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

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 182: June 1992

part 4/8


Novel ideas: Ravenloft's first novel has done rather well, and here come the follow-ups. Dance of the Dead taking us to Souragne, and Heart of Midnight to Kartakass. Looks like they're not going for trilogies and recurring characters in this world, in contrast to Toril and Krynn. Well, horror does become increasingly difficult when you have recurring heroes who you know are going to survive. Still, it does mean they never got a breakout hit character like Drizzt or Raistlin. Except possibly the Darklords themselves. We remember Freddy, Jason, Mike Myers. Do you remember what the heroes who faced them were called? So it's proving here, although it's still going to be a while before they realise that and start shifting the focus of their novels accordingly. Once again, we get little looks into the minds of the writers, and see that the sources they drew on when writing are pretty prosaic actually. And we also see that creating grim work when you don't feel that way naturally leaves you just itching to put immature jokes in and break the tension somehow. Who'd be a writer for hire, eh?


The voyage of the princess ark: Looks like Bruce is indeed suffering burnout or other things occupying too much of his time, for the Ark is on vacation this month. Only the letters pages remain. Lets see what people want.

Someone wants a creature crucible on the creatures of the savage coast. Bruce is not at all against the idea. Send in letters demanding it. It increases the odds it'll get made.

A question: Why isn't alphatia the most powerful nation in the world if it's the only one with airships.( I. Wizard kings are fractious bastards who are more concerned with their rival wizards than anyone else. The are not inclined to share for the good of the country II. Other nations have their own special tricks. )

A question: Is the princess ark based on Star Trek? (It wasn't intentional. It just kinda turned out that way. )

What AC does ironwood armor have (same as the type of armor it's imitating)

Will we ever see a gazetteer on Norwald (Good question. (the answer is no, but probably not intentionally.))

Are there rules for hull points (no. You've just gotta fudge.)

Are you gonna put firearms in D&D (no. We sorta just did. That's as close as I want to come to doing so.)

What is haldemar prince of (Haaken, like it says. A floating rock and a few miles of farmland below it. Nothing spectacular. )

Is the D&D planetary map based on earth in the past (Well spotted.)

What's with the missing stats in Kingdoms of Nithia (Oops. Our bad. )

Is there going to be a monstrous compendium for D&D. (Probably. We have so many things we want to do.)


The wild wild world of dice: A short but funny article here about the various quirks that people have about their dice. Silly superstitions, amusing habits, irritating tricks for cheating and methods of preventing this, and the endless cosmic battle of crystal vs opaque. One of those amusing little diversions that breaks up the flow of the magazine nicely, and has a few helpful bits of advice, (use different coloured dice for D% and define which is which beforehand) but isn't going to change the world. The equivalent of stopping for a drink at a small roadside bar on an endless freeway journey, just seeing the sights for a bit.


Palladium gets evul with villains unlimited.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 182: June 1992

part 5/8


Kings of the caravans: More Realms NPC's from Ed. Seems that's a real growth industry for him at the moment. Endless supplies of spells, monsters and magic items alone do not a complete world make. This time, the theme is merchants. Attach an identity to those you're shopping from to make the setting a little more filled in.

Llachior Blackthorn is from Tethyr. He's not only useful from a trading PoV, but because he hires adventurers to deal with pirates, giving us an easy way into adventure that doesn't involve taverns again. He's also looking for a wife, and his list of desired traits make it quite likely that a female adventurer would fit them. So that's two very good reasons he could find himself a recurring NPC in your game.

Ondul Jarduth is Llachior's cleric sidekick. He has some trepidation about him getting married, which could be spun in a very slashy way if you ask me. A fairly quiet one, he seems like a character you'd benefit from staying on the good side of.

Sharest Tanthalar is an insanely twinked character who's good at everything, has psionics, and is probably a Harper. She's singlehandedly killed mind flayers, Drow, and lots of zhentarim, and is personal friends with some of the most important people in the realms. Just another canon-sue to steal your glory if you get in trouble.

Emrock Uerngul is a thief who's managed to earn enough to go straight. He's still got a strong sense of mischief, and an unorthodox friendship with a sentient manta ray that profits them both. Thanks to that, he can get goods delivered when no-one else can. Sounds very much like a PC to me.


The role of computers: Buck Rogers matrix cubed is another of our official tie-ins from SSI, using much the same system as their Forgotten Realms games. It doesn't get 5 stars, because it doesn't really advance the interface and graphics, but they still give it a positive result, with plenty of advice on getting through the early parts of the game. Now if they'd only implement automapping, the reviewers would be a lot happier.

Planet's death is a second sci-fi adventure rpg, albeit one that takes you rather further afield than buck did. As is often the case, they encourage careful resource management and frequent saving. Rushing through the story is not the way to win. Again, there are a few system bugs that keep it from being 5 star material, but it seems there's no shortage of decent sci-fi rpgs out there.


Dragonslayers on the screen: Another curious peripherally connected article this month. I must say, the idea of getting a bunch of friends together and having each one take the role of a character in a computer RPG isn't one that occurred to me. It seems rather like it would combine the worst aspects of the two media. The inflexibility of playing a computer game, and the bickering and internal sabotage a tabletop RPG group can suffer from. Having one person on the keyboard while the others are just backseat drivers does not seem like a recipe for fun to me. And indeed, this does point out the problems that are likely to occur. You need to make sure everyone is useful somehow, such as by mapping or doing the number crunching. Even then, I'm not absolutely certain about this. The days when easy internet multiplayer and games designed to take advantage of this will make it a moot issue are still a good few years away, and I think this kind of thing would definitely be less fun than just playing the game myself. Still, nice to see them trying out new ideas, even if they don't work that well. As with the dice one, this is more interesting than another bunch of formulaic monsters.


Pen power II: More survey questions? They obviously have a lot of things they want to think about. This one is mainly collecting demographic data. A decade ago, their fanbase was largely teenage and nearly all male. Just how much will that have changed in the meantime? See you in a few months time.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 182: June 1992

part 6/8


Ready! Aim! Fire!: Crossbows get a short shrift in AD&D? Oh noes!1 You know, we've actually known that for ages, and we've got a good idea who to blame too. (Len Lakofka, as he admitted in issue 51) So here we have one of those articles that points out the Proud Historical Antecedents of the crossbow, and adds a load of variant crunch that slightly powers up the weapon by adding extra detail. It still doesn't bring them remotely close two swords or polearms, so I don't have any real problem with this, but it is still more than a little dull. Still, we have to have our dose of reality to balance the fantasy, don't we. Let's not dwell on this too much, otherwise before you know it we'll be reading a thousand page illustrated dissertation on weapons through the ages.


Psionics in living color: And here we have another instance of attempting to spice up an old topic by applying it to a new avenue. Saying that you need to go for more vivid and detailed descriptions in your handling of psionic powers? I can see the formula from here. Classic pro roleplaying principle + obscure and little used subsystem = another way of hammering in the same lesson. It does have some amusingly experimental art design that I like, but the text itself is too obvious for words. So the formatting is still improving, but the content is much the same as a decade ago. One for the new readers.


TSR Previews: Lots of stuff this month, spilling out to an extra half a page.
Dragonlance finally gets a proper core boxed set. Strange to think it's never had one before, and everyone's just been picking up bits and pieces as they go along. We also see another bit of history we've known about for ages examined in detail in the novels, with The Cataclysm. More short stories showing snippets of lives affected by the big smash.

The Forgotten Realms gets Aurora's whole realms catalogue. Another of their really cool half IC bits of setting building. Dead useful for if you have players who like to spend whole sessions just shopping and roleplaying, and pretty handy if you have hardcore dungeoncrawlers who like to pack all sorts of weird bits and pieces that might come in handy. Just don't forget your encumbrance, or you'll make it too easy for them.

Greyhawk gets WGR2: Treasures of greyhawk. More mini adventures for when the DM runs out of ideas mid session and needs some filler to plonk nearby, keep the players interested.

Ravenloft is up to it's third novel, Dance of the dead. We've already had the low level adventure set there, now you get to learn some more about the Aaaaangst of it's darklord. Don't give in to brooding, for that path leads to becoming one of them.

On the generic side, we have HHQ2: Wizard's challenge. Soon there will be solo adventures designed for all the classes. Be ready to be bloody cautious, and hope you win initiative, for getting that spell off really does mean the difference between victory and death. We also have HR2: Charlemagne's paladins. Another historical era gets adapted as best the ruleset can manage. Just how good that was, I'm not sure. Any takers?

D&D has yet another quirky low level set of adventures, this time with a boxed set full of props and crap. Goblin's lair seems designed to introduce new players to the idea of mass combat, which I suppose is something. Still feels like they're seriously dumbing things down in this department.

Marvel Superheroes gets another spiffy boxed set. Lands of Dr Doom lets you into Latveria, to fight him, or at least one of his many doombots, in his secret lairs. Very definitely Muahahahahahahaha!!!!! time here.

And finally, weirdly, we have another XXVC product, a good 9 months after the last one. Are they trying to reboot it, or this one last book that was written and ready to go before the cancellation, and is just getting put out with a tiny run for contractural reasons. Hardware by slade gives you a load more gadgets to fill your game with. Assuming anyone is still playing, anyway. :p
 

noisms

Booze Hound
Validated User
Psionics in living color: And here we have another instance of attempting to spice up an old topic by applying it to a new avenue. Saying that you need to go for more vivid and detailed descriptions in your handling of psionic powers? I can see the formula from here. Classic pro roleplaying principle + obscure and little used subsystem = another way of hammering in the same lesson. It does have some amusingly experimental art design that I like, but the text itself is too obvious for words. So the formatting is still improving, but the content is much the same as a decade ago. One for the new readers.


Pure filler. Picture the TSR office, 4pm on a Friday. Everybody's a bit pissed and lazy because they had wine with their lunch. They need one more article before they can send off the next issue of Dragon to the printer's. "Any ideas, guys?" "Fuck it, I'll just ramble on about descriptions of psionic powers."
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
Ready! Aim! Fire!: Crossbows get a short shrift in AD&D? Oh noes!1 You know, we've actually known that for ages, and we've got a good idea who to blame too. (Len Lakofka, as he admitted in issue 51) So here we have one of those articles that points out the Proud Historical Antecedents of the crossbow, and adds a load of variant crunch that slightly powers up the weapon by adding extra detail. It still doesn't bring them remotely close to swords or polearms, so I don't have any real problem with this, but it is still more than a little dull. Still, we have to have our dose of reality to balance the fantasy, don't we. Let's not dwell on this too much, otherwise before you know it we'll be reading a thousand page illustrated dissertation on weapons through the ages.
Then again, some of us already have those books, because they're so useful for describing your weapons. Among other reasons.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 182: June 1992

part 7/8


The marvel-phile: Leftovers here again. Like cold meat on boxing day, it seems to be almost standard in this department these days. It really isn't as fun as it used to be. Still, this is one that's more player useful than most. Dr Doom's hyperscience gadgets. He's certainly come up with a lot over the years, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if some of them got lost, stolen, or recreated by someone else. Anasthetic nose plugs to keep people comfortably unconscious for whatever length of time. A staff designed to absorb nearly any force harmlessly. The nervous system scrambling Entropic Inducer. The Null time sequencer, which lets him freeze time to his advantage. And the Quark instability condenser, which is a pretentious name for a half-assed disintegration ray. All appeared in Fantastic Four issue 352, showing that he's got a pretty impressive toy collection. This is different from most of their articles, but still feels like they're more creatively hemmed in than they used to be, with the focus entirely on existing characters and things. They've also got less of a sense of humour about this, as reflects the general tone in comics these days. Can't say I'm happy about the way this column is going.


Fiction: The dragonbone flute by Lois Tilton. Far too often in these stories, Dragons are a dying race, and we only get to see ancient powerful ones. Where's the next generation? Is anyone going to help keep them alive? And who will mourn them when they're gone? It's another melancholy story this month, with just a small glimmer of hope mixed in. Both the main human and dragon have lost the ones they love, and find a bit of comfort in a world which seems determined to screw them over. Quite an affecting story, this once again manages to shake off the boredom and engage me emotionally after a whole wodge of filler articles. If only the rest of the magazine has as much stuff to choose from when trying for the best.


Forum: Tim Harford is one of those people who actually managed to allay teacher fears by simply talking to them. It was actually surprisingly easy. Course, that's likely because they hadn't made up their mind yet. Rational minds which suspend judgement until they have sufficient information aren't usually the problem anyway.

Geoff Pass has a friend who became a born again christian, but kept relapsing into gaming, and then loathing himself afterwards. It'd be funny if it weren't for the valuable stuff he just threw away, some of it loaned by the writer.

Aaron Goldblatt points out that the RPGA is already supposed to be an organisation that represents gamers as a whole. Yes, but you don't see them doing much anti-oppression campaigning. Anyway, remember that the other side thinks of themselves as the good guys too. Without empathy, you'll only make the problem worse.

Dale Critchley is a christian and a gamer, and points out that evil characters tend to be a self-correcting problem. As we've found before, through gaming we can learn to work together better with other people. If you just flat-out forbid evil, they'll never learn the problems it causes except by harsh reality.

Michael Niveu has written a paper on the effects of RPG's as part of his university work. In assembling material, he found that there was plenty of rigorously tested positive material, while the negative stuff was merely unsubstantiated hyperbole. Another strike for the scientific method.

Richard Doyle is going to aggressively seek out and engage in diplomatic relations with church people in his area, and encourages you to do the same. If you do it right, it should get rid of a lot of their fears.

Jeffrey S. Kennedy is another christian who thinks the whole thing is stupid. No-one's saying monopoly turns you into a greedy social climber who backstabs their friends, or hungry hungry hippos promotes obesity. You are not your character.

Craig H. Barrett also goes on with great passion about the social benefits roleplaying has. Co-operation, self-control, reading, math, leadership skills, imagination, all in one neat package. And it's fun too. How can teachers object to that?!

Nathan Nieman suggests taking the matter all the way up to congress! Don't let the other side win just because they shouted louder! Send me letters personally! Ahh, the enthusiasm of youth.

Don Jamieson gives another anecdote of how his group have been playing for the past decade and grown up into productive, well-adjusted adults. Course, no-one notices those. When failure gets you more attention than success, failure can become a perversely attractive option. Such is the paradox of media reporting.

S. Lynne Mann also points out the educational benefits of rpgs. We are definitely getting into repeating points territory here. How much more of this can people take?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 182: June 1992

part 8/8


Role-playing reviews: Pixie is a 20 page indie RPG where you play the mischevious little home invaders trying to make lives for themselves. A great example of early highly focussed indie game design, it's simple and fun, if rather challenging and not suited to lengthy campaigns. Like Bunnies and Burrows, the mouse eye view of the human world can be both scary and funny if done right.

Amber diceless RPG gets not just one review, but two, with Lester and Allen contributing their thoughts. Seems like it's made quite an impact upon the game designers with it's paradigm shaking ideas. The game is uniquely suited for PvP games, and the system naturally pushes you in that direction, reflecting the source material and it's internecine familial conflicts. With no dice, you really have to think to win a battle, and with your own character stats and advancement uncertain to players, gaming the system is always uncertain. It really is both different and challenging. Just watch out the PvP doesn't spill over into reality, and be careful with making the power levels of the previous generations too high, resulting in the worst kind of GM fiat crap. Still, once again, TSR has had the gauntlet thrown down. Adapt or become moribund. There's so much more out there than dungeons.


Dragonmirth has yet more adventurer eating jokes. Yamara is live on crystal ball. How are you supposed to surprise the enemy when they're watching your every move? The twilight team get the macguffin, then get another sideplot to deal with.


Through the looking glass: As with last year, here we get lots of draconic minis. Both cold and ice dragons. (once again, the country and western joke seems very appropriate. ) A fire dragon, of course. Black, gold and blue dragons from Grenadier and Thunderbolt mountain. A Wyvern from Ral Partha and another heat and cold themed pair as well. Most notable in this column is the above average amount of complaining about assembling these things, and the various flaws in their construction. When they're made out of lots of parts you have to put together yourself, they're only as good as their weakest link. You can't just source parts out and hope they'll all fit together in the end. No escaping the need to communicate, no matter how tedious it may be.


Clerics get a deck of spells too. Don't get them mixed up.


For the second time in a row, this issue both highlights how TSR are starting to go round the same old issues one too many times, and how the world is changing around them. And they're certainly not ignoring these developments, but there's a world of difference between some of the writers being excited individually and the company as a whole adapting. This does feel like another turning point in gaming's history is upon us. The passage of events is going to continue to be interesting, even if individual articles may struggle to hold my interest. There will be no surrender.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 183: July 1992

part 1/8


124 pages. Up to space again, in an issue that looks like it mixes fantastical and sci-fi approaches to going up up and away. I don't believe we've had a combo like that before, and it allows them to cover other systems more than usual, so this is a very positive choice. UFOs have plenty of books and movies dedicated to them, but not an RPG, yet. Come on, keep trying to expand the market.


In this issue:


Letters: Lots of stuff from Roger here as he plays with the usual formula again. Instead of actually publishing the letters, he just gives the answers to them, so he can get more done in the space allocated. Very cheeky. Course, what the questions were is usually pretty obvious. Chalk it up to multiple people sending the same questions in.

We also get one token letter, in which they point out the existence of Creeks and Crawdads, the roleplaying game of semi-intelligent postapocalyptic crustaceans. If your kinks involve something like that, I really don't want to know.


Editorial: The old married couple theme returns with Roger again trying to spice up his and our gaming life. The fiction department in the magazine is consistently proving to be one of the least repetitive and most emotionally engaging parts of the magazine. It'd be a rather good idea to imitate that, and pick up some books that don't fall into the usual tolkien/conan axis of fantasy knockoffs If you want to shake off the boredom. For whatever reason, he picks The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs, and The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. He points out what makes then unusual from a gaming point of view, and makes translating that into AD&D rules seem pretty simple and easy. It's not hard, introducing new tricks. It's just that they'll soon grow routine as well, and then the next variant, and the one after that, and so so, and so on. Let's just hope that by the time we run out of ideas again your players'll be keen to go back to basics.


Magic and technology meet at last: Gamma World is back. And no surprise that they're trying to get articles for it going again when it's previous editions got so many in the magazine. Kicking off is an obvious topic. Converting between it and AD&D. Since we also had this in the 1st ed DMG, the at last bit of the title isn't really accurate, but meet again doesn't have quite the same ring to it. This is a quite easy business really, as like Buck Rogers, the new system is pretty closely related to AD&D. But what changes there are are very interesting indeed. Armour class is inverted, starting at 10 and going upwards. And there's a perception attribute along with the regular 6. Both changes that are needed back in D&D land, actually, and it's interesting to realise they already know this. But of course the slow edition cycle means one won't be implemented for 8 years yet, and the other'll be awkwardly kludged into a form which is still a pain today. This conversion is set up in such a way that both sides have very little resistance against the other's powers, and stuff happens on the terms of whoever is most proactive, but stuff taken into other worlds tends to lose it's abilities, which prevents inter-universe trade from seriously altering your campaign world. So when going interdimensional raiding, hit fast with blasty powers and keep the enemy off guard. Offence is the best defence. Now let's hope the PCs don't all get disintegrated in the first round of combat by enemy lasers. Very interesting, as it reveals some of the design assumptions that are currently running in the TSR offices, and how certain writers would probably like to revise D&D. That's well worth knowing, whether you're looking to play it like X, or just engage in a little edition warring fun, and want something vaguely resembling facts to throw at the enemy. So this is a nice one both for use and obsessive microexamination. A good way to kick things off.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 183: July 1992

part 2/8


Advice to a high lord: A second TORG article (see issue 174) Well, it's more than most 3rd party games get these days. And once again they make it seem like a pretty cool game, that I vaguely regret not having got into at the time. It's been out for around 2 years now, and has both supplements and novels. And here's some GM advice on how to make sure it's idiosyncrasies are an advantage to your game rather than a problem. Interestingly, the writer also explains things in a way that makes them pretty clear to people who don't own the rules either. After reading this I have a much better idea of the effects and limitations of the drama deck, for example. It also reads nicely as a throwdown to other games to have dramatic over-the-top plots that give players a greater than normal degree of plot control. So it's useful both for owners of the game, and in selling it to people who may have seen the adverts, and are still on the fence. Another very good result. If only their official themed articles could balance their promotional and add-on aspects that well.


Avast ye swabs and heave to!: How could we have a space issue without a spelljammer article? And how could you have ship-based adventuring without boat-to-boat combat and piracy playing a part? Beats me, but Rich Baker seems to think too many campaigns are leaving them out. In the case of ship-to-ship combat, that's probably because the rules are a pain, so like grappling, people ignore tactics that work well in reality because of the game's poor modelling. But the rest is easy enough to fix. The long months of waiting around for ships to actually pass by can be skipped over. And the joys of never knowing how badass the people you'll meet can be simulated effectively by random table. Really, it's less dangerous than dungeon delving, and if you go privateer, you still get to have a homebase in civilisation as normal. And if it goes wrong, you might even get arrested instead of just killed, which leads to other adventure styles if you know how to run it. This is a bit more pessimistic about the prospects of lawbreaking and the relative morality of who you're killing and taking the stuff of than I'd like, but I suppose they have their family friendly image to consider. So a cool topic, presented in a middling manner.


Unidentified gaming objects: We finish off the section with a system free look at modern UFO mythology. The usual ideas about them being secret weapons, fae, creatures from the clouds, parallel dimensions, even molemen from the centre of the earth. It's all very amusing. People come up with a ridiculous amount of crap, much of which can't be the truth simply due to mutual exclusivity. As is often the case, the magazine can barely scratch the surface, but it makes up for this by having a good bibliography at the end that'll take quite a while to read. Seems like a decent enough way to turn on people who've previously had no interest in the topic, and indicative of it's growing popularity at the time. Funny to think that this is more than a year before the x-files comes out. Wonder if that'll get any mentions in here.


Shadowrun gets it's second edition. Which is probably a good thing, as I've never heard anyone say 1st edition was better than the following ones, despite how the 2/3/4 edition wars rage.


The voyage of the princess ark: Just west of Bellayne is the mysterious nation of Herath. Seemingly just an ordinary Magocracy, (as far as there is such a thing) it's actually a nation comprised largely of Araneas who have developed the ability to assume a humanoid shape. This is of course a huge secret that no-one in the setting must be allowed to discover, and they will go to any lengths to keep it. And as usual when there's an elephant in the room like this, the protagonists come close to discovering it right away where everyone else who spent years there failed. :rolleyes: Oh, plot, how depressingly predictable you are. We also see the start of the Wrath of the Immortals metaplot event brewing, as the wizard king drops cryptic hints to Haldemar. What does this bode for the Ark and it's crew? Nothing good, I'll wager.

On the OOC side we of course have stats for the advancement of Araneas, which means they can be used as PC's, but this might be tricky, given their hefty XP penalties, and serious social restrictions. After all, keeping a big secret like that from the rest of your party may cause conflict, and if you do let them know IC, that marks the entire crew for some serious trouble from other Aranea. And while it may seem fun at first, once you've dodged the dozenth magical death squad, you may find it a bit tiresome. This does make this one of the more troublesome installments of this series.
 
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