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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 186: October 1992

part 6/6


Role-playing reviews II: The popularity of horror is once again reinforced. There's so much good stuff that Rick and Lester can both have decent columns full. Horrifying, isn't it. ;)

Call of cthulhu 5th edition sees Rick give it a 5 star result as it continues to succeed against the odds. Characters are a little more competent this time round, but really, compared to the creatures they're facing, they're still going to be chow soon. Everything else is just the way you like it. BRP has pretty much reached maturity as a system, there's lots of great adventures and advice on making your own, and the presentation is still improving. Everyone should try it at least once.

GURPS Horror 2nd edition, on the other hand gets the usual competent but dull result they give them round here. Pick your elements, and put them together. They're all there, it's just up to you to figure out what you want. You know the drill by now.

The Apparitions, lycanthropes and vampires sourcebooks for Chill get mixed reviews. The interesting design makes them fun reads, but they aren't hugely innovative. Vampires gets the highest marks, with it's large quantity of individual named vampires tackled, while werewolves comes out the loser, with ridiculous amounts of whitespace. So it's not just TSR that's using that to pad out their books then. :p

Interestingly, we also see the first hint of backlash against the IC narrator device, with rick finding it unhelpful and distracting in Van Richten's guide to Ghosts. Just give us the crunch. Hmm. Sorry, I'm afraid that's going to get much more frequent before it starts going out of fashion. Guess you'll just have to be ahead of the times for a while. That's one for the notebooks.


Dragonmirth has some ghostly romance. Some people just can't let go. What ever happened to till death do us part? Yamara gets rather swept along by events. This is what happens when the PC's are aware of the metagame. The twilight empire guys are still split up and not sure what to do either.


Through the looking glass skips the introductions so as to fit more actual minis in. Unsurprisingly, many are horror themed. Werewolf, wereboar, wereape? (don't see many of them in D&D. Who's idea was that?) A whole undead army including boss, minions and standard bearer to serve your liches and necromancers. A wraith, a mummy, and for those of you who want something a little exotic, a two-headed zombie ogre. If this lot win, then you can make lots of use of the Impaled Victim mini too. If you'd prefer your horrors to be the stay at home sort, there's several that come with their own homes. A mysterious horror busting out from a tomb. A lich lurking under a mausoleum archway. A gravestone with amorphous spirits seeping out. You won't be short of spooky setpieces to lurk in your dungeon. Plus there's some more skeletons and zombies just to make sure you don't have too many duplicates, and some official ravenloft figures, including various darklords, and a vistani dancer. And finally, just to redress the balance a little, there's a mob of villagers. They're totally going to die, aren't they. Tee hee. It's not like in the movies. D&D is not merciful to the overconfident commoner. And that sure aint changing next year either.


The reviews in this one are a bit weak, but otherwise, it's a very consistent issue, full of crunchy stuff that's useful for D&D, and advice bits that are handy for most games. Guess it's another instance of the regular topics getting lots of strong articles over the year for the editors to choose from when the time comes. Which means next year should be pretty decent too. You can always rely on horror to be a good seller, so you can always rely on them to produce it. Gotta keep making that money, after all.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 1/6


124 pages. Hmm. Composite anatomy is a problem here. If that griffon flaps, he'll smack his rider in the back and really mess up his lance aim. The perspective of the various bits and pieces doesn't quite add up, giving me eye strain trying to parse the image. It looks nice on a casual scan from the newsstands, but I can't rotate and inhabit this landscape like you could an Elmore piece. It's all subtly annoying. Also subtly annoying is that this is another generic wilderness one. Can't you focus on a specific terrain for a change? Or will we have to wait for 3e to do entire books on specific terrains to scratch that itch, which may be a bit excessive. Oh well, the sooner we do this, the sooner we'll get to those too.


In this issue:


Letters: Some commentary on issue 184. Surely that's Jack Nicholson! Nope. Purely co-incidental, dear readers. It is however, staff self insertion of the highest cheesiness. Surely they could at least have done something about his receding hairline and stubble, features elves are not noted for in most portrayals. Many photoshopped fashion magazine covers are less realistic these days.

Someone asking if the D&D cartoon is available on video. It is now! Don't expect any new episodes though. And don't ask us about a movie either. We'd rather forget about those days, frankly. It's too soon for nostalgia.

Some more amusing tales of dice quirks. If you have dice chewers in your group, make sure you have spares around. Uh yeah. :backs away slowly: I shall say no more on this topic.

Someone asking them to put godzilla monsters in AD&D. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of you. They've been there since '85's Oriental Adventures, unsurprisingly. Buy moar supplements.

A letter clearing up the confusion about pegasaurs and pegataurs. Roger doesn't hesitate to insert a little humour into the situation. Some of the most memorable ideas were produced by someone running with mistakes and making them into something new.

A letter praising Ed's new wizard meetups, and criticising their errors in insect anatomy. Roger can afford to be smugly tight-lipped about this, knowing he's got quite a bit of coolness in the bag to let out soon.

And finally, some more tedious weapon quibbling. Yawn.


Editorial: Paper is a fragile thing. A little water or fire and the valued work of centuries can be lost forever. Computers aren't much better, particularly while turned on. It's an interesting question. Just how ephemeral are the fruits of our civilisation going to be? What will be lost when the servers crash and the file formats are outdated? What will happen to civilisation once the fossil fuels are exhausted? If we don't figure out renewable energy now, it's going to be a lot harder for our descendants to rebuild technology. But I digress. Looks like there was another fricken hurricane recently, and some poor gamers have lost all their cool stuff built up over years. Send generously! Escapism is as important as ever in these conditions! It's at times like this I'm glad I live in the UK, on a hilly place, with my books split between two locations and my .pdfs triply backed up. (although not as regularly updated as I ought too.) The chances of everything I own being wiped out in one go are considerably less than my odds of simply being killed crossing the road or something stupid like that. (Touch wood) Anyway, maintain compassion, but avoid complacency, yadda yadda yadda heal the world, make it a better place etc etc. You know the drill by now.


The wild, wild wilderness: Oh great, here we go again. Another round of the "Don't underestimate real animals" line. Someone ought to make a plaque and put it up on the wall so you don't forget it, because all too many people still do. David Howery warms us up with another article that feels more like an extended forum piece, and is all very familiar in it's advice. On the plus side, it gives rather more mechanical support than previous articles to the various ideas like enhanced senses, ambushing, strangling, trampling and other tricks real animals regularly pull when fighting. So it's neither badly written or useless, but does feel like a warm-up. The magazine's getting older, just like the rest of us, and has to consciously try to stay in shape these days. Stretch, lunge, twist, thrust, squat, lift, flex, realign the vertebrae. Now can we go on a run to somewhere new please?


Deadlier dinosaurs: Apparently not. Instead it's just another look at dinosaurs. Well, they are currently experiencing another upswing in public awareness thanks to jurassic park, along with quite a bit of redefinition of what they're capable of. So once again David Howery brings that info to the magazine, updating existing creatures with new tricks, and introducing the rather unrealistic giant velociraptors that appear in the book and film, along with a trio of other large vicious carnivores which'll make your players lives interestingly eventful. Once again this is useful, and a good reminder of where we're at historically, but not particularly interesting. Maybe I should go watch some pretentious avante-garde arthouse films so i can recover my enthusiasm for fantastical staples like dinosaurs and vampires again. 6 hours of watching paint dry while a naked dwarf recites poetry about the destruction of the rainforest in french it is!
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
124 pages. Hmm. Composite anatomy is a problem here. If that griffon flaps, he'll smack his rider in the back and really mess up his lance aim. The perspective of the various bits and pieces doesn't quite add up, giving me eye strain trying to parse the image. It looks nice on a casual scan from the newsstands, but I can't rotate and inhabit this landscape like you could an Elmore piece. It's all subtly annoying. Also subtly annoying is that this is another generic wilderness one. Can't you focus on a specific terrain for a change? Or will we have to wait for 3e to do entire books on specific terrains to scratch that itch, which may be a bit excessive. Oh well, the sooner we do this, the sooner we'll get to those too.
Visual reference:
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 2/6


Bazaar of the bizarre: Ooh. Magic items aimed at druids. As they say, you probably don't see enough of them. Course, many others would say that's because they're so powerful they don't need items to be competitive, they can comfortably wander around naked and still take on a fighter of the same level with a well chosen shapeshift. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things that would be thematic for them to have. And they're certainly quite capable of making this stuff themselves. Are you going to tell them they can't have it?

Amulets of transformation let you get around your number of transformations limit, which is always handy. Being able to leave in the same form you arrived definitely makes travel more convenient.

Claws of the bear let you do the slashy thing without wasting a whole transformation. They also boost your climbing ability, which would not be the case in actual bear form.

Mistletoe wands (not to be confused with cameltoe wands, which are an april fool contribution derived from Exalted I'd rather not think about) substitute as a spell component, as well as casting a bunch of low level utility spells. One for those who'd rather not have to worry about encumbrance.

Rings of the Hierophants let you skip ahead of your place in the druidic order and gain the ability to shapeshift into an elemental form. There's only one for each element, and they probably get given to the most promising young druids. Just be glad heart isn't an element in D&D. :p

Rings of the little people let you fit right in with the small folk, shrinking yourself down so you can frolic in their mushroom houses. Since they also shield you from the majority of their screwage too, they're well worth the cost to get hold of.

Sickles of the harvest can act like a dancing sword, but it's real value is in automated plant-cutting procedures. Better to have something thats a good tool and a good weapon than just a device for killing in their line of work.

Square meal seeds are another item that gives you an easy meal if planted. Seen them before, will likely see further variants again. Yawn.

Wooden armor of the East lets druids set their AC a little lower than they normally could. After all, it is natural and nonmetallic. Just because you're true neutral doesn't mean you can't rules lawyer to your advantage. A fairly average ending to a fairly average collection.


The ecology of the Dakon: Hmm. Our first ecology in well over a year. And it's one they mentioned as being in their slush pile ages ago. I guess they haven't been getting any submissions on this front, and they couldn't hold it in reserve any longer. Slightly worrying, that. This is a rather odd ecology, not really following the standard format at all. They eschew fiction and footnotes for a purely OOC anthropological study. In another rather distinctive departure, they also open them up to become NPC's and possibly PC's, with proper ability score ranges and class limits provided. The writing isn't particularly good though, this is obviously not from a regular freelancer, and they slip into cliches frequently. So despite having some laudable aims, this is a very problematic little article. Let's hope this reminds the other freelancers out there to send some more stuff in on this front, because I've definitely missed it.


Sage advice is still specializing in psionics, for the third issue in a row. Man, this might be an improvement on 1st ed, but it's still got a long way to go.

Can a wish grant you psionic powers (probably, but no more than it can permanantly increase ability scores. Diminishing returns will soon set in. )

How do multiclassed characters get psionics (Skip laughs at you! Just use your psionicist level. Simple and easy)

Can detonate be used selectively. (no. Like other artillery powers, you don't use it in melee, or you piss off all your buds. )

Can soften affect body weaponry. (only as much as polymorphing affects lycanthropes. It won't work long. )

What are the stats for animals. (Buy the monstrous compendia. We aren't relisting them because a power refers to them. Gotta get 'em all. :teeth ting:)

Does metamorphosis let you move at the assumed creatures rate (generally, yes. Unless their movement is magically based rather than physical. No beholder flight, for example. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 3/6


Arcane Lore: Not enough spells for elementalists? Someone hasn't got the Al Qadim stuff yet. Add that to the tome of magic and Dark Sun books and they're exceedingly well catered for. We've already fixed low level necromancers here. I think abjuration and divination are the schools that could most use a little sprucing up now. But anyway, here's a selection of new elemental spells, many of which have offensive uses. No matter what element you picked, (except heart) you're not going to suck at fighting, that's for sure.

Wings doesn't quite justify being more than twice Fly's level, but gives it a shot, with an array of minor tricks based on exactly what kind of wings you pick. Still, compared to the powerful shapeshifting spells you'll get at the next few levels, it seems somewhat puny.

Airball lets you unleash an outward hurricane somewhere in your vicinity, keep a load of spare air around for emergencies, or possibly set as a trap for the foolish adventurer. There's a lot you can do with compressed air.

Windwar is your basic 9th level mini apocalypse, whipping everything into the air wizard of oz style and doing considerable amounts of damage to everything in miles. One that fully justifies it's high level.

Stone Sleep lets you soothe golems and mud men with a tuning fork. Since they're immune to standard mindfucking, this is one of those boutique spells that'll come in handy occasionally, like invisibility to undead or animals. Nonelementalists probably won't bother.

Stone Drill is your basic tunnelmaker. Slightly different from Dig, it's the same level, and both still have their benefits and optimal uses. Battlefield control, particularly when prepared before the battle, remains a very smart thing to do.

Searing Serpent is a ranged whip attack for when fireball wouldn't be wise. It can still wind up setting your stuff alight, so mind you don't burn down the room by mistake.

Flame Chase is another distinctively shaped bit of firey destruction. Slow enough to terrify rather than just bringing the pain right away, it's another one that's probably not the most optimal spell for it's level, but is good for the sadism. You don't become a fire elementalist without at least a moderate love for new forms of burning and blowing stuff up.

Liquid Orb is another spell which creates raw material, which it is then up to you to apply creatively. Since it can create liquids other than water, your imagination can get quite creative. But of course, it's always good against fire things.

Shark Bolt creates a whole load of mini energy sharks to nom the enemy. Now that's a nice visual. Even more nice is the fact that you can sorta parry them,

Steam Blast is a new 3rd level spell that actually rivals fireball and lightning bolt. Add this one and you'll have a cone shaped AoE spell to go with your ball and line ones, and brutalise the enemy with great efficiency. I strongly approve.

Deep Delve gives you a semi-permeable bathysphere so you can take the whole group miles underwater and still interact fairly freely with the locals. Pretty impressive really, and a nice one to open up new adventures. After all, there's some pretty weird shit down there. Who knows what the Aboleths and Morkoths are cooking up.

Power Word, Liquefy is a slightly weaker, but more gruesome variant on power word kill. And let's face it, it will make bringing the killed back to life a lot harder. So it's probably one you use to scare the locals rather than for fighting equals. Pretty typical of this collection, which is a fun read, but tends to err on the side of underpoweredness. Guess the game isn't going to be broken by incorporating this lot.


The voyage of the princess ark: Bruce takes a break for a third time. The progress of this series really has slowed to a crawl this year. At least we're getting filler material in the form of more letters and answers, rather than nothing at all. What have people got to say for themselves this month?

Where are the stats for normal demihumans. (Right there in the book. Normal demihumans are 1st level. Yes, that means every single NPC elf knows basic magic, and they're all half-decent fighters. Humans have to really work at it to surpass them. )

Is the create food table wrong (yes. So much for your army logistics)

What's the base damage for striking (none. When you do fistfights, you don't want to kill people)

All the optional rules in the sourcebooks are making D&D too complicated (Only if you apply all of them at once. And since they're meant to apply only to their respective regions, you shouldn't be doing that.)

Who are the guys on p148 of the cyclopedia (Good question)

Will you do maps for the new areas covered in the ark's travels. ( I hope so. It'll be tricky to squeeze everything in though. )

The amount of text in recent supplements is decreasing! Also, why are modules so much more expensive than Dragon magazine when they have way smaller page counts ( We pay freelancers by the word. So when Lorraine ( :Organ music, roll of thunder: ) said we had to cut costs, we decided to pass the shafting on to them. As for modules, it's an economy of scale thing. We have guaranteed sales and distribution for the magazine. We do not for modules. )

Where do Mystics fit in. (Like AD&D monks, not everywhere. If you really want to play them, there are enough places they could feasibly be natives of. )

Where are all the gnomes (Good question. Maybe they're all living underground right next door. )

Can Shadow elf shamen wear armor ( Maybe. As long as they also wear their robes. )

What happens if you cast continual light on a beholders eyes. (Depends which eyes. You can't cast it on all of them. )

What happens when an invisible creature eats (the food disappears. To do otherwise would be grooooss)

How the hell do dominion holders stay out of debt. There's never enough money to go around. (Welcome to the wonderful world of geopolitics. You're absolutely right. You've either got to keep adventuring to get more treasure, sell some valuable resource to other countries, or make huge compromises in terms of budget allocations. If you don't, the banks will be happy to lend you money at substantial interest, making things even worse in the long run. Hey, maybe this economic system isn't so unrealistic after all. ;) )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 4/6


Forum: Dorian Loeffler sparks off a round of the metagaming question. You know, it's not metagaming when your characters can clearly see one option is more effective than another IC and choose accordingly. Still, that can be a fine line, especially when playing newbie characters with experienced players.

Lawrence Davison sparks off another issue, that of limiting your player's choices so as to give them a coherent background, and help find reasons for the party to get together. This causes pissy players, which is no fun at all. This is why you should choose not only the system, but who you invite to your group wisely.

Micael A Lavoie debates the same problem. You do need reasons for them to get along. These can be obvious or surprisingly obscure. Remember, often it's the differences people have that make them complement each other well. Good roleplaying goes a long way.

Russell Dewhurst thinks crossbows should be more powerful. Once again I yawn. D&D lowballs this stuff for a reason.

Andy Shockney complains at length about the imbalance found in multiclass demihumans and their various kits. Some choices are simply better than others in all ways. Something needs to be done. Yup, this is a fairly substantial problem alright. Good luck houseruling it to your satisfaction.

Nicholas Abruzzo complains that a DM expected him to play lawful good as lawful stupidly merciful. Ah yes, another problem that won't go away, and will eventually be "solved" by taking alignment out of class requirements instead. As long as there are bad DM's and players, people will disagree about morality.


TSR Previews: Ravenloft is their biggest export this month. RQ3: From the shadows sees Azalin exert his power to manipulate the other domains, using the PC's as pawns. Join the dots, and you'll see another big metaplot event approaching. Meanwhile, in Heart of Midnight by J. Robert King, an unwilling lycanthrope schemes revenge. Ironic vengance approaches for those who made him suffer. Will he give into evil in the process?

Spelljammer gets crossoverlicious again, in SJ6: Greyspace. See their solar system, and show just how much spaceships would change the nature of the war down on Oerth. This should be interesting.

Dark sun reveals The Dragon. Borys, the only defiler/psionicist to make it all the way to 30th level. DSR4: Valley of dust and fire. He doesn't need a city state. He just takes what he wants from the other sorcerer kings. Maybe if they all worked together, they could kill him, but good luck with that. Scary place.

The Forgotten Realms gets FR15: Gold and Glory. A sourcebook on mercenaries? Well, adventurers often run into them. Sounds like it could be useful.

Our generic products continue to resurge. HR4: A mighty fortress brings swashbuckling to AD&D. Dueling, muskets, mass combat, and various bits of renaissance technology. Have at you, power creep! We also get GR3: Treasure maps. Another way you can facilitate adventures, with prefab maps that aren't entirely accurate, leading the players into all kinds of fun.

Meanwhile, D&D is very much not generic. HWQ1: The Milenial Scepter. The hollow world is having it's own metaplot events, and you're invited to the party.

And finally, our standalone book this month is Half-Light by Denise Vitola. Some complicated intrigue and interdimensional strangeness seems to be involved. Hey ho. So many books, so little attention to give to each of them.


The lonely harpist and the lady rogue: Another set of Ed Greenwood NPC's with not a single ability score without a bonus. Dear oh dear. Looks like once again he's serving up a cheese dish a little too pungent for my tastes.

Mintiper Moonsilver is one of those high level npc's who's received a mysterious blessing from a dying plot device character that makes him near impossible to get rid of permanently. This of course means he's had all sorts of adventurers and seen more than his fair share of companions lost around him. This may cause a certain degree of angst, but certainly doesn't stop him from adventuring.

Asilther Graelor is a slave girl rescued by Mintiper. She has the terrible problem of not being taken seriously as an adventurer due to her attractiveness, which seems rather out of character with the general portrayal of gender dynamics in the Realms. This makes me go o_O a bit. What's going on here then? Is Ed starting to succumb to the dirty old man brain-eater? But he's only in his mid-30's. Really not sure about this, not sure at all.


Fiction: Dragon scales by Eric Tanafon. Another dragon hunting story with a twist. Two actually. Both the result and the method of said dragon's pacifying are quite amusing, resulting in a situation that seems a lot more sustainable and interesting than recent ones where dragons are a dying race. The humour is both clever and properly integrated into the story, and the danger seems quite real. I think this is another pretty decent result for the fiction department.
 

g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Our generic products continue to resurge. HR4: A mighty fortress brings swashbuckling to AD&D. Dueling, muskets, mass combat, and various bits of renaissance technology. Have at you, power creep!
HR4, like most of the Historical Reference books, is actually fairly good. It's got a few limitations, in that AD&D really wasn't designed for a historical game particularly of that era, and I wouldn't toss any of the stuff in there into a game, but if you were starting a swashbuckling campaign using the AD&D rules, it's certainly well worth tracking down.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 5/6


The role of computers returns. This of course means the decision on what games to cover in their limited page count is an even trickier one than usual. This isn't helped by the fact that the number of games released continues to increase, and the cost of systems continues to decline. Before long, computer games'll be overtaking movies, books and music in terms of profitability. What then? A tricky question when this magazine is supposed to be primarily about tabletop RPG's.

A-train is a rather challenging sim game of railroad management. Not too hard to start, but a real bitch to finish, especially as it isn't always easy to tell how near you are to failing. Expect to reload it quite a few times before you get good.

Battletoads, of course, is renowned for being tricky but fun, and these reviewers hew to that conventional wisdom. Keep on trying, maybe you'll make it in the end.

The four Crystals of Trazere gets middling marks. Overhead land adventuring, isometric dungeons, and the usual set of attributes, spells, treasure, etc. Just another party based computer RPG.

King's Bounty loses marks for an annoying copy protection scheme and wonky controls, but other than that is a decent enough strategy/adventure game where you have to build troops, fight monsters and find the macguffin. The kind of thing that gives you lots of resource management choices, so you can experiment with playing it through in different ways.

Super Space Invaders just gets poor marks because for all their gimmicky attempts to modernise it, it still feels stuck in the 70's. True nostalgics will probably prefer the actual original, and others might as well not bother.

Ultima Underword: The Stygian Abyss gets our second ever 6 out of 5 result, putting it up with Wing Commander as a game that both lives up to it's predecessors and advances upon them in terms of visuals, challenges and control scheme. Just make sure you download the patch for your inventory so you can store enough items. Ahh, the joys of the internet. Letting coders get away with sloppiness after the fact.


The marvel-phile: Looks like spiderman is once again suffering from foes that have complementary themed powers and work together to make best use of them. Deathweb, are a pair of gadgeteers and a mutant, all with varying spider themed abilities. This is obviously a bit embarrassing for your friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler, and the rest of the Avengers got involved in foiling them. They were eventually foiled, but they may well have achieved what they planned anyway, it's hard to tell. In any case, they're currently locked up, which means they can escape pretty much any time another plot has a use for them. :p Curiously, a quick googling reveals this isn't the case, and these guys have pretty much disappeared into obscurity. Hey, guess the system can work. It's only where celebrities are involved that it falls down, just like reality. Another fairly average entry in this department.


The dragon's bestiary: Still just about in theme here, with two wilderness based monsters. Kruel are corrupted (and rather creepy looking) fae things that'd fit right into either of the World of darkness changeling games. They can shapeshift, but have a tell that gives them away, and some amusing quirks of behaviour and ecology. Halfway between raiding goblinoids & trickster fae in function, They're another one to give your low-mid level encounters a bit more variety.

Pardal are another demonstration of Spike Y. Jones' talent for putting a new mythic spin on things. Big cats with hypnotic coats, they're actually comparatively weedy if you can shake off the hex and fight back against them, but if not, you'll be dinner. One that's a much bigger threat to small parties, as with any creature with a save or be temporarily incapacitated effect that then kills you while you're indisposed. They can also serve as magic item components or a pet for the more extravagant evil overlord, so there's plenty of reasons you could encounter one. Looks like he's still full of cool ideas.


Troubleshooting your game: Another article born from the forum debates of late. They really do pay for themselves in terms of producing stuff tailored to the current issues that are important to gaming. In this case, it's keeping the game from falling apart under stress. Annoying players can kill things all too easily if you don't nip them in the bud. What are we to do. You can't kick out everyone who isn't exactly to your tastes, or before you know it there'll be no game left. But you do need to sort out the twinks, the party disruptors, and the people who act like idiots without expecting consequences. Yeah, this definitely feels like a forum letter bumped up to full article status, albeit deservingly. As this is one of those cases where it's not that the article is bad, it's just that the information in it feels very familiar, I shall just chalk my lack of enthusiasm up to my own jadedness. Not a lot I can do about that, as far as I can tell.


Role-playing reviews: Shadowrun second edition is our only big review this month. As one of the biggest and most groundbreaking successes of recent years, they've decided it merits a little more attention than a cursory review. In fact, it's so popular it's seeing backlash from pretentious purists. You know an act has it made when that starts to happen. :D Not that it isn't a mishmash of cool elements thrown together, but that's precisely why it's so successful. By blurring genres in a cool way, you can wind up picking up fans from both sides of the divide. Anyway, it seems that second edition couldn't come too soon, and has made significant improvements to the rules and visuals, while also moving the timeline along at the same rate as reality. It looks like you'll be having a good deal of fun with this, and isn't that more important than some kind of ideological purity.

Course, they've also managed to put out a pretty decent number of supplements too, and these don't go unexamined. The adventures don't come off too kindly. Only a couple of years in, and they're either incredibly formulaic Mr Johnson betrays the party plots, or metaplot stuff which doesn't reveal even to the GM what's really going on, promising to deliver that info in future installments. This is very deserving of snark, and Allen delivers with panache. The character and location books come off rather better, even if hackers get the obligatory complaint about how using their niche disrupts everyone else's play. The problems of this system were obviously fully present and spotted by other designers right from the outset. Still, it'll give you plenty of time to figure out how to overcome them.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 187: November 1992

part 6/6


The game wizards: Another perspective on convention season here for some reason. Thomas Reid follows in Kim Mohan's footsteps by telling the story of his first con experience. And it seems they remain just as exhilarating and bewildering over a decade later, if not more so. After all, gaming is considerably bigger now, and so the workload on the poor staff is pretty mental. Food remains likely to upset a sensitive stomach, and three days of being on your feet may stress the sedentary gamer, but these are crosses you'll just have to bear. The whole thing still corroborates Roger's story that plenty of fun was had there, and the TSR crew still have plenty of leeway to be silly in the way they promote the game and interact with the public. Just don't piss off Jim Ward. He's still got the murderous monty haul touch. Yeah, this series is definitely getting better at making you forget it's a promotional tool, with no obvious plugs here, just lots of fun being demonstrated. Come next year, my pretties, oh yess. We will have such sights to show you. :steeples fingers: Yup, I think I enjoyed reading this.


The role of books has an unusually high quotient of collaborative works this month. That's an interesting theme to choose.

The forever king by Molly Cochran and Warren Murphy gets a rather negative review. A good idea is nothing without proper characters and execution. Yeah, we've heard that one before. Learn from your mistakes and hone your craft some more.

Knights Wyrd by Debra Doyle and James D MacDonald also gets a mixed review. The fantasy and real world elements of the story don't mesh perfectly, even if some of them are quite good. Still, this is one case where the reviewers quibbles don't seem like something I'd have a problem with. Heros completely bucking the rules of their society and not having role models is a perfectly reasonable method of generating dramatic tension.

Catwoman: Tiger hunt by Lynn Abbey and Robert Asprin is a licensed batman book that doesn't make very good use of the property. With the titular character both poorly characterized and only playing a small part in the story, I suspect an existing idea of the author roughly shoehorned into the DC universe as a quick moneyspinner. In any case, the editors should probably have rejected it, or at least made some serious edits to make it fit with the other stuff coming out at the same time.

Dark force rising by Timothy Zahn is one of his licensed Star Wars novels. This on the other hand does manage to capture the right style and characterization. reasonably well. Of course, we know now what an continuity nightmare the EU will become over the next couple of decades, but hey, it's not all his fault is it. Except maybe Mara Jade. :p

The crown of columbus by Louise Erdrich & Michael Dorris starts a whole section of colonial books. (well it is the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America.) Trouble is, it's a rather dull one, with characters that the reviewer finds unbelievable. Again. Sturgeon's law in fully in place this month.

What might have been: Alternate americas, edited by Gregory Benford and Martin H Greenberg, on the other hand is another solid anthology from the king of them. As usual, he's quite capable of both getting the big names in, and ensuring quality and diversity in the writing while staying on theme.

Yesterday we saw mermaids by Esther M Friesner finishes things up by going above and beyond the formula, producing something that's both experimental and high quality, while still being fun reading. Guess she knows what she's doing.

We also see Terry Pratchett mentioned here for only the second time. He's been busily adding to the Discworld series in the past 4 years, and is about to reach his creative peak with Reaper Man. Not that this reviewer realises that yet. Funny how that happens. I wonder if he'll ever get a proper feature.


Dragonmirth has a joke that actually surprises me for a change. The good guys start watching the events in their crystal ball this time round in Yamara. Meanwhile the plot seems to be simplified, but then gets a lot more complicated again in twilight empire. Shapeshifters mean you're never quite sure what's going on.


Through the looking glass: As with the computer games column, they have more than enough material to review here, so no point wasting time on preamble. A mechanical drill vehicle thing like the TMNT one to burst out of your floor and unleash who knows what enemies on the battlefield. A mounted chaos warrior and an infantry one, possibly usable in tandem. A skeleton riding a motorcycle. Heavy metal Death approves. A young dragon that has recently kicked the butt of a knight. A drunk guy. Not very impressive in the circumstances. Fortunately the town watch are here to escort him away. There are three different elf models from different companies, a couple of dioramas, another dragon, and more adventurers and monsters than I can be bothered to list. Yup, this is another bumper christmas. Whatever the state of wargaming, minis are still a thriving industry. Looks like this column isn't going anywhere, even if they seem to be running out of fun framing stuff to write. Let's hope they can find something to keep it interesting next year, because this isn't as varied as it used to be. Come on, give us some painting and sculpting advice again.


Another issue that feels very much like business as usual. Quality is as high as ever, but returning to the same old topics again and again does result in a feel of diminishing returns and filler. They'll have to get in a regular supply of new young players if they want to sustain the magazine in this style. I suppose it works for many companies as a business model. But it does remind me that I eventually lost interest for quite a while, and there was good reason for that. Oh well, I'll keep on sifting for forgotten gems anyway. Far too much invested to quit now.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 188: December 1992

part 1/6


124 pages. Speak of the devil. Larry Elmore shows up again this christmas to show us how it's done. And for once, he's not painting the same model :p That's a pleasant change. For christmas, it seems we have another round of roleplaying advice for both GM and player. Do they have any new ideas, or will it be the same old homilies to character building and respecting the feelings of others? I think I need a little something beyond the basics this far in.


In this issue:


Letters: We get a belated obituary for Fritz Leiber this month. Alas, we knew him well. Fare thee well, old rogue. Your legacy remains every time they run a collection of magical items here.

We also get an official confirmation of demise for Top Secret support. The writing has been on the wall for some time though. It managed a good decade of fairly regular articles, but the will just isn't there when the public buy D&D products in several orders of magnitude greater numbers. Bah. Must try harder.

A letter complaining about how kid-centric their recent survey was. See, it's not just me suffering from this! Roger admits that their current marketing policy is indeed to catch 'em young, trap them for life. But you do also need to keep exiting players for that to work.

A letter from someone who's forgotten who or what the thendar are. This also completely stumps the TSR staff. Fortunately, a simple keyword search allows me to solve this problem in a second. Issue 101, the creature catalog III. Ennuii ridden astral planar guys with galactus hats. I love modern technology.


Editorial: It's been a long time since you could send in an article to the magazine anonymously and have any hope of it getting published. Here we see them getting a little more bureaucratically entrenched and hard for a new writer to break into. Not only do you pretty much have to do the SASE thing if you want to avoid the norkers dressed as ogres eating your hard work, you have to ask them before sending in the article if they're interested. That should be pretty offputting to those of thin skin or short attention span. It may not be the best way to nurture talent, but as long as they can choose from dozens of articles for each one published, they can get away with treating their freelancers like a cattle market. Man, I can't wait for the internet to be adopted by business, at least solve the problem of basic return communications being horribly expensive stuff that we bear the cost for. This is exactly the kind of crap that makes people want to see big businesses taken down a peg or two.


That's role, not roll!: Or let's make that cliche a little more overused until everyone's sick of it. And gee, can you guess which side they come down on? It's not the side that kills everything and takes their stuff. Although they do warn you not to overdo the roleplaying, particularly when shopping, this is mostly encouraging you to increase your character's connection to the world, and player immersion. It's all fairly familiar, trying to get you to strike the right balance of danger, challenge, NPC detail, etc etc to make your game fun. And as ever, they can explain the equipment, but you really need to try out the tools and figure out exactly how much of each is ideal for your group and the current situation, because it'll always be a little different each time. So as usual when they get to the system free roleplaying advice, this is useful first time, but not so much for me anymore.


Be nice to your referee: And so we move onto some advice for the players. This is largely metagame stuff. Even if the DM is often the adversary within the game, that's all the more reason to treat them with respect IRL. Basic stuff, like showing up on time and calling to apologise if you have to cancel. Paying attention and not digressing into chitchat, reminiscences or mucking around on your laptop. Making sure food is sorted out before the game begins. Having all the relevant details of your character and their current stuff sorted out ready to roll. And generally planning ahead in a round situation while everyone else is going so you don't waste time when it gets to your go. If everyone does considerate stuff like this, your game experience will be both more pleasant, and a lot more will get done. In contrast to the previous article, this is one that is incredibly unambiguous in how to apply it properly, and has some ideas the magazine hasn't aired before. This is definitely one to take to the group and have a good hard talk about if your group isn't quite working as it is. Of course, you may need to kick out one or two of the worst offenders to really make sure the rest take it on board, but that's the kind of discipline you need to keep a group healthy. So yeah, this is a pretty good one. They've redone the basics, now hopefully they can fit some advanced tricks in before the issue's over.


Roles for role-players: The idea of a Caller and a Mapmaker are well established in old skool gaming. In a large group where each individual may well get limited screen time, the idea of giving players additional specialised roles to ensure they have something specific and useful to do increasingly seems like a good idea. In addition to the existing two, this article also suggests the idea of having a dedicated timekeeper, to help rounds go smoothly, and story chronicler to make sure everyone can check what went on without the DM doing all the work of writeups. On top of those roles, you can always assign players the role of temporarily playing particular NPC's, particularly when their actual characters are indisposed or the party is split. While short, this is a nicely limit-pushing article that should help you think more about the technical details of how you organise your sessions and ensure all the players are invested and involved in the game. Hopefully the forum'll have a few follow-up ideas for this one, as it definitely a cool one that's over all too soon. Easily the most useful of the articles from this themed section for me, as it isn't covering ideas I've heard already.
 
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