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

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 183: July 1992

part 3/8


Role-playing reviews: We are of course in theme here, with a couple of sci-fi games. And a bit of complaining about the difficulties of selling hard sci-fi in RPGs. When people actually have to pay close attention to what's possible, and carefully justify and examine the ramifications of what isn't, sales are hit. But we keep plugging away, for the speculations in them are useful for reality in a way star wars never can be.

Mechwarrior second edition doesn't do too great. Character generation is a real pain, with tons of number crunching, derived stats, and general sluggishness. Combat is similarly complex, and of course it's incomplete without the mechwarrior game to actually handle the giant robot side. Rick once again demonstrates that he's not patient enough to regularly play games that heavy. Still, he appreciates it for what it is, and the cool setting stuff, even if the system isn't his cup of tea.

Aliens adventure game gets an even worse review. Tons of random dice rolling in chargen, tons of dice rolls for even simple actions in game, brutal and unpleasant combat, it all seems heavily focussed on realism over fun. It also doesn't do horror very well, being far more focussed on the second film's military violence than the first film's atmosphere. Unless you want a very specific flavour of game, leave this out.

Rick also gives us a quick rundown of most of the Buck Rogers RPG supplements. The line may be running down rapidly now, but of course they still have lots of unsold stock to shift, and he gets roped into doing his part. NEO in the 25th century and the Luna sourcebooks come off best in his opinion.


The role of computers: Civilisation is one I've spent many frustrating hours with. Gods, that game can eat up tons of your time. Course, that is because it's fun, and incredibly open-ended. Will you rush to the spacefaring stage, or take advancement slow and concentrate on taking over the world. Read the manual, because it's big, and really will help.

Bard's title Construction Set allows you to build landscapes for your fantasy game. It also includes stuff for noting down your game's idiosyncracies of equipment, spells, monsters, etc. It uses point and click design, which makes it a good deal more user friendly than old programs. And the graphics and memory improvements of recent years allow you to both save a decent amount of stuff and print off images. That means you won't be completely tied to your desktop come game night.


The viking's dragons: I thought last month's selection of Linorms was missing a few. Multi-part special articles have decreased in frequency over the years, but we have one here. As with last month, here's five more highly malevolent dragon types to terrify your players with. Since we've covered the basics already, let's get straight to the monsters.

Flame linorms make red dragons look decidedly weedy, having substantially greater physical abilities and slightly better magic too. They're definitely another one for the high level adventurer who really needs that extra bit of challenge.

Gray linorms rub in how much bigger linorms grow than normal dragons by being described as relatively small-bodied, when their bodies are still actually bigger than most chromatics and metallics, while their tails are longer than a even a gold dragon's combined total length. One of the less powerful and smart Linnorms, they're still more than powerful and magically versatile enough to be confusing and deadly to fight.

Rain linorms are relatively small and weedy physically and in terms of spells, but get tons of cool innate abilities, including exceedingly good regeneration at their uppermost levels. They manage to be even more egotistical and greedy than normal dragons, which is quite a feat really. A little comeuppance before they get too big for everyone's boots would be a good idea.

The corpse tearer is an absolutely terrifying singular horror with energy draining claws, a breath weapon that may well leave you permanently crippled if you survive, and enough undead slaves to conquer a small country. It's wealth is similarly substantial, and it really does make an epic foe that would be a good climax for an entire campaign.

The Midgard linorm is even bigger and more powerful even than corpse tearer, but seems a good deal less aggressive and proactive in it's seeking of food, wealth and temporal power. Which is a bit of a relief really, as you really don't want the world serpent peering it's enormous eyes into your window as a prelude to eating your house whole. Actually, in some respects it's less powerful than a regular great wyrm, as it has neither discretionary spells or flight, but you'll still need both power and luck to get this monster. And flavour-wise this is a definite success. It's easy to get jaded with dragons, forget just how nasty they actually are. This lot bring that right back.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
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Aliens adventure game gets an even worse review. Tons of random dice rolling in chargen, tons of dice rolls for even simple actions in game, brutal and unpleasant combat, it all seems heavily focussed on realism over fun. It also doesn't do horror very well, being far more focussed on the second film's military violence than the first film's atmosphere. Unless you want a very specific flavour of game, leave this out.
This is the Phoenix Command-based game, isn't it?
 

JoeNotCharles

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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.
You have an odd idea of "troublesome". Herath is an awesome nation, and my current campaign is set there.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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You have an odd idea of "troublesome". Herath is an awesome nation, and my current campaign is set there.
The trouble is in that it's a bitch to keep your players from metagaming when the secret is totally out there and in your face.

Ironically, something like V:tM's Dirty secrets of the black hand (which heaven knows gets it's fair share of flak) does this better in that the basic concepts were teased but not revealed for several years before, and then once again barely mentioned after that. (often with substantial retcons where they were)

This is not the case with Herath and the Aranea. If you have players with even the slightest inclination towards reading the books, it's a real challenge to treat the big secret with the gravity it deserves. I dunno, maybe it's the quality of players I've had to deal with.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 183: July 1992

part 4/8


Werewolf: the Apocalypse, coming in august. They're certainly moving forward and capitalising on their success. Interesting to note that white wolf now occupies higher billing than esdevium.


TSR Previews: Al-Qadim gets it's first boxed set, Land of Fate, which actually gives us the geographical details to back up the rules. Strange that the core would be a single book, but then the line got so many boxed sets after that. Normally it's the other way around. I wonder why.

Spelljammer goes back to touch base in SJR5: Rock of Braal. It certainly never got the same kind of iconic status as sigil, but it's still a trading nexus where you can meet all kinds of weird creatures from across the spheres. Have fun.

Dark Sun continues to put the PC's almost centre stage in the metaplot. DSQ2: Arcane shadows sees the preservers trying to strike while the iron is hot, give the sorcerer kings a few more sharp knocks. Before you know it, half of them'll be dead, and the rest on the defensive. Hey ho.

Greyhawk fills in one of the characters who got mentioned in the old skool stuff, but not in much detail. Rary and Robilar. Traitorous wizard and his fighter sidekick. Man, the circle of 8 hate these guys. Can you solve the problem those great wizards couldn't, and exact a brutal killing and taking of stuff?

Dragonlance gets it's turn to have an introductory module. DLQ1: Knights sword. For a 1st level knight of solamnia and their buds. You know the drill. Proving yourself to the NPC's is likely to be as important as killing things.

The Forgotten Realms continues the cleric quintet, with Night Masks. Cadderly is still having trouble with assassins, despite the class being removed. Suspect everyone!

The generic stuff this time is more rehashed compilations. The magic encyclopedia, vol 1, is the first part of an attempt to compile every magical item published in every D&D product ever. In 64 pages? That's barely enough to index them. Oh, and there's also another bunch of collectors cards to fuel your obsessive trading urges.

D&D gets away from the little novice adventures they've been sticking too recently, and does the exact opposite. The Wrath of the Immortals boxed set revises the rules for playing them, and features a brand new adventure which completely fucks up Mystara. Can you make a difference, and save Alphatia, at least in your game?

Gamma world boots up the supplement mill, hope once again trumping experience. GWQ1: Mutant Master sees you foiling the plans of the mutant supremacist alliance. But what if you want to exterminate those stuck-up pure strains. We never get to have any fun. :pouts:

And finally, our standalone book this month is The nine gates, by Philip Brugalette. More fantasy where the fate of the universe is at stake? Iiiiits psychodrama time.


Fiction: Gryphon's nest by Ardath Mayhar. Hmm. You're back again, are you. Well, well. I suppose it has been quite a while since she got a successive onslaught of slating reviews in the book section. Mixing ecology and comedy of errors isn't a combination I would have come up with. But it seems to work, albeit going by rather too quickly for me to really get attached to the characters. It raises some interesting questions about the youth and raising of weird hybrid creatures, and unlike last time, the comedy is definitely intentional. It also reminds me of cartoons where intelligent talking animals are the stars, and they all seem to be able to communicate with each other and have vaguely human sensibilities. The illustration works well with the story, capturing the intended flavour quite nicely. Interesting.
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
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The generic stuff this time is more rehashed compilations. The magic encyclopedia, vol 1, is the first part of an attempt to compile every magical item published in every D&D product ever. In 64 pages? That's barely enough to index them.
And in two years these two volumes will be replaced by the far more comprehensive (and infamous*) four-volume Encyclopedia Magica anyway.

* In that these are reputed to have been one of the items that cost TSR more to make than they sold for, hence why they became far less ornate once WotC took over and republished them.
 

JoeNotCharles

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This is not the case with Herath and the Aranea. If you have players with even the slightest inclination towards reading the books, it's a real challenge to treat the big secret with the gravity it deserves. I dunno, maybe it's the quality of players I've had to deal with.
Good point. I'm helped by the fact that my campaign is based on 20-year-old source material that the players have showed no inclination to read, even after I keep hinting that maybe they could find out some stuff about the names I keep dropping if they go search.
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/8


The marvel-phile: Enough leftovers! Let's cover some characters who are hot off the press. Cerise and Kylun from the Excalibur comic. An extradimensional adventurer, who's still a bit of a mystery. And a mutant who's spent ages in another dimension, and changed quite a lot in the meantime, but still has quite a bit of self-doubt despite his character development. Both get pretty decent history and roleplaying notes, even if their powers are nothing too exceptional. We get to find out a bit more about the Marvel universes many parallel dimensions, and get another good example of how characters can be brought back years after their last appearance. And also how heroic characters can wind up on opposing sides due to misunderstandings. The drama is still going consistently in the UK as well.


Forum takes a break from satanicness and goes back to sexism, with a whole batch of letters from female readers on the issue. Still an ongoing problem then. What are we to do with human nature? Can we get on with the genetic engineering please, because merely educational solutions don't seem to be getting the job done.

Clarissa Fowler is being highly proactive in attempting to make a community for female gamers. She's also pretty aggressive in pointing out the shortcomings of most rpg books in terms of female appearances and roles. The statistics are quite damning. Stand up and be counted! Burn your chainmail bikinis! Equal time for both pronouns! (you'll like Eden Studios then) The agenda Will move forward.

Leslie A. King delivers a Reader, I married him story. Now she's the co-owner of a gaming store. This puts her in a good position to examine the demographics of gaming. It seems that the proportion of girls is increasing at the moment. That may be a case of cause and effect though, as if you're running the shop, it's less likely to be a skuzzpit.

Shirl Phelps has the usual horror stories of guys hitting on her or talking over her when she just wants to play the game. She's finally managed to get a drama free regular game going. Stand your ground, make sure the twits get the message politely but firmly.

Sarah Brundage thinks there needs to be more games that appeal to a female audience. Going into dungeons and killing stuff does seem like a very male kind of fantasy. Once again we see the limitations that come from the first game having wargaming ancestry and others copying it rather than being inherent in the idea of playing a role.

Alan Kellog moves things onto fantasy racism, and how the various races can learn to co-exist, if not trust each other. Just as in the real world, trying to kill the orcs all the time is just too much bother, especially when you can stick them in crap jobs and profit off them for centuries instead. Course, humans do that to their own race as well. Maybe we are the evil ones after all.

L. Leon Adrian points out the problems that might occur when a bunch of wizards start selling continual light spells to normal people. The lantern maker's guild will send assassins! Other wizards will start competing, driving prices down. Clerics will decry this violation of the natural order. You know, all of those sound like springboards to more adventures to me. Change and the tensions that result from it are an ideal driver for interesting yet realistic plots.

Michael Miller decides to chat about time travel. Unlike our previous forumite, he is in favour of magic being applied in a technological fashion and different eras varying widely. The more variety of places people have to adventure in, the less likely they'll be bored.

Jackson Caskey brings up another endless problem, that of cheating twinky players. They change their ability scores between sessions! They metagame relentlessly and throw a strop when you use monsters and magic items in books they don't have! They refuse to treat your carefully written setting as anything more than a flimsy backdrop to their killing and taking of stuff. Bleah. Yeah, that's a problem alright. If they're all like that, just find a new group. Let them enjoy their monty hauling together.

John A. Tomkins has a more positive story. To keep his players all involved in his setting and aware of what's going on without endlessly repeating himself, he started making newsletters. This proved so successful that when he moved across the country, his old group still wanted them sent to them so they could keep up with his new adventures and worldbuilding. Now that's a good example of successful player engagement.

Christopher Newton encourages you not to be afraid of having your players make big changes in the setting. He also raises the idea of treating your game and creativity as Art. Swine! :points finger: Burn him! :D

Donna L. Beales talks about her recent spate of gaming funk, and the things that did definitely not work to shake her out of it. All the IC cool toys in the world won't help if you're not getting enough control or spotlight time. Don't forget fun is the first priority.
 
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