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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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Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
In answer to your (rhetorical) question, yeah, this'll do you some good at the table. You've got all these ideas perking way over on the very back burner, and you'll be surprised how often one of those nuggets suddenly makes a game session awesome.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992

part 1/6


124 pages. A surprisingly dynamic and cheesecake low Elmore pic heading things up this month. Someone's going to slip and fall while trying to get their hands on that sword, especially if they're rivals rather than part of the same team. The topic inside, on the other hand, is rather less mold breaking. Generic Magic again. You've got to specialise! They've realised that over in the campaign building stuff. When things are stable, you specialise to fill a niche, and outcompete anyone at it to profit properly. When times get hard, that's when it pays to be a generalist, and you adapt or perish. My mind needs more variety! :sigh: Pass me the lube. Here we go again.


In this issue:


Al Qadim! The forgotten realms fills up another continent with pseudo real world cultures. Well, it works for Kara-tur and Maztica. Why mess with a winning formula? Now all they need is a fantasy australia and the world'll be complete.


Letters: A letter asking about how you can become an official certified Dungeon Master. That, my dear, is just an urban legend, albeit one probably started by them back in issue 28, where they provided a system for figuring out what level DM & player you are. And then distorted and spread further by Jack Chick. What goes around comes around.

A letter by people who've translated the dwarvish on issue 174's cover. Another thing introduced by Ed Greenwood via the magazine, back in issue 69. Yet another strange little thread of history we can trace and enjoy.

And finally, yet another sexism letter, this time from a girl struggling to find other women interested in gaming. There's certainly enough of them sending in complaining letters to the magazine. Now, if only they could find each other in real life.


Editorial: Another familiar topic here, as Roger returns to the theme of future shock. The geopolitical situation has changed in a way few predicted, making a whole bunch of sci-fi novels invalid again, while also increasing his tolerance for improbable plot twists, since reality has often proved itself stranger than fiction. This seems really to be another not too subtle attempt at getting people to check out new games, both from TSR and other companies. Which hopefully will lead to more variety in the games he gets submissions for. Well, an editor can dream, can't he. Not a hugely interesting editorial, this does once again highlight his sense of whimsy and search for new forms of gaming to keep interests up. I'm betting we'll see a definite drop in non D&D articles soon after he's replaced.


Picture this!: Nigel Findley gives us another cool set of themed magical items. Why should Ed have all the fun in that department? So enjoy these 7 magical paintings, each a masterpiece both visually and in terms of effects. After all, you have a lot more room to customise a painting than with most items.

The Watchers lets you take control of animals in the vicinity and use them as spies. Careful though, for the twin dangers of losing yourself in their minds, and dying if they get killed while you're in them are quite significant. Seems like this could be almost as much a liability as a benefit. Seems rather appropriate given his fondness for horror stories.

Widow's walk is less dangerous, but still has it's quirks. But shielding from magical divination and weather control seem well worth a little creepiness. Anyone with reason to be paranoid'll value those qualities.

The Gladiators traps you in the painting and forces you to fight it's occupants. If you know the password, you can summon them out to fight a party the old-fashioned way. Which is actually less scary, but life is odd like that sometimes. This one is probably more a liability than a benefit to most groups.

Dragonnel lets you summon a little dragon to ride on, or turn into. It does have the danger of running out mid-combat, but since that's perfectly normal for magic, it can hardly be considered a curse.

Glorindel's Gates let you step into the area painted. This is of course a one-way trip. Seems pretty self-explanatory, and with plenty of literary sources.

Glorindel's Living Paintings are hypnotic. Another reason never to go to an art gallery in fantasy worlds, especially in Ravenloft. You never know what'll be implanted in the back of your mind, just waiting for the right situation. Being a slave sucks.

Igrane's Portraits let you communicate with the person in the painting. Again, this might not seem too surprising, but there are more than a few tricks this can pull. It can penetrate the veil of death. (with the usual dangers to your sanity) And there's an unfinished one which is even more useful than the finished ones. Goes to show how quirky magic can be.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992

part 2/6


Magic by candlelight: Another themed collection of magic items here. Looks like this issue is a bit more focussed than the contents page indicated. And since these are generally limited-use devices, you can be relatively generous with them as treasure. With 22 items in 3 pages, this is a dense little entry that I don't feel like individually listing everything in. Few are hugely powerful, but most are useful, with quite a few which can be hazardous to an incautious user, just like fireworks. As with potions, a good identification spell will come in handy. They also give you some guidance in what materials are needed to make them, which can be applied easily to potions, perfumes, oils, and other topically applied limited use items. Scavenger hunts eat up a good amount of time, and making magical items like this is a nice starter for them at mid levels. Plenty of good material to draw upon here then. This issue is looking up.


Mutants in orbit! A crossover supplement for Rifts and After the bomb. Seems a bit weird to have two different post apocalyptic settings mix like this.


Something completely different: Looks like it's not just new toys in the special this month, it's advice about properly applying them as well. We have all these weird and wonderful items built up over years of the magazine, and plenty of room for more obscure mundane items to be given their own magical powers. What do you do if you find a magical wardrobe in a villains collection, or a sentient spork? Large items may have cool powers, but transporting them can be a nightmare. And there's plenty of unusual nonmagical valuables you could use as well. Perhaps some customised random generation tables would be good. They often produce more interesting results than personal choice could. Curiously, this also manages to fit in 14 new items, each adding a quirk to an existing item family, although the descriptions are even shorter than in the last article. Another good example of their strong base of submissions around this time. Roger may be looking for more variety in his themes, but when people submit good material for previously covered topics he's hardly going to turn it down because of that.


Seven Enlightening lanterns: Once again, the influence of Ed Greenwood on the magazine is felt strongly here. Even when he's not contributing personally, he's done so much, and inspired so many that it's surprising we don't see more blatant copycats like this one. Still, once again you can enjoy a big collection of magical variants for an atmospheric but oft-neglected item. Let's see if we can play pinpoint the source material with this lot.

Bashal's Tendrilight sends out black quivering tentacles. Hmm. Have the Lasombra been aded to Vampire: the Masquerade yet? I guess Evard was already leading the way in hentai action. With paralysis and immunity to lots of weapons, these'll be a right bugger to fight.

Goldmane's Dazzler provides free light indefinitely, and also has two cool semi-connected tricks that make it seem even more Greenwoodesque. The history stuff is quite good too. So I guess the Realms grows ever more able to surprise it's creator in a good way.

Illag's Abominable Beacon is a skull-headed lamp of Eeeevil that projects undead summoning darkness. Better be able to see in that then to direct them properly, and make sure you don't stub your toe on a milling zombie.

Krillus's Blazer is electrified, and can unleash that power in a fashion akin to those pretty globes you see at every science fair. That'll do rather more than making your hair stand on end.

Malthrox's Shadowcaster also messes with darkness, in this case producing a shadowy clone of a person illuminated. This isn't as perfect a copy as an evil mirror clone, but is controllable at least. Have fun with it while it lasts, and don't hesitate to tease as well as fight. Making out with someone's shadow clone can drive them to rash acts.

Messakk's Eye can paralyze people looking into it Once again it looks like they're falling back on obvious ideas to finish the collection off. Still, an encounter-ender is not to be sneezed at, formulaic as it may be.

Thessall's Wayguider is incredibly handy for any dungeoneer. Instant illumination of secret doors & traps? Retracing your step effortlessly? True seeing? That'll cut your exploration time massively. No more tedious inching along mapping all the way and testing every flagstone. Now that's convenience for you. Awesome.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992

part 3/6


Fiction: Moonlight by Heather Lynn Sarik. Another quite amusing little story here. So you have a macguffin that produces a rare and valuable material. This stuff could make you a fortune! Trouble is, no-one can figure out what to do with it. And you keep on producing it. This is not a stable situation, and will lead to fast devaluations unless you pull some slippery snake-oil shenanigans. And the result is rather amusing, and reminds me quite a bit of "The two best thieves in Lankhmar" as the protagonists bicker their way through what they thought would be an easy job and wind up the fools, with unusually strong language for these family friendly days. As it's also moderately fitting for the theme of the issue, I definitely have to pronounce this one a success, subverting expectations quite nicely.


The voyage of the princess ark: Another year, another attack of surreality for the princess ark, as they find themselves in Renardy, home of the dog-like lupins. Who also happen to be French. :rolleyes: (Someone's been watching Dogtanian and the three muskethounds :) ) And determine prestige amongst the noble families by wine-making contests :double rolleyes: And someone has stolen this year's best vintage :eek: Guess who has to retrieve them and save the king from dishonor ;) However, they can't get through the fields of sleep inducing flowers to catch the goblins responsible. :( But it's alright, because they get saved by ninja tortles :cool: They solve the mystery, honor is satisfied, and everyone ends up happy. Apart from the goblins. The cheese quotient is definitely on the rise in this series. It may still be entertaining, but I'd want to filter this stuff out a bit before actually putting it in a game.

Unsurprisingly, we get more details on Renardy in the OOC bit. Lots of cultural and statistical data. Business as usual here. Can't say I'm that enthralled.


The marvel-phile: We finish serving up last year's leftovers, and actually have some interesting gaming advice here this issue. How do you build good villains? Why do so many official Marvel villains suck? Well, let's start with the name. A bad one condemns you to risibility even before you start, no matter how powerful you might be. Then there's the costume. Poor color co-ordination or the wrong areas of skin exposed can make it very hard to take you seriously. And finally, possibly least importantly, there's the powers. After all, there's plenty of badass normals holding their own out there in comic books, on both the good and bad sides. A single dumb trick is probably worse than none at all. And having too many schticks means it becomes impossible to remember them all and apply them to maximum effect. Their universe runs on dramatic logic rather than raw power.

They then go into specific examples of villains who have successfully repurposed themselves in the comics. Most notable is Paste Pot Pete becoming the Trapster, but there's others out there trying out a little self-improvement. Now, if they can just avoid things merging into a morass of grey grimdark villains with poorly defined badass powers. (yes, you, liefield.) And to top it off there's stats for the Sentinels and Hurricane. This is much better than the last few issues. Creative advice is more interesting than straight statblocks.


Rifts world book two, Atlantis. Beware the splurgoth. Now there's a name that'll eat your brains if you look at them the wrong way.


Forum: David Howery talks about painting minis, and expresses annoyance that there are so few minis of normal animals, along with various other thoughts about the practical problems of painting real creatures. There are some textures paint just can't simulate.

Justin Kelley is annoyed that magic resistance is so much more common and harder to penetrate in 2nd edition. Their mage is proving useless at high level! Elementary tactical error, methinks. That kind of stuff is why you move into buffs and terrain controllers rather than direct blasty effects. If your wizard isn't contributing much at 25th level, I have no hesitation in saying you're Doing It Wrong, since so many other groups are finding their spellcasters naturally graduate to supreme overlord at that level.

Bryce Harrington goes back to the headache of how to build fantasy cities in a defensible way with so many horrible creatures and spellcasters roaming around. Some historical models offer more benefits than others, but given the variety of powers out there, none really seem optimal. I guess it depends what monsters are most common in the particular area then.

Rene Vernon thinks that energy draining needs a little nerfing, but crossbows need powering up. More differentiation! Do you want every weapon group to be as complicated to handle as polearms and swords?
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
I see you weren't kidding about the emoticons. :D

Mutants in Orbit is odd. There's basically two slightly different versions of each space station and colony, one with more mutant animals, the other with more paranoid politics.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992

part 4/6


The role of computers: Macs may still be getting a decent amount of games, but it seems PC's are starting to pull ahead now, generally getting stuff first. However, it's Amiga that are really suffering. Just a couple of years now before they go bankrupt, and boy does it show. Might be a good idea to abandon this ship before it sinks. So it's another amusing historical pointer in the intro section here.

Conquests of the longbow: the adventures of Robin Hood gets a very positive review, with the reviewers impressed by both the graphics and gameplay. Point and click movement is applied with increasing finesse, and you get plenty of choices in how to overcome the various obstacles and bring peace to the land.

Eye of the Beholder II: The legend of Darkmoon once again goes to 5 stars, with substantially improved graphics and sound. Seems like they're saying that all the time these days, with particular emphasis on the precise specs needed. Point and click, and engage in lots of violence, as long as you have a good enough machine. SSI know what they're doing at this point.

Neverwinter Nights is of course their official online game. It's a pretty interesting, translating the turn-based D&D combat process surprisingly faithfully. Course, the world really isn't ready for this as a mass market product, with costs of several dollars an hour in phone bills, which probably explains why it doesn't count as part of the later series. I wonder if you can still get hold of this one.

Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers only gets a short review, but they say it's as good as previous instalments. I guess, like the book reviews, that's all a series with established fans needs.

The Simpsons: Bart's house of Weirdness also gets a short but positive review. Don't spout long discredited catchphrases, just enjoy the action. Funny that you don't see more spin-offs based on this series any more, given the time it's been running.


TSR Previews: A mere half a year after the last new campaign setting, they unleash another, very different desert heavy place for you to enjoy. Al-Qadim, Arabian adventures. Ok, so it's actually yet another add-on to Toril, but it's disconnected enough that you can ignore that and transplant it if you want too, like Kara-tur, and very much unlike Maztica. They finally figure out how to use kits properly, as a device for making classes reflect cultural roles, and the proficiency system probably works about as well as it ever does. I believe this permits a little yaying.

Speaking of kits, we also have one of the books that applied them most radically. PHBR7: The complete Bards handbook, where they weren't so much variants on the existing class as total retools. You could build a whole party of bards and have more than enough variety to be viable and distinct, especially when the half-elf multiclass variants were allowed. Just watch out for the cheese. Here be jesters, and all that.

Spelljammer expands on space combat, with the War Captain's Companion set. Shoulda brought that out before the goblin war stuff so we could use it in those adventures.

Dark sun sees more mass combaty fun in DSQ1: Road to Urik. Tyr and Urik are fighting! Save the newly freed city. Making the world a better place ain't going to be easy. Once again, they use an interesting spiral bound format.

The forgotten Realms is off in Maztica still, in FMQ1: City of gold. See new people, take their stuff, and figure out how to get members of the cool new races and classes the players are drooling over into the party.

Dragonlance has many more short stories to tell. The reign of Istar takes us back in time to that false paradise destroyed by it's own corruption. Look forward to more bloody aesopping, if I know them.

D&D has yet more entry level adventures, three of them in fact, in Dragons Den. Well, I suppose they want to get noobs in, and it ain't easy to run low level adventures with dragons. That they might think we would appreciate help with that is probably justified.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
The Simpsons: Bart's house of Weirdness also gets a short but positive review. Don't spout long discredited catchphrases, just enjoy the action. Funny that you don't see more spin-offs based on this series any more, given the time it's been running.
I would say the Simpsons got a new game for some platform or PC every 2 or 3 years.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992

part 5/6


Wonders of the land of fate: Surprise surprise, with the release of Al Qadim, (already mentioned twice this issue) we get an article promoting it. Ok, it's not the full-on special Dark Sun got, but it's better than nothing. And it's actually a lot more useful than the stuff in the Dark Sun and Buck Rogers specials. Ok, so it's mostly cut material from the corebook, but it's good material, as well as being appropriate to the theme of the issue. A ton of new magical items, many obviously derived from the arabian nights stories, and new random determination tables so you can get a good idea of their respective frequencies. The descriptions are very short, but do the job, and still manage to sneak in a decent bit of flavour. It does get released officially after all a bit later in the Land of Fate boxed set, but this is still useful stuff, and seems a good one for drawing people into the new setting. Jeff Grubb has done his job well, producing so much cool stuff that he can't fit it all into one book.



Ars magica gets a 3rd edition. Now with more crossover with the WoD. Watch out for those tremere.


Role-playing reviews: Back to fantasy gaming again. So many people who think they have some neat ideas to contribute to the genre. Some of them may even be right. This time it's Lester W. Smith who's our compere.

Fifth cycle gets an all round positive review. The worldbuilding is good, the system makes sense to him, and the magic has a nice internal logic to it. It has enough supplements to fill it out without overly bloating things. If you want another decent alternative system, go for it.

Barony gets a slightly less positive review, mainly due to it's small press origins being pretty obvious. But the ideas therein are rather more innovative, and it includes a rather spectacular treatment of Dragon battles, for some reason. If they could just tidy up some of the more pretentious and idiosyncratic language and make it more accessable. Pff. I'll bet I could understand it no trouble. After all, we had to deal with high Gygaxese for over 10 years.

Stuff O' Legends is halfway between an RPG and a boardgame, combining diplomacy and battle in a game of heroics revolving around the Trojan War. It's full of military and supernatural elements, as you build up your heroes and get them into position for the eventual inevitable conflict. With lots of optional rules that add further variety, it looks like an interesting edge case that could be taken either way.


Ladders to the sky: The shine is probably starting to wear off spelljammer around the office, as the realities of the first couple of year's sales are in, and they aren't so great. It's not dead yet, but new products are starting to slow down. And aside from the special, and rather a lot of Sage Advices, it hasn't seen much stuff submitted to here either. Allen Varney tries to spark things a little by reminding you how easily you can incorporate space stuff into an existing game. All you need is a means of going up! And this being spelljammer, cheesy ideas work just fine. Giant plants which shoot up into space as part of their mating cycle. Hired by a passing ship with a crew shortage. Random portals that send you somewhere unexpected one-way. Many of these would also work fine for introducing the planes as well. And a nice reminder that it's not hard to shake up a game that's getting stale by changing the environment and removing most of the familiar cast. Just be careful, for as many a TV show can demonstrate, this kind of trick can kill a series as easily as it can revitalise it, and pushing the reset button afterwards may not help. Good luck pulling it off.
 

Capellan

Member
RPGnet Member
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Fifth cycle gets an all round positive review. The worldbuilding is good, the system makes sense to him, and the magic has a nice internal logic to it. It has enough supplements to fill it out without overly bloating things. If you want another decent alternative system, go for it.
Recently ran a one-shot of this. It's an interesting game that I suspect was inspired more by Dragonquest than D&D. Certainly there are some aspects of the character creation that seem similar. It's definitely no D&D in tone: magic is almost entirely a non-combat pursuit, at least at low levels, and combat is very brutal. A single hit will likely cripple a starting character (it certainly did with one of ours).

None of these things are bad, per se - though I don't think these particular players enjoyed them - but they're definitely things to be aware of when assessing the game's appeal, as they lend themselves to a very different kind of tone.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
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Dragon Magazine Issue 179: March 1992Barony gets a slightly less positive review, mainly due to it's small press origins being pretty obvious. But the ideas therein are rather more innovative, and it includes a rather spectacular treatment of Dragon battles, for some reason. If they could just tidy up some of the more pretentious and idiosyncratic language and make it more accessable. Pff. I'll bet I could understand it no trouble. After all, we had to deal with high Gygaxese for over 10 years.

Stuff O' Legends is halfway between an RPG and a boardgame, combining diplomacy and battle in a game of heroics revolving around the Trojan War. It's full of military and supernatural elements, as you build up your heroes and get them into position for the eventual inevitable conflict. With lots of optional rules that add further variety, it looks like an interesting edge case that could be taken either way.
I have these (though my version of Stuff O' Legends is the magazine version from issue 4 or 5 of Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer when Better Games published it). Barony has some good ideas, but the first edition looks like it was typed up and photocopied at Kinko's, so I can understand the small-press comment. No idea what the problem is the reviewer had with the language, it seemed straight forward to me. Fun system. And Stuff O' Legends is more boardgame than RPG, but it has some RPG elements to it. It is also the source of one of the more obscure in-jokes that my younger brother and I share due to a crazy Christmas day game many years ago.
 
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