, probably with suitable inspirational material playing in the background. (yes, you again Michael Jackson. ) Like badly played lawful dick paladins, the fact that it might be right doesn't make it any less annoying when handled wrong.


Servants of the seldarine: So it's another elven special. How many is that now? Only 3? You surprise me. Not that they haven't got plenty more articles as part of other issues as well, including the fae special that turned out to be nearly all elves anyway. Anyway, here we see them attack a very particular issue. The complete priest's handbook and Legends & lore have been out for a bit now, so people have a decent idea what creating a speciality priest entails mechanically. But demihuman deities haven't got their gods converted over to the new system yet. And by now you should know exactly what this article does. Aerdrie Faenya, Corellon Larethian, Deep Sashelas, Erevan Ilesere, Hanali Cenalil, Labelas Enoreth, Lolth, Rillifane Rallathil and Solonor Thelandira all get their requirements, accessable spheres and granted powers detailed. However, they do have quite significant differences from their later official writeups in Monster Mythology. More attention is paid in particular to their granted powers and extra restrictions, which are far more interesting and idiosyncratic in this version, rather than just being free extra spells. In fact, having given the two a good comparison, I'll say I prefer this one, which feels like it was given more care in design, and not compressed and simplified because they had hundreds of gods to fit in a 128 page splatbook. Finally, we're getting good 2nd edition crunch in the magazine. I have to say I'm quite pleased about this.


If you need help - ask the drow!: Another trip down to undermountain in the company of Laeral it seems. Ed and Steven continue to work at making the Realms a living world, with new monsters moving in to occupy cleared out areas, cave-ins and new excavations changing the terrain, and existing characters gaining levels. And in the process encouraging the gotta collect 'em all problem and forcing you to skip between dozens of books and articles to keep track of everything that's going on. It's always so much easier to remember this stuff when you were the one who wrote it in the first place. But as is often the case, my inherent pessimism is won over by the sheer amount of fun Ed is obviously having. Drow aren't all Lolth worshiping psychos. There are actually a (not so, if you read the novels) surprising number of good Eilistraee worshippers amongst them, hiding amongst the cities and trying to do good, or exiling themselves to the upper caverns. And it seems Skullport has a decent number of them, engaging in cautious trade with the surface world, thwarting worshippers of Ghaunadaur, and trying not to be killed by both good and bad guys. It's all crammed to the brim with plot hooks and adventure opportunities, as is often the case with his stuff. Whether you want combat, roleplaying or exploration, he's got you well covered.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Question for you, (un): have you been building a spreadsheet or something to track the number of times a theme comes up?

If so, can you dish the numbers when we reach the end of this our epic journey?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Question for you, (un): have you been building a spreadsheet or something to track the number of times a theme comes up?

If so, can you dish the numbers when we reach the end of this our epic journey?
In this case, I was relying on keyword searches to figure out how many we've done so far. But I fully intend to collect and tabulate a big load of statistics at the end.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 176: December 1991

part 2/6


Forum: Terry C Parlett praises the idea of manoeuvres for fighters. Giving people more of a feel of control is a good thing for the game in his opinion, and allows cool descriptions to really mean something. Now all it needs are a few clarifications.

Dave Wile tells us that if we set boundaries for our players, and we need to have consequences when they break them, otherwise they won't work. If they're incompetent, they should die. If they're psychotic, the law should be on their tracks. Simple as that.

Michael Kellam shows us the way to stop players from engaging in random slaughter. Make sure the people they kill have connections to other people who will miss them. They can't kill everyone, can they, and if they do, more will come of increasing power.

Tony Quirk points out that killing the wrong people will have mechanical penalties for quite a few classes. Byebye cleric & paladin powers. And without magical healing, a party will have to be much more cautious in picking their battles.

Mare Blanchard also reminds us that the only way to stop characters from slaughtering NPC's at the slightest provocation is to make sure there's consequences for doing it. Another one we've heard before, and likely will do so again. It's a lesson we have to learn even in real life, and it's one we have to learn again separately for internet interactions, for some reason. Ahh, the joys of a compartmentalising brain.


The voyage of the princess ark: Looks like this christmas, it's a step into full on western gaming as the Ark reaches Cimaroon county. They go to a saloon, endure the bawdy entertainment, watch a gunfight, and go a-prospectin for cinnabryl. There they face goblin desperados, enjoy a wagon-chase, and rescue a village of oppressed tortles from exploitative miners. Meanwhile, the Ark is trapped above the clouds by stormy weather, and faces several Heldanic warbirds. While amusing, I think this a is a step too far into direct pastichery for my tastes. You're supposed to pick and combine real world elements to make something new, not just steal straight and plonk something in without attention to the stuff around. I mildly disapprove.

Rather a grab-bag of crunchy stuff this month as well. We have deck plans and stats for Heldanic warbirds. We have info on Cimaroon. We have stats for their six-shooters, and a whole load of related skills such as staredowns and quick-drawing. As with the story part, this is entertaining, but not quite up to the standards of recent issues, as they get a bit silly. Not the series' best instalment.


V:tM gives us the anarchs cookbook. Row row fight the power, watch out for the sabbat boogeyman. Soon you'll be sidelined as people prefer to play the genuine rebels, not brats who talk big and run back to hide behind daddy's cape when things get tough.


Propping up your campaign: Hmm. This is a topic they haven't really covered before. While in LARPing, the use of props to enhance the mood is pretty much standard, it doesn't get much attention round here. About the closest is probably issue 135's reviews section, where Ken did go into detail on products which come with visual aids. So another cool idea that seems obvious gets a good filling in by Spike Y Jones. While it concentrates on modern day games, which are obviously easiest to cater for in this respect, it also mentions past and future ones as well. They don't have to be actual objects, photographs will do just fine, and are pretty easy to get hold of. (and even more so now than then with a camera in every phone and effortless copying of the digital data they're comprised of) And theres plenty of cool little things you can find in antique shops that would make good props. Even a scribbled picture is better than nothing. And there's several meta tricks you can pull, like arranging to have someone call or otherwise interfere with the game, that work really well for horror games in particular. So there is indeed quite a few ideas they've never suggested before, that can make a nice impact on the quality of your games if used sometimes. Another case of the magazine providing just what it ought to be.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 176: December 1991

part 3/6


TSR Previews: As is often the case, the start of the year sees things slow down a bit. Dragonlance is the only line getting more than one book. DLR2: Taladas: The minotaurs is another of our combined location and race splatbooks. They get the usual cool new stuff and filling in of roleplaying depth. Meanwhile, way back in time, Dark Heart sees us focus on the young life of Kitiara. How did she wind up opposing the heroes of the lance? Bad company, it looks like. Seduced by the glamour of evil. Silly silly woman.

Dark Sun gives the players a chance to play a (minor) part in the overthrowing of Kalak, in DS1: Freedom. You read the book, now enjoy the module, along with it's interesting format experiment and DM's screen. All aboard! :toot toot:

Ravenloft sees one of it's more iconic series start up. RR3: Van Richten's guide to vampires sees Nigel Findley do what he does best. Horror + Ecology = surprising win. Tons of ways to customise them, keeping them scary and mysterious for even the most powerful party.

The Forgotten realms is fairly quiet this month. MC11, their second monstrous compendium appendix, should keep your addiction fed for a while. 64 more pages of quirky creatures to challenge players with. Good luck finding places to fit them all in.


The role of computers: Another tiresome bit of explanation this month, as they remind people that they get far more letters and games than they can ever cover in this space. Don't send more ranty letters when your original one doesn't get published. They just have no luck. Phone calls in the middle of the night, games companies leaning on them to get higher marks, lying company service lines, seems their life is one wave of irritations after another. And they're hardly public figures either. This is why celebrities get secretaries and bodyguards. As 4chan has demonstrated several times, in the internet era anyone can wind up having to deal with the negative aspects of celebrity without getting all the money if they do something sufficiently notable. It's a rather thorny issue.

Heart of China is a rather pretty looking multi-pathed adventure game. Rescue the daughter of your rather unpleasant patron from an even more unpleasant oriental warlord. Time is ticking, and your initial character is predictably hotheaded and troublesome. Have fun unlocking all the different ways things can go if you use different characters and make different choices.

J. B Harold Murder Club is of course a murder mystery, where you have to interview a whole bunch of subjects and figure out whodunnit. As with the previous game, you have a lot of options, some of which are better than others. They get a bit cross about one of the cases including a rape without the box having a warning. Ah yes, the great violence/sex double standard strikes again.

Phantasy Star III doesn't get quite as good a review as II, but is still a big, interesting adventure with a multigenerational twist to it, and multiple endings as well, giving it plenty of replay value. The increases in technology are being applied to good effect at the moment.

Our conversions this month are A-10 tank killer, Thexdar, and Space quest III. Mac stuff continues to get near equal attention to the PC. I wonder if this column'll still be going when PC's have reached dominance.


Fiction: Time for an experiment by Michael G Ryan. Oooh. A time travel story where everything all slots together neatly, but things don't actually make sense until the end. Those take quite a bit of effort in writing. An elf seeks a macguffin, and goes through quite a bit of hassle to get his hands on it, including being betrayed by himself from the future in disguise, so as to ensure everything turns out as planned in the end. I think that's more than enough twists and turns to make this a very enjoyable little story. This is turning out to be quite a consistently positive issue.
 
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JoeNotCharles

Registered User
Validated User
The voyage of the princess ark: Looks like this christmas, it's a step into full on western gaming as the Ark reaches Cimaroon county. They go to a saloon, endure the bawdy entertainment, watch a gunfight, and go a-prospectin for cinnabryl. There they face goblin desperados, enjoy a wagon-chase, and rescue a village of oppressed tortles from exploitative miners. Meanwhile, the Ark is trapped above the clouds by stormy weather, and faces several Heldanic warbirds. While amusing, I think this a is a step too far into direct pastichery for my tastes. You're supposed to pick and combine real world elements to make something new, not just steal straight and plonk something in without attention to the stuff around. I mildly disapprove.
Yeah, I remember rolling my eyes at this one too. You think this is bad, the stupid cat-people are coming up.
 
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