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

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

part 6/6

Sage advice: Why can't druids cast call woodland beings and commune with nature. Those are well within their remit (Oops. Errata. )

Can you save against a warp marble (only if it's thrown at you)

How do you determine an object's resistance to dispelling (use the person holding it. )

Does a ring of wizardry boost your spelljamming power (not officially, but Skip quite likes that idea. )

What magic items can bards use ( Officially only rogue ones, but skip likes the idea of making them jacks of all trades. Skip will argue the case with his sagely might! )

If you invent printing presses, can they mass-produce magical spells (Hell no! That would fuck game balance up the ass with a 36 inch spiked rotating dildo!)

Can you get someone back from a bag of devouring by turning it inside out (no. If they've been swallowed, it's already too late. They're gone, jim. )

Can you overclock a wand of conjuring to summon high level monsters at high level (no. Wands do not scale. Live with it, or sell them on to lower level adventurers for a tidy profit. )

Can a bag of holding's weight reduction powers be negated (not normally. Skip will laugh at you if you wreck one by experimenting to find a way to do this. )

Do cloaks of displacement protect against magic missiles (No. A penalty to automatic hit is still an automatic hit. )

Are item malfunctions always detrimental ( The odds of them being beneficial are about as good as real life radiation mutations being beneficial. Not bleedin likely, in other words. )

Dragonmirth is rather wizard-heavy this month. Yamara gets caught between the packs of marauding journalists. The twilight empire team have to figure out how to get flammable slime off in a hurry.

Through the looking glass: Hmm. Another interesting topic tackled in the introduction to this piece. The irritating battle between houserulers and official only takes a slightly different form when it comes to minis, but it is there. Try taking a customised piece to a Games Workshop store game, and see what happens. And as they're the biggest baddest guys on the block, you may well have to lump it if you want to play. TSR will die, but they continue onwards, regularly driving off existing players and having to draw in new ones with their irritating company policies. Yet another reason to steer clear of con games, as if there weren't enough.

Lots of stuff that seems adaptable to all kinds of fantasy games this month, presuming your GM will allow it, ironically. Two hordes, one oriental themed, the other gnolls, from Ral Partha. Thunderbolt mountain minis have a mermaid, a dark elf, and a nicely idiosyncratic box containing a triceratops war machine ridden by orcs. There's one you really wish GW would let in their WHFB games. And Grenadier finish this off with a Halfling, a Ranger and a generic dungeoneer. They should fit together in a team nicely.

Great. The moonshaes get another trilogy. What a thing to happen to them.

With lots of stuff for various official campaign worlds, and plenty of bits that you can insert in anywhere as well, I've rather enjoyed this one, and it looks like it also has more reusability than the average issue as well. Keep submitting those cool articles folks, surprising us and making sure things don't get too dominated by the same recurring writers.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 1/6

128 pages. Welcome to the halfway point of this insane trek through time. Finally I can say, I am at the midnight of my suffering. Though there may be many challenges ahead, there will be a dawn. This kingdom shall know peace again! So proclaim I! We shall slay every dragon, delve every dungeon, roll every polyhedron, and er, drink with every white dwarf! (cue accusations of racism) And the ending shall be glorious! So press onwards with me, stalwart comrades from across the globe! Together we are strong! We shall not fall prey to despondency or insanity! (florble gibber thnorble help me! Or kill me now!) We shall face this april fools issue like we faced the ones before. Deadly seriously! (see page XX for the contract. ) It too shall fall! (god, I'm such a fool) I will not fail! (the betting pool is still open) Let's make it so.

In this issue:

Letters: No surprise that the letters here again prove that the collective readership have more silliness when combined than the writers. And a lot more wiling to ask questions about sex than they are to answer them. I hope that their parenting skills aren't similarly stilted. They also demonstrate the usual array of stupidly twinked characters, requests to buy stuff, chain letters, non sequiturs, bad crossovers, submissions that haven't a hope of being published, and other stuff that makes you go what is this I don't even. Perhaps it would be more fun if I had a little wharrgarble. WHARRRRRRRRGARRRRRRRRBLE!!!!!! Yeah, I think I feel a little better. And now, thanks to this, I'm imagining whargarble and other such amusing macro effects dubbed onto an oral sex scene. Ceiling cat approves strongly.

Editiorial: Hmm, this is a new one from Roger. A clever one too. Just how far can you take the concept of unusual PC's before they become unplayable? You need to be able to fulfil most, and preferably all of a certain checklist. Sentience. Communication. Hands or other environment manipulating capabilities. Movement. Power. Ability to advance. And not being inherently disruptive to the party by nature or needs. Ok, some games make a point of breaking some of those rules and still work, (Traveller, Wraith, Earthbound Demons) but like rules of musical structure, they remain valid as a general thing despite certain songs benefiting from violating them. I remember seeing a checklist very like this in forum threads before, but not in this magazine, which means he may actually be innovating here, and creating something that then spreads to GM advice things in other books. Can anyone trace this to an earlier source? Given the silliness of his recent editorials, this is a surprisingly serious and useful entry. One might suspect him of building things up to make a deliberate play on expectations this month. Still, it continues his efforts to get us to expand our gaming horizons, so it's hardly coming from left-field, especially when you consider his old articles for the magazine before he became the editor.

Suspend your disbelief: Oh, here we go with another realism in gaming (or at least, verisimilitude) article. Personality! consistency! believability! These are the great principles with which you must build your game. Ecology! Society! Parsimony! The things in it come from somewhere and must interact with each other! Hmm. Either this is a very dry parody, or just very rehashed indeed. Either way, everything said here has been said before in the magazine, better, and in greater detail previously. Yawn.

Not another magical sword: Another person complaining that magical weapons should get more detail so as to make each of them special? That idea in itself is starting to seem rather overdone, ironically. And not reflective of my personal experience either. I don't have names for my half-a dozen guitars, only one of the laptops in my family has a name, and the various electrical appliances that we rely on certainly don't get that kind of sentimental affection. Yeah, they might all have their individual quirks, but this is generally a pain in the butt to work around rather than something to celebrate. Not that making them visually and mechanically distinctive is a bad thing, but there's a lot of other places I could be putting my effort, and I only have so much energy to give. Fortunately, they also provide some nice specific examples as well as the oft-repeated generalities, keeping this from being useless to me. As with last issue, the Greenwood influence is very noticeable. No escaping it these days, with even the other campaign worlds that are consciously trying to be different winding up using the same methods.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 2/6

Role-playing reviews: Rick demonstrates his particular sense of humour again in this little article, lampooning the crap deal psionics gets in so many systems. We've seen near nowt on it since issue 78. And either it's too similar to magic, or incoherently designed in many systems. Doesn't stop them from putting it in though. Which of course means he has enough to make a good themed column. Hopefully that'll also stimulate freelancers to send in stuff, so we can get a psionics themed issue for this edition as well.

The complete psionics handbook gets a rather dry and descriptive review, with lots of explanation of how it works. It may seem daunting at first, but it's not that hard to understand, and differentiates things from magic quite handily, apart from a few near identical powers in the telepathy domain. Unlike certain forumites, he considers the fact that powers aren't usually level restricted a plus. It could do with more GM advice, monsters, and other cool peripherals though.

Psionics is a Mayfair Role Aid product. It doesn't do quite as well, having a bunch of irritating niggly restrictions on it's powers. But with plenty of cool stuff to mine and surprisingly little overlap with the official system, it could run alongside the other system if you wanted.

GURPS Psionics Also gets a solid but not gushing review. It encourages you to pick one or two skills and specialise in them, which encourages team differentiation in a class free game. The mechanics are solid, but psychic battles are rather complex to manage. It also has more campaign material than the other two,aimed quite strongly at modern day games. As with all the GURPS stuff, it's for those who like to customise, and mix and match elements from multiple genres for their games.

Rick also gives brief reviews to the Draconomicon and Ashes to Ashes. Neither are perfect, but both have lots of cool stuff for you to use. Seems both Vampire and D&D started with a greater proportion of adventures in their early supplements.

Your basic Barbarian: Another april fools collection of things NOT to do when playing a dumb smashy sort. All the classes have their own stereotypes of how they can be disruptive to the party. Fighters probably get the least attention, when compared to preachy dick priests, thieves that steal from their own team, and wizards who take over everyone else's role at high level. But they can be a real pain in the butt too, and this article shows you how! Exaggerated dumbness mainly. Never be afraid to leap into a situation, short-circuiting debate and getting your companions into trouble. Apart from water, which is a source of terror to anyone with heavy armour, and of course rust monsters, which must be fled from with as much speed as you can manage. I do not see myself laughing at this one. Just a bit of space-wasting goofiness.

Hot night in the old town: Or how to keep things interesting for clerics when they're not out adventuring. Because of the nature of both their organisations and their powers, (at least, if they resemble real world priests at all) there is a certain natural pressure on them to get involved in the community, and lots of demand for their powers if they're willing to set a reasonable price. Lots of fun can be had trying to increase your congregation and settle disputes, get together the money for a decent temple, and competing with priests of other gods. Many of them may involve asking your adventuring party buds for a little help, and lead into a whole new adventure. This seems like a very cool idea, and the principle could be applied to the other classes for generation of tailored between adventure solo bits without too much effort. It certainly makes for considerably more variety than another motiveless wandering monster. Very handy indeed.

Colorful connection: Looks like puzzles are indeed becoming a regular feature, with another crossword. 80 more cryptic clues for your puzzling out, and an overall secret contained within. Actually seems like it would be more appropriate put in the birthday issue than the april fool one, but that makes the solution too easy to guess. Another one that'll easily eat up a few hours unless you're a real whiz at this kind of thing.

Cyber HERO: Yes, another supplement for the HERO system. They're not gonna let a genre get away.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 3/6

Forum: Adam Lesh deals with the Robin hood problem with roughly the same advice I would have given. You can't expect players to follow the film script, and you can't expect the game to follow the same narrative logic when the rules encourage other options. You can use those stories as inspiration, but don't forget the adaption.

Steven Davis would rather like playing gods to be a viable option for adventurers who've reached obscene levels of power. Things might change, but they can still have meaningful challenges. Roll on Nobilis to make that feasible system-wise.

Victor Paraschiv thinks that fighters are still crap and not worth playing, especially when you could take a multiclassed demihuman or a paladin instead. Perhaps increasing the XP differential would help?

Jake Remley goes back to the violence in roleplaying/TV/music/video games is corrupting our youth stupidity. Roleplaying is far less dangerous than those other media, because it's all in your imagination, and frequently very abstracted. It does not make you more likely to commit real violence.

The voyage of the princess ark: From the ridiculous to the epic in this series. The princess ark goes from a country full of french dog-people to one inhabited by english cat-people. Logical, I guess. As this is essentially elizabethan england, everyone is very polite, and their time there is devoid of the usual dramas. However, that's because they're just the B plot this month. The main one is that we get to see what happens when you die in mystara. Raman is killed by the ghost he faced several months ago, and has to find his way out of Limbo. (not the same limbo as the AD&D universe, in another example of them making the two games deliberately different. ) And he makes it just in time. Any longer and he would have been buried. Oh, the tales he has to tell.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the article is devoted to exactly that, opening up another interesting avenue of play. If your team got hit by an unexpected and unwanted TPK, you don't have to stop now. You can just take them to the underworld, where they can search for a way back to the lands of the living, go to their eternal rest, or explore the lands of the dead and try and make a living of sorts there. The various types of undead are dramatically recontextualized, we get an interesting synopsis of the society of the dead, and we have more info on how the sphere of entropy tries to dominate the universe. This is the kind of thing that you should consider carefully if you want to adopt, because it gives answers to big questions that may not be welcome. (curiously, that everyone goes to limbo, and only followers of specific immortals go on to get a nice afterlife, would later be adopted in 3rd ed forgotten realms stuff, and I wasn't too keen on the idea there either. ) But it's certainly interesting, and very gameable. Another great example of just how weird and expansive Mystara has become with it's own built up setting.

Your own treasure hunt: Hmm. Another article with a bunch of ideas they've never tackled before. In issue 177 we had a letter about charging to pay. Roger may have come down against the idea there, but his feelings must be more complex than that, otherwise he wouldn't have picked out this article. In it, the writer floats the idea of holding a fundraising event for your gaming group, as if it were a charity or something. The idea that your gaming group should be a formal entity in itself, with books and equipment owned collectively, dues paid for belonging, a fund for expenditures, and written procedures defining where and how you play, and what you need to do to get in (or kick someone out) does seem a bit strange, and it's not something I've come across personally, despite once being in a group that pushed 20 at times. Seems like the kind of thing that would develop when you have to specifically hire out space to game, rather than meeting at someone's house or down the pub. And of course, in schools, where tedious bureaucracy reigns, and the authorities want to keep track of what their students are doing. Most of the article is devoted to the logistics of setting something like this up, including lots of general advice on organising stuff that is applicable to all kinds of tasks. Set clear goals, figure out how to achieve them practically and get the stuff before stating, make sure someone properly co-ordinates things, check as things go on and revise plans accordingly, and since this involves getting other people to give you money, publicity publicity publicity. One of their more interesting diversions into real world matters, and a lot fresher than the stuff on how to be a good writer that pops up every couple of years. This has certainly been a pleasant eye-opener for me.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 4/6

The role of computers: Last month, we saw the plight of Amiga become hinted at. This time, it's the Atari Lynx that we scent the blood of. 3 years in, and they've just sold their millionth cartridge, and have a library of 40 games. That's fewer products than D&D has managed in the same timespan. Hell, it might be fewer sales than Palladium has managed as well. Compare that to the gameboy and it all becomes a bit risible.

Castles: The northern Campaign is an expansion for the original Castles. It improves on it quite substantially, adding lots of new options on both the military and trading fronts. This pushes their verdict up to 5 stars.

Castle of Dr Brain is another educational game. It doesn't really hold up to their scrutiny, with the normal difficulty level easily completed, and no interesting ending to reward you for that.

Elvira II: The jaws of Cerberus is another one that improves on the original, with more action, better graphics, better sound, and tons of items and spells that you'll need to apply carefully to progress. Get ready to juggle that equipment list again.

Hyperspeed is another game that is left behind by the advance of technology. If it weren't for Wing commander raising the bar, this'd probably be a 5 star one. As it is, it'll just have to settle for 4.

Nova 9 is a 3D shooter. This is one area that technology is definitely having an impact on. Anyway, with both ground and space based missions, there's plenty of enemies to kill and power-ups to collect. They quite enjoy it.

The Simpsons Arcade game gets a relatively weak review, being mostly mindless combat. This is another one I burnt a ton of money on at the arcade one summer. Having got to around level 7, I really wanted to finish it, but kept on dying and ran out by around level 9. I wan't even really enjoying it that much. Repeating patterns, eh.

V for victory: battleset 1, D-day utah beach, 1944 is another 5 star one. Looks like wargames are also exploiting the new technology out there. The number of scenarios isn't huge, but the interface is very good. Still, it'll take you quite a while to do each one, so it's not wasted money.

Back to the future III gets a fail result, both on a gameplay and a technical level. Recent advances in graphics really have spoiled them, and this just feels like a cheap cash-in.

Novel ideas: Looks like they're giving the huge world-changing events a miss this year. Instead, it's sequels to their bestselling series that are getting the big fanfare, as they want to milk the cash cows without disturbing them too much. Moonshaes: the next Generation. Yet more Dragonlance prequels. Existing authors have to come back to their old works and try to recapture the magic, while new ones have to learn the history and try to fit into the existing canon. As ever, they have little bits of info on the writing process and difficulties involved, which may or may not be accurate, and will hopefully make you want to buy the stuff. As usual, this column has nothing particularly essential worth reading.

The power of the pen: It's survey time again, for approximately the 7th time in the magazine's history. What do you want more, less or about the same of? Not brilliantly phrased, as I always read everything, whether I like it or not. Nothing much else to say here. What will the replies be this time? See you in the editorial in a few months time.

The dragon's bestiary: Battering rams are another creature based on a dreadful pun name. Like the Death Sheep, they might be a bit amusing, but they can still mess your day up, and in this case, break down many obstacles as well. Fuck not with a druid who has a flock of these as an entourage.

Gorse are teeny little fairies with magic that lets them control thorn bushes. Ahh, the old spike up the arse trick. That alway's gets a giggle. Since they have only 1 hp and come in large numbers, using magic while hiding in the bushes from attack, this is definitely one a flamethrower would aid in dealing with. Looks like they're treading the fine path between humour and usefulness well this year.

Quakedancers are real thunder lizards, looking much like brontosauri, but actually causing earthquakes as a hunting mechanism. Another one that's a serious monster (with very serious damage outputs indeed as it gets bigger), but can also be a bit goofy and amusing. Still, none of these guys are disbelief suspension breaking to me. They can join the queue of monsters to use.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 5/6

Sage advice has it's usual collection of questions so insane that they aren't even a joke.

I pick at your elven armour exceptions! Pick, pick, pick I say! ( You know that'll only make it worse. Yeah, it isn't the most consistent of rulings. Maybe we ought to modify it a bit. )

What's the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet ( One's a tension + release mechanism, the other's a counterweight force user. But do you really care about the physics behind it? Or do you just want to cause the maximum possible destruction? )

I need help with my 6 inch tall permanently hasted fighter-monk (You need help, full stop. Haste is not good for the body. You'll wear yourself out, keeping that on all the time. )

Can you turn the tarrasque into a bunny and eat it (yes, but it still regenerates. Persistent eating of tarrasque bunny may be hazardous to your health, particularly if it escapes. And you know what rabbits are like for mating. If it got loose and started producing tarrasque blooded rabbits, the whole world would be doomed. )

What happens if I deliberately misread all the rules, and then try and break the universe based upon my misreading ( A pair of pissed off astral dragons kill you painfully. This is gonna get really really nasty. )

How does losing an arm affect your ability to use magic items ( Common sense, you are lacking it. Err on the side of generosity, you should. )

How many gnomes can a griffon carry ( Bwahahahahaha! Oh, that's a good one, :wipes away tear: Two or three seems about right. )

Where can you put a sphere of annihilation when not using it. (anywhere you want. Not many people will be able to steal it, and those that can will laugh at mere walls. )

Fiction: Murder most fowl by Deborah Millitello. Who killed the golden goose? A comical question, but when each of it's eggs is several pounds of gold, a vital one for the stability of the economy. It could be any one of dozens of suspects, from this country or others. Intrigue runs wild. Harsh measures must be used. And the result is a rather fun little romp through fairytale land, combining whimsical fantasy with murder mystery. The answer, of course is not who you'd expect, or why. As with last month, the comedy of errors air and twist at the end works pretty well. As long as Roger doesn't pick another similar one next month, I have no problem with this.

TSR Previews: Gamma world is back! 4th edition once again tries to clean up the rules, make it more fun and accessible. Just how well they succeed is a matter of opinion.

Curiously, Marvel superheroes occupies second place, putting all the D&D stuff at the bottom. Seems like the X-men are still their biggest draw, because this is another supplement focussed upon them. MHR1: X-forces, the mutant update. As if a generalised handbook covering all the changes to existing characters each year wasn't enough. Have they been going through some kind of crisis?

On the generic AD&D side, we have DMGR4: Monster Mythology. See the weird gods various creatures worship, and what spheres and priestly levels they can get for doing so. Yet another way they can be made more 3 dimensional and scary at the same time. Also being newly ecologised is MC14: fiend folio. The 1981, erm, classic gets the remainder of it's monsters converted, and a few new ones in it's spirit added on. Don't neglect the gonzo!

Ravenloft ventures into the mists, and finds RR4: Islands of terror. If you thought the Core was claustrophobic and weird, you ain't seen nothing yet. Ripper era london, seriously fucked up india, the inescapable sargasso sea, it's a crap shoot regardless of whether you stay or head back into the mists to try another one.

Dark sun, on the other hand, shows while it may be bleak, there are some people on top who are doing fairly nicely for themselves. Nice contrast really. DSR2: Dune trader deals with the frequently underhanded profiteering of the merchant groups. When things are scarce but essential, you can really put your haggling skills to work.

Spelljammer reaches volume 3 in the cloakmaster cycle. The metaplot actions of the modules reach here, putting our hero in danger from marauding goblinoids. We coulda got that if we'd just stayed on krynn.

Speaking of Krynn. The Oath and the Measure is part 4 of our meetings sextet. Sturm, Caramon and Raistlin have wacky adventures together or something. I'm betting Raistlin's pragmatism vs Sturm's idealism is a principle driver of the dialogue.

And for D&D, we have Assault on raven's ruin. You know, we get through the first few levels quicker than any of the following ones. Unless you're the kind of group which can't keep the same campaign going for more than a week or two, you'll never get any use out of all these introductory adventures.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 6/6

Wear your best suit: Great. They still haven't fixed the gadgeteer problem in FASERIP, despite it being rather noticable way back in issues 95 & 96, where they first covered Iron Man. Guess it's up to the magazine to post an unnofficial solution that probably won't make it into the next edition anyway. This is a rather limited solution too, only covering powered armour wearers rather than equipment in general. It also reminds us how glacially slow normal advancement is under the system, when upgrading your gear really shouldn't work like regular xp. Can't say I find this one very likable, or well constructed. Keep looking for a solution guys.

The wanderers: They say "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." If you build a better wandering monster table, on the other hand, that means better monsters hanging around making a nuisance of themselves. Which might sound appealing to adventurers, but is a nuisance to people who actually have to live there. Although if the tables increase your odds of encountering a large variety of normal humans and animals, as these ones do, then they might welcome the change in their living environment. By making the encounter tables nested, you can fit a lot more in, and can also reuse them by having multiple terrain ones direct to the same other ones, only with different probabilities. Like the solo tables a bit earlier this issue, (which this would combine well with) this is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but is a good deal more elegant than the d12 + d8 tables, with the probabilities easy to figure and adjust on the fly, and more able to throw up a variety of surprises that keep your game from getting stale. These little design tricks definitely deserve consideration. And it allows you to come close to including the entire ecology of an area in your random tables, which also means you could probably increase the frequency of your rolls without breaking the game by having the players face too many killer encounters. Applying this would have lots of little knock-on effects, probably for the better. I shall try to remember it when I next design random encounter tables.

Dragonmirth is a bit creepy really. Yamara gets a new home courtesy of Ogrek. Twilight empire gets out of the fire and into the tentacle monster. Not really an improvement.

Through the looking glass: SCUD missiles. Aka scary enemy boogeyman 1991 edition. Once again I say, what a complete letdown compared to the cold war. Still, it's not as pathetic as the supposed terrorists of the 00's (less than one successful attack a year worldwide is a joke to someone who grew up with the IRA around. ) The media really do have very little sense of proportion. Still, I'm sure it was scary for the soldiers involved. (even if more of them ended up with long-term problems from our own chemical crap than enemy attacks. ) Funny that the biggest reminders of the big world outside the magazine should be coming from the Mini's and computer game columns.

Our minis this month go back to mixing fantasy and sci-fi. A wall of skulls, which I'd probably get more use out of than this reviewer. A ghostly skeleton, or skeletal ghost, however you want to play it. A dragon that should tower over standard sized minis nicely. A centaur archer. A cleric, a witch and a dwarf. (walk into a bar. The witch changes the bar into a frog as revenge, which causes the house to collapse. The cleric heals them, and the dwarf rebuilds the house. Everyone lives happily ever after. ) A futuristic hovercraft, and two battletech mechs. All get between 4 and 5 stars. He really isn't pushing himself in this respect.

This time they actually remembered to scan the trading cards in. Which is nice. They're also using mostly original characters this time. However, this does result in a very noticeable drop in the artwork quality, as they don't spring the same kind of money as they do for the various book covers they recycled from for the previous set. Say hello to Foleas, Alvestar Jankins, Aurora, Guido del Confuso, Mellenea, Zinnabar Albbee, "Slipper Kindric", "Thallios", Chobin"the punkster", Darwell Tectite, Aruthir, Jastus, Hm-boye, Lady Wendolyn of Gaunt, Reptilla Half-elven, Phun Ach-mana Phun, and Delynn Rosabell. Dragonlance, Spelljammer, Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms are all represented. Many of them have kits, all alignments are represented, there's a psionicist, and they all have at least token attempts at personalities. Pretty decent demographic collection. I wonder how many of them are from games by the writers and how many are whipped up wholecloth. This series seems unlikely to end soon, but diminishing returns are starting to set in. They need to do something more than just trading to keep people interested. ;)

As befits the middle issue, this is indeed a very middling issue indeed, with a medium amount of april goofiness between the full specials and the ones that cut it out, an even mix of articles with cool developments and tedious rehashed ones, and a moderate amount of non RPGing diversions. As is often the case, they seem to have gone for the approach that they can't please everyone all the time, but by casting a broad net, at least one article each month should be pleasing to you. Hopefully that theory will continue to hold water for a while longer.


Sparky Sparky Boom Man
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 180: April 1992

part 6/6

Wear your best suit: Great. They still haven't fixed the gadgeteer problem in FASERIP, despite it being rather noticable way back in issues 95 & 96, where they first covered Iron Man. Guess it's up to the magazine to post an unnofficial solution that probably won't make it into the next edition anyway. This is a rather limited solution too, only covering powered armour wearers rather than equipment in general. It also reminds us how glacially slow normal advancement is under the system, when upgrading your gear really shouldn't work like regular xp. Can't say I find this one very likable, or well constructed. Keep looking for a solution guys.
I'll be over here.




Making the Legend
Validated User
Ok, it's a new month, let's start working myself back up to full speed

Dragon Magazine Issue 181: May 1992

part 1/8

124 pages. Once more with the magical crunchiness with no theme more focussed than that. It's getting so common as to be barely worth mentioning as a topic. And yet despite the frequency of submissions of this sort, they're all pretty firmly stuck in the standard D&D magic paradigm. One of those things that makes it very clear why the 90's were a troublesome time for them. If you stay the same while the world changes, you get left behind. Still, they do make one useful little format change this issue. The various review columns get grouped together in the contents page, making them easier to locate and reducing the recent tendency of this bit to turn into just another wall of text. (the .pdf formatting follows in it's wake, which is also nice. ) So they are moving forward, just not as much as they probably need to be. I shall not be so patient, however. I fully intend to push myself to get the second half of this trek done faster than the first half.

In this issue:

Letters: Timothy B. Brown complains about the picking apart of his Dark Sun spell frequency math. These flaws were intentional! You would ruin the game if you changed it! Ha and ha again.

A letter praising their top quality fiction. Damn right. Haven't i been finding the same thing for years now, the average fiction quality is actually better than the average game material quality. Roger, of course, sends all the praise to his sub-editors. I'm sure they have to sift through a lot of crap to keep things this way.

A letter telling people to send in the adventures they spend ages working on to Dungeon if they want financial recompensation. That isn't going to work as well as you think, I'm afraid. They already get a lot more submissions than they can publish. Welcome to reality, where earning money doing things you love is really hard.

Editorial: Roger tries once again to push our gaming boundaries, proving as usual that he's a good deal more progressive than most of the material he gets. This time it's politics, and the lack of it in too many games that is his pet peeve. Once you get monsters of a certain power level, the impact they have upon the world automatically becomes a political issue, even if they themselves couldn't care less about the effect they're having on the puny humans. If your campaign lacks the epicness and emotional attachment of LotR, it may well be because you're neglecting that area, with people maintaining a nebulous status quo effortlessly despite all the monsters roaming around the world. He also exaggerates a little to demonstrate that personal power and political do not have to be linked, and you can do all sorts of clever things with long-term plans. (even if you have to retroactively make some of the details up to make the characters as intelligent as they should be. ) You can set your players at the centre of an epic and give them a decent amount of agency while still having an idea where the game will go in the long-term. He even makes it sound easy. Course I know from personal experience, it isn't quite that easy, but it's still a desirable goal to aim for. Nice to see him still aiming for the stars.

Sorcery & Strategy: Recently, we've had an article that went into tactics as performed by fighters in a relatively realistic world. Course, in D&D, spellcasters provide the majority of the really interesting tactical and strategic options, and even one makes a huge difference to the battle flow. And it's not just in their ability to inflict large quantities of area damage with a good fireball or lightning bolt. Thomas M. Kane points out that the buffing and defensive powers are actually more useful, especially once you get to higher levels and the enemies are pretty likely to resist direct effects cast at them. If you know what you're doing, you should be using divinations and terrain effects to ensure you're stacking the odds in your favour before the enemy even knows you're there. Once again we see the advantages specialists have in finding a useful niche in larger society, as he gives us some sample characters, their spell lists and normal tactics. With a nice mix of very specific detail, and principles that are applicable to any system, this is another strong delivery from forumite Thomas M. Kane. It could definitely have gone into more detail on the combat applications of clerics though. They're even more useful to an army, as they have all the healing and food effects, and aren't so squishy. Guess once again the magazine might have good material, but it's still limited in it's range.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 181: May 1992

part 2/8

Pages from the mages finally gives up trying to keep track of how many articles they've had. We have too many wizards! And they're all researching spells! Any time now we'll have another magical apocalypse that'll take a few centuries to rebuild from. Still, we have a definite formula by now. 4 spellbooks, each with 4 new spells in, for a total of 16 new spells. The only question is how cool and groundbreaking they are.

Galadasters Orizon is just a small part of the unique knowledge of a particularly ruthless and obnoxious lich who is still at large in Faerun and needs a good arsekicking. Now there's an easy adventure hook for you. The spells are similarly direct combat ones. Firestaff lets a wizard kick substantially more ass in hand to hand combat. Slumberward makes you immune to magical sleep, although the duration is probably a bit too short for it to make it a really good utility buff. Geirdon's grappling grasp lets you counteract the various bigby's hand spells, and engage in generalised grappling, of course. Morganava's sting is the only real clunker, as it's actually quite a bit weaker than vampiric touch overall, yet higher level. Someone didn't roll too well on their research attempts.

The Arcanabula of Jume is one of those spellbooks that teleports away randomly on a semiregular basis, ensuring that it's information doesn't stay with any one person, but is instead spread across the whole Realms. It's spells are similarly playful. Dark mirror lets you send magical darkness back against it's originator. Now there's a spell that's only going to be of limited use unless you know your enemy has a fetish for that kind of magic. Shadow hand is another rather underpowered device, that seems to be an attempt to compensate for illusionist's lack of evocations by making a semireal manipulator. Prismatic eye is a wizard's eye that can shoot color sprays. It too is mainly hampered by a too short range and duration for really effective spying, but is pretty decent as an additional attention drawer in combat. Shadow gauntlet is yet another failed attempt to make an all purpose manipulator, that looks pathetic next to the likes of disintegrate and flesh to stone. Ed seems to be seriously off his game at power level gauging today.

Laeral's Libram is a little spellbook lost by our friendly planehopping sorceress. I'm sure she'd be quite happy to have it returned to her. It only has a few spells, but the standard 4 of them are new ones. Forcewave is another one that seems weak initially. A second level spell that's less damaging and reliable than magic missile? Well, the prospect of pushing an enemy off a ledge does have the potential to do a LOT more damage, so I'll forgive that this time. Laeral's aqueous column lets you create cylinders of water through air, making diplomacy with aquatic creatures a lot easier, and having a whole bunch of creative uses. Jhanifer's deliquescence lets you melt things, even those that aren't intended to be melted. The details are deliberately left vague so he can exploit them later. Blackstaff is Khelben Arunsun's signature spell, so well known he doesn't even have to remind everyone by putting his name in front. It can drain your HP permanently, mindfuck you, disrupts both magic and psionics, and is near impossible to affect. Now that's one that does justify it's high level with both power and versatility.

Tasso's Arcanabula is the product of an illusionist and thief, playing around with the limits of their specialist restrictions. Tasso's shriek lets you prerecord your audible illusions and set them running surreptitiously, which is pretty handy for a low level trickster who doesn't want people realising they're a spellcaster. Shadow bolt is a semireal attack that works like an upgraded magic missile, and still does half damage if you disbelieve it. Shadow Skeletons are another semireal one that let you imitate a necromancer quite nicely, albeit not as effectively as the real thing. And Chromatic Blade lets you deal with prismatic barriers without memorising half a dozen very specific spells, and is a pretty badass weapon in it's own right. So lots of neat spells here, but also more than a few noob traps that you should steer well clear of. The writing does also feel increasingly formulaic, making this rather less thrilling reading than the previous instalments.

That's certainly un-familiar: Upgrading your familiar. Yeah, that's a much needed capability, and it's no surprise at all that a certain degree of autoprogression was built into 3e familiars. So here we see a moderately influential, but very useful article indeed. Familiar enhancer I-VIII are level 2-9 spells, which means every time you get access to a new spell level, you can cast the next one to make your familiar smarter, more powerful, and more closely bonded with you. There is a lot of randomness involved in determining exactly what powers you get, which may or may not be pleasing to you, but most of the powers are pretty useful, and some of the high level ones are very cool. I can see this becoming a staple of quite a few people's character building. And isn't this exactly what the magazine should be producing. There are a few wanky bits, (I'm throwing out the once in a lifetime bit straight away, if your familiar dies, you should be able to upgrade the next one too) but I like this a lot and intend to make it available as an option to my players.
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