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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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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
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.
 

(un)reason

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

part 2/6


Weapons of mass destruction on sale now: From one joke about the gnomish space marines to another. Blarg. Still, this is the only joke article this year that also has usable crunch. 5 scary, if rather unreliable bits of gnomish machinery that you could add to your spaceship. Or possibly your normal ship or ground based siege engine. Mechanical flails (based upon that popular joke monster, the flail snail.) Fire and electricity blasters. Mass launches of buzzsaws and crossbow bolts. All almost as much a danger to the user as to the enemy. These could fit into an otherwise moderately serious campaign, just as normal Gnomes and Kender do. So it's easily the best of the bunch this year from a usability point of view.


The Dragon Project: Oooh. Another new column starts off. Welcome to the last resurgence of non TSR RPG material, courtesy of a conscious push by the official writers. This has been gradually drifting downward since the start of the decade, due to lack of submissions, and they're not particularly happy about this. And of course, the less they publish, the less people send in. It's a vicious circle. So they hope to reverse that trend by asking writers for other gamelines to send stuff in. Not a bad idea at all.

We start off with one for TORG. Dragons fit in pretty well in fantasy universes, but struggle a bit in sci-fi ones. How to integrate them? Cyberware! As if they weren't scary enough. With a history that serves to reveal a bit more of TORG's interesting history and political dynamics, and a statblock that shows it uses a system in which skills are keyed off particular attributes, this feels a bit artificial, but in an appropriate way. I'm still not sure how they'll compare to PC's in overall power, but I suspect one will be a suitable challenge for an entire group. In any case, this is another cool move by the editors, and shows that as is often the case, they're actually more progressive than their average readership. It's also a sign I should enjoy this while I can, for it will be gone all too soon. Born to blossom, bloom to perish. Compost to grow the next generation.


The known world grimoire: Bruce finally gets his groove back, in what feels like it would have been a continuation of the Princess Ark series, situated directly southwest of the last instalments as it is. Previously, we've had dog people, cat people, turtle people, spider people, several variants on lizard people, and flying squirrel people. Now, it's the Manscorpion's turn. Course, PC's with at will instadeath poison is not something they're wiling to allow, and so that aspect of them gets a good nerfing. On top of that, mystaran manscorpions have the dreadful indignity of being vulnerable to sunlight, courtesy of a magical curse. They can still go out in the sun, thanks to developing incredibly thick all-over makeup vampires would probably pay quite a bit for, but it does make integrating with groups of other species pretty tricky. They're obviously intended largely as antagonists. But it does have to be said that they're antagonists with style and plenty of built up setting detail. You aren't going to be able to wade in an exterminate the whole nation, even with a few landscape destroying spells to expose them to the sun and make them fry like bugs under a magnifying glass. They have a higher level limit than demihumans, and there's hundreds of thousands of them. Like Iuz's dominions, settling this tension is the work of a whole epic level campaign. A pretty awesome return to form for this department.


The marvel-phile: No surprise that this column still has a few april-fool suitable characters that they haven't had the chance to cover yet. Such as Slapstick. He's basically a living cartoon, made out of the same stuff superhero costumes are made from. And I suspect that in terms of character, he has a lot in common with The Mask and Freakazoid, two other zany characters who are near omnipotent and indestructible as long as their actions are funny. Which means the humourless everywhere should walk, not run away ASAP, for trying to fight him is like hitting a mirror. It'll only get turned back on you, and the harder you hit, the more likely you are to wind up with a bleeding hand. His primary adversary is an 8 year old mad scientist, presumably even Marvel villains have enough common sense to steer clear of this. Better pray he doesn't get too many crossover appearances and wind up joining the great lakes avengers, for him and Squirrel girl seems like a pretty unstoppable combination. (and let's not think of the children) A pretty typical contribution from this department, I can't say I have strong feelings on this one.


DC heroes gets a third edition. Man, seems like both the comic companies original games enjoyed long fruitful runs. What went wrong?
 
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(un)reason

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

part 3/6


In praise of one night stands: Hee. As if we didn't have enough dirty stuff being suggested in the letters page. But a piece on why one-shots are a good idea is exactly the kind of thing the magazine should be doing. It gives you a chance to experiment with new systems and ideas without ruining continuity and thematic consistency of your long-running campaigns. It lets your regular GM take a break and players experiment with holding the reins without having to build a whole world. And if the regular DM flakes out, having a back-up plan is always a good thing. Only a page and a half long, this mirrors well how it's subject matter should work. Get straight to the point, don't overwrite, and make sure you have cool ideas ready to go right away. Which makes it one of those supposed filler articles that's actually a good deal better than anything in the main featured section. Model your game on movies rather than series, and provide a full setup and payoff in a few short hours. Just don't fall into the trap of doing a sequel just for the money, when you don't have a good idea for it.


Forgotten Realms new campaign setting coming soon. Well, they've got six years of metaplot to incorporate. Not everyone's been buying all the supplements. Cyric is the supreme god of evil now!


The role of computers: King's Quest VI gets one of those 5 star reviews where they praise it as both a game and a technical feat. And in the process remind us how far we've come since then.15 megabytes? I've got single photographs bigger than that. We used to manage classic games with mere kilobytes. Time ticks onwards.

Battle Chess Enhanced CD ROM is yet another game that tries to make chess cool. With speaking tutorials, and a wide range of difficulty levels, it doesn't do too badly. But chess really doesn't need the gimmicks anyway. It looks like it'll be around long after civilisation collapses and both computers and roleplaying are forgotten.

Cobra Mission gets a complete fail completely on the crappiness of it's content, rather than due to buggy programming, which is pretty unusual for them. Yikes. Plus it's not kid friendly at all. Come now, that'll just encourage prurient teenagers to waste their money.

Kingdoms of England II: Vikings, Field of Conquest sees you fight a bunch of other would-be kings to take over fair albion. Sounds like a fairly typical strategy wargame.

Miner 2049er doesn't get a rating, but it's review is quite positive nonetheless. One of their few game boy reviews, it shows the gradual takeover of consoles. Even these guys have to heed it, although they don't seem that keen on doing so.

Quest for Glory III: Wages of War also builds upon it's previous instalments, and manages to surpass them, in these reviewers opinion. You can even import your character from previous games, which is always a nice touch for this kind of epic RPG. Does sound like there's quite a bit of resource management though, with keeping track of food supplies a vital part of your adventuring.

Shadowlands has some spectacular visuals and interesting ideas based around light sources and the manipulation of shadows to complete the adventure. Unfortunately, its hindered by a clunky interface that can result in your death as you try to engage the right actions mid battle. Always a danger for complex RPG's, especially if they don't have pausing.

Waxworks is much easier to play, using the increasingly popular point and click play method. Video games are definitely becoming darker and edgier these days, as this is another one full of gory thrills. Visuals are finally sophisticated enough that you can do this without looking stupid.

Wolfenstein 3D is duly recognized as an excellent, if rather bloody game, offering you plenty of freedom of movement and a spectacular array of weaponry. You'll need it of course, particularly against the bosses, which are right SoB's at higher difficulty levels, and neither trading shots face to face or turning your back to run are wise choices to beat them.


Novel ideas: Ravenloft's novel line continues to grow in prestige amongst the department, as befits it's sales. This means it gets better authors in, including some previously published names who have fanbases of their own. Elaine Bergstrom and P. N. Elrod are both about to produce pretty big books for the line, and they're pretty confident that the results will let them go to another level critically and commercially again. Which is actually a fairly accurate prediction for a change. Dragonlance may have peaked and gone into decline creatively, but Ravenloft and the Realms keep on building. Like the Dragon Project, this is a good reminder that there's still plenty of cool things to come before the company goes completely off the rails. You've got to separate the politics from the product.
 

(un)reason

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

part 4/6


Fiction: The heroes of weefield by Mitchell Diamond. A reminder why the stalwart knight single-handedly fighting monsters is considerably less effective than a bunch of adventurers with varied skills, who attack with teamwork, magic, missile weapons, flaming oil, etc etc. You really can't afford to play fair, particularly with creatures much bigger than you that'll deal out and take more damage than even the most badass mortal man can manage. This is even more the case in a system where the ageing and advancement rules are more realistic than D&D's. But still it's not just kill or be killed. And so we have a story in which sympathy for the monster results in them sparing it, despite the fact that it may well kill again. Actually, all sides in this story are pretty sympathetic, even when they're being idiots. The plot is a bit insubstantial, but it's still a decent enough read, with good character banter.


Sage advice: What does a nilbog do to a spelljamming helm (Not much. It may make the user fly it somewhere unwise though. )

What's a ziggurat. ( A really scary monster. Second only to the Gazebo in it's power to terrify and confound players. )

Can you turn a staff into a morning star (not without ruining it. Wood is not the most flexible and resilient of materials. )

What happens if you turn someone to stone, then turn the statue to mud, resculpt it, turn it back to stone, then turn it back to flesh. (Oooh, thatsa nasty tricksa. I'll seta de godsa on you and theyla smita you for crimes againsta nature. )

What ToM spheres do the forgotten realms deities grant (Hmm. This is gonna take up quite a bit of space. Better get cracking.)

Would breaking a staff of the magi permanently destroy a vampire (possibly. Their indestructibility isn't as good as the tarrasque's)

Can spheres of annihilation permanently destroy the tarrasque (no)

How much alcohol do you need to get an umber hulk drunk. (They're about 3 times as heavy as humans, so Skip will make a wild guess and say three times as much. This may get expensive. )

Can you teleport inside a creature (no)

How far can you jump while wearing a girdle of giant strength. (36' plus 2 per point of strength above 18/00. Not that impressive really)

Are trained falcons really more expensive than war elephants (yes. Elephants are easy to train, and expensive to keep. Falcons are not. So there's more demand and less supply. )

What is a lair. (Anywhere I hang my hoard, that's my lair :fingerciicks: )

Can you enlarge something, cast permanancy, then enlarge it again (I'm afraid that falls foul of the no stacking the same kind of bonus rule. Or would, if we'd properly standardized that yet. )

Can we make a rope trick permanent and then take it with us as a storage method. (no, twice. It is neither sustainable or portable)

How do I measure east/west on hex grids (counting from the middle. Don't tell me that's hard for you.)

Do you reroll all your hit points when you gain a new level (Not officially. You can play it like that if you like, and the game doesn't break though. )

Why did you change THAC0's for the new edition (simplicity.)

If you wish for extra arms, can you wear extra magical items on them (No. Skip will not budge on this one, even if other writers do. Beware TPKing mariliths.)

Which speed factor and damage do small creatures wielding bastard swords have. (the worst ones)

How does poison work (Fucking witcha biochemistry. They can pull some pretty nasty tricks. )

Can a troll die from starvation. (Eventually. They may not obey the law of conservation of mass, but they still need refueling sometimes. )

Can you recalibrate your aim on a wand of wonder once you know what it's about to shoot. (No. These devices can not be relied on in any way, shape or form. Skip laughs at your attempts to mitigate it's consequences.)
 

(un)reason

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

part 5/6


Role-playing reviews decides to go the lycanthropic route, apropos of nothing.

Werewolf: the Apocalypse gets a fairly long and not entirely positive review. Rick still isn't keen on the idea of entirely nonrandom chargen, which reminds us how long ago this is now. And he gets a quite substantial number of cracks in at their Metallica obsession and overall melodramaticness. Lars Ulrich really really isn't all that. :p And WW's editing sucks, as usual. But as with Vampire, he's still impressed by the underlying ideas. Fix the Mechanics!

Night howlers is the D&D offering. It's both less impressive, and less mechanically problematic, and focusses quite a bit on infected lycanthropes learning to control their condition. This takes quite a bit of work for players, but seems like it could liven up an existing campaign.

Rick also directs his amusement at death cheese, and other excessive setting building of recent books. All sorts of systems are getting into it, from D&D to shadowrun. As usual, some do better than others. Watch out for both silliness and dullness, sometimes at the same time. How does that happen? Mostly when you have page count to make up, so you throw in any ideas you can come up with without editing to pad it out.


The ecology (love life) of the lamia: Brendan Farwanderer returns for a third time, with the author finding yet another way to twist the traditional series title. Even more so than yuan-ti, lamias are an inherently degenerate race, requiring regular infusions of human seed to keep their progeny from becoming sterile animals. Since they're also bugfuck nuts with hair trigger tempers, and they drain the common sense of those they touch, this is almost a textbook recipe for a dysfunctional relationship. (I will kill the first person to say they've been out with girls like that. ;) ) Once again Spike delivers an excellent bit of fiction, combining titilation, horror and humour with aplomb. And their new ecological cycle is pretty distinctive and nifty as well. This adds new depth to them without upsetting previous assumptions. He's definitely proving himself as one of the best ecologists currently writing in. Now, if only he'd do so a bit more frequently.


Forum continues with much the same topics as last time round.

Philip Edwards is one of those who thinks psionics is indeed overpowered. It needs more saving throws, more playtesting, more checks and balances! You know that stuff slows things down if done wrong.

Jon Winter gives a full bunch of rather official sounding nerf suggestions for psionics, some of which would be incorporated later. He's particularly keen on psionics-magic transparency, which does help, after all. Again, watch out for the play-slowing finickiness.

Shlomi Chetrit thinks that balancing psionicists is easy. Just enforce training rules strictly and force them to find someone to teach the powers they want. Never mind that that isn't particularly in keeping with the literature, which often has them manifesting new powers abruptly. But training times might well be a good idea, especially at higher levels.

Jason Jex doesn't think psionicists should have restrictions just because wizards have them. After all, clerics don't have the same ones. But that doesn't mean it doesn't need a little nerfing. Balance must be struck, but the game must also be kept interesting and varied.

Charlie Frye has a bullet-pointed list on how to deal with monty haul cheaters. Just make sure you have copies of their character sheets, and all the dice are rolled in the open. That keeps the worst excesses under control.

Justin D. Somma also offers point by point advice on how not to deal with Monty Haul characters. It's not easy to take stuff away without them complaining to high heaven. And make sure cheaters don't prosper. There's nothing wrong with kicking them out the group.


Dragonmirth really needs to sort out it's fashion and design habits. Yamara finds out what her husband got up to before he married her. Hee. Finella decides to bite the bullet and get married as well in twilight empire. Man, they're having a lot of relationship dramas these days. And many of them are inter-racial, too. Interesting, that.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Then what happens? Does the sphere bounce off the monster or does the monster end up in a different universe?
The sphere eats up the part that went in it, and then the tarrasque regenerates it. It is a very big beastie, remember. You'd have to move the sphere very fast in a somewhat complicated pattern to get all of it in time.
 

(un)reason

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

part 6/6


Through the looking glass: Boo! THE LEAD BILL GOT PASSED. All Robert's work over the last year or so has gone to waste. Now they're going to have to put up with crappy pewter, tin and plastic. Such a tragedy. And on top of that, people are giving him gyp about the poor photo quality in the column. You shoulda seen them 10 years ago. Roll on digital photography. He's obviously not in the best of moods. Better not disturb him

Our reviews, as a result, seem to be on autopilot, with everything getting 4 stars. A flying pig, to minor humour. Another pair of elves for those who still don't have enough unique ones for their army. A wizard and his familiar. Some adventurers trying to steal an idol, and facing skeletons as a response. A completely lead free monk. Plenty of weaponry, both futuristic and medieval. And a selection of general props. Zzzzzzzzz.

The review of Battletech 3rd ed isn't particularly interesting either, being very dry and technical. The rules are good, the prepackaged mechs, less so. Oh well. Can't blame him for being off his game given the circumstances. But life goes on. We'll adapt. Like banning smoking in pubs, before long we'll wonder why it was ever an issue.


TSR Products: Dragon Mountain takes top place this month. See Tuckers Kobolds totally canonised in this epically brutal dungeon crawl. Just getting there is hassle enough. As for getting through it. You'd better get smart or you'll be dying a lot of times against enemies with a tenth your hit points.. Speaking of kobolds, you can now play them to somewhat higher level than you could last edition, thanks to PHBR10: The complete book of humanoids. 30 races, old and new, weak and strong, and some moderately lame kits to keep them in their place. Humans are still supreme!

Ravenloft builds up the epic rivalry between Strahd and Azalin even more in RQ4: Roots of evil. Who will come off better from the fight? Either way, ordinary people are likely to suffer. Miserable job.

The Forgotten realms shows us FR16: The shining south. Well, with Al Qadim doing well for itself, it would be a good idea if we knew what we were traveling though to get there, just as with the Horde set and Kara-Tur. (which we haven't seen anything on in a while. Guess they've decided that was played out. ) So Halruua, Lurien, and the other weird nations down there get fleshed out for you to enjoy.

Spelljammer is up to book 5 in the cloakmaster cycle. The Broken Sphere sees Nigel Findley try to finish this particular epic. Can he find the Spelljammer once and for all?

D&D has Rage of the Rakasta. Everyone's favourite cat people get a bit more attention. Serving as both adversaries and allies here, you'll have to do some puzzle solving to keep them from attacking.

Gamma world tries to make itself more suitable to extended campaigns, with GW2: The overlord of boniparr. An evil mutant overlord. Just the thing to make blasted post apocalyptic world even more annoying. Any resemblance to Iuz is purely coincidental.

And finally, our novel department produces Naked came the sasquatch by John Boston. Modern day comedy fantasy? That's an unusual one for this bunch. Will anyone be intrigued by this strange title and pick it up?


In case you didn't get the message in the last article, Dragon mountain! Well, it's a lot snappier than really unfair kobold infested mountain with a dragon at the end. Egads, that had some annoying bits in it.


A decidedly subpar april fool this year, both in terms of laughs and usability. Somehow, they've managed to be both less goofy and less crunchy at the same time than the last few years. There's still a couple of cool articles elsewhere in the issue, and the new Dragon Project stuff is definitely a cool idea but the weak theme, combined with the lead bill hassle makes this a bit of a depressing one overall. Things certainly aren't all going their way. You can't ever afford to get complacent, especially when you're working in the realm of ideas. Keep trying to expand their minds, Roger.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Gamma world tries to make itself more suitable to extended campaigns, with GW2: The overlord of boniparr. An evil mutant overlord. Just the thing to make blasted post apocalyptic world even more annoying. Any resemblance to Iuz is purely coincidental.
It would be hard to compare Iuz with General Ursal since the bear isn't evil. In fact in the 4e setting, the Ranks of the Fit are one of the most stabilizing forces in the region. For evil animals, you have to go with the Zoopremists or splinter Iron Society.
 
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