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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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I'm a boat
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I know. How many points of dawizard did that do to their credibility? :D
I can only imagine that either the original Magic Encyclopedia was a test run to see if there was interest in the concept or sales were good enough that somebody in marketing went "Hey, maybe we should look into this idea some more."


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

part 6/8

The role of books: Nightseer by Laurell K Hamilton sees another former contributor to the magazine graduate to full-fledged novelist. But not endlessly ongoing increasingly cheesy series, yet. As with R. A. Salvadore, this may well actually be better, and is certainly less formulaic than later works. The world-building certainly sounds interesting.

Doomsday exam by Nick Pollota is a book from the Bureau 13 RPG. Like the old J. Eric Holmes stories, it plays very much like the game it's based upon, to the point where it really doesn't fit the novel format very well. Converted campaign notes do not often good stories make.

Evil Ascending by Michael A Stackpole is a book based on the Dark Conspiracy game. It does rather better, with characters who aren't all joined at the hip, have proper personalities, and maintain a fairly consistent story tone. Still plenty of room for egregious violence and quippy pop culture references though, which is all to the good.

Two-bit heroes by Doris Egan takes a similar start to Christopher Stasheff's warlock series, that of one planet in a sci-fi universe where magic works, and then runs in a completely different direction with it, turning the story into a swashbuckling robin hood analogue. This also looks like turning into a longrunning series.

River rats by Caroline Stevermer follows a steamboat manned entirely by kids in a postapocalyptic mississippi. Given the setting, comparison with the works of Mark Twain seems inevitable. It probably isn't that compatible with gamma world's gonzo tone, but then, most post apocalypse is more serious than gamma world. This is probably a good thing.

The modular man by Roger Macbride Allen is a nice bit of speculative sci-fi about the effects of robotics which you can upload your mind into. It revolves around a murder case where a man was killed by his robot after transferring his memory into it, which may well have been suicide, but does it count as suicide in this instance? Other players in the story have similarly complex relationships with their gadgetry.


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

part 7/8

Sage advice has another case of few, but very long questions and answers.
What are the actual rules for a rope of entanglement ( Skip to the rescue. Skip will provide complete rules for you. Skip is a badass mutha...... oh, lets not have this skit again)

I still don't understand how magic resistance works in edge cases. (Oh, for the love of. If in doubt, roll. if you get below, it does nothing. How hard is that to adjudicate? )

I disagree with your rulings! I don't know what game you're playing, but it ain't True Official AD&D. ( Are you questioning the ineffability of Skip? Skip is The Sage! Skip puts the pages in the mages, and the broomstick between the witches legs. You think skip's pronouncements are not canon? SKIP IS CANON, AND CANON IS SKIP!!! Hooooorarrrrrrrrrg! Who are you, who thinks he can challenge Skip's position? Do you seek to claim the position of Sage for yourself? Then we must duel, good sir. TO THE DEATH!!!!! Choose your weapon!)

The game wizards: Let's go shopping! The Forgotten Realms gets another step towards complete comprehensive worldbuilding with Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog. A very stereotypically girly topic, and it's no surprise that Anne Brown was one of the lead writers. Course, boys do love their toys too, and as this was designed IC by an experienced adventuress, there's no shortage of useful gear that could turn your adventure around. Go beyond the usual flaming oil and 10' poles, play with stuff like weaponblack, spider poles, clockwork animals, insect netting, cranial drills, and all manner of dangerous gnomish contraptions. (so it'll be good for krynnish games as well :p ) And that's not all, there's also tons of info on food, clothing, general household and other everyday items. Unlike her rather forced attempt at metatextual humour in issue 155, this feels like it was genuinely fun to write about, and made the equipment assembling part of the game both easier and more fun as well. (if sometimes troublesome because you just don't have the money or encumbrance for everything you want) It's also a good example of the kind of thing that you just don't see anymore, despite it's usefulness, because that kind of setting high, statistics low design full of whimsical touches is out of fashion. Course, ironically, since so much of this is stats free, and D&D doesn't suffer much from inflation, you can still use this with 3rd & 4th edition, which means it actually remains useful in a way the reams of old splatbooks don't. So while this is another bit of promotion, it's one that's both entertaining to read and thought-provoking, that reminds me of the best aspects of 2nd edition. A very good reason to hunt down OOP stuff indeed.


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

part 8/8

Dragonmirth reaches the end of known humour. Yamara gets healed in a thoroughly romantic way. The party splits up (idiots) In twilight empire.

Through the looking glass: Just when you were starting to relax, the lead banning bill strikes again! Bureaucracy is a predator that hunts through boredom, making resisting it so interminably tedious that eventually you welcome the jaws of death just to get a little peace. And then find you've arrived in an equally bureaucratic afterlife where you have to file a complete report on everything you ever did during life. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! We get a quite impassioned bit of writing on the merits of lead as a material over plastic, particularly working from the PoV of someone who likes to paint their own models. There are better things to use our currently cheap, but rapidly depleting supply of plastics upon. I sense there may be some dramatic exaggeration involved to better make the point. Or maybe, not, since eco-panic was quite the fashion back then. As with the satanic stuff, in hindsight this does seem very much like making a mountain out of a molehill, and is starting to get tiresome. Can we lurch onto the next crisis anytime soon?

Our minis this month are all futuristic, fitting the issue's theme. A star map, and a star legion to play on it. A pair of GEV artillery platforms for blowing stuff up. The interestingly attired legions of mars from Space:1889. Some Saurian warriors with rather large guns. And a whole bunch of Battletech Mechs designed to punch through enemy defences. Sweet.

Quite a few good articles in this one, but the reviews were an absolute chore to do, proving very dull indeed to look through. Aside from the RPG reviews, they seem to be suffering from a progresssive blandifying and unwillingness to make really harsh criticisms. This obviously keeps their suppliers happy, but does not make for interesting reading. Even negative publicity is better than no publicity, as so many famous people discover. If you're going to be blandly positive most of the time, you might as well not have reviews at all. Now I must press onwards and ensure I do not fall into that trap either.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 184: August 1992

part 1/8

124 pages. A nice bit of tag-team self-insertion on the cover here from the TSR staff. Why should the PC's be the ones initiating all the action? Since our special topic this month is NPC's, this seems appropriate. Ok, so it may be a bit GMcentric, but GMs are disproportionately represented among the magazine buyers, and I'm sure players'll get their turn again in later issues. Sometimes you have to specialise to do the best job possible.

In this issue:

Letters: A letter revealing the Toad-men in Twilight Empire were speaking hungarian. They contact the writer, who duly provides a translation, along with some other commentary. He's not just throwing stuff in off the cuff, he's got a plan.

Another letter on the Twilight Empire, extolling the virtues of New Hampshire men. It's the best state evar! Tee Hee.

A letter from someone driven mad by the hidden easter eggs on their covers. Once again I just have to laugh. People get worked up about such tiny things.

Some more amusing dice habits. Like people's animal empathies, this could produce quite a few more amusing comments over the next few months.

Editorial: Yay! The survey results are back. And not changed that much from a decade ago, really. Still 95% male, and with an average age in the late teens/early 20's, it's very obvious what their core demographic is. The Realms is by far the most popular game setting. Dragonmirth, the previews and sage advice are the most popular regulars. It's not all positive of course. We want more ecology articles, goddamnitt. And yes, Roger also think's we're long overdue a new Best Of too, but it doesn't seem to be happening for some reason. Blame upper management, as usual. Some of the improvements we want to make are not an option due to writer or budgetary limits. Anyway, it seems most people are happy with most things. Any tweaks need to be made carefully, or they risk alienating the majority by pandering to a vocal minority.

Courts and courtiers: Another attempt to make things both fun and awfully confusing for PC's as they rise in levels. Whether they're visiting an existing court in the course of their adventures, or starting to accumulate their own camp followers and toadies as they gain wealth and power, you can wind up in an awful pickle if you talk to the right people the wrong way. They may not be nearly as powerful as you, but when you're a highly specialised killing machine, having people around to handle the everyday aspects of life has it's benefits. And hey, if you get bored, or realise a particular person is just a waste of space and money really, you can just pull the old Off with their Heads! routine and everyone'll be on their best behaviour for a few weeks. Full of sample NPC's, this is one of those articles that provides you a good checklist of the kind of staff a good castle needs, and just how expensive keeping them around will be. Combine it with a random personality generation table (such as the one in issue 29) and a relationship map and you could probably get a whole political layout going in an hour or two. A decent enough starter, it only becomes more when you combine it with a whole bunch of the other time-savers the magazine has accumulated over the years.

Really good bad guys: Or revenge of Tuckers Kobolds part 4, now with PC skills. Yes, it's another reminder that you really ought to be playing monsters with the intelligence they have. There's all sorts of tricks you can pull even with a few low level spells that make an encounter both more challenging and a lot more interesting. This all feels very familiar, both in it's generalities, and it's specifics, which are heavily derived from recent forum debates. Some of the more imaginative tricks are new to me though, so like new monsters and magic items, this certainly isn't useless, even if it is a well covered topic. I may well use some of these tricks at some point.

In an appropriate twist of advertisting, Grimtooth's traps is promoted directly below this article. Now there's 5 whole books of them, including a new one full of nonlethal but humiliating stuff. This speaks of a pretty popular series. Why is it that the traps column never really took off in the magazine again?


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 184: August 1992

part 2/8

The 7-sentence NPC: Another attempt at formularising the mass production of NPC's. The title says it all really. 7 sentences, only one of which is concerned with statistics. As the writer shows, you can fit 3-4 characters on a single page using this method, possibly a couple more if you don't include sketches as well. The illustrations are probably the most entertaining part of this article, which doesn't really spark my interest. It looks like it works, but I still cannot help but say meh. Another day, another variation on a very familiar theme. And unlike the works of Wagner, these liefmotifs are not acquiring more power and resonance through their repetition.

You again!: Oh yes, recurring enemies. One of the things RPG's struggle with, and D&D in particular due to it's hit point system encouraging quick deaths, and complete lack of drama mechanics. The closest thing is Dragonlance's rather heavy handed "they never find the body" rule. This is a big problem for people who want to make their games more like stories. And unfortunately, while this has plenty of roleplaying advice, it completely fails to tackle the mechanical ones, apart from a brief bit on resurrection. Since I think those of us who grew up on 80's cartoons don't need help with the character building bit of creating amusingly interesting recurring villains, this is not very useful to me, and may result in more people trying it and running into problems themselves. And that's not a very pleasing idea at all. Still, hopefully if they identify the problem, that'll mean fewer games suffer from it in the future.

The referee's code of honor: Back to the basics of GMing here, with one of those little lists of useful advice. Treat your players with respect. Don't take their characters away from them. Don't take on more work than you can handle. Be reliable in scheduling. Make sure both you and they are having fun. And Take pride in your work. Hmm. This is approaching it from a different angle to most of the previous articles on this topic, with the emphasis more on how you relate to the players than how you run the game. This is something that hasn't been done too much, and is written in a clear concise likeable manner, so I'm giving this article good marks. If you forget the real world human elements, no matter how good your plot and worldbuilding, your game will not be fun. R E S P E C T, find out what it means to THEM.

TSR Previews: The Forgotten Realms is back to getting multiple books in a single month again. FR14: The great glacier lets PC's penetrate another distant and inhospitable corner of the Realms. After the desert hijinks of last year, this should make a nice contrast. As usual, the novel is somewhere completely different. Doug Niles is still in the moonshaes, telling the story of The Coral Kingdom. Well, nearby, anyway, as the heroes venture under the sea. Will we get a supplement on that some time? D&D got one, why shouldn't AD&D?

Ravenloft goes somewhere a little out of the ordinary too. RQ2: Thoughts of darkness sees you face illithid vampires. Double the consumption, double the mind-fucking. Now that's scary, if a bit over the top.

Dragonlance gets up to part 5 of their meetings sextet. Soon even their bits of carpet lint will all know each other. Does that even make any sense? Anyway, Steel and stone lets us see Kitiara and Tanis bicker and try and have a relationship while engaging in the usual heroics. Mixing business with pleasure? Like that ever turns out well.

AD&D returns to the idea of cardboard cut-outs in GR2: Dungeons of mystery. Dennis Kauth helps you represent the places you adventure in again. Look after them, because they aren't the toughest creations ever.

D&D has a mixed bag. HW3: The Milenian empire covers the exotic worldbuilding side, taking you to another dead culture transplanted into the hollow world. Sword and Shield is for the people who are not only amateurs, but can't find a group either. They seem to be doing a lot of that lately. I do have to say I feel a little patronised. It's a laudable goal, expanding your fanbase, but saturating the market with too many of the same type of product will be particularly confusing to new people, and destroy that sense of shared experience the likes of B1+2 created.

Marvel Superheroes keeps up to date with current events, with MU8, our 4th yearly add-on to the gamers handbook. I hope they made sure the binder was big enough to handle all these extras, because it'll really be bulging now.

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
D&D has a mixed bag. HW3: The Milenian empire covers the exotic worldbuilding side, taking you to another dead culture transplanted into the hollow world.
As I recall, by this time the Gazetteer/spinoff series has begun to die of suckiness: the old small-print small-margin FULL OF STUFF! modules have been replaced by large-print large-margin much-less-info products, written to a younger or perhaps just dumber audience. And the last of the proper Almanacks will have been printed, to be followed up by one drastically inferior product that is written, in-universe, by a delusional idiot.

So sad to see a nifty gameline decline and fall.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 184: August 1992

part 3/8

Wrath of the immortals! Lets take another stab at this playing gods thing again. And hopefully get it right this time.

The voyage of the princess ark is on a break again. The writing really is on the wall for this series. So it's more letter answering instead. After all, that requires far less creative energy. How very irritating.

You've messed up the calendar! Four times, possibly more! (Many sighs. Yes, it happens. This is why so many writers make their fantasy worlds identical to earth in these matters. It's way too easy to forget stuff like this. )

You've messed up the map of Darokin as well! (Well spotted. :sigh: )

How do you select ideas for novels? (Very mysterious process. First, the evil T$R taskmasters form a focus group to brainstorm and decide what would piss over your setting most. Then they hire some poor hack and force them to churn out several thousand words a day to the brief. Then they change their mind and make a whole bunch of even more annoying editorial changes. Then they stamp a cheesy cover on it that has little to do with the contents, and bob's yer uncle.)

Where is Blizzard pass (Between Ringrise and Hinmeet seems the most logical spot)

Are there critical fumbles in D&D (no. Keep it simple stupid.)

My cleric's player is uncomfortable with the idea of her character praying to another god (Pff. Fantasy. Reality. Completely separate things. Your character having a different faith to you is not a sin by any stretch of the imagination. Tell her to chill the fuck out. )

Thyatis is waaay too small! (mapping realisticly sized cities would be a nightmare. So we fudged. )

The Rich resource rule is stupid. (blah blah carolingan system evolution into feudal system simplification for purpose of gaming blah blah blah. )

How did Heldan become so badass. Why is Thyatis so feeble (One's a dynamic group of up and comers. The other's a comfortably established nation with a big empire. They aren't feeble, but they certainly aren't as ambitious anymore.)

Why did the empress make Haldemar and co pariahs. They've been of great service to the nation. (Palace politics. If they were allowed to stick around, someone else would kill them. Sending them off again was safer and more useful. )

Why did you leave the Sea Machine rules out of the cyclopedia (Space. No room! )

Why are the Thyatian armies so feeble in X10. (Because they only sent a small force. It's miles away from home. Not a conflict worth wasting much energy on. )

Isn't making a skyship too powerful an ability even for someone with 9th level spells (You obviously would prefer a less cinematic campaign. I don't think the Known world is for you, critic.)

Putting a western analogue in D&D is a bit silly, isn't it? (Yes, but that was entirely intentional. I do love a bit of gonzo now and then.)

The stats for some of the Ark's characters are impossible! (More errata? Don't worry, we'll fix it when we compile the story.)

How can Heldanic knights use edged weapons when they're clerics (Because their patron immortal is a cheaty bastard)

Since when are wands rechargable? (Where does it say they're not? Sources from AD&D books don't count, by the way. )

I'd prefer it if the princess ark was kept down-to-earth. We don't need too much spacefaring magitech. ( Well, you're in luck, because it's going to be permanently grounded soon. ;) )

I want a book with battlesystem stats for various known world armies (Tough. They're too big to use smoothly with the battlesystem. You'll have to settle for War Machine stats instead.)

How much space do 100 troops need to live in. (Not that much really. Depends how uncomfortable you want them to be. )


Making the Legend
Validated User
As I recall, by this time the Gazetteer/spinoff series has begun to die of suckiness: the old small-print small-margin FULL OF STUFF! modules have been replaced by large-print large-margin much-less-info products, written to a younger or perhaps just dumber audience. And the last of the proper Almanacks will have been printed, to be followed up by one drastically inferior product that is written, in-universe, by a delusional idiot.

So sad to see a nifty gameline decline and fall.
Just be thankful Joshuan, Volo and Bertrem never got a crossover product. The suck produced by that cheesy combination would destroy entire universes.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 184: August 1992

part 4/8

Sage advice: Does project image allow you to cast spells through it. (It'd be a pretty weak 6th level spell if it couldn't)

There are no rules for dexterity adjusting initiative (no, there aren't. Very percheptive of you, Mishter Bond. How fast you can act physically has no bearing on how you react mentally. )

I can't find the gather intelligence skill (there is no such proficiency. The author was not paying attention. Skip has dealt with them suitably. )

What's to stop you from making a dimension door below a creature, the other up in the air, and letting them go splat (erm, that one of the doors always appears in front of you. Pay attention to the rules, dear. )

It's really hard to get telekinesis (Tell me about it. All I wanted to do was have a little fun playing rock and roll. But no, You have to study for years to get good enough to pull tricks like that. )

What happens if a wild talent becomes a psionicist (either keep it all separate, or it's payoff time. You choose.)

What's the difference between a morning star, a flail and a mace? (Illustrations, they are useful. )

Raising people in ravenloft requires a powers check? Isn't that a good act. What does it do to a priest who fails it. ( Ha. Was what Dr Frankenstein did a good act? Meddling with life and death, even with the best of intentions, is messing with stuff man ought not to wot of, and may be hazardous to body and sanity.)

There's no GP value for magic items. How do I determine how much starting witches get (buy the new magical encyclopedias :teeth ting: )

Do dwarves have to spend a slot to get dwarf runes and endurance or not? ( no, but they can spend more slots to improve them.)

Why are wild magic spells in regular schools as well (they may be wild, but they're still magic. They may break the rules, but they still follow the same classifications. Skip understands this, even if you don't. )

The role of computers: Out of this world uses 3d polygon graphics to fit an amazing amount of information in a tiny tiny package. The attention to detail really does surprise them. I wonder how this one would hold up today.

Spectre also features 3d polygon based graphics. Control your cybertank using both overhead and front views and make your way through 50 increasingly tricky levels. With limited ammo and a slowly recharging teleport meter, it looks like resource management will be important in getting you all the way to the end. It also supports multiplayer LAN networking, which increases the fun quite a bit. (and you won't have to pay several dollars per hour to use.) Another advancement we probably haven't seen enough of.

Speaking of online stuff, they have an almost review of Sierra's capabilities in that area. Costs have come down quite a bit, to $12.95 for 30 hours access. They have their own quirky website called Sierraland that connects between the environments for their various online games and chatrooms. Guess geocities wasn't without competition in methods back then. Another amusing reminder of the stumbling around early websites did before finding formats that really take advantage of the way the net works and how we naturally navigate it. Little walky avatars just seem so twee.

Treasures of the Savage Frontier takes us to the Forgotten Realms yet again. And yet again, the reviewers are starting to lose their infatuation with SSI. They're just churning out stuff as fast as they can rather than really improving the games to keep up with the times. Still fun, but I suppose it depends if you really like their gamestyle. Eventually diminishing returns will become a real problem.
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