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

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

part 2/6

The wizards three: And then there were three, and another classic series truly begins. Toril, Oerth, Krynn and our own world are all represented now. How Ed's avoided being killed or turned into a small furry animal with all these superpowerful wizards visiting regularly I'm not sure. But his gain is also our gain, as we get to read the stories of him stuck in a suit of armour while three archmages bicker and exchange stories. Well, two and a half, as El and Mord would say about Dalamar. It's a hard life, stuck on a tiny little world where the gods don't let you go above 18th level, and there's hardly any CR appropriate encounters for you to try anyway. Everyone hears about the cool toys months before you do, and when people get famous, they move away and never come back.

Even more than last time, this also becomes commentary on recent metaplot events, with Ed setting this instalment after Vecna Lives, where Mordenkainen got killed in the intro. (Remember folks, always back up your memories regularly and keep plenty of clones in storage. :D Guess D&D and Paranoia have more in common than you'd think. ) He also refers to several other creatures he's invented, and other articles from this magazine, making this extra entertaining now I've read all those. And the new spells and magic items are incredibly mean, once again cementing Ed's ability to create tactically intelligent effects that screw over the standard countermeasures and further humiliate those attempting them. Since these are advanced techniques, you should be wary about using them regularly, and make the players really work to add them to their spellbooks, but it's still highly entertaining. He's not only lasted longer than most writers, but continues to go from strength to strength, just like his insanely high level NPC's.

Forum: Steve De Young thinks fighters are still a valuable member of the party, particularly at low levels. Yes, but rangers and paladins are still even better, and can get most fighter kits and a whole bunch of exclusive ones each. Reliable damage output and toughness is rather a one-trick pony business.

M. J. Simpson, on the other hand, supports the complaint that specialisation just isn't enough as a nice protection. Hardly anyone in his game plays straight fighters any more. Even adding extra incentives aren't doing the job.

Selman Halabi also thinks more needs to be done to make fighters interesting. Unfortunately, his solution involves removing more stuff from other classes, rather than adding it to fighters, which isn't going to make them more interesting now, is it.

William De Pretre, on the other hand is on the side that thinks they're a valuable, nay, essential part of the team. I can see this one running for quite a bit.

John Duffin thinks having a bog-standard class which is easy to master is good for the game. Plus, this means you can role-play them in pretty much any way that you like. He does have a point. Accesability is important, and doing one thing well can prove a lot more profitable than doing many things ok, as many real world businesses can attest.

Andre Costatini also thinks that the fighter classes openness is what makes them exiting. Remember, most real world famous people would be fighters, and they certainly weren't all alike. You can certainly follow in the footsteps of Conan or Robin Hood.

Rick Tazzle deals with the Swashbuckler problem in some detail, including a few new optional uses for weapon proficiency slots. You know, maybe that is part of the solution to the boring fighter problem. After all, they do get more slots, although probably not in quite sufficient quantity to make up for their lack of other stuff.

Michael Satran extends the debate by pointing out how much better paladins are than rangers. Since they use the same XP table, this isn't entirely fair. With extensive bullet-pointing, it's hard to argue with him. Still, I hope someone will take up the debate. I certainly think that when you factor in their respective kits and other splatbook stuff, rangers get more customisability than paladins, catching them up a bit.

The voyage of the princess ark: The team split up again in the final installment of the adventure. Haldemar takes a planar trip to get back to Alphatia quickly, leaving the Ark behind. This does not go quite as planned, but the diversion proves useful, as now he has solid evidence with his own eyes that the Glantrians are planning to somehow drain magic from the world. Not good. He tells the Empress, but she of course has to deal with politics. Here we run into the problem that their future is now predetermined, with Alphatia's destruction in the Wrath of the Immortals metaplot. It just hasn't happened to them yet. Bruce drops a number of rather obvious hints in here, in another case of the big setting reveal being spoiled where it probably shouldn't.

Meanwhile, back at the Ark, the rest of the crew run across the Phanatons. Despite being cute little gliding things, they still prove more than capable of capturing the crew. Proving that they are friendly turns out to be a rather testing experience, involving lots of spiders used in a rather witch-hunt-esque manner. Charming. Still, all's well that ends well.

Having covered a new race in here, Bruce of course elaborates on their history and culture, and makes them available as PC's. Since being uplifted by the immortal Ui, the Phanatons have been a persistent thorn in the side of the Herathians, given their tendency to hunt and eat giant spiders. They aren't the scariest race, but in a forest environment, they can be very effective, shooting things from above and gliding from tree to tree. Like Kobolds, they can take down much tougher creatures by use of hit and run tactics, poison and traps. They get the usual shamanic option, and here we see an AD&Dism creep in, as they get different powers depending on the specific immortal they follow. Are dwarves and halflings the only races that don't have spellcasting as a standard option?

And that's the end of the series. It really could have gone on longer, after all, there's the entire arm of the immortals and most of the southern continent still left uncovered. And up to a few months ago, Bruce certainly seemed to think it would continue. But I get the impression that the management didn't want the series continuing in the past when the timeline in general has been moved on, and Bruce didn't want to send them into the future again, to see the aftermath of their nation's destruction. After all, Haldemar doesn't seem the sort to take that lightly, and if allowed to continue as a protagonist, he might mess up the metaplot. And we can't have that, can we. Another case where a good series is hampered by overall management. Such a downer of an ending.


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

part 3/6

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Another article following very directly in Ed's footsteps. Idiosyncratic magical swords? Of the Realms? Issue 74 would like to have a word with you, whippersnapper. As ever, the difference between a homage and a rip-off is purely a matter of quality.

Calathangas turns both the wielder and those attacked into wererats. This may or may not be considered a good thing. It also lets you control normal rats, which probably is handy. Better get practicing that control shape skill.

Dyerwaen makes you highly popular with elves and lets you fit into the forest as well as any ranger or druid. Whether you use that responsibly is up to you.

Equillar lets you change shape, can change it's own shape, blocks mind-reading and disrupts the shapechanging abilities of others. You can slice through intrigue with ease and finesse. Useful here, and even more so in Ravenloft.

Evithyan's Blade is an elven sword designed to kick drow ass. Like Glamdring, just seeing it'll have them quaking in their boots, such is it's reputation.

The Heart of Stone lets you cast stoneskin on yourself, and petrifies enemies with a crit. Cheesy or what? It does have a teensy little drawback, but that's only a problem if you don't do your homework. And I do so love putting players in situations like that, so I approve of this.

Ice Claw is an intelligent frost brand that wants to kill dragons. Don't we all mate. And with an ego like that, you aren't going to be saying no to it any time soon. Have fun being dragged along in search of foes to valiantly slay.

Neekar lets you speak and read any language. It's intelligent as well, so it'll help you by explaining the context of stuff you still don't understand, and quite possibly being a general right-hand diplomat whispering in your ear. A sword that likes preventing bloodshed? Next thing you know, we'll have an axe that encourages you to plant trees. :D

Nightwatcher lets you see in the dark, and alerts you if set properly while you sleep. Solo dungeon crawling is always a mugs game, but this is a good bit of gear to have if you really can't find a team.

Swords +2, shock blade add extra energy damage to your hits above and beyond their regular plus. Ahh yes, this became one of the great cheese exploits in 3e, particularly Neverwinter nights. Add a whole bunch of 1d6 elemental/energy damage effects (and permanant true strike if you want to be really cheesy) and the weapon becomes a lot more deadly for it's GP value. That's what happens when you put item crafting in the hands of smart PC's.

Swords +2, Vampiric regeneration do exactly the same as the ring of the same name. Not sure why they bothered to specify the exact plus, and that's easy enough to change anyway. Really, that ability could be applied to nearly any item. Not the most imaginative ending to the collection, but they all seem pretty handy anyway, and have enough quirks to keep players on their toes. It's much easier to follow a trail than it is to blaze it.

Shadow knight supplement for Amber! With lots of glowing quotes and a questionnaire. :p

The role of computers decides to fill their page count with more smaller reviews. In the process, they stray ever further from their original remit to review things from the perspective that this is a roleplaying magazine, and the games chosen and criteria they're examined with should reflect that. Another thing that has gradually been diluted over the years to the point where it's pretty much forgotten without actually being consciously abandoned. And more cause for long-term concern. Complacency is a persistent challenge that never gets any easier to deal with, just like creativity.

Aces of the Pacific is a WWII flight sim. It's pretty easy to learn, and reasonably fun. But they don't give much info about it, apart from stuff on what your computer needs to play it, which is a section that hasn't got any shorter under their new format.

Darkseed gets another review driven strongly by complaints and system requirements. Annoying copy protection plus a crap instruction manual drag down it's marks.

Falcon 3.0 is another flight sim, this time more modern. This gets a little more detail, and a general recommendation, although they once again complain about the manual. They're computer programmers! They may work in larger teams than in the 80's, but the days of each program being a massive project with space and budget for dedicated music & manual writers is still a few years away.

Minotaur is a multiplayer fantasy adventure game where you're put in a maze and have to compete to find weapons, spells, etc to beat the other players and escape. Treacherous alliances and brutal deaths are the order of the day. The online arena is progressing nicely these days.

Prince of Persia gets 5 stars, kicking off another long-running series with a bang and much frustration. Once again they complain about the copy protection. If you lose the manual, you're in trouble. Play it on a console instead.

Red Baron is a third flight sim, this time concentrating on WWI. Man, what has this got to do with roleplaying? I suppose it draws on the wargaming link, but we haven't see much of that round here in years. I am left vaguely bemused again.


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

part 4/6

Fiction: Something familiar by Eliza Erskine. Another tale of wizardly hubris and comeuppance this month. You try and steal from a thief, and who knows what they'll do to get revenge. Well, the same applies to stealing from wizards, as we've seen before, so the results are usually interesting whichever side wins. As usual where magic is involved, the punishment is suitably ironic and quite mean. About average for fiction around here, which still means it's reasonably entertaining.

This year's statement of ownership shows another steady year. With an average of 93,371, and a last month of 93,545, it looks from a casual inspection have a consistent fanbase at the moment. Delve closer, though, and the number of subscriptions has declined by more than a thousand and a half, while the number of newsstand sales is down by over 800, and the surplus is a large number of undistributed copies. This is interesting statistically, if not that pleasing. They'll probably sell those eventually as back issues, but in the meantime they're hanging around eating up warehouse space. Another subtle sign of slow decline.

Role-playing reviews: Rick once again diverts our attention to the various board gamers out there. It is christmas after all, and we might want a little light entertainment for the kids. Whether you're a normal parent sneaking a look at your kid's magazine for ideas, or a gamer parent looking to subtly corrupt your offspring, I can see the marketing sense in putting this in here.

The Xanth boardgame brings his much-loved paedophillic punnery to a new arena. Pick a character, each of which has distinctive abilities, draw a hand of cards, roll the dice and head around the board. The number of options you have to choose from and random events that can happen keep it replayable for quite a while, even if it can be rather unfair and swingy. Yeah, sounds about right as an emulation of the source material. :p

Minion hunter is a board game based on Dark Conspiracy. As with the Warhammer minis games and RPG's, players are substantially more empowered in this, with a decent chance of actually taking on the monsters and no actual character death. It's another one that's pretty simplistic, and seems more intended to snag newbies than cater to existing players. Get it to corrupt your kids.

Greyhawk Wars gets the same marks, but a slightly more positive review. A war game for people who hate war games? Hmm. Trouble with this one is that it has so much hate built up over what it represents historically, it's hard to judge it for what it actually is. There do seem to be some wonky rules bits, but they make heroes more important than they otherwise would be, which is probably good from a dramatic point of view. It may have it's flaws, but it's probably better to play this and apply it's results to your game than to simply use the default timeline advance.

Battlemasters appears to be another highly stripped down game set in the warhammer universe, like Heroquest. Rick isn't very keen on this one, finding it far too simple and lacking in tactical decisions, but realises that his tastes are a good deal more refined than the average 8 year old. And it's cheap too. Perfectly positioned to appeal to the lowest common denominator and make millions.

Novel ideas: Christmas has certainly come for R. A. Salvadore. Drizzt is a runaway success, and he's about to release his 10th Forgotten Realms novel, with several more already scheduled for next year. This is a pretty cool situation for any writer to be in, but it has it's dangers. You risk burnout, ( Writing a whole book in two months, yikes!) and there is the persistent danger of your character becoming an obscenely powerful mary-sue who's near impossible to seriously challenge and impossible to kill off due to fan demand. But he does seem commendably aware of the dangers and unfazed by the challenges, putting him in a good position to remain one of their primary cash cows for some time, and also making him a likable interviewee. It's so much more pleasant seeing people live the dream when they're not smug superior arseholes. Another relatively good performance from this column. They seem more likely to produce useful information when not splitting it up into too many tiny chunks.


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

part 5/6

The marvel-phile: Another selection of pretty much brand-new characters here this month. Shield has a new team of super-agents, ready to kick ass and quite possibly go maverick to get things done. Ivory, who ironically is only moderately dark-skinned, and very resilient indeed. Knockabout, a pathological liar who treats life like one big game. Psi-borg, a latverian who may or may not be a double agent, possibly even unwittingly due to subconscious programming. And Violence, who lives up to her nickname quite effectively. The kind of team that you send out if you don't mind there being some collateral damage and unorthodox solutions to problems. Even Nick muthafuckin' Fury finds it a struggle to keep them disciplined. Another entry that's rather too specific to be of a huge amount of use, and as Steven admits, it was a struggle to find enough info to write about them because they are so new. If they keep catching up like this, they soon won't be able to run this every month simply due to lack of new characters. After more than 8 years, I think this gameline is approaching saturation. Where can they go from here? Without rehash, I'm really not sure.

Sage advice finally finishes ploughing through the bloody psionic questions. Skip is getting quite sick of them.

Is flesh armour cumulative with regular armour (no. Best of either, as per usual. )

Can prolong enhance ballistic attack (no)

How does phobia amplification work on PC's (either they cower like little girls willingly, or the DM will have to take control. No stoic badasses when you're being mind controlled)

How far can you teleport at the minimum cost (less than 10 yards)

Does Molecular Manipulation work against Body Weaponry (yes. See the shapeshifter caveats previously mentioned.)

How do you contest control body (opposed roll. Higher better, up to failure point. Weird nonstandardized maths. )

Do telekineticly controlled weapons inflict normal damage (with some exceptions. There's always exceptions. AD&D likes her exceptions, because she's a very exceptional lady. That's why it takes a badass sage like Skip to satisfy her. )

Does the psionics errata in dark sun apply to other settings (Yes. Buy it now, for an even more official gaming experience, etc etc.)

What happens to the hit points animal affinity gives you when you stop if you're damaged ( adjudicate each form separately. This can get complicated. )

Does reduction affect equipment (no. Hee. Tiny naked psychics, running around a dungeon. )

Does dream travel work if you aren't sleepy (if you have enough willpower. )

Is psychic drain permanent (if overdone. The rules for this are clearly spelled out.)

Does wrench make you vulnerable to normal weapons (Depends on the creature. Not everything is immune to nonmagical stuff because it's extraplanar. Try it on the wrong creature and you've just wasted a round in which it can splat you. )

The game wizards: Not only are they revamping the columns and submission guidelines next year, they're doing the same for the RPGA. They are trying commendably hard at the moment. Polyhedron is bigger, more frequent and higher budget. More contests, more tournaments, more support of games other than D&D (including our first mention of something called the Amazing Engine in these pages) more online stuff, more clubs, and tons of Raven's Bluff stuff to make it the most filled in city in the Realms. They certainly aren't stagnant or resting on their laurels. A reminder that at this stage, it's mainly the casual gamers that they're losing. As the convention stuff and statement of ownership shows, serious players are staying loyal and maybe even getting more involved as things progress. A distinctly above average article in terms of historical relevance, this is quite interesting and useful to me. This also serves as an irritating reminder that we still don't have a thread for Polyhedron, and I haven't been able to find back issues online in any quantity. Come on, surely there's someone reading this forum who's been a regular member since the early 80's and is willing to step up to the mic. If these page counts are right it'll only be a tiny fraction of the work this thread or the Dungeon one have been. Anyone?


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

part 6/6

Mind over matter: Ooh, a 2nd ed psionics article at last. All the sage advice and forum brouhaha has paid off. Rich Baker, who would of course go on to write a full sourcebook on this issue, helps you figure out what to actually do with psionicists in actual play. Unlike fighters or thieves, what they're really good and bad at isn't immediately obvious from a casual readthrough. And unlike wizards and clerics, you really do have to pick your powers wisely for maximum synergistic effectiveness, for you can't hot-swap them from day to day and draw on millions of supplements and magazine articles. Like Greg Detwiler's work on specialist wizards in issue 163, this isn't that big, but packs a lot of solid mechanical advice into it's paragraphs. Power picks, tactics, fitting into a team, DM advice, this is an end of issue filler article that transcends that status quite handily, and will be very useful for the not so mechanically adept indeed. And it's very pleasantly readable too. I can see why they picked this one up to be a regular writer. Two thumbs up.

Dragonmirth apples more modern sensibilities to medieval tropes. Yamara gets level training the hard way. Twilight empire has another battle scene that advances the plot. Well, it keeps things more interesting than if the fluff and crunchy bits are separated.

Through the looking glass: Tis the season to be selling, with this column getting nearly 8 full pages of reviews. Battletech mechs cut from last month's column. More big stuff that you can spend quite a bit of time assembling and customising, above and beyond the usual paint jobs. Some rather tall Dream warriors, with all the mutant surreality said name indicates. An Eldar tank for Warhammer, proving they can pull out some pretty big guns too. A Dragon trick or treating, which they really should have done a couple of months ago. A wizard kicking back and relaxing on a skulled throne and putting his feet up on a pile of books. An angel supporting a holographic image of the world. God, that technology really is advancing quite a bit at the moment. Still costs $40 to buy though. The Visionaries were barely half that. Plenty of cheap ones though. A barkeep, a female rogue and a man-at-arms all go for a mere $1.25, so you can grab them as an impulse thing to round out your cart. I diorama of barbarian violence. Gee, like you never see those anymore. A pair of well-armed centaurs. Plenty more barbarian warriors, including some official woodwoses from LotR. Some miserable straw pallets for a little more realism. An armorer's workshop. Some dwarf cavalry. And a trio of wizards with staves substantially bigger than they are. No, not compensating for anything at all, really. Ahh, the joys of trying to maintain anatomical accuracy in widely varying scales.

TSR Previews: As usual for january, next month is relatively quiet compared to recent month. It's still a lot bigger than busy months a few years ago though, showing how much the supplement treadmill has accelerated.

Dragonlance is the busiest setting this time. DLR3: Unsung heroes stats up all the stuff that's appeared in recent novels. Once again we see that the book line is the primary driver of this setting, and has been for some time, while the gaming merely follows. Also, they finally finish the Meetings Sextet, with The Companions. Just how many of the team will be together by the end of this?

The forgotten realms starts off a series that will become quite a lot bigger. Volo's guide to Waterdeep presents a different perspective to previous sourcebooks, with a much closer to the ground, more fallible narrator. Well, it helps keep Elminster from getting overexposed.

Our generic AD&D stuff this month is PHBR8:The complete book of mary-sue twinks (elves) See some of the most powerful kits, and try and persuade the DM to let them into your game, along with enough lovingly crafted setting detail to choke a dwarf on their own beard. They're also filling out more general NPC's. REF6: Rogues Gallery. People from all worlds and none. Will you be able to find a place for them in your campaign?

D&D gets something very similar. The character and monster assortment gives you a ton of new models to represent your creatures in battle. You can never have too many kobolds to swarm your enemies with.

Marvel Superheroes continues to release sourcebooks focussing on characters. MHR3: Avengers archives is of course all about their history, villains, home base, and other useful stuff for your game. Who will get the spotlight next?

So we say goodbye to the Princess Ark, and hello to the Wizards Three this month. That's a pair of fairly significant column changes that say next year isn't going to be the same as this one, even if their overall policy hasn't changed much. As is often the case, we get both great articles and not so good ones, familiar faces and unearthed stuff. We do seem to have an above average number of historical pointers and groundbreaking articles this month, so even if it's not all good news, this is one issue I certainly don't regret reading. Lets see how 1993's crop come out.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993

part 1/6

124 pages. Another month another year, another set of special topics to fill. Fortunately, one of Roger's requests to the readership now yields fruit. African gaming! Yay! They're finally getting to fill that long neglected region in in fantastical manner. And it looks like they're covering some other exotic regions of the planet too. Seems a good way to start off a new year. How long will this resolution last?

In this issue:

Letters: A repeat letter from a soldier who got shipped out to fight in the gulf war. Roger remembers him personally, and is quite friendly, but can't solve his primary request. They have proper professional artists to hand draw their maps, not some computer program. No easy shortcuts via throwing a bit of money at the task here.

A complaint that Atari isn't dead. Maybe not, but they're certainly not a leading company any more I'm afraid. We certainly won't be making any more computer games for their systems, so there.

Errata attacks again! Because we can't have things with AC's above 10, even though the system has no particular trouble with it. That would mean normal humans aren't the weediest, most fragile things in the world. It's things like that that remind you how mathematically unrealistic D&D can be.

A complaint from a UK gamer that far too many of the things they advertise are only available in the US. Roger is apologetic, but there's not much he can do. Roll on internet ordering to close these gaps somewhat.

Another complaint about ageism, from someone who's probably been playing longer than the complainers. Keep practicing, and smoke their asses like a good prodigy.

A letter praising them for finally doing some Greyhawk material around here. Roger gets a bit snippy, pointing out the many modules and sourcebooks they've released in recent years. Ok, not as many as the Realms, Krynn or known world, but it's hardly been neglected ……. yet. And of course when you actually get greyhawk wars, you may well wish they had neglected it. :p

A letter asking if there's a mundane survival game. Avalon hill has something about right.

And finally a throwaway joke comment just to pad out the page. Just what the doctor needed after a rather heavy interrogation.

Editorial: Once again, Roger exhorts you to fight complacency in your own campaign. Visualise what you want your players to experience vividly and then throw it at them with gusto. The results will be far more interesting than just grabbing some monsters and having them charge along a 10' wide corridor at the PC's. And even if they lose, the results will be memorable. Remember, roleplaying isn't about winning and losing, it's the ride along the way. hand it to them on a plate and they'll be bored as well. It's also a demonstration of how to nick stuff from literary sources the right way. You can't control what players do, but you can control the weather, you can control what they encounter, and that gives you a lot of leeway if you know how to use it. If you can't scare them with all the tools at your disposal, they're insufficiently invested in the game. Fairly standard roleplaying advice here. If you want your world to be real, visualisation is a very good task. I use it regularly myself.

The dark continent: Off we trot to africa then. Or at least, a place as much like it as Kara-tur is to real asia. David Howery kicks things off with a brisk 9 page special feature, including the map and quite good artwork. Integrating it into your campaign, terrain, natives, appropriate monsters, environmental challenges, magic, etc. There isn't a huge amount of new crunch, but there is lots of drawing upon various supplements to bind things together. He takes care to avoid the monoculture problem, pointing out that it's a big continent, and there's plenty of different cultures and environments for you to choose. Ironically, despite being bigger than most features these days, it does still feel too small, but I suspect anything less than a medium sized sourcebook would have the same problem. It does compare quite favourably to the introduction to the Known World at the start of the Isle of Dread module as a skeleton to build on though. If we're very lucky we might even get a few more articles doing just that. Anyway, this is a pretty decent way to kick things off.

Arms & armor of africa: So we've explored the dark continent, and met the natives. What time is it? It's violence time! Nothing to do with racism, just to make things clear, it's just that we're adventurers, and killing things and taking their stuff is our job. The fact that we took the job because we enjoy killing things and taking their stuff is neither here or there. ;) But you can't expect them to just lie down and die. Wouldn't be realistic or fun. What unique weapons have the people of africa come up with? There's the usual knives, spears, bows, swords, axes, albeit adjusted for things like chopping through jungle, and paddling across lakes to skewer fishes without carrying two items. There's giant razors and boomerang/club hybrids. There's sickles designed to get around enemy shields. Speaking of shields, they have lots of interesting variants on them too, as since it's too hot to wear armor, you've gotta make the most of them. Using lighter, more fragile materials than metal means you can make them larger, more cover than blocking devices. They also have ones designed specifically to deflect missile weapons. And they reintroduce the idea of spending weapon slots to specialize in shield use, which I believe we saw in the forum before. Again, this is competently done, and not hugely surprising. What next. Some new mythological monsters wouldn't be a bad idea.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993

part 2/6

The other orientals: They've finally stopped publishing 1e OA material, four years into 2e. But they're still quite popular, and we've seen a few of the old classes turned into 2e kits. Getting the magazine to finish this off seems like exactly the kind of thing they should be doing. If anything they should have done it sooner. Kits are a whole world of easy articles they've barely scratched the surface of yet. So I strongly approve of this article. Lets bring them up to date, and maybe even improve on them mechanically.

Bushi are pretty much unchanged, albeit a little less larcenous than they used to be. As they were the straight fighters of OA anyway, this is little surprise.

Kensai get a slight nerfing, keeping their signature powers, but losing some of the peripheral details, which makes them more streamlined and less overpowered. Since they're now working on the same xp scale as everyone else, this is probably a good thing.

Sohei actually come of pretty well, as they keep nearly all their old stuff plus full cleric spellcasting. Ok, they only get 5 major spheres to choose from, but compared to the crap deal many speciality priests get, that doesn't seem bad at all, and makes them a good deal more balanced than the 1e (and 3e) version, which were horribly underpowered.

Shukenja are also probably a bit better than they used to be, as they get regular cleric HD, although they still can't use armour. Just don't expect to be able to work up levels without adventuring by hanging around healing villagers anymore.

Ninja lose all their multiclass wonkiness and most of their special abilities. Now they're just thieves with a few more tricks and a particularly strict guild policy. Since that's mechanical benefits for purely social penalties, that's still a pretty decent deal as a kit.

Yakuza become substantially easier to get into, and are also a lot less wonky than they used to be. Having the full complement of regular thief abilities and not being so district limited will make them more playable. Yup, I think I can say this article has definitely improved on the old versions both in terms of balance and playability. You can very definitely have a place in any game that I'm running.

Rhino's armor, Tiger claws: Another set of weapons of armour, this time with an indian slant. This really is turning into a very culturally diverse issue indeed. India has a more advanced selection of armors than africa, despite being almost as hot. Large metal overplates above another kind of armor. Bracers with mittens to protect your hands as well. :D Rhino hide armor, which is considerably more kickass than regular cow based leather or hide armor. Lots of interesting helmets, many disguised as regular turbans. Armless armor to help you stand the heat a little better. And a guard to keep you from being slapped by your bowstring. Now that's one you never hear adventurers complaining about. :p Lots of good ideas here. As with the african stuff they have several shield variants specifically designed to be good at dealing with missiles or melee weapons. The weapons are rather more familiar, enough of them have shown up in other sourcebooks that I recognise the names and what they do. Tiger claws, spiked bucklers, punch daggers, interesting picks, and all kinds of sword variants that show there's no one best way to forge a blade. The momentum is starting to wear off, but this still seems like a decent enough way to finish off the themed section. Which leaves this issue at well above average so far.

The Known World Grimoire: The voyage of the princess ark may be over. But Bruce Heard still has plenty more detail about the lands of Mystara to give to us. And far too many ranty letters to answer as well. It's a hard life being a developer, especially when far too many readers don't appreciate your sense of humour. It's also tricky thinking up all the ramifications to big metaplot events. Fortunately he can give official answers to those questions here as well. It does have to say that the new mystara seems somewhat darker than it used to be, with multiple countries destroyed or transformed. While I don't recall it getting as many complaints as greyhawk wars, this did probably cause a few problems to people's campaigns.

We also get a bit of promo for the Poor Wizards Almanac. Bruce freely admits that there are a few errors in there, and sets about providing errata. Tear out the map carefully, unfold it, and then stick it back from one point so you don't lose it. Whalers island is full of walrusses, not whales, so watch out. And mind the scales on the Isle of Dawn. All relatively minor stuff given the volume of information there.

And finally, we have another load of writing on demographics. Mainly useful if you're at the domain stage, and want to figure out your tax base with a little more rigour, this bit is fairly dull. Still, the whole thing feels less forced than the last few princess arks. If this change is what he needs to keep producing cool stuff for us in the long run, so be it.

Fiction: Djinn coffee by Allen Varney & Aaron Allston. Even more multicultural fun here, in a classic example of the devils bargain tale, courtesy of a genie and the slimy merchant who thinks they can get the benefits of unlimited wishes without paying the price. Hah. I think you can guess what happens next. The poor schmuck tricked into serving him finds a loophole, and awaaaaay we go. They have studied the form pretty well. With some amusing magical anachronism, snappy writing and easily visualised action scenes, this shows that some of our rules writers can indeed manage entertaining fiction too. Even if it is a bit formulaic, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.


Dire Halfling
Validated User
Thank you very much for the kind words on my article, "The Other Orientals". Oddly enough, it may have been my best one, but took me the least amount of time to write! It all just kinda fell into place in a make-sense sorta way.



Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993

part 3/6

The role of computers: The dagger of amon ra sees the return of Laura Bow. Once again, it's detective mystery time, as she has to solve a murder and avoid being killed herself in the process. With good visuals, particularly in the cut scenes, and interesting puzzles, they quite enjoy it, even if it's not as action packed as it could be.

Global Conquest is one of those resource management heavy wargames that can be played solo or against other people online. Build cities, blast the enemy ones, and try as hard as possible not to lose your king equivalent as if you do, you're out of the game no matter how well you were doing. Make sure you save regularly, despite the inconvenience of doing so, for it does crash on occasion.

Gods is an action game with plenty of puzzle elements. Beat up monsters, pull levers, locate keys, shop for weapons, it sounds moderately zelda-esque. No bad thing really.

Mission:Thunderbolt is yet another one that loses marks due to hard to read, easily lost copy protection. Blue ink on pink paper? Poor poor colourblind people. Bleh.

Pacific Islands is WWII tank based wargame. The vehicles take quite a bit of learning to drive well, and you'll have to get good at interpreting the (not very realistic) sound effects as well. Sounds like it'll put off casual players before they really get going.

Prophecy of the shadow, on the other hand gets mediocre marks for being way too simplistic. With a formulaic plot, hardly any character stats, boring combat and repeated character models, they really aren't very impressed.

Siege does a little better. Take on the role of the humans & demihumans or the monsters, and try and break into or defend one of 4 castles. It is rather slow though even on their system. I wonder how it would run these days.

Warrior of Rome II is yet another wargame. Seems like they're reviewing more of these than actual RPG's these days. Are they trying to hint something to the rest of the magazine? Nah. Surely not. Hmm.

The game wizards: D&D: Warriors of the eternal sun! The first D&D console game. Once again they try and penetrate a new mass market, with moderate success. You talk, you shop, you grind for levels, you have to go all the way back to get your characters resurrected. (and they have a nasty surprise for you when you get to the endgame in that department. ) you spend days sleeping in the wilderness miraculously undisturbed, you spam enemies with missile weapons in the underground sections and win easily, you have a dreadfully anticlimactic ending. Ahh, nostalgia. Pay no attention to the recommendation for a well balanced party. Two elves and two clerics'll get you through way easier. :p Have fun. Yeah, this a quick bit of straight promotion that I don't mind too much, as it does trigger good memories.

Role-playing reviews once again goes outside it's name to review other sorts of fantastical games. This time, Lester Smith tackles stuff devoted specifically to wizardly battles. An idea well covered in literary sources, and not modelled too well in D&D. It has yet to reach it's commercial zenith, with the epic battles of Magic: the Gathering, but it looks like there's more than a few companies trying this out in various formats. Iiiiinteresting.

Duel arcane specializes in the shapeshifting based wizardly combats where you play rock-paper-scissors with your enemies to try and outshift them. It has a decent set of stats to enable this, although extreme ratings in a few of them prove unbalancing. It also probably takes longer to create and upgrade your character than the game really merits. Still, you'll have no trouble differentiating them and a decent combination of luck and skill is involved in winning. Good luck finding a copy these days though.

Shapeshifters takes a more crunchy, wargaming based approach to the same idea. With a complex flow chart that controls how far you can shapeshift by categories of size, phyla and sympathetic relationships, and secret action declaration followed by simultaneous resolution, it does sound like there's quite a bit of system to be mastered. But as lester says, while it may work as a game, that kind of crunch works against the feel of the kind of literature it's trying to emulate, so it can't really be considered a success.

Castle of magic is quite different in approach. A board game where you compete to take over the castle, and hopefully the countries that surround it, by hunting down macguffins and facing monsters. The visuals aren't too impressive, but the game is a good deal of fun, with a nice combination of competition, diplomacy and luck. It seems well suited to going overground in a new edition.

Wiz-war 5th edition is of course one of the leaders in this field, with proper mass market distribution and so forth. It strongly encourages treacherous bastardry and sounds like a good deal of fun. It's multiple editions have honed the rules so they're usually both fast-paced and well balanced, and there's enough luck involved that no one person will always win. Is this one still going?


Registered User
Validated User
Role-playing reviews once again goes outside it's name to review other sorts of fantastical games. This time, Lester Smith tackles stuff devoted specifically to wizardly battles. An idea well covered in literary sources, and not modelled too well in D&D. It has yet to reach it's commercial zenith, with the epic battles of Magic: the Gathering, but it looks like there's more than a few companies trying this out in various formats. Iiiiinteresting.
That reminds me of a game I haven't played for ages: Spellcaster. You don't even need any equipment. It's like rock-paper-scissors on steroids: you have to make long chains of gestures to cast a spell, with the more powerful spells taking longer gestures, so the opponent can see what you're up to and plan ahead. But there are a lot of branching chains so you can't always tell exactly what your opponent is aiming for. Also you can be making separate spells with each hand so there's a lot to keep track of. Very tactical.
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