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

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Making the Legend
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Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 3/8

Campaign journal: A Spelljammer and Greyhawk crossover this month. (although relocating it to another world wouldn't be hard) The Black Pegasus Trading Company are a bunch of somewhat roguish adventurers who've moved into the space trading business as they went up in levels. They keep their sources pretty quiet while down on Oerth, thus neatly sidestepping the impact spelljamming would have on the technological and political milieu. They also carefully walk the balance between good and evil, tending slightly towards good simply out of self-interest, because it's better for business, and well treated employees are less likely to quit or betray you, while still being quite ruthless in making sure they get maximum profits from a deal. They could well end up as friends or enemies depending on how they're played. With a good dozen sample plots, and half a dozen character stats, this accomplishes what it sets out to do pretty well, giving you a good way to incorporate space adventuring without cutting the characters off from their original world, or changing said world drastically in the process of opening things up. Spelljammer may be pretty much a dead line by now, but this is still a good article for it. The lessons that they would later apply in making planescape accessible to new players are well in effect here. If only they'd learned them a few years sooner.

Eye of the monitor: Sandy shows another of his big differences compared to the Lessers. They were very much in favour of family friendly entertainment, getting rather uncomfortable whenever gore or sex came up in games they were reviewing. Sandy, on the other hand, wants to see those options out there, albeit with a parental guidance system analogous to the movie one. Why not just use exactly the same one? It would save time and bureaucracy substantially. What is not amusing is halfhearted censoring that removes the blood, while leaving the actual gameplay completely unchanged. Especially when it's only done in certain regions. Then it's both pandering and hypocritical. Sandy SMASH! Hee. This is a very entertaining intro. It's nice that games can finally do justice to mature themes, and amusing to see people reacting against that.

Final Fantasy II (which isn't the japanese II, but a later one, if I remember my geek lore correctly) doesn't have great graphics, but nearly everything else gets praised. The music is good, the enemies are always at just the right level of challenge, and the plot is fascinating. Characters appear and disappear throughout it in highly dramatic fashions, making the whole story seem much bigger than just your adventures. Get yourself some chocobos and go a-riding through the lands.

Ken's Labyrinth is another game where the first bite is free, then you need to pay up. However, Sandy isn't tempted, with a whole bunch of rookie mistakes messing up the programming. There are some cool ideas, but overall, the implementation needs some serious refinement.

Betrayal at Krondor also gets a negative review for some substantial design flaws. It eats up too many resources, and requires you to pay too much attention to IC bean counting. It also often refuses to recognise your accomplishments, leaving you just plain stuck when the plot can't be advanced properly. Needs some serious debugging.

Day of the Tentacle, on the other hand, is a fun Lucasfilm adventure game which really takes advantage of CD audio to allow you to hear every line of hilarious dialogue. The visuals look pretty amusing too. Once again, their development team has pulled together something both high quality and fun.


"Cartoon Action Hour" fan
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

Final Fantasy II (which isn't the japanese II, but a later one, if I remember my geek lore correctly) doesn't have great graphics, but nearly everything else gets praised. The music is good, the enemies are always at just the right level of challenge, and the plot is fascinating. Characters appear and disappear throughout it in highly dramatic fashions, making the whole story seem much bigger than just your adventures. Get yourself some chocobos and go a-riding through the lands.
You are correct -- this Final Fantasy II is reality Final Fantasy IV -- either way, it's one of my favorite console RPGs of all time.


I'm a boat
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You are correct -- this Final Fantasy II is reality Final Fantasy IV -- either way, it's one of my favorite console RPGs of all time.
Specifically, it's Final Fantasy IV with the difficulty dialed down a bit for the non-Japanese market and a number of elements removed (some for simplification of the plot and some to match Nintendo of America's content policies).


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 4/8

Role-playing reviews: Star Wars time again. The long-term success of this franchise really is quite impressive, when you look at it. A big part of this has to do with creator ownership. By controlling the licencing directly, instead of having to go through layers of studio interference, George managed to get a greater quantity and quality of spin-off stuff than most similar properties. (LotR has always been hampered by the licensing split between the sillmarilion stuff and the main 4 books, Titanic, Terminator, Indiana Jones, Aliens, and the like try gamely but resist being expanded into an entire universe because they're a bit too focussed on one thing. Harry Potter and Twilight could be worldified, but their creators seem to want to avoid being pigeonholed. Avatar has potential, but It's still too soon to see if it capitalises on it and becomes a decade-spanning franchise. ) Part of this is the RPG, which has managed a steady flow of supplements for years now. Last given a big feature in the magazine in issue 155, it's time to take a good look at what it's come up with again.

Star wars second edition is one of those cases where there are lots of incremental improvements over the first one. And a bit of bloat too, but not so much as to spoil the fun. A little knowledge of the EU may come in handy as the RPG has fed that in recent years, and in turn draws upon it. But it's still a fun setting, and a fun system that doesn't do too badly emulating it. The association between gaming and Star Wars can continue profitably for quite some time longer.

Heir to the empire, Dark force rising & Dark empire sourcebooks show just what a huge impact Timothy Zahn had turning Star Wars from a trio of riproaring movies into a remotely credible setting. There's a vast amount of information that can be converted, statistics of people, new worlds, expansion on the nature of the force. This does include some stuff that isn't very useful for gaming, and a certain degree of padding, but what do you expect. At least we have a decent idea now what happened after return of the jedi.

The politics of contraband is a collection of smuggling based adventures. Unfocussed and full of typos, Rick doesn't enjoy this at all. Develop your ideas better.

Twin stars of kira does rather better. Essentially a series of adventures bound together by an interstellar road trip, it's still a mixed bag, but there's more hits than misses.

Supernova sets things in a solar system about to go nova. This presents many problems that can't be solved by combat, including some tough ethical questions. Let's face it, there's no way you're saving everyone this time around. One for somewhat more experienced and mature players.

On top of that, there's microreviews for all the other 2e products released so far. Villains, locations, and a GM's screen. As before, it's a mixed bag really, but you should be able to get a pretty decent campaign out of this lot. West end games are coming out of this deal quite profitably.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 5/8

Romancing the stoneskin: Here we go. The floodgates are well and truly opened on the Stoneskin topic, to the point where they've given it it's own special, in addition to the usual forum. Quite a substantial one too. This is going to take some pretty serious work to get through.

Erin D. Smale has a ton of suggestions, many which don't require changing the rules. Anything with 3-4 attacks per round will burn through stoneskin like a hot knife through butter. Sahuguin, bears, even carrion crawlers (oh yes, gotta love the carrion crawlers in this situation) If that fails, reduce the number of attacks it protects against or the duration. If they can't precast it miles in the future, it merely becomes a nuisance like Haste.

Scott Isaacs points out the many things stoneskin does sod-all against. Energy, disease, acid, poison, mass attacks. Many of these are entirely accessible to most humanoid attackers. They will adapt.

Jason Papadopoulos suggests going back to the 1e version of stoneskin, which doesn't protect against as many attacks. Simple as that.

Daniel Harms is another person who thinks making the duration nonpermanent is the primary fix needed here. Nerf durations in general! Let's lay that groundwork for later editions!

Mae Tanner suggests that rocks fall, everybody dies. Lots of little hits are once again the way to go.

The Baron suggests implementing the diseases in the Complete Wizards Handbook that stem from overuse of a particular school. Mean. Granite dust can also be surprisingly expensive and hard to obtain too.

Jason A. Goode shows us all the ways a Dragon can really mess a stoneskinned character's day up. Breath weapons and spells really ruin your day.

Thomas B. Knoedler wonder where all the money is coming from. Well, maybe it's because they are mowing through their enemies so easily at the moment. Treasure does normally come in the thousands in D&D.

Mark Macedo suggests lassos and contact poison. Have them wake up later with their gear gone. It'll take quite a bit of work to make back the money to refresh your spells after that.

Michael Tresca also suggests rocks fall. Or people keep bags of gravel just to throw in your face. Exactly what swashbucklers would do, anyway.

Rick Hood stepped up the number of monsters after his players discovered Stoneskin. It's all about keeping the challenges appropriate to the party.

John Gartner III reminds you to screw them over by having any attempt to cast other touch based spells on them fail and use up a charge. This is particularly mean if they've been taking damage from spells and really need healing pronto.

Peter B Sears suggests wild magic zones. Watch where you rest to buff yourself up.

Soren Thustrup goes back to the basics and reminds you not to roll, just to subtract a charge every time someone attacks them. Quick and easy.

Timothy J. Pudoff mitigates the problem by not letting them rest after every battle. You have 24 hours to save the princess before she gets sacrificed to the volcano god!

J. R. Katzman uses lots of little spikes, whether thrown darts, or in a pit trap. Every single one counts separately. They'll soon add up.

Scott Brownlee just wants to change the rules. Do you need too, when they're as easy to twist as this.

Nathaniel Deily also wants you to full on degrade the spell to reinforce your authoritah. Don't let the same trick keep on working.

Lev Osherovich suggests making stoneskin self only. That'll cut the abuses by a big fraction too, then you can charge them a premium by making stoneskin other a higher level spell. The crappiest kind of nerf. I hate it when they do that.

Alfredo M. Cunha suggests that you shouldn't be able to maintain the same spell twice simultaneously. There are certainly some systems where that is the case.

Roger Rhodes also cuts the duration, although not as drastically. You can't give them free extra resources because they saved carefully earlier. Just like real governments then :p

Alan Lauderdale suggests that the enemy corner the market on diamond dust. Then you can make a whole adventure out of trying to get stoneskin back.

Jay Knioum reminds us that dispel magic is useful against any kind of persistent buff. Spamming your enemy with it just before going into battle could well become a standard tactic in a magic-heavy world.

S. Morgan also goes the magic heavy route. Zap them with magic missiles and the like. Remember how even a single fireball devastates an entire party.

Sean Milner goes psionic. We know by now how good that is at bypassing the normal resistances and messing with your mind. Stone skin won't keep their brain from exploding from the inside out.

Paul Wrider recommends keeping exactly how much protection they have left secret. That'll keep complacency at bay a bit.

Wade Hoover suggests selective bookworms. Just take out the problematic spell and have done with it.

William S. Hickey suggests magical items that are designed specifically to penetrate stoneskin. Everything has it's counter, especially if it's pretty common.

Aaron R. Smith wants to give stoneskin a visible manifestation, and make having active stuff like that socially unpopular. Not that this'll stop people who sleep in full plate and carry 50 pounds of gear, including half a dozen weapons.

Anonymous tells you to simply not give any xp for any encounter that was no challenge at all. I think that's virtually an official rule anyway.

David Goodwin has the rather silly suggestion that as granite is radioactive, they'll start suffering from that eventually. Trace radiation like that is unlikely to affect anyone.

And finally, Michael T. Scott suggests switching worlds if all else fails. Different laws of physics can justify any changes you like, including complete removal of problem powers. Presto chango. So once again, any problem is solvable by an attentive DM.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 6/8

The dragon project: Dunklezahn! This isn't magazine exclusive material! :pouts: On the other hand, that also males it interesting because it is strongly tied in with the larger setting of Shadowrun (as many of you will have known as soon as you heard the name) The first corporate dragon, he's become quite the celebrity over the years, and probably made quite substantial amounts of profit from doing so. Sometimes he appears on chat shows, with the aid of a human interpreter to act as a mouthpiece for broadcast. Sometimes he experiments with VR, although that takes some pretty expensive and clunky custom jacking interfaces. And as a big, public political player, he has plenty of powerful friends and enemies amongst the megacorps, and is the subject of much gossip and speculation. Much of this is presented through IC excerpts from chatrooms and the like, in the same form they use in the actual sourcebooks. The stats are somewhat abbreviated, but he's pretty superhuman in all stats, well able to take down an entire party singlehandedly. Course, that won't stop him from being assassinated in future metaplot events, but that's a story for another time. This does plenty to show how a dragon can be a viable character in shadowrun's fusion of fantastical and futuristic ideas. And as a reminder of quite a few other cool bits of gaming's history, it's another joy to read. Respect to the people who sorted out this one, making it a lot more than a character sketch that just happens to use a system not normally covered in the magazine.

The role of books: A night in the lonesome october by Robert Zelazny is a playful crossover of victoriana, featuring sherlock holmes, dracula, frankenstein, rasputin, and the elder gods. It's good fun, but also a bit silly, and the illustrations make it seem even more so.

Dr Dimension by John deChancie and David Bischoff gets a negative result for bringing back the worst aspects of the pulp genre, including blatant sexism, paper thin characters, and ludicrous slapstick humour. Even the clifhanger ending feels forced and trite. Even Buck Rogers managed better.

Galatea in 2D by Aaron Allston shows he can do full novels as well as short fiction and game books. The protagonist has the power to pull things out from paintings, which is a pretty cool power, but not one suited to unprepared magical spectaculars. This means he's still in serious danger from the people who want to exploit him, and has to use his imagination to deal with his rival. The final ending is a particularly good example of a literary magic battle. What will he turn his writing talents too next?

Powers that be by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is a fun romp, but doesn't really work as worldbuilding, with John having no trouble picking holes in it's setting and plot. Like star wars, it's more fantasy than sci-fi, so you may want to disengage your critical brain and just enjoy the ride.

Death comes as an epiphany by Sharan Newman takes us back to 12th century france, for a more historically rigorous bit of worldbuilding than most. This does not come at the expense of story, however, creating something that's not quite fantasy, but still pretty interesting reading. I guess you'd compare it more to the modern day continuations of now historical novels such as the Bronte ones.

Dinosaur fantastic, edited by Mike Resnick & Martin H Greenberg, is one of those short story anthologies he specialises in. This time, of course, it's dinosaurs. Cashing in on Jurassic Park, the majority of these involve bringing them back in the modern day world, but there's a substantial minority of time travel ones where we go to them too. This includes a story in which we wind up in the Great race of Yith role, sending our consciousness back to bodyswap with a tyrannosaur, and a Loch Ness monster story, which fits in pretty easily actually. Dinosaurs can actually cover a surprisingly large conceptual space, and they've managed to get the good authors in as usual.

Sage advice: Do lizard men get benefits from using shields (yup. They're adders, not basic number setters.)

I thought aquatic elves couldn't be spellcasters. (Only on some worlds)

Why are Lolth and Vhaerun's stats different between Drow of the underdark and Monster mythology, Which is right? ( Monster mythology. They're better standardized with all the other gods in there. )

Can you combine trick shots (no, thank god. Elves may get to be better just because they're elves, but they aint that good.)

How do spellfilcher powers work? (Same as regular wizard spells. Spell level, caster level, blah blah blah.)

How do dragon caster levels and THAC0's change as they grow. ( Quite a bit. They're not primary spellcasters, but they're nothing to be sneezed at. )


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 7/8

Ready, aim, Fire!: :sigh: You're recycling titles again. But not topics, it seems. As one of our final basic D&D treats before they get kicked out, Bruce is giving us the weapon mastery details for siege weapons. Ballista, Springals, Light and heavy catapults are already ready to kick butt, but now you can specialise in them to even greater degrees. Ok, so that's the kind of option most PC's aren't going to bother with, unless they're 36th level and enjoying the supreme generalissimo stage too much to move up to immortaldom and being a small fish in a big pond again, but it's nice to have. Slightly more recycled is the talk on guns. Seems like people want to put them in every world. And since Mystara is one of the kitchen sink settings, and it'll soon be out of his hands anyway, Bruce decides to capitulate and figure out a logical place for them in the setting. Those obnoxious Heldanic knights are trying to bogart the technology, but it is spreading anyway. And since this stuff is rather dangerous to the user, it's being used more frequently in cannons than it is hand pistols, as you can light the things with fuses and make sure you're well back when they go off. As with the siege weapons, we get mastery stats for hand guns, and 4 sizes of cannons. Again, it's not useless, but it does feel a bit like a sour parting shot when you consider a year or so ago Bruce said he didn't want to include them in this setting. So this is fairly interesting from a historical point of view, and useful from a mechanical one, but a bit depressing too. Homogenisation sucks. And of course politics sucks too, but that goes without saying. Decidedly mixed feelings here.

Dragonmirth is all dressed up and ready to play. Yamara is still absent as Ogrek is his usual charming yet infuriating self. Twilight empire is in no mood for a prolonged mexican standoff. We have a battle to win here people. Lets get too it.

Forum is relatively small compared to the stoneskin special earlier. Jonathan Keepers thinks Oklahoma city's fandom is unpleasantly exclusionary. Oooh. This seems very specific and potentially flamewar provoking. It'd probably work better on an internet forum though.

K. W. Brown has a rather interesting observation on the lead bill issues the minis industry has been facing of late. It's the amateurs that get lead poisoning. People who actually work with it take precautions and usually avoid the issues. I suppose it's the same kind of issue that results in doctors hardly ever getting sick.

Ann Dupuis shows once again that she really does her research, talking about RPG's where violence is not the primary focus. GURPs comes off particularly well, perhaps because she's currently writing for it. Having tons and tons of noncombat skills and advantages does allow you to take your focus off the kicking ass.

Anonymous seems to be becoming quite the regular in here, with another contribution in quick succession. That old rule about always needing names is well and truly gone. Anyway, his problem is that their game has recently started developing more depth and actual roleplaying, apart from one player who is stick in hack-and-slash mode. This is presenting increasing tension. You may have to get rid of him. We've been through this before. Sometimes you just have to cut the chaff to move forward. Bigger isn't always better.

Through the looking glass: We kick things off here with another game review. Dragon Lords (not to be confused with Dragonlord, Dragonlords, or The Dragonlords, which are three entirely different products, also mentioned in here at various times. :§ ) is a hex based wargame where each side commands a wizard, and a bunch of dragons with knights riding them. Fairly simple ruleswise, it uses double-blind maneuvering and lots of breath weapon varieties to give you tactical options, making winning about outguessing your opponent more than luck or mechanical superiority. Once you get the hang of things like facing and altitude manipulation, things go quite quickly. Robert quite likes it, but thinks it would be improved by a bit more crunch. Well, you are an expert. That's perfectly normal.

Our first mini review is a trio that use the same lycanthropic transformation gimmick as last issue. Only this time it's a female werewolf. I smell bandwagon jumpers. We also have an absolute ton of undead. A duo of skeletal cavalry. A trio of amorphous ghosties. A trio of still sleepy vampires. Another trio, this time of undead pirates. Anyone can die, and nearly anyone can return, albeit not always in good condition. The living are hitting back though. A diorama of an adventurer captured by Orcs. Tons of little details in this one. A model of the oft-neglected packhorse. A mule'd be better. A wizard reading a scroll. Whether mighty magic will be forthcoming is up to you. A relatively small tank. And a trio of dark elves, ready to shoot you with (probably poisoned) crossbows. The girl looks like she's the one in charge, which is as it should be.


Registered User
Validated User
The dragon project: Dunklezahn! ... Course, that won't stop him from being assassinated in future metaplot events, but that's a story for another time.
And you have to read the novels to learn that
Spoiler: Show
it wasn't actually an assassination.

K. W. Brown has a rather interesting observation on the lead bill issues the minis industry has been facing of late. It's the amateurs that get lead poisoning. People who actually work with it take precautions and usually avoid the issues. I suppose it's the same kind of issue that results in doctors hardly ever getting sick.
As a former certified lead paint inspector and risk assessor, I usually feel compelled to chime in on this topic.
The main source of lead poisoning among children isn't touching or chewing lead-containing materials. It's touching surfaces that have been contaminated with invisible traces of lead dust through everyday wear of the lead-containing material. Sure, people can wash their hands after handling unpainted miniatures. What about touching the shelf where they're stored? Or the kitchen table where the game was played? Is the table thoroughly wiped down after every game to remove the accumulated micrograms of lead (EPA hazard level is 40 ug/sq ft) before the family eats there? The person handling the miniatures isn't the only person at risk.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 199: November 1993

part 8/8

TSR Previews: As is often the case, christmas is a big one. The forgotten realms gets a full 3 products this month. Volo's guide to the north revisits another area they covered a few years ago from a different, more flavourful perspective. PG2: The player's guide to the forgotten realms also rehashes things in a crunch free, newbie friendly fashion with lots of IC moments. I think they're starting to go round in circles here. The Harpers series also fills up, with book 7, Soldiers of ice. Flawed heroes find redemption? Good for them.

Dark sun sees gulg and nibenay still locked in persistent grinding conflict, in DSM3: Marauders of Nibenay. And the PC's are once again stuck in the middle, trying to make the best of things. How are you gonna profit from this one? Meanwhile, a fairly famous name joins the novel team. Simon Hawke! I remember when he was Nicholas Yermakov, and get a short story published in issue 94. He's kept at it and come quite a way with us. Anyway. Outcast is part one of the Tribe of one trilogy. Starring a half-elf/half halfling. Great. Now everyone'll want to play one. Brooding loners do tend to do well in these stories.

Ravenloft gets a second Monstrous compendium appendix, MC16. This one is focussed on individual named creatures with full histories, just to make things more personal. Not every monster is a mook or a darklord. There's plenty of middle ground, and the creatures in that do quite a bit of ironically appropriate suffering as well. Put them out of their misery, one way or another.

Dragonlance looks at Ariakus, our third villain to get the spotlight. This egotistical twat thinks he can take Takhisis' place as supreme lord of evil. That's not going to end well. Still, could be fun finding out how.

The 1993 collector cards get a special limited edition factory set. See, if you just bide your time for a bit, you can get them all far more efficiently. Like a cobra, you should be silent, swift and deadly. Snipe like a veteran ebayer for great profit.

D&D updates the setting to reflect that another year has passed in AC1011, the second poor wizards almanac. 240 pages of mystaraey goodness. Well, they haven't been doing much of that lately. Good to see it get a little more love, rather than patronising disconnected intro products.

Buck Rogers High adventure cliffhangers gets it's only supplement. War against the Han. Good to see them being a little more cautious this time around. But it's still a big boxed set that possibly cost more to produce than they sold it for. They really are starting to lose touch on what the market wants.

Course, standalone books are always a gamble, but you've gotta keep trying them, or you're definitely doomed to eventual obsolescence. Green Fire by Louise Titchener features war combined with sexual tension between a king and a water goddess. Although probably without the actual sex, given their current company policies.

As this is the 4th issue in a row in which they lose a regular member of staff/column, there is the very real feel that the magazine is fragmenting at this point. We lost most of the old guard in 86, now the second wave are largely replaced as well. And it feels like they're actively burning through the last of their basic D&D articles before they dump that as well. As with last issue, they manage some pretty cool articles, but it almost feels in spite of the organisation rather than because of it. They're too busy gearing up for the next issue, which is now going to be even more of an effort with the management changes. Let's hope they can pull off something at least as spectacular as issue 100, hopefully even better.


Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 200: December 1993

172 pages. Oh boy. This issue is both a christmas one and a centennial. Not often you get a conjunction like that. And as a result, they really go to town, with the largest issue in the entirety of the magazine's history by a large margin. Plus the quintessential symbol of early 90's excess, a holographic foil cover. That's gonna push up the production costs. So I've decided to do something a little special for this issue as well. I've been rather enjoying the works of channel awesome in recent months, so I decided to see if I could do stuff like that, since I have the equipment, and I'm no stranger to audio editing. And a good month of frantic writing, filming and editing later, (video recording and editing is waaay more hassles than music) here we are. I've filmed video sections for many of the articles, in which I elaborate on details, take different tangents to my print reviews, or simply goof around. So get ready to enjoy what is almost certainly going to be the longest, most elaborate review in this series. I seriously hope you like it, and it was worth all the effort.

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