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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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Pukako

Retired User
Dragon Issue 106: February 1986

A plethora of paladins: Yay!
Wow - the followers for the LN Lyran is the most random chart I've seen for a while - everything from a pride of wemics to 1-4 chambermaids of 1-2 hp each.

Anyone ever used a chambermaid in a game for anything useful or noteworthy? (in a D&D sense, that is). You're more likely to end up with 1-12 unskilled persons, which sounds vaguely useless, if you're not evil.

Meanwhile the illrigger (LE) has a slight chance of gaining any of the following followers from 2nd level on - 20-200 duergar plus females and young; 6-24 mites; 1 blue dragon, or several devils - hang on, only allowed if the illrigger has more HD than the follower - don't know how that works for a horde of hobgoblins, but it's a very detailed NPC villain if anyone wants...
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 108: April 1986

part 2/4

Cantrips for clerics: Well well. It's been a few years, but they finally get round to including minor magics for divine spellcasters as well. Pretty much as you would expect, minor, but still pretty useful powers that can be used to make your everyday life go much smoother, and might well save your life in a pinch if applied cleverly. Arthur Collins presents this with his customary flavour of humour, making powers that are specifically useful to the traditional jobs of clergy, and in particular the dull things novice priests have to do as part of their daily chores. This is a nice addition to the game, that I would delight in my players using, and finding clever uses for.

A different design: Tournament adventures. I think this is the 4th time this topic has shown up. And as ever, the conception of what makes a good tournament adventure, and how it should differ from a regular one has evolved somewhat since last time. Of course, there are plenty of bad tournament modules out there that don't adhere to these guidelines, with convoluted backstories that take up over half an hour of explaining before you even get to play, insufficiently clear guidelines on what you're supposed to be doing, poor playtesting meaning they're too big or small for their tournament timeslot. And that's not even getting into all the crap that poor GM's or other players can subject you to. So please please playtest your tournament adventures because if they don't work, we can't houserule them like you could at home. This goes double for multi-round adventures, which are a huge logistical hassle, and really need to be finely tuned if they are to work as intended, and not overrun or have too many people drop out at each phase. And if you're still willing to give it a try after all that, please apply to become a tournament GM at this year's gen con ;) As you may have noticed, this concentrates more on what not to do than what to do, and comes off as a politely couched rant. Still, bitching is always entertaining (at least, until they get drunk and start repeating themselves. ) so I rather enjoyed reading this one. Don't let the piles of dross drag you down.

The judge Dredd RPG. Another game that would spawn multiple editions. Are you ready to lay down the law?

Palladium goes onto the high seas.

Agents and A-bombs: Ahh, nukes. One of the things that in most games, the writers tell you to never let the PC's get their hands on them at any cost, and if they go off, it's instant death, no roll. Rather spoilsporty behaviour, really. Top Secret is not an exception to this rule. However, sometimes the PC's will fail, and power stations will meltdown, or a nuke will be launched at some city. So rules for the aftermath would not go amiss. How harmful exposure is, how to avoid it, how to spot trouble. It also talks about nuclear scenarios, and the ways players could become involved in them. Terrorists selling nuclear material on the black market, hijacking of missiles in transit or nuclear subs, spying to make sure the ruskies are adhering to the treaties. There's plenty of fun stuff to do once you get over your fear of instadeath. A fairly decent article.

After the blast: Roger Moore follows up on the previous article with a short one about just how large an area is actually affected when a nuke goes off. Where does instadeath end, and simply very likely to die horribly begin. We have fairly finely graded sets of radii, along with top secret stats for how agents will be affected. Since lots of these measurements are in real world numbers, this is relatively easily adapted to other games as well. It doesn't quite make this a full special section, but it does fill out the previous article nicely. Which means this kinda straddles his roles as writer and editor. Hmm. Interesting.

The plants of Biurndon: Another writer copies Ed by talking about stuff from their own campaign world. Plants are an oft-neglected part of your campaign building, and can be pretty damn useful if you know how to use them. This is the kind of topic that can fill entire books in the real world, so a few pages will never give you the same kind of depth real plants attain. But the author tries gamely, giving us plenty of in-setting writings (which also reference other in-setting stuff amusingly) before letting us in on the behind the scenes statistical stuff. While actually pretty good, this does feel very pastichey, as if the writer is actively trying to imitate Ed Greenwood's writing style as well as his methods. And we all know that kind of imitation is not the way to great success. You'll end up being the Jobriath to Ed's David Bowie. Develop your own voice. It does help.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 108: April 1986

part 3/4

Mutant manual: This month's special is a 12 page bestiary for gamma world. The usual set of mutated reprobates with pun names to annoy, and possibly abet your characters. Curiously, none of our big regulars contribute. Guess this is powered by genuine fan demand. How nice.

Ameebies are creepy macrobes that suck your face and then assume a humanoid shape. They're pretty hard to communicate with, and have odd senses. Do they have some agenda beyond just eating? Do you want to give them a chance to integrate into society and risk getting your face sucked? Hmm.

Bumbles are gigantic bees. Unfortunately, they're missing a load of their stats, due to poor picture positioning. Errata errata, mutter mutter. They are intelligent, so you might be able to trade with them for honey. Mmm. honey.

Fear deer are a definite case of attack of the pun names. Unless there's nothing else to eat at all, leave them alone. If their fear doesn't get you, their poisonous antlers might. If you really must hunt them, do so from a distance.

Crumbleweed are gigantic poisonous invisible tumbleweeds. |'ll bet your players won't expect to be rolled over by one of them. How very random.

Deng keshes are shy cacti that drop into the ground and hide whenever something comes along. Amusing visuals, but a pretty sensible idea really, given that anyone with any desert lore knows to tap cacti for water. Try not to get too warner brothers with them.

Draguns are giant sea alligators. They're big enough to swallow you whole, and if you bombard them from a ship, they can shoot you back. Gamma world's weirdness extends to the high seas as well as the land.

Firebugs are fire-breathing crickets with a vindictive streak. Like Pernicon, they come in swarms, which means you might get some of them, but there'll be more around to take you down in revenge. Putting forcefields around your crops is pretty much the only way to foil their depredations.

Gliders are flying komodo dragons with laser eyes. Now that's what random mutation gets you in gamma world. In reality, you'd just be dead. Comic book radiation is awesome.

Kreel Torrn are another creature derived from grasshopper stock. Nomadic humanoids, they'll probably try and raid you, but can be negotiated with from a position of strength, and hired (until they get bored and betray you.) Yer basic orc analogues then, only with super jumping.

Lukalukas are giant turkeys which release clouds of gas as a distraction when startled. They don't make very good eating, and are rather irritating.

Moklas are mutant brontosaurs. Guess they weren't as extinct as everyone thought, and they've made a comeback. Another thing that can really ruin the day of shipgoing adventurers.

Niregs are double headed turtles. Each head has it's own personality, and they may argue sometimes. Now where have we seen that before? ;) I'm sure Trampier won't mind. You can befriend them if you try. Just don't ride them if you want to get anywhere fast.

Purrlions are giant domestic cats. They're pretty easy to tame, but don't make good mounts. After all, they are cats. Even when they're friendly, they do what they want, not what you order them too. Watch out for mutant catnip as well. You ever tried breaking the addiction of someone who doesn't want to quit? It's a lot worse when they're that much bigger than you and have sharp claws.

Rakkons are giant raccoons with empathy and photosynthetic skin, of all the strange powers they could have. They can be tamed, and make decent pets or riding animals. Definitely one that could have been created purely by random rolls.

Ribbets are, as should be obvious, frogs. Intelligent, flying frogs. Mischevious, intelligent flying frogs with faeesque powers such as time manipulation and memory erasure. You know what that means, don't you. Humorous screwage. They must die.

Slippigs are rather comical. They're just normal pigs that secrete an extra slippy grease, which makes them a bugger to pin down. I can certainly envisage hilarious scenes resulting from encountering these creatures. But they do make good eatin', and wandering outcasts can't be too choosy. Best to set a trap rather than try chasing them down. Preferably a pit or something else they can't squeeze out of.

Triphants are triple trunked elephants with poisonous spikes. While not that aggressive, this makes them even scarier than regular elephants. Good thing they're not smarter than regular elephants, because with three properly co-ordinated trunks, they could probably be pretty effective tool-users and build their own civilization. And you wouldn't want to get between them and their food, when each of them needs so much.

Vilchneks are giant chameleonic spiders. Unless you have even more gigantic birds around to scare them off, or spears at the ready to impale them when they pounce, you may be in trouble. Eh, nothing experienced adventurers can't handle. Are you experienced? (guitar riff)

Xloecs are double-tailed giant snakes with arms. They make rattlesnakes look thoroughly weedy, with their power to create thunderclaps with their tails. They're pretty slow through, so when they warn you away, stay away and you should be fairly safe. Being eaten whole would not be a cool way to go.

Rather a random set of creatures here, with many of them feeling like they were thought up purely through rolling on a table, and keeping the most deranged results. On the plus side, this keeps them surprising, as they don't all fit into the standard monster tropes. Once again, we are reminded that Gamma world is not an entirely serious game, and like D&D, you shouldn't tie it too closely to real world physics. Another fairly entertaining centrepiece to fill the magazine out with.

TSR Previews gets mixed up, putting the further away stuff first. How very confusing. Well, it seems like there's way more stuff coming out in june than may, so they want to prioritize that. I shall keep my attention on the ones for next month though. Otherwise I would wind up repeating myself, which is no fun.
D&D gets M2: Vengeance of Alphaks. Face one of the biggest threats to the known world in his exceedingly nasty dungeons. How will he keep them from using Wishes, Gates, armies and stuff to short-circuit the adventure? Good question.
AD&D is also featuring a returning set of villains with A1-4: Scourge of the slave lords. Compiled, revised, and redesigned to better follow on from T1-4 to make a truly epic campaign, you can once again fight and intrigue your way through this brutal tournament series.
And we also introduce Agent 13, The midnight Avenger, to our roster. Written by Flint Dille, this seems to be a high adventure pulp series, set in the 30's, with all the genre mishmashing and cliffhangers that implies. The first two books, Agent 13 and the invisible empire, and Agent 13 and the serpentine assassins, are out now. This is another case where my opinion is divided. I quite like pulp. I quite like Flint Dille. (he wrote the goddamn transformers move,among other things.) But I know that this is both not a very commercially wise move, and this is part of the relationship between TSR and the Dille famly that resulted in Lorraine Williams (Roll of thunder, stab of organ music) getting control of the company. How very awkward.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 108: April 1986

part 4/4

Profiles: Doug Niles is our first profilee. He's one of those people who ended up at TSR by a number of improbable strokes of luck. While not particularly suited as an editor, he's a great designer, with a real love of pulp stuff like Tarzan and Indiana Jones. And now he gets to write official modules starring them. This is why you should learn your craft. You never know when you're gonna get your big break, and you'd better be ready when it comes.
Jean Blashfield Black is in charge of the book department. She's a nongamer, but has had a pretty interesting career before joining TSR. Head of a major writing project at 21, consultant on a book by Lord Snowdon, chronicling the space program and getting taken to special events while writing about it, she's rubbed shoulders with lots of big names. And now she edits the dragonlance books. Of all the weird turns to make in your life. She has a daughter named Chandelle, which is actually a technical term for an aircraft maneuver, but sounds amusingly chavvy. Wonder how she's turned out since then.

Fiction: the grey stones by Josepha Sherman. Man, that is one bored looking bard in the main picture. Anyway, celtic stuff continues to increase in frequency, with this tale of a bard matching her musical talents against the creatures of the night. You really ought to get a priest to sort these bastards out, but when you're a hero, you don't get to say no to jobs just because you're not optimized to deal with them. A fairly standard heroic test story that's neither brilliant or too dull.

The cover to the Ares section is particularly good this issue. Welcome to Kitty Pryde's imagination.

High tech and beyond: So traveler tech doesn't scale very well. Once again, we are confronted by the fact that our own technological advancement has outpaced sci-fi in several areas. Most notable of these is miniaturization. They think that improvements come in the realms of percentages when IRL they have come in the form of factors of thousands. In other word, this is a very dated feeling article, that's not really very useful to us these days. One to skip without regrets.

An Honorable Enemy: Oriental adventures comes to the Hero system, with this adversary group for you to put in your game. Let by a villain who resembles the traditional japanese demon, this is a similarly traditional group of japanese career criminals, with ninja, samurai, and gadgeteers among their ranks. Good to see there are writers who are au fait with manga tropes in that era. Nothing hugely surprising here, but still something that gives you a good example of how to build characters in the game, and using them as an adversary when you're short of ideas wouldn't hurt. An ok read that would probably be more interesting in actual play.

Old yazirians never die: Well, actually, they do, as they're the shortest-lived of the 4 main races in star frontiers. Oh, the irony. This is a single page article that essentially transfers the D&D aging system to Star Frontiers, with middle aged, old and venerable categories each taking their toll on your capabilities. It's obvious that medical technology has advanced a lot, with the average human having a pretty good chance of making it to 200. It does exactly what it sets out to do, leaving me with not much to say about it. I suppose stealing from other games when your current one lacks an important feature is quicker and easier than making stuff up whole cloth. Meh.

The marvel-phile: Well, at least someone's doing a proper april fool themed article. As the cover hinted, we're off to the alternate universe of Kitty Pryde's fairytales. Bamfs, who may or may not be related to Nightcrawler, and regard him as the mack daddy of their race, to the embarrassment of everyone. Mean, the fiend with no name; a parody version of wolverine, with his automatic creation of six-packs of beer and deranged digging ability. Pirate Kitty, our heroine's cooler self-insertion character. Big Lockheed the dragon, a supersonic irish pacifist. And shagreen, a vaguely shark-like wizard from another dimension who is the villain of the piece. Even without Jeff and Roger's framing banter, this would have been a pretty entertaining piece, while with it, this comes close to being laugh-out-loud worthy material. Once again we see that they're not afraid to point out and embrace the sillier aspects of the source material. He's managed to brighten up what has been a pretty heavy going issue.

More mutant fever: Ahh, it's the follow-up to last month's article on disease in Gamma World. I almost thought they'd forgotten. 16 nasty diseases, both serious and comical (Sometimes at the same time. Monty Zoomers revenge is no laughing matter. ) Some are lethal, or may permanently reduce your stats if you're unlucky. A nice range of stuff, viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic, that gives you plenty more options to make your characters lives unpleasant in ways that combat can't solve. This is definitely an occasion where a little evil laughter seems in order. On the three everybody. 1. 2. 3. Muahahahahahahahaha!!!

Dragonmirth once again misinterprets peoples wishes. Snarfquest titilates and confounds. Wormy sets up a trap. Will it get turned back on him?

Not quite as bad as last one, this issue was still a real slog to get through, with lots of so-so or dull articles. They really do seem to be doing a lot of didactic application of realistic principles to gaming articles, and it is not producing fun results to read about. Combine this with the general dearth of humour this year, (apart from the Marvel and gamma world stuff) and we have definite cause for worry. Playing games is supposed to be fun and I am not amused.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 109: May 1986

part 1/5

108 pages. The abominable snowman attacks on the front cover, in a dynamic, but slightly cartoony image. Can brave brave sir robin defeat him? Who can say. Meanwhile, inside we have another attack of the missing feature, as the 24 page Gen con Preregistration booklet they mention in the contents page is not in the scan. As ever, I would very much appreciate assistance in filling in missing bits like that. However, we still have the full 108 pages, even without it, so this is still going to be another long, tiring issue. Will I sink into a happy sleep of a job well done at the end of the day, or will I still be laboring to think of something interesting to say? Seems likely, I'm afraid.

In this issue:

Letters: Ha. Someone's realized that they've been hitting the supplement treadmill a lot harder recently. They don't like it, because it means they can't keep up with everything. Kim of course tells them that they shouldn't try too, they should just pick and use the bits they like. /buy everything. you know you want too/
An accusation of being a house organ, because they put TSR specific previews and profiles in. Kim gives a rather snippy response, pointing out all the things they've done recently that aren't purely for profit.
A letter asking a dumb question. How do you expect to survive the tomb of horrors with an attitude like that?
A letter asking why Gary changed his mind on an issue. People are entitled to that, are they not. Businesses even more so, when staff changes. There are a lot of things happening in the world, and promises can not always be kept, even if we wanted too.

The forum: Dr John F McDermott would like to battle the problem of fearmongering about D&D by doing an official medical study of people's roleplaying experiences, and how they have benefited or suffered from playing. Write up your adventures and send them in to him. Please do not send spam or hate mail just because he included his address in the magazine.
Glen Sitton would like to remind people that the greyhawk flavour in the core rules is just there as an example, and is relatively easy to strip out. Don't feel you have to have a Boccob and a Myrlund in every world. Don't be afraid to put valley elves in there either :D
Gordon Hull thinks that the rules for the maximum number of spells a magic-user can know per level are stupid, especially when they can erase one from their books and learn another one. After all, how smart you are has nothing to do with the size of library you can own. A cogent argument.
Paul D Ingraham would like to remind you all that the GM is the boss, and shouldn't tolerate players who throw tantrums because you change the rules or introduce new monsters that aren't in the books. They'll respect you more if you're firm, and if not, no gaming is better than bad gaming. Or something.
Fritz Freiheit would like to point out that guns are not automatic instakill weapons in real life, any more than you can hack at someone with a sword for hours and they'll be fine in a week or two. Guns in D&D should not be exponentially more powerful than all other weapons. Remember D&D's escalating hp system isn't remotely realistic in the first place. And making weapons that have the same odds of killing you at higher levels is against the spirit of the game. There is a reason why damage is fairly static, and saving throws get easier as you advance.

Customized classes: Oohh. This is wonderful. Three months ago they gave us the biggest collection of classes yet. Now they give us the keys to the kingdom with an idea that would make it into the second edition DMG. Build your own classes by assigning point costs to various abilities, and adding them all up to determine the XP multiplier for the class. It's a bit clunky compared to the 2e version, but still, it's a great idea, and another one that you can redefine your entire campaign by using. (of course, as the cost is based around XP multipliers, you can make an utterly brutal 1st level character for a deathtrap dungeon you're not expecting to survive, and not face the downsides) It includes lots of sample classes generated using it as well, and shows how the standard classes would be balanced using the system, which is also pretty helpful. Now that's the kind of thing you start an issue with. A classic article in it's own right. When you factor in that this is also Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's last posthumous contribution, it acquires extra resonance. A very fitting legacy, for someone who loved gaming so much. What's that? No, it's just a bit of dust in my eye. Honest.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 109: May 1986

part 2/5

The barbarian cleric: Looks like we have another class straight away. Funny, that. They go years without introducing any new ones, and suddenly, dozens come along at once. Anyway, this is a good demonstration of what happens when you forbid a class from multiclassing. Someone'll just go and make a hybrid. The barbarian cleric, aka shaman, medicine man, wokan, witch doctor, and all kinds of unpronounceable titles. Their relationship to gods is less the fealty to one big one that ordinary clerics swear, than a process of negotiation with whatever spirits happen to be around. They get a big chunk of the barbarian's wilderness dealing toolkit, plus some minor wizardly powers, bardic lore, and assassin poison making; at the cost of some of a cleric's spellcasting ability, a brutal advancement test system, and truly obscene XP costs, more than three times any of the standard classes at higher levels. Which I suppose is fitting, given that they're essentially a one man band, able to fill every party role themselves in a wilderness setting. I'm really not sure if the costs and drawbacks would balance them out when put with a regular party, but if you were playing a solo game, these guys would be the perfect pick. While slightly underwhelming in scope compared to the previous article, I would also be interested in testing this one out, partially out of morbid curiosity.

Fighters for a price: Mercenaries. People who fight for those who pay them. (As opposed to adventurers, which derive most of their wealth from the people they kill. ) A risky life, because no-one really trusts you. Yet they get everywhere, and are still found in war-torn areas today. Guess It's like prostitution (and I suspect the two trades do regular business with one-another. ) So here's a long and crunchy article on the finding, hiring, and maintenance of merc squads in D&D. They can come from many races and backgrounds, and have quite different capabilities and price ranges. While still a useful addition to a game that you can slide in without too much trouble, (if the DM will allow it, as many would get awkward if the players suddenly decided they'd prefer to do the job with backup, rather than play the big heroes on their own) this is a much less interesting read than the last two articles. So it goes. Back to the coalface to uncover the gems.

Worth its weight in gold: Oh, this is hilarious. A guide to dwarven beards,and how they style them throughout their lives. And this writer definitely falls into the female dwarves have beards, and they're proud of them too camp. As does the illustrator. From their first adolescent sproutings, to courtship, to marriage, to venerable elderhood, a dwarf's beard can tell you a lot about them. And since it's so important to their social status, it's no wonder they have a distrust for those pointy eared hairless pansies from the woods. It might be pure fluff, but I found it very entertaining, without being a complete joke. You shoulda had this last issue. We could do with some more light stuff like this in here.

The ecology of the displacer beast: Now here's a classic D&D monster. With an ability that exists purely to confuse people, they are pretty nasty predators, but not so far removed from real creatures as to seem utterly detached from the ecosystem. We get plenty of detailed physiological chatter in this one, taking us from birth to death, and talking about their antagonistic relationship with blink dogs. A very sage-ey entry, with lots of IC academic talk, this is good, but not exceptional. Needs to make a bit more stuff up, rather than sticking to the details in the manual.

The role of books: The initiate by Louise Cooper is a story of a world where the cosmic balance has shifted too far towards Law, and the protagonist finds himself being the one to overturn that. Neither side is really good or evil, and both have understandable motivations for doing what they do, so it's a tough choice who to sympathize with. Where will the rest of the trilogy take them?
Shuttle down by Lee Correy is an interestingly prophetic story of space a space accident, that turns out to be sabotage. Espionage, bureaucracy and sci-fi aren't the most obvious bedfellows, but this combines them quite well, to produce a tightly woven plot that is eminently stealable for your game.
The seekers and the sword by Michael Jan Friedman tells the tale of what happens after ragnarok. Most of the norse pantheon is wiped out, the world has recovered, and there has been thousands of years of relative peace. But someone always has to spoil things, and It's up to the peaceful Vidar to save the day against a cunning and mysterious adversary. This makes good use of the old legends without being bound by them.
Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly is another story of a dragonslayer who really isn't as impressive as the legends make out. The dragon is really just the macguffin that drives the story, with lots of political and romantic intrigue involved as the protagonists try and figure out how to solve this problem, and who's really behind it. Even the dragon gets a proper characterization.
Where dragons lie by R.A.V Salsitz, on the other hand, is just another generic dragon hunting story. It gets a thoroughly mehsome review.
Time of the twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is the start of the new Dragonlance series. Raistlin's gone evil, and it's up to Caramon and Tasslehoff to stop him. But first, Caramon has to beat the demon drink. So it's not an entirely bowdlerized tale of happy shiny heroics and cardboard cut-out villains. Which is probably a good thing. After all, what would be the point of a straight retread of the first series?
The warlock enraged by Christopher Stasheff continues his interesting series about a real wizard on a planet full of SCA'ites. Only now he has kids, and they're developing unusual powers as well. This is going to get even more interesting as new factions show up to cause trouble.
Spinneret by Timothy Zahn is a rather complex sci-fi tale of discovering new technologies, trying to unravel them, and the competition between various factions, as they try and take advantage of these new discoveries. Which would probably be rather a headache as a world for gaming in, but it does make for fascinating reading. You'll have to steal and adapt carefully if you want to use the ideas from here.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Worth its weight in gold: Oh, this is hilarious. A guide to dwarven beards,and how they style them throughout their lives. And this writer definitely falls into the female dwarves have beards, and they're proud of them too camp. As does the illustrator. From their first adolescent sproutings, to courtship, to marriage, to venerable elderhood, a dwarf's beard can tell you a lot about them. And since it's so important to their social status, it's no wonder they have a distrust for those pointy eared hairless pansies from the woods. It might be pure fluff, but I found it very entertaining, without being a complete joke. You shoulda had this last issue. We could do with some more light stuff like this in here.
This isn't one of the all-time great articles, but it's definitely one of the better written. The article itself isn't a joke, though. The subject is treated seriously, albeit with a light touch.
Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly is another story of a dragonslayer who really isn't as impressive as the legends make out. The dragon is really just the macguffin that drives the story, with lots of political and romantic intrigue involved as the protagonists try and figure out how to solve this problem, and who's really behind it. Even the dragon gets a proper characterization.
Hambly is definitely one of my favorite popular fantasy writers (even though her protagonists always seem like minor variations on each other) and this a one of her best stand-alone books. The dragon and the gritty realities of dragonslaying are well developed and avoid easy cliches, and the setting and the characters are appealing. However, while Dragonsbane certainly isn't all roses, I found the next two books in the Winterlands series (written 15 years later) almost unreadably bleak. I never could stomach reading the fourth and final book.
 

Kakita Kojiro

IL-series Cylon
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The role of books: The initiate by Louise Cooper is a story of a world where the cosmic balance has shifted too far towards Law, and the protagonist finds himself being the one to overturn that. Neither side is really good or evil, and both have understandable motivations for doing what they do, so it's a tough choice who to sympathize with. Where will the rest of the trilogy take them?
It took them into a sequel trilogy, actually. And a prequel trilogy. Fantasy publishers like their trilogies!

But, thank you for reminding me to add all those to my Amazon wish list. :)
 

Lee Casebolt

SUCH a BOY
Staff member
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Dragon Issue 109: May 1986
The warlock enraged by Christopher Stasheff continues his interesting series about a real wizard on a planet full of SCA'ites. Only now he has kids, and they're developing unusual powers as well. This is going to get even more interesting as new factions show up to cause trouble.
I got The Warlock Enlarged - an omnibus edition of the first three books in this series - when I was about twelve or so. I loved the heck out of them at the time. Sadly, they didn't hold up to recent re-reading.

*sigh*
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Issue 109: May 1986

part 3/5

War machine revisited: Now this is an underused subsystem if ever there was one. The mass combat rules from the Companion set get an expansion in this article. Naval combat, scouting, and lots of sample forces and officers. This is nice to see. I'll have to dig my companion set out and see how mechanically sound they are. Scouting in particular has a rather fiddly procedure attached to it, with math that seems more about clever use of dice rather than emulation of the realities of scouting. This is the kind of stuff you should only use if you do use the war machine in your games frequently, as many of it's rules involve the idea that you will be keeping a largely consistent roster of troops, replacing the ones that are lost, and advancing the ones that survive through multiple battles. Like the barbarian cleric, I'm still skeptical as to whether including them would improve a game, but I would be very interested in testing them out, so I could know for sure.

The uncommon tongue: Languages makes another appearance in this guide to ye olde english, and how to incorporate it into your game to make things sound more medieval. Because even if the language in your fantasy world sounds nothing like english, and hasn't evolved in a remotely similar way, it's still a good shorthand for previous eras that most people have at least a casual acquaintance with. You can't really be expected to invent a world wholecloth just for a weekly game. And if you did, your players probably wouldn't find it as easy to enjoy anyway. A little familiarity like this is probably for the good.

The paragon society for wargamers advertises itself, but not very well. I don't remember these guys, so I am dubious as to their survival prospects. Anyone remember this?

The eleven (sic) fighter/mage miniature from ral partha? They really need a better editor.

Locals aren't all yokels: So you have players who think they can act like arrogant jackasses whenever they come into town, who consider emrikol the chaotic a good role model. After all, they're just 0th level peons. What chance do they have against someone who can unleash fireballs, or windmill their way through mooks like a cat through a roll of toilet paper. Well, remember you're not the only game in town. Chances are, in a dangerous world, there are plenty of people who worked their way up to a decent level, then settled down with their ill-gotten gains due to laziness, shyness, love or political ambition. And remember, age is not a serious impediment in D&D. You have plenty of excuses to scatter higher level characters through ordinary settlements. Homicidal arrogance will rapidly become suicidal unless the DM is deliberately making the opposition incompetent. A single page article that makes an important point.

Toon now has a couple of supplements. How much can you add in terms of new monsters and adventures in such a simple game?

Blades with personality: Ahh, sentient weapons. A fine field for roleplaying, as they can wind up forging a personal bond with their users that can be stronger than their attachment to and NPC. Here's another quick single pager that reminds you that you can make treasure your players encounter much more interesting if it has a history, and in many cases, a personality. Even if they're of the same alignment, they can sometimes disagree with their owner. When they crave souls, can take over your body, or have a Machiavellian plot, it becomes a real choice if their powers are worth it or not. Another one of those articles that says something we've seen before and will so again, but does it fairly well.

Giant-sized weapons: Oh, here's a nicely prescient little article. Instead of big creature's weapons being arbitrarily assigned, a proper formula for scaling up weapons based on their original damage for man sized creatures, and their new size would be a very good idea. So here's a nice little table doing exactly that. Annoyingly, it doesn't cover scaling down, so it's not as good as the later edition's versions. Still, this is something we haven't seen before, and which seems like an obvious idea once someone's brought it up. It also has some other info on using weapons designed for different sized creatures, missile weapon ranges, and tactical considerations, which is nice. Another case where the magazine was way ahead of the times that I'm very pleased to have discovered. Have some kudos, Stephen Martin.

Hooves and green hair: Ahh, the joys of satyrs and dryads. This libidinous and highly dimorphous fae species are entirely partial to having a little fun with humans. And sometimes, it goes beyond just being a little fun, as they wind up having kids with them. So yeah, this article gives you the statistical info needed to make half dryad/satyr PC's. Neither are hugely powerful, and of course, both are quite good at dealing with nature related stuff. While nowhere near as impressive as the class stuff earlier on, they're still a flavourful addition to the game, although they may irritate those who would like the lechery kept out of their role-playing. Looks like introducing new crunchy stuff aimed at PC's is on the up at the moment. What are we to make of this?
 
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