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

So, how am I doing so far?


  • Total voters
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
3.X version, page 210. Test-based prerequisites for prestige classes.
Ah. Even the core book made a few recommendations along those lines. But I tend to think balancing mechanical benefits with social drawbacks is futile. Prestige classes also lack focus, are inherently biased toward certain classes/builds, and aren't integrated well into the setting. Some are almost purely mechanical (for instance, the multi-class enablers like mystic theurge), while others implied a sect or cult or other tightly-knit organization. But without a setting, they just kind of floated. Cryptic Alliances were well integrated into the setting, represented something very specific and uniform (didn't try to mix in archetypes, for instance), and didn't provide mechanical benefits.

But that's probably drifting off-topic a bit.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 106: February 1986

part 2/4

Money isn't everything: As long as you have enough of it, that is. Which first level characters definitely do not. Looks like it's another economic advice article. If you rolled so badly that you can't even afford what are considered the essentials for your class, what do you do? You can go anyway, hoping and praying you won't die on your first adventure, after which you should have a haul good enough to fill in the gaps (as well as a better idea of what exactly a dungeoneer needs) Or you could get a loan. Wizards need little compared to other classes, so they often have money to spare. Or you could start out in debt to a loan shark, which gives you lots of incentive to get out there and make your fortune fast or die trying, for a kneecapping often offends. You could even take out insurance policies. After all, NPC clerics are expensive, and you don't get to raise dead yourself for quite some time. Having the party all chip in to help each other will massively increase their collective odds of surviving and prospering. As would not getting drunk and frittering your money away on the high life whenever you're back in town, but that's a whole different story) This is definitely some advice that will increase your characters survivability, if possibly at the expense of some of the games flavour. If you enjoy economic manipulation, that may be a good thing. If you'd prefer not to play characters who think in a slightly metagame manner and want to keep things medieval, or would rather gloss over technical details like this which slow the game down, this may not be so pleasing. Still, it does raise some very valid points that are worth considering, to see if you want to apply them to your game. It's certainly a thought-provoking article that points out, then punctures a whole bunch of the games base assumptions, making it easier for you to change them if you don't like them.

Battletech gets a very attention grabbing full page ad. Roxxor.

Open them, if you dare: Having covered swords, shields, rings, armour, and lots of spellbooks; Ed manages to wheedle from Elminster (with the aid of copious amounts of mountain dew) information on a whole load of magical doors of the Realms. 12 different types, each with their own tricksy (and often amusing) means of inconveniencing people trying to get through them. And without even getting into the cheesy old standby of talking doorknockers either. (Beware the area of David Bowie.) That should not only be useful for your own games, but spark your imagination for ways that you can screw your own players over and keep them properly paranoid. After all, any object could be enchanted to do virtually anything. If you get stuck in a rut, your players'll get bored as well. What items will he turn his diabolical mind too next? Will he ever run out. Hopefully not for a good few years.

The ranger redefined: Wilderness lore is a big topic. While rangers as written in the corebook do have some nature related skills, it certainly doesn't adjudicate how they deal with various environmental threats in enough detail for many people. This article gives them a whole new set of skills to make up for that, largely percentile ones that increase by your level by a fixed amount. This is an increase in the classes power, but the author does try and balance this out by requiring additional training times for each extra skill they choose to increase. This will significantly increase the downtime between adventures for you, which may annoy the players of the other PC's, so as a balancing mechanism, I'm not sure it works. This is another case where the game screams for a more standardised skill system and number of slots to devote to various categories, so you have plenty of choices without one character being massively better than another for no reason. OA has recently introduced the idea of nonweapon proficiencies, but they're still using the same slot base as the weapon ones, creating an awkward competition for resources in such a combat focussed game. Still, the two survival guides are out later this year, which will substantially improve on this. The system is definitely developing. Anyway, this is a good idea for an article, but not brilliantly implemented. So it goes.

More range for rangers: We had this for fighters recently, in issue 99. Now it's rangers turn to get their list of followers expanded. What are the odds similar articles for the other classes will show up soon. This reduces the variability in the number of followers to make things fairer, smoothes out a number of kinks in the original table, and adds newer creatures from the fiend folio and MMII. It clearly explains why the writer made all the changes he did, which means if you don't agree with the specifics, you have lots of help in changing it further. Now that's definitely something I approve of, like DVD commentary and behind the scenes documentaries. Another one to bookmark and pull out when you reach the appropriate level.

The way we really play: Or The story of how I used to be a Monty Haul DM, but grew out of it. The problem is, even once you do, you still have to deal with your current group, who are still twinked out to the nines and used to the game world working like that. If you don't want to throw everything away and start a whole new campaign, how do you fix this? Talk things through, in a sensible and rational way of course. There may be a few complaints, but they'll probably understand, particularly if you do it right and the game does wind up more fun afterwards. An annoying subject, mitigated by the interesting actual play reports, leaving me with mixed feelings about the whole thing. Oh well, we'll see this subject again in various forms. I guess I should be grateful that I'm not hating it every time it comes up.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Casting spells for cash: Ahh yes, one of the most broken parts of D&D's utterly broken economic system. This glosses over that, particularly as there isn't a standardized cost for spellcasting yet, and concentrates more on the way spells can be useful for a place's infrastructure, enabling pseudotechnological advances that move the milieu beyond the medieval. Ho hum. Most of you should already know most of these tricks. If you're going to do this stuff seriously, then magic-users ought to start off in huge amounts of debt, to represent their tuition and spellbook costs. And that may be a bit too much realism for most people. It does introduce a pricing system, but it's ridiculously high, placing wizards for hire out of the range of everyone but really rich nobles. Once again we see that D&D really needs a unionbreaker, so the laws of supply and demand can rebalance everything to a sane set of prices. I am seriously tempted to make that one of the primary conflicts in my campaign world. An irritating article.
That's one of the nice things about our game world. Spellcasters in trouble with the law pay their debt with spells. Continual Light streetlamps alone can keep a low level wizard busy for weeks.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 106: February 1986

part 3/4

Bad idea, good game?: Ahh, badwrongfun. Was there ever such a tempting thing? This article covers that very tendency, for things that seem implausible or tasteless to actually turn out to be fun precisely because of those quirks. When you break the rules of design, break them good, and find a niche no-one's thought of, and your odds of success are actually better than if you try and compete directly with an established company by copying their formula. After all, they have both an established fanbase, and are more experienced, so even if they didn't do things perfectly on the way up, it's damn hard to unseat them. A lesson you can see again and again, from evolution, to economics, to social dynamics. Learn it well, because it's virtually an axiom of reality. Of course, you may make quite a few mistakes along the way. That's also an inevitable problem with experimenting. But you shouldn't let it stop you. Paranoia, Toon, All my children. All break out from the traditional roleplaying mold, and get looked at here, along with some intriguing supplements from more traditional games. So this is sorta a review piece as well as an article, making you aware of games you might not have been, and what they do. And most importantly, saying to game designers, ok, we don't need another fantasy heartbreaker. What other cool stuff can we do with roleplaying. Just how far can we take this and still make fun games. Which is definitely an attitude I can get behind.

A plethora of paladins: Yay! 7 classes in a single go! I do believe that's a new record. And these guys are considerably better done than the set way back in issue 3. They've already covered paladins and anti-paladins. Now the other alignments get their own quirky set of exemplars. Myrikhan (NG) Garath (CG) Lyan (LN) Paramander (N) Fantra (CN) Illrigger (LE) and Arrikhan (NE) They are a fairly varied bunch, with ultra-tanks, versatile gish spellcasters, and sneaky backstabbers amongst them, but being warriors is always their primary focus. Most of them are pretty powerful, but their XP costs are also rather high. If this will keep them perfectly balanced in actual play I very much doubt, but introducing them, be it as PC's or NPC's, will certainly spice things up, introducing new shades of colour into our moral dilemmas. I'd certainly be interested in hearing from anyone who used these at any point, and should I get to play in a pre-3rd ed game again, would definitely consider trying them. (Although to try them all, we'd have to skip the regular classes. How do you suppose that would turn out, a party comprised of a bounty hunter, an incantrix, a sentinel, the revised monk and bard, a witch, and a myrikhan. ;) )

TSR Previews: Plenty of stuff this time, in another double page spread. However, once again, the SPI games are delayed. It's pretty obvious where their priorities lie. That's going to piss quite a few people off.
Anyway, back to what's actually coming out. AD&D gets OA1: Swords of the daimyo. It fills in lots of details on Kara-tur that the main book didn't have space for. So lets get playing! We're also getting N3: Destiny of kings. A low level module, designed to be solved by cleverness rather than force. Nothing unusual there.
D&D gets B10: Nights dark terror. Step out of the dungeon and trek acros the wilderness in this module designed to bridge the gap between basic and expert set play. What lies beyond the duchy of Karimekos? If you're rather higher level, you can play CM7: the tree of life. Designed for a team of maxed out elves, you have to investigate what's happened to a hidden kingdom. Guess sometimes this stuff is mysterious even to the poncy near-immortals.
The second book in the Gord novels, Artifact of evil, is also out now. Gord starts to rise to fame from his humble beginnings. Ahh, the epic hero arc. How we love thee.
Partyzone gets two books this month. Number 2 is Inheritance. JJ Caldwell (that Caldwell clan sure do get around) is dead. Who killed him? Is it you? Who will get his inheritance. Number 3 is the Knave of Hearts. Quite the soap opera here, as the big drama happens in the scenario. Certainly sounds amusing, and it's nice to see them tackle other, very different types of RPG's.
Lankhmar and the one-on-one series team up for book 5: Dragonsword of Lankhmar. Are our heroes turned against each other?
And finally, Amazing stories is also releasing two full books. Starskimmer, by John Betancourt, and Death of a mayfly by Lee Enderlin. More sci-fi and horror, by the looks of things.

Profiles: Jon Pickens is our first profilee. He's the acquisition editor, which means he's the muggins who has to read through all the crap in the slush pile for potentially publishable material. So he's our first line of defense against twinks and stupidity. He's both a wargamer and a RPGer, and has been into them before TSR was founded, so he was well placed to get a job in the industry after graduating. Seems a reliable sort.
Steve Winter is the manager of game editors. His is a postproduction job, taking written games and getting them into shape, tightening up both the writing and rules. He's another person brought to RPG's by the wargaming path, and managed to get into TSR just as they were really expanding. He's married to another person in the business, and they probably have well grown baby geeks by now. His next project is something called Sniper Patrol. Looks like he's going to be producing cool stuff for us for years to come.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 106: February 1986

part 4/4

Fiction: Intruder by Russell Madden. What does a powerful predator think when some rival encroaches on it's territory. Does it care about what it is beyond the basics of how to get rid of the opposition, and if it'll make a decent meal? This is one of those bits of fiction that vividly shows you the PoV of the monster, making you unsure which side of the conflict you want to win. The human side is decently covered too, telling the story of two humans from an orbital station exiled to the primitive planet below for being dissidents. Neither side comes off very well from the experience, but they both learn valuable lessons about life. A nicely involving bit of writing.

The ARES section drops it's intro pages, and gets straight to the articles, just like they said they would.

Notes from the underground: The computer is your friend. Reading this article is treasonous. Please present yourself for summary excecution. Thank you for your co-operation. Yes, Paranoia is getting an article this month. How doubleplus good. Ken Rolston gives a rather amusing how to survive and prosper article. This is a game unlike most others in that you are expected, nay, encouraged to put each other in impossible situations, kill each other, and generally be a complete scumbag. All in the best possible taste, of course. :Crosses legs: Quite a long article, which is also very useful in getting across the playstyle to anyone reading who has no idea what the game is about. This may well have sold quite a few people on it back in the day. The illustrations are rather amusing as well. Once again, it's nice to see them cover different games. What will they get up to next? Lets hope we see this one again, because I've always had a soft spot for Paranoia.

Stellar feedback: Roger Moore decides to let us know how things are going to develop in the Ares section in the future, based on your feedback. Unsurprisingly, marvel stuff is keeping up it's strong performance, with gamma world running a reasonable second. Star frontiers is also doing reasonably, and it's not as if they're short of requests to cover other stuff. So it's the usual problem trying to figure out how to please as many of the people as often as possible in a limited page count. This is why how you filter and interpret your info is important. Maybe we should develop a statistical algorhythm. Meh. It'd never match up to human intuition. ;)

The marvel-phile: Jeff is heading back oop north to Canada to keep us up to date with the latest developments in the Alpha flight team. Madison Jeffries and Vindicator are the new heroes; a mechanic, and a power suited mobility focussed fighter. We also get Delphine Courtney, one of their recent villains. A robot wearing a bigger robot suit? That doesn't seem right somehow. I guess if no-one suspects it, then it makes a good plot reveal. Jeff is also busy trying franticly to get the Advanced game out on deadline, so apologies if he messes this one up. Thankfully he doesn't, keeping sight of the people behind the powers as well as the cool stats. He may be working hard behind the scenes, but from the front, it still seems pretty effortless.

The new humans: Oh, this is an amusing picking apart of rules quirks. Why are supposedly normal humans in gamma world so bleeding tough, especially compared to the ones in AD&D, but also to the real world. Even Robots can't compete with little girls. Even in a harsh environment, there's no way everyone should be the equivalent of level 8 at 10 years old. How do we justify this? Widespread genetic enhancement! Man, what a load of cheek. ;) So much for them being the easily identifiable with everymen when they're actually one of the most technologically modified and scientifically advanced groups. And the way it conflates mutants with dumb religious types makes it clear where the author's biases lie on the science/religion divide. All in all, this is an entertaining bit of lampshading, that I probably won't actually get to use, but still found thought-provoking. This is probably a case where the game is better off for not being as realistic as it could be. Whether you want to gloss over or call attention to the rules quirks is up to you. Still, this should help you choose.

Wormy continues mixing drinks. Snarf continues being a reluctant hero. Dragonmirth is dreadfully untrue to the source material. Shocking, shocking I say.

Seems like we have a lot of examination of the basic assumptions of the games this time. And most of the time, they've turned out fairly well as well. They're definitely keeping up their desire to encourage experimentation with different games and playstyles. And the new drive for more efficient use of space seems to be a success as well, because the issue feels fuller than recent ones. Guess a little freshening up the format was just what the doctor ordered, to get me enjoying this again. Course, the battle to find something new to keep ennui at bay is never-ending. How long before this in turn grows dull. Only one way to find out. When tomorrow becomes today, the next step will be revealed.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 107: March 1986

part 1/4

108 pages. So they've expanded the size slightly again, to make up for the price increase. It's now reached the size that it'll remain at for the rest of the decade. Combined with their new drive for efficient use of space, this may result in a bigger increase in material than it seems. The contents page is certainly jam-packed. Will this force me to slow down my progress through the issues even more? As ever, this is the kind of question that can only be answered by doing. Let us see how much energy their new enlarged issues deplete. Anyway, this month's theme is the ability scores. Not something they've tackled before in this way, and a little more basic than their usual fare. Will they completely deconstruct the game? Here's hoping.

In this issue:

Letters: A question about how to handle point-blank shots from firearms in D&D. Do you allow coup-de-graces, or let high level characters be unrealistically tough. I'm gonna go with the unrealistically tough version alex.
A letter asking when they're next going to do an index for the magazine. Issue 112! Look forward to it!
A letter asking what a 26 int does for you, and if gods can have other stats above 25 as well. They suggest you engage in basic mathematical extrapolation from the current tables. You should have more than enough to work from.

Oooh. Well well well. We get the first rumblings that they're planning to make a magazine for adventures. They don't have a name for it yet, but it's going to be 64 pages long, published every 2 months, and edited by Roger Moore. Obviously, since they want lots of submissions from freelancers, they'll be giving more details as they figure them out. And almost as obviously, that means dragon'll stop having adventures in it soon. Which is a shame for me, but probably a good thing for the people at the time. Looks like they're not content with the changes they've made already, but have a whole bunch more to be rolled out this year. Will they be well-recieved? I'll just have to see.

The forum: Michael Dobson defends the Battlesystem. You can engage in mass combat, and still have meaningful character development and roleplaying. Have you never watched war movies? High level characters ought to be doing this epic stuff. If they don't then high level play will be just low level play with bigger numbers. Don't be so closed minded.
Dana P Simer gives us a mini-article about clerics, alignment, and how they are enhanced or hindered by aligned areas. Interesting.
Tom Humphries wants to reach a middle ground between the people who don't fudge at all, and those who do so regularly. If you kill too many characters too frequently, then you might end up with no game to play at all. How very wishy washy.
Daniel Myers is decidedly unhappy with TSR's current direction, and has decided to stop buying the magazine. It's concentrating too much on D&D and other TSR products, and the new books constrain our creativity. The new edition looks like an excuse to constrain us even more, and bilk us out of money again for material we already have. Ahh, this familiar refrain. Some things never change.

A new loyalty base: Hmm. Looks like Stephen Inniss is among those who finds that charisma is currently used as a dump stat and doesn't like it. Not only that, but the rules that use it are poorly organized, and scattered through multiple books. So he takes it on himself to provide an alternative system. Go him. This is actually slightly simpler than the regular system, and a lot more streamlined. The editors must have quite liked it to give it pole position. Can't say it really leaps out at me though. Given his crunch is generally pretty solid, I'll put it on the list of things to try out. Did anyone use this in place of the regular system? How did it turn out for you?

The six main skills: Another increasingly regular writer takes the second spot. Jeff Swycaffer breaks down what your stats mean in terms of real world capabilities, and which ones can be improved by what means. While it's hard to improve your actual intelligence, and wisdom is something that should come with time anyway, there is a lot you can do to make better use of what you have. While the article is ok, it doesn't really seem to do much. I am left wandering what the point is.

Room for improvement: Ah. This follows straight on where the last article left off. Now it makes more sense. Kim Mohan tackles the thorny topic of adventurers improving their ability scores. You may take this for granted now, but it was only a decade ago that you were pretty much stuck with what you rolled, powerful magic aside. He looks at the 6 of them, and whether, realistically, you should be able to improve them by training. He isn't completely against the idea, but if you do implement a system for it, he recommends you be exceedingly conservative, with months of dedicated training needed to improve one point, and no going above racial maximums. Ho hum. Stuff like this is why he's an editor rather than a primary writer. Just not very interesting, I'm afraid.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 107: March 1986

part 2/4

Reviews: Pendragon gets high praise from Ken Rolston. It's well presented, well written, has a truly epic scope, and does a great job of turning it's source material into a coherent gamable setting, and then making mechanics that encourage play that works like the source material. It's both enjoyable to read, and makes a great game. Nice to see it getting the credit it deserves already.
Harn's supplements get a good going over. Cities of Harn covers 7 major cities around the island. It's pretty small, and the cities are rather uniform. Whether this reflects a consistent design, or just copypasta, I'm not sure. The encyclopedia Harnica are a series of minibooks expanding on various aspects of the setting, from economics to herbalism to cosmology. Looks like with the small size, they can write stuff that they couldn't fill a whole book with. Ivinia is another country set in the same world as Harn. It's covered in a similar way, but this area is based more on scandinavian stuff. It maintains the same standards as the rest of their stuff. They certainly seem to be a vibrantly developing setting at the moment.

The role of books: A personal demon by Bischoff, Brown & Richardson is an amusing little morality play, in which a guy summons a demon, and ends up learning a lot about human nature. It has an interesting deconstruction at the end, where they talk about how and why it was written. This is of definite use to a certain kind of gaming.
The misenchanted sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans is the tale of how a poor scout got saddled with a magic sword of immense power, that renders him immortal and near invincible, but at a dreadful cost. Like Bilbo, he just wants to live a quiet life, but his macguffin keeps dragging him into adventure, and he just can't get rid of it. This is of course, a much more entertaining story than some brooding badass adventurer with nothing real to complain about.
Saga of old city by Gary Gygax is the first book in the Gord series. Unsurprisingly, it gets a fairly positive review, with the main criticism that the worldbuilding feels tacked onto the story, rather than growing organicly from his exploration of the world. The gygaxian prose is in full force here, resulting in a rather idiosyncratic read. Still, it should be useful to AD&D players, particularly greyhawk ones.
The book of kantella by Roland Green and Frieda Murray is a rather large and ponderous story, that makes not even a token stab at being standalone. It gets one of the more negative reviews, but they still take pains to point out it's good points, such as good worldbuilding and military strategy. At least it's not just another fantasy heartbreaker.
The book of kells by R A MacAvoy is nothing to do with our previous review. The book in question this time is a 10th century celtic manuscript sought by a modern-day artist. Somehow, he winds up traveling back in time, and getting into a whole bunch of adventures. And unusually, being crap at learning the language. There's rather more action in this than her previous books, which the reviewer considers a definite plus. Ahh, boys. Always after more action.
The sorcery within by Dave Smeds is a cleverly crafted tale of a dragon, and the people looking to slay him. It spans substantial amounts of time, and has a cleverly crafted plot. Another pretty positive review.
The iron tower trilogy by Dennis L McKiernan is an omnibus review of a very blatant tolkien rip-off indeed. As a pastiche, it's a well crafted success. As a work of genuine creativity, on the other hand, I think not. Probably not worth bothering.
Plus we get lots more microreviews. Sheri S Tepper continues to be insanely prolific, as do Paul Williams, Charles de Lint and Katherine Kurtz, while Judith Tarr takes a literary right angle. No shortage of books coming out.

The ecology of the sea lion: Elminster punctures the stupidity of earth naming conventions as he tells a story of Real sea lions. A nicely mythic little tale of epic heroism, treachery and lineage, which has tons of recognizable forgotten realms stuff woven through it. This time he eschews the footnotes for a more prosey description of the creature, with definite hints of his Elminster voice even in the OOC bit. There is a bit of noble savage froofery, but this is another example of just how versatile a writer Ed is. Once again I am left envious and wondering how he keeps going. It barely seems like he's having to work at it.

For sail, one new NPC: Looks like we have another aquatic article in quick succession. Scott Bennie introduces a new character class. The mariner. Like the sentinel, this is definitely a skillset that the current classes don't really cover, so I'm not complaining on that front. They have a fairly extensive list of powers, most of which are focussed on sea adventures, so their usefulness as adventurers will vary considerably depending on adventure. Still, even on land, they aren't bad as a lightly armored swashbuckling fighter type, so they'll still be useful, just not spotlight holders in the same way. These are the kind of guys who would never appear in anything like this form in later editions, but I still quite like them nonetheless. They're certainly more interesting than the later Krynnish mariner class. Another one I would have no objection allowing into a game at all.

Economics made easy: Ahh yes, the principles of supply and demand. Essential to any functioning economy is the ability to adapt prices based on scarcity and necessity. But of course, as we know, D&D doesn't have a functioning economy. Only insanely powerful unions or some other form of fudge can make them work without doing a complete rebuild of the pricing structure from the ground up. So here's a little article letting you know about a few more basic economic principles. Inflation. Central place theory. Amounts of choice, amount of goods available, and the knock-on effects from spikes and collapses in demand. Resources available. All pretty sensible stuff. Now can you build a world that is both economically functioning, and still exciting to adventure in? Much kudos if you can.

More dragons of glory: A rather lengthy article here. Lest we forget, in DL11, the adventure stepped out of AD&D, and became a boardgame, allowing you to play out the war of the lance from a top-down perspective. Of course, in most things like that, there will be stuff cut for reasons of simplicity or page count. So as ever, the magazine gets to give you a nice load of bonus material. Stuff is added on to nearly every phase of the game, and then a load of new scenarios are presented. This is one of those cases where I don't really feel qualified to comment, but it certainly looks like a pretty involved bit of wargaming stuff. I'll have to leave this one up to public opinion. Was this a good game? Did this article add to it? How did your players feel about the change in rulesets when they got to this part?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 107: March 1986

part 3/4

And it's survey time again. A rather badly formatted survey at that. Is this really going to produce a good evaluation of what your readers do and don't want? If you don't pay enough attention to get all the boxes properly sorted out and the things lined up, I'm dubious about your ability to pick questions (and the right kind of categories of answers to them) to produce the data you need to really improve the magazine. This does not bode well for their future direction.

When the rations run out: And it's back to examination of realism issues. As anyone who's actually been hiking and camping knows, food and equipment are major hassles in extended treks. The day to day life of an adventurer is a lot less glamorous than the stories would have you believe. No matter how high level you are, until you transcend to godhood, become a lich, or use some other method of getting rid of your mortal limitations, you've gotta eat regularly. Or at least, this writer thinks so. Which is why he makes your ability to survive without food based directly on your con score rather than your hit points. Which is a perfectly valid thing to do, but still results in a rather dull article. Oh, the endless wash of minutinae. Is there no escape from you. Lichdom seems oh so very attractive around now.

Profiles: This month's staffers getting the spotlight are Roger Raupp and Larry Elmore. Roger is the head of the art department, handling much of the laying out of the magazine, as well as doing some actual cartography and art in his own right. I've never been that keen on his personal art style, but obviously the magazine as a whole wouldn't look as good without him. He's also primarily responsible for tormenting Roger Moore, turning him into Rogar the Barbarian and other such playful mockery for the dreadful crime of sharing first names. How very delightful :rolleyes:
Larry Elmore is one of our more famous names, and instantly recognizable artists, being responsible for lots of the new BD&D set, Dragonlance, snarfquest, et all. He's always been a doodler, getting in trouble for drawing when he should have been working in school. He became an illustrator with the army, and looked set for a dull job as a technical illustrator, if he hadn't been rescued by TSR. And He's rather thankful they did, because he certainly gets a lot more fanmail here. :D. The photo of him on a motorbike is pretty cool as well. He may not always turn his talents to the best subjects, but he's definitely responsible for one of the iconic D&D looks. Interesting to find out more about him.

TSR Previews: Another short list of releases this month. AD&D gets DL12: Dragons of faith. The chronicle is near it's climax, and the whole gang is together again. Will you triumph. Have you managed to keep your own party on the railroad long enough to get here? Good questions as ever.
The AD&D gamebooks gets book 7: Sceptre of power. The start of a trilogy, it looks like even these are getting epic. So much for solo gaming being something you do in the gaps between sessions.
Endless quest is up to book 32: Prisoner of Elderwood. A very sketchy description on this one, doesn't really leave me with much to say.
And Marvel Superheroes gets MHAC9: Realms of magic. Maybe now being a sorcerer will be a balanced playable option compared with other superheroics. Anyone have any feedback on this matter?

Spy's advice: What did you mean when you said .44 magnums weren't suitable for use. (they reveal your position, letting everyone else shoot back. Baaad idea for a spy.)
How does magnum ammunition interact with regular guns. (badly. That extra damage requires special design. )
How do equipment finding percentages interact with the black market. ( If you're willing to pay the price, you can find nearly anything. Course, this may get you in trouble if it's illegal equipment. )
How long are fusing cords. How long do they take to burn down. (As long as you make them. 1 inch per second. For once, warner brothers cartoons are fairly accurate to reality.)
Can you load a gyrojet underwater (yes. You can shoot it too. Pretty handy.)
How do different kinds of bullets differ statistically. (Quite substantially. Choosing the right one is a big consideration. )
Can you kill someone with an overdose of truth serum (only if they're a wimp)
Can you get agency help if the mafia is after you (yes)
Can you wear karate pads on your feet (yes)
Why can't you use a fist in untrained combat (You can. What book are you reading?)
Can you use fame and fortune points to jam someones gun when you're unconcious and they'd kill you otherwise. (Only once. You'd better think of some other excuse next time.
How hard is it to shoot someone outdoors in the dark (-100. No chance for most people. )
Are there any limits on your advancement of your personal traits (Not many. Get as badass as you can dude.)
Does increasing your knowledge score add to your AoK's (yes)
Do police really carry thompson machine guns. (Sometimes.)
How do you raise language ratings (same as any other AoK)
Do NPC's have observation and perception ratings. (how else would they spot sneaking PC's. No challenge if they don't. )
What are the rules for car crashes. Will they explode (buy issue 78 :teeth ting: )
Are range modifiers cumulative (no)
Can you make bullets of strange materials (at great expense)
Do death rings affect the wearer or the person you shake hands with (good question. Both have their uses. )
If you attack someone while talking to them, do they have to check for surprise (no)
What's a neckband holster. (Another clever way to conceal weapons. Ahh, those wacky secret agents, always having to counter each other's innovations. )
How quickly can you replace a cylinder. (4 phases)
Can an M3 use a Thomson ammo drum (can you use USB devices with a ZX spectrum? )
Do frag and blast grenades cost the same (yes)
You missed out some prices. (Oh noes. Easy enough to fix)
If you shoot someone at point blank range, do you use the general determination chart (no)
What happens if you fire flechettes or microjets at point blank range. (they lose their special benefits. No point, really.)
Do telephone taps have their own transmitters (usually)
Can walkie talkies be concealed (Not in the 80's.)
Will a weapon still work after going underwater if you don't shoot it (unlikely, especially if you've just swum through a sewage pipe)
What are defenses S1-3 ( S1&2 are in the book. S3 was a mistake)
Weapon prices in different parts of the book contradict each other! (The chart is right)
Can I use a real world catalogue to buy non-espionage equipment. (That would make sense. Course, the GM might not want their game to make sense. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 107: March 1986

part 4/4

Fiction: Doomsgame by J B Allen. An amusing little tale of how Teachers & Classrooms, and it's dramas, is corrupting the youth of a fantasy world. Who will slay the dragons? Who will propitiate the gods? What strange hold does the idea of sneaking cigarettes in and smoking them while trying to avoid being caught, figuring out if the boy from your geography class likes you, and trying to get good grades so you can get a good job when you graduate have on these children. I'll give you some magical gems if you go back to your zombie slaying practice like a good girl. Very amusing, and a slant on the whole meta gaming fiction I haven't seen before. This certainly brought a smile to my face.

Mutant fever: Hmm. Disease got short shrift in the recent edition of gamma world. This is rather unrealistic, and the writer of this article disapproves. Still, that's what articles like this are for. So here we get expanded rules for infection and treatment of disease. The kind of thing that will increase the lethality somewhat, but that's intentional, so I'm not criticizing the writer for that. As this is a big subject, this is only part of the article, with stuff on specific diseases coming next month. Which means it isn't really fully usuable on it's own. Which is mildly irritating. Ho hum. Guess I'll have to wait until next issue before coming to a full conclusion.

One in a million: How common should superheroes be in your campaign. Should you imitate the marvel and DC universes, and skew the ratio strongly towards america. Should your universe have all the different categories of origins and powers that they put in those, or will you go for a more consistent theme and structure. As ever, good questions, that may not be that well tackled by the article at hand. This is pretty purely about demographics, showing stats for how many heroes there should be, assuming 1 superhero per million people, where they should come from, what ethnic groupings they should be. Not very interesting stuff and oh so very out of date by now, but not terrible as a piece to get you thinking analytically about your worldbuilding. Do you want a game where the PC's and named villains are the only game in town, or a world where you can assume there are superheroes in every city, each with their own dramas and crises. Choice is yours etc, etc.

Tote that barge: Looks like we have another recurring topic this month as economics is applied to sci-fi settings. Supply and demand becomes rather tricky when your travel times can run into years. You could make an enormous profit is what you're selling can't be found anywhere in the solar system. But if you turn up shortly after someone else, you'll make considerably less. Compensating for this instability is one of the prime causes of inflation. More stuff that seems perfectly reasonable, but rather dull. We do get some random tables for star frontiers that serve as an example. Think about what resources each planet has, and then plan your own economic map accordingly.

The marvel-phile: Lots more canadian creations this month. Smart Alec. :rolleyes: Diamond Lil. Flashback. Wild child. Scramble. Deadly Ernest :double rolleyes: Nemesis. Looks like Canada is as susceptible to attacks of bad puns as the rest of the english speaking world. As most of there are recently introduced (and in some cases already killed) characters, their histories and the true extent of their powers is rather sketchy. While they do have some interesting powers, this fails to sustain my interest as a whole, as the human interest just isn't there. A rather inconsequential entry.

The crusading life: A third superhero article this month, as we look at how to present your heroes with some more mundane challenges. Many of them have to juggle their secret identity with a normal job to pay the bills, and even if you can blow up entire buildings and run faster than a speeding bullet, this won't help with your love life, especially when you're late to your date again because you just saved the world. This is a staple of certain comics, spiderman in particular, and I have to agree that this could be pretty fun in a superhero RPG as well. So a few random low level events between the big plotlines seems like a good idea to me. This is a mistake that kills high level campaigns. If you have to save the universe every day, you get blase about it. And then the whole thing will just peter out. And I would prefer not to have to start all over again so soon, so this seems a pretty good way to finish off the section.

Wormy reminds us that while ogres may be stupid, they're still smart enough to kick ass. Snarfquest gets a little bit scooby doo in the way they face up to ghosts. Dragonmirth has some monstrous seduction.

West end games gives us two games adverts, one with commentary by Harlan Ellison, of all people. He does get around. He's like a crankier Neil Gaiman.

Overall, not a very good issue. The increase in contents seems to have resulted in more dull stuff getting in, which isn't very pleasing. Their editorial control also seems to be on the slide at the moment. To their credit, the survey shows that they are aware that they need to make some changes, but from this showing, I have my doubts as to whether I'll find them pleasing ones. Looks like the rollercoaster is heading downwards again now. How long before it goes back up again? Guess I'll have to just keep going and see. Well, they had three pretty damn good years. I shoulda known that it wouldn't all be like that. Onward! We can't end this on a downer.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 108: April 1986

part 1/4

108 pages Larry Elmore delivers another of his particular brand of fantasy images with rather dated hair. It doesn't co-ordinate with your helmet dear. Tie it up before you get tangled up in something. Notable by it's absence this year is the april fools section, because people are still pissed off at last years tricks. Man, their joke detectors must have been on the fritz. Maybe next year. Instead, this one isn't quite a gamma world special, but comes pretty close, with a second Mutant manual, another article, plus some stuff on postapocalyptic gaming in general. They really ought to get back to doing proper themed issues. Just a matter of time.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter about applying The Laws of Magic to a modern setting. What's happened to all the akasa. Whatever you decide, dear. It's your game.
A letter asking if nonhumans can adopt any of the new flavours of paladin. They were going to let them, but changed their mind. Any references are editing snafus. How very galling for all concerned (except the human lovers)
Some more annoying quibbling about the physics of different types of invisibility. Kim tells people to stop being so damn pedantic. It's no fun for anyone. Just let the magic be magical.

The forum: Lyle P Wiederman III and R. W. Clark think that high level magic-users taking days to relearn all their spells is an important part of keeping them balanced. A smart spellcaster of that level shouldn't get themselves in situations where they blow their entire load regularly. If you really must reduce the time taken to learn each spell, it ought to be based on level rather than intelligence, otherwise you're simply deferring the problem for a bit. Or you could just have a flat time, regardless of level or number of spells rememorized. Nahh, that's a terrible idea. ;)
Mark Morrison thinks that centaur cavalry is a stupid idea. You can't use saddles with them, and they're not very disciplined. For most nations, regular horses would be far less hassle. This is where elves and other faeish creatures that are closer to their mindset have a definite advantage. As malkavians show, when you have a group with the same kind of chaos, things get very scary for everyone else.
Jim Mackenzie reminds us that right and wrong are not always the same as good and evil, particularly the D&D definitions of good and evil. Is there no escape from these damnable questions of morality?
Dan Preece thinks that people ought to be exposed to the unfun side of excessive power, so they come to appreciate low level gaming all the more. It doesn't always work like that. In fact, I am deeply dubious of that conclusion.
Norman Shapiro has an alternate explanation for why low wisdom clerics are more likely to suffer spell failure. Remembering every little tenet your god has in your daily life is a rather tricky business.
J. M. Talent talks about the maedars stone to flesh power, and what happens if you apply it to things that were never alive in the first place. Hmm. Does the function follow the form, or will destoning a sculpted statue just produce a gross lump of vaguely human shaped meat? Depends what kind of GM you have.

Leomund's tiny hut: Len takes a look at monster advancement. They aren't born with all their HD and powers. And it's certainly possible that some might end up even tougher. And dragons shouldn't have a completely fixed number of HP per age category, as this encourages gamism. You can also upgrade monsters without actually changing their stats by judicious application of terrain features, magic items, team tactics, and so forth. He also introduces a new XP system that puts more weight on the individual monster's hit points, so the credit you get is for the work you actually do. Once again he is an inveterate tinkerer, house-ruling the game substantially, and quite possibly for the better. AD&D applying all the house-rules he's shown us in this column over the years would be quite a different beast, and that seems like the kind of thing that would be interesting to try for a one-shot (probably playing Secret of bone hill. ;) ) It's business as usual in Len's final appearance in these pages. Another case where we don't get to see the drama behind their departures, if there was any. So long. I might not have agreed with everything you wrote, but I'll still miss you.

The role of nature: Oh no. D&D doesn't have enough rules for environmental hazards! How am I supposed to properly play wilderness adventures if I don't have detailed rules for frostbite, heat exhaustion, equipment rot due to swamp exposure. and all kinds of weather effects. Yawnarama. A rather long and dull article. They do seem to be doing more of these lately.

The ecology of the pernicon: Now there's a monster I don't remember. Whatever happened to it? Anyway, these seem to be carnivorous locusts. A pretty scary prospect, when you consider how dangerous swarms of regular locusts are. They have water detecting antenna, which can be a definite help for desert nomads who harvest them and keep the antenna. Extra-helpfully, we get a full set of revised stats for them. The first non-Ed ecology in quite a while, this is rather more dry and scientific than most of his, but still manages to be quite an interesting read, giving me a good idea of how encounters with these little bastards would play out, as well as plenty of info on their lifecycle. A nice change of pace that should help to keep up the reputation of the series as one of the strongest parts of the magazine.
 
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