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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 176: December 1991

part 4/6


Role-playing reviews does some more boardgames. They seem to be doing that more frequently these days. Once again, it's because they like a bit of variety. And it's not as if the two things are so dissimilar that you can't learn from what works in board games. Judicious stealing is one of the easiest ways to progress through life.

The awful green things from outer space of course, is a Tom Wham creation, originally appearing in issue 28 of this very magazine. Obviously, he retained the rights to it himself, because it's now published by Steve Jackson Games. It seems to have increased in visual quality and sophistication since then, but retains it's strong sense of fun. Like most of his games, both randomness and skill play significant roles, keeping it fun and surprising through repeated play. So when exactly did he leave TSR again?

Scotland yard is another fun one suitable for short breaks. One person plays a criminal while the others play detectives hunting him down through london, both with limited movement resources and a time limit. Obviously, the more people playing, the harder it is for the criminal to win. An interesting challenge where working together is important.

Battle of the bulge is another rather familiar game, covering one of the more amusingly named battles of WWII. Set up your armies and fight, see if the Germans do any better this time around. Another one with plenty of replayability despite the seemingly limited premise.


The marvel-phile: Cut characters time here. Another year has been and gone, and 128 pages just isn't enough. So here we get to see which new characters weren't considered important enough to make the grade. La Bandera, a young mutant revolutionary with social-fu power to rouse mobs. Windshear, an insecure young British hero with control over air. And Witchfire, an apprentice nature based spellcaster who's not afraid to speak her mind. As is too often the case these days, these are characters I've never heard of before, and am unlikely to do so again, thus proving why they were the ones cut from the book. They'll be first on the chopping block next time someone like Scourge strikes. Can't work up any enthusiasm over this lot. Just another way to make up a few pages in the magazine without having to rely on freelance material.


Orcs nest wish us merry christmas in their own easily imitable fashion.


Playing in the paleozoic: We've already had extensive looks at the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras, and the weird animals that inhabit them in the magazine. Now Greg Detwiler takes us back a little further, to fill in the paleozoic. Lot's of increasingly odd things back there being discovered as archeologists do their work. And now you can kill them and take their stuff, not that they'll have much treasure to take. Another good example of Roger's attempts to work around a subject over the years while minimising direct rehash.

Giant Opabina are exceedingly slow and rather odd looking water creatures that occupy the same kind of niche as crabs today. Their lack of armour means they aren't nearly as dangerous though. Enjoy your wading experience.

Electric Agnath may be primitive fishes, but they're hardly defenceless. The water is hardly safe, since it is where life originally came from. Watch where you step in the water.

Eurypterid are giant water scorpions. They're pretty wimpy compared to modern top predators, but they're still a decent challenge for basic set level adventurers. And if you can't breathe underwater, their grapples will have a definite home team advantage.

Eogyrinus are proto-crocodilian amphibians. Slow on land, they'll attack from ambush, and chomp your feet. Once again, they're not really that scary compared to modern animals or D&D predators. Ironically, it might actually be a good idea to start off with the more primitive eras and move forward in play.

Eryops are another slow amphibian with half-decent adaption to life on land. If they can get their teeth on you, it'll hurt, but even heavily encumbered characters'll be able to outrun them. Might not be a bad idea unless you're xp grinding.

Cyclotosarus bring things a little further along the timeline, towards reptiles taking over from amphibians. Course, not having scales, it's AC is rather lower than full crocs.

Cacops sees them start to develop half-decent land speed and protective bits on their body. They're still going to be outcompeted by things with scales, but it's not for lack of trying.

Giant Platyhystrix are one of those things that show reality is often stranger than fiction. With a dimetrodon like sail on their back, and an oddly expanded ribcage, they're better at operating on land and regulating their temperature than most cold-blooded things. But once again, that advantage will probably not be enough against a team of co-operative warm blooded tool using mammalian killers.

Estemennosuchus have an amusingly shaped hard head, and graze on stuff, occupying the same kind of niche triceratops will do a few million years later, once the size war has really taken off.

Erythrosuchus also have rather large, dinosaurian heads, and a bite to match. That's a 1 hit kill if they get a good grip on you. Not everything was wimpy back then. I'll make them suitably rare on the random encounter table.

Plus, he gives us generic stats for Armoured predatory fishes and general Therapsids. And then a bunch of random encounter tables for various terrains, so I don't even have to make my own. Along with Tom Moldvay's reexaminations of the undead, this makes this one of the longest running and most useful irregular but connected features. Now, if only they could find some game useful animals in the ediacaran period. Then we could keep this going without rehash a little longer.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Rakasta are never stupid. Not even the Savage Coast version.

The lupins, on the other hand... that may be the dumbest form of government I've ever seen. :D
I don't think it's a spoiler to say my review of that one has the greatest number of emoticons I've ever put in a single article. :)
 

Armitage

Registered User
Validated User
The marvel-phile: Cut characters time here. Another year has been and gone, and 128 pages just isn't enough. So here we get to see which new characters weren't considered important enough to make the grade. La Bandera, a young mutant revolutionary with social-fu power to rouse mobs. Windshear, an insecure young British hero with control over air. And Witchfire, an apprentice nature based spellcaster who's not afraid to speak her mind. As is too often the case these days, these are characters I've never heard of before, and am unlikely to do so again, thus proving why they were the ones cut from the book. They'll be first on the chopping block next time someone like Scourge strikes. Can't work up any enthusiasm over this lot. Just another way to make up a few pages in the magazine without having to rely on freelance material.
La Bandera appeared in one Wolverine storyline during the Acts of Vengeance. She was then casually mentioned to have been killed when Zeitgeist was assassinating all of South America's superheroes.

Windshear and Witchfire were both Alpha Flight trainees. Windshear retired and became an artist selling "hard air" sculptures, then was among the 98% of mutants who lost their powers at the hands of Scarlet Witch. Witchfire turned out to be the daughter of Belasco and has been in the recent X-Men storylines involving the resurrection of Magik.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Battle of the bulge is another rather familiar game, covering one of the more amusingly named battles of WWII. Set up your armies and fight, see if the Germans do any better this time around. Another one with plenty of replayability despite the seemingly limited premise.
All it really takes to bork Operation Christrose is for the Golden Lions of the 106th InfDiv to hold rather than have two regiments surrender. Completely shreds the timetable everytime, even worse than it did happen (Go Checkerboard!).
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/6


Sage advice: Does anti-magic spell stop psionics (No, completely different type of energy)

Can a hasted psionicist use two powers per round (no. Too twinked, blah blah blah)

Does invisibility work on infravision. Does it work at night. ( yes, yes. Bored now. )

Can you disbelieve mirror image (no. Knowing it's an illusion (which is pretty obvious ) Won't help you tell which one is real )

If you polymorph an object, does it keep it's powers (as long as it's suitable to apply them. Same principle as polymorphed casters only being able to cast if they have voices and hands )

Do you have to cast 80 magic missiles to make a wand of them with 80 charges? That would take AAAAAAAges (Yes. Giving back to the adventuring community takes more effort than taking from it. Maybe now you'll appreciate the effort all those ancient wizards went too a little more. )


Novel ideas: Ah yes, the cleric Quintet. Bob Salvadore's most notable B-series, giving him a break from the Drizzt stuff while still filling in the Forgotten Realms. Starring a cleric who's not sure why he's a cleric. Also featuring a Dwarf who wants to be a druid, and communicates more effectively than many characters with a thousand times his vocabulary. A monk who would probably have been the star, were it not for the editors not wanting a class removed from the game to get too much spotlight. An imp who goes through several masters, and is quite possibly the real brains of the bad guys. And plenty of dilemmas and threats, most of which get neatly resolved at the end of each book, leaving only a few open for the next one and making sure it always seems like a happy ending, as per editorial policy. Curious business. He really doesn't want to be typecast, but TSR does want more money. Still, this did get several reprints, so it can't have been a failure, just not quite the same degree of success. Another straight bit of promotion, but quite a nice one, making the books seem quite likeable, and pointing out how the stars of each series are different from one-another. That's a welcome improvement from the usual for this column.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
La Bandera appeared in one Wolverine storyline during the Acts of Vengeance. She was then casually mentioned to have been killed when Zeitgeist was assassinating all of South America's superheroes.

Windshear and Witchfire were both Alpha Flight trainees. Windshear retired and became an artist selling "hard air" sculptures, then was among the 98% of mutants who lost their powers at the hands of Scarlet Witch. Witchfire turned out to be the daughter of Belasco and has been in the recent X-Men storylines involving the resurrection of Magik.
:Wrinkles nose: About what I expected. When you run out of drama points, you can be casually offed offscreen.
 

(un)reason

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

part 6/6


The game wizards: Great. More trading cards. Guess they're still profitable as well, as here comes next year's collection. So here's some more production details for the super geeky amongst you. The number of cards which ones were rare ones and the kind of things they tried to include this time. Lot's of odd options like kits and specialist wizards, lots of characters from specific game worlds, and quite a few original creations too. Traps, cities and a few terrible in-jokes. No end in sight here. Yawn.


Dragonmirth shows us that to attract girls, you need a really pimped out ride. Ogrek helps Yamara pack for her trip in his inimitable style. Robinson gets big chunks of his memory back in twilight empire.


Through the looking glass: The iraqi war subplot continues to be only a minor part of this column, taking up just a fraction of the first page before they get to the reviews. Like the real thing, it's turning out to be a bit of a disappointment. Looks like we won't be adding many more great battle scenarios to our repertoire any time soon.

Our minis this month are a wizard who summoned something he really wishes he didn't. A tower for another, more competent wizard. A larger castle for nearly anyone to use. Two pairs of lords and ladies to be in charge of said castles. A whole bunch of kings from various lands. And a trio of a female Ranger, Paladin and elf fighter from Julie Guthrie, bringing the badass without the cheesecake. Looks like it's back to the basic fantasy stuff this month after recent excursions to modern and cyberpunk.


The greyhawk wars boxed set. Great. Another big module that'll have metaplot reprecussions on the entire setting, invalidating big chunks of previous books. Just what we need.


An issue with lots of very good features, but rather dull regular columns. I suppose that highlights the tension between celebratory issue and business as usual. After all, christmas comes every year, so it can quite validly be both. Still, the really good presents are the ones we don't get every year. No matter how good you get, it never gets easier breaking out of your mould and trying new things. Still, if Roger has his way, we should get a few new additions to our repertoire next year. And with the halfway point of this journey within sight, I'm still willing to keep sifting for forgotten gems. To 1992!
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 177: January 1992

part 1/6


124 pages. Another year, another special on good game mastering. Y'know, perhaps you ought to have a regular column for this kind of stuff to go with the ones for monsters, magic items and spells. Just a thought. Oh well, on with the show, with another rather nice chess themed cover drawing us in. They do seem to work quite well. Let's hope they grab potential new readers as well.

In this issue:


Waldenbooks double advertises here with some ridiculously plunging cleavage. She must have disproportionately small nipples to avoid showing even a peek of them.


Letters: As with last month, a single letter about an important topic, and it's rather long reply gets nearly all the space here. Should people be able to charge for DM'img? Roger comes down fairly strongly in the negative. It's fraught with problems, and seems likely to break up a group originally founded on friendship. It's very tricky to sell something when plenty of people are willing to give it away for free. And then there's the legal issues to consider. Making profit off their IP is exactly the kind of thing TSR has to stamp down upon. It's roughly equivalent legally to charging for playing videos to people. Best thing to do is make sure the costs for books, snacks, accommodation, etc are shared amongst the whole group, rather than one person having to bear the whole weight of putting everything together and making gaming a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Too damn right. As someone who winds up in situations where I'm putting all the effort in for very little return from others far too often for my own good, I do increasingly crave and appreciate the company of people who know how to be team players and can have work divided amongst them in a manner that makes them more productive than the sum of their parts. The individual benefits we get from working together are the true value of a society, not the money.

Oh, and Waldorf is finally officially dead for good, courtesy of an army of nilbogs. 'Bout time. That was dragged out easily as long as the dwarven beards issue. Will this truly be the end, or will april see him forced to beat this dead horse some more by public demand.


Editorial: Or see Roger try and appropriate Kinky for non-sexual purposes, and fail embarrassingly. Like middle aged people trying to spice up their sex life, or one person and their sockpuppets trying to force a meme on 4-chan, this is painful to watch, even as he tries to send a message I fully approve of. That is: try some weird games once in a while, it'll be much more fun than sticking to D&D all the time. Bunnies & Burrows, Metamorphosis Alpha, Lace & Steel; all break some of the unwritten rules of gaming and are the better for it. But once again, Gah! Major cool roll failure in the delivery. He's gonna feel the bite from that in future issues. An editorial that is highly amusing to read for all the wrong reasons.


Keeping the party going: Or how exactly did we get into this adventuring lark anyway? A question every party should have an answer to, but surprisingly many don't. And if members of the party all have different motivations arrived at without consultation, then the chances of the party being torn apart at some point increase dramatically. So this is an article strongly in favour of collaborative group character generation, with lots of examples of social groups that could be binding the party together. Be it family, religion, schooling, destiny or simply the prospect of lots of money, your choice will substantially impact the kind of missions you go on, how the characters will relate to one another, and how the campaign will progress. Another bit of roleplaying advice that seems obvious once you have it. What other figurative wheels of roleplaying design are we still missing?


That's progress: This topic, on the other hand, we've seen plenty of, both in articles and the forum. Inventing stuff is a haphazard business, as you need both ideas and the existing materials and infrastructure to implement them. (Take Leonardo da Vinci's designs for helicopters, for example) It's not as simple as just bringing an idea back from the modern day, as you should make absolutely clear to any cheeky players who try it. The physics might not be the same, the materials probably won't be optimal, especially if you're jury rigging something in the middle of a dungeon, and even when you know what you're doing, the first few times are likely to be filled with flubs. Of course, this shows up one of the substantial weaknesses in the AD&D ruleset, forcing adjudication of the success of this kind of idea to be largely handled by DM fiat. And while this article gives you plenty of real world examples, it's not particularly helpful on incorporating them into your game mechanically. Guess they can only take you half the way.
 

Capellan

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RPGnet Member
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"Lace & Steel' was a very cool little game, truly innovative in several ways. I mean, social combat rules in a game released in 1989? Not a bad effort, that.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Sorry about missing yesterday. Drink was spilled on the computer, the keyboard went haywire, and so things have been a bit awkward.

Dragon Magazine Issue 177: January 1992

part 2/6


Secrets of the masters revealed: Now this is a bit better again. Examining other fields and seeing if they have any good ideas that can be adapted to yours is one thing I've promoted several times. And the techniques for successful fiction writing don't have perfect overlap with the ones for fun gaming, but it's closer than, say, archaeology. The stuff on worldbuilding in particular is very appropriate, as are the optimal work habits. Organising your ideas, always having a notepad available to jot down ideas that come at random times, researching stuff instead of just pulling it out of your ass, persistence persistence persistence and don't forget the editing. Actually, this also has quite a bit of crossover with the writers guidelines they put up every year or two, when people ask how they can get published in the magazine. So they're hardly big secrets to regular readers. Still, once again, this is good advice that you will profit from taking on board. I can't count the number of times I've struggled through writers block since starting this, to the point where it holds far less emotional sting than it used to. As with the last time, I encourage you to break your own procrastinating ways and get to work actualising your own ideas, for life is short, and if you put things off, before you know it, you'll be dead with nothing to show for it.


Defend yourself: Oooh. We finish off the themed section with a short but very cool article indeed. The idea that instead of using attack rolls to see if the monsters hit the players, you flip the math around, use flat values for the monsters and have the players roll to see if they manage to defend against the attack. It's a small change, but one that has a significant psychological effect. Not only does it make players feel more empowered because they're the ones rolling the dice, but it can also speed combat along, providing you trust the various players to handle all the attacks directed at their character simultaneously. This is one that we'll see again, as it also got used in the 3e Unearthed Arcana optional rules. Looks like they are once again serving as a good collecting and filtering ground for ideas. Major woo here.


The game wizards: No great surprise that they're going to give the D&D rules cyclopedia a load of promotion here. This is one of those articles which goes into detail about how harrowing the writing process was. It was such a sacrifice having to write to a predetermined size book when there was so many cool things from various supplements they wanted to put in it. Many compromises needed to be made. But even with the cuts, it's still vastly comprehensive, far more than any single book they've ever done before. Steven Schend makes sure to thank all the people who helped him make it as good as it is. Mwah, mwah, big hug everybody. (even the people who don't work here any more, who made valuable contributions to previous versions. ) Now rush out and buy it, make all our hard work worthwhile. But don't think we've made all those earlier supplements useless either. You can still buy them too if you like. Amazing how much work a project that has so little new material can be. Still, cynicism aside, compilation can be worth the price, and that is probably the case here. Here's to many fun years of gaming outside the supplement treadmill.


If I ruled the world: Once again with the causes for going Muahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!! (see how my breath control has developed since the anti-paladin days) What makes a man a mad scientist? Is he born that way, is it forced upon him, or does he become one by studying for 3 years at the university of Insane, Minnesota. (other courses include megalomaniacal politician, whackjob cult leader, detached from reality diva, and utterly incomprehensible bureaucrat. ) What are his ambitions, how does he justify the more unpleasant aspects of his plans to himself, and how does he plan to get the resources to carry out said plan? (apologies to all the female megalomaniacs out there) So plenty more fun DM'ing advice here, helping you build villains which make sense in abilities, plans and resources. Suitable for all genres, and with decent examples and a bibliography, this is another pretty fun article, illustrating the slippery slope that leads to over-the-top villainy well. The illustrations are notably good Baxa ones, making this quite a nice package overall. Just the thing to blow up your campaign world more effectively with.


The role of books: User unfriendly by Vivian Vande Velde (no way is that her real name) is one of those books that uses computers as a magic box, able to do things impossible in reality in the names of the plot. This breaks the reviewer's suspension of disbelief, and the characters aren't too interesting either. When the minor characters have more interesting adventures offscreen than the main ones, you have a plotting problem.

Shadow by Anne Logston embraces the cheese that any adventure starring an elf going by that cliched name would struggle to avoid. He engages in cheerfully roguish schemes, and is maneuvered against in turn in this fun little swashbuckling romp. Looks like Drizzt is starting to spawn cash-ins like any success.

The Crafters, edited by Christopher Stasheff & Bill Fawcett is one of our shared world universes. This is another one that doesn't really work, largely due to an insufficiently broad setting bible and editing. If all your writers wind up producing the same kind of story, then you haven't given them enough material to work with.

Old nathan by David Drake is another negative review. It's all window dressing with no window, substituting silly voices for characterisation. Mr Bunnel does not seem to be in a good mood this month.

Being of two minds by Pamela F Service does rather better, putting an interesting twist on the bodyswapping/sharing trope. It's in the young adult section, but handles the situations and the way people react to them in a mature enough way for the reviewer to still recommend it.

The encyclopedias of monsters and ghosts by Daniel Cohen are nonfiction pieces drawing legends together and giving opinions on them. Ah yes. You really should have one of these in the house. They're full of ideas to steal for your game, as we've seen before.
 
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