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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 195: July 1993

part 5/6


The role of books: The boggart by Susan Cooper sees an ancient scottish fairy transplanted to modern day Toronto. Hilarity ensues, with electricity and the like giving it a whole new avenue for pranks. Both the creature and it's new victims PoV are explored. This seems like good fodder for a movie conversion.

Burning Bright by Melissa Scott depicts a future in which a single MMORPG has taken over the entire galaxy and become the primary form of entertainment. Amusingly, this has not eliminated the active participation of GM's (unlike in reality :( ) This premise stretches the reviewer's suspension of disbelief quite a bit. You'd think people would get bored, and monopolies naturally get complacent and bloated, setting themselves up for a fall. If you can swallow that bit, the rest of the plot is quite good, mixing real world and in game stuff quite well. Remember, it's science fiction. It doesn't have to be plausible.

Danger of the sixth by Michelle Shirey Crean gets a pretty negative result. Poor pacing, poor focus, iffy morality, uncertain ending. Work on all of these for the next one! :wags finger:

The dragon's tomb by D J Heinrich gets quite a good review, making interesting use of D&D's Immortal based cosmology, and giving the monsters proper characterisation as well as the humans. The plot doesn't play it too safe either, with mystara in genuine danger throughout the novel. Well, it is the first series. It's only when you have half a dozen authors writing semi-independently at once that you have to take care not to tread on other people's toes.

The starship trap by Mel Gilden is a star trek novel with a nice concept, but clunky characterisation and writing. We know who Kirk and Spock are! Get on with the story!

To green angel tower by Tad Williams is one of the more successful Tolkien imitations the reviewer has seen, managing to capture the scope without copying the details too much. They're always looking for a real epic, and this is one they can reccomend.


Palladium once again boasts about their amazing rifts sales. No-one else gives concrete numbers. What's all that about?


Overcoming obstacles: Another rather interesting superheroic article this month. Heroes with some kind of handicap as well as their special abilities are actually surprisingly common. Be it mundane stuff that they have to compensate for, like Daredevil's blindness, or more complicated issues deriving from their powers, like Cyclop's danger of destroying everything he sees, the best characters are ones defined by their weaknesses as much as their strengths. But as in D&D, it seems far too many FASERIP players don't believe in that maxim, and want everything to be average or better. Looks like it's time for one of those short filler articles that encourage you to make a well-rounded character and play them properly, for it will result in more interesting games. The mundane difficulties they'll face can be a big source of roleplaying, and the way they use their powers to mitigate their limitations will hopefully be interesting. Have you got that into your thick heads yet, bloody powergamers?


Fiction: The end of trading season by Daniel Hood. Ooh. An unhappy ending! Not often you see those around here. Merchant fails to heed the native traditions, things go horribly wrong for him, and he winds up being a sacrifice to an undead monster posing as their god. Not hugely surprising, apart from the ending, where we can be pretty sure he didn't get saved at the last minute, but full of neat worldbuilding details nonetheless. The whole scenario looks perfect for an RPG module, as there's plenty of points where you could do things differently, and still get interesting results. That makes this a very strong bit of fiction for the magazine on multiple levels. Not just entertainment, but also helpful too.


Campaign Journal: We return to Greyhawk again, courtesy of Carl Sargent. And he's starting to feel the backlash from people who aren't at all happy with the major changes the war made to the world. They can't exactly reverse this stuff, but they can certainly mitigate it. A lot of this is a reminder that the books do not have to be adhered strictly to for your own campaign, and things can be rearranged, transplanted, adapted, or simply ignored if they contradict stuff built up in your own game. Which you probably know already, but it's still annoying when a world goes in a different direction to the one you want it too. One reason it can be easier to play in a setting that doesn't have a constantly churning active supplement mill. So I guess we're seeing the first signs of backlash against metaplot here. It's still going to get bigger before it goes away, but it's no longer the fresh young thing that can do no wrong, and everyone has to have. Welcome to the bloated arena rock days. Feel the gated reverb on that drumkit. Get ready for lightshows, costume changes, and guitar solos longer than ZZ Top's beards. Not my favourite environment. So this says nothing I don't know, and reminds me that there's a storm a comin'. Bleah.


KULT! The darkness continues to spread. Death is only the beginning.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 195: July 1993

part 6/6


Up front In charge: Quite a tricky roleplaying issue. The problem of leadership within the party is one we probably haven't covered enough over the years, with the player/DM adversarial relationship taking the brunt of the heat. But a group without proper organisation and tactics is a group sleepwalking into it's own death, likely to face humiliation at the first group of enemies played smartly. And a group that bickers while in the dungeon and has players wander off to try stuff without knowledge of the rest of the team, or fire off fireballs without checking everyone else's position will practically kill themselves. Thomas Kane well and truly graduates from expanded forumite to full blown writer here, in a piece which combines intelligent writing on social dynamics IC and OOC with rather amusing and all too true to life fiction. A dwarf that talks like Yoda. A gnome that everyone ignores until he gets them in trouble. A wizard who is all too keen to play grand vizier with her companions. And a fighter who likes to think he's in charge, but isn't to hot on the actual ideas. This clearly illustrates quite a few things. The person who most wants to be in charge is often not the best actual leader in terms of ideas and organisation. Listening to your subordinates and letting them feel valued and able to exercise their creativity is vital for keeping them happy. The best plan is a simple one. Beware PvP spilling out into bad feeling amongst the actual players. A very good article here, that even experienced players can learn from. Issues of leadership and hierarchy will be settled informally if you don't pay attention to them, and if you don't know what's going on, it's a lot harder to figure out why things have gone wrong and fix them.


Swordplay: Another regular comic starts here. As is often the case, not very impressively, but then, you need time to introduce the cast in strips as small as this. It's been 5 years and Yamara is still only on its third plotline. Man, the monthly serial format has its flaws.

Speaking of yamara, she gets a double size episode this issue as we see the trial of Yocchi. And once again ogrek .... er, seems to be about to save the day. Dragonmirth really isn't playing fair, as usual. The team get captured in twilight empire. Hey, that just means they'll be taken straight into the bad guys lair. That should help get things flowing.

The four horsemen of the apocalypse come to Rifts. Can you guess what they want to do? Canasta? Opening a milk round? I think not.


Through the looking glass: Ahh, joy, the government committees have got involved in the lead bill. We know how long THEY take to get anything done. I swear they're just an excuse for government guys to give well paying jobs to their mates where they do maybe a few hours work a week for months or years. Bleah. And in the meantime, uncertainty is bad for business, so half the companies and stores are phasing out their lead minis anyway. Which means nobody really wins but the lawyers. This like, totally sucks donkey balls Beavis.

As usual, the minis are less interesting than the drama. Several knights from Pendragon. The real differences are in the personality. ;) A 12 piece green dragon that'll be a real pain in the butt to assemble. King Arthur, his sword & horse, perfect for a bit more pendragon tie-in. A young and fully grown pair of wyverns. A dragon and her eggs, which are in danger of being nicked. And a full-blown diorama in which a party of dwarves are fighting a dragon. Quite a bit of multi-piece stuff, for some reason.

We also get three other reviews on top of that. Dragonfire gets a pretty mediocre review, with incredibly simple and dull rules for experienced wargamers. Legions of Steel does rather better, with a pleasingly consistent (if rather grimdark) aesthetic, and fast and furious rules that may be a little simple, but have plenty of scope for expansion. Study in contrasts of how to do introductory games right or wrong. In addition, he also proves rather fond of the Battletech Recognition cards. They're not actually that expensive, and can speed play quite a bit. I'm surprised how much coverage Battletech is actually getting over the years. I guess it's another of those things that you can skip over when reading casually, but this kind of detailed examination reveals.


Man, drizzt really needs to get a better photographer. He looks about 50 here, and that's in human years, not elf years. And would it hurt him to smile a little? At least he's got the eyebrow raising down pat.


Yet another mixed bag, with some good articles, but no real consistency, and an increasing number of non-useful promotional columns. The gradual slide into complacency on the part of the playing population continues, much as I and Roger wish it wouldn't. Someone ought to do a reading thread for White Wolf's old magazine or the Rifters, so we can get a more positive slant on this era from the up and comers. I'd quite enjoy vicariously reading that. But for me, it's to the next issue.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 1/6


124 pages. The dragon in this month's cover takes a secondary role, looking a lot like a pet of the guy with the sword. Who's in the driving seat this time? Hopefully you, as it's time for another issue full of DMing advice. Poor players. They never get to control dragons. (yet) And if they do, you'll have to think of even more impressive suitable challenges or risk the whole thing falling apart. So a DM's work is never done. Good thing we've still got many more years of advice to draw upon to go.


In this issue:


I, Strahd, by P N Elrod. Once again they bring out the big guns for Halloween, on the 10th anniversary of the original module.


Letters: A letter asking if the Snarfquest compilation is still available. Unlike the Fineous Fingers one, you're in luck. Larry still has a good relationship with the TSR staff, so they're happy to be of service to you both.

A follow-up on the Uriah Heap question. It was the early 70's. Lots of people were putting occult & Tolkien inspired blather in their music. These days, their hubcap diamond star halos are looking a little rusty and need a good servicing.

A letter from a person who found a moth squashed on their fire elemental trading card. The jokes here make themselves. Jim Ward, on the other hand, fails to see the funny side. I think the stress of his job may be getting to him. He ain't the mischievous monty hauler he used to be.

A suggestion that they include martial arts demos at their conventions. After all, so many gamers love MA in their games. Luring them to try it out IRL would be good commercial sense, and also fitting from a health point of view. After all we have to battle the stereotypes about being weedy/overweight couch potatoes, and what better way than being able to slam anyone who takes the piss to the ground and punch through bricks. Roger doesn't think it's a bad idea, although he'd really like to see sumo wrestlers, but doubts they could get any in. Always the joker, eh.

Some nitpicking about kukris. The historical accuracy brigade won't let any weapon go mislabeled!


Editorial: Never trust a DM who forces you to roll for breast size. Roger can't find anything current events related to get worked up over, so once again his mind drifts back to reminiscing on games past, and the naive fun they had. Seems he's doing increasing amounts of that recently. So say hello to Bob. A guy with boundless enthusiasm, no sense of proportion, and very little taste. It's tricky to get rid of him because he's so enthusiastic about it all, but at the same time the things he does are so silly that you can't really have a campaign with him without it all falling apart. Still, while it may be a pain at the time, at least it makes for memorable stories. And given the alchemy of nostalgia, the fun bits remain, while the crap gets glossed over. And so Roger manages to come up with enough entertaining anecdotes to fill this column for another month. Making it a permanent fixture may not have been the smartest thing to do really.


Exploring the fantasy political campaign: Ah yes, politics. One of those things that continue to be a challenge to insert into a game compared to dungeon crawling. Continuity becomes so much more of an issue when you're dealing with the same faces year in, year out. And if you get sloppy, it'll come back to bit you more than if you're moving from dungeon to dungeon, not looking back. Unlike a kill and take their stuff mission, where it can be safely assumed that the bad guys are indeed bad enough that compromise is a pointless task, who the PC's are, and what their opinions are on a topic can vary widely, and this affects the direction that they'll take the story. On the plus side, while you need to keep on making up new dungeons wholecloth, once you have a well set up political game, it'll last you years if well maintained, with actors fading in and out as time goes by. We've been through this before, but this manages to do so quite well, reminding us that the individual missions in a politics heavy campaign will often be little different, especially while the characters are pawns of the other power players. It's more the way the adventures tie together and have an effect on the larger setting that's interesting. And making the playstyle seem accessible rather than intimidating is an important aspect to getting new people involved that the older articles sometimes failed at. So as is usually the case with themed issues, they've picked a good one to start things off with.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 2/6


Cultivating campaign cultures: Things step back down again, with a bit of random table stuff. We already have one for random personality quirks for people. Now we have one for random cultural mores for societies! If you stumble across some village in the middle of the jungle, you need to know what the trigger is that'll result in them driving the players out in disgrace or trying to put them in the cookpot. Yeah, I can see the use in that. I can also see the humour in it too. Most of the specific examples are ones from the real world, and don't seem too ridiculous though. Although it is a bit short. I guess you'll have to use it as a springboard to designing your own expanded tables with their own quirks and taboos. Cool idea, so-so implementation.


The art of storytelling: Things step downwards again with this bit of basic listed roleplaying advice. With a rather substantial editing error which means that point number 6 is repeated twice, and then it continues from there. Tut tut. That loses quite a few marks, even beyond this advice being mostly rehashed. Very much half-assed filler.


Organization is everything: Or once again I thank humanity for inventing laptops. Even a decade ago, most of my notes were on paper, and things tended to get seriously higgledy piggledy as things were scrawled down wherever was most convenient at the time. If you wanted to seriously sort out the organisation of your notes post-hoc you have to completely rewrite them on fresh bits of paper. And of course, the sheer volume of them seriously mounts up if your campaign continues for years. If you aren't gaming at your own home, there comes a point where you simply can't fit all the stuff you use into your backpack to take to the group. These days, hard drives are big enough that you can fit .pdfs of every D&D book ever released into them, and still only fill a fraction, so I don't think you're in any danger of filling them up with your own written notes. And in this format, you can copy effortlessly, and cut and shift stuff around or insert something in the middle of other notes with a tiny fraction of the time and work it would have taken then. As is often the case, they finish off the themed section with an article that's relatively short, but still full of handy advice. Which in this case seems a bit dated, but the principles are still sound. After all, it may take a fraction of the effort to search and organise your work on computer, but it still needs to be done, otherwise you'll have a ton of little post-it's littering your document folder and you have to open them up to see what's inside the obscure titles. So plenty to think about here. Better get to work.


Forum: Pierre Lapalme agrees with earlier forumites that getting persuading new players to start can be tricky. Much of this is the fault of the rules. Choose wisely, and then be consistent, but don't let them straitjacket you. They should be a path to fun, not an obstacle.

Erik Koppang also thinks that wise house-ruling is important. Neither the rules of the tabletop game or the computer games are perfect. You certainly shouldn't follow them blindly just because that's the easy path.

Paul Bleiweis finds he's becoming more embarassed talking about gaming as he gets older. Yeah, probably need to tackle that, or you'll have great trouble putting a group together in adulthood. You need to be able to convince them it's a desirable thing to do, and shame will not help with that.

And finally we get another Anonymous letter, from one of the female employees at TSR, who is part of the anti-cheesecake brigade. Anyone know who this was? Anne Brown? Barbara Young? In any case, they blame it on the people in marketing. If you want to convince them otherwise, write to that department.


Sage advice is tiny this month.

Do paladins still lose their powers if they commit evil acts in ravenloft (yes. The gods know, even if you don't. Ok, sometimes the dark powers'll take over, but that kind of cheatyness is for NPC's only.)

Why aren't the new spheres from ToM used in Tales of the lance (Space. Writers always produce too much, then something has to be cut. Like Skip this month, it seems.)

What kind of spellbooks does a multiclassed mage/minstrel have (Two of them, one for each class. Oh woes, for I have to have a big backpack. It's nothing compared to the amount of gear modern musicians have to lug around. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 3/6


The known world grimoire: Bruce manages another burst of inspiration this month. He might not be able to manage them frequently enough to run a proper narrative, but there are still areas of the known world to fill in, and by gosh he's going to keep at it. He visited the manscorpions in issue 192. Now we head south to see the orcs that give this nasty swampy peninsula it's name. With a particularly big, tough battlescarred red dragon as their overlord, the various tribes may bicker with one-another, but they're more than organised enough to repel any attempts at civilising these lands. As with many aspects of mystara, this is a set-up designed to give the players challenges at whatever level they may be, from fighting individual raiding parties, to being able to take on entire armies and do world-shaking deeds that'll get them into the Immortal pantheon. Just be careful you don't bite off more than you can chew and get the attention of the big guns too soon, for huge dragon breath killing the entire party in one hit is a real day spoiler. With the usual mix of IC and OOC perspectives, and plenty of references to the other parts of this massive intertwined world, this is a pretty pleasurable read, able to support plenty of adventure while leaving room for expansion of the specifics by the DM. I just wish they were coming more frequently. While he may still have the skills, they mean little without the creative will to channel them. It becomes increasingly difficult to see a future for this series.


Mutant chronicles gets a very eye-catching advert. Nice colouring job, dude.


Fiction: The only good orc by Liz Holliday. Aka the story of orc jesus, and the stuff he goes through to get to sacrifice himself for the sins of his race. This involves a certain amount of deception, but mainly because people don't believe an Orc can be good, so the truth wouldn't be believed. The result has a pretty decent number of twists and turns, and the requisite bittersweet ending. It's not often you'll see PC's sacrifice themselves like this, so you need every good example you can get. It's all pretty decent.


The role of computers comes to an end. Or at least, the crew of writers leave for other fields, to specialise in Mac games in another magazine. Once again cementing the fact that they don't have a great track record in picking successful systems. :p We've had some good times, we've had some dull times, we've had some strange moments. We've seen systems rise and fall, games go from 0 to 6 stars, (wing commander is still unsurpassed) and lots of complaints about stuff not working properly. (well, it wouldn't be a computer column without them. ) They've been one of the most consistent columnists since 1986, and I can't escape the feeling that this magazine's computer game coverage won't be the same without them. I know it's only a couple of years before they cut out computer stuff entirely, so the people who replace them certainly won't have the chance to build up the same level of familiarity.

Challenge of the 5 Realms is an ok fantasy RPG, if a bit dated in presentation. Overhead walky stuff, slow dialog balloons, instruction manual based copy protection, this all sounds very familiar. is this the 90's or what?

The Journeyman Project pushes at the current limits of data streaming, and consequently runs annoyingly slowly on their computer. It's no good having these fancy CD's if you don't have the read speed to really take advantage of it, or the RAM to buffer most of the info for instant use when needed. Can't win either way. Too primitive, they give it poor marks, too advanced, they can't run it properly yet.

Legends of Valour doesn't do too well. It may look good, but play is both tedious and fiddly. If you don't have the hint book, you'll waste tons of time trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Whatever happened to the instruction manual guiding you through the basics?

Pax Imperia is one of those epic space games where you have to not only build an empire, but manage it too. I some how doubt we'll be seeing nearly as many of those under our next regime.

S.C.O.U.T combines action shooter with puzzle game, as you have to find keys, negotiate railroads, teleporters, mirrors, and all manner of other tricks to get around the alien base and blow them to bits.

Spaceward Ho! V. 3.0 is another, slightly smaller scale space exploration and resource management game, where you have to think more about controlling individual spaceships. They finish this off with another load of clues on how to play it well, which seems appropriate since these things can get pretty complicated.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 4/6


Novel ideas: How many Forgotten Realms books have TSR published in the past 6 years?! Jeez, maybe you should have started worrying about their continuity a little sooner. James Lowder takes on the job of figuring out what happened before and after various other things, and delivering it to us. The timeline starts off fairly sparse and sketchy, but them becomes very busy after DR 1350. It's pretty obvious where the prequels end and the bits written as present begin. With things stretching up to 1372, it seems that they've progressed forward at the rate of approximately 2-3 game years per real year, giving new adventurers plenty of chances to strut their stuff on the stage. This is interesting when contrasted with their other gameworlds. Mystara & Ravenloft tried to maintain a realtime, 1 game year per real year progression, while Krynn and Oerth have wound up progressing in fits and starts, due to their primary developers being absent for extended periods of time, and over-reliance on prequels, interquels and side stories. It's a good thing there aren't actually that many crossover stories between them, or this'd become an almighty headache. This stuff isn't too hard to handle as long as you have a good line editor, but take your eye off the ball, and before you know it, there are inconsistencies and continuity snarls everywhere and you have to deploy the dreaded blunt tools of retcon and reboot to get things working again. And it only gets harder the more stuff you add. So this is a sign that they're not quite at the point where continuity starts to strangle the line, but it's only a few years away. It also manages to be quite a good bit of subtle promotion, not only helping you know clearly all the stuff you might want to buy, but also some of the books they haven't released yet. It's certainly given me plenty to think and talk about, and something to reference back too.


The game wizards: Hmm. A new adventure for Dragon Strike? That's an interesting one. I have been saying they need more useful stuff than straight promotion in these columns. Looks like someone else was saying so at the same time and they've listened. So in 2 pages we get a map, and a key, including a bunch of roleplaying notes. While still pretty basic to actual roleplayers, this still manages to have more depth to it's play than Heroquest, (which it is clearly influenced by) and is a good example of how you can fit a lot of play info into a tiny word count, which is a lesson the official AD&D adventures are increasingly forgetting to their detriment. While I'm still not too keen on boardgame stuff being promoted here, like this month's Novel Ideas, this is an interesting way of handling their duties, and one that gives me things to think about. You too can steal and make good use of this kind of adventure notating formula, and thereby fit a dozen scenarios in a 32 page booklet.

In another amusing footnote, we also get an apology for their spate of cultural insensitivity last month. Research Moar! And remember folks, what is acceptable around the gaming table is not acceptable in an international magazine. Knowing is only half the battle. You also have to act upon that knowledge.


Role-playing reviews: Rick picks some rather obscure licensed games this month. The kind of thing that are unlikely to make much money, and probably got commissioned because the original creator is a geek, or someone approached them and gave them a good spiel. Curious business.

When gravity fails is a supplement for Cyberpunk 2020, giving us a vision of how islamic culture might interact with cyberpunk tropes. There's always going to be the stereotypical reactionaries, but this gives a far more nuanced portrayal than that, mixing olde world issues with modern solutions, and adding on a ton of cool personality modification rules as befits the original source material. If anything, it's too short to handle all the cool ideas it raises, with some bits left sketchy, but what there is is both interesting and genre expanding. Just as roleplaying games need to tackle cultures outside medieval europe more so too do cyberpunk stories.

Dream Park is a rather odd little game from Mike Pondsmith, based on Larry Niven's story of the same name. (see issue 52) As you're playing a person playing a character inside a virtual reality game, things get a little meta, and you can shuffle your special abilities around between adventurers, and lose powers as often as you gain them. It also means the GM can worry far less about things such as plausibility and continuity, instead concentrating on delivering inventive one-shots while having an excuse for keeping the same underlying characters throughout. Like Toon, the system may be a bit simple to really support extended campaigns, but it should be fun for a change of pace if the regular GM is absent.

Wizards is based on Ralf Bakshi's movie. This isn't quite as bad as the movie, in Rick's opinion, but still feels like a poorly edited, convoluted mess that needs some serious revision to get it's good ideas up and running. Why it ever got made in the first place is a mystery.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 5/6


3 Wizards too many: Having fully established the personalities of our three plane-hopping, 4th wall bending archmages, Ed starts to have them relax in each other's company a little more. Mordenkainen is still suffering the most heavily from his world's metaplot events. (I wonder what Ed thought about the power struggles in the company and changes made to Greyhawk after Gary left.) Dalamar is still the aggressive young punk who regularly gets taken down a peg by his older and more powerful companions. (Both El and Mord have tales of them facing down Fistandantilus during his plane-hopping days, which they may or may not be making up to keep him off balance. ) And Elminster is still playful, all-knowing, and tremendously cheesy. All three engage in gender-bending over the course of this episode, which is presumably why it's title is what it is, and these's a running gag involving gnomes as well. The new spells, items and monsters are somewhat less obscene than last time, but still designed for active adventurers, by experienced adventurers, and pretty useful. The whole thing is like a bouncy technicolour ball of sentient energy that bounds in and livens up your day. Which given how much work this thread is, is pretty damn welcome.


MERP finally gets a new edition. It's been well over a decade. That's vaguely surprising. Now, the big question. Is it an improvement?


Bazaar of the bizarre: Figurines. Little animals that come to life on command. (and sometimes when you don't want them too either. ) Another easy vein for you to mine, that's nowhere near tapped out yet. And since this involves some pretty good writers too, I believe I shall wander up to the head table and go "Please sir, can I have some more?"

Amber monkeys are a riff on the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil saying. There are three of them and they'll do exactly that on command, blinding you, deafening you and muting you. Which leaves you alive, but very vulnerable. Muahahahaha.

Coral Dragons aren't as badass as real dragons, but are still reasonably useful. They can be both combatants and fonts of wisdom. Show them a little respect, don't just stuff them in your pocket.

Emerald Frogs don't get any bigger when animated, but can shrink giant bugs and suck them straight in with their tongue, making what is often a deadly encounter much easier. Like the bottle of trapping 2 months ago, this makes for amusing visuals as well.

Jade Snakes come in pairs, one for biting, and one for healing. Trying to use both at the same time is a very bad idea. They look very pretty entwined though.

The Moonstone Rabbit digs quite impressively. Don't abuse it though, because it's more fragile than it seems.

Opal Cats are another themed set. The mother cat, which attacks with great viciousness. The kitten of caterwauling looks pathetic, and it's yowl is worse than nails down a blackboard. The kitten of contemplation, by contrast, is relaxing to have on your lap, and lets you recover spells in half the time, which a high level wizard would pay a LOT to have. A very cool set of ideas.

Silver Carp can produce water, or purify it. Their production capabilities aren't as impressive as a decanter of endless water, but what is? They can also blind you by wriggling their flashing scales. Individually none of their powers are that great, but they do add up to a nice little package.

The Tourmaline Turtle lets you ride on it's back like Jacques Costeau. Some of them even let you breathe underwater while on them. it also has a really vicious bite, so any kraken that messes with you will lose a tentacle. Still, it only works up to 12 hours a week, so you'll need another ship for lengthy voyages.


Swordplay lowers their ambitions to an achievable CR enemy. Fea wears drowface and incites racial hatred as part of her plan to rescue Yamara. Dragonmirth plays oblivious, but they'll suffer for it later. Robinson finally gets to meet his ex-wife. And safe to say, she doesn't feel the same way still.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
The amber monkeys are great in the right circumstances. Turning off your ears before going after harpies can be a real treat, and blindness makes medusae and nymphs much easier.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 196: August 1993


part 6/6


Through the looking glass: The air of pessimism that pervaded the past few columns here is gone. Life goes on, and that includes the big conventions. There'll still be plenty of cool minis released there, along with paints, brushes, primer, and other modification tools. Don't hesitate to buy them. After all, your hobby still needs you as much as you need it.

Interestingly our first set of minis tie in with the Dream Park game reviewed earlier this issue. Guess it must be a bigger licence than I thought. Vaguely cyberpunkish people which can fit in any near future game. There's also a pair of giants intended for the Pendragon game, also fairly easily used in other fantasy games. Pendragon also gets another knight, so you have another choice to differentiate your PC from the others. Other products include a 2 storey medieval building, a Sorcerer ready to cast at you, A mummy that looks like it's in the middle of the Thriller dance routine, a thief, a cleric, an elf, several rather large goblins, and a cyberlegger. Any changes in construction materials have not affected Robert's fairly generous marking system, with all the scores going from 3+1/2 to 5 stars.

On top of that, we have another trio of game reviews. Night Brood introduces hive based alien horrors to the Silent Death game. Yeah, we know what you're influenced by. Get ready for violence with a touch of body horror.

Man O' War is a game of high seas piracy set in the Warhammer universe. This means it combines historical and fantasy elements to good effect. Games Workshop may well have another winner on their hands if they can market it to the kids.

Seekrieg 4th edition is another, far more crunchy ship based wargame, with rules covering hundreds of real period ships and their weaponry. It get's compared to Rolemaster, which really isn't a recommendation for me, but Robert must like da crunch, because he gives it 5 stars.


Vampire and werewolf get their own lines of minis as well. That vaguely amuses me.


TSR Previews: Having flopped with the fight for freedom in the grim 25th century solar system, TSR takes a more lighthearted shot at a Buck Rogers licence, with the High Adventure Cliffhanger game. More money for Lorraine's purse. Whoever got assigned to develop that must be seething. Will it flop just like the last one? Magic 8-ball says signs point to likely. Still, they're still gonna give it their all, experimenting wildly with mechanics and little add-ons in the boxed set.

Ravenloft goes back to basics and expands on them. RM3: House of Strahd lets you face the vampire lord just like you did in 1983 (not 1982, as the historically incompetent copy writers seem to think) Only now he's twice the level, and the castle & surroundings gets twice the detail. Which means your chances of finishing him off for good are considerably smaller. Still, they might come away alive, and with a copy of his memoirs, I, Strahd (Ghost-written by P. N. Elrod. ) See how he's not just some Dracula clone, but a complex person in his own right in one of the most popular gameline related books they ever released.

Dark sun, on the other hand, expands and changes once again. DSM2: Merchant house of Amketch allows you to take the role of a trading company trying to prosper in these harsh environments. Not easy when there's apocalyptic stuff going down nearby in the final book of the Prism Pentad, The Cerulean Storm. Rain is about to become more common again on Athas, but it certainly isn't happy shiny land yet. Still a long way to go.

The forgotten realms, having been focussing on the harpers in the novels last year, finally releases a supplement dealing with them. FOR4: The code of the harpers. Ed Greenwood personally intervenes to make them more playable. Do you have the right stuff to join their cheesy ranks?

Spelljammer comes to a conclusion with The Ultimate Helm. Book 6 of the cloakmaster cycle. As is often the case, the fate of the universe is at stake. Will they engage in a big act of metaplot screwage?

Dragonlance decides to tell the backstory of an actual dragon in their second villain book. The Black Wing by Mary Kirchoff lets us know what Khisanth got up too before the heroes met him.

Two generic products as well. GA3: Tales of Enchantment is another little module, this time focussing on fae. This time, diplomacy really is the best option. As it also is when trying to get all the fantasy collectors cards, which have been bumped up to 3 installments this year. Trading will get you one of each considerably cheaper than trying to tough it out on your own.


A quick and easy beginning, but a slow grindy ending here. This is often the case, but it was particularly pronounced this time. Still, with a classic article in the 3rd wizards three one, the departure of the computer columnists, and the interesting, but not entirely welcome dragon strike support, it was one that stands out overall. It definitely has me interested to see how the magazine will change with it's new contributors.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 197: September 1993


part 1/6


124 pages. Dark sun art doyen Brom takes the cover this month. No great surprise, since the last couple of years made this month a Dark sun special. And while they aren't going that far to promote it this time, there are a couple of articles devoted to that campaign world. September isn't really the optimal month for heat and dryness, but it's almost a tradition now, so let's just go with it, shall we.


In this issue:


Letters: A bumper pack of one-liners from readers of the unfair things their DM has inflicted upon them. Tinker gnomes with uzi's! Not so funny now, are they?

A letter praising the people providing us with African articles. Visualise the idea, and make it work!

Another of those letters about people's personal experience with the satanic panic. Some parents believe the hysteria, some don't. Pray that yours are of the sensible kind. Roger makes another long response that shows this is still an ongoing problem. And worst of all, they don't even contact us to get the other side of the story! It's so unfair. I want to go on chat shows and local news programs and become more of a celebrity. :p


Editorial: This month, Roger shows you how to take classic plots, and twist them until virtually unrecognisable. Going through 9 iterations of the same basic seed, gradually growing more elaborate and counter-intuitive, he shows how evolutionary thinking rapidly results in things as different as fish and trees. And just as with real world evolution, this will give your story weird legacy issues, such as human's tendency to get back and knee problems that stem from our quadrapedal ancestry, that may require further workarounds to turn into a good story again. Which is a fun business, especially if you have an imagination as active as Roger's. Many of these are rather goofy and humorous, but that's not a terrible thing, and it does help set an example for you to emulate. It's both better and more original than any of the bits of GM'ing advice offered last issue, reminding us that Roger's talents as a writer have been stifled somewhat by his time as an editor. He really ought to get back into a more creative role.


Discworld mini's! Ahh, the joys of cross-marketing. They're probably usable in other games as well.


The ecology of the giant scorpion: Hmm. This is a creature that's probably actually less scary in giant form than it is at regular size. After all, when you can see it and fight it directly, it's just another nasty fight to get through. When it lurks in your boots, bed or toilet bowl, and takes you by surprise, you have rather more of a shock coming. A quite D&Dish ecology, with a nice portrayal of infravision, and characters using named spells and the standard class roles. Most of the changes in the footnotes are for reasons of greater realism, which is reasonable for an ecology, and actually makes them more generally effective, yet less likely to cause a TPK with instakills. Since that'll probably make encounters with them more fun, I think I can can call this ecology a success, even if it's not the most brilliant one ever. On top of that, we have the first appearance of Tony Diterlizzi's distinctive style in the magazine, which is a definite plus for me.


Think big in miniature: If you've been reading the minis column, you'll know that TSR and Ral Partha have been partnered for ages now. This continues that relationship, with a particularly blatant single-page bit of promotion. Now they're introducing 15mm scale figures as well as the standard 25mm ones, so you can have more figures in the same space for larger scale battles. This doesn't even pretend not to be promotion or try to be entertaining, making it very tiresome indeed. Next!


Sage advice: Why don't you write back any more. I miss you.( Because the private sage who puts the pages in the mages and the broomstick between the witches legs is a very busy man. Skip can work non stop, and still pick and choose his clients. )

What's included in living expenses ( All your physical and housing needs, and nothing more. Lets get biological, biological. )

Does a jongleurs dodge count as an action. (yes)

How do you resolve synaptic static (same as any other contest. Best roll wins. )

There's overlap in the proficiencies introduced in two spelljammer supplements (Parallel evolution. That's what happens when you have two teams writing books simultaneously but independently. We need a stronger line editor.)

Plus, because skip is a badass mutha(shut yo mouth) Skip is going to give you the extra spheres for all the pantheons, one per month, without even being asked. Skip can read the signs, and knows what you like baby. Oooooh yeah.
 
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