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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 190: February 1993


part 6/6


Too Bizarre to be magical: Looks like psionic articles are increasing in frequency. Another sign of their attempts to tackle neglected but needed topics. So here's a bunch of psionic artifacts. Since each one is intelligent and unique, there's room for a lot of them.

Devan's Force of Nature is a fake wand, with a bunch of elemental effects. It can be a real pain trying to remember convincing spell components, so faking a single command word is much easier. Unfortunately it's a bit of a homebody, so adventurers will have to put up with it whining about wanting to settle down. Ah yes, the danger of comic relief sidekicks. I suspect we may see a few more of these in this article.

Fleshcrawler is a playful stone that likes to shift your form. It'll be more likely to be beneficial if you actively ask it to turn you into bizarre and amusing forms. Yup, once again with the goof negotiations in a pinch. Psions need to get a better hold on their subconsciouses.

Ynilgeira's Instrument of pain and misery is a chaotic evil soul trapped in it's own ossified heart. It drains life force from people, and generally causes paranoia and misery. You know, you ought to just kill them. This causes more trouble than you'll ever get in benefits from it.

Malgovich's Portrait puts itself in the possession of politicians and manipulates it's way down the generations. I wonder if the Baatezu and dopplegangers'll suspect the paintings when they realize someone else is doing the subtle grandmaster thing on the same turf.

Mana-Ken is a nasty little voodoo doll that lets you mentally control and torture things, but then lets them free at a time very inopportune to the user. Another one that's probably more trouble than it's worth.

Tawnwater is an immortal psionic falcon with lots of psychometabolic tricks. It'll pick you more than you choose it, and join in in your adventures. How very literary. Roll on psicrystals.

Pennison's Light of Truth reveals the truth without pity or bias. This may make people uncomfortable when it's their dirty secrets being spread to the world.

The Slumbering Ferry of Al-Colgia is all about the dream travel. It's secretly a romantic, facilitating trysts and getting you back before the morning. Don't wear yourself out too much, and remember that your magic items are watching you.

The Arbiter is a silk judges robe. Enforce the law in comfort with telekinesis, body enslavement and disintegration. Unfortunately it doesn't have any information gathering powers, so you'll have to make sure it doesn't jump to conclusions and get overzealous. Yup, I think this lot'll liven up your game too, even if you don't have any psionic characters. Managing your intelligent items and familiar equivalents does make for fun, if sometimes goofy games.


Dragonmirth blurs the boundries between the eating and the eaten. Yamara gets kidnapped. And now for the news. :D Twilight empire finally starts making sense. But now he'll have to defeat his own wife. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAngst!


Through the looking glass: A collection of the weird and gruesome here this month. an alien that likes to infect your brain, and the rather startling final result. An adorable baby dragon and it's owner's warning sign. An alchemist mixing the wrong potion and a wizard summoning the wrong demon. Some cyborg commando mutant turtles, not derivative at all, scouts honour. A similarly cybernetically enhanced ninja, ready to sneak in and sabotage shit. An undead skeleton that'll lead you astray, will-o-wisp style, and a more conventional skeletal warrior. A truly awesome robot riding a cybernetic cat. Some boring zombies. Some very much not boring officialy licenced aliens from the movie, including facehuggers and queen. An also rather interesting cave giant plus trophies. And some amazons in chariots pulled by tigers. It'd never work in reality, but it does look cool. Still compared to the previous ones, unreality is the least of your problems.


Quite a few good articles in this one, but also signs of the larger problems starting to develop in the company management. The game wizards and known world grimoire stuff are particularly damning in that respect. The reviews were also pretty lame, generally being pretty bland in their methods and conclusions. When the end of issue filler articles from unfamiliar names beat those of the established regular writers handily in terms of entertainment, I think I can say that your formulas are becoming more of a hindrance than a help. Fight the system from inside, don't become just another cog in it.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Devan's Force of Nature is a fake wand, with a bunch of elemental effects. It can be a real pain trying to remember convincing spell components, so faking a single command word is much easier. Unfortunately it's a bit of a homebody, so adventurers will have to put up with it whining about wanting to settle down. Ah yes, the danger of comic relief sidekicks. I suspect we may see a few more of these in this article.
It is a real magical staff (thunder & lightning) and is slightly paranoid because the intelligence has no way to control its magic powers. At least with its psionic powers it has control over what it does and doesn't do for its wielder.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 1/6


124 pages. PETA girl (aka Robin Wood) provides this month's cover pic. La la la, sweet music and harmony between all creatures. Sparkly sparkly flitty flitty IT'S A TRAP! And while this may not be a themed issue, looking at the contents, there certainly seems to be plenty of faeish whimsy inside too. And more real world cultural stuff too. As long as the cheese is kept in check, this could be a great deal of fun.


In this issue:


Letters: A letter interpreting issue 188's editorial as a cry for help. Funny, it read to me as almost the opposite, saying we have more than enough people trying to help, so you'd better do it right. The reality is somewhere in between, as Dale gives a lengthy reply explaining himself, and justifying the inclusion of campaign specific stuff, as well as the ease with which it can be adapted to other worlds. This is a struggle that's going to get worse.

A letter on the issue of getting hold of D&D cartoon videos. As ever, they're more likely to do so if they think there's demand out there. Don't hesitate to call and pester them.


Editorial: Oh god, Paladins and the proper roleplaying thereof. There's another almighty pain in the butt people keep complaining about. You think it's simple, that everyone should automatically know what's right and wrong. And then people inject all these grey areas. Sometimes I think they're doing it deliberately just to try and annoy you into falling, as these situations are astronomically unlikely to happen in a real world situation. But I do know that I'm less certain about what exactly is right and wrong now than I was at the age of 3. And I also know that there are a whole load of choices that have very little relevance to your personal morality, and those are the areas in which even paladins and saints can have plenty of variety. They can't control where they come from, or what they have to work with, but they can choose their actions. And without evil around them, they'd have no need to be fighters anyway. Which means they might be lawful good, but they may well often be in conflict with the actual rulers and mores of the land, which are not nearly so virtuous. Damnitt, I guess it really is that complicated. It's at time like this you wish you could just wander around using detect evil and mowing down everyone who pings as positive. So this seems like the kind of thing that's likely to stir up more forum debate than settle it. I guess Roger's got to keep people engaged and writing in somehow. I think this is a reasonable success if that was his goal.


Horses are people too: Horseys again! Well, the last time they gave them serious attention was 1989. Not at all an unwarranted topic, given how important they were to real world medieval society. This is mostly comprised of a slew of random tables for quickly individualising any encountered horse in appearance, personality and capabilities. This is mostly what you'd expect, with a few amusing surprises thrown in. ( I didn't know you could teach horses to moonwalk. :D ) As with most of these random tables, it should help you keep things moving in actual play quite a bit, but isn't that interesting to read. So I guess this is more of a warmup first feature than a straight off spectacular. Let's try and bring this up to a canter for the next article.


Open your mind: Psionicist kits! Now there's a much needed article. This one goes for an interesting mix of adding new kits, and adapting existing ones from the other Complete Handbooks. Many of the special benefits and penalties can be applied to another class without the game breaking, and this helps further blur the roles characters can play. Once again, the deryni get mentioned as well. It's certainly not a complete collection, but this should spur people's imaginations. and help them customise their characters. Hopefully there are some more to come in the future.

Berranie Seers are psychic gypsies. They favor the traditional mind-affecting and divination psychic powers, and justify people's suspicion of them with access to rogue proficiencies. Way to pander to stereotypes.

Thought Agents are easily the biggest and most customised kit of the bunch, with a whole variety of minor special benefits depending on if you want to be a nice guy or a mindreading fascist enforcer. Yeah, that's a perfect job for a psionicist. What fosters justice like reading minds and spying on people in their bedrooms?

Ascetic Warriors are psionic Monks. They get moderate unarmed combat bonuses at the cost of armour and wealth restrictions. Sounds about right, if very unimaginative. You'd rather still be back in 1e, wouldn't you.

Healers try and give clerics a run for their money. That'll please quite a few parties sick of the proselytising. Course, the oath of pacifism thing may be almost as irritating to groups who just want to hack and slash. That's the kind of thing you'll just have to resolve IC. So these kits are definitely on the lower key end of things, like the first few splatbooks. You won't be encountering many problems, but at the same time, they won't revolutionise your playing either.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 2/6


Rifts England! Druids and new camelot bring hope in a dangerous world :rolleyes:


The elven pantheon - Completed!: A little bit of cut material here. For various reasons, Rillifane Rallathil fell through the cracks in the editing of monster mythology, and so there were still mentions of him, but we never got his actual stats and specialty priest details. Since we already got alternate updated stats for him in issue 176, this isn't such a big deal for regular collectors of the magazine, but here we go anyway. And as before, there are some pretty substantial differences between the two interpretations, in requirements, restrictions and granted powers. Curiously, I think I actually prefer this one this time around. While both versions have substantial similarities with druids, the granted powers are more distinctive in this one, and set them apart better. Plus of course, there's the Avatar stats. So this is a fairly handy little bit o' filler from the official writers.


Different totes for different folks: A second load of lists and tables this month, courtesy of Vince Garcia. This initially seems like just a reprint of the PHB equipment tables with a few additions, but it's actually a lot cleverer than that. It then provides you with sample standard equipment lists for each of the major classes. This is very handy, both for getting your character up and running initially without all that faffing around shopping, and in allowing us to analyze the differences in needs of the classes. Elves come off worse by a long shot, with their multiclassed natures conspiring against them to really eat up their funds, and their spellbooks being shockingly big and heavy. Nature oriented types like druids also require a surprisingly bulky and complex set of equipment, at least until they're powerful enough to live off the land comfortably via magic. In most cases, a week's rations is one of the bulkiest parts of your gear, showing up just how inconvenient being an adventurer can be. A timely reminder that 50 pound loads are actually a pretty big hassle to carry, let alone fight in. It's also significant in that this kind of list became standard in 3e, with one for each class along with the default skill and feat picks. So this is one of those articles that is a lot more impressive than first glance would indicate. Very much one for the historical notes.


An African Genesis: Our african renaissance this year continues with an article on their gods, complete with full speciality priest stats. Like Kits, this is a rich ground for new crunch that they're only now starting to exploit to it's full potential. Since I seem to get more written when I break these things up, I think I'll do do here as well. Let's see how well designed these godly renditions are.

Olurun is one of your creator/sky deities, who has since become distant from humanity. This makes his clerics quite rare, and with restrictions that keep them from being adventurers. With flight powers, they'll have little difficulty maintaining their distance from humanity as well.

Otabala is Olurun's earthly counterpart, who's priests are a lot more involved in the community, and frequently rather wealthy, thanks to the smithing/creativity sides of his portfolio. With the ability to cast all earth related spells at double size and duration, his clerics can be pretty badass battlefield controllers. It'd be a pleasure to have one onboard.

Orunmilla presides over the spirit world. With nearly free mindreading, and a hugely expanded range of other divination spells, plus 4 free nonweapon proficiencies, her clerics are another group with abilities that are quite powerful, but'll still give them a distinctive approach.

Olokun is a rather unpleasant goddess of the sea. Like so many of them, she seems likely to send storms and sink ships if not properly appeased. Unsurprisingly, her clerics are highly focussed on water spells, and also have a strong piratical bent, raiding and slaving. They sound like a good choice for adversaries.

Ala is the goddess of the circle of life, giving her clerics enhanced powers over both sex and death. Man, regular necromancers attract enough fangirl goths. Just HOW much action will these clerics get if they use their position properly? And on top of that, they get druidlike shapechanging too at higher level. Yeah, these'll be a wet dream to certain players.

Eshu is our travelling taleteller and trickster, well known to Changeling players. His clerics have the interesting distinction of being forbidden to do anything for someone else for free. With minor roguish abilities, luck manipulation, and telepathic emergency messages, they aren't as powerful as many of the preceding priests, but are still eminently PCable.

Shango is the god of storms, and like the goddess of the sea, is violent and unpredictable. His clerics also have quite nasty necromantic abilities along with the expected electrical attacks. You can expect them to terrorise places with dramatic thunderclouds behind and maniacal laughs. A very playable collection, if a touch more powerful than most of the ones from Legends & Lore and the Complete Priests Handbook. They might even be competitive with ordinary clerics and druids :p The lack of access to Tome of Magic spheres is a bit on an oversight, and of course, this barely scratches the surface of the deities of Africa, but it's more than good enough for now. Like the psionicist kits, I hope we have a few more instalments in this vein to come.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 3/6


Forum is fairly small this month. Erol K Bayburst has an interesting compromise on the mapping precise dimensions problem. Tell them precisely what's going on, but don't let them record it in detail until later. Having a mapmaker draw out each room painstakingly in detail as you get to it will slow down play something fierce.

Mark C. Francisco picks apart the problems with the psionic twinkery scenario in even more detail than I did. They are not total gamebreakers, especially when they fail at a critical moment. And social penalties can balance out any level of mechanical advantages! Send a witch-hunt after them!

Charles E Borner also goes into considerable detail on this. This is why the DM should make an effort to learn the powers of all their PC's, no matter how obscure a splatbook they come from. That way, they can't put one over you with unfair tricks. Looks like this is going to get a similar treatment to the Jedi problem.


The known world Grimoire: Bruce continues to work hard on making the dominion level of D&D play more fleshed out. Having waffled on about economics for a couple of issues, it's a somewhat more interesting subject. Raising armies. People are willing to put up with a little logistics if it means a more epic asskicking or similar spectacle. So let's figure out just how much you can afford to spend on your army, and how big you can make it. As usual, you get what you pay for. You can conscript huge proportions of your able-bodied population, but don't expect them to be loyal or well equipped. This is particularly an issue if you go elsewhere and enslave the natives. Whatever your political system, you still have to pay people according to their talents, or risk revolt. Even theocracies can't make everyone work together purely for the greater glory of god. It's all rather troublesome. Bah, this has got boring again. He really needs to get his groove back, as this is rather tiresome to deal with, and I suspect most players will agree.


Fasa give is a rather interesting teaser. What have they got up their sleeves this time?


A magical personality: An article I expected to turn up sooner or later. In issue 163 we got advice on the respective power levels of various specialist wizard types. Here we have roleplaying advice for them. Abjurers tend to be cautious and reactive. Conjurers are pack-rats and social butterflys. Diviners are always well prepared, but can wind up stuck as observers. Enchanters are charming but pushy and egotistical. Illusionists are a bunch of liars. Invokers are blunt and impatient. Necromancers are a creepy lot. And Transmuters could be nearly anything, but do tend towards obsessiveness in whatever they do. No great surprises here, since they are stereotypes. You know, you could have also done Elementalists and wild mages, since this isn't a particularly long article. I guess the question becomes if you're going to stick to the stereotypes or buck them. Really, this is a little fillerish. In a lot of worlds, wizards will be rare and obscure enough that the various subdivisions simply won't have room to build up their individual stereotypes. And as many campaign worlds have their unique magical divisions that are much more important than school, (Krynn, Athas, Zakhara) and games other than D&D use completely different magic divisions, it won't be useful that much of the time. It's more an example of just how easily you can build up stereotypes from tiny datasets (see also the various white wolf splats) So it does raise some interesting issues, just not the ones it thinks it does. Does the nature of your abilities really shape your personality that much? Do we really derive stereotypes of a whole group from the first individual of that sort we encounter that easily? Does that reflect well on humanity as a whole? Man, you could do a whole sociology dissertation on this topic.


Master of the blade: From personalities of wizards, to the personalities of their created items. This is another interesting and potentially problematic issue, albeit for quite different reasons. If you play them too actively, then they may well really start to bug the PC's. If you don't, they may forget that they are sentient. And if they take your character over, then things really get hairy. There's also the issue that they're usually being created by classes that can't actually use them themselves. So they may well be designed with effects not entirely beneficial for the owner. With a revised system for determining their mental scores, and a good runthrough of the various kinds of purposes these items can have, this is another pretty decent article, with a few ideas that I'd managed to miss. It doesn't completely solve the problems these devices present, but it does help.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 4/6


The role of computers: Might and Magic: Clouds of Xeen is the reviewer's new favourite RPG. With a familiar playstyle, but good graphics and sound, and plenty of challenges still to go, they've been spending many hours on this one. In addition to the review, they fill the entire hints column with highly detailed advice for getting through this, up to the 5th mine. I wouldn't be surprised to see this continued next month.

Discovery: In the steps of Columbus, on the other hand, seems fairly mediocre. Trade, settle and kick native butt. With unskippable cut-scenes. Sounds like many a resource management game.

Legend of Kyrandia is a point and click adventure game where you solve puzzles to defeat an evil clown. Another fairly good little challenge for you to get your teeth into.

Ultima VII: The Black gate and Forge of Virtue get a rather more interesting and lengthy review. They've brought out an expansion pack for the game that serves as both an errata patch and a whole load of side quests, opening up new maps, and giving you access to powerful new items that'll make completing the main adventure easier. This is a decidedly interesting marketing strategy, but not without it's flaws. The new stuff doesn't appear to have been designed with quite the same care and attention, as is often the case for add-ons they know are going to sell less than the core. But despite these mechanical flaws, it's still a worthy addition to the series, and a laudable experiment in programming that'll become more popular over the years, with both neverwinter nights games getting add-ons in this style. Well worth noting from a historical perspective.


Campaign journal: Oooh. Another attempt to start a regular column, focussing on expansions for their existing game worlds. Like the new kit stuff, this reads as a deliberate result of listening to their readership and trying to fill in the areas people said were lacking. It is nice when they do that. Course, stuff like this is dependent on getting good submissions, which will always be a problem. So it's no surprise that they start it off with a contribution from a staff writer. After all, even the ecologies took 3 kick-off articles from another magazine before they could stand on their own feet.

So we start off with a primarily promotional piece from Carl Sargent to fill us in on the recent changes to Greyhawk. There are plenty of ways you can handle this. You can ignore it. You can play out the wars using the wargame, and use the result. You can play them through IC, but not let your players make any real difference on the larger scale of things, or you can do a timeskip. There's also plenty of room for different tones, from gritty and beleaguered to high-magic mystery. And of course, there's adversaries suitable for all levels. It all feels a lot more calculated than it used to. Greyhawk, like Mystara, started off as a bunch of adventures thrown together as Gary tried to stay one step ahead of his players. It never really got the same kind of primary company focus Krynn and Toril managed in different eras. So this does feel like a substantial shift in tone, an attempt to make it competitive and distinct in this era of fast developing, varied campaign settings. Well, he certainly succeeded in making it distinct. Competitive? Um, er, :shuffles away awkwardly: Maybe it would have worked better if they'd also rebooted the novels, given us some new characters experiencing the wars to get attached too. But no, they didn't even try. Man, Greyhawk's novel line was third rate. Even Ravenloft and Dark Sun did better in that department. Still, let's not disparage the usefulness of this article, which has both roleplaying advice not found in the book itself, and errata for it. It's actually quite good. It's just that the historical context surrounding this one lies so heavy it's hard to be cheerful about it. I guess it's up to us to take this turbulence and make fun games out of it somehow.


White wolf rolls out the splatbooks with clanbook gangrel. Rawr, rawr, feel my claws. Don't use their clan weakness as an excuse for playing supa-kawaii catgirls. We have enough trouble with the fishmalks.


Fiction: The barber, the thief and the smith by P Andrew Miller. Ironic comeuppance time here. Does that ever get old? Well, I'm asking the question now, so maybe it will eventually. I suppose like everything else, it's a question of not doing it too often. This is one of those stories which is the setup to a joke which seems obvious in retrospect, but good luck figuring it out beforehand. At only a page and a half in length, it doesn't bother much with fripperies and just gets straight to the point. Not terrible, but not brilliant either.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 5/6


The role of books: Demons don't dream by Piers Anthony is one of those books that it's a struggle for them to recommend. On one hand, it's very good if you like that sort of thing. On the other hand, it has all his usual flaws in tone, characterisation, perversion and excruciating punnery. You really should know by now if this is to your taste or not.

Deus X by Norman Spinrad is a story of transhuman rights. As is usual when a method of immortality via computer upload is developed, this opens up an almighty can of worms, both legally and theologically. The church and big business both have plenty to prove, including the existence of god. The result seems to be a brisk bit of sci-fi that makes you think about these issues. That sounds pretty good to me.

Slay and Rescue by John Moore is a romantic comedy where our protagonist Never. Actually. Gets. Any. Fucking. Action. For all the attempts at lecherous shenanigans, things stay resolutely light on actual money shots. This is most frustrating for our reviewer, who hopefully retains some sympathy for the many poor geeks reading the magazine. Cockteases sustained too long just aren't interesting or pleasant.

The rebirth of wonder by Lawrence Watt-Evans is an interestingly contrasting little duo of stories. Going from low key mystery to fast paced swashbuckler, it manages to do pretty well at both, proving his versatility.

Assemblers of infinity by Kevin J Anderson & Doug Beason, on the other hand, really doesn't hold together. People fail to act in a realistic manner, too many subplots are jammed in, and the whole thing fails to maintain narrative coherence. Ouch. He actually seems to be going downhill as a writer. When did he start doing the Dune sequels & prequels that I've heard are so reviled.

All the weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey, unlike Piers Anthony's offering, actually advances the series in terms of both plot and style. With new technology introduced to the world, and big plot threads resolved, it makes for a satisfying conclusion, while still leaving things open for yet more sequels. Maybe you should have gone out on a high note.


Sage advice: What the hell has nature got to do with the elements ( This one is ridiculously obvious. Skip is going to just stare at you until you go away. )

Wahh. You're a big meanie, putting all these restrictions on dimensional door. ( Skip is firm but fair. Skip merely points out the rules that are already there. Just because Skip's the private sage who puts the pages in the mages and the broomstick between the witches legs, that does not mean you can pressure Skip into making a wrong ruling for your benefit. Skip will cap yo whiny punk asses if you don't shut the fuck up and act like proper men.)

Why is chain mail cheaper than plate mail. (less raw material, less customization required. )

Can athasian or spelljammer characters be transferred to ravenloft (Sure. Culture shock'll be a bitch, but that just adds to the fun. )

Can defilers cast preserver spells from scrolls (Maybe. Skip isn't sure if the energy is collected at the item creation time or not, which would make the point moot anyway)

What happens if a defiler goes to another world. Do they still fuck up the environment (probably. They will of course face opposition from any druids or other nature concious characters who find out about them.)

I miss half-orcs. Are they ever coming back? (Sure. Buy the complete book of humanoids :teeth ting: Aint we nice. We're still gonna completely sweep the rape issue under the carpet though. )


Rolemaster gets an oriental companion, and shadow world gets an underworld with a hard to pronounce name. Oh joy.


Role-playing reviews: Over the course of doing these reviews, I've become accustomed to the sensation of moving through time at a somewhat accelerated pace, with occasional hops back and forth. But as we've seen before, time travel in game can be a seriously headache provoking experience. To make it work, you either need very careful recording of events, or the ability to make shit up on the spur of the moment that nevertheless feels right on an intuitive level. But anyone can play let's pretend. The important thing for RPG's is how the rules support it. As usual, let's see if the current crop have learned from the lessons of their precursors.

GURPS Time travel, as usual, does this topic comprehensively and in a modular fashion, providing you with a ton of options, which can be used on their own, or combined with other GURPS books. (and of course, this lets you tie together adventures in all those other milieus. ) But unlike too many GURPS supplements, it isn't dull at all, with a well built up sample metasetting with inherent conflict built in. The whole of history is up for grabs, and two competing secret societies try and get control of it. Sounds like a dry run for 4e's infinite worlds setup, which isn't a bad thing.

Time riders is for Rolemaster, and takes a rather more rigid view of things, making changing events nearly impossible. Despite this, there are again several time-spanning conspiracies, trying to make sure things always have been in their favour. The result is rather thematically vague, and more focussed on setpieces than metaphysics. It all feels a bit strained to me.

Timelords is our most mechanically focussed offering, with dense rules that offer a quite effective method of quantifying temporal disturbances. It's also pretty crunchy and modifier heavy in other departments too, such as combat. The setting, on the other hand, is pretty skimpy, and probably needs a supplement or two to flesh it out. One for the expert GM who enjoys tinkering, and maybe grafting the time-travel system onto another general action system they're more comfortable with.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 191: March 1993


part 6/6



The dragon's bestiary has another pair of fae creatures for our delight and quite possibly irritation this month.

Faerie Phiz are magical faces that grow on trees, and sometimes other wooden objects. They can't move, but are tough, quite good spellcasters, and have plenty of ancient lore. This means they're perfectly suited to being almighty pains in the ass to adventurers seeking stuff, in Labyrinth-esque fashion.

Asrai are the even weedier relatives of nixies. All it takes is direct sunlight or removal from the water to kill them instantly. Poor little things. They'll never be able to break out of their habitat and become adventurers. So they'll just frolic in the water and provide you with a flavour encounter. Bleh.


Unearthed Mundana: Aka don't make all the cool treasure magical. Be it mechanical, highly valuable in terms of materials, or merely the information contained within, you can add more contrast to your game by not falling back on the lazy option of giving it plusses and a pretty glow. Still, this does seem more focussed on wizardly types, with scrolls containing various kinds of esoteric info having a very prominent place in it's lists. The remainder seem well suited to roguish sorts, with plenty of things with hidden compartments, tricks, and subtle ways of enhancing your offensive capability. Like the intelligent items article, this is a decent reminder of one of those things that is fairly obvious, but can sometimes get lost in the pursuit of shinies and the need to escalate your campaign to keep the players interested. You need the low key stuff to provide contrast, and make the special bits truly special. Don't forget it.


Dragonmirth upgrades their crystal balls again. Yamara continues to be dreadfully meta. Twilight empire looks like it might get to the climax soon. But will Robinson's daughter want to go back to earth and live a normal life anyway?


Through the looking glass has painting advice again, for the first time in rather too long. Unfortunately, it falls prey to their current push to go back to basics, get in the complete newbies. So here we have advice about the essentials of what you need to buy, how much it will cost, and what exactly you do with it, taking you from beginning to end, and including photographs that document these steps on a minotaur warrior wielding a big red shield. Which means that it's both quite well done, and more than a little tiresome to me. When I remember the quite advanced bits of painting advice from the early 80's, this just doesn't hit the spot by comparison. The mental equivalent of another grotty goblin fight after saving the world repeatedly. Give it to someone who needs the XP.


TSR Previews: Al-Qadim gets another boxed set, A dozen and one adventures. Guess their budget doesn't run to the full thousand. As is often the case with these products, the adventures can be played one at a time, but have easter eggs that combine to a bigger whole.

Speaking of a bigger whole, north in the forgotten Realms, they're reaching the 6th book in the harpers series. Crypt of the shadowking by Mark Anthony (srysly?) The Zhentarim are actually being surprisingly successful for a change. Guess the harpers'll actually have to do some work foiling them.

Dark sun sees the PC's having to do some nasty compromises in DSM1: Black flames. How does a would be Dragon position itself as the lesser evil? I'm interested in finding out too.

Greyhawk finally gives us a whole sourcebook focusing on Iuz. WGR5: Iuz the evil! Well isn't that nice. Another enemy you aren't supposed to be able to beat, but really should. I'll bet the Dark sun head honchos could kick his ass without breaking a sweat.

Dragonlance, having milked the origins of the heroes dry, now focusses on the villains. Before the Mask by Michael and Terri Williams shows us the origin story of Verminaard. What childhood tragedy drives his evil? Who did he screw over in his rise to power? Can you be bothered to find out?

Generic AD&D stuff this month is GA2: Swamplight, and the deck of magical items. Another little standalone adventure, and another compilation of stuff making it easy to find and equip items for the anal or just fast and furious among you.

D&D has DMR2: Creature catalog, and part 2 of the penhaligon trilogy, The fall of magic. Didn't they just lose all magic for a day recently anyway? Anyway, with lots of monsters being reprinted as well, this doesn't look very imaginative. They seem to be a little unsure what direction to take this in now.


A fairly good issue, with plenty of neat stuff to offer, especially in the features. They're once again trying to ensure that they deliver new crunch on uncovered topics, keeping the magazine useful for even long term readers. Obviously they don't always succeed, but this time I found there was rather more successes than failures. Plus with the start of a new column, and a less obvious, but still significant historical development, this is another above average one in terms of actually progressing D&D's history. I guess I'd better see if next issue is another arc episode, or just goofy filler, quite possibly involving hot springs.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 192: April 1993

part 1/6


124 pages. It's a trap! Again! Oh, I love this cover. Why do people harsh on Tom Baxa so much? Yes, it's april fools time again, and they make that pretty clear right from the outset. So you'd better watch out, you'd better not cry, or you'll be the butt of every joker nearby. Humorless twits are the biggest targets. Let's get ready to turn the joke back on them.


In this issue:


Letters: Ah yes. It's time for the yearly round of laughing at the readers, or at least the ones who sent in stupid letters and submissions that were illegible, ludicrous, impossible, or merely utterly irrelevant. Nigerian king kong obsessives, Voyeur and Nymph classes, (which cancel each other out nicely, methinks) Dwarf throwers. Prostitute, Seducer and Wench classes, all rather too long and coming pre-illustrated, much to this editor's distress. (and to think he's the one who wrote sex in AD&D 10 years ago) A submission on Led Zeppelin fantasy, whatever the hell that might entail. (shoddy levee building as an adventure hook, I'll wager) Origami magic. (now that could actually work as an article. After all, they've done feather magic before. :p ) The usual cross-breeding suggestions. A module based on a Smurfs episode. And a rather disturbing prediction that probably didn't pan out. There's a lot of weird people out there. Thankfully, now we have the internet, so we can find this stuff in places like B. J. Zanzibarrs, instead of it languishing on paper or being thrown away by the editors. Because we all love a good laugh at the unfiltered crap of others every now and then.


Editorial: Roger reminisces about campaigns past and characters killed. Amusingly, the characters killed this time belonged to all the other members of the party, while he survived. This serves as an object lesson in never giving up, and also, paradoxically in running away and living to run away another day, which far too few adventurers do. What are we to draw from this? Fortune favors those who favor themselves? Never take shit from the GM? The rules keep things from being totally predictable for both the GM and the players? I suppose real events don't need to have a moral, they just kinda happen. And so the lesson you get from the same event can vary widely from person to person. So you may well get something different from this one to me.


Mage gets it's first teaser in the magazine. What will it's tagline be? I'm sure most of you already know the answer to this. Still, they've got 3 more months to elaborate on this before it comes out. How will they pique the reader's interest in that time?


Don't you dare!: Spike Y. Jones once again uses this time of year to give us advice on what not to do, just as he did in 1989. This time, it's played fairly straight, with the potential pitfalls pointed out precisely in bullet pointed form. It's not actually particularly funny, but it is very useful stuff. If you want you comedy to be universally funny, it doesn't pay to get too highbrow, and sticking too closely to rules or plot will only dampen people's spirits. A semi-improvised, knockabout style will fit perfectly with a lot of actual comedy shows. (Rik's the controller, Vyvyan's the striker, Neil the defender and Mike the leader. ) And if things go off the rails, make them worse. But avoid the dreadful puns, please. All advice I quite agree with. If you're aiming for comedy in your game, you would do well to heed his words.


What in the H...?: It's crossword time again. Also, another opportunity for Roger to thumb his nose at TSR's censorship policies, with their complete removal of certain D words. With tons of Baatezu references, plus plenty of other D&D monsters and game conceits, this isn't one for the nongamer. It's actually a lot easier than most of the previous crosswords for me though. Not sure why this is in the joke section. I guess it's an example of being able to slip subtle political stuff under the radar as humour.


Band on the run: Ahh, filking. We've seen mercifully little of you in the past few years. But all good things must come to an end. The Beach Boys, Van Morrison, The Beatles and Queen are all the subject of this year's round, which makes this seem rather dated even for the era. Come on, did the early 90's have nothing worth parodying? Achy Breaky Heart? Ride on Time? Considerable quantities of Michael Jackson's oeuvre? I guess the writers aren't particularly up with modern musical trends. Well, as we saw earlier, there are still people obsessed with Led Zeppelin writing in. They're probably still stuck in the first summer of love, and never even noticed the second one. So this is rather excruciating to me on multiple levels. Particular demerits go to the Bohemian Rhapsody one, which has some really tortured scansion. Make it go away.
 
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